Spanking is sometimes a figure/ground study for me

Here’s a picture. It comes from (of course) the one and only Red Charls. Who else dramatises and photgraphs the D/s experience so expertly?

I have a complicated relationship with this image. (Therein I call it art.) I look at it one way and I see a defensless, nude woman under the rod of oppression. Then I look at it again and I see a perfect alignment of wills, a deep yearning for discipline, a most caring hand of authority.

One way; then the other way. Back and forward. My ambivalence, of course. My struggle with all this.

This is just like the figure / ground studies we all know. Look at this picture. Do you see the vase or do you see the faces? Vase. Faces. Vase. Faces. Back and forth.

What am I saying (other than the banal, how we look at things affects what we see)?

I suppose I’m really conscious of how “so-very-right” and “so-very-wrong” are remarkably two sides of the same coin, and how it is quite hard to get that coin to reliably land right side up. It’s not just a question of seeing the postive. It is about putting the positive there for all to see.

‘Consenting adults in private’, redux

I’ve been thinking about is whether its possible to come up with a better minimum code of ethical interaction for spanking (and D/s) relationships than the old standard: every practice is okay as long as it’s between “consenting adults in private.”

Consenting Adults in Private evolved from the gay rights world, and may not be quite right for D/s. It is more than apparent that a lot of unethical-by-any-measure (genuinely exploititatve, cruel) behaviour goes on behind the fig leaves of consent and privacy.

I’m greatly in favour of D/s broadly interpreted. I’m not in favour of real cruelty and exploitation (and I feel D/s is messed up by people who are cruel and abusive for real.)

I’m not moralising, nor trying to reign anyone in, nor get anyone else to do what I do. I absolutely appreciate the diversity of practice and opinion in our field. It is all about self- and other-exploration, so there must be freedom to explore. But I don’t think one can say: “don’t judge what I do in my house and I won’t judge what you do in yours”.

Think of it this way: despotic and criminal countries with human rights abuses galore always say: “don’t interfere in our internal affairs, and we won’t interfere in yours.” But in fact the abuses of children, women, prisoners, p.o.w.’s, disabled people, mentally handicapped, people of colour, gays and lesbians, and so on has forced charters such as the Internation Declaration on Human Rights, the Geneva Convention, and so on, which precisely say: “it’s not all subjective, cultural, relative. There is a basic human standard of behaviour ethical nations adhere to.” By the way it’s worth reading the Declaration of Human Rights, which can be found at this link.

I wouldn’t mind this kind of charter for the spanking D/s world. Something everyone could point to, which would glady tolerate the healthy diversity of interpretation and practice, but also flag real abuse.

So what might this look like? Here’s a beginning list:

1. Adults. No D/s interaction with anyone under the national ‘age of consent’. Note, I’m not saying 18. If the age of consent is 16, that means D/s is allowed. If that’s not okay, the age of consent should be raised. (Natural parents spanking children in a moderate way is no problem.)

2. Duty of care and consistency. The dominant must have the submissive’s interests at heart. This is hard to pin down – definitions vary – but I think we all know when it’s not there. There is a duty on the punisher to make sure the punished is not grossly physically harmed. This extends to mental health too. The rules can be strict, and the consequences severe, but the submissive should feel mentally secure, not subject to random witholding of the relationship or other ‘mind games’.

3. Absolute limits on the strike zone. What’s tricky about spanking is it’s hitting, and hitting is also the essence of abuse. We resolve this by saying some zones are smackable, others not. But, you might say, ‘what if she agrees to be punched in the face as part of her discipline?’ This would pose a theoretical problem, but in all my years I’ve never seen it nor heard of it. It can be safely dismissed. There are standard body areas, the bottom obviously (but perhaps also pussy, legs, and back too, according to preference) that can ‘belong’ to the Dominant (subject to 2 above.) But that doesn’t mean he should start the session with a few ‘backhands’, nor that she should feel this is permissible.

4. Freedom of association. This is the consent point. But I don’t think consent is the right concept because in D/s non-consent or partial-consent or overcoming-of-non-consent is intrinsic to the act for many. So a clearer principle is freedom of association. This means that a person should be free to walk away (physically, mentally, socially, financially) without fear of retribution.

5. Private. As with all sexuality and nudity, people who are offended or not interested have a right not to be confronted in a public place. The reverse applies too. Nobody should invade your privacy (subject to 1-4 above).

Think of it this way: the abuser is one who denies freedom of association (you leave me and I’ll kill you, etc); will hit his trusty sub any old how, possibly even in public; and disregard her actual, real physical and mental well-being. My little code of practice is a straight reversal of what troubles me, and I think, troubles most honourable people.

Anyway, I suppose I’m whistling in the wind. There will never be an International Charter of D/s Practice. But it maybe worth checking whether these minimums apply to you.