Good morning and happy Saturday! (I know, I know, this isn’t Saturday, but that’s when I started this, and I didn’t want to rework the beginning. I should never date my posts that way – it always takes me a couple of days to finish them, and then I’m stuck with this.) It’s a not blisteringly hot day (yet), and I’ve just walked across the park to a little coffee shop for breakfast and an iced latte. I’ve known about this place forever, have even eaten here a time or two, but it wasn’t until the other day, sitting here with Adam, my daughter and a couple of friends before Pride started, that I realized this is the writing spot that I’ve been looking for. I’ve been trying to find a place away from home to write, and although my preference would be to write at a friend’s sex-positive coffee+ shop, I just haven’t found it to be conducive to writing, for whatever reason. Location, ambiance and something less quantifiable all contribute to what works for my creative energy, and it’s been hard to find the right public space. Of course it makes perfect sense *rolling eyes* that I would find a place in walking distance from home after having tried every coffee shop and wine bar in a 25 mile radius in the past two years and been disappointed.
Anyway, I’m thinking about erotic humiliation this morning. It is the prompt for the current “Tell Me About…” meme, and I’ve seen a lot of blogging on the topic. (Click here to find out what others are saying on the topic.) It’s been a subject topic here on the blog several times, both in straight-up scene re-tellings and as a “topic of discussion,” i.e. “why, how, what,” but I figure why not go another round on the topic? It has certainly held my interest and fueled my libido for long enough.
There’s a lot of literature online about the differences between erotic humiliation and degradation – and a third category that I call erotic embarrassment, closely linked to erotic shame – but I think many people use the terms loosely and interchangeably, especially humiliation and embarrassment. In fact, you could ask a hundred different bottoms how they define the terms, and you’d likely get a hundred different gradations in answer. I use the term erotic embarrassment for what I am into, rather than humiliation, but there’s a lot of gray area there, and it may only be my own discomfort with the vanilla connotations of the word humiliation that make me define it thus.
I think the line between humiliation/embarrassment and degradation, however, is a firmer one. In my mind it’s much easier to define degradation (for myself.) And I am definitely not into degradation. Except…ack.
As I was doing some research for this piece, I ran across a definition of degradation that had me going, “Hmmm… Well…maybe?” And then, as I looked through some of my own posts on the topic in Kink&Poly, I started to wonder at my own definitions. If the lines really were that firm. After all, if this isn’t degradation, what is?
See what I mean? Very squishy concepts.
I’ll use the definitions from this blog post to jump off from, because I agree with them for the most part, and I found her writing to be balanced, articulate and well-written – and hot, even as I squirmed. But hey, isn’t that “squirm” what we’re discussing here?
Erotic humiliation is kind of an umbrella term for the rest. The others – shame, embarrassment and even degradation – seem to fall under it in degrees of intensity, or in how/why they affect the bottom (and at times the top.) Objectification might also fall under that umbrella, but I won’t explore that as a separate concept here. That, to me, is a means to an end, not the end result.
Humiliation: To cause a painful loss of pride, self-respect or dignity
I struggle to accept that these are things that I enjoy. Perhaps because the actions that many would believe comprise those things (loss of pride, self-respect or dignity) do not elicit those feelings in me. Take kneeling for my Dominant. Kneeling feels…respectful, and yet also fills me with pride to be honoring my Owner in such a way. It is also intensely ritualistic, showing my respect to and reverence for both my Top and for our relationship. I do not feel a lack of pride or dignity, or at least I do not feel that my pride has been stripped from me: I feel and revel in my Top’s pride in me in that moment, and so, I am elevated in his or her eyes. But, to another, this might not be the case. To another, kneeling may be an action of abject subjugation. (Which, in its own right, could be hot as fuck! Or, could be a trigger to feelings of a loss of self-respect that isn’t hot or acceptable.) But maybe that’s the ultimate take-away here. Intention is paramount; reception just as much so.
But of course, as I said, there are degrees of, and subsets of, erotic humiliation, many that turn me on, others that disturb me, and still others that do both (disturbingly.)
It feels like this is the easiest place to start, because “NO! I do not like it, it does not make my pussy wet!” And yet, as I said, in considering the definition given (and if I am honest) perhaps that is not the whole and only truth.
Degradation: To reduce in worth, honor, strength, character, rank, status, etc.
There are times when I specifically desire and need this to feel whatever-it-is I need to feel in a scene. Or perhaps the last two, rank and status. And…hmm…maybe strength? It’s the “worth, “honor” and “character” part that I would struggle to find sexy, appealing or desirable in a scene. I already struggle with those concepts on my own, to play with that, to degrade my feelings of self-worth, are not things that I feel would be healthy for me, in the long run. (So what about the scene that culminated in the above? What about that??)
Here are a couple of examples of degradation that I didn’t “enjoy”, not even in the “this is what I am seeking even though I say I don’t want it” kind of thing:
W had a friend that was into some pretty extreme degradation scenes, and in our explorations of the edges of what we do, he suggested a play date with this person. It involved things like stuffing me with chains; the two of them fucking me in the mouth, pussy and ass, like an object, a set of holes; me being not allowed to speak to or look either of them in the eyes; being made to fuck different objects, such as a bat, in front of them; being treated – and referred to – as an object, a fuckhole, a cunt, by them. My breaking point in this scene – when it stopped being fun for me – was when the friend painted me with grease and called me piggy, making me crawl around on the floor and grunt like a pig. W saw my discomfort with it, and he stopped the scene soon after, but not before allowing me to live in that space of abject debasement for a bit. That, after all, was the line that he had been seeking to find. It was enlightening and instructional, but also deeply disturbing for me. Not just that he allowed it, but that I would do it, because he wanted me to. In the end it was ultimately deeply connective for he and I. I was mortified and humiliated and definitely NOT turned on, and actively angry at him for letting it happen, regardless of my having consented to the scene in the first place, but after, as he held me as I cried, as he washed me clean and praised me and I realized that he had recognized my headspace and stopped the scene, I grew closer to him, and trusted him even more. And he, in turn, respected and valued what I was giving to him, with that trust. Somehow, me being willing to go through that elevated, rather than debased, me in his eyes.
This was a time that didn’t elicit those feelings at all – the feelings of connecting in the end – and even the thought of this particular element of the scene, no matter how minor it might seem to someone else, makes me intensely uncomfortable. The thing is, I can see how it might seem a minor thing to someone else, easily overcome, but I also know why it was so brutally effective in making me feel degraded, in a bad way: it is directly connected to my feelings about my appearance. It was also early on in our (W’s and my) relationship, and so my not having developed the level of trust I eventually would – the kind that could withstand such feelings – probably colored how I felt about it.
That “thing” that was so distressing is probably the least of the things that are brutalizing me there! But to me, that one element put me over the top into space that wasn’t “happy humiliation” space. What was it? The nose hook. I despised that thing. Still do. Do any painful thing to me, but keep that fucking nose hook away from me!
To me, erotic embarrassment is the sweet spot in the sliding scale of erotic humiliation.
Embarrassment: feelings confusion or self-consciousness; to be disconcerted; flustered.
Followed closely and often hand-in-hand with:
Shame: The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, etc, done by oneself
These are the things that make me hot. Make me blush, make me stammer, make me whimper, make me wet. Those other things, up there? ^^^^ They make me feel things too – important, transformative things – but this, this erotic embarrassment, is what will make me crawl across the floor to you, a buttplug kitty-tail in my ass, and beg you you to fuck me using only “meows” to communicate – and be dripping wet when I do it.
This is what will make me bark like a dog and beg you – as a dog – to fuck me, please please please, because you growl that demand in my ear.
This is what will make me push a ball across the floor with my nose while you whip me; or kneel at you and your wife’s feet in a crowded party and beg you both for … (something…what was it?) … while everyone looks on; this is what will make me crawl, spinning, between one you another Top, laughing, meowing, begging, to be beat, to be fucked, to worship at your feet, if you will only have me.
I think, in the end, that maybe it doesn’t matter what label it’s given. What matters is where it puts you and me. And maybe that’s what makes Erotic Humiliation so edgy to play with. It’s not just our bodies; it’s our minds, yours and mine; yours and theirs. A misstep could have negative effects much farther-reaching than just a whip thrown poorly. Or it could open up a whole world in your mind, in theirs.
(Author’s Note: Ack!!! Of course when I finally write a thing about a thing, the link-up is already closed. I get it, THIS IS MY LIFE. Too little too late. Damn it! But go there, click on the badge, and check out the others who have written on this and many other topics.)