03/07/2019 at 4:27 am #7029
This is a video presentation from the recent Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend (CLAW) on erotic humiliation play. LDG: Humiliation: Hot, Edgy, and Sometimes Dangerous – with Richard Sprott. I’m not into humiliation play and I still found it very interesting and informative.
28/07/2019 at 7:41 pm #7065
Ooo thanks Beth – I will check this out! 🙂
20/08/2019 at 1:03 am #7135
Danger danger! Epic post ahead! 😉
I was talking with HL about this type of play in chat yesterday, and Beth pointed out that she had posted this video. It’s a freakin’ hour long! …And it’s amazing. Very definitely worth the watch.
If you want to prep for the watch, or if you just want cliff notes because you’re not made of time, here’s my notes and thoughts about his talk.
First thought: I wouldn’t trust my notes over his actual talk. He’s a doctor of psychology and I’m not. I’m just saying. So if you’re reading this because you don’t have time to watch the video, I hope this will help you decide to make time. Or, at worst, help you confirm that humiliation play is very much not for you and now you don’t need to watch his talk. Whatever you do, please don’t take my notes as the only guide you’ll ever need to your humiliation play. 😉
Second thought: this talk was given at SFLDG, a conference primarily by and for queer men. The speaker is gay, his husband is gay, and all of the sexy pictures in his slide deck are of, about, and added for the entertainment of, gay men. Maybe this is a trigger for you and maybe it isn’t, but if you’re not into topping men the pornography can be challenging. To say it is beyond graphic is an understatement. I would like to add a specific endorsement, however: as a straight man attracted to women, I found the gay content to be very helpful, as it kept me from getting too distracted by the visuals, and left most of my blood supply free to go to the “head that thinks”. This was really helpful for thinking about the specific mechanisms and tips about humiliation that he was trying to communicate. About 30 minutes into the talk the cameraman realizes that they’re streaming gay porn to a public YouTube feed, and starts covering the camera during the naughty bits, and finally just stops swinging the camera over to the projector except when there’s an important slide full of text. If you do appreciate the male form, the humiliation photos involve models who are quite fit and handsome until the cameraman ruins all the fun. (What. I’m straight, not blind.)
Third thought: if words of humiliation and degradation are likely trigger you, maybe give this talk a miss. He gives a trigger warning up front, I can vouch that he means it. He uses nasty words and says some awful things, but I personally found the images more challenging. If you’re in the same boat, consider playing the talk in a background tab and just listening. The cameraman starts censoring the porn around the 32-minute mark.
Okay, on to his talk. He grouped his talk into three phases: framing the discussion for safety, the actual mechanics of humiliation play, and the aftercare.
His first section resonated with me because he was very up front about psychological safety–and the risks inherent in the play. He considers humiliation play to fall somewhere on a spectrum of intensity from hot and erotic and one end, kind of edgy in the middle, and potentially dangerous at the far end.
One key he gives for staying at the safe end is to treat it like sarcasm, where you only ever say the opposite of what you truly mean. Specifically, he never humiliates someone about some aspect of their person unless he actually values that aspect, and he knows the sub knows that he values it. So when he says “you’re a f–ot” or “you’re a c–t”, he’s overtly using denigrating language, but the subtext is “but I like those things, and that means I like you“.
I have seen another presentation (no link, lost to time, sorry) where the Dom said he loved to call his sub “stupid” and “dumb” because she was very comfortable with her own intelligence, but there was another issue (which he kindly declined to reveal about her) that she was actually a bit insecure about, and that area was off-limits for humiliation play. I like the union of both thoughts: finding areas that the sub is confident in and that the Dom is very clear about cherishing or treasuring, makes for a much safer play session. The sub is forced to enact or admit to weakness in an area they know they are strong, and this relieves much of the threat of trauma while also reinforcing the intensity of the scene: if you are a smart, strong, and brave woman who is willing to stand up against misogyny, and your Dom orders you to say that you are a “just a dumb c**t”, can you see how this isn’t going to scar you but is definitely going to be very challenging to submit to? That’s a safe and hot exchange–but again only if you are quite comfortable knowing that those things aren’t true and/or that your Dom secretly cherishes those things about you.
Back to Dr. Sprott’s talk. At the other end of the spectrum, one specific tell he says watch for that you’ve moved out of safe territory is a fight/flight response, and especially if your sub begins to rage. That means something you’ve said or done has pushed them into the fight response and they’re running on pure instinct, and it’s time to back off, reestablish safety and move directly to aftercare. Advanced players may actually seek out this adrenaline rush for the endorphin rush that comes after, but he specifically warns about pushing a sub into fighting back, which means you’ve moved deep enough into dangerous territory that they have to protect themselves from you.
He considers the middle level of humiliation play to be edge play because it very specifically pushes boundaries and limits. With other forms of play you can establish hard and soft limits beforehand and during the session you stay inside that box. But humiliation play specifically involves saying “I am uncomfortable past this point in this specific area” and then deliberately going to that uncomfortable area. You are planning a trip outside of the safety and comfort of limits, and that means consciously choosing to explore psychological terrain that you both know is potentially dangerous and potentially traumatizing for the sub. That is inherent to the style of play, which for him means it is the definition of edge play even though you literally might only be using words the entire session and never lay a finger on the sub.
Okay, now, the part you were hoping I would post up top: here’s the mechanics. Sprott says most (all?) humiliation play falls into one of four categories:
- Dirt – This can be figurative, like calling your sub “filthy” or other dirty names, or literal, making them lick dirt off your shoes or forcing them to consume bodily wastes. (Early on in his talk there are a few pictures of men with their faces trapped in dirty toilets that I found very challenging to look at, but near the end of his talk there was a written piece of a sub discussing piss play that bordered on being spiritually moving. )
- Objectification and Depersonification – This can span from deliberate erasure of identity with masks and costumes to breaking the sub’s identity down to just their function as a sexual or other object. Will and choice no longer matter, “you are just a hole to be used”, etc.
- Power – Forcing the sub to acknowledge their weakness, helplessness, and submission. Demonstrating that you have taken all their power, freedom, etc. This can be through ordering the sub around to placing the sub in restraints, especially restraints that put the sub in an awkward and exposed position and deny them the ability to get comfortable or to cover themselves back up. Or it can be as simple as grabbing them and using them sexually as vigorously as you please, since it doesn’t matter what they want or think.
- Public Display (Shaming and Exposure). I liked seeing this separated out into its own aspect, since so much of our psychological hangups involve other people and how we process our interactions with them. He did stop to say he had some ethical concerns about exposure, on the grounds that there’s no way to obtain the consent of onlookers beforehand, unless you are specifically in a space where consent is implied, such as a dungeon party or a BDSM conference. Or, as Sprott joked, “if you’re on Folsom Street during the Pride Parade, you know you are consenting.”
The aftercare section had some really great tips; the single biggest one for me was when he mentioned that long, slow strokes on the body can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and slow down the heart and breathing, which is big fancy medical talk for “it’s really soothing and calms you down”. But a close second was the specific tip to go from sarcastic humiliation (e.g. “you’re a dirty little slut”) to reassuring and feeding their need to please by changing to affirming language (e.g. “you’re a good little slut”, and “I like my little slut”).
One of the most interesting bits to this is how much Dr. Sprott talked about planning with the sub in advance to make the session a journey of acceptance or healing. Talking through issues up front about sexual abuse or rape trauma, then going through a humiliation and degradation session to depersonify the sub and get them out of their own head, then taking them through a “consensual non-consensual” sexual encounter, then bringing them out the other side showing them how much they are valued even in that dark space, was amazing to me. (Mind you, he emphasized taking small steps first, and exploring what parts of the terrain were safer than others. The potential to cause further trauma should be obvious; if it isn’t, maybe stay away from this subject.)
So… them’s my notes. Again please don’t take these notes as a replacement for the actual talk. Lots of stuff–entire slides–went by that I don’t have room to include here, and may resonate with you more than they did me. I hope this helps anybody trying to decide where to go from here (hint: “to YouTube to watch the video” is never going to not be a great answer).
- This reply was modified 1 month ago by MisterMan.
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