Understanding Discipline and Punishment | 30 Days of D/s
Discipline and punishment are tricky things in power exchange. When you’re new to the lifestyle, you might assume they have to be part of your dynamic. Like everything else in BDSM, they’re optional. As you’re figuring out if or how they may (or may not) work for you, it might be helpful to understand what punishment and discipline are (at least from our perspective).
What is Discipline in Power Exchange
Discipline has two distinct meanings:
- Training someone to obey and follow certain rules or exhibit certain behavior.
- Using punishment to correct behavior.
This means you can actually pick and choose how discipline fits into your dynamic. If you have a power exchange that requires the submissive to follow certain rules, do tasks without being reminded, or behave in a specific way, you’re practicing the first type of discipline. Yes, even if your training and expectations of behavior are very informal. You can choose to acknowledge this form of discipline or you can simply go on with your relationship and do your thing without thinking about it at all.
The second form of discipline is the one many kinksters assume is part of all dynamics, even if they don’t want it to be. And that’s correcting bad behavior: broken rules, sassy mouths (I wouldn’t know anything about that), bad attitudes, and more. It’s this form of discipline that feeds directly into punishment and consequences. The most important thing to know about it is this: You can 100 percent reject this and still have a happy, healthy power exchange and a submissive partner you’re proud of (or be an amazing submissive partner). Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t.
What is Punishment in Power Exchange
If you choose to use the second form of discipline in your kinky relationship, it’s most often known as punishment. We also use the term “consequences” defined as the reaction to a bad action that’s now requiring discipline. Punishment or consequences can take many forms. While a lot of kinky people play with funishment, that’s something separate, and not what we’re talking about here. Punishment is meant to drive home a point that what was done by the submissive was incorrect and not up to the standard set by both partners.
Consequences and punishment have to be negotiated and agreed upon — before you enact them. While you’re discussing and figuring out all the kinky fun you want to have, you also need to take time to talk about what happens when a rule is broken or a submissive behaves badly. That conversation might lead to you rejecting the idea of punishments completely. But if you both want it, that conversation also needs to center around what the punishments will be.
We’re asked all the time for punishment ideas, but we rarely give any. Why? Because we believe an effective consequence is one that a submissive wants to avoid. It’s one that will (hopefully) help them think twice about breaking a rule or behaving badly. That doesn’t always work because we’re not automatons, but that should be the hope. If a submissive is actively seeking punishment, you may have a strong brat on your hands, the consequence might be “funishment,” or it’s time for a serious conversation about what’s happening in your dynamic. But what consequence will work on a submissive partner is unique to the individual. What we do might be bad for your dynamic, so we don’t give out lists of suggestions. We encourage you to know each other well enough to find what works for you.
To figure out what makes a good punishment, both partners need to get really honest about what could or definitely will deter a submissive from breaking a rule, “forgetting” something important, or behaving badly (however you both define it). We use corner time (only one person puts this babygirl in the corner but otherwise, “No one puts baby in the corner”). We’ve also used spankings, but it’s a rarity as impact play is one of my major kinks.
Things to Know About Discipline and Punishment
If you decide to move forward with this aspect of power exchange, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Never punish in anger. If you’re really angry, take the time you need to calm down before issuing a consequence. Anger may make you harsher/meaner than you’d otherwise be, and you may regret your words and actions later, when it’s too late to take them back.
If punishment has never been discussed, don’t start issuing them when something happens. Take it as a lesson learned and the need for a conversation about what to do next time. Your submissive may request a punishment because they feel guilty. If they do, you might reconsider, but Dominants shouldn’t be tossing out punishments on a whim. Until it’s consented to, it’s not allowed.
Saying, “I’m very disappointed in you” can be more effective than you realize. As a submissive the thing I never want to do is disappoint John Brownstone. It’s a knife in my heart. Sometimes the most effective punishment is something as simple as this.
Don’t be afraid to drop a consequence (or all punishment) if it’s detrimental to your mental health — for either of you. We think we can handle a thing or even want it, until we experience it for the first time. It’s okay to change your mind.
Talk about the incident and the consequence when it’s over. Make sure you’re both as calm as possible. Figure out what happened and find out if there’s a way to prevent it in the future. Discuss your feelings about what happened, including your feelings about the punishment.
Let it go once punishment is over. A Dominant holding onto anger about a misdeed can become mistrustful, resentful, or overly quick to punish. A submissive who can’t forgive themselves tends to sit in guilt, become less willing to submit and/or anxious about their submission, and may also feel resentful. If you can’t let the moment go, keep discussing it and working through it until you can.
Some things are too big for punishment. A forgotten task, a slip of the tongue, and other “small” things may be worthy of a consequence to deter future bad behavior. But you can’t punish your way out of lies, cheating, or dishonesty. Those indicate a deeper issue that must be addressed. Likewise, if a submissive withdraws their consent, uses a safe word, speaks up on their own behalf, and/or takes responsibility for themselves and you, their Dominant, don’t like it, tough. That’s not worthy of punishment either.
We’ve talked about discipline and punishment before, if you want to do a deeper dive (here and here). If you take nothing away from this post, remember this: like every other aspect of your power exchange, discipline and punishment are unique to the two of you. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s dynamic to be valid. And yes, you can definitely reject it completely if it doesn’t work for either of you (or both!)
Working on your own power exchange relationship? Figuring yourself out as a Dominant or submissive? Let our 30 Days of D/s program (free by email or buy the workbook) get you thinking and talking about topics in bite-size chunks to work through what D/s means to you. You can do this with a partner, on your own, or within your kinky community. You can also use the topics as discussion prompts or journal prompts. And if you’re blogger, you can, of course, blog it — like we’re doing!