Today, I'm taking a break from posting excerpts. Instead, I'd like to broach a subject on which we all don't necessarily agree. A few months back, one of the participants in a Facebook group I belong to raised a question regarding spanking, DD and BDSM. I find it interesting how the members had a slightly different take on the subject. The differences indicate to me that spanking is a highly personal activity because it's based on fulfilling an individual need, and none of us is the same. That's why each of us perceives spanking in DD, D/s or BDSM through a slightly different lens. I debated joining the discussion, but in for a penny, in for a pound, then as my thoughts kept developing I decided to write an article instead.
As I read through the responses, I found myself viewing the activity as a continuum from DD, to D/s to BDSM. Not so much in the area of harshness, (a hand spanking can be much more painful and attention-getting than a light flogging where the desired outcome is pleasure rather than attitude adjustment), but in the area of experimentation be it for discipline or pleasure.
Spankings given for punishment or behavior modification have a completely different goal than spankings given for pleasure or sensory stimulation, though oddly enough both trigger pulses in the same center of the brain because both use pain as a stimulus, which produces a release of endorphins. Yada, yada, yada. It's the "la-la" floating, boneless feeling you sometimes get after a session that is often called subspace or flying.
Due to the negative emotions normally involved, I do think there's more crying and wailing involved with DD because spankings given in that context often deal with the release of guilt over an undesired activity or mental attitude, while BDSM focuses more on finding pleasure through pain and the release gained through total submission. So, for me, the difference lies primarily in the intended goal not the subsequent result, and BDSM encompasses a wider range of intent.
Pain avoidance is a great motivator for me, since I don't enjoy painful stimuli. The trigger for my brain to react can be accessed through a change in voice or expression along with a softly worded warning. I can get the same goose bumps and melty feeling from a raised eyebrow that others achieve through physical contact, which means I require little stimulus to affect a behavioral or attitudinal change. A word or a threat is enough. That's not to say I don't get the occasional swat as an incentive to get me where I need to be a little more quickly, but I rarely press for anything stronger than that. My characters, however, are a little more resilient and pushy so they need and demand a more "hands-on" approach. That's them, not me. I can understand and sympathize with them, but I wouldn't want to be them or in their situation. And because my dislike of pain is deeply rooted in my childhood, I am unable to write a character who enjoys pain. My brain has a block around it. But that's me, and my hangup, and therefore a limitation in my writing as well. Those familiar with my comments on Saturday Spankings entries probably already realize that salient fact about me.
So, here are my definitions of what I consider to be three different lifestyles even though I know cross over exists. Again, this is my personal opinion so others may feel very differently about these dynamics, which is okay, too. We've got no hard and fast rules, at least I don't. Only perceptions and internalizations.
DD - Domestic Discipline a family dynamic where a dominant person takes the lead in helping others cope with the stresses of life through the administration of corporal punishment, which is usually limited to the buttocks and upper thighs. The HoHs (Head of Households) or Tops are responsible for making sure their partner(s), sometimes called bottoms, who have agreed to be Taken-in-Hand (TiH), stay within the lines of acceptable behavior often with the threat of a spanking or a paddling as a consequence. However, spankings aren't the only punishment administered. A TiH could also be sent to a corner to think, assigned a number of lines to write, or have their mouth washed out with soap for improper language. Almost any punishment that has been used on a child can and has been used in this dynamic. Punishments are intended to correct undesired behavior and nip poor attitudes in the bud. These relationships often have agreed-upon rules that need to be followed--or else. Breaking a rule results in a consequence. The primary dynamic around DD is respect for others as well as oneself. Sometimes, we need or want help to do what we know is right (stop smoking, over-eating, speeding, etc.). Consent is implied by entering into the relationship. For more information about DD and what it entails you can visit http://adomesticdisciplinesociety.blogspot.com/ or http://learningdd.blogspot.com/?zx=131dee90673ad4e both groups are open to individuals who want to learn more about the DD lifestyle.
D/s - Dominant and submissive relationships can be DD or BDSM. They usually require a stronger commitment to obedience and not just to rules. The submissive is expected to obey his or her dominant(s) at all times and in all things. Because this dynamic could end up with the submissive being taken beyond their comfort level, safewords are often employed. The punishments employed in DD can be used in this context, but D/s punishments are usually a little more stringent. Other punishments of the body are often employed, which can include objects inserted into or applied to anal, genital and/or oral areas (e.g., butt plugs, dildos, ball gags). In contrast, deprivation is a useful tool in D/s relationships, though it is usually applied by insisting the submissive not climax when sexually stimulated. For me D/s has a dynamic of achieving pleasure and satisfaction through obedience. Wikipedia goes into more detail on D/s, though I think they've focused on the BDSM spectrum of D/s in their definitions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_and_submission
BDSM - a lifestyle choice that can include, but is not limited to bondage, discipline and sado-masochistic activities. I'd say a couple who engages in shibari (Japanese rope bondage) or fire play, or pony play (to name just a few) has slipped from D/s to BDSM. For me, BDSM is at the extreme end of the continuum and because of that safewords are a requirement. However, one dynamic of BDSM is the Master/slave relationship where safewords are an anomaly, because a slave does not have the right or power to deny their master anything he or she wishes, even to protect their life (breath play). As I said, that is an extreme, but it's also more of a mindset than reality. A good master would never endanger the life of their slave. Unfortunately, not all masters are good and kind so any individual wishing to enter into this partnership needs to take extreme care. BDSM is where you have RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) and SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual) acronyms. I see BDSM as having a dynamic of learning how pain and obedience can bring an individual all-consuming pleasure. For more on BDSM you can visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDSM
The one thing all three of these relationships have in common is the power exchange. In my mind that exchange is more evenly balanced under DD than it is under BDSM. The Dominant in BDSM has most, if not all, the power and control in the relationship. Some practitioners say the submissive holds the power, but since she or he gives it all to the Dominant in the M/s dynamic, I'd say it's the Dominant who possess it. Levels of commitment can vary as well between the three lifestyle choices. In DD the commitment is meant to build a more permanent, stable relationship, but with D/s and BDSM you can have individuals who are in it solely for the play and the pleasure it gives them with no commitment beyond the current scene they're in. That's not to say you can not have extremely committed partners in D/s or BDSM, but I don't think you have many, if any, casual partners in DD, though it is possible to hire a disciplinarian. But that's another discussion for another time.
A question concerning consent and safewords was brought up in the comments of the Facebook post. Though I think they are a requirement in BDSM where the activities can go beyond safe to harmful, I consider the use of safewords in DD and D/s relationships a personal choice. For a definition, a safeword is a code word or series of code words that are used by a submissive (or "bottom") to unambiguously communicate their physical or emotional state to a dominant (or "top"), typically when reaching a physical, emotional, or moral boundary. Some individuals could not access the mental space they need or want to be in unless they feel their participation or choice is non-optional. Their desired outcome is a full and total submission to their partner(s). However, others may get panicky if they feel all escape routes are closed. They may have no desire or intention to use the "way out" given to them, but they need to know one exists to keep the panic at bay. Since a state of panic is (usually) undesirable in DD, D/s and BDSM, the parameters can be adjusted accordingly, and in some cases it is the Dominant or HoH who requires the safeword. Remember, no hard or fast rules, only individual needs and desires.
Again, we are talking about partnerships, whether permanent or temporary, so the needs of the Dominant as well as the submissive (read HoH and TiH for DD) should be considered when establishing parameters. As to whether or not spanking is merely a playful kink or something much deeper, I'd say the activity in question solely depends on the relationship. Placet cuique suum. Each to his own pleasure.
So, now you know my position. I'd love to hear yours.
Below are some other blogs on the topic that may be of interest