Why punishment has no role to play in pain giving and perceiving pleasure intensifying adult relationships?

As usual, when I’m writing I’m also reading. As I’m working on the first steps of this new novel, about a relationship between two so-called seniors, I’m continuing to fill my off hours with Pride and Prejudice variations, as well as erotic and BDSM oriented novels.


I got into a DBSM oriented one last night which completely clarified, in a moment, why I believe punishment has no place in an equal adult to adult relationship.


The book was describing what is often a typical scene in such novels – a man angry and jealous at the slightly flirtatious behaviour on the part of his so-called submissive partner. The author wrote an internal dialogue for him in which he reminded himself that should not punish her while he was in a state of anger if he was to be a true dominant. Then she proceeded to write a long scene in which he did exactly that. He told his partner he was punishing her for her “inappropriate” behavior. During the process doing of course, he lost control and physically and mentally. He abused his partner on both levels far beyond the boundaries of sane and consensual. In desperation, she finally screamed out her safe word. Doing so brought him back out of his rage and into deep regret for what he had done.


Then the author wrote a scene in which he apologized profusely to his partner about having inappropriately lost control. He somehow expected her to “forgive” him. She ran away in fear. The book continued on to describe their reconciliation over a period of weeks.


In that moment that I read those words, something crystallized for me that i have been struggling with for a number of years as I researched the BDSM scene. My first reaction to the “punishment” language in relationship described in the Fifty Shades of Grey and similar books came to a head. Out loud I said, “Punishment language in a relationship is an excuse in the part of one part to abuse another adult”.


Many of the readings that I’ve done on FL, and in a number of books, that have explored as part of my research for my own writing, suddenly became clear to me.


Adult partners, who were an equal to equal relationship, can in no way entertain a dynamic in which one partner at anytime punishes the other partner. Anger between them yes, hurt yes, deep and profound disappointment and sadness yes; but never a punishing dynamic.


Punishment involves a power stance in which one individual claims to be in a morally superior position over another. Two equal adults, relating to one another relating to one another as equals, cannot in any sense of the word claim to have this kind of morally superior stance with respect one to the other.

Their ethics may be different. Their moral principles may clash. The morality based decisions each one makes may put them in conflict with one another. But there never can be a sense that one partner is somehow claims to be morally superior to the other. My last marriage foundered on precisely this dynamic. Each of us has a sense of being a morally “better” position. Differences, instead of enriching our relationships, and giving us a way to become broader, more tolerant people, ultimately torn us into mutual disrespect.


I think that that this sense of moral entitlement in a relationship ultimately demeans boith of the partners. I believe that many individuals actually need this kind of sense of themselves as being morally superior to their partner. I also see individuals somehow need to relate to someone whom they believe is in some sense morally more correct than themselves. But all of this creates a relationship dynamic which undermines the sense of equal partnership that I personally find so deeply sustaining and life-giving.


Relationships in which one partner takes the stance of being morally superior play out ultimately require that one partner is abused by the other. This abuse can take many forms, mental and physical.


In relationships which involve a pain giving, pain receiving pleasure dynamic, this sense of one partner being morally superior in some way leads to a punishment dynamic as a defining part of the relationship.


I don’t doubt that many people, given our social evolution as tribal beings, have a need for social structure through which being emotionally being dependent upon another individual creates a sense of comfort. In tribal social structures, such people look to the leader. Inside families, they accept the moral superiority of the patriarch or the matriarch. In modern political parties, they accept the dominance of the leader.


But ultimately being an adult in a morally relativistic world means coming to a sense of personal ethics, whatever the shape of that ethic. Basing this ethic on a sense of moral superiority, especially in the world where there is no true one abiding and absolute morality, undermines a sense of equality.


Ultimately, I believe that who take a “my morality is superior” life stance punish out of their emotional need to reinforce their own sense of ego. Their language may be that of right and wrong. Their internal emotional need is that of personal ego reinforcement.


In terms of my own writing, this insight will allow me to explore the dynamics of giving and receiving pain as part of a pleasure dynamic between two equal adults. I now know that punishment will never play a part in the dynamics between characters whom I treat as equal partners in my writing. Pain as a way of intensifying pleasure and release, physical and emotional, can.  

Shepherd's Revenge

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