I believe many people in the lifestyle confuse discipline and punishment. Discipline is training that corrects. It molds, empowers and enhances a person for the better. Punishment comes when there are consequences set for the submissive when he/she displeases the Dominant, breaks a rule, and/or misbehaves.
Discipline is a teaching relationship that goes on between the Dominant and the submissive. It is to mold the submissive into what the Dominant not only wants, but feels will improve the submissive. Because if she is improved she will obviously be a better submissive.
To me discipline is the day-to-day structure established for a submissive by the Dominant, whose goal is to teach, guide, and mold the submissive how to live to serve him/her better and also enhance the submissive as a person. The goal of discipline is eventually self-discipline or self-regulation. Dominants can’t baby-sit submissives 24/7. So they want their submissives, when they are away from them, to have a system of rules within them that they will use to govern their behavior toward themselves and toward others. Dominants want to bring their outside control inside the submissive. And at first the submissive is motivated purely by the wish to please and serve the Dominant. But gradually, that molding of the behavior, way of living, thinking and believing becomes self-discipline. The submissive’s Master or Mistress’s wants, desires, and needs become that of the submissives too.
Discipline does not always carry with it punishment. Discipline can be as simple as a look or gesture. Discipline is the reinforcement of behavior that better serves the Dominant. It is the framework where a submissive resides. Sometimes you can have punishment that exists separately from discipline. The two aren’t always linked together, but in certain instances they coincide.
First off punishment is not to be confused with S&M play. S&M is for “enjoyment” – by definition, “play” is typically enjoyed by one or both parties. Therefore if punishments are consequences of violating rules or otherwise displeasing the submissive’s Dominant, then punishment should be cold, to the point, and not enjoyable by the submissive. In most cases the Dominant will not enjoy it either. It is the Dominant’s wish that their submissive would have obeyed. Conversely a Dominant should not abuse the philosophy behind what a punishment is and what it represents. If the Dominant wants to play, then play, but don’t make up something to punish the submissive. A Dominant, who uses punishments as a way to play S&M, is likely to cause the submissive even more stress and confusion.
Punishment is something the submissive should want to avoid. There are many that believe a submissive will “purposely” act out to get punished. There are several different reasons why a submissive may act out on purpose. They may only want a play-partner S&M relationship or they may be acting out to get punished because the submissive’s needs are not getting met. Often times they do not know how to communicate their needs to the Dominant.
A punishment should clearly identify what was done wrong, what can be done to correct it, and why the infraction displeased the Dominant. The Master/Mistress should clearly identify the means in which the punishment is to be carried out, then it should be handled as soon as possible. If the punishment is too soft, it might not help the submissive learn from the infraction and might create confusion. If the punishment is too hard, the submissive might become fearful and resentful of the Dominant. After punishment is administered there should be absolution – forgiveness. A process of accepting the consequences and punishment of a violation and moving forward. Once a punishment is carried out, a Dominant should not carry it over, nor should the submissive keep kicking himself or herself in the butt. A punishment is a sense of closure for both the Dominant and the submissive and should be embraced as such.
The mindset of a submissive that is being punished goes very deep and expansive. A Master or Mistress chooses things that a submissive will not like. Even if they pick out a favorite toy to use on a submissive, in most cases, the session will not be enjoyed because the mindset associated with being punished. When submissives are being punished, it’s because they have done something wrong. That alone can be punishment, but when used in conjunction with an act, an implement, or whatever other means – the act in and of itself is not enjoyed. The totality of the episode remains until the Dominant is satisfied to the point of absolution. Then he/she and the submissive can move forward.
Making the distinction between discipline and punishment is important. It is critical to understand the process of both and how they are separate and how they can coincide. To better illustrate the differences, let’s examine a couple of hypothetical examples of each aspect.
An example of discipline: My Master may not want me to bite my fingernails. The forms of discipline to control the behavior can include anything from putting icky-tasting nail polish on my nails, to putting gloves on my hands, or taping my fingers together. Each step does not necessarily consist of a form of punishment, but a series of steps to adjust the behavior for my Master.
An example of punishment: I may have a rule that I cannot access the Internet while Master is at work. One day, he comes home and finds the computer signed on the Internet. It is a clear violation of the rule. He expresses his displeasure and reprimands me. I know I did something that violated his wishes and the rules he set out for me. He then will tell what I did wrong, how it displeased him, how I can correct it in the future and then will administer the punishment he chooses.
While the focus of this article has been to lay down the differences between discipline and punishment, there are times when the two do exist in the same spot at the same time. Solely relying on one part or the other is not realistic or responsible. Educating ourselves about the differences and the similarities refines our methodology and improves our relationships.
As with other critical discussion areas within the lifestyle, the philosophies behind discipline and punishment should be fully explored and discussed in the beginning stages of a relationship. We should not underestimate the importance of a complete and open discussion on topics such as this. Everyone in the lifestyle has unique perspective and so what each believes can and most likely will be something different. It is but another piece of the complex puzzle that determines the success or failure of the pairing within the lifestyle.
© within Reality: danae 2003 – all rights reserved