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Humiliation and degradation: an introduction

Humiliation and degradation

Why do we get so excited when we call someone a bastard, a bitch, a whore, a pig? Why does it turn us on to be called these names? Why do we seek out humiliating experiences in our sexual exchanges? As with all aspects of sexuality, there's no single answer that's right for everyone, but here are some basic facts about humiliation in an erotic context.

Bear in mind that each person is very different, and that limits need to be negotiated before playing. What one person may find exciting, another may not enjoy at all. There is no single activity that suits all partners, and almost any activity can be humiliating depending on the context.

What's the difference between humiliation and degradation?

Humiliation is something that causes embarrassment through verbal or physical means. This can range from taming, to wearing a garment that attracts the attention of those around you, to the extreme of shaving off all body hair, including eyebrows, and more...

Generally speaking, you need an audience to feel humiliated: if you're dressed in a way that may be embarrassing but no one is there to see you (and make fun of you), the effect won't be the same.

Humiliation and degradation are deeply rooted in psychology. If my submissive doesn't find it shameful to wear a diaper, I'll become very frustrated if I put one on him in the hope of shaming him. Cultural context is also important. As an expatriate, I've learned that there are differences between what (many) French submissives find off-putting and what (many) American submissives find humiliating.

Common humiliating activities include small penis humiliation, boot licking (which, in this context, is different from fetishism), eating out of a dog bowl, "hard sports" (urology, scatophilia, Roman showering...) or mocking someone while they masturbate, but the list is truly endless.

The key is to find something the submissive experiences as humiliating. This can be as simple as making him buy condoms, lube and a cucumber at the grocery store. Everyone has things that make them tingle, the fun is in finding that weak spot and playing with it.

I love going out to eat with my submissives, who are mostly men, and making them wear lipstick. I often choose what they're going to eat and order for them, and make snide remarks to the waiter throughout the meal (bearing in mind that the other people aren't necessarily willing participants).

I'll drop my towel on the floor several times, making him pick it up (all the better if he has to get up from his seat to do it). I'll pay the bill by saying something like "I don't let him control the money, he's completely irresponsible with it". My partner and I know what's going on, but I'm not going to violate the boundaries of someone who's not in our game.

For me, there's a certain playfulness to humiliation, where as in degradation, the stakes are higher. Humiliation tends to be more general and less personal, based on common fears, whereas degradation is more personal.

In the context of BDSM, degradation can be defined as the wearing down of a person's self-esteem to the point where they feel totally exposed and defenseless.

An example of degradation play would be when I'm at the aforementioned meal with a submissive and he spills something on himself. I might start insulting him to get him down. "You don't deserve to be taken out of the house. I don't know why I waste my time on you. I know five-year-olds who have better manners than you. You're a filthy pig. Now you're going to eat like the little pig you are: on the floor."

I wouldn't make them eat off the floor at a restaurant, but if I'm at home and that happens, my submissive will indeed eat off the floor. I could tell them they can't talk, only make grunting pig noises. They've lost their human status.

Why do we love humiliation and degradation?

In general, we're drawn to these practices because they're subversive and destabilizing. As with many BDSM practices, it's extremely liberating for the submissive. When we give control to the other, we feel freer.

It also enables us to put aside society's expectations and accept the things that scare us. We are able to confront and reject the norms of everyday life. Playing with taboos is exciting, especially when it's done in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

It also takes a high level of trust to ask someone to humiliate or degrade you. As a Dominant, we need our submissive to be 100% honest with us. From the submissive's point of view, they put their emotions entirely in the Dominant's hands. This creates a deep bond and intimacy between the participants.

There's also a physical aspect to sexuality. When we're embarrassed, our heart rate goes up, we're sweaty and nervous, and we're unable to concentrate. These are the same physiological reactions we have before having sex with someone for the first time.

From the Dominants' point of view, humiliation and degradation are exciting because people trust us to take control of their insecurities, to "force" them to face things that are uncomfortable outside the BDSM framework. We are responsible for the well-being of our partners, and these practices allow us to delve into the psyche.

Setting limits

When playing a game of humiliation and degradation, it's important to set time limits. For example, only allow your Dominant to humiliate you during dinner on Thursday night. You should also be prepared to take enough time to deal with the situation afterwards.

Here again, intense psychological play can have serious negative effects if not managed properly. The marks of a whip or cane will disappear in a matter of days. Emotional wounds are often much harder to heal if things go wrong.

As always, communication with your partner is essential. Discuss the words and terms that turn you on and those that turn you off (or have no effect). Don't assume that your partner will find the same things exciting as you do.

Stay wise and stay naughty!

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