Physical punishment

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Corporal punishment as depicted by the artist Robert Bishop.

This article is written in the context of BDSM. For a more general discussion on the topic of physical punishment, read the Wikipedia article on Corporal punishment

Physical punishment is the deliberate infliction of pain or other bodily suffering intended as discipline, correction or punishment. The practice is generally held to differ from torture in that it is applied for disciplinary reasons and is therefore intended to be limited and justifiable, rather than arbitary and intended to subdue the will of the victim. Physical punishment is also described by the term corporal punishment, hence the abbreviation CP.

Physical punishment is sometimes a fetish and is the basis of a number of paraphilias, most notably erotic spanking. The techniques and rituals of corporal punishment are often included in BDSM activities; see impact play and discipline. For most BDSM practitioners, punishment forms part of a more complex sexual game where the punishment is not only consensual but activily desired by the person being punished. In relationships involving 24/7 power exchange, the reasons for punishing the submissive become more complex.

Many people associate the term physical punishment with some form of beating. However, any number of techniques such as the application of nipple clamps, predicament bondage, or other forms of physical restaint can be used to punish the victim.


Anatomical target

Since the purpose of physical punishment is to cause pain or discomfort in the victim, the choice of which part of the victim's body to receive the punishment is a major consideration. When choosing the target for the punishment several considerations can be taken into account, mainly:

The marks left by a single tail
  • how painful is it
  • how humiliating (especially if bared)
  • how safe if badly hit or mis-hit
  • In addition, for instant discipline on the spot the preference tends to go to what can be hit immediately, especially if already bare (possibly so ordered or arranged) or scarcely protected by clothing, so often head and hands, or bare torso; secondly what can be bared with a simple gesture (lifting a dress or pulling down (under)garments), before proceeding with a spanking, paddling, etc.

The anatomical targets for punishment include:

  • By far the most popular choice is the buttocks; this is a logical choice, as these rather large, fleshy body parts are sensitive without endangering any bodily functions, heal well and relatively fast and have an intimate connotation that implies intense humiliation, often increased as baring them often also exposes the genitals -- care must be taken not to hit these accidentally.
  • The lower parts of the back of the legs, notably thighs and calves, are about as sensitive and no more incapacitating, making them a logical alternative.
  • The back and the shoulders are a common choice, but not as humiliating as the buttocks.
  • The abdomen is rather risky as the the organs contained are not protected by bone, and hence this is not a common target.
  • The chest and breasts are a common target, although the sensitivity of the nipples might make punishment in this area too extreme for many subs. The use of nipple clamps is a viable alternative to beating.
  • The genitals can be a target; they are very sensitive and the most humiliating; care needs to be taken that the punishment does not cause serious damage (see genitorture). Beating the genitals is possible, but other techniques such as the application of clothes pegs is often used instead.
  • Joints (such as knees) should never be targeted for a beating as there is a serious risk of incapacitation and even permanent damage. Techniques such as predicament bondage can be used in place of a beating to force the victim into an uncomfortable position which they have to endure as part of the punishment.
  • The head is a potentially dangerous choice, with the exception of the cheeks which are relatively safe; the same word is used for the bottom: butt-cheeks. Any slapping of the ears is risky as hearing disability tends to manifest itself years later. Hoods can be used to protect the eyes and other parts of the face but they also have an added risk in that when the hood is hit it can act as a drum and magnify the effect of the blow on the victim's eardrum with corresponding risk of hearing loss.
  • The hand has been a traditional target for the punishment of school children; it is quite sensitive and not humiliating. Excessive force, especially with a hard implement, could cause damage to joints, so usually only the (most fleshy) palm is hit rather then the knuckles. Chilblains should never be hit.
  • The soles of the feet are extremely sensitive, in se not humiliating, but quite incapacitating for a long time, while full recovery is possible even after an excruciating dose - see falaka.

Set and props

The act of physical discipline is often ritualised, even staged in a rather theatrical fashion.


While physical punishment technically requires no more that the implement selected for the punishment, it is common to use a variety of apparatus to aid the process of punishment. The apparatus can serve a number of different functions;

  • To position the victim.
  • To secure the victim and prevent him/her from moving/escaping.
  • To prevent other parts of the body (other than the intended target) from being hit.
  • To further humiliate the victim.
  • To allow other forms of sexual contact to take place before, during, or after the punishment.

Types of apparatus used include the following:

The victim may be gagged to prevent or reduce him/her from objecting or crying out.


A variety of implements are used for corporal punishment.

However, it is also common for punishment to be administered with whatever object comes to hand. It is common, for instance, to use wooden spoons, slippers or hairbrush (wooden or ebony backside) or bath brush in domestic punishment, whilst rulers and other classroom equipment have been used in school scenes, as well as some items adopted from domestic practice, such as slippering (unlike booting not on the foot but wielded by hand, rather like a paddle).

Pervertibles are various objects that can be used as punitive implements (mainly in BDSM or the private sphere, open to improvisation), so we don't go into detail; when used for coercive CP, they are generally handled as a rather obvious substitute for a similar type from the groups above - the most common are included, and ultimately nearly every implement is derived from an inoffensive utility.

People involved

The act of punishment is for many a ritual and as such there can be clearly defined roles in its execution. While the most basic punishment scene is performed with only two participants (the punisher and the punished), it is possible to have more elaborate and formalistic procedures which can involve a small host of cast members, most of whom can make a difference to what exactly will happen and how.

On the punishing side

  • In almost every case, the key person will be the victim's dominant partner who will act as both judge and executor of the punishment.
  • In the context of a club or play party it is possible to create more complex scenarios with separate people acting out the role of wronged party, judge, jury, and executor of the punishment.

The victim of the punishment

  • The victim or punished party is described by terms referring to his/her punishable status, e.g. prisoner, offender, or to the type of punishment imposed, e.g. spankee, whippee.
  • While he/she is the centre of attention, as a rule little or no choice is given to the victim(or if so it's often meant to be tantalising, neither option being preferable, e.g. a graver implement or more cuts), and his submission is coerced, e.g. extra swats for not maintaining the imposed (exposed) position or on the hands if they move in a reflex to the agonising posterior.
  • Furthermore in some cases punishees are even forced - a rather sadistic ploy - to some co-operation, such as having to prepare the instruments of punishment for use on themselves, or by having to select the method of their punishment from a range of options.

Passive witnesses

Witnesses to the punishement are possible if the punishment is to take place in a club or play party where the presence of other people serves the purpose of increasing the humiliation of the person being punished.

See also

External links

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