The Courage to Submit: An Unlikely Role Model

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!

Going to Extremes: An Alternative Perspective on Women, DD & Work

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...