A new article is on the way, but meanwhile I was struck by this photo of President Obama and Michelle for obvious reasons. (you can view the original on the White House site at http://www.whitehouse.gov/photogallery/In-Europe/)
A political colleague of mine and I recently had a discussion as to whether or not President Obama is vulnerable to the temptations of the many women available to him. My (male) colleague pointed out to me that our president has the look of a man who is getting everything he needs at home. This photo suggests interesting possibilities in that area.
Of course, the specific framing of the photograph probably says more about the photographer's leanings than it does about the Obamas.
(And by the way, this speculation is purely in respectful and good fun and in no way implies any insider information on the relationship of the First Couple!)
... the companion book to How to Get the Spanking You Want.
Finally finished, whew!
This book is written for our partners. I wrote it because I felt there was a need for some "how to" spanking material written from the point of view of those who want the spankings -- after all, who is in a better position (!) to say what works and doesn't work when it comes to spankings than the people being spanked, right?
Now that I've fulfilled my two-book contract with Variant, things will be getting back to normal around here and I'm looking forward to continuing to explore archetypes, sex roles and power as we've done at The Disciplined Feminist for the past three (almost four!) years.
I want also to take a quick moment to thank all of you who have emailed to express support and appreciation for these books, as well as all those who contributed to the research for the books, both recently and over the past 23 years that I've worked with these issues. The e-book experience has been a very rewarding one -- I may even write another one if I think of another topic! (suggestions, anyone?)
I'd like to encourage anyone who has read either book to contribute suggestions, ideas and thoughts about how to make them better. It's always been my intention that both of the books be a positive resource for the DD (domestic discipline) and spanking communities.
As I wrote How to Give a Spanking, I realized there was one section of the book that felt like it ought to be a Disciplined Feminist post. So I've included it below, slightly adapted to the blog...
This article is adapted from How to Give a Spanking: Advice from the Receiving End
If you took an intro sociology or psychology class in high school or college, you may be familiar with the concept of the “lizard brain.” The lizard brain is the original human brain – the one we had before we evolved to be the tool-making, book-writing, skyscraper-building, computer-using creatures we are today. The lizard brain contains all of our most basic impulses and instincts. It’s the keeper of our sex drive, our “fight or flight” instinct in the face of a threat (which manifests as that “adrenaline rush” we get when we narrowly avoid a car accident, for example), and other primal behaviors that enabled us to survive in the dangerous conditions of the prehistoric “caveman” era.
Because the world we live in now is considerably safer for most of us (certainly for those of us reading this book), and because we now tend to rely on our intellect and other higher brain functions to deal with stress, we are often unaware of the presence of our lizard brain in our everyday lives. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. After all, we still have that adrenaline rush, and we certainly still have a sex drive and a mating instinct.
That lizard brain also gives us a primitive instinct for aggression, a vital response to a life-or-death situation in which, say, we’re hunting a woolly mammoth or fighting off the neighboring clan who’s trying to raid our village for food.
Our lizard brain aggression is what makes us ball up our fists and want to hit something when we’re really frustrated, what makes little kids stamp their feet when they don’t get their way, what makes a hard workout session or a game of racquetball satisfying.
Both men and women have this lizard brain aggressive impulse, although biology has seen to it that it tends to be more prominent in men. A peek back at caveman times will tell us why this is so.
Back in prehistoric eras, before the advent of day care, nannies and stay-at-home dads, the sex roles were clear. Men were responsible for hunting the food, a dangerous occupation that required superior size and strength and aggression. And women, due to our unique ability to give birth to and nurse babies, stayed in the cave and took care of the kids and prepared the food, which required less aggression and more nurturing and compassion.
In our politically-correct culture, many of us would like to think that those aggressive lizard brain masculine impulses have vanished, but the reality is, they haven’t.
To give you some perspective on why there hasn’t been time to evolve too much beyond our caveman instincts, consider this: If the entire history of the world were measured as a year, then human beings in their most primitive form only appeared on the last day of that year at one second before midnight. That means that all of our prehistory and history, relative to the history of the planet, has only taken one second out of one year to happen. Everything from discovering fire to inventing the silicon chip, from primitive cave paintings to MTV, happened after 11:59.59 p.m. on December 31st of our “year.”
What’s more, all of our civilized, politically correct habits and ideas regarding sex roles that most of us grew up with aren’t even a fraction of a tick on that same clock. For most of that less-than-one second, we have been under the primary influence of our primal instincts, which are essentially to survive and to reproduce.
But don't take my word for it. Noted sociobiologist Leonard Shlain is just one of many authorities who concur: “Contemporary men and women are living relics of bygone days. In the short span of years that we have existed as a distinct species, insufficient time has elapsed to depart radically from the physiological and behavioral patterns we employed to respond to the conditions we found ourselves in at the dawn of our species.” (Sex, Time & Power, pp.14-15)
In plain language, this means that we may dress, talk and act like civilized men and women (most of the time), but fundamentally, we are still creatures of instinct. All of us, no matter how evolved or enlightened, carry within us the urges of primitive humans – and the sharply divided, primal sex roles that were necessary to our species’ initial survival.
What does all this mean for you and your partner, in terms of spanking?
It means that, male or female (but particularly male), we have inside you an aggressive urge, whether you realize it or not, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, whether we are peace-loving and politically correct or not. Our aggressive urge is there and it’s real and it’s not going away for at least another two or three million years – so we may as well make friends with it.
Our modern society has done a great deal to shame men (and women!) out of acknowledging this natural aggressive tendency. In a well-meaning effort to “cure” men of the desire to do violence, we have told men that this innate impulse towards physical aggression is at best socially unacceptable and at worst, evil.
The only acceptable way in which most modern men (and occasionally women) are allowed to show physical aggression is on the sports field, and even then, there is often a sense that this form of activity is a lesser activity that is not worthy of, say, a businessman or a man who’s more intellectually inclined (hence the pejorative term, “dumb jock.”) And then, of course, there’s the problem that many men simply don’t enjoy or have the time or opportunity to participate regularly in aggressive sports.
This shaming of men (and women!) into believing that physical aggression of any sort of violence is unacceptable and evil means that if you are a man, you may have a great deal of internal resistance to the idea of spanking your partner. After all, those who have worked tirelessly to fight domestic violence and rape have told men that hitting a woman under any circumstances is wrong. Period.
I’m going to suggest to you here, however, that even if you deeply believe in non-violence and non-aggression, even if you are a passionate advocate for domestic violence prevention, even if you have never before acknowledged this aggressive instinct hidden deep in your lizard brain, that you still have that instinct in there, waiting to be explored.
And further, I’m going to suggest that if you have never acknowledged this natural, important and very human part of yourself that longs to do violence, you are probably feeling a great deal more stress and anxiety in your everyday life than you need to feel, if only because you have cut yourself off from what may be one of the most effective stress relievers Mother Nature ever gave us – the ability to discharge frustrations by using physical force.
What’s more, as a man, you have almost certainly felt this aggression with regard to your partner. Again, even if you’d rather not admit it to yourself or to her.
Every man who has ever lived in an intimate relationship with a woman has been frustrated with her at times (and she with him, but that’s another book!). Every man has within him the instinctive desire to express that frustration through aggression, just as his lizard brain tells him to. (“Get mad, use club…”) Therefore, I would suggest, every man has within him, somewhere, the desire to spank his partner.
That’s a sweeping statement, I know, and perhaps an idea that feels alien and even frightening if you haven’t acknowledged or considered it before.
But before you recoil in horror at your inner caveman, remember the context here: this is very, very good news indeed for your partner and your relationship, because it means you have within you the natural ability to give her exactly what she wants most.
It’s true that, for some people, the lizard brain aggressive impulse may be buried so deeply they are never able to uncover it. But just the fact that you’re reading this blog (or this article, if your partner has handed it to you!) suggests that you are not one of those men. That you recognize on some level that you are capable of spanking your partner because of that lizard brain aggressive impulse. And by recognizing that it’s there, and by having a partner who is actively encouraging (begging?) you to express that part of yourself, you have the amazing and wonderful opportunity to uncover and experience this powerful and perhaps previously-taboo part of your psyche.
To help matters along even more, physical violence generated by the lizard brain releases endorphins, the same chemicals that are released during sex. This is why workouts can give you a “high,” as can playing contact sports or even doing an aggressive business deal.
What does this mean in terms of spanking your partner? That just tapping into your lizard brain aggression will probably tap into your lizard brain sex impulses, too. In short, you, as a man, are hard-wired to find spanking sexually exciting, even if you’ve never done it before and don’t think you’d enjoy it.
A few words of caution here:
Tapping into your lizard brain aggressive impulses doesn’t mean you get to go around whacking your partner whenever you feel like it, just because it’s your instinct.
It probably shouldn’t go without saying that as satisfying and primal as spanking can be for you as well as for her, you will still need to exercise good judgment and restraint when spanking your partner. That means safe and responsible spanking, not coming home from a bad day at work and whacking your partner just to take our your frustrations. Spanking is a great way to get your aggressive instincts out, but it’s not a free-for-all to abuse your partner in the name of reclaiming your inner caveman.
Second, depending on how strongly you’ve been culturally conditioned to see all violence as unacceptable, you may find it takes some work on your part to get in touch with your lizard brain aggression. If you try spanking your partner and it leaves you cold, don’t give up, thinking you must not have that impulse. You're human, so you do. You may need to do some work on your own, separate from your partner, to give yourself permission to acknowledge and accept your aggressive instincts. And it may take some time for those impulses to show up strongly enough for you to find spanking enjoyable and satisfying.
And finally, you may find that once you do tap into your lizard brain aggression, you have a lot more of it waiting to be used than you realized – or that can be comfortably expended on spanking your partner.
After a lifetime of repressing your aggressive tendencies, you may find yourself having difficulty controlling the aggression once you give it license to show itself. You might, for example, find yourself getting grouchy and snapping at people when you used to think of yourself as mild-mannered and easy-going. Or you might find yourself having impulses to put your fist through a wall or drag race someone out on the freeway.
For many men, feeling aggression creeping into places where it’s unwanted feels frightening and dangerous. Their impulse is to stuff the aggression back down again where it can’t make trouble.
The problem with this is, of course, that putting the lid back on the pressure cooker doesn’t get rid of the pressure. It just makes the pot explode all over the kitchen. Bottling up your aggressive impulses is no safer than letting them run unchecked and ungoverned.
Instead, if you find that you are having trouble controlling your aggressive impulses within acceptable bounds just with spanking activities, you will need to take responsibility for giving yourself other healthy outlets for your aggression. You might try martial arts or racquetball. You could buy a punching bag and hang it in the garage, or take up long-distance running. (note that all of this has the additional benefit of getting you into better shape and healthier, too!).
The important thing to remember is that aggression is a natural part of who you are, and it deserves to be valued and acknowledged as a part of who you are. Spanking is a terrific way to honor this forgotten but ever-present part of our psyches.
reprinted from: "How to Give a Spanking: Advice from the Receiving End," (c) 2009 Variant Books. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
"Before the inner feminine can safely emerge within the unconscious, she needs a strong, discerning masculine partner, who can maintain the boundaries, create a sacred space where feelings can emerge and be listened to. The intuitive wisdom that arises from the body, the creative matrix, needs a focused masculine that can release the creativity of the soul." -- Marion Woodman, Dancing in the Flames
Very few concepts in archetype and myth seem to be more misunderstood than the concept of virginity.
Recently, I've come to see that this concept as it's classically used in mythology may be one of the keys to unraveling the paradox that is DD (domestic discipline) and the related concept of feminine submission and power. The concept of virginity as it's classically defined may also be one of the key concepts required for making DD relationships work long-term.
In our modern society, a virgin is widely interpreted to be a woman who has never had sex. For example, when most people hear archetypal goddess figures like the Greek moon goddess Artemis described as a virgin goddess, they assume that means that Artemis rejected sex and the company of men.
Those of you familiar with archetypal studies know, of course, that the term "virgin" in Jungian psychology means something quite different and much richer and more intriguing than a intact hymen. Loosely translated, "virgin" in the mythological sense means "complete unto oneself."
A virgin goddess, therefore, is, generally speaking, interpreted to be a model for femininity that does not require the presence or energy of a separate, external individual, male or female, to make her whole. A virgin in this more classical sense is, by herself, a complete, whole, healthy and integrated individual - whether she's had sex or not.
Many years ago, when I first considered the idea of the virgin goddess as a model for healthy womanhood, I admit I was more than a little skeptical. Being a virgin "complete unto oneself" and needing no one else, seemed lonely and sad - the very embodiment of the "I hate men and I don't need anyone's help" hardened "feminist" who ultimately turns into the old lady living in the house on the corner with all the cats because she never found her true love and pretends stoically that she likes living alone. Sounded pretty pathetic to me. More like sour grapes than true psychological growth.
And indeed, our culture seems to reinforce the idea that a woman being "complete unto herself" is not a good goal to strive for.
One of the most prevalent (and perhaps dangerous) examples of this dismissal of the virgin archetype is in the movie Jerry Maguire, where, in the most famous scene, the Tom Cruise character famously tells his love interest that "you complete me." Cue big music swell and requisite screen kiss and roll credits -- we're left with the clear message: to be a complete person requires finding an external "someone else" to live happily ever after with -- which in turn suggests fairly explicitly that no one, male or female, can be complete without another person.
This speech, by itself, suggests that the concept of the virgin goddess (or god) is socially unacceptable in our culture -- something to be avoided and "fixed," not something to strive for.
Jerry Maguire is, of course, only one particularly explicit example of a widespread cultural expectation that we need someone outside of ourselves to "complete" us or our lives won't be worth living. Many of the most powerful illustrations of this cultural expectation come from fairy tales. Virtually every well-known fairytale ends with the princess marrying the prince and living "happily ever after."
Feminists rightly criticize these fairy tales for putting forward the idea that a woman needs a man to be complete -- and indeed, as these stories are popularly interpreted in our culture, they do seem to send the message that if we want to "live happily ever after," we better get busy and find us a prince (or princess). Otherwise, well, our future as the old lady with the cats awaits...
I believe that a big part of the reason why building a DD relationship is so challenging is precisely because women in particular often come to the relationship expecting that the other person, through assuming the dominant role in a DD relationship, will "complete us."
Many of us want the "strong, discerning masculine partner" referenced in the introductory quote to come from our real-life partner, rather than from our own psyches. As submissive woman, many of us plan to act out the one-dimensional feminine energy of submission, and expect our partners to act out the one-dimensional masculine role of dominance. Together, we complete each other (or so goes our brilliant plan!).
Of course, everyone who falls into this trap, male or female, has their own reasons for wanting an external person to provide the other half of the masculine/feminine dynamic. I'm certainly no exception.
For me, I suspect the appeal of the "Jerry Maguire"/happy-ever-after model is, at least in part, that it feels like a way to avoid facing my fear of being seen as overly masculine. Pushing my masculine impulses off onto my partner by asking him to dominate me in such a dramatic way seemed like a clever way to avoid admitting how afraid I was of exploring those masculine impulses, and thereby becoming too much of a "man" (by that, read sexually undesirable/repulsive to my partner).
But of course, what we really do when we put the responsibility for expressing our masculine side onto a partner is avoid responsibility for exploring our own psyches. In my case, I was asking someone else to express a part of myself that I've been afraid to express and explore on my own -- an act of cowardice, avoidance and entitlement that almost destroyed the relationship.
Asking someone else to do what I wasn't willing to do myself is never a recipe for a healthy dynamic between two people. And ultimately, I resented my own attempts to squelch a vital part of myself, and my partner resented being asked to carry a burden that he should never have been asked to carry.
The reality is that we are wrong to expect someone external to ourselves-- no matter how much he loves us-- to balance our internal psychic scales by providing masculine energy that we need to provide for ourselves. By dishonoring the "virgin goddess," we dishonor the relationship -- and more importantly, we dishonor ourselves.
Women aren't the only ones subject to this potential pitfall. We have probably all seen or experienced examples of hyper-alpha males who want to dominate women largely to avoid facing their own insecurities about exploring their inner feminine natures (read so-called "weaknesses"). These are the men that seem like perfect DD partners at first because they take to it so naturally, and only later are revealed to be the ones who abuse the power that we give them.
By expecting another person to provide the masculine (or feminine) energy in our lives, we risk dooming ourselves and the relationship to being fundamentally unsatisfying and incomplete, and potentially driving away our partner with unrealistic expectations and demands that no one outside of ourselves can or should be expected to fill.
By relying on an external person to articulate our inner masculine (or feminine) we are looking for psychological wholeness and integration outside of ourselves -- which is the very definition of co-dependence and dysfunction. We are walking around half a person, completely reliant on someone else to provide what we need to provide for ourselves to feel completed, healthy and whole. And feeling angry, resentful and betrayed when our partner isn't able to do for us what we ought to be doing for ourselves.
I suspect that for a DD relationship to really thrive and become the rich, archetypally fulfilling experience that many of us sense on a gut level it can be, both parties must release their expectation that the other person will fill in the missing piece of their psyche and "balance" their internal psyches with external actions.
Getting (or giving) a good spanking is a powerful, spiritual experience -- but if it's our way of getting our partner to express our inner masculine (feminine) for us and avoiding our responsibility to find this balance internally, it's fundamentally dysfunctional no matter how good it feels in the moment.
I suggest, therefore, that a healthy, sustainable DD relationship requires that women who long for submission with their mates may also need to actively work on exploring their masculine side (ideally outside of the relationship in a career or a hobby -- see "Going to Extremes"). And equally, that men who truly seek to explore the spiritual power of fulfilling their masculine side in a relationship with a submissive woman may find they're more able to get in touch with their true, healthy masculine by exploring their feminine side as well (again, perhaps outside of the relationship through volunteer work or other nurturing activities).
And so we come back to the idea of the virgin goddess, fairy tales and Jerry Maguire. I would suggest, then, that these stories are great models for teaching us how to become "complete" -- if we read them differently from the way popular culture often suggests that we read them.
Jungian mythological interpretation tells us that every character in a fairytale is a part of ourselves. (See Iron John, Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth, the writing of Marion Woodman and Bruno Bettelheim, to name some famous examples of this very powerful approach.)
This more self-contained way of interpreting fairy tales suggests that the union of male and female that happens at the end of stories like Cinderella and and Jerry Maguire (which is, of course, a contemporary fairy tale) isn't about an external male hero coming to rescue and "complete" the female. It's dangerous, misleading and dis-empowering to read these stories literally.
Instead, the true healing power of these stories lies in reading them as examples of how the woman (or man) whose various parts are represented in the story might go about finding the internal balance and union of the masculine and feminine parts of their psyche.
When Jerry Maguire and Cinderella are both read this way, they become very healthy models of psychological integration. The male/female characters do in fact "complete" each other in the sense that, just as in the opening quote, our internal feminine requires a healthy internal masculine to be completed and vice a versa.
Our mission as "DD women" then, is to become virgin goddesses by finding our inner Prince Charming and honoring him by "marrying" him (read: integrate him into our psyches), before we attempt to partner with another person in the real world.
Using this model, the dynamic of a DD relationship becomes far more complex than it initially seems when we envision it in our child-like fantasies. Instead of seeing the relationship simplistically as a scale in which she stands on one side as the feminine and he stands on the other side as the masculine, a fully realized DD relationship may require each person to balance their internal masculine and feminine on their own first -- resulting in two balanced people coming together to create a second, richer and more complex kind of secondary balance -- a masculine/feminine balancing a masculine/feminine in whatever combination works for each unique relationship.
In short, I suspect that a long-term healthy DD relationship (and more broadly, perhaps any relationship) requires that a woman (or man) recognize the importance of becoming a virgin goddess (or god) -- complete unto herself (or himself) balancing and honoring her/his own internal masculine and feminine, before stepping into this complex and emotionally fragile dynamic with another person.
...asking for it, getting it & making it better.... the first e-book by Vivian....
Here's how it all happened...
Several months ago, I was contacted by the people over at Variant Books, (they're a brand-new e-book imprint from a publishing company). Apparently, they're fans of The Disciplined Feminist and asked me if I'd consider writing a book for them.
At first, I thought the idea was crazy. I do enjoy writing about the subject of DD and spanking, but had never really considered doing an e-book about it -- and wasn't even sure I had anything "bookworthy" to say that I hadn't said already here on the blog.
Then I gave some thought to my life history on this subject, much of which I haven't shared with readers of the blog since it didn't directly relate to the articles I've posted.
But when I actually thought back, I realized I'd spent over 23 years (yikes!) negotiating my way through various types of spanking and DD relationships -- at all ages and life stages and with partners at all ages and life stages. I've spent the last ten years of my "real life" doing professional-level academic research on the psychology of gender roles and archetypes for various books, films, academic studies and other projects. Add in the three years during this blog where, largely because of that research and because of the particularly challenging relationship I have with my current partner I've questioned many of the assumptions that I and others have made about this very unique lifestyle we've chosen, and I started to think maybe I did have something valuable to say.
Plus, given the post-election lull and my strong desire not to have do anything that requires leaving my little mountain hideaway, and my current ambivalence about jumping back into the political fray, and the issue that we've discussing on the blog about the importance of career-related work that's separate from my partner, I thought, why not give the book idea a whirl?
I also thought about the emails I get virtually every week from people asking me for spanking advice. And since many of you know first-hand how slow I am at answering emails (largely because my email time is so limited and my little dial-up connection is so slow), I thought perhaps writing this book would be a great way to answer some of those emails in a more complete and accessible way.
So when asked me for book topic suggestions, I immediately thought of "How to Get the Spanking You Want." 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.
What's more, when I did a search online for the best advice out there for people who want their partners to spank them, I was actually pretty horrified at what I found. A lot of it seemed pretty flaky, and even worse, dangerous and likely to backfire on the unsuspecting sub who tries it!
Well, when all was said and done, we wound up with a contract for a two-book series. So...
I'm happy to announce the upcoming release of "How to Get the Spanking You Want: The Complete Guide to Asking for it, Getting It & Making It Better," and the companion guide, "How to Give a Spanking: (sub title still under construction)".
"How to Get the Spanking You Want" is available now, and "How to Give a Spanking" will be available June 30. You can get more information and a copy of "How to Give a Spanking" at www.VariantBooks.com/get_spanking.html. (7/3/09: Vivian's updated note: For those of you who have emailed me, I'm a bit behind in turning in the manuscript for the second book, but am working on it and will have it available end of July latest -- and probably earlier than that!)
At any rate, I'm actually very happy with the way the project is turning out. I hope when all is said and done it will be a valuable resource for anyone looking for information on how to initiate a conversation about spanking with a partner.
Stay tuned here for all the latest updates on this strange new venture!
PS -- And for those of you who are wondering, the answer is, no, that's not me on the cover... :-)
UPDATE June 7, 2009:
You can read an excerpt of "How to Get the Spanking You Want" at Uncle Agony, All Things Spanking, Spankoz, and a reader review of the book at Brambleberry Blush blog.
Okay, after several articles exploring all the serious psychology behind DD (domestic discipline) it seems time to lighten things up a bit.
Note that this article will make much more sense if you first CLICK HERE to view the video that inspired it.
Of course, I enjoyed this clip immensely. For starters, it's a rare example of the sort of thing we women who are DD-inclined spend a lot of time fantasizing about: a real-life example of a young, attractive woman being spanked by a nurturing but stern older man.
But beyond the erotic power of this video being about a real person in a real disciplinary situation, this video caught my attention in another, even more compelling, way. The more I watched it, the more I realized that Nancy, the "star" of the video, was in many ways, the person I aspire to be both in life and in DD/disciplinary situations.
For starters, Nancy is attractive and very feminine. She is, we learn, a beauty queen -- Miss Booneville 2008. By definition, an archetype of femininity. That her excuse for her repeated lateness to school involves being a "lady" who needs extra time to get ready further reinforces this archetype. I'm reminded of John F. Kennedy's remark about Jackie's lateness to a social event: "Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself. She takes longer than we do, but then again, she looks better than we do when she's finished." Powerful iconic images of femininity are invoked here. This is a young woman who, consciously or not, taps into many women's most deeply-cherished images of what it means to be female.
Nancy's dilemma re: the extra inconvenience of being female is mirrored sympathetically by Principal Halter, who sympathizes with a smile that "he's spent half of his life waiting for women to get ready." Relieved, Nancy believes she's going to avoid a punishment because she has used her feminine wiles to charm her would-be disciplinarian. This is fantasy fulfillment, too, of course -- we often long for our disciplinarian to understand and forgive us our transgression because we are so charming, rather than holding us accountable.
But deep down, most of us also realize that if we were to be forgiven without punishment, a big part of us would feel let down, unsafe, incomplete. Justice must be done for us to feel balanced. Nancy herself acknowledges with a small smile that even though half the student body is female, presumably with the same necessity to get ready that she has, "they're not late." She is admitting here her need for justice and fairness. In an indirect way, she is asking to be punished and admitting that she deserves it.
It's clear that Nancy is nervous about what's to come, of course. Her body language and nervous smiles and winces make it fairly clear that she knows she's not going to get out of being punished. And yet when Principal Halter offers her the choice of a paddling or a half day's detention, she keeps her cool. Instead of flinching, panicking or begging for mercy, she does something that I, at least, found surprisingly courageous and adventurous for a 16-year old teenage beauty queen facing what is apparently her first paddling. She asks to see the paddle.
How brave, how empowered this is! How inspirational, really, for Nancy to keep her cool in this most embarrassing situation enough to have the presence of mind to inspect the implement of her humiliation before making her decision. This is real-life girl power in action. It's clear that Principal Halter is also taken aback and perhaps even impressed by her chutzpah. His smile as he tells her to "have at it" and indicates the paddle on his desk seems to reflect at least a little admiration.
But Nancy doesn't just "see" the paddle. She picks it up and tests its weight, obviously imagining how it will feel on her bottom. Then she experimentally swings it in a mock swat. In picking up the paddle and swinging it, she becomes an active, rather than a passive, participant in her punishment. In this moment, she empowers herself and shifts from victim to willing partner in her punishment.
"Wow," she says as she holds the paddle, "I actually have your paddle in my hands." she jokes, with apparent genuine delight. Despite the seriousness of the situation, she finds humor and the self-confidence to see the fun of the situation. As Principal Halter laughs, she is able to share a moment of companionship with her "executioner." To take matters further, she is even able to come up with a pun: "This is disciplinary action," she says as she swings the paddle. Here is a girl who can laugh as she faces the chopping block - a modern heroine in the spirit of Mary of Scots telling her executioner that she hopes he has good aim.
While still holding the paddle, Nancy announces that she will take the three swats and the half day of detention to "get it over with." That she does this while still holding the paddle feels especially empowered -- she makes her decision while holding the symbol of that decision -- claiming, in a sense, her pain. And notice the confidence with which she makes that choice. She never, not once, tries to negotiate for more leniency or plead her way out of her punishment.
In addition, I was struck by the clear, confident way in which she says potentially embarrassing words like "paddle" or "three licks." She doesn't seem to feel there's anything shameful and degrading about discussing this subject. Instead, the whole attitude surrounding being paddled feels matter-of-fact and respectful.
This is perhaps an issue unique to me, but even after years of discussing these things with my partner and writing about them on the blog, I still have difficulty saying words like "paddle," "discipline," "punishment" and "swats" out loud, feeling that somehow in doing so, I am debasing myself. This reluctance is a source of frustration to both myself and my partner, because it's difficult to have an actual, adult conversation about what I need and want without an awful lot of hesitation and stuttering and vague euphemisms. But here is a 16-year old girl who can say these words without hesitation or apparent shame. (Later on, she adds with equal confidence that she'll just have to "take her punishment.")
Having been told that she has until Friday to decide for sure whether she'll choose the paddle or a full day of detention, Nancy smiles and genuinely, even happily says, "thank you" to the principal for offering her the choice as to how she wants to be disciplined. There doesn't seem to be any irony or petulance in her thank you. She seems genuinely grateful and appreciative of his time and energy in meting out punishment. And she seems more relaxed and confident on her way out the door than she did on her way in -- despite the fact that she's facing a certain punishment.
Friday comes, and Nancy is back along with about six other students to receive her paddling. Although she smiles nervously upon entering the office and it's clear she's scared, she is consistently courageous and in charge of her own decision to take the swats. Even when Principal Halter gives her another chance to get out of it, she doesn't back out, although the look on her face suggests clearly that she's scared. And indeed, she does express doubt as to the wisdom of her decision.
Nancy is the only girl to have selected a paddling instead of day-long detention. Waiting outside the principal's office along with the boys for her turn to be paddled, she is now in a situation where she will be pressured to act as courageously as the boys who are in for the same punishment. To get over her fear, she seems to find strength in her femininity. In an alternate take from the same documentary (CLICK HERE TO SEE IT), she offers comfort and support to a boy also waiting to be paddled -- putting her own fears aside to offer nurturing to him.
When Principal Halter opens the door and asks her if she's ready, she pauses a moment to gather her courage and silently enters the office -- the picture of courage in the face of doubt, fear and impending pain and embarrassment. Nancy maintains her dignity and self-respect in a situation in which one might expect anyone, much less a 16-year old girl who's never been paddled before, to fall apart completely.
Once Nancy enters the principal's office, we don't see what happens, but we get to hear the swats being administered. Although the swats sound pretty severe, other than a small "ouch," she takes her punishment bravely and apparently obediently.
Walking out of the office after her paddling, Nancy even manages a small smile for the camera. I can't help but feel that while this is partly to cover her embarrassment, there's also an element here of pride in her having overcome her fears and going through with the paddling -- one of the few kids in the clip with the courage to do so.
Although we do see her rubbing her bottom as she walks away, Nancy tells the interviewer that the paddling wasn't as bad as she thought it would be She has discovered that the fear of the unknown is worse than the actual object of fear itself.
Most importantly, throughout the clip, it seems clear to me that Nancy in no way associates submitting to justly-earned punishment with a loss of self-respect or self-worth. In fact, it seems the opposite is true -- in submitting to discipline with dignity and courage, she has affirmed her self-worth and her identity as someone who can survive an embarrassing or painful situation and come out stronger on the other side.
Nancy is, for me, the model of how to take a punishment and come out the other side a stronger, better, more attractive and feminine person than she was before. Her example is one that I would like to keep in mind and emulate in similar situations in my own life -- both literally when facing a spanking, and throughout my life when facing difficult or embarrassing situations.
PS -- By the way, it probably shouldn't go without saying that Principal Halter does a terrific job in his role as disciplinarian. He's kind, sympathetic and nurturing -- but it's also clear from the get-go that there's no way he's going to let her out of her punishment or give her less than he feels she's got coming. And while this could be a very humiliating experience for Nancy, he consistently shows her with respect by including her as a partner in her own punishment rather than treating her like a passive victim. His matter-of-fact approach to inflicting the paddling, I suspect, does much to contribute to Nancy's ability to come out of the experience more empowered than when she went in.
SPECIAL NOTE: If anyone out there has the capacity to download and save the file for this video so I can link to it internally on this blog rather than relying on Photobucket to keep the link up, I'd appreciate it. I know there are programs out there that can do this, but they're too large for my little dial-up connection to download!
Several months back, I wrote an article suggesting the not-uncontroversial opinion that women who desire to explore their feminine side may be better off avoiding male-dominated activities and career fields. ("Does DD Work at Work?") If we don't want men in the "blood hut," the argument goes, maybe we should stay away from the dragon hunt. The article suggests that, generally speaking, a woman participating in male-dominated activities may be asking for trouble in a relationship, because doing so violates male-female archetypes and gender roles to the point where a relationship -- particularly a traditional DD (domestic discipline) relationship is impossible to sustain.
What follows is a radically contradictory perspective on the whole "women on the dragon hunt" issue. (As a woman, I categorically reserve the right to change my mind...)
For the last few months, I've been inviting myself along on the dragon hunt by participating in intense martial arts training. I've done this in an effort to explore further my growing theory, touched on in the last article, that to be soft and feminine, a woman may be need to first create a foundation of strength. ("If DD Is the Glue, Do the Parts Really Fit Revisited") Though the article in question was specifically about financial strength, I've often found that to test a theory, it's good to start by taking it literally. So off I went to "get strong" in the most literal sense of the word.
Getting strong literally and physically was new to me. While I have in the past engaged in intense, hyper-masculine mental activity by working as a political consultant, doing anything physically intense with my body has been radically new territory for me.
I've always been the sort of person who felt that gyms and exercise of any kind were the work of the devil and I wanted no part of it. Furthermore, I have always seen those physical activities as unfeminine and therefore not something I wanted to engage in. (I actually still believe this, but read on for why engaging in unfeminine activities might be the easiest way to get feminine.)
"Getting strong" in the literal sense, then, has involved spending the past four months engaging in serious, hard-core daily weight training and aerobic conditioning, along with daily martial arts training emphasizing intense, real-world boxing and streetfighting techniques.
The martial arts training I've been doing is heavy on the hand-to-hand combat. Most of the people I've been training with are men in their 20s who train seriously for martial arts competitions. To hold my own in this environment (and I'm proud to say that I am holding my own and more) requires pushing myself to new levels of physical and emotional toughness far beyond what I've ever done before. This extreme level of "playing with the boys" requires getting (literally) dirty and sweaty and doing lots of very "unfeminine" things in a very unfeminine, unforgiving environment. In short, it's participating in the dragon hunt on a very primal level.
Recently, I've noticed that the more I push myself to express the masculine part of my nature during training -- ie, the physical and emotional strength required to keep up with the men, the need to "play hurt" and not show any weakness, etc. -- the more feminine, submissive and sensual I feel when I'm finished.
When I'm paired with a sparring partner who challenges me to tap deeply into that masculine power, I leave feeling strong and energized, but also with an intense desire/need to express the DD/submissive side of my personality. I feel very similar to the way I feel after a particularly effective spanking.
On the other hand, when I train with a weaker (usually female) partner who does not physically or emotionally challenge me to dig into my inner masculine, I leave the training session feeling weak, frustrated, angry and vulnerable in an unpleasant way -- exactly the way I feel when a spanking doesn't "work."
In short, the more I allow my inner masculine to express itself freely and without judgment or reservation, the more I seem to be able to tap into my inner feminine and my desire to be soft, vulnerable and submissive. This reaction at first seemed paradoxical to me -- but given that virtually everything about DD seems to be in one way or the other paradoxical, I figured I must be onto something.
I'm now wondering if I've been doing it all backwards when it comes to the struggle to balance my desire to be feminine and to experience the benefits of DD with my partner in private vs. my need to be independent and assertive in my career.
A bit of backstory, for those just tuning in: As most of you know by now, I also work in politics as a communications strategist. Politics, like martial arts training, is an intense, testosterone-driven environment, albeit the less literal and more metaphorical kind. My DD partner also works with me as a political consultant, and as a result, I'm constantly feeling the need to hold back my masculine, aggressive tendencies in an effort to balance my desire to be feminine in the relationship with the need to play hard-ball with the political boys.
What winds up happening, though, is that I get trapped in what's essentially a watered-down version of both. Perhaps a bit like Hillary during her campaign, I feel caught in the worst of both -- unable to be soft and feminine for fear of being eaten alive by political colleagues, and unable to be as aggressive as I feel I need to be for fear of damaging my private relationship with my partner. So instead, I'm perpetually trapped in the androgynous blank pantsuit that is neither male nor female, and thus disappointing and frustrating to both.
But given my recent experiences playing hard with the boys at martial arts, I wonder now if the answer to balancing these two conflicting needs/desires is to push to the extreme in one area in order to create a corresponding need to express the other -- to push more towards the dominant/masculine in the appropriate areas of my life in order to create the opposite, submissive/feminine impulse in my private life.
Those of you who have experienced DD firsthand know, of course, that the DD lifestyle is inherently an extreme expression of archetypes and gender roles. By its very nature, DD calls for an exaggerated expression of dominance and submission far beyond what's considered culturally acceptable or "normal" in current Western culture. But to use the analogy of a scale, an extreme weight on one side requires an extreme weight on the other to balance it. Without equal "extremeness" on either side, the scales aren't balanced, the center cannot hold -- the relationship falters. Perhaps.
Of course, there are some couples for whom DD seems to work as a long-term dynamic without an extreme expression of masculine energy on her part to balance the scales. But for those of us women who continue to struggle to find a way to be comfortable in a DD relationship without feeling correspondingly unbalanced and powerless -- and I know from your comments that there are many of us out there -- finding a safe outlet for our inner masculine away from the relationship may be part of the solution.
Perhaps the answer for those of us who struggle to submit in private is to find ways to go to the other extreme outside of the relationship. For some of us, that might be through our careers, if we work in hyper-aggressive, male-dominated fields. For others, it might mean exploring the limits of physical strength, as in martial arts training or other physically demanding sports like soccer or basketball in which it's appropriate to give our masculine energy free rein. For others, it might mean aggressive "Code Pink"-style involvement in activist politics -- confronting opponents at rallies, in debates, etc. It could mean building a house with Habitat for Humanity or learning how to repair a car engine. And there are no doubt still other examples.
This balancing of extremes theory would not be inconsistent with the best thinking on archetypes and gender roles. Many of you are probably already thinking about how Carl Jung, the father of archetypes as a model for personality, suggested that becoming a healthy individual requires the balancing of these conflicting internal masculine and feminine archetypes. And many of you have commented on prior posts about the need for this balance.
It would make sense, then, from a Jungian perspective, that an extreme expression of the inner masculine would motivate the need for an extreme expression of the inner feminine. Perhaps that's why my initial attempts at DD quickly went awry (as apparently do so many other women's similar attempts) -- they created in me an extreme desire to express my inner masculine, which I quickly squelched for fear of being unfeminine, which created an imbalance that toppled the whole dynamic.
Perhaps the surge of rebellion that many women who participate in the DD experience isn't a rejection of DD as a lifestyle, but merely our inner masculine demanding balance.
And perhaps the situation is then made even worse when we assume that we need to find that balance within the relationship, instead of outside of it.
Men, of course, are often way ahead of women in this regard. The dominant,
successful alpha male who sees a dominatrix in private (separately from his work life) is so common as to be a cliche. But the aggressive, achievement-oriented career woman who allows herself to submit in her personal life -- well, the struggle to get there is what this blog's all about.
On a personal note, this new information brings up provocative questions about my own situation with regard to my partner and my political career:
If I hadn't held back and second-guessed with regard to the political work, if I had allowed myself to play as hard as I do during the martial arts training, would I have experienced the same corresponding desire to be soft and feminine that I experience now? Or would the addition of my partner into the mix change the dynamic so much that I wouldn't have been able to let my inner masculine out to play as aggressively as I can when he's not involved?
Would it even be possible to play that hard with my partner without turning him off by the masculinity I'd be demonstrating? Could a man engage with a woman in combat, masculine to masculine -- and still be able to respond to her as a feminine woman when the battle is over? Or does the expression of a woman's inner masculine have to, by definition, be separate from any interaction with her partner?
These questions I don't yet have good answers for, but of course, this whole Disciplined Feminist experiment is a work-in-progress...
Thank you to all of you who have emailed and posted comments during the past few months!
In the (relative) peace following the election cycle, I took the winter off to work on a new art series and a new book on strategic political communication, and with all that going on, didn't realize until recently that I hadn't posted a new article since October!
Part of the delay has been a preoccupation with other projects. Part of it has been that I try only to post when I have something to share that might be of interest, and I haven't felt like I had any insights relevant to The Disciplined Feminist for quite awhile. Now perhaps I do.
After a year spent trying with mixed success to live together in a more traditional arrangement, my partner has moved back to the city to pursue career opportunities available to him there, and I'm still out here in my beautiful mountain hideaway working on my various projects. Our DD relationship is suspended indefinitely while we try to work on the larger issues that need resolving between us. I still have hopes that we will be able to get past our current difficulties, but the future between us remains uncertain.
And while I don't believe that DD is responsible for the problems between us, neither do I believe, as I once did, that DD is the solution to those problems. That's not to say that I don't believe DD is a powerful and effective lifestyle choice. Only that I'm starting to realize that, at least for my partner and myself, it's not the "fix" that makes things better. It's the reward that comes from having made things better in other ways.
In a prior article, written during the time when DD was working so well for us, I wrote that I believed that DD could serve as a way of building trust and communication between two people when all else has failed. (see "If DD Is the Glue, Do the Parts Really Fit?", Jan 07).
Given the experiences of the past year, however, I'm no longer convinced it's true that DD can "save" a troubled relationship -- at least not long-term.
Recent experiences have largely convinced me that for DD to work, it must be built on an existing foundation of love, trust and mutual respect. I now suspect that as wonderful as DD is as a lifestyle, it can't create love, trust and mutual respect if those things aren't already present in the relationship. DD can help, perhaps, to resolve minor day to day glitches in communication, adjust minor power imbalances and bring increased intimacy to a relationship already based on love and trust, but it can't fix the larger problems that lurk beneath the surface.
In short, I now suspect that while DD can be the icing on the relationship cake -- the tool that smooths over the rough spots and takes a good relationship to a whole new and richer level -- it can't be the "glue" that holds the relationship together, as I once thought.
In retrospect, it's easy to see the error in my earlier cause & effect reasoning. Just as scientists often draw false conclusions by failing to adequately screen for external causes in their results, I look back to when things were going so well between my partner and me and see that what made everything click into place for us was not DD, but a series of events that occurred just before we started our DD relationship. I mistakenly believed that it was the DD that made everything work for us. It was actually the series of circumstances beforehand that made the relationship work -- which in turn allowed DD to work.
When I first moved out to my beautiful mountain retreat, it was largely because my relationship with my partner had fallen apart. Indeed, we were in much the same situation we're in now -- hurting, angry, barely able to sustain a conversation without one or the other of us getting angry and upset and hanging up the phone. Wondering how on earth to untangle the complex web of professional, financial, emotional and psychological ties that bound us together, so that we could go our separate ways without ruining each other's futures -- but still loving each other so much that neither of us was willing to end it completely.
So I left to give both of us some much-needed space. And in leaving, I pursued my professional path and he pursued his. As a result of this estrangement and separation, we became financially independent from one another. After being dependent on him to create professional opportunities that paid the bills, I got my confidence back that I could take care of myself and create those opportunities without his help. He, in turn, felt less pressure to create opportunities for me, and thus more able to focus on the emotional, nurturing, erotic parts of our relationship. We fell back in love -- more so than we'd ever been before. We talked about marriage, about sharing a home. I once again brought up the subject of DD. He agreed. Paradise ensued. (I started the blog to share my new-found wisdom about how to have the perfect relationship.) I felt like the luckiest woman in the world.
And then we decided to take the DD part of our relationship one step further. We both longed for an even more traditional, archetypal dynamic between us and wanted to make that happen.
Our arrangement was that I'd quit my political career and work on the more feminine pursuit of art, ceding the alpha power position entirely to him. I'd be the arty feminine domestic goddess who was able to pursue my artistic passions without the pressure of having to make money at it. He'd be out in the world, fighting the dragons, affirming his own archetype of provider and protector. It would be bliss -- the recipe for a perfect relationship.
Let's be clear here -- working for a living is not something I have ever enjoyed. Even when I enjoy the work itself, I deeply dislike the pressure of having to do that work to pay the bills. As such, I have always fantasized about having a successful man swoop me up, carry me away to his castle and take care of all the money issues for me while I did whatever I wanted to with my life. It's the Cinderella fantasy. (And I don't for one moment believe I'm the only "modern" woman who still entertains it!)
So we moved in together and I bowed out of one of the most interesting and dynamic election cycles in our history to focus full-time on my new art career and on being a nurturing caretaker to an alpha male. He worked around the clock, paid the bills and slew (slayed?) the dragons.
During that year, my art career took off -- I had solo solo shows in major venues, reviews of my work in prestigious arts publications, won national competitions. In short, I had all the success I could have dreamed of in my first year as a serious artist.
But art doesn't pay the bills. For all my success, the more I worked to build my art career, the more financially dependent on him I became. The more dependent I became, the more resentful both of us were at the power imbalance. I resented not having a dollar to call my own. He resented that I wasn't contributing financially. Not to mention that the more financially dependent I was on him, the less able he was to pursue his own career aspirations.
Things deteriorated between us very quickly, until we were back to the way things were before we started DD -- on the brink of falling apart. This time, he's the one who moved away -- back to the city to focus on his career. I stayed up here in the mountains, not sure what to do. Things got so bad and so scary between us that in the last few months, I've woken up to the reality that I need a way to take care of myself financially in case everything falls apart and I'm left with no way to pay the bills.
So I've started working on my political career again, in addition to my art. And as I create new financial opportunities that will once again make me financially independent, things are getting better between my partner and me again, albeit very slowly. He calls me again just to say hi, I send him sexy emails. We're back to the point where I'm once again dreaming of a future with him, and a revival of us DD relationship. Not there yet, but I have hope again.
Way back when, when we started DD, I assumed that it was the DD that made everything so magical between us. But looking back, I wonder now if perhaps my analysis skipped a step.
It seems that what makes our relationship work isn't DD per se, but rather our individual financial independence, which in turn makes each of us feel safe and confident enough with ourselves to be able to engage in a healthy DD relationship. In short, if he's paying the bills, neither of us is happy, and DD along with everything else falls apart. If we're both doing our share to contribute, both of us are happy with each other -- the relationship -- and DD -- works.
I had hoped that the traditional female role of nurturing my mate and creating a home would be sufficient contribution to the relationship to compensate for not bringing in any money. Perhaps for some people, it's enough. It may be that I myself don't really, in my heart of hearts, value traditional feminine labor enough to believe it's enough of a contribution to offset not making money. Or perhaps my partner doesn't value it enough, either. What I do know is that if I don't have my own money, our relationship doesn't work. If I have my own money, it does.
Oddly enough, the conditions required for a traditional dominant-submissive power dynamic between us seem to be that I break archetypal tradition and pay my own way. I'm not sure how to reconcile my experiential reality with my belief that relationships do better when traditional sex roles and archetypes are honored. It seems that in order to have a traditional relationship, I have to take on some un-traditional sex roles. A paradox.
But then again, everything else about DD is a paradox -- why shouldn't this be?