A short while ago someone asked me for tips on how to humiliate a sub. What began as a set of tips soon evolved into a 20,000+ word multi-part write up that had me delving to every aspect I could think of on the subject. I thought about posting it here, but the response was tailored to that particular individual and I realized that teaching humiliation in general for it to be used in a wide variety of circumstances really blurs the lines and delves into some moral/ethical grey areas. While I have chosen not to post those writings, there are a few topics that popped up within the writings that I found of interest to me.
The first topic I have chosen to write about is degradation vs. humiliation. These terms often get used interchangeably within the kink community because they both fall into the realm of emotional sadism and emotional masochism and are often used in tandem. However, the actual process involved with how they affect the sub are quite different and this is important to be aware of when using either one.
Whether a sub experiences a positive submissive response to degradation and/or humiliation depends heavily upon how their submissive mental space works.
To put it simply:
- Degradation is used to decrease a sub’s sense of self-awareness.
- Humiliation is used to increase a sub’s sense of self-awareness.
Within D/s, degradation is a common tool employed when a Domme seeks to create a status hierarchy or caste system to act as an underlying set of governing principles within the relationship. e.g. the Domme is always greater and her preferences are important and the sub is always lesser and his preferences are relatively unimportant.
Degrading a sub can take different forms but it commonly occurs through verbal statements describing the sub’s lesser position/status and through rules, protocols, and rituals that apply unilaterally to the sub to indicate their position and status. A sub’s conditioned behavior through extensive degradation resembles a form of dissociation. They will retreat from their conscious rational self and accept and embody their lower form of existence (aka they enter their submissive mental space).
Subs that respond positively to degradation frequently have inner fears and truths that are consistent with the parameters of the lower status. They may feel this is the existence that they deserve, they are not worthy, they are truly lesser, etc., making it easy for them to embrace their status. In many cases, subs that crave degradation have spent years fantasizing about environments involving extensive degradation and status inequalities. These subs are often drawn to depersonalizing Femdom environments where they are treated as inferior to all women. They can accept and thrive under these circumstances because the way they are treated aligns with the way they feel they should be treated.
By contrast, the way that humiliation affects a sub is almost the opposite of degradation. As degradation allows a sub to retreat from their sense of self, humiliation forces a sub into an emotionally painful state of heightened self-consciousness.
Humiliation harnesses a sub’s fears, insecurities, and anticipation to create a consuming level of emotional turmoil that negates their ability to retreat and dissociate.
In D/s, the lines between what is degrading and what is humiliating often get blurry because the associated acts may closely resemble one another. For example:
- Degradation: “You’re pathetic.”
- Humiliation: “You’re pathetic because ___________.”
In the first case, the sub may simply nod and accept the truth of the statement. The latter forces the sub to evaluate themselves against the stated reason and experience pain in accepting its truth.
Environment can also play a part:
- Degradation: Ordering the sub to kneel and kiss her feet in a private setting.
- Humiliation: Ordering the sub to kneel and kiss her feet in a public restaurant.
The second case forces the sub to consider the reactions, thoughts, and feelings of everyone who witnesses the act, and to face their own feelings about it.
Subs that respond positively to humiliation often have inner fears and truths that they are embarrassed by and ashamed of. They crave being forced to face those fears and truths and accept the pain and suffering that results from this. In many cases, they have fetishized knowing how others perceive them and go deeper into their submissive mental space when reminded of this.
Emotional sadists will often use degradation and humiliation together in order to manipulate the sub’s emotional state. They may degrade a sub and push them into their dissociated state, pull them back into self-consciousness through humiliation, and then force them back into dissociation. This back-and-forth will prevent the sub from being able to stabilize themselves and each successive plunge back into dissociation will be deeper and stronger. As the dissociated state goes deeper, each return to self-consciousness will be increasingly jarring.
Most subs will want to reach a “safe” equilibrium to exist within. Tugging them back and forth denies them this and may confuse their instincts, preventing them from being able to anticipate expectations or reach a comfort zone.
For dominants, which tool is appropriate for a situation will bank heavily upon what they want the sub to be feeling at that time. If a Domme wants the sub to feel like nothing, degradation is the way to go. If a Domme wants the sub to agonize over some aspect of their existence, humiliation is the appropriate tool for the job.