After an extended separation and a rocky reunion, my partner and I seem to be back in the Domestic Discipline (DD) groove. Translation: peaceful relationship, great sex and a sore bottom -- my first in three very long months.
After the last few posts focusing on the dangers, pitfalls and setbacks that can happen with a DD lifestyle, this seems like be a good time to revisit the reasons why we put ourselves through the complicated and occasionally comical process of developing a solid DD relationship in the first place.
Those of us who are already in (relatively) successful DD relationships are well aware, of course, of the benefits of this lifestyle. And part of the fun complexity of DD is that the benefits are different depending on which side of the paddle you're on.
For the most part, our partners benefit from DD indirectly. (I'm assuming here a traditional one-way DD relationship in which the dominant partner disciplines the submissive partner. ) Our partners benefit not so much from the discipline itself, but more from the effect that the discipline has on us and on the relationship.
But our partners don't get the privilege of experiencing the visceral, dramatic attitude shift that we get when we're properly disciplined. It amazes me how radically the presence of a sore bottom affects not just my relationship with my partner, but my entire outlook on life.
A sore bottom is a gift (that keeps on giving...?). It's a precious gift from my partner that demonstrates the love and commitment he has for our relationship, and for helping me to grow and become healthier human beings . Every time I feel the after-effects of a spanking, I am reminded that I am loved, cherished and important to my partner, and that he demonstrates this in part by taking the time to spank me.
A sore bottom also gives me a delicious sexual charge that helps to keep my relationship with my partner romantic and excitin. Since the majority, if not all, women come to DD out of an interest in erotic spanking, even (and perhaps especially) a disciplinary spanking has erotic overtones (after all, aren't most of our fantasies about disciplinary spankings?). A sore bottom is a little reminder of that sexual energy. Feeling that soreness makes me desire my partner more, which in turn makes me more sexually responsive to him, which in turn makes for better sex for both of us.
Perhaps the most intriguing benefit of having a sore bottom is that when I have one, I feel more feminine and submissive, and more confident and capable -- all at the same time. For me, this is the most fascinating and powerful part of DD -- its paradoxical ability to empower me through the experience of submission.
A submissive reaction to DD is, of course, something of a given. The experience of being spanked (i.e., physically and psychologically dominated) by my partner encourages my submissive side to come to the surface. And when I have a sore bottom, I can feel myself striving to act more respectful, loving and nurturing towards not only my partner, but towards the other people in my life. And because a spanking is also an effective stress reliever, a thorough spanking causes me to radiate a feeling of calm, peaceful energy. I am slower to anger and quicker to forgive. In short, I am softer.
My partner also tells me that I'm particularly beautiful after a spanking, and I feel that way, too. Perhaps it's a self-fulfilling prophecy -- because I feel more beautiful, relaxed and nurturing, I radiate that inner beauty to others. After a spanking, I'm also aware of feeling more physically graceful. My body posture and movements become more fluid and elegant. I tend to select softer, more feminine clothing. I walk and speak more softly. I walk more softly. And I laugh and smile more easily after a spanking. In short, I am more feminine.
But the most intriguing part of a sore bottom to me is that when I am well and regularly spanked for my misbehavior, I experience a significantly enhanced feeling of self-confidence and personal power. With a sore bottom, I feel as though I can do things that I previously didn't feel capable of doing. My head is clear and I seem to make better life decisions. And I am told by my partner (and others who don't know the cause) that I have a particular aura of confidence when I've been recently disciplined. In short, I am more powerful.
And here then, in the experience of a sore bottom, is the missing element of feminism -- that true feminine power is rooted in softness. True feminism isn't about borrowing male power and trying to make it fit. It's also not about disowning and repressing our softer, more nurturing qualities as signs of weakness.
For years, feminism has carried the message that to be an empowered woman, we have to act like a man. To be strong, we have to do his job (and do it the way he does it), wear his clothes (a skirt doesn't fully feminize a power suit) and play by his rules ("there's no crying in baseball!"). But the implication of that approach is that as women, we have no strength of our own and that the only way to get power is to imitate men. And that viewpoint strikes me as profoundly dis-empowering and anti-feminist.
The paradox of DD and of feminism is that the more in touch with our authentic feminine nature we are, the more empowered and capable we become in our careers, relationships and in the world in general. We can go out in the world and be leaders if we choose to, but we can do so as women, not as pretend-men. True feminine power -- the deepest, more primal essence of being female -- is the ability to find strength in our softness, not in spite of it.
After an extended separation and a rocky reunion, my partner and I seem to be back in the Domestic Discipline (DD) groove. Translation: peaceful relationship, great sex and a sore bottom -- my first in three very long months.
Wow. If there's one thing my partner and I are spectacularly good at, it's messing up our Domestic Discipline (DD) relationship in every way we can possibly find.
The good news is that after a prolonged absence, we're finally in the same house again, albeit only for a few weeks. The bad news is that getting back into the disciplinary groove is a lot harder than I'd anticipated.
I had this romantic vision of our reunion: falling into his waiting arms, submitting to a serious, much-needed and well-deserved "slate clearing" spanking, and floating away on a cloud of connubial bliss.
The problem is -- well, there are several, but the problem for this post is -- in all my imaginings, I forgot how much his spankings hurt.
So after several spanking-free months, when the first well-deserved swat landed, my instinctive reaction was, "OW! Stop that!" I promptly got up and indignantly protested this unexpectedly harsh assault on my person. When he ordered me back in position, my verbatim response was, "Like hell. Back off."
Now I suspect I know what you're thinking. It's likely the same thing I was thinking. His job in this moment was to take charge of the situation -- with force if necessary -- and resume the spanking -- with extra discipline added for my disobedience.
I need to add here this is the first time this particular situation has come up for us. We've had other occasions of me refusing discipline, but they've always been on the phone, never in person. Candidly, I used to think I was above that sort of behavior. I'd read posts from other women saying they resisted, moved out of position or put their hands back to block a swat, and I'd smugly think to myself, I would never do that. I'm disciplined (!) enough to take what's coming to me regardless of how much it hurts. But I have been humbled. Turns out I'm not above it at all.
Ultimately, I did manage to return, albeit not terribly submissively, to take the rest of my spanking, do my corner time, and proffer my apology. But I felt pretty crappy about how the whole thing went down on both sides. Whether he was or not, I was worried during the spanking that he was holding back and feeling uncomfortable. And I came away frustrated and unsettled, having missed out on the cathartic, mind-clearing, bonding aftereffects of discipline that I so needed and wanted. Instead of feeling close and loving, we spent an awkward, tense night dancing around each other's unspoken issues and pretending we didn't have a big problem to resolve. So much for connubial bliss.
The next day, when we talked about what went wrong, my partner admitted that while he was totally down for disciplining a willing woman, he had some serious concerns about disciplining an unwilling one. The lines of consent and non-consent suddenly became unclear, and that was very scary for him. As he put it, "If I spank you when you say no, am I an abuser? Is that assault?"
He'd expressed these concerns in the past, but I admit that since it never seriously occurred to me that this situation would come up, I hadn't made a serious effort to discuss it with him the way I should have.
This is another lesson, of course, in the importance of communication, even about things that seem far-fetched or unlikely at the time. If we'd communicated more thoroughly about his concerns beforehand, we might have had a shot at saving the situation from turning into a trust issue on both sides.
The larger concern that this brings up for me is a realization is that I -- and I suspect most submissives -- don't spend enough time considering the very real risks that the dominant partner takes in assuming the role of disciplinarian. I know for me, it's a constant struggle to remember to check in with my partner about how he's doing emotionally with regard to DD issues.
This lack of attention to the dominant's emotional state is likely because the majority of those who write about DD tend to be women, and women tend to be on the receiving end of discipline. We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about our issues, our perspective, yes, our vision of how perfect we wish our not-perfect partner could be. Also, since women (and likely submissives as a group?) tend to be more introspective than men, we're more likely to be more motivated than our partners to analyze and communicate our thoughts and feelings about DD.
In my perfect world, of course, my partner is all-knowing, all-strong, all-confident. He is the Indiana Jones of the DD world, spanking first, asking questions later, making heroic decisions with no hesitation or fear. This mythical view of our partner is a sacred cow for most of us, because let's face it, the idea of a disciplinarian who has serious doubts or insecurities is a bit of a buzz-kill for that "strong, handsome and totally in control" partner we all fantasize about.
But the dangers for the dominant partner are very real, and to have a fully realized, honest DD relationship, the dangers for both sides need to be constantly guarded against.
Some of the risks he takes:
1. Legal liability. This is the big one, and it likely worries your partner more than you realize, especially if this is his first DD relationship. All it takes is one particularly nasty argument and all of a sudden, he's being reported to the authorities as an abusive spouse. And you've got the bruises to prove it.
This may sound far-fetched, and I keep telling my partner it would never happen, but in a culture with our rabid, zero-tolerance, ask no questions approach to domestic violence, it's a huge risk for any man to take. If the relationship turns sour and we want revenge, we have the power to send him to prison, ruin his career and reputation, humiliate him in front of his friends and family, and get the state to revoke custody of his children.
Yes, I know we're all sure this would never happen, but HE can never be 100% sure, and the truth is, neither can we -- because no one can be 100% sure of anything when it comes to intimate relationships. After all, consider that virtually all relationships start out full of love and the promise of trust, and then consider how many of them end vindictively in divorce court, or worse, violence. None of those couples thought it would end that way, either, but it does. All the time.
2. Emotional trauma. My partner is a decent, feeling, caring human being, and I'm assuming yours is, too. (If not, you probably shouldn't be in any kind of relationship with him, much less a relationship requiring the trust and control that DD does.) Decent, feeling, caring human beings aren't naturally inclined to want to hurt the people they love. Yes, of course our partner understands that we want and need those hard spankings -- he wouldn't give them to us if he didn't. But that doesn't mean it's always easy to spank us when we're sobbing in pain and remorse, or to ignore our pleas for mercy. Inflicting pain on another human being always carries an emotional price, no matter how consensual that pain is. And when it's not clearly consensual, that emotional price skyrockets.
3. Mental energy. Being an effective disciplinarian is hard work. (Just ask any good parent.) To discipline responsibly requires being focused, making good judgements, and staying present in the moment, constantly judging the level and appropriateness of the timing and degree of discipline being meted out. Disciplining another human being is a huge, stressful, often exhausting responsibility.
And since most of us demand consistency in our discipline, this requires a whole new level of alertness in keeping track of what our misbehavior is, how he disciplined for it last time, etc. Not to mention the effort required to respond to our misbehavior with appropriate discipline (and ideally some level of enthusiasm) even if he's sick, tired, distracted, in the middle of a big project at work, or just really looking forward to watching the game on TV. As hard it is sometimes to accept discipline, his job is much harder than ours is.
4. Isolation. Yes, of course, DD is a powerful bonding experience on both sides, and in many ways, brings us closer to our partners than we could ever be in a more egalitarian relationship. But being a disciplinarian means being a leader, and being a leader is a lonely place to be. For a start, DD is likely not the sort of experience he can generally share with his buddies (especially if, like my partner, his buddies are his colleagues in the progressive political world), so he often has nowhere to turn for advice, a sounding board or just to share his experiences with others in his situation.
He is also denied many of the benefits that we as submissives enjoy as a result of being disciplined. He has no structured outlet for his negative emotions. He has no formal way of clearing his conscience when he feels bad about something. He has no one to be accountable to for his missteps. We get the luxury of regressing and abdicating responsibility sometimes, particularly during our discipline. But he has to be an adult virtually all of the time -- an adult that lives up to our shining ideal of what an adult should be. Yes, being adored and deferred to has its benefits, but that doesn't make the loneliness of leadership any less difficult.
Fortunately for me, my partner and I are pretty good about understanding that DD, like any relationship, is a work in progress. We talked about my need to know that discipline is inevitable regardless of my feelings on the subject, and about his fears of being accused of abuse if he spanks me after I've said no.
The issues we have didn't disappear. In fact, I suspect they'll come up again and again as we struggle through this. But the key to a healthy DD lifestyle seems to lie in the willingness to accept each other's imperfections, to expect things to go wrong, and to be willing to live with the reality of how DD works in a real relationship, rather than expecting everything to go like it does in our daydreams. After all, perfection is what we have those lovely masturbatory fantasies for, right?
In bed with the flu this past week, I spent more time reading than I did writing, and had a chance to catch up on some blogs I'd been bookmarking. Among them is the blog many of you are likely familiar with, Breathing In, Breathing Out, which examines the role that Domestic Discipline (DD) can play in healing the after-effects of childhood abuse (sexual and otherwise).
I was particularly struck by the author's latest post, "Spanking vs. Abuse," in which she struggles to draw a distinction between "secret" and "private" with regard to her DD lifestyle, and to come to terms with how keeping the secret of DD fits in with the need to stop keeping the abusive secrets of her past.
I understand her dilemma. I also have a lot of history with secrets. They were the family speciality. Secrets about incest, abuse, affairs, alcoholism, financial scandals and white collar crime dot my family tree like sour apples rotting on the branches.
I learned how to keep secrets at a very early age -- about things that were happening to me and about things that were happening around me and everything in between.
As a child, I kept these secrets partly because I was told to and out of fear of the consequences if I didn't. But mostly, I kept them out of shame. If people found out who I "really" was, what kind of family I "really" came from, at the very least, they would stop liking me. And at worst, I'd be forcibly taken from my home and blamed by my parents for tearing the family apart and "making people think badly of us."
I've worked very hard during the last ten years to be divest myself of the role of family secret-keeper, and I've largely done it. And having worked so hard to be secret-free, the last thing I wanted to do was add a new one to my closet, or to create another significant emotional bond in which secrecy plays such a major part.
But of course, secrecy is inherent in a DD relationship. We all know far too well that it's not the kind of thing a woman can safely talk to friends, family, or for the most part, even a therapist about without risking some seriously negative reactions -- particularly in feminist/progressive circles.
The writer of the "Breathing In Breathing Out" blog suggests the answer lies in making the distinction between "private" and "secret." That perhaps DD is something that's private, but not secret.
I am struck by her way of thinking on this issue. Of course, as she herself acknowledges, it's not quite that simple.
The dictionary definitions of "private" and "secret" are virtually identical, but I would argue that "secret" often contains an element of shame that "private" does not. We may keep something private for all kinds of reasons, but most of the time, we keep something secret out of fear and shame of what others would think if they knew. To take that another step, then, one might say that we keep something private voluntarily, but we keep something secret due to social coercion -- the cost of telling is so high that it's virtually not a choice at all. Privacy is voluntary; secrecy is not.
At best, DD is a mix of privacy and secrecy. I say "at best" because for most women who practice DD (particularly feminists) the ever-present the fear of the reactions of our friends, colleagues and family makes our choice for us -- what would they think of us if they knew we submitted to spankings, corner time and other discipline by our partner for our misbehaviors?
To be clear, I don't have a need to spill the graphic details of my partner's and my DD lifestyle to our friends, family and colleagues (or for the matter, the world of cyberspace) any more than I want to gratuitously share the details of my sex or financial life or anything else that's traditionally kept "private." But I do have a problem living constantly on my guard that I might slip and say or do something that would reveal that I live this lifestyle at all and in any way.
So in spite of my best efforts, I find myself in a similar (but thankfully not identical) situation to my childhood. Keeping a secret not voluntarily, but out of fear and shame. And though without question the benefits of DD in my life are worth the price of secrecy, I still chafe at having to cover something up against my will. Again.
I write this on the day Hillary Clinton announced that she's forming an exploratory committee in preparation for a presidential bid. And I idly wonder, what if... just what if... she and Bill have a DD relationship? What she tolerates Bill's affairs primarily because the discipline she gets from being with him is what allows her to reach her goals and that's worth a little flexibility on the monogamy issue? (It likely would be to me, especially if it's Bill holding the paddle...)
What if our image of Hillary taking the oath of office were superimposed with an image of Hillary, business skirt pulled up, bottom bared and red, sobbing as she stands in the corner following a spanking from Bill for having spoken to him disrespectfully?
I'd like to think that if that (hypothetical) truth came out, we'd admire Hillary as much or perhaps more than we do already, because we'd see that she had the courage to acknowledge her deepest, most difficult-to-face needs and ask for them from her partner in the name of becoming a more complete human being.
But the truth is, of course, that virtually no one would see it that way. Her career would be over in less time that it would take to Fox News to report the story. An entire life's work, her dignity, self-respect and credibility erased with the spilling of one secret.
And so shame becomes bound up with the good, positive, life-affirming parts of DD and I find myself again in the position of childhood -- if people knew who I "really" was, what "really" went on behind the closed doors of my home, they wouldn't like me anymore. (Ironic, BTW, given that the very community that would condemn me the most is the progressive community, which prides itself on being tolerant of divergent lifestyles.)
As so often happens, I don't have a ready answer here. But I suspect the "private" vs "secret" distinction is the best solution so far -- to focus as much as possible on DD as a private matter between two consenting adults, and place less importance on the secret/shame aspect that's foisted on us by a culture that isn't broad-minded enough to recognize the benefits.
I wrote in an earlier post about the challenges my partner and I are having with long distance Domestic Discipline (DD), (see "Why Spanking Matters"). The short summary is that for us at least, DD doesn't seem to work when we're apart.
The problem is that without it, we're back to where we were before we started DD in the first place. That is, tears, anger, accusations, eroding communication and intimacy. A gulf between us that's as wide as ever it was. I can hardly believe we're the same two people who, only a month ago, were as close as I can imagine being with another human being.
The situation so upsetting for both of us that last night, after yet another tearful and angry encounter via phone, he suggested that perhaps we should consider not communicating at all when we're apart because it goes so poorly without DD to help us negotiate our differences.
The good news is that we'll be back together again in a few days. And I have every confidence that -- after a much-needed disciplinary session and reconciliation -- we'll find that loving, intimate place back again.
All of which brings up another nagging question in my head:
Is it really a good relationship if the only thing holding it together is DD? Put another way, if the relationship collapses so dramatically without DD, is it worth saving?
I think the answer is yes, because I think any healthy relationship is defined largely by how well individual boundaries are negotiated and enforced.
A genuine, intimate relationship requires boundaries in order to endure. In most non-DD relationships, those boundaries are much less clearly defined than they are in a DD relationship, but the boundaries are there nonetheless. They're negotiated over time, through communication and trial and error. He learns not to talk to her first thing in the morning because she's grouchy. She learns that he gets angry when she makes social plans without consulting him. Etc. etc.
If one partner violates the other's boundary, an argument and hurt feelings generally result. If it happens frequently, trust is impaired. Too many violations and the relationship is over.
The relationships that last are the ones where the boundaries are solid enough to provide safety, yet permeable enough to allow intimacy. In other words, just like good fences make good neighbors, good boundaries make good relationships. Remove the boundaries and you remove the safety net for building trust and intimacy. The container in which the relationship is held isn't strong enough to sustain the love and trust that goes inside it.
At its heart, DD is fundamentally nothing more than a more formalized and externalized system of setting and enforcing boundaries -- a container in which a relationship can grow and thrive. It's also, I believe, a safer and healthier container than most couples have the benefit of.
In a traditional relationship, it's generally a case of "cross my boundary and I will passively-aggressively punish you for the rest of our time together," or more likely, "cross my boundary and I'll leave you for someone who respects my boundaries." But in DD, it's "cross my boundary and you will be disciplined, firmly but fairly, and then we'll let it go and get on with our lives together."
So is it a "real" relationship if it's held together with DD?
I'd say absolutely.
A clear, mutually agreed-upon system of maintaining healthy boundaries while enhancing intimacy isn't the glue that holds an otherwise unhealthy relationship together -- it's the way in which a relationship stays healthy in the first place.
In other words, without a strong container, even the most loving relationship will fall apart.
It's the thing none of us wants to talk about, but it's always there, at least for progressively-minded couples.
If he is angry with something I've done, I am disciplined, and if the discipline is sufficient, I come to see the error of my ways and am able to apologize. All is peaceful and well. This is the best of DD, when it's working as it's meant to.
But if I am angry with something he's done... well, what then?
I believe passionately in the power of DD to save and strengthen a relationship. But every once in awhile, this issue of me expressing my anger comes up. And it scares me, because it seems like the Achilles heel of the DD power structure.
The common response to this dilemma is to say that a woman in a DD relationship can and should express disagreement respectfully. But I'm not talking about whether or not to buy a new toaster oven. I'm talking about a situation in which he has done or said something that I find genuinely hurtful or disrespectful to me, and I feel the need to express my hurt and anger to him and receive an apology in return.
Ideally, he'd realize his mistake and apologize of his own volition, but much as I'd like him to be, he's not perfect. Sometimes he genuinely doesn't see that what he's done is hurtful, even after I've tried to express it to him.
In the interest of preserving the overall benefits of our DD lifestyle, I can and have tried to let it go and accept that he's not going to apologize for his behavior. A sacrifice in service of the greater good. But the problem with sacrifice, of course, is that too much of it leads to resentment and hostility. I'm not really letting my anger and hurt go, I'm just repressing it. And sooner or later all those little hurts and slights that I've repressed in the name of love and harmony will explode into a problem that could destroy our entire relationship.
As far as I can tell, there is no mechanism within the rules of DD for handling this situation. The rules by which feminine anger is allowed to be expressed feel unequal and unfair to me.
If he's angry with me, he gets to spank me. A clear, specific, and (I imagine) fairly emotionally satisfying experience for him. He can also scold or lecture me in a tone that clearly says, I am angry with you for what you have done. And by the rules of DD, my role is to listen quietly, accept my discipline, consider his position, and apologize. Which, by the way, let's be clear: I have NO problem doing if I've done something disrespectful or hurtful to him. I am grateful for the clean, fair and contained way that DD provides of alleviating guilt and hurt feelings.
But if I'm angry with him, I have no such acceptable outlet. A woman in a DD relationship agrees to be respectful at all times, regardless of her partner's behavior and her feelings about that behavior. If I raise my voice or evince what he calls a "bad attitude" or otherwise indicate in my tone that I'm unhappy, I risk being disciplined for disrespect. Yes, I can go in the backyard and pound on the wall or throw the recycling around or otherwise express my anger indirectly, but that's a world away from the privilege of being allowed to express my anger physically and verbally directly to him.
This part of DD feels grossly unfair and emotionally dangerous. The problem is that I'm not sure how to remedy it without compromising the DD relationship as a whole. And the benefits of DD overall are so great that I don't want to lose them because of a few instances in which I feel unable to express my feelings. But that said, it is an issue. And one that I fear will only get more serious as time goes by.
The good news in all this is that when DD is working for us, there are significantly fewer instances in which I get angry at my partner. Not because I'm cowed into accepting bad behavior, but because we both treat each other more lovingly and respectfully, and so the little hurts and slights don't 't occur nearly as often as they did before we started DD.
But nobody's perfect. No matter how much we love each other and how well DD works for us, there will always be times when something he does hurts or angers me. That's the nature of an emotionally intimate relationship. So the issue is there, brewing beneath the surface, waiting to erupt and tear us apart despite our best efforts to love each other.
I wish I had the answer to this problem. The truth is, I don't have a clue how to resolve it. But I put it out there because I think that I, like many feminist women in DD relationships, often turn a blind eye to this problem precisely because it seems unsolvable and is therefore too frightening to face directly.
After experiencing such positive changes in our relationship through the use of Domestic Discipline (DD), my partner and I now find ourselves having to spend an extended time apart. And despite heroic and exhausting attempts on both sides at long distance discipline, our relationship is once again falling apart. And fast.
We've tried corner time (without the spanking beforehand), mouth soaping, scolding, essay writing and, yes, even self-spanking with him on the phone directing me. But none of it's working. I try. I do my best to participate fully in the discipline he gives me, but the truth is that all I'm doing is going through the motions.
Don't get me wrong. I love and respect him as much as ever. Couldn't imagine being with anyone else, even though I'm not doing a good job of showing it recently. But my ability to communciate those feelings to him is slipping away again, just like it did before we tried DD.
I think it's the lack of spanking.
Without the spanking part (self-spanking does not have the same effect at all), DD loses its power for me. It's like trying to dance with my shoelaces tied together or make love with my legs crossed. It's like applauding without the performance. It's like running a victory lap without the race. It's like... well, for me at least, it's impossible.
My partner is frustrated. He's articulated to me that, "If this DD stuff is so powerful, it ought to last while we're apart." I'm frustrated, because I feel like he's judging the benefits DD has on our relationship without the presence of the key element that makes it work for me.
I've never administered a spanking, but I suspect it's very different to give one than it is to receive one. I think there's probably some catharsis in spanking someone when you're angry at them, but it's probably mitigated a lot by having to stay in control and discipline responsibly. It's a person you're hitting after all, not a pinata -- you can't just wale away until you're not angry anymore.
I suspect the benefit of a spanking for the person giving it lies largely the effect the spanking has on the person receiving it, in that the person receiving the spanking becomes calmer, more loving and more reasonable. And from the point of view of the disciplinarian, well, discipline is discipline, right? I imagine (and this is conjecture on my part) that my partner feels like I ought to be responding to whatever discipline he gives me like I respond to a spanking. Or at least responding.
But that's like saying that all sexual activity should make me orgasm, or all jokes should make me laugh.
All discipline is not created equal. Spanking creates a primal, visceral response in me that nothing else does and without it, all those wonerful feelings of trust, love and safety that DD can bring disappear almost entirely for me.
For me, DD just doesn't work without spankings. I want it to, very much, but it doesn't. And given the heavy emphasis on spanking (primarily by women) on virtually all of the DD blogs and forums, I suspect I'm not alone in this.
But why? What separates spanking from other forms of discipline? It's not the most painful -- I'd rather take a serious spanking than a mouth soaping any day. It's not even the most embarrassing -- for a lot of us, bare-bottom corner time trumps spanking for embarrassment.
1. Spanking is physical contact with my partner. There have been lots of times in pre-DD days when my partner and I were arguing, and a little voice in my head said, 'You know, if he were to just hug me right now, I'd feel better able to see his point of view.' But that's not a realistic possibility in the middle of an argument. People generally don't want to hug someone when they're angry with them.
Spanking, however, is a very physically intimate act that doesn't require my partner to put aside his genuine feelings of anger to initiate. Like a hug, when he spanks me, I feel loved, cared for, appreciated and important. Connected. And it's all within the context of the emotions we're both feeling. Neither one of us has to set aside our genuine reactions to participate in a spanking.
2. Spanking is mind-clearing. It's the only discipline that is intense and instant enough to clear my mind of its endless chatter about why I'm right and he's wrong and yadda yadda -- all the stuff that gets in the way of two people working things out in a loving way. Yes, I think mouth soaping is more painful, but it's a slow burn that gives me way too much time to think. When a spanking is appropriately severe, it takes me immediately out of the moment, out of my emotional reaction, out of myself. It's a time-out from the whole world, in fact, which allows me to re-approach the situation and make room for his point of view alongside my own.
3. Spanking is sexual. Women in DD relationships, me included, spend a lot of time denying the presence of a sexual component in disciplinary spanking, but don't believe it for a second.
Yes, there is a difference between an erotic spanking and a disciplinary one, but there's no getting around the reality that both have strong sexual energy associated. We can rationalize all we want that our getting wet and aroused during a spanking is only because we are feeling our man's dominance, etc. and not because of the spanking (it's telling that that particular theory was put forward by a man, not a woman). But I call bullsh*t. Come on, most of us have been masturbating to spanking fantasies all our lives, so let's not pretend otherwise.
First of all, the buttocks are an erogenous zone. Particularly if he spanks in the "sit spot" (or "sweet spot," as it's commonly called), that yummy sexual jolt goes straight to just the right place. Second, women in DD relationships are usually spanked while naked, or at least with our bottoms -- and all the relevant sex parts -- exposed. We're also bent over and submissive -- in the same posture as we would be for rear-penetration sex, which most men (and many women) find highly erotic.
This is all good news, by the way. We spend so much time worrying about whether or not DD is really just kink in disguise, but on the level of, "if it works, who cares why," so what? Even if it is just a fetish (which I don't think is the case), what better way to defuse a conflict than by igniting a powerful current of sexual energy between partners?
4. Spanking is cathartic. It's the only discipline I know of that makes me cry, and especially for women, crying is an important release of tension and other intense emotions. A disciplinary session without spanking leaves me tense, irritable and still overwhelmed with all the swirling feelings that I had that caused the misbehavior in the first place (it should be said here that the majority of discipline I receive is for what my partner calls "expressing anger inappropriately"). If I have a safe way to cry those emotions out without having to defend my point of view at the same time, I can come back to the discussion in a more reasoned frame of mind.
5. Spanking is primal. Virtually every other disciplinary technique relies on higher brain functions to work. (Mouth soaping being the exception, but as discussed, it has other drawbacks). Corner time, writing lines, etc. work because they force me into a meditative state and/or because they're boring or tedious. But a dislike of boredom is a higher brain function, not a primitive response. If anything, for our primitive brain, boredom is good because it means no one's trying to kill and eat you.
But spanking is the immediate, shocking infliction of physical pain and it goes right to the center of that primitive "lizard brain" we have that responds only to intense, rudimentary stimuli. It bypasses all our reasoning skills and fancy higher function and goes straight to our nervous system.
Spanking is the equivalent of the lead dog in a pack nipping another dog that's gotten out of line -- like sex, it pushes intinctual buttons and sends signals that resonate with the core of our inner being. And because spanking reaches deeper than our conscious thought or civilized behavior can go, it has the power to evoke profound change in our attitudes and behavior.
So there is the dilemma. It doesn't seem likely that my partner and I will be together again anytime soon, as professional obligations keep us apart. But without spanking, the DD doesn't work, and without DD, the relationship doesn't work.
What I can't quite decide is whether ineffective discipline is better for the relationship than none at all. I'm tempted to suggest to him that we simply put a moratorium on DD until we're together again, given that it's not working anyway and is likely doing nothing but undermining his faith in the idea as a whole. But on the other hand, maybe it's better to go through the motions rather than abandon it altogether. After all, it's not completely ineffective. Just mostly.
I'm thinking that we need to spend less less thinking up creative (but ineffective) long distance discipline and more time figuring out how to spend more time in the same room with me bent over the bed and him holding the paddle.
When my partner and I first started Domestic Discipline (DD), we decided that we'd confine our disciplinary activities to things that affected the relationship only. That meant I could be disciplined for things like disrespect, failure to communicate/withholding, dishonesty and other behaviors that directly hurt the relationship.
We decided that it would not be appropriate to discipline for things that I, as an adult, could and should take personal responsibility for. For example, I tend to eat too much junk food (someday I'll start a blog just for people addicted to Dr. Pepper...), stay up too late and put off unpleasant tasks until the last minute.
Using DD to enforce issues of personal responsibility seemed to cross a line into a place that would make me less of an adult, less empowered and less independent -- all things that, as a progressive DD couple, we very much did not intend to do. DD was intended as a way to defuse conflicts in our relationship, not to relieve me of adult responsibilities and make my partner responsible for things I ought to be able to do on my own.
We were also concerned that using DD to enforce individual responsibility would be too much of a logistical and time burden for my partner. He leads an extremely busy life and figuring out how to incorporate consistent DD into our lives for relationship issues was already challenging enough without giving him the burden of micromanaging my personal life for me. Not only would that level of expectation likely cause the whole system cave in on itself, but I was also afraid it would lead to resentment on his part for being expected to supervise and police my actions on a constant basis.
Finally, we were concerned that using DD over to deal with issues like eating, sleeping and work habits would move our relationship from an adult partnership into a parent/child dynamic. Asking my partner to take responsibility for my personal habits would force him into the role of a father, which seemed like a big mistake. (and was likely to cause resentment and other complications that would negate the benefits of DD)
The problem, however, is that the line between a "relationship" issue and a "personal" issue isn't quite as black and white as we'd originally thought.
For example, if I'm grouchy and disrespectful with him in the morning because I stayed up too late the night before, does he discipline me for being disrespectful or for staying up late? And what if the reason I stayed up too late was because I drank too much Dr. Pepper (did I mention how yummy it is over vanilla bean ice cream?) and couldn't get to sleep. Does he discipline me for the misbehavior or the cause of the misbehavior? If it's for the cause of the misbehavior, how far back should he go to determine the cause?
My instinct is to say that he should discipline me for the misbehavior, and discuss with me the possible causes of it and how I might fix them (or require me to think about the causes during corner time). But this quickly strays pretty far out of "partner" land and into "parent" land. Once he's started making issues of personal responsibility part of my discipline in any way, we're already halfway to his disciplining me for those habits.
And there are those who have made the convincing argument that destructive personal habits are relationship issues because they are inherently damaging to the relationship, not just the individual with the habit.
A partner with unhealthy eating habits risks developing health problems, which could significantly affect the relationship. She likely has less energy to devote to her every day life, which means less energy to devote to the relationship. One could therefore argue that it's disrespectful to the relationship not to eat healthy foods.
Or to take the bedtime example, a partner who stays up so late that she's a wreck at work the next morning risks getting fired, which would certainly hurt the relationship in all kinds of ways.
Another reasonable way of approaching whether or not to discipline for personal responsibility issues is to apply the principle that disrespect in any form should be disciplined.
If we're out in socially and I'm disrespectful to our friends, our waitress or anyone else, I know without a doubt that I will earn myself a correction for my misbehavior, even though it doesn't specifically involve disrespecting my partner.
So if disrespecting others is a punishable offense, what about disrespecting myself through bad habits like eating junk food and not getting enough sleep? Surely I'm not less worthy of respect than our waitress at the restaurant, so logically, I should be disciplined for behavior that is disrespectful of myself.
But of course, now we're back to the concerns about disciplining for things I should take personal responsibility for... and the circle begins all over again!
I'd love to report that we've found the solution to this little logic tangle, but, as with the DD relationship as a whole, it's still a work-in-progress.
I suspect, however, ultimately, that it's actually far less important that we resolve this issue than that we continue talking about it. DD, like most relationships, can likely survive anything except lack of good communication.
There's a scene in the musical "Oh Calcutta" in which two errant young women are taken to a disciplinarian to be caned. One girl is tied up and forced into position, the other bends over of her own free will. The disciplinarian refuses to cane the bound girl, saying that a caning must be received voluntarily to be effective. Non-consensual discipline is meaningless. He releases the bound girl and canes the one who submits of her own free will.
I think a lot about the issue of obedience and consent, particularly when I'm doing corner time. There's not much to do in the corner but reflect, and the topic of discipline is naturally uppermost in my mind during that time.
As I stand in the corner, occasionally for as long as an hour, I have lots of time to reflect on what keeps me there. I believe the reasons that I stay are what separates adult discipline from childhood discipline, and Domestic Discipline (DD) from abuse.
A woman in a DD relationship is definitionally there by consent (non-consensual DD would be another name for abuse). Perhaps more importantly, the woman is almost always the initiator of a DD relationship in that she asks for discipline from her partner.
Childhood discipline, on the other hand, does not require consent. Little kids have no choice but to submit to discipline (which is why punishments that may be appropriate for consenting adults, such as a severe spanking, are generally abusive or excessive to use on children). Parents are bigger and stronger than their children, as well as being the principle authority figures in their lives. When it comes right down to it, a child who refuses discipline can be physically and psychologically overpowered and forced to accept it regardless of their feelings in the matter.
But I am not a child; I am a grown woman. And what keeps me in the corner is not fear, helplessness or an inability to resist. I obey of my own free will, even when it's inconvenient, painful and/or embarrassing to do so.
So if the reasons I obey are different from those of a child, what are they?
1. Psychological imperative. I've written at some length about our inner psychological imperative for discipline in the article "DD as a Reaction to Me Generation Parenting." Those of us who have asked for the DD lifestyle recognize in ourselves a deep, urgent and unmet need for this type of structure, often due to a lack of discipline in our early lives. As much as we may not like or want the discipline in the moment, our primal need for it outweighs the discomfort or inconvenience of accepting it. The subconscious is a pretty powerful voice, and it's telling us in no uncertain terms that we need this and we need it now, whether we like it or not. I obey because the adult in me knows that the child in me needs to learn boundaries, and as a responsible and loving parent to my Inner Child, I want what's best for her.
2. Emotional intimacy. As my relationship with my partner becomes increasingly intimate as a result of practicing DD, I accept discipline because of a desire for the payoff that comes with obedience. On an immediate level, the powerful emotional connection we experience immediately following a correction is deeply emotionally satisfying in a way that very few other experiences are. On a larger scale, our relationship is exponentially more loving and rewarding when DD is working than when it's not. I obey because I want the emotional payoff that comes with submitting to my partner's discipline.
3. Respect for my partner. I also stay in the corner out of respect and love for my partner. Any man willing to enter into a DD relationship is taking a terrible risk. There's the obvious risk of being reported to the authorities as an abusive mate by an angry and vindictive partner. But perhaps more significant (and likely) is the personal psychological risk that the disciplinarian in a DD relationship assumes. It's an awesome responsibility to discipline another human being (adult or child). Whether he admits it to you or not, it can be scary to be the one holding the paddle. Refusing to accept the discipline that I have specifically asked for would undermine his feeling of safety and trust about our arrangement. It would also be profoundly unappreciative of his genuine efforts to give me something that I want and need. Accepting discipline shows my partner that I am clearly consensual in this and that he is safe, emotionally and legally, in giving it to me.
5. Justice. I stay in the corner because it feels fair and right for me to do so. I did the crime, I do the time, and I do it in a way that I've agreed to, that feels contained, safe and loving. I believe that human beings have a built-in sense of justice, and too often in our lives, there are no clear, structured ways in which we can pay for our mistakes. As a result, we often carry guilt over our misdeeds around with us that becomes far out of proportion to the original crime. But in our relationship, if I do something wrong, I am disciplined for it, and I'd much, much rather submit to a clearly defined consequence than beat myself up over my mistake for days, weeks, months (even years) afterward. Submitting to discipline satisfies my very human need for forgiveness and atonement.
6. Personal empowerment. It's the paradox of DD -- that submitting to discipline ultimately puts me more in touch with my own personal power. At the core, I obey because I know that DD makes me stronger, more effective, more confident, more productive. In short, a better person. The difference in what I'm able to accomplish in my career and in working for the causes I believe in with and without DD is so dramatic that my only regret is that I wasn't ready to live this way sooner. Without DD, I'd lose a most of my access to a part of myself that I cherish beyond all else -- my personal power. At the heart of it, I stay in the corner because I am a better person and the world is a better place if I do.
I remember vividly the first time I ever tried a full-blown discipline scenario as an adult (disclaimer: not with my current partner, but a different, ill-fated, mercifully short-lived relationship) . The candles were lit. He was wearing black. I was wearing nothing. It was all very Anne Rice.
I knelt before him, ready for punishment. He reached for me.... and with a CRACK, the small stool he was sitting on collapsed beneath him. My strong, confident, in-control disciplinarian collapsed with it, in a very un-intimidating heap on the bedroom floor.
What could we do but laugh?
Of course, that experience wasn't really Domestic Discipline (DD). More like kinda lame, overblown, amateur-hour BDSM. But I did learn a valuable lesson from that brief, unsuccessful experience.
Things are going to go wrong.
Sometimes a little wrong, sometimes a lot wrong. But wrong they will go, at full speed, and especially at the beginning when you and your partner are first working all this out.
I wish there were more posted about the mishaps inherent in a DD relationship. To read the forums and blogs, you'd think every discipline session always goes perfectly, minus the occasional reference to an unfair punishment or a broken paddle.
DD relationships are complex, multi-tentacled, unwieldy beasts, particularly at the start when both sides are just working their way through the ropes of what works and what doesn't. And I'm going to hazard a guess that DD relationships between progressive couples are more complicated and fraught with mishaps than those between more traditional couples because progressive women have a lot more opinions about what's right and wrong in a relationship than conservative women do.
Though (ideally!) I submit to discipline from my partner without argument or resistance, regardless of whether I agree or disagree that I deserve it, our overall arrangement is much more collaborative. We spend a lot of time talking about what works, what doesn't, what's fair or unfair, what the consequences of a particular misbehavior should be (again, not in the moment, but after and in general). Discipline is always a work in progress in our household.
Fortunately, we haven't had a chair collapse under us (yet), but we've had plenty of other things go wrong. Most of the time these are small mishaps, usually due to a previously unrecognized gap in communication or an experiment that didn't turn out quite the way it was supposed to.
Our most recent mishap happened just today.
We spend a lot of time apart, so we're always looking for creative ways for him to discipline me long-distance, and the old-fashioned mouth soaping seemed like a fine idea.* Unfortunately, we way underestimated the severity of this particular form of correction.
During an especially stressful day, my partner and I had an argument which culminated in me yelling "F*ck you" at him and hanging up the phone. As angry as I was, I regretted it (almost) immediately and knew I was in for it when we spoke again. As was appropriate, I promptly received the consequence of a severe spanking and an hour of corner time, 30 minutes of which was to be spent with a bar of soap in my mouth.
Turns out, spending 30 minutes with a bar of soap in my mouth is really uncomfortable. (Go figure.) So uncomfortable in fact that I gave in to temptation and removed the soap before the 30 minutes was up. My partner and I have agreed that refusing to take discipline is one of the most serious misbehaviors in that it undermines the entire structure of a DD relationship. So as a result my my removing the soap without permission, we agreed that I would repeat repeat the soap and corner time portion of the punishment for an entire week -- seven successive nights.
I lasted three days. 30 minutes of mouth soaping is uncomfortable, but bearable. Three nights in a row of 30 minutes of mouth soaping is far more painful than the most severe spanking I've ever received. By the third day, (yesterday) I had blisters in my mouth and couldn't eat or drink without extreme agony. Still can't, today, almost 24 hours after my last soap encounter. Although this correction seemed like a good idea at the time, it was a definite disciplinary misfire. Though discipline is supposed to hurt, it seemed clear that we'd inadvertently crossed the line into something more extreme than DD.
Since adding DD to our relationship was my idea initially, I feel a lot of pressure to be perfectly accepting of my punishments so I can prove to him how serious I am about living this lifestyle. I was therefore tempted to be the martyr and "take what was coming to me," as it were, without complaint.
Thankfully, my higher brain functions were insistent that this punishment was too extreme, and so when the time came for day four, I explained the situation to my partner and asked for an alternative correction. We worked through it and he adjusted the consequences.
(It's important to note here that I didn't call up and say, I'm not doing it and that's that, which would have been disprespectful and would have damaged the integrity of a DD relationship. Instead, I explained the situation and requested an adjustment. And because our relationship is based on safe, sane limits and trust, we were able to work out something less extreme and more appropriate without compromising his authority or hurting the relationship.)
Fixing problems doesn't always go quite so smoothly.
Oddly enough, the worst mishap we've had to date came from the smallest correction I've ever received -- five minutes of corner time. When I argued with him about it, he escalated it to ten minutes. I did the time, but even after corner time, I was still confused as to why I'd been given a correction.
It was a small thing, so I let it go, which was a big mistake. (Tip: Mention everything, even the small things.) It festered a bit, and the next time I got a little annoyed with him, I brought it back up and accused him of being "cruel and abusive" for not making it clear to me why I was being disciplined.
Now "abusive" is not the sort of word one should throw around lightly in any relationship, and certainly not the context of DD, where arguably a man's greatest (and most legitimate) fear is that the woman is going to turn on him, run to the nearest police station with her bruises and stories of "beatings" and other bizarre activities, and have him arrested for domestic violence. And in the context of DD, ten minutes of corner time is certainly not abusive by any stretch, no matter what the reason.
I spoke carelessly and without thinking, and as a result, caused a pretty serious breach of trust early on in our DD relationship. It took awhile for us to get back on track after that. He stopped disciplining me altogether due to an understandable fear that if I called ten minutes of corner time abusive, it wasn't safe to impose any discipline at all. Our relationship took a nosedive in terms of trust, communication and intimacy.
Eventually we worked through that, too. (With the help of a serious disciplinary session which left me feeling much, much sorrier than I already was for having broken our trust so carelessly.)
Of course, we've also had our share of broken paddles and other even funnier things.
Our only attempt at long distance spanking with him directing me over the phone dissolved into helpless giggles as he repeated over and over, "Concentrate on the force." Try as I might to stay in a contrite and submissive frame of mind, I just couldn't get the image of Luke Skywalker getting spanked by Obi Wan out of my head.
And of course...
the cell phone call that comes in during a spanking that has to be answered, leading to some creative uses of the mute button.
the corner time that I've served when I wasn't even in trouble because I misunderstood the elaborate Alias-style code we have for when he needs to discipline me over the phone with his coworkers in earshot.
and yes, several broken paddles.
The point is, things are going to go wrong. It's part of the deal when two people work out any kind of relationship, particularly one as complex and emotional as DD. If you expect things to be perfect and get mad when they're not, there's no way the relationship as a whole will work, much less the DD part of it. This is complicated, serious stuff and it takes practice. But if you expect mishaps, allow for them and use them as opportunities to clear up miscommunications, they can become fond, loving memories that bring you closer together.
*Please note that many people have written of the potential health hazards of mouth soaping as a punishment and I agree that this is not a safe practice. I understand the appeal of soap as a classic form of discipline, but just 'cuz my partner and I are silly enough to use it doesn't mean you should. If you do choose to use soap as a disciplinary measure, at least use a plant-based, non-toxic soap (which is better for the environment anyway) and for god's sake, limit its use to the most extreme infractions only. Oh, and don't sue me if you develop a weird soap allergy or any other complications, because I warned you not to try it. If we tried everything we read about on the internet, we'd all be dead by now.
I suspect the number of couples who engage in Domestic Discipline (DD) is higher than even the most generous estimates suppose. And I also suspect that the number of couples who would engage in DD if it were more socially acceptable is even higher.
For those who come to DD from a Biblical/right wing perspective, the answers are obvious -- they've grown up in a culture that puts women below men, and a culture that already relies heavily on traditional childrearing and discipline methods. Plus the Religious Right seems to be doing a pretty heavy push to encourage couples into the DD lifestyle.
It seems reasonable, however, that the appeal of DD for progressively-oriented couples is significantly different. I believe the upsurge in interest in Domestic Discipline in feminist circles is a reaction to the permissive parenting of the '60s and '70s.
Most of us who consider ourselves progressive/feminist, myself included, were raised by parents who were products of the "Me" Generation. Unlike their parents, whose childrearing methods came from the Victorian sensibilities of "spare the rod, spoil the child" and "children should be seen and not heard."
Me Generation parents formed their attitudes about child development, marriage and parenting during the ultra-liberal '60s and '70s. Most of our mothers were teenagers and young women when feminism hit its peak, and most of our fathers were teenagers and young men at a time when men were being encouraged to be more nurturing and explore their feminine side.
The social upheavals of the '60s and '70s were followed by the self-help movement of the '80s. As a result, our parents have been bombarded by a deluge of growth and child-rearing advice unlike that available to any generation prior. And most of this advice was written by parents who were products of the same ultra-permissive '60s and '70s.
The result? A strong emphasis on flexibility, negotiation, nurturing and freedom in child rearing. Parents were advised that setting limits on a child's behavior was damaging, that it would obstruct natural personality and social development, and so children were reasoned with instead of disciplined. Instead of being authority figures, Me Generation parents strove to bond with their children as buddies and "best friends." (For example, my parents actually told me, if you want to try pot, have some of ours. At least you'll know it's the good stuff...)
The trend away from Victorian-era parenting wasn't all bad, of course. After all, a strong case can be made that our grandparents' parenting style was overly harsh and did indeed stifle individuality and personal growth. Many parents of the '60s and '70s wanted something better for their children than they had and parented more liberally with a genuine desire to raise healthy children.
But let's be honest here. Not everyone was coming from such an altruistic parenting perspective.
There's a reason our parents' generation was called the Me Generation. Women were experiencing freedoms in the workplace and the world in general that were unheard of for prior generations. And everywhere, people were being told, "Do your own thing." Parenting, well, that's a drag, man.
And the reality is that "liberal" parenting IS easier, less time consuming and just plain less trouble than setting firm limits and enforcing them. Me Generation parents got lazy and used politics and popular psychology as an excuse to be absent, neglectful parents. ('Cuz hey, if you ground your errant teenager, you have to stay home with them while they're grounded, and that's too inconvenient.) "Liberal" parenting too often became a sugar-coated way of justifying lazy parenting.
And of course, this generation has taken many of these attitudes even further. Most of us who have spent any time around parents and their young children have seen the explosion of bad behavior, bratting and other destructive results of all this supposed enlightened and sensitive parenting. For example, I know of at least one parent who prides herself on being a progressive, caring parent, but whose five-year old daughter still isn't toilet trained because the effort required by her mother to help her daughter through this enormously challenging situation is, in her words, "too inconvenient."
To make matters more complicated, I suspect that many parents with out-of-control children feel hampered in their ability to impose limits by the social pressures around them that continue to suggest that any limits or discipline are abusive.
The big problem with all this is that children need limits. (So do adults, and we'll get there in a moment.) Childhood is where we're supposed to learn self-discipline, anger management, respect, a work ethic and other basic life skills required to become a healthy adult. Those limits are not learned through permissive parenting, but through the rules, discipline and examples set by our parents.
But most of us have been raised by parents who for various reasons, did not give us the limits we needed to become self-disciplined, productive adults. So now we have a generation of adults who don't understand the importance or meaning of boundaries and responsibility.
The lucky ones among us realize this deficiency and clutch at any tool we can find to give us the remedial lessons in being an adult that we didn't get as children -- self-help books, retreats, workshops, perpetual therapy, gurus, whatever.
The unlucky ones don't realize they're deficient in a basic life skill and make our lives a living hell by acting entitled, rude, codependent and any number of other unpleasant things as a result of believing the rules don't apply to them and they should get what they want when they want it. In short, like spoiled children who weren't taught boundaries. I know, because before DD, I was one of them.
Our society is reaping the consequences of three decades of lazy parenting.
The surge of interest in DD is a natural outgrowth of a generation searching for boundaries, discipline and security. Basic psychological theory tells us that what we didn't get as children, we continue to seek as adults.
It couldn't be more straightforward -- I want discipline because I had none growing up and without it, I'm quite frankly lost. Left to my own devices, my work habits suck, my self-discipline is next to zero. My abillity to act courteously when I'm upset is non-existent. Given a choice between doing something I don't want to do that has a long-term benefit and watching "Buffy" DVDs, I'm gonna hang with the Scoobies and worry about the future tomorrow. In other words, most of the time, I act like a child allowed to watch videos instead of doing my homework and chores.
These are lessons I was supposed to learn in childhood and didn't. But just because I didn't learn them then doesn't mean my developmental imperative is gone. I have a deep hunger inside for those lessons, even as I don't want to learn them. And as an adult, it's difficult to find ways to learn those kinds of lessons that satisfy that primal, desperate need unfulfilled in childhood.
But DD does satisfy that need and teach those critical lessons in a safe, private, loving way. Through DD, I'm able to go back and learn what I was supposed to learn as a child and a teenager. When I speak or act disprespectfully, I am spanked and put in the corner. When I blow off my responsibilities to go shopping with my friends, I might find myself grounded for two weeks. That is what should happen as a result of these childish and irresponsible behaviors and it's good and right to learn those lessons -- better late than never.
DD is no different in theory or process from the widely-accepted theory of the damaged Inner Child we all carry around within us. We've largely accepted the need to give that Inner Child the hugs, kisses, encouragement and love we missed in childhood. Yet for some reason, we still find it shocking or abhorrent to give that same child the discipline and boundaries he/she was also missing in childhood. But boundaries and discipline are as important as hugs and kisses, and a child can't grow up healthy without a balance of both.
Further, we've come to understand that to give our Inner Child the love and nurturance he/she needs, we have to speak to that child, ie, that part of us, in the language of the child. Simple declarations of love, stuffed animals, soothing baths and soft blankets are all tools for connecting to our Inner Child in a way that he/she can understand. Similarly, DD gives our Inner Child boundaries in a way he/she can understand.
For example, I know a writer who once attempted to discipline himself into writing by donating to the Republican Party every time he blew off a writing session. Putting aside that I'd rather take a spanking any day than donate a single penny to the Neo-Cons, this method ultimately failed because it failed to speak to his scared and undisciplined Inner Child in a way that the Inner Child could understand. Children don't understand political affiliations and campaign contributions. They understand spankings, corner time and loss of privileges/freedom. These resonate deeply for a child -- and for our Inner Child -- on a basic, primal level. (And yes, if you don't believe spanking is an appropriate punishment for misbehavior, it's possible to live a DD lifestyle without it -- although I can't say I recommend it.)
Of course, it's possible to go too far and discipline a child excessively. That's when discipline turns to abuse. And yes, it's possible for DD to go too far as well. But we're talking about when discipline of both varieties works. When it's from a loving, reasoned, balanced placed -- when a parent responsibly sets limits and disciplines from love and not anger.
And remember that a lack of discipline is as abusive as too much of it -- sending a child into the world without the tools to take care of him or herself is dangerous, cruel and negligent parenting.
I know that having the discipline in my life that I missed as a child satisfies a deep, intense hole in my soul. I finally feel as though I'm able to go back and make up for what I didn't have. The lack of discipline that's been ruining my life and keeping me from accomplishing what I need to accomplish is finally being corrected. For the first time, I feel like I have real hope of becoming the person I want to be. Of living up to my potential.
A woman posting on one of the DD forums recently wrote that she'd accomplished more in her professional life in four years living with DD than she had in the 30 years prior.
If that's not feminism, I don't know what is.
PS -- Some of you may be asking why, if all this is true, are women far more likely to want to be disciplined than men? After all, men have the same permissive parenting backgrounds and women, and little boys need boundaries as much as girls do. There are some interesting answers to this -- stay tuned for an article on this subject!