No Safeword for Spanking, Release 2.0

One of the things I love about the spanking communtity – nay, the single thing I love most about it – is it is full of thoughtful people who are ready to think deeply and write honestly about their experiences. This is, in my experience, relatively rare in other areas of kink.

Anyway, a while back I put up a post “No Safeword for Spanking (I can’t believe I just said that)” here, with a shortened version in a Fetlife foum. At the risk of flogging a dead horse 😉 the basic point was that the safeword is crucial in BDSM, but not in spanking where safety is simply not an issue (although the wellbeing of the sub is), and it erodes the top’s core function – to take responsibility – so is fundamentally corrosive of what the spanking is trying to do.

Well, in all there were over 60 comments and cumulatively they have fleshed out the issue in my mind, but not changed it, mostly because the comments were generally in agreement. I did get mildly flamed for apparently prescribing to others. This was not my intention. Of course, live and let live. If a safeword works for you, use it! On the other hand, it is intellecually weak just to retreat to a whatever-works-for-you position. If the safeword is merely a dogma, or an inappropriate BDSM import, or political correctness, let’s shine a light on it.

Some pointed out the obvious: if you don’t know/trust the person use a safeword. Absolutely yes! This is, actually the corrolory of my point: the safeword is all about the bottom having an “out” in a high-risk or low-trust situation. Dispensing with it is the sine-qua-non of creating real trust.

There were people who said they need a safeword for medical reasons, reflux and the like. Sure. My thought about this is the same as my thought about all who argued for the need for feedback – which is that a “feedback word” is fine. That’s not the same as a safeword. Saying “reflux” and meaning time-out, is not the same as deciding when the spanking ends.

The fundamental point must remain the spankee does not decide. Or at least not during the spanking.

CultivatedDiscipline offered another reason for a safeword : “Not a word to be used by the submissive partner as a way of ceasing a spanking — but instead as a way for new or evolving partners to inform the dominant partner NOT to cease the spanking. Often, we hear the complaint from women “He does not spank me long enough” coupled with the comment from men “I don’t want to hurt her too much”.

This is an interesting “niche” use and I agree it would be applicable. Basically the safeword in place frees up the top. This is related to the consensual-non-consent use of a safeword that I mentioned in the initial post, the presence of which allows the bottom to resist vigorously or vocally an to be certain to be ignored in the absence of the word.

EmmaEnchanted also made a very pertinent point: (Anticipating the bottom to use the safeword if there) “shows a lack of appreciation for the bottom. We’re all obviously here because we get something out of the experience – a bottom who used a safeword out of context wouldn’t just be shortchanging their spanker, but also themselves.”

No Safeword for Spanking. (I can’t believe I just said that.)

I find that in a few short posts I’ve challenged a lot: brutal spanking, and spank pay sites, and problematic spanking definitions. Of course I appreciate the alternative perspectives and preferences others have, and my goal is not to criticise. What I read just gives me something to push against, to better articulate where I stand.

So here’s another challenge: the idea has come into spanking that the submissive should have a “safeword” which, when used, brings the scene to a close. (Apparently sometimes also a “slow down” word.)

Now readers of this blog will know I particularly eschew brutal acts, and would never participate in or advocate any unsafe practice.

But let’s think clearly about safewords. Where does the safeword or safe signal idea come from? From the world of BDSM of course. It is absolutely crucial in bondage/gagged situations where the submissive can be choking or have airways blocked, or otherwise be struggling in a life- or limb-threatening situation which the dominant thinks is part of the scene.

How does this transpose into spanking? Classic bottom spanking is intrinsically a safe practice. It can leave a very, very sore bottom, but from a serious safety point of view there’s no real risk. As long as she’s not heavily bound or gagged, a spanking safeword is redundant.

That leaves use of a safeword if it “gets tooo much”. Sounds reasonable. But at what cost?  A safeword puts the key decision about how-much-is-too-much into her hands. It is asking her to take responsibility for her welfare (and if she gets too sore, by implication it’s her fault). To me the absolute essence of spanking is he assumes the decision as to what is necessary, and applies it, while she shows her trust in his leadership by submitting no matter what. Responsibly handling the key decision of how much and when to stop is precisely how he builds her trust. If he can’t manage the responsibility she should find someone who can, rather than take over the decision.

So I say spanking works best when she has – at the time – absolutely no say over what or how much she gets. Outside of the scene the couple should articulate their preferences and limits, but even then, if she is to be punished she should not have the right to decide when it’s over.

There is one exception. A safeword does facilitate non-consensual fantasy play. If a couple wants the particular fantasy that he is spanking her against her will, a safeword in the background allows her to vocally beg him to stop, implore him to stop, demand that he stop, even physically resist him, and not mean it.

‘Punishment’, ‘Maintenance’ and ‘Erotic’ spankings. These categories don’t hold up.

Across the spanking Net a fair amount of effort goes into categorising spankings. One can appreciate the need. To categorise (classify; taxonomise; whatever) is the basic building block of thought. We need classifications to know what we are talking about and share it with others.

As I understand it, the dd-schema that comes up most of the time is (a) punishment, where a transgression is corrected; (b) maintenance where a spanking is given without direct cause other than to maintain the form of relationship; and (c) erotic, where spanking is a turn-on or foreplay.

To me, all spankings have all three elements. They are a punishment (real or ritual) that also maintains a state of mind and of relationship, and are always directly or indirectly erotic.

One can tell when categories are suspect by the extent of problems people report with them. Ubiquitous  problems raised are those such as: “I don’t want to be a bitch/brat in real life, so I never do anything to earn a punishment!”. Or “I want to be spanked, but I don’t want to be micromanaged,” Or “routine maintanance doesn’t work, seems silly, because there’s no reason to spank her,” and so on.

Better, I think, to see all three elements every time. But the no-reason-for-punishment problem remains: how can she do something punishworthy without being subject to silly rules or her doing something ridiculous like purposefully failing a test or getting a speeding fine?

I think there are punishable elements in the everyday dd-format relationship. These are:

1. Attitude and Respect. I would never say the Top is always right. Far from it. Her disagreement and criticism on any topic, properly done, is fine. But disrespect or a poor attitude is punishable.

2. Targets. We all strive to achieve and improve, from learning Chinese to avoiding cream caramels. What are her targets? Missing them is fine if the effort is there. If not, she is punished.

3. Agreements. A couple will have agreed roles, duties, behaviours. If she breaks an agreement, punishment follows.

These three overlap. But the idea is there – there is plenty of room for ritual punishment in a fully adult relationship, which in itself naturally fulfils the maintenance function, and surely leads to sparkling sex sooner or later.