Humiliation and Degradation: Playing on The Edge

When you think of edge play what pops into your head? Breath Play? Blood? Fire? Knives? I bet many people who are asked this would have answered humiliation or degradation. Yet those types of play are extremely edgy and can lead to deeper wounds than an intense caning. 

Playing with someone’s psyche is not something to take lightly, and walking the line between humiliation and degradation is like dancing on a knife’s edge. It pushes us to the absolute limits of the edge while pushing my skillset, my ability to read people and my dominance.

My personal experience with humiliation play is that very few submissive women are as deeply into it as submissive men. I have met the male subs/slaves/bottoms of a variety who love being humiliated – I mean they seriously get off on it. The more deeply they were humiliated the more satisfied they are.

In the kink world, you’ll find humiliation and degradation lumped together as they are very closely related. There are things each of us can do to make sure humiliation and degradation can be fulfilling rather than damaging. I will do my best to illustrate some here.

Humiliation vs Degradation, What Is The Difference?

One of the biggest pitfalls in playing with humiliation and degradation is that the line between them is different for everyone. Someone may love to be called a dirty hot slut. This same girl will be upset if you call her a bitch. In her eyes being a dirty hot slut is erotically humiliating while being called a bitch is degradation at its worst. 

I chose this example because it illustrates my point. You will often have no idea what will trigger a positive or negative response in your partner. Negotiation and exploration will help, but it is an emotional minefield and you must remain extremely careful when entering it. The key is to know your partner’s core values. 

Core Values

Core values are the pillars on which we build our identity, and are extremely important to us.

I identify humiliation as play that attacks societal norms that have been drummed into our heads. Degradation is far more personal. Degradation is deliberately attacking the very personal ideals that make up our identities. I will stress this point again, my definition is my own. I am writing this not as a pure how to guide, but as a primer that you can adapt to your own definitions. Please take what you can from what I offer.

Humiliation

What is humiliation? As I stated above, humiliation is playing with accepted societal norms. However, not everyone accepts the same ideals. Dressing up a sissy in womens clothing and dolling them up with wigs, makeup, and cute accessories is mildly humiliating. Doing the same to a male-identified bottom who is very proud of his masculinity is much deeper and something that can cross the line into degradation depending on the individual. One of my favourite types of humiliation is calling attention to someone’s excitement over something “wrong” or taboo. A good example of this would be pointing out the arousal of a bottom from nontraditional stimulation. 

In a recent scene I was being particularly mean to a bottom, but when I reached between her legs she was clearly excited. I dragged my fingers across her lips all the while poking fun at how wet she was. This just increased her arousal. I got her to lick my fingers clean then wiped my hands dry on her face and went back to being mean. She was humiliated by the act because society told her that she should be disgusted by what I was doing, and instead she was turned on and wanting more. Damm that was a good day!

Many of us engage in hidden kink in public. A butt plug inserted just before going out to dinner with friends, a vibrator on their sensitive bits while out on a shopping trip, or even a trigger word thrown into conversation casually can be a great source of humiliation. In this case, the idea of getting caught doing something against society’s accepted behaviour adds to the humiliation. It also is enhanced by the delayed gratification of having to go home (or at least to the car) to get any release from the tension created by your little secret.

Keep in mind that degrading acts do not necessarily mean you are engaging in degradation play. Golden Showers are an excellent example of this. The act of urinating on another individual is seen by many as disgusting, and that is what gives it the desired effect. A bottom willing to debase themselves as a urinal for their top’s pleasure can be intensely personal. This is a classic illustration of the power of emotional edge play. When your partner is willing to do things like this for you, it deepens your connection and makes the play more intense.

One of the more interesting things that is not often referenced in humiliation play is the struggle of the top to perform some of these acts. Golden showers can be difficult. The thoughts that flood your head the first time can be distracting. What if I cannot do it? What if my urine smells/tastes/looks gross? I have never urinated in front of anyone, how can I urinate ON someone while they look at me? etc. There is often humiliation on both sides of the slash during this kind of play. It is just something you have to push through if this truly interests you. Take the extra care during negotiation to assure yourself that this is something your bottom truly desires. Knowing that they crave it is a great motivator.

There isn’t a clear definitive list of what is humiliation/humiliating because it is intensely personal (although I do list what I know to be humiliating last on in this piece) Some bottoms could enjoy being spat on, and being forced to suck the cock that was just in their ass, but is horrified by the idea of wearing a collar in public. You can never assume anything when playing with these sensitive issues. Talk, negotiate, then talk some more. Tread lightly at first. Better for them to be bored than curled in the fetal position crying their eyes out because you pushed too hard too fast and hit a trigger.

Degradation

To understand degradation, you have to understand the concept of core values. Core values are the tenets of our identity that define who we are. They help us determine what is right and wrong, how to act and inform how we proceed through our lives. They are not something to take lightly, even if they may seem superficial to you. Core values can be nearly anything, even things that most see as trivial. Fitness, appearance, and athleticism are core values for some and can drive people to positive or negative extremes. Someone who holds appearance as a core value can use it as an incentive to always look their best no matter what the situation, or can be victimised by an eating disorder, shopping addiction, or any other issues that come about from not being happy with how they look. This is the fragility that we encounter when playing with core values. It is not something to do lightly.

Some of my core values are loyalty, competence, and respect. If I were to bottom, attacking any of those ideals would be degrading. ie Calling me a dumb disloyal asshole would be painful to hear coming from someone I loved. Hearing it in the middle of an intense scene would make it even harder to process. Verbal degradation is extremely powerful when added to an already humiliating situation. Urinating on someone can be a fun and silly scene, but add in well-chosen words spoken in a harsh tone and you fall down the rabbit hole of degradation.

How Do You Identify A Partner’s Core Values

This is not as easy as negotiating a scene and following the parameters laid out for you. Many masochists can tell you exactly what they like and dislike, where you can hit and where you cannot. This is not true of core values. 

Mistakenly threatening a core value is why you should be very careful about engaging in humiliation with a partner you do not know well. If someone tells you that they like to be called names and talked down to, make sure you ask specifically what names they like and if there are any you should avoid. Race, gender, and sexual orientation are not always core values, but playing with them can trigger others that you never expected or discussed. Using a slur can elicit a visceral response even if they do not feel attacked by the word. They could find the word abhorrent for many reasons and you should clear any words in negotiation before it ever leaves your mouth.

Being creative is important in play, but not when you are playing with core values. Negotiation is a great tool for identifying sore spots before you play. If you pay attention to where those sore spots are you can start to identify where your partner’s core values are. If they tell you that they never want to be called stupid (competence) or useless (self-worth) you can follow those clues to identify where their hidden core values lay. Stick to the script that they provide for you during play, then pay attention to their reaction.

The Psychology Behind Humiliation and Degradation

Humiliation, in general, stimulates the same regions of the brain regions that are associated with physical pain, the theory being that humans evolved to remember social rewards and punishments as strongly as they recall physical reward or pain in response to their environment. As with any form of pain experimentation in a sexual context, consent and (paradoxically) a high degree of awareness and communication are needed to ensure that the result is desirable, rather than abusive. For example, a submissive may enjoy being spat on during sex/play but crushed and devastated if this was to happen in public.

Humiliation play is also connected to sexual fetishism, in that non-sexual activities may become sexualised by association with arousal, and also may be associated with exhibitionism in the sense of wanting others to witness (or being aroused by others witnessing) one’s sexual degradation.

For some people, activities such as name-calling are a way of achieving ego reduction or getting over sexual inhibitions. For example, between gay people, terms usually associated with homophobia may be used, such as faggot and dyke.

As with all sexual activities, some people have sexual fantasies about humiliation, and others actually undertake it as a lifestyle or in a scene. Sexual fantasies relating to mild humiliation are common. Some humiliation roleplay (pup-play and age play in particular) is combined with loyalty and care-giving to the extent that these fetishes can be seen as exercises in trust rather than primarily a humiliation fetish. 

The desire to be beneath the other partner during sex, the idea of “getting caught” (as in having sex in the garden or woods), and mild rape fantasies (in which the people imagine themselves to be forced in ways they would like, and which are different from any real form of rape) are mild emotional games that emphasise status, vulnerability, and control.

However, for most people such ideas remain fantasies; the people would have strong reservations about the fantasies’ being made public, or engaged in with a partner in real life, however erotic the idea may be. When someone reveals a fetish to a partner, this usually is a result of great trust. If you are a Dom reading this, building trust in your partner should be at the forefront of your mind irrespective of the play, but especially when exploring humiliation and degradation. It’s important to note that the desire to be humiliated may be a motivating cause for confession, in that the act of confessing can itself be humiliating.

Many people worry about being ridiculed for their fetishes, and such ridicule from their partners could be psychologically damaging. Therefore, many people use online humiliation (in which the humiliator and others are involved via the Internet, using chat, email, websites, etc.) as a compromise between exhibitionism and reality on the one hand, and safety and anonymity on the other. Again, if you are a Dom and your partner confesses a fetish to you AND you are not into it, thank them for expressing it to you while not making them feel bad or inferior for their fetish, while non-judgementally, telling them how you feel about it.

What Can Be Degrading and Humiliating?

As you may have worked out by reading this piece, what is degrading or humiliating is quite individual and varies a lot from person to person. For example, animal play is included in the list as degrading, but the people I know into pup play would totally disagree. The same goes for age play, exhibitionism, crossdressing, servitude and pretty much everything else on the list. One person’s “humiliating” is not necessarily another’s.

Some scenarios may be based on verbal abuse and others on physical aspects. Some possible examples are:

Verbal Humiliation And Degradation Examples:

• Animal play—describing the submissive as a pet, dog, girl, or bitch; making the submissive eat and drink from pet food and water bowls.

• Verbal belittlement, with such words as slave, boy, girl, missy, and pet.

• Insults and verbal abuse, such as fat, ugly, stupid, and worthless.

• Degrading names, such as slut, shit, bitch, and whore.

• Racial and ethnic slurs.

• Slighting of body parts and behaviours, such as disparaging or cruel references to breasts, facial appearance, genitalia (including size), and slighting of such mannerisms as walking, responsiveness, and standard of self-care.

• The requirement to ask permission for everyday activities, such as going to the toilet, spending money, and eating.

• Forced repetition, such as the submissive’s being obliged to repeat commands that he or she has been given and to confirm them.

• Forced flattery, such as agreeing that every decision that the dominant makes is wise, correct, and justifiable, while additionally praising the dominant’s physical and personality traits.

• Mockery, derision, and ridicule.

• Scolding of the type commonly reserved for children.

Physical Humiliation And Degradation Examples:

• Ejaculating, spitting, and urinating on the submissive’s body (especially the face).

• Servitude

• Forced sexual degradation, including such acts as oral sex, licking ass, and blowjobs.

• Detailed accountability and control (micro-management) as to time spent and when activities are done, including lists of jobs to do, precise directions as to how the job is to be performed, and exactly how to act and behave.

• Specific rituals and affectations to be adopted. This includes displays of subservience, such as lighting cigarettes, walking a pace behind the dominant, speaking only when spoken to, kneeling or prostrating oneself in front of the dominant when expecting orders, eating only after others or on the floor, and low-status place to sleep.

• Body worship, including such activities as kissing or licking the dominant’s feet, boots, buttocks, anus, vulva, etc. to express acknowledgment, subservience, shame, and even positive emotions (such as happiness and excitement).

• Deprivation of privacy, which may include the submissive’s never being able to leave the room in which the dominant is present without permission.

• The dominant watches while the submissive uses the toilet.

• The submissive’s being forbidden to leave the house or ‘dungeon’ in general for the duration of slavery or servitude, etc.

• Discipline (BDSM), including erotic spanking, slapping, whipping, restraint, and other BDSM activities (such as cock-and-ball torture (CBT)).

– For women, a common example is being mandated to wear only bikinis or lingerie.

– For men, forced feminizing and cross-dressing.

• Both sexes may be expected to go completely naked, with decorative objects such as collars, diapers, bands, tiaras, and cuffs as the only exceptions.

• Erotic sexual denial, including the use of a chastity device.

• Wearing of external signs of “ownership”, such as collars.

• Public humiliation, in which the submissive’s friends or family, or strangers, are aware of or even witness the treatment.

• Erotic objectification, in which the submissive is used as human furniture, such as a footstool.

• Embarrassment both in public and in private.

• Forced anal penetration, with dildos, anal plugs, and similar objects.

Cuckolding, a mostly heterosexual fetish in which the dominant woman has sex with a man outside of the relationship while the submissive man may or may not be present. If the man is not present, he might help her choose what clothes to wear when she meets the other man, or they might get together afterward so she can tell him about it, either while having sex or in addition to withholding sex. If the man is present during the cuckolding, he may or may not be allowed to pleasure himself while watching. The cuckolding may or may not be followed by sex between the couple. Another variant of the cuckolding fetish is that a heterosexual couple fantasises that another man has already impregnated the woman.

• The submissive’s having to ask permission to orgasm during sex or masturbation.

• The submissive’s being forced to wear a gag or restraints on the body.

  • Forced masturbation in a humiliating manner.

Safewords

Be aware that most people never think to safeword from emotional play. Some people advocate introducing an emotional safeword that can be added to the usual traffic light pattern. ‘Blue’ is the word they recommend for emotional conditions that are getting out of hand. I think it is a good tool to keep in mind, but it will not work for everyone. As a top, understand that it’s not automatic that people can safeword in those conditions. It is imperative that you pay attention to physical cues from your partner. Do not get carried away. Be calculating in everything you do, and know when to pull the plug and take care of them.

Aftercare

Take what you can from play, and talk a lot during aftercare. Be specific and attempt to undo everything that you did during the play. Ask them to confirm everything you are saying, even if they begged you to called them the most awful things imaginable. ie If you called someone a disgusting fuck pig, be sure to reaffirm how much you care about them, and how special they are. 

All of this being said, some people don’t need this type of aftercare during humiliating and degrading scenes. If they do, then aftercare will help build trust and allow you to go a bit deeper each time you play. When you are done building them back up, talk their ears off. The more you talk about what they hold most dear, the more introspection they will do. They will help you find what their values are and how to play with them.

As you start to reveal these core values, you can begin to play with them gently. Talk, in depth about what you want to do and say with your partner and make sure they are ok with what you are going to attempt.

When you hit an emotional trigger no amount of panadol, massage, or arnica will lessen the damage. You need to do your best to avoid doing this at all costs. When you slip, no matter how innocent of a mistake it was, you need to be there to fix it. Sometimes this takes weeks of aftercare, and no I am not exaggerating. You have to undo what you did, and they may never fully recover from it. 

If you the reader have gone through some traumatic/wounding play and would like to do some rapid change processes with me to heal from it – Contact me.

Every one of us has that one thing that we believe about ourselves that we try to hide from the world. We are our own harshest critics, and when we hear someone say what we secretly believe, it is devastating. It takes a long time to get us back into a place where we can safely put those thoughts back in the little box we keep in the back of our heads, and we need our partners’ need help with it.

An Example Of Degradation Play That ‘Lifts’ A Partner

A hot scene to play out is having a sub ‘forced’ (but not really forced, cos you would negotiate this as part of consent/negotiation) to call herself pretty. I remember one time where she was flogged, caned and ‘forced’ to tell everyone how beautiful she is. One of her core values, even if she does not know it, is humility. She could not accept that others found her attractive and would never tell others that she found herself beautiful. This core value of Humility was engaged in a positive way, but it was still difficult for her. The happy side effect was that she started to believe how pretty she actually is.

Writing on the body is a popular theme in humiliation/degradation. There are a lot of pictures on Fetlife of pretty mouths with the word “Whore” written across them with the lips forming the O. More extreme examples of bottoms wearing pig snouts with their entire bodies covered in derogatory terms, covered in sweat, spit, and cum. Looking at those pictures it would be hard to tell which were scenes of humiliation, and which were degradation. If a bottom has a core value of being useful, then suffering (no matter how vile), for their tops gives them purpose. Yes, the scene is humiliating, but it does not cross the line. However, if appearance is on their core value list, appearing in the picture while being turned into something “ugly” can be pure degradation. Only the people who created the image will know for sure.

How Do I Get Started and Some Questions To Consider

What roles of “less than / lower than” do you think you might enjoy?

What do you feel would be taking it too far?

Are you both ready for this level of intensity? (Another way to put it is: Do you honestly desire to be deconstructed? Are are you ready to deconstruct someone you love?)

If I have not scared you away yet, and that was not my intention, you may be wondering how to get started on this wonderful world of humiliation. The simple answer is to consider the above questions to talk to your partner. When you have earned enough trust you can ask about hidden fantasies that they keep to themselves. If you don’t have a partner, contact me and let’s play!

There are reasons that they make dragon, werewolf, and horse-shaped dildos – we all have darker fantasies that we do not shout from the rooftops. Maybe it is being tied up and feeling utterly used for your holes, maybe it is getting fucked in front of others, or even something as simple as being forced to admit to liking something they should not.  If you are a submissive new to humiliation play but curious, my advice would be to explore lightly and progress if/when you feel more comfortable with it all.

As a Dom, the trick when playing with is for the Dom to ascertain exactly where the “fun” side of humiliation and degradation begins to cross over into what can rapidly become a very uncomfortable or even traumatic experience for their partner. It can be a fine line. Communication is essential – before, during and after.

Keep in mind that Humiliation Play is just that: PLAY, and a game. Intentionally harming the psyche of a submissive is a major ‘Red Flag’ on any such pseudo-dom. No sane Dom is going to actually make their partner feel any sort of genuine worthlessness – that goes strongly against my personal beliefs that a healthy Dom’s responsibility is to help the partner grow and shine.

There is a lot of fun to be had with humiliation, just be mindful of your partner’s informed consent and emotional/physical well being. All of this will open worlds of possibility and depravity when playing with degradation and humiliation. 

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