The Burdens of Being a Disciplinarian

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?


  1. Hello Vivian. I imagine our perspectives on this might be "slightly" different, but maybe I can add a little bit to the conversation if you will let me join in.
    I share some common experiences with you: I am a feminist and I'm politically liberal. I'm an educated and outspoken woman of strong opinions who can be detemined and strong willed. I am familiar with DD -- it is where I "cut my teeth" in the world of spanking. I too, have thought I'd never, ever resist the decision of my Dominant partner when it came to spanking, but then have on more than one occasion found myself standing there defiantly, with my hands on my hips and fire in my eyes, saying "Hell no!"
    However, there are real differences between you and I. I am a feminist and a slave. I do not "want" discipline. I am disciplined. There is a real difference. The One that I call "Master," does not need to find fault with my behavior in order to punish me. He has the right to spank me whenever He chooses for any reason at all, or for no reason at all, so there is no need to make up reasons. If I "crave" a spanking, I have only to ask.

    My Master (unlike your partner, I suspect) is a sadist who derives sexual/erotic pleasure out of spanking and hurting me, and I am a masochist who (at a certain level) derives erotic pleasure/gratification out of being hurt and controlled. What that does, within our power exchange dynamic, is give us the freedom to enjoy the excitement and connectedness that our SM orientation brings us without the need to load it with the emotional baggage of "discipline." On the other hand, when there arises a real, "serious" disciplinary issue, we are able to address it clearly and openly, without any confusion about what it is. We know the difference. Discipline isn't sexy and sex isn't discipline.

    As for the "burden" placed on a disciplinarian, I find that is often a big problem in dynamics where the would be "submissive" partner wants it to be happening; requests/requires it of the nominally "dominant" partner who then has to "work" really hard to keep her (usually it is a female partner) happy -- and is almost always judged (by the submissive partner and her friends and correspondents) to be inconsistent and/or just not very good at the whole business. No wonder the poor guys are so often tired, inattentive, etc... I actually was married to a husband who tried to fill that role in my life, even though it really wasn't his thing. It ultimately ended, and we are both into other relationships that work better for us both. I guess I wonder why women who say they want to be "submissive" so seldom start with the question of whether their partners want to be "dominant?"

    Anyway, I am interested to see where your explorations and learning take you.

    Wishing you all the best.


  2. Hi Swan,

    Thanks for sharing your experience -- yes, very different from mine, but that's the beauty, isn't it? That there are some many variations of this lifestyle that work for different kinds of people.

    I fear I've erred, though, if anything I wrote suggests that my partner isn't a natural dominant. In 39 years of living on the planet and an entire adult life spent looking for a man who compliments my submissive tendencies, I've never met a man who's more naturally inclined towards the role of dominant/disciplinarian than my current partner is. That's part of why our six years of trying to live in a more egalitarian way didn't work -- it went against both of our natural tendencies and wound up being a disaster.

    But of course, being a natural dominant doesn't mean he isn't human and doesn't have issues, and there aren't things to work out -- some of them because of experiences in our past that I'll likely eventually get a chance to talk about -- and these issues that occasionally trip us up a bit as we work towards what we both want as a lifestyle.

    Thanks for reading and posting. Your comments are what make it fun and meaningful to post to the blog in the first place and I hope you'll visit often.


  3. Anonymous11:23

    I would have to say that the fact that DD takes so much communication is why the relationships grow so strong. While reading your post I kept thinking, "she is absolutely right about that." My partner and I communicate a ton - after every discipline session at first - and often still. I would tell him when I felt that he had let me off too easy. I would describe where my mind and heart were when I was pleading. (some persons use a safe word to differentiate - but for me this felt like cheating and so knowing I wouldn't use it - he would be in even greater danger of going to far if we had one.) Whenever we crossed a new line of intensity, I would reassure him of my emotional well being. I had been in an abusive relationship and although he has no problem "hurting" my bottom - he has been dedicated to not hurting me emotionally. When discipline is required and I am resisting - he has used the corner - kind of a time out - the discipline is not interrupted, but I am having some time to process. Is my resistance just a response to that "shock" that "oh my gosh I forgot that spankings hurt so bad - they never feel like this in fantasy." Is it that I am emotionally truly not able to do this right now. Or is it stubborn pride getting in the way and I am only needing a moment to wrap my mind around my submissive side. While in the corner with time to ponder - he waits and then when he asks me over his lap, I am given a second chance at submitting. While in the corner he may ask me questions so that I have an outlet to let him know what is happening so he also has an outlet to decide how he wants to proceed. In reality there was only once when I really couldn’t continue - and one thing I noticed is when it has been stubbornness - I turn my back to him - I walk away - I get angry while saying no more. But the one time I really felt emotionally unequipped for the spanking I turned toward him and instinctively just placed myself in his arms, wrapping my arms around him. Without further words - he got it - he got that I needed to feel safe and protected more than I needed that spanking and he just held me. But the male is in a very vulnerable position too -- if we were to turn on him - he is in trouble, but mostly because like you pointed out -the do care about us and have no desire to do harm to us. DD is complex - and when persons tell newbies to communicate communicate communicate - events like you describe are exactly why - it is too easy to get into a uncomfortable spot - and if you can't communicate it will ruin the relationship. We all have had those moments. In our case - he will often back off - it took many after talks of me admitting that I would have been okay if he pushed before he ever really pushed. I guess for the HOH they care - so it is safer to do too little than to go too far.

  4. Vivian, thank you for this post; it warmed my heart and soul. Reading it, I felt acknowledged and validated. Your insight and compassion are far beyond your years. It reminded me of a line of thought I had almost a year ago and I will repeat it here:

    I remember one day when I was perhaps 7 years old. I had climbed up a tree and could not get down. I managed to maneuver myself partway down but in the end I found myself hanging from my hands still quite a way up. I had no strength to get purchase for my feet and my arms were shaking from the strain. I finally decided that I would need to fall and I released my grip of the branch I was hanging from.

    I will forever remember the sense of freedom and letting go as I felt the branch slipping from my grip; I had made the decision to let go, and even though I hit the ground and cracked my tailbone, I still only remember the immense sense of freedom for the heartbeat that I was falling.

    I had let go and there was nothing else for me to do. There was no sense of worrying what would happen because it would happen no matter what I thought. There have been very few times in my life when I have felt so free.

    From deep inside you I feel the craving for the same sense of freedom; where worries promise to be vanquished, where purposes and goals are empty words; where your soul, like a leaf in the storm, whirls towards salvation at the end of the tunnel.

    Let me cradle that leaf in my hands. Let me gently blow on it and laugh in delight as it whirls around my head. Let me be strong enough, vigilant enough, dependable enough, to keep it safe.

    Yes, I remember the sense of freedom I glimpsed when I was a young boy.

    I remember.

    And still...

    And still, I choose to stand tall in the storm, braving thunderous lightning and sleeting snow. I choose to take your hand in mine and keep you warm.

    Because every time you smile at me I glimpse that very freedom in your eyes.


  5. Thanks for your wonderful comment, Dreamwalker. This is one of my favorite posts, as well, and I'm so glad that it touched you.

    And thank you so much for taking time to contribute to The Disciplined Feminist -- your comments are what make this blog the wonderful resource that it's become.


  6. kate Taylor10:09

    Wow ... again, i'm sure my hubby goes through all of these emotions and that is why i'm trying so hard to be more of a "partner" to him in everyday life and giving him less cause to have to chastise me. (Tough for me, gotta say!) ... i do need to think more about his feelings and concerns and give him time and space to work it out. At least, thankfully, he KNOWS i'd never seek revenge of any kind for anything ~ especially never for this... and, OMG, i would never say NO! (Actually, i did once and it was likely the hardest and longest spanking i've gotten! Not doing *that* again!! :) ... As for the fantasy spanker being strong, handsome and all-knowing ~ well, that *is* why i married my husband; he is the ONLY man i've EVER been with that is smarter and stronger than me... HOWEVER, it is his vulnerabilities that made me love him unconditionally. It's his sensitive heart and that we both know he needs me to nurture and care for him that makes us so amazing together. i harbor no illusions about him being the disciplinarian every single second and hope he knows that i cherish the moments i can take care of his needs emotionally and psychologically, too...