Have you ever felt like acting out a fantasy, but were too shy and embarrassed to try it? Most of us have one tucked away somewhere.
What follows are some thoughts, based around first-hand experience, from both a male dominant, and female submissive. Hopefully, this will provide the reassurance needed to have a go.
Burning with Shame
Notes Towards an Understanding of Erotic Humiliation
Below you will find part of a larger, on-going project which will be published in due course. Extracted here are thoughts on erotic humiliation in the context of a Dom/sub relationship as I attempt to answer the question; "How is it possible to derive pleasure from unpleasure?" None of this is intended to explain away the thrill of humiliation - god forbid! - or to generalize my own experience and thinking as universally true. I'm writing not as an 'expert' but as an insider, a female submissive in a part-time relationship with the (very) male Dommie one in my life. I am presenting this here because I am interested in hearing of others' experience and opinions At the end you will find a questionnaire for you to fill in, if you feel generous enough to share any of your responses to my writing or share your own ideas.
Erotic humiliation, according to the dictionary, vanilla logic, the British police, pub jokes or Freudian psychoanalysis, is either a self-contradictory impossibility or indicates an abusive relationship. All BDSM relationships are portrayed in these places and logics as a 'hammer and anvil' relationship, with a perpetrator and a victim. In our safe-sane-consensual and wildly erotic world, we all cry 'nonsense'. But it is hard to explain why humiliation can be so thrilling. I get off big-time on being humiliated in a secure D/s relationship.
D/s humiliation puts the fun, danger and dark eroticism back into something that is becoming much too clean and tidy - sexuality.
It is theatrical, playful. Erotic humiliation mingles resentment with longing, puts the submissive partner in a position where s/he simultaneously says "Yes / No", "Please Do / Don't". It challenges pride, dignity, privacy, modesty through extreme vulnerability, and through the willingness to permit domination over both body and mind. It is not something to be played with casually or lightly. It arguably carries a greater power than any other part of BDSM activity, and has the capacity to go horribly wrong, as well as wonderfully right.
Most discussion of erotic humiliation I have found, on the net and elsewhere, is concerned with the experience of gay or straight male submissives, where what is humiliating tends to involve a loss of masculine status and power through cross-dressing or other forms of feminisation. Women, it has been argued, like to be subordinated because we're dupes of social beliefs about women's proper status, chained to the cooker, kneeling at the Master's feet, and it is not therefore humiliating. I do not recognise myself in this. Such a simple-minded equation between what something looks like and what it might be in its own right badly needs challenging.
The 'hammer and anvil' model paints a picture of deliberate brutality visited upon a passive victim who is reduced to something less than human. Consent and collusion are, of course, fundamental to BDSM. So is the power wielded just phoney? In any absolute sense, it is not real. But neither is it fake. (Unless you're just waving that whip around in a pretence of looking dangerous.) The scene may be stopped at any moment by the supposed victim. But which submissive partner has ever Safeworded lightly?
1: I am aware that in some relationships no Safewords exist, that once consent has been given, it amounts to consent to whatever may transpire.
2: Some relationships play up to the point that the Safeword is invoked.
I've never played in either of those ways and can thus only imagine what difference that would make. For me, the Safeword exists as an emergency safety precaution, hopefully never used. There is a world of difference between finding a scene difficult and finding oneself needing to Safeword, because the latter means that the submissive has stepped back into the 'real' and that the 'true self' can no longer endure the treatment. But the desire to flee, to feel emotionally vulnerable or distressed means that the scene retains its authority and authenticity.
And perhaps humiliation play involves more of the 'real', since the success of humiliation play depends upon the Dominant's knowledge of the sub's inner workings and his capacity to use all those little and big things that s/he really hates/'hates', to her disadvantage. He snatches the rug of complacency from beneath her, making ordinary acts and objects strange for her. Repetition makes almost anything ordinary, and in a long-term D/s relationship (where humiliation play is most properly and effectively deployed) certain things, like nudity, can become desensitised. But humiliation play means that, in the skilful Dom's hands and mouth, while the acts may be the same, the context and meaning can be reinscribed to invoke unfamiliarity, newness, in what otherwise may become benign or benumbed.
One person's major turn-on is another person's destructive degradation. What constitutes erotic humiliation, as opposed to something that just makes you feel bad and put down, is connected very precisely to the individual's history, personality, fears. It simply cannot be generalized I would identify three major tools to engineer erotic humiliation - "appearance", "language" and "performance". What within these categories works, varies as much as the individuals involved.
Amongst the ideas and suggestions I have come across for male sub humiliation are many which involve shopping for, or wearing blatantly female attire in private or public, to evoke humiliation by drawing attention to the juxtaposition between male person and feminine clothing This is no doubt very humiliating for men The fact that it is also very humiliating for me is probably both unusual (though surely not unique) and means He has available to Him a very simple device which he knows I hate I have yet to see the threats/promises of a shopping trip, or of making me wear pink frilly things - ugh! - turned into reality, but even the thought is mortifying So how odd am I?
But there are things most would find humiliating Imagine (or remember) being driven naked in a car at night and pulling in for fuel Or being driven in broad daylight, naked from the waist down Remember (or imagine) going out to eat dressed in a manner which clearly announces to the world at large that something is going on here, and feel their eyes on you But a public, or potentially public, component is not necessary Dressing (or being dressed) in clothes you find demeaning, or having precious little clothing to cover yourself, in private, can work just as effectively. (If you're imagining, I'm remembering...)
Appearance is perhaps the simplest, quickest way to create a sense of difference between everyday identity and play-identity, and to summon up a sense of being other than how we wish to be We have a great deal invested in the image we present to the world; we use it to depict who and what we are. If our outside image is changed, then with it the inside image begins to falter.Language can define, reinforce, and recreate reality. 'Name calling', as insults (bitch, whore) or labels that reduce ('young lady' always does it for me...) can function as a shorthand for entire relationships, cultural ideas, memories The right word, spoken in the right tone, can furnish an entire stage-set for a scene in one simple gesture.
Then there's description. To have your behaviour, appearance, body, transformed into language gives a vivid existence to your movement, posture, action, paints a picture of what you cannot see (or wish to see), creates an entire network of cultural meanings about status, age, identity.
And then there's my own personal non-favourite - confession. Confessing to what one has fantasised or done in the privacy of one's own bed or bath, thought and felt during particularly intense moments, transforming all kinds of sexual experience and desire into explicit speech, naming bodily parts and their condition (oh yes, still gets me every time), asking for certain acts, all may be powerful tools of erotic humiliation. It means taking what is all but invisible, inside, private and producing it in public, external form. The fleeting sensations, the barely constructed thought, must be translated words, for the pleasure of the audience.
Performance tends to make either ordinarily private acts into ones designed to be watched and savoured, or require the performance of acts of self-exposure, both literally in bodily terms, but also in acting out a role that is other than how you perceive yourself And certainly for me it is here that I am most likely to find myself struggling for full submission.
Such acts as masturbation or undressing (or in very refined hands, dressing), when subjected to the scrutiny and whims of the Dominant, take on both a theatrical quality and a self-consciousness normally absent Perhaps humiliation works best in those actions which are ordinarily the most private and those which are the most mundane of everyday life, as they become re-made into something that is the object of intense thought and decision-making, and the source of entertainment and arousal for another In this sexual theatre, the sense of self, choices, and the body itself, are all desensitised by the persistent, insistent demands made by both partners on themselves and each other.
Let's try an experiment
I want you to point to yourself... now please.
I'll guess you pointed to the centre of your chest. Almost everybody does. Why there? What's there inside you that is specifically, intrinsically who you are? No one ever seems quite sure, but they know that's where the true self resides, not in the head or the heart.
Ordinarily we understand the exterior of our body to be the expression of what is inside, hence all those advice manuals on how to project success and authority through posture and stride. But in BDSM play the exterior form and posture can create an interior reality of feelings and beliefs, making the inside the expression of the outside. What D/s play makes explicit is that nobody is really just one somebody. Even if we are not switches, we occupy or can occupy a whole range of positions and identities, and move in and out of them in flexible fashion.
I am unsure if our normally clear notions of 'consent' and 'limits' apply so easily to humiliation play. It requires of the submissive that s/he do or be something which is 'impossible', agree to have their identity and sense of self-worth suspended, erased, annihilated. But if the scene were to close with the humiliated sub abandoned to their feelings of acute vulnerability, ridiculousness, smallness, that is destructive and abusive. What follows (for me), should be healing, restorative, a gathering together of all the possible selves into peace and fulfilment.
Before this the inert stable cocoon of 'the self' is ruptured and doubled (yes/no, please/don't, me/not me). The submissive does not see the true image of her secret self as if in some mirror held up to her by the Dom, but s/he may discover instead a most intense form of liberation from the self.
Or put most simply, being 'fucked in the mind' is always infinitely more powerful than being fucked anywhere else.
I began this thinking following the night where I requested 'no responsibility' for the night's play (tough day at work, you know). This resulted in my being given total responsibility for everything that occurred, within, of course, properly encouraging borders to facilitate concentration and obedience. (Typical Dommie trick.) Some time later I am left shaken, reeling, empty of desire and filled with pleasure. I have let my 'self' go - and won myself back.
I'm finishing these notes close on the tail of a night where my poor mathematical skills were used to my considerable disadvantage. I won't be looking for extra maths tuition ;-))
With a view to writing a research paper on the subject, the author encourages you to use the Humiliation Entry Form to provide a broad range of insight into other people's personal thoughts on humiliation. If you would like to share your own humiliation fantasies and/or experiences, please use this form to describe them, whether they have ever been realized, and what works best for you.
Your input will remain strictly confidential.