Monday, 24 November 2014

The thorny issue of consent

Well, for once the title actually sums this one up quite nicely; today I intend to talk about the continually difficult issue of consent here in Spanking Land.

Firstly I think that we have to acknowledge that, assuming spankings are traditionally given as a form of punishment, there isn't a lot of consent involved. The spankee is placed over the knee of the spanker, and they are not really expected to want to be there.

Even in more formal punishments, such as for instance a school six of the best, where the victim is ordered to bend over and does so, I don't think you can really say that they are consenting to the punishment; they are bound by their relationship to the person giving the caning.

When these things happen to children (or, more accurately I hope, used to happen) it was viewed as being actions taken for their own long term good, and therefore their consent was never considered. Plus, of course, minors are not generally considered to be able to make decisions in their own best interests (something else we could debate endlessly).

Anyhow, this is not a form of consent; whether compelled by being physically wrangled over the knee of the punisher, or manipulated into submitting by societal, emotional or psychological pressure, the person being beaten is not agreeing to accept discipline.

Indeed, when spanking is a punishment I'd argue that the lack of consent is often part of the point of the punishment. It's humiliating to be forced to comply against your own wishes. It puts one in their place.

A brief moment of confession; when I watch spanking videos the element of compulsion is part of the turn on. Thinking back to the mainstream films that featured spanking, which were desperately important to the way that I developed within our kink, all of the beatings were forced onto the spankees. Maureen O'Hara's character did not look delighted to be over John Wayne's knee.

This was, especially in M/F spankings, an important element in my enjoyment of the scenes.

Even now, with adult spanking videos, this is true. I know that Pandora Blake is an intelligent, independent woman, and I still get a thrill when Thomas Cameron bends her, protesting, over his knee.

Don't get me wrong; I do not, in any way whatsoever, believe that men have an innate right to punish women when they offend. I do not accept that men know best, and should therefore set the societal rules of behaviour which determine how society operates.

In fact I suspect that we would be a happier society if women bore the brunt of guiding our way forward; certainly the current fucked up state of much of the world is mainly the fault of men. 

Not that I'm calling for the establishment of a matriarchy. Even if it meant I get spanked more.

Ah. Time to lurch back to the topic.

When I watch spanking videos now, especially from the major paysites, I know that all elements of compulsion are play acted. This is fine; it certainly works for me. I would not willingly or knowingly watch a film in which the participants were acting against their own wishes.

I also find that, when I design role play scenarios for spanking play sessions, the majority of situations have an unwilling spankee. This will sometimes be me, or sometimes my partner, but only in a very few scenes will the person being spanked actually request punishment.

There may often be an element of acceptance, but that isn't the same as consent. If a careless secretary accepts a spanking in place of being sacked, she is not consenting to her punishment. She is being compelled by her need to remain in employment.

This, of course, is as true in the real world as in our delightful spanking fantasies.

I know that some of you reading this will violently disagree, but I am deeply uncomfortable about the whole domestic discipline scene, where one party to a marriage physically and psychologically dominates the other. I worry about the degree of real consent that exists where one party effectively takes responsibility for the decisions of the other, and enforces this with physical punishment.

If someone is absolutely dominated by their partner can they honestly be said to consent to anything?

While some of the same concerns exist with Spencer plan type arrangements, at least the potential exists for each party to punish the other, and an element of that system is that offences should be proscribed in advance, with fixed penalties. Or, at least, that's how I've always read it.

So then, consent. On a personal level, my wife has become less interested in spanking over the years, and now finds being spanked distasteful. I therefore do not spank her.

This has led to me playing with several professionals over the last few years. I am never in any doubt about their consent.

I actually asked my frequent play partner Cherri whether she described herself as a submissive, because, whilst she clearly loves to be spanked, she is no shrinking violet, and I cannot imagine anyone forcing her to do anything she was uncomfortable with.

Her answer was no, she's simply a lady who likes to be spanked, and to occasionally get her own back.

Although perhaps that is a discussion better saved for a post on labels.

Anyway there is clearly nothing wrong with pretending that a spankee is unwilling, provided that in reality they are.

I should also stress that, to my mind, consent is only truly given if it is obtained before a spanking. I've mentioned this in another entry, but on Chross's forum their is a post from a guy who says he believes men are entitled to spank women, to correct their faults. He also says that he has often slapped the backsides of women in bars, when he has found fault with their behaviour, and they usually take it well.

As far as I am concerned this is a deplorable attitude because, however much they may accept his action after the fact, they have not consented to it, unless they have actually asked him to do it.

There is, of course, a potential dark area here. If you threaten someone with a spanking (presumably someone you already know!) and they dare you to do it, in a flirty way, are they consenting? If you tell someone "stick your tongue out at me, and I'll spank you", only for them to blow a raspberry at you, is there implied consent?

I don't think that there is a hard and fast rule you can apply here. Knowing the person in question is important, as, hopefully, you'll know what they expect you to do. As a teenager, at a school where a bunch of us played spanking games, I wouldn't have hesitated to follow through with most of the girls that I knew.

But then I knew a girl called Catherine who would have dared you, just to be bloody minded, and then probably have decked you if you tried to smack her. She went on to join the police force.

I offer that with no comment whatsoever.

The sensible thing is obviously to err on the side of caution. If in doubt, don't spank. I suspect that most women (and I have to phrase it so, because spanking women is the limit of my experience) will find a way to make clear their desires in the matter.

This brings us to another tricky bit (I said that this was a difficult issue, didn't I?). Where do we stand on unconscious consent?

Now, bare with me. I think it's entirely possible for someone, especially if they are inexperienced in the area, to want to be spanked on a subconscious level, without actually knowing that they want to be spanked.

This, I would suggest, leads to ladies (and, I'm sure, gentlemen) appearing to lead would-be spankers on, and then protesting any attempt to follow through.

While I think that this happens, and possibly many people who end up spanked might actually enjoy it, I really don't think that a conscientious spanker could possibly go ahead, purely because you may believe that, on some level, the person in front of wants to be spanked, but you can't know it.

The abuses of this idea are obvious. It can never be enough to say that you believe a person wanted to be spanked, anymore than it is defensible in rape cases for the offender to say "I thought she wanted it". I'm sure that we all can agree on that.

I accept that many adult spankees give an overall consent to their spankers, especially in domestic situations, without necessarily consenting to each individual punishment. It is perfectly possible to agree that your partner is entitled to punish your wrongdoings, without necessarily accepting you deserve to be spanked in any particular instance.

For many I suppose the unwilling acceptance of chastisement may, once again, be a large part of why they get off on it. Which of course suggests consent.

It worries me a bit though. It is assumed that a married couple (for example) will have sex, and that, effectively both parties consent to this. However, if on a particular night the lady feels a bit below the weather, while her partner feels randy, it is still rape if he forces himself upon her. Consent must be specific to each occasion.

Is this not the case with spanking? 

Would a better analogy be where someone indulges in a rape fantasy? If this is a regular part of a couple's sex play then can one party be sure that the other is genuinely willing? Is there not a real danger of committing inadvertently an act that is, in fact, a real rape?

And doesn't the same danger exist with these domestic discipline situations?

I must also make clear that I'm not saying that spanking someone against their will is the same as raping them. Obviously there is a huge difference in degree. Rape will mentally (and perhaps physically) scar an individual, and is quite likely to have a life long effect, where being spanked against your will mostly just means a temporarily sore bottom. Although, in fairness, being compelled to do anything where you feel powerless in likely to cause mental distress, so maybe they are a bit closer together than I thought in some ways.

And then, of course, there is financial compulsion. This can definitely be said to exist in the example of the secretary that I mentioned above, but also, is it not possible that some of the ladies we see being spanked in videos are only doing so because they are desperate for the money.

This is not a concern with the regular spanking models, the ones we see time and again. I don't really think it is an issue with the ladies who offer 1 to 1 appointments (although I've seen adverts asking punters to speak to their masters, which worries me. A lot).

On occasion though you see a film with a spankee who seems inexperienced, and clearly is surprised by the sting of a spanking. This is not necessarily a problem, as everyone has to start somewhere, and I know of several respectable websites that feature films with (supposed) first time spankees. However, when they never turn up in spanking films again, it can raise the question.

Which question? If they only did the film because they were short of cash, were they effectively compelled by their circumstances to do so?

Is this any worse than being compelled to go to work in a Bank because you need the wages in order to live? I suspect that a day making two or three spanking films will pay better than the average day cashing cheques for customers, and, assuming the performer is at all into spanking, will be rather more enjoyable.

I'm nearly done, honest. I have gone on a bit, you're right, but I'd just like to raise one further issue.

If I agree to be spanked, what exactly am I agreeing to? Or, more precisely, as clearly I'm agreeing to submit to punishment, what degree of punishment am I consenting to?

It's perfectly possible to consent to taking a good sound spanking, only for the spanker to take it too far, exceeding the comfort zone of his partner. Once a punishment goes beyond a certain point (which will be different for all of us) surely it's true to say consent has been withdrawn.

This is not an issue with an experienced and respectful spanker; they will realise when limits are reached, and, while they may push them a little, they won't bound past them. In many cases the use of a safe word, provided that it is heeded, will remove the issue from consideration.

I'm not sure that this will occur in domestic discipline relationships though. If the intent is purely to punish (and whether the recipient is aroused by the process is surely irrelevant) limits are there to be exceeded. It's really not a punishment if the beating falls within the comfort zone of the sub.

In the end, for me, this comes down to what I'm comfortable with. I love spanking, and being spanked. Honestly, I obsess about it to a degree that most would consider unhealthy.

I love spanking though only in one way; as a mutual way of giving and getting pleasure. I don't care if this is physical, mental, sexual or cathartic pleasure. Just so long as you both have fun.

I do not like spanking as punishment, not in real life. I accept that this is how some people want to use it, and, well, it's no skin of my well-tanned arse what others do, but it's not my thing.

At my level of participation consent is never an issue, and I'm happy to leave things at that.

No pictures this time, as I feel that this is an important issue, not to be trivialised with sexual images. 

All the best


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