I find that degradation is one of the most polarizing topics in all of D/s. There are a huge number of people that hate it. The majority of people who crave it tend to be mostly male subs. While there are female subs as well as male and female dominants that do enjoy degradation, they tend to be the exception and not the rule.
Degradation also tends to be disproportionately represented in Femdom porn. That is, the percentage of porn including it far outnumbers the percentage of people who actually partake in it. That being said, those who do partake in it tend to love it and live for it.
The reasons not to do it are fairly clear. People want to love and respect their partner. Even if they practice D/s, there is a certain status they do not want the sub to fall below. This seems to be as much for the dominant as it is for the submissive: they do not want to choose an inferior lover/life partner and degrading them makes it seem that way. Degradation is also a tough pill to swallow when it comes to dominant guilt. People don’t like the idea of making someone else feel bad, even if that bad is also good.
With that in mind, I tend to wonder why this ends up being such a hot button topic. The people who are against degradation tend to be very vocal in their opposition of it. When I try my best to envision their perspective and I keep coming back to the same answers. One possibility is that they are morally opposed to it. It can’t be both “real” and “consensual” and goes against their D/s philosophy. The other possibility that may very well have influenced the other part is that male subs that crave degradation are also often the one-handed typists that project their fetishes onto others and may frequently contact Dommes and try to get them to engage in fetish role-play of this sort. The end result is an absolute souring on the idea of it so that it goes beyond a “your kink is not my kink” situation and turns into a “damn, the people who want this are total douche bags,” thing.
I struggle a bit to give myself honest feelings on this topic because I have been programmed to avoid it. Truthfully, I love the concept of status inequality. It drives my submissive mental space wild. It gets pushed to its maximum when it happens in both directions, e.g. when it is emphasized just how far above me that she is and it is also emphasized just how far below her that I am. They aren’t the same thing.
If people wish to remain ethically and morally safe, it is much easier to build a dominant up and exaggerate how much more important they are than the average person. This falls within the realm of compliments that are individualized to them and a bit of behaving as if people are not equal and it is important to treat our “betters” with respect and reverence.
Degradation falls on the other side. It’s sort of interesting because I think that mild forms of degradation happen quite frequently. If a dominant says, “remember your place,” it is a phrase meant to humble a sub and let them know that their words or actions are not consistent with their position. It reminds a sub that their position is inferior and they do not carry the freedom to express themselves in the same way that ordinary people do. I don’t think people view, “remember your place” as degrading, but that is exactly what it is. I know a number of subs that respond favorably with their submissive mental space to this phrase.
It is a fine edge to balance upon… the concept that “I am above you and you must obey me” and “you are below me and you must obey me” are actually different things. It seems that people tend to use them interchangeably when the implications are mild. It goes south for many as soon as the sub starts being called a worm or a maggot and some expulsion of bodily fluids displays the dominant’s contempt (spit, urine, etc.). Honestly, those stereotypes are such an extreme example that the actual message gets lost.
I don’t think that it is bad or wrong for a dominant to consensually define a sub’s status relative to the dominant or the sub’s place in the pecking order. I find it quite appealing actually and erotic. However, the concept of deciding what a sub is worth and how much value they have is incredibly degrading. Does that make it bad? Not inherently. There are plenty of ways that this can lead to an enjoyable and rewarding dynamic. I think too often the term gets equated with abuse and/or philosophical ideals that clash with the concept.