‘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.

What being in ‘Topspace’ is like for me

Now and then one hears about ‘subspace’ or ‘entering subspace’ as part of the submissive experience. The idea is that a certain transition comes over the sub as she is taken into spanking submission. As I understand it (and I’m happy to be corrected on this, not having “been there” myself) this may come prior to the spanking, in anticipating it or dressing for it, or it may come as it starts, or as it progresses — but one way or another a change is wrought as she ‘enters’ her submissiveness more completely.

I find this concept useful, and it certainly chimes with my experience — with women I have topped and spanked. Looking into their face and eyes during a session, or right after it, or observing their change of voice or body response, it is often clear they are quite deeply in another space, subspace.

But I’ve never seen anything written about entering Topspace, and I think the concept is just as useful. Certainly it explains to me what happens to me if conditions are right.

First I should say, although I’m an experienced spanking Top, with (make-no-mistake) ‘the balls’ to dominate as and when required, I’m not an obvious ‘Top’ in real life. But when I’m going to give a spanking or about to start, I can feel a certain transition happening, a firmness of voice, a clarity of purpose and intent coming over me. As things progress and, particularly, as her consent and submission become obvious, I go further into Topspace. It’s not — just to be clear — physical arousal, although that may be present too. It is something closer to feeling powerful and purposeful. I’m guessing this has a hormonal base; testosterone or even adrenelin flowing.

Further, depending on her responses, but assuming she’s delighting in what is happening, this will progress with smacking her bottom harder, seeing it bouncing and squirming, towards … something I can only describe as progressively peeling away my layers to a state of very basic, absolute, undiluted masculinity. In this state I really can, assuming ongoing consensuality (nothing breaks the escalation), give her a very, very, sound thrashing indeed.

It is tempting to call this state “instinctive”, or “animalistic”. But in my experience it’s really not like that at all. It is more like I have reached the very ‘fountain of masculinity’ and am drinking directly from it. It’s a quiet, almost meditative place, with absoluteness and clarity and purpose and power that don’t exist in normal life.

I should add that in this state of mind, with purpose and power pretty much on ‘maximum’, it is easy to overstep and spank too hard. And I have done this, and deeply regretted it. But this is where experience comes in. We live and we do learn.

How to get the spanking you want: talking taboo

I’m delighted to do a bit of promo for one of the most intelligent, insightful bloggers around – Vivian at The Disciplined Feminist – who has written a 2-part spanking book “How to Get the Spanking You Want: The Complete Guide to Asking for it, Getting It & Making It Better,” available through this link.

Explaining the book on her blog she says: “Of all the emails I get asking for advice, well over half of them are from women (and some men) who want their husband or boyfriend to spank them, but don’t know how to ask, and this question seems to pop up a lot on spanking and DD forums, too.”

I haven’t read the book yet, but the topic has me thinking: why is spanking hard to ask for? (I strongly suspect that Tops want to ask for it as much as Bottoms want to, but the Top mindset is less likely to be actively advice-seeking.) More particularly, why is it hard to ask for in a world where it has become relatively easy to ask for many kinds of kink? Egged on by Cosmo and others, it is quite fashionable to ask to be corseted or tied up, or to use various toys and costumes all under the banner of “spicing things up”.

But spanking (real, hard, non-nonsense spanking, not the pat & giggle stuff) is a much harder thing to raise. I think it is because Spanking Is Violence.

As a man, one experiences very heavy socialisation from an early age to constrain violent impulses. Agression is channeled out of us in every way (other than on the sports field) which is absolutely correct of course. Anyone who hits another person is a criminal. And all the more so with regards to girls – you never, ever hit girls.

To me this is key to why spanking is hard to ask for – because it runs heavily against our socialisation. For him, asking the uninitiated, he is breaking this heavy social taboo. Psychopath! For her, asking the uninitiated may be mistaken for the equivalent submissive pathology: the desire to be hit, hurt …

In fact, spanking is okay (great!) because it is highly ritualised, that is, has associated codes and rules which define actions and limits (the key ones are bottom only + consensuality). It is okay exactly in the sense that other code-constrained violence, notably contact sports and martial arts are okay. These also allow and imply consent to violence-within-the-rules. The rules make the violence productive rather than destructive.

This suggests a way to approach the how-to-ask conundrum. Whether you are a Top or a Bottom, the key to overcoming the taboo is to stress that spanking is rule-based violence, that is, “productive” violence. It produces such things as discipline, intimacy, mentoring, nurturing, eroticism, couple harmony and so on. (It is deeply significant that sex is codified violence too – it is precisely the *rules* surrounding the practice of taking a woman, overpowering and penetrating her, that make it socially acceptable and delightful. Without the rules, it’s rape.)

Well, that’s my 2c. I’m looking forward to reading what Viv has to say, and have little doubt that she has sorted out this question better than I have.

The 1950s and times past, sublimated, resurfacing as fantasy

1950s-spanking One of the sites I’ve learnt a bit from in the past few weeks is Fetlife, which is something of a Facebook for the kinky community. The total list of kinks one can subscribe to (fess up to?) is amazing. Stuff I’d never thought of. I’m such a classic spanker that 98% of the list just passes me by. (There is much to say about bondage and spanking, and spanking vs bdsm from the spanker point of view, but I’ll leave that for future posts.)

But one of the things that struck me in the kink list – and to which I subscribed – is “1950s lifestyle.” Got to love this well-known coffee ad alongside…

But what is “1950s lifestyle” as a “kink” saying? It’s saying, what was normal in the 1950s is a bona-fide sexual kink now. How can that be? Yes, we know from psychology that “normal” is a social construct that moves around. But I think there is even more to it.

I think nothing fundamental (“archetypal” if you like) in the human psyche can be buried. Sometimes social norms allow a behaviour to be given fuller expression; sometimes they contrict it. When constricted, the practice goes behind closed doors, or behind closed fantasy eyelids. But it doesn’t go away.

In this case, the unburiable archetype is the Head of Household (HoH), as protector, mentor, and final authority – and the safety and structure in this. Yes, the world has moved on, and women’s empowerment and fuller lives and careers as real earners and decision-makers is an excellent thing.

But this is a new turn in a long, long human history. It presses on the archetype that presses back, that must surface somewhere. When we spank or are being spanked, we are letting out, playing out, and reaffirming this very core element of the human psyche. It is so fundamental and presumably (I’m no anthropologist) was functional in creating surviving human groups that, like much of our physical and social response structure inherited from ages past, is deeply written into our psychic makeup.

So many different types of spanking, so, a few preferences…

The Internet has been the most fabulous transition in every way, most of all for disparate communities that are not easy to connect, or communities and identities not easy to have in public. No surprise that sexuality led the Internet more than a decade ago, and spanking sites and forums have always been a big part of that. It has released us to be able to say what we are thinking, and (perhaps even more importantly) know what others are thinking. The benefit is – I have had this and have read many many with the same sentiment – is we suddenly feel so Normal and Sane, after having grown up thinking we were weird.

That’s the upside. The downside of all this connectivity, for me, is that it connects me to some stuff that I find pretty gruesome. Here we get into personal preference and assuming it’s all consensual there’s no judgment, but my preference is for “real” spanking, that means hard, but not damaging. For example I find a lot of the Eastern European stuff just too heavy. And much of the hard caning – where is it going? Nowhere that I want to go. For me it’s about authority and clear roles and limits. But it’s not about pain. Sure, forcefulness and pain is necessary to achieve the goal (to make the dominance-submission real.) But it is not the goal itself. A bit of brusque otk with skirt up and panties down, to me achieves more authority than any amount of whaling away.

Also, I want to lay down a marker for intelligence and literacy. Call me elitist, perhaps, but dumb brutality, whacking away at another persons behind … well it does nothing for me. The interest is in the dance of authority and submission, what he says, what she says. Before, during, and after. The brain is the most important sex organ, and ideas and words are the real bearers of the erotic.

Just another spanking blog?

One of the things that blogging allows, encourages in fact, is to put one’s private journal online. So here goes. What get’s me journaling, primarily, is the need to reflect on adult spanking and consider my role and preferences. Many things are obvious in life. But this topic is not. So I find myself thinking about what I find interesting, and erotic, and difficult, and incompatible with me. And I think better when I write, or at least writing it down forces me to think it through.

Having said that, this blog will be about everything I muse on. As I say in my “About,” I don’t believe in erotic divorced from the rest of one’s life and existence. In fact the point of blogging, to me, is to work on integration. I have a life of many interests and passions, and spanking-discipline is just a part.

The other thing is, I want to get blogging, finally, to do my bit and show my appreciation for the many wonderful, thoughtful people in the spanking community (there are many who are not so wonderful, but more of that later.) However, on the whole, over many Web sites and b-boards and blogs, I’ve come to regard the people I come into contact with as something special, a community with a particular earnestness, integrity, and reflectiveness that one doesn’t see everywhere in the “sex” world. Many write very well too. So I want to acknowledge and be part of that. That motivates me.