Friday, December 16, 2005

Spanking 101: Peeling Back the Labels

This article is the latest installment in continuing series of tutorials. If you already know this stuff or came here for fun and games, please feel free to scroll on down.

If you’ve spent much time trolling the Web and reading spanking-related sites and blogs, you have most likely encountered a veritable thicket of labels. I’m sure I will overlook some, but here are the biggies:

I’ve linked each of these terms with its Wikipedia definition. I won't rehash the specific definitions, but you may wish to review them.

I notice that people sometimes use these terms interchangeably. There is clearly some overlap, but for the most part, each of these phrases has a specific meaning. In my mind, they fall into three basic categories:

Relationship-based: D/s, M/s, and TPE

Activity-based: B&D, S&M

Relationship and Activity-based: DD

The relationship-based labels refer to the nature of the interaction between partners. For example, a couple may decide that a submissive is required to lower her eyes in the presence of her dominant partner. The dynamic can vary greatly based upon the couple's preferences.

Activity-based labels tend to address more the physical side of a relationship and the practices a couple uses. Bondage and discipline, for instance, usually involves some sort of restraint along with the use of a punishment implement. Again, the details can be very different from one couple to the next. While these terms may bring to mind extreme scenes, activities can be wild, tame, or anything in between.

Domestic discipline, as commonly practiced, incorporates elements of both of the other types. The relationship is one where one partner assumes the role of head of household. This designation defines the relationship that exists between them. At the same time, physical punishments, most often spankings, are employed to enforce the boundaries of the relationship.

So which of these labels, you may be asking yourself, applies to you? All of them? None? Sections of some and slivers of others? As it turns out, labels seldom match up with the diverse complexity of human interactions.

I feel, for example, that Randy and I fit vaguely under most of these labels, yet none of them accurately describes who we are, how we relate, or what we do. For us, that is perfectly OK. We don't base our lives upon textbook definitions of how a particular type of relationship should operate. It's preferable, I believe, to build a relationship that fits the two people who comprise it. If one chooses to apply labels after the fact, there is no harm in that.

One of the pitfalls encountered by many beginning spankos is trying to live a label. People may read on a Web site that a M/s relationship is highly desirable and should operate in a particular manner. As soon as they try to pattern their relationship after an abstract ideal, they are likely to find their interactions and perhaps even their partner to be lacking. The result is misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

In building or shaping a loving relationship, communication is the key. If a couple is exchanging ideas and sharing feelings, they are much more likely to sculpt a relationship that is robust, resilient, and rewarding. Those qualities are far more important than blind adherence to some unattainable standard.

We can make this lesson easy. Forget the labels. Follow your heart. Work together. Talk issues through. Do what you love. Be who you are. Think up a name later.

Keywords: ,


rivka said...

This was a great post, Bonnie. I've been there: worried about labels, definitions, fitting into somebody else's words.

Rico and I realized we didn't fit, completely, in the DD realm when we started to discover the seperate, but not so seperate, world of D/s. We don't fit well there either, however, for one reason or another.
So, we're somewhere inbetween. It took a while to get to the place where I could forget about everybody else and just let us be who *we* are on my own.

I hope others just starting out read this and avoid some of the awkwardness I went through. :)

Bonnie said...

Thank you, Rivka.

I've wanted to convey this message for some time, but it was important to me that it be done in a way that doesn't judge anyone's choices. I won't pretend that I have any idea which lifestyle is best for someone else.

I too sincerely hope these Spanking 101 articles will help to make someone's journey easier.

The Pink Wench said...

I think most people fit in the 'all of the above' categories at certain times. Because we all are different ... different sexes, cultures, races, careers and backgrounds, how could any one of us expect that my relationship dynamic to be the same as yours. Just go with the flow of what is best for the two of you, and you'll be happy no matter what anyone else is doing in their relationship.

Bonnie said...


I completely agree. In the final analysis, there are only two opinions that really matter.

Anonymous said...

Just found your fine blog and I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself and my partner Maartje to all of your visitors and share our wonderful experience. It may be that you´d want to place this post elsewehere on your site because it is not exactly a reply to this particular post of yours. But that is fine with me.

We are in this wonderful D/s DD relationship for nine months now and with a mix a of amazement and gratitude we look at what it has brought us so far.
I have always had a keen interest in spanking and discipline and have had various relationships that always catered for my spanking needs in one way or another. I was never decided on what was deeper rooted in me, the dominant or the submissive side. In some relationship I have been switching, in others I confined myself to the dominant role.
Before I met Maartje I was exclusively dominant in a D/s relationship that lasted 5 years. And it seemed to me that the bottom side in me had completely vanished.
Now I have met my new love and in our first conversation she asked me what the word 'spanking' meant. She had never been into anything of the sort. But she was more than ready to discover the world of spanking and discipline. At first it was me dominating her in what developed as a genuine D/s relationship with spanking being the main theme. But after some 3 months the dominant qualities that Maartje had shown already in other areas began to emerge also in the D/s part of our relationship.
What we have seen growing since then is truly unique I think. I had never thought that it would be possible to have a D/s dynamic between two persons where they can both be dominant. I knew about the phenomenon of switching where two partners alternate between topping and bottoming. But in a D/s context that seemed to be impossible to me as one could not combine submissiveness and dominance in one person.
In what we have going now so strongly I am the overall dominant. That is the basis of our D/s DD relationship. I can always stop (for a good reason) any action that Maartje takes as a dominant. But she can dominate me, spank me, discipline me. She not only enjoys that but also is of the opinion that I can only (continue to) be the strong man that she adores when I am disciplined on a regular basis. And I agree. It enhances my qualities of a true dominant as it makes me a whole person. It now seems impossible to me to be exclusively the dominant in a relationship, to never be able to put my head in her lap, to surrender. I would not be my real self. Maartje feels much more safe with me as a whole person. who can be strong and firm with her and is vigilant in putting boundaries to what she is doing. She also thinks (and I agree) that surrendering is a sign of strong character.

We would be most interested to hear from anyone in the group in reaction to our story and whether anyone is in a relationship wholly or partly similar to ours.

Barend and Maartje

Pagan said...

Hi Bonnie,

Oh, labels. I hate labels, and I really hate when people use them as a way of dismissing another group of people, or belittling them.

I am not submissive by nature, but I'm an ardent spanko, and enthusiastic bottom.

My husband has been spanking me for three years now - since I finally came out to him. We (by joint choice) restrain ourselves to erotic spanking, and the playful 'mini-spankings' that have always been a part of our relationship.

While I agree that bottoming is an action, I think there is more to it than that, though.

Spanking is as strong a craving to me as sex - sometimes more. I don't just want it - I NEED it. For pleasure, for stress release, for connection with my partner.

Outside of the act of being spanked, I really don't submit to my partner, nor does he want/expect me to. And yet...somehow...him becoming my spanker has changed our relationship dynamic slightly.

We are closer than we were before (probably because I finally took off my masks before him), but I also have more respect for him. It's not that I didn't before, but something has changed. I think I show him more casual respect than I used to.

Oh, I still tease him, and give him a hard time. I'm a confirmed smart-ass, and he likes that. And if I feel strongly about something, I'll get in his face about it.

But there's been a subtle shift that I'm having trouble articulating.

Funny that...getting your ass thoroughly tanned a couple of times by a man changes something in the interaction between the two of you. Go figure. ;)

It hasn't from his perspective, and he didn't know what I meant when I brought it up - but other spankos give me the nod. :)

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