Leniency and Discipline

Someone on FetLife recently asked a question about leniency in training. It would be inappropriate to quote precisely what was said out of that forum, but it was just exactly the question you’d expect a young Dom to ask and I can reference it as a case study without any indicators. Has a young girl as a slave, and she’s failing tasks he gives her. The question makes it clear there are tantrums, and that she has some emotional issues. There is acting out going on and he doesn’t know whether to tolerate it and try to help, or to be intolerant because the acting out is not going to stop until he stops putting up with it.

I posted in response, but then decided to turn the response into a blog post…because frankly I’m not keeping up with my posting here, so maybe recycling will help. The post doesn’t reference anybody in particular, it’s a reflection on the past ten years or so.

At any rate, I think this touches on one of the most difficult elements of acting as a Master. We all want to provide good, consistent, discipline. And for the most part we do not want to emotionally traumatize a slave or submissive.

Even if we do intend to get into someone’s personality in that way, likely we mean “only under very specific circumstances where it is planned and controlled.”

So a girl comes to you and wants discipline. But she has problems holding things together and there are issues with acting out. Now “by the book” may say that you simply do not tolerate any of this. If your response to an M/s situation is “what would Jack McGeorge do” the answer is probably “not tolerate the behavior” And I’m joking a bit here, not meaning to attribute things to Master Jack he never said. Though perhaps “WWJMcGD” ought to be a S/m bumper sticker or something?

I tend to think that is why a good bit of old school M/s focus says you should not love your slaves or by extension submissives. But then many of us lead complicated lives where our situations extend to people we love, long term partners, and we are not a Slave Training Academy. We look at a girl we care for. She’s nice, and dedicated, but she’s also a suburban American girl. She has a mind of her own and a certain amount of immaturity and rebelliousness. I’m describing virtually every submissive young girl in the U.S. here. She wants and desires to be a good girl, but she was not raised to be chained to a bed and she may crave it, but seldom comes out of the shopping mall ready for it, even if she thinks she is.

So she acts out. And we realize that at this point a certain amount of harsh “my way or the highway” is going to cause her to run away…and she’s somebody that we feel really has a lot of potential in the long run, and that we care for, we are going to be more careful. We are not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater and do something draconian that she isn’t able to accept and that alienates her.

What’s the problem with that? Well, let’s be honest. At the point where a girl can have a tantrum and cause things to stop, or change, or get reinforcement, she is able to “top from the bottom.” She is the one in control, and the power exchange has shifted. And we see an awful lot of situations where young subs who are prone to tantraumatic behavior end up with young Doms who simply are not equipped to deal with it. They engage their Dom in a dramatic game, and get feedback and it is a power struggle not a power exchange. How many times have we seen an attractive sub who was young and immature, and who seemed to have about as much control over their Dominant as vice-versa?

So there’s the line. Behave like too much of an ogre and lose the girl. Behave too leniently and lose control of the relationship.

I have a few suggestions that have worked for me:

1) Understand the concept that everyone needs emotional responses/interactions (“strokes”) and that most of us are conditioned to get our “fix” out of both positive and negative. Some people can get an awful lot of their daily requirement from negative, and this may be a shocker but girls who get a lot of their emotional strokes through negative reactions are not exactly uncommon in a community that specializes in hurting people. Try not to make punishment something that has a lot of emotional content, even negative.

2) There is a concept (Rubel references it in Protocols but I don’t think it’s original with him, and I have seen other sources for it…) of the difference between “correction” (for not completing a task) and “punishment” (for subverting the basic D/s paradigm). Correction should be common, if punishment is common there is a problem in the relationship.

3) Establish that correction and penalties are a privilege. It takes time and emotional energy to maintain a correctional system. Do not take the position that the submissive is doing you a favor by accepting your instruction and correction. Get into the mindset that you are doing her a favor by providing it.

4) Establish that acceptance of correction is a condition of getting it. Many girls (probably boys too, but …my experience…) will *ask* for consequences to be set, and then not really want to accept them. They crave structure, but cannot resist playing a power game to see if they can break the structure. This goes with the point above. “If you refuse this correction or complain about it, I will not do it again.”

5) Real punishments and most corrections should not be fun, interesting, or play. They can be eroticized, but you don’t give a girl a lot of nice thuddy “fun” spanking strokes for failure to complete tasks.

6) Establish that while correction and lower level punishment may be corporeal, high level punishment is not. It is not a “fun” scene, it is having a serious talk, the most serious element of which is “do we wish to continue this relationship.” This can be problematic with someone who seeks out drama – some girls would intrinsically be drawn to having a dramatic and intimate fight rather than sceneplay, because the emotional payoff is bigger. Disengage. Do not make your response dramatic. Insist on speaking slowly, logically, and clearly, state your issues and what you expect and be firm about it.

7) Give warnings. Make it clear you will give warnings, and that this is not a sign of weakness, but how you operate. “I have been supportive of you now. But if you have a tantrum during our next session, I am going to stop the scene, and that will be it for the night.” Make it clear that the fact that you tolerate a behavior now does not mean you always will.

8) Do not commit to any consequences unless you plan to follow through on them. But do not feel obligated to establish consequences in every case. “You may be corrected” is perfectly adequate. Do not allow yourself to be goaded into setting strict penalties if you are not certain you can or will follow through on them. It is better to be open-ended than wrong.

9) Avoid brinksmanship. You do not want to end up in a position where a submissive can force you into making a choice of disciplining them in such a way that they leave or are broken, or backing down. So don’t create situations that lead to that. Estimate what punishments the submissive can reasonably accept and keep most punishments well inside those limits. Remember that you are in the Driver’s seat. It is not the submissive’s responsibility to keep you from doing something that challenges or destroys the relationship. That’s what they pay you the big bucks for.

10) Set test cases. Find small tasks that are very easy to do. Discipline yourself enough to check up and support them. If the problem is with passive-aggressively not doing the tasks to get attention, the test cases will fail. If the problem is workload the test cases will succeed.

11) Be serious about change. Do not continue to indulge the same behaviors over and over again. This WILL require a test. If you are supportive the first time a girl has issues, she will do it again. The idea is that you warn her, and warn her seriously enough that she’s expecting the consequences and when they begin to come instead of being blindsided and just lashing out defensively, a part of her mind says “oooh…he WAS serious…” and is more prone to back down without a nuclear confrontation. But you WILL be tested and you MUST stick to your guns. Require change and do not consistently indulge the same unacceptable behaviors.

12) Confront problems head on. If you think that a task was not completed as a passive aggressive test of your authority say “did you really not have time to do this, or are you passive-aggressively testing my authority.” Do not accept a histrionic response…come back to the question, calmly and authoritatively.

13) If you cannot succeed, fail. If you end up engaged in an endless conflict of wills, you have lost anyway. It may come down to either ending the D/s component of your relationship, or if that was the relationship, ending it entirely. You must be willing to embrace this as a real possibility. As long as you do not, you are effectively “trapped” and cannot really speak with any force of will.

14) I cannot overemphasize the need to be and stay calm and chill.
I am not saying these are the best guidelines for being a Dominant. I am saying they are practical compromises that I have worked out between the fictional world of Chateau Roissy and the real world of the American suburbs where girls go to school and have jobs and you don’t have a castle to chain them in. I know there are Masters who are more demanding. But the best Masters I have seen make it clear that they do deal with emotional trauma, and they have to make some allowances for it. What they allow and how they allow it obviously differs. Being flexible is not being topped from the bottom. But it can lead to it if you do not assert yourself and act with real strength

I’ll just add here that I do think that for very serious problems mental counseling is important. Do not ever come between a submissive and her medical provider, and respect mental health issues. Joint counseling through a Kink Aware Professional could give you insight into what is a “real problem” that she cannot control and what is simply an issue of poor discipline that you must address.

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