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Speaking of Punishment Scenes


Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com

You've been a bad boy. A bad, bad boy.

And you deserve to be punished.

That sort of thing is music to many a kinky bottomboy's ears. In the wonderful world of bondage and discipline, the discipline dished out is often framed as punishment for something. Or other. Or just about anything.

"Daddy is so disappointed in you, son," is liable to be followed by an over-the-knee spanking, a vigorous paddling, or some other deliciously painful or humiliating punishment. From between gritted teeth, the wayward lad promises to behave. And both guys are in hog heaven. But what makes punishment scenes so cock-hardeningly hot?

"I think it's all about guilt feelings," says one nasty Dad. "Not guilt for anything specific, maybe, or perhaps guilt for a whole lot of things. Guilt for being queer, for being kinky, for being the kind of man who enjoys punishment scenes to start with."

That's echoed - from the other side of the fuckfence - by a masochistic male who says, "I like pain, but when that pain is framed as punishment, everything becomes super-emotional for me. A good scene can bring up so much in my head and in my past, and leave me feeling relaxed and cleansed." Still, punishment scenes aren't supposed to replace psychotherapy; they can also be plain old nasty fun.

Not every punishment scene is fantasy-framed as a furious father waling away at his disobedient son, of course. Masculine icons from the hard-edged professor to the even harder-edged drill sergeant can prompt naughty boys' hard-ons. And sometimes punishment scenes work best when no heavy role-playing is involved, just two guys going at it more or less as themselves.

Punishment scenes, whatever they may look like from the outside, have an ambiguous element of "Don't throw me in the briar patch, Br'er Fox." Which is to say that rough treatment of one sort or another is precisely what the bottom wants. So what kind of punishment is that? After all, it is, in a sense, a reward for "bad behavior," and some sly scamps have even been known to misbehave just so they can get another dose of discipline. Tricky, huh?

Even that conundrum oversimplifies matters. When it comes to power, pain, and prick, guys often feel decidedly ambivalent about things. Punishment scenes, even more than a lot of other S/M-related fun, can play with those mixed feelings, and play hard. And because those feelings can cut so deep, it's important for a discipline top to maintain an awareness of limits - both physical and emotional. In a hardcore punishment scene, the bottom can end up in tears. But, of course, there's good crying and bad crying, and we all want to leave the bedroom feeling better, now don't we? It's a situation where, if you're playing with a stranger, the use of a safe word - a preselected word that basically means "stop" - might well be wise.

Whether the discipline is as mild as a tongue-lashing or as rigorous as a real lashing, great punishment scenes - like all good sex, for that matter - require self-knowledge, trust, and sensitivity. That might sound awfully high-flown for a spanking from Daddy, but for those devoted to discipline, nothing else comes close or strikes deeper.

And if things go awry? "I remember one scene at a sex party where my bottomboy insisted on misbehaving.and not in a fun way," remembers Discipline Dad. So what did Daddy do? He inflicted the ultimate punishment on a bottomboy aching to play: He just walked away.

Simon Sheppard is the co-editor of Rough Stuff: Tales of Gay Men, Sex, and Power (Alyson Books)


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