June 20, 2008

Humiliation, the good, the bad, the ugly

We’d had this conversation a while ago, but I had forgotten, and I asked:

“Would you think about something for me?”
“Of course.”
“We can talk about it tomorrow.”
“Humiliation, is it good or bad? Not a politically or kink correct answer, but a gut feel. In the sense of ‘I was totally humiliated.’ your attitude about it, not feelings.”
“I think this is a hard question for me to understand, given the limitations, but I'll try and make sense out of it.”
“Okay, then forget the limitations, I did not mean it to be limiting, just the whole range of those things call humiliation; you are right, that is better and a more fair question.”
"'I was totally humiliated' - I'll think about what that statement brings up for me... is that what you mean, more or less?"
"Yes that is what I mean, not to your submission particularly, just as a person."
"Yes, OK."

And the next day:

"I thought about humiliation."
"Oh yes?"
"I should email, I think."
"Okay, I would love to have your feelings on it."

And then the email:

I think you've made a case that humiliating and humbling are the same. I can't say I see it that way.

If I say humiliated, I mean embarrassed and brought down to a point below ones true worth. Where humbled, I see as settling to one's proper place.

Humiliation is an experience of shame.

Does this answer?

Yes, it did, so, there is one perspective on the matter of Humiliation and Humbling/Humility, and on the other hand:

"it was humiliating. But i didn't resist . . . moving my body into a rhythm . . . i felt aroused by the stimulation, and aroused by the humiliation. i felt my little place so acutely... it felt so right that i should be in this space of humility; . . . it felt right that we all acknowledged that it was part of my place to have lower status and higher humility."

A third perspective is:

I feel that some humiliation is necessary to reduce me to that deep submissive state I long to be in. Humiliation, as in wearing a collar or leash, submitting to an inspection, being made to crawl, etc., helps to put my mind into the "powerless" state and allows me to "feel" the authority that my Dom/Dad/Master has over me. I do not, however, much enjoy the more extreme forms of humiliation such as being urinated on......that, to me, is overkill.

So, these three have differing opinions, perhaps a Dominant has it figured out:

Humiliation. "The word itself can cause even hard-core players to recoil. In the BDSM community, where consensual, well-intentioned humiliation games are commonly practiced, players routinely disavow participation. I myself would vehemently declare that if a Sub wanted humiliation, then find another, I simply was not into that. Why would I want to dominate someone I didn't respect?
That was how I saw humiliation. Disrespectful. Degrading. Debasing. Insulting. As abuse, pure and simple. The idea of what I perceived as emotional cruelty. The idea of verbally harming my Submissives nauseated me."

So, then perhaps we turn to the dictionaries and definitions, to get some clarity, to find the essential relationship between Humiliation and Humility.

Definitions of Humiliation:

  • state of disgrace or loss of self-respect
  • chagrin: strong feelings of embarrassment
  • an instance in which you are caused to lose your prestige or self-respect; "he had to undergo one humiliation after another"
  • depriving one of self-esteem
Humiliation is bad . . .

Definitions of humility:

  • a disposition to be humble; a lack of false pride; "not everyone regards humility as a virtue"
  • a humble feeling; "he was filled with humility at the sight of the Pope"
Humility is good, being humble . . .

From Wikipedia: Humiliation is the abasement of pride; mortification. The state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission. It is thus the process of being made humble. It can be brought about through bullying, intimidation, physical or mental mistreatment or trickery and embarrassment.

Humiliation is being humble, humility, which is good . . .

No wonder everyone is confused and afraid.

So, perhaps it is all just semantics, which I would agree with, an unimportant distinction, except I think there are many submissives that miss out on opportunities for growth, arousal, bonding and excitement, a chance to truly move forward because they are afraid of being humiliated and embarrassed, demeaned?

They are afraid of being embarrassed and brought down to a point below ones true worth.

They do not find humiliation as settling to one's proper place.

Clearly humiliation is used for a variety of reasons.

There are those dominants that use humiliation to totally debase a submissive, tear her down, belittle her, strip her of any self esteem or self respect to build her back up "his way".

Others use humiliation to overcome excess pride, to make their submissive more humble, to create a sense of self worth in their submission, subordinate to the dominant, respectful.

There does not seem to be a hard and fast result from humiliation, let alone a common perception of what it really constitutes.


  1. Perhaps your quandry is more muddled by the question of, what do you or I find to be humiliating, and is it a universal definition?

    By that I mean, for example:

    one sub may take pride in being called a slut--HIS slut, whore, whichever.. While another can only hear the negative connotations that society has attached to the word.

    If only the road less traveled were a bit less confusingly complex, eh?

  2. "Others use humiliation to overcome excess pride, to make their submissive more humble, to create a sense of self worth in their submission, subordinate to the dominant, respectful."

    i see myself in these words.

    hugs, elle

  3. i was almost a year into my ownership before we began to explore the question of humiliation. before i began to acknowledge that one of the things that made a spanking so awful and yet so compelling was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, humiliation. it emerged in very subtle ways, and bit by bit we all felt comfortable enough to explore it. slowly. my owners do everything slowly. i think perhaps those desires can emerge over time as both partners grow more and more comfortable in the relationship.

    because i personally happen to believe that a lot of things that many submissives crave are inherently humiliating. i mean, spankings... come on. unless it's purely sexual... but even then. it's a disciplinary technique mostly used on children. clothing removed. private parts of the body exposed, lifted into the air, and then touched in an unpleasant way. it's incredibly humbling... and i think it's very humiliating too.

    that quote from me... i think i felt the humility in the comparison between me, and what i have to submit to (such as humiliation), and my owners, who don't have to submit to humiliating things, and really, to most people who have a choice. i felt humility in the idea that, unlike most people, i have to be subjected to humiliation. it reminded me of my place, and of my submissiveness.

    i guess i'm trying to say that humiliation reminds me that i have to have humility. and i have to have humility because of my submission. so therefore, humiliation connects me to my submission. :)

  4. wow, humiliation. I never thought of any of the the things my Dom and I 'do' as humiliating until I read this.
    To have him beat me, cum on my bound body, piss all over me, blindfolded, fucked, hurting. I feel loved, complete, whole.
    It's wonderful, a truly wonderful feeling. Humiliation, I think you're right. It is more about the negative connotations that society attaches to the words/events that cause the problems

  5. I don't think the question you asked in the first section is the same one you are answering, later.

    I think humiliation - w/in limits, in the right context, as a part of a sexual act or relationship - is very, very hot. It's all about context. But if I ask a person from work how her meeting went and she says, "Humiliating", well, that's a bad thing.

  6. For me it's got to be the intent of the act. If it's to reinforce humility/submission then that's one thing. For some using humiliation is more an act of anger and insesecuity, feeling better when someone is lower.

    Humiliation is different for everyone. For me even being told to wear 'the wrong' outfit to an event would be humiliating. (Wrong as in mismatched). For others wearing Cum Slut on their breasts to a breast exam would mean they are owned and they don't feel ashamed.

    The spirit of the humiliation and the willingness to recieve it are the true markers of trust and relationship building. How its achieved is a process as persephone said.

  7. We do not engage in humiliation play. We do, however, engage in acts that others would probably find humiliating.

    I agree, it is in the intent and the context. I know that other submissives/slaves are regularly humiliated, with that being the intent.

    He may have me do things, or do things to me, that I find incredibly humbling. These things bring in line with my submission.
    At the same time though, he is very affirming to me. He tells me how much he cares for me, how proud he is of me, and how he appreciates and cherishes the fact that I would submit to these things for him. That makes these acts affirming for me, rather than humiliating.

    He does not tear me down, in order to build me up. He builds me up, so that I may bow down to him. He never makes me shameful or worthless, he instead makes feel precious and valued. It is my feelings of value, that enable me to submit to anything he asks of me.

    I believe that some within the community equate humiliation with degradation. Others equate humiation with humility. As with all types of BDSM play, the bottom line is consent.

  8. I don't want to speak for Master, but from what I have experienced she never uses any humiliation so intense that it would scar or traumatize me. I think she just finds it amusing that I get embarassed so easily, humiliated so quickly. She likes to watch me turn red, and squirm a bit really. Other than that I'm not sure She uses it to change me in any way. Just for fun really. And it's never in any way where I'm thinking afterwards 'how could she do that to me?' or 'that was the worst thing I've ever experienced" More likely I am usually giggling and thinking 'I can't believe I just did that. I never would have done that myself. It was fun.' And then I feel better about myself, sometimes more brave, more courageous, less afraid.

  9. I read this post when you first published it, right around the time of my first real experience with humiliation. (I wanted to wait to read some other comments before adding my 2 cents.) Like Little Slave Girl, I think my Master just enjoyed seeing me squirm. I was surprized by how much I enjoyed being humiliated, and I haven't yet pinpointed what I like about it. But, as others mentioned, the context is key, and I hate humiliation when it doesn't come lovingly from my Master.

  10. I agree with submissivesusannah, nothing I do with Master is humiliating for me. I would run a mile from a dominant that wanted to humiliate me. I want to be respected to the same degree that I respect my dominant.

    If what he does to me is degrading and humiliating isn't it also the case that he degrades and humiliates himself? Two sides to the same coin.