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Punishment is the infliction or imposition of a penalty/consequence as retribution for an offense; it does not necessitate physical action by definition.

Punishment in the context of BDSM is most frequently discussed as part of a consensual M/s dynamic. It is important to remember that different individuals will need different forms of consequence applied in order to be successful.


Funishment is distinctly different from punishment as the penalty or consequence applied is done so in a light hearted and flirtatious manner, generally as part of a play scene that may involve bratting, rather than in a corrective manner to maintain a relationship structure.

Best Practices Responsible Use of Punishment

"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies." ~Nelson Mandella[1]

Responsible of Punishment is an idea put forth by LT Morrison in the Devil in the details series[2] and is an idea that applies punishment to power exchange dynamics.

Common wisdom implies you don't punish what you haven't trained, meaning, if the d-type did not train the s-type a very specific thing over a period of time it is not to be punished for, but instead to be trained for.

From the above work is extrapolated the following ideas:

Functions of Responsible Punishment

  • Punishment allows a "forgive and forget" mechanism, enabling both partners to move forward. This prohibits baggage/resentment from accumulating over time.
  • Punishment lets the s-type know the d-type cares enough to punish and do things that are hard and distasteful for the sake of the relationship health and betterment of the s-type.
  • Punishment makes structure possible because without consequence there is no accountability, and therefore, no structure.
  • Punishment also allows the s-type to eliminate guilt and move forward after the punishment is applied.
  • The d-type must not punish while angry, or for something that isn't trained for, and must never fail to punish for a set protocol or it will destroy the structure put in place. As such, a D-type must not put more protocols into place than they are willing to enforce.
  • Ignoring should not be used as punishment unless there is no reasonable alternative. Similarly, pain punishment is very rarely effective, especially concerning brats and masochists that thrive on negative attention and thus physical punishment is only recommended as a form of operant conditioning when all other forms of training have failed.

How to Responsibly Punish

The d-type will...

  • Explain the disobedience and the rule the s-type broke as close to the time of the incident as reasonably possible and appropriate.
  • Explain genuine disappointment and feelings the s-type's behavior generated.
  • Provide the s-type an opportunity to talk and explain the behavior. The d-type may opt to potentially allow them to offer a punishment suggestion to consider.
  • Re-teach the s-type the rule and expectations.
  • Punish the s-type. The d-type will use the minimum influence necessary to compel the s-type’s compliance with the policies and protocols the s-type previously agreed to. Punishment need not be of a physical nature, apply a type of punishment that is most appropriate to teach the s-type (this will vary by individual circumstance).
  • For M/s only... Bearing in mind that the a Master wishes the relationship to continue, there are no limits to the nature or extent of punishment that could be ordered as a result of the slave’s act of willfulness or negligence, so long as no crime is committed (such as battery, death). It is good practice to use the minimum amount of punishment necessary to effectively punish the slave.
  • Forgive the s-type, while ensuring the s-type forgives itself, then everyone forgets and lets the issue go.


Many in Power Exchange relationships report that they prefer not to use any form of physical punishment as they prefer to view any sort of acting out or failure to comply on the part of the s-type as an opportunity for discussion and retraining, however as these are direct consequences from disapproved actions, within the definition of this article, these are still technically punishments, even if they are done in an exceptionally loving and sensitive manner.

Controversy also exists as to whether or not corporal punishment is appropriate for any given dynamic, many agree corporal punishment is best used as a form operant conditioning when all other training methods have failed.

Many also proclaim that in many cases, appropriate use of positive reinforcement can prevent the need for punishment dynamics when all participants are healthy and emotionally mature adults.