Punishment vs Funishment – An Important Distinction

Is This Just Fantasy Neon Sign

Two things have prompted my sitting down to write this today – one being one of the usual questions my inbox as to whether I punish my sub by pegging (*obligatory eye roll*) and two, the necessity for punishment actually arising within my dynamic. So, it seemed like a relevant topic. That said, it is quite a complex thing, so it will probably make for a series of posts.

Funishment vs Punishment

Asides from being complex, punishment is also an oft fetishised part of D/s. Which is why first things first, I would like to untangle punishment – the real deal – from ‘funishment’ – the narrative of punishment being employed for mutual fun and giggles.

Funishment

Fun punishments i.e. funishments make up most, if not all, of what you will find depicted in porn. So, if you’re reading this without any experience, whatever you’re thinking of, ‘real’ punishment probably doesn’t look like that.

Funishments are not designed to discourage the behaviour they are supposedly ‘punishment’ for, but rather give the top an excuse to do x or y to their bottom. They are a sort of roleplay, which is played out for the mutual gratification of the parties involved – in fact, somewhat counter-intuitively, I have seen funishment used as a reward system for bratty submissives.

Punishment

Punishments, on the other hand, are generally substantive parts of power exchange dynamics. They are distinct from funishment, in that they genuinely serve to discourage the behaviour they are the consequence of.

I would say that punishment broadly has four key roles:

To enforce the dynamic: control is all well and good, but you have to occasionally back it up. Rules must be propped up on consequences, otherwise the whole thing is rather theoretical.

To provide closure: this is a nuanced point I will write more on, but I think one of the driving aspects of many submissives is the need to please and the idea that they did something wrong can stick around. Punishment can be an effective way of ‘clearing the slate’.

As a form of behaviour modification: rules in a D/s dynamic exist for a reason – to outline the expected standard of behaviour. Punishment can serve as a consequence for undesirable behaviour, assisting in modifying it.

To reassert the dynamic: protocol exists to connect both parties to the dynamic and space. When rules are not followed, it can be hurtful to both sides – the dom can feel they are not being ‘respected’ in a manner of speaking, and sub that the dominant doesn’t care enough to pay attention to the rules and their behaviour. Punishment is a way of asserting that the dynamic does in fact matter for both sides.

Disclaimer: punish safely

I will cover punishment in a longer post, but as an obligatory disclaimer – any emotional issues on either side should ideally be resolved first, before you get to the punishment stage. It is usually not advisable to risk either the dominant taking their emotions out on the submissive, or the submissive coming to view punishment as the way in which they ‘fix’ emotional issues. ‘I’ve upset you so hurt me’ might be an appealing sentiment to many masochists, but chances are, it won’t resolve substantive problems in the long term.

And also, aftercare. Always aftercare. Terms and conditions apply. [Insert the usual ‘please practice BDSM safely’ thing here].

My opinion on funishment

Personally, I don’t do ‘funishments’. I don’t do the whole ‘you’re a naughty boygiggle thwack. I’m not a fan of roleplay of any kind and I don’t like to see my sub fail, which is something I’ve covered before. I dislike bringing the narrative of punishment into it, because I don’t see the point in dressing up what I want to do in odd little pretences. If I want to hurt him, I will.

Just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with that kind of thing. It’s just not my cup of tea. If it’s yours, go for it like it’s 1722 and you’re at Tom King’s Coffee House (obscure reference, I know).

Why is distinguishing punishment vs funishment important?

Clear communication is the foundation of any BDSM dynamic, so being clear on what you want is very important. I have spoken to so many people who get confused between the two, which leads to a myriad of problems (the most common one I’ve covered below).

If you want someone to misbehave on purpose, for fun you need to tell them. Some subs are hardwired ‘good boys / girls’ and hate having done something wrong. If it’s a game, make it clear.

Equally, if you’re a bratty sub, make it clear to your dom you’re after punishment what you want. Have a discussion about what ‘misbehaviour’ is going to have the intended effect and what is just plain aggravating.

‘Bratting’, funishment and punishment – the common pitfall

I have seen plenty of newbie doms fall into a variety of traps around the funishment punishment distinction.

The most common scenario looks something like this:

A sub starts ‘bratting’ – often by doing something they have expressly been told not to in a ‘really, seriously, do not do thing’ kind of way – in an effort to get attention and funishment. (Bratting is another whole kettle of fish, which I will cover at another time).

Perhaps the dominant reacts with the fun ‘rawr, I am domly’ reaction a few times, essentially rewarding the behaviour (in Pavlovian terms, at least). Regardless, the dominant gets progressively more tired and frustrated, given that their partner is doing something they have been asked explicitly and clearly not to do. The dominant then often turns that inwards and concludes they are just not domming hard enough.

I understand it’s an easy trap to fall into as a new dominant – it’s very easy to feel as if you are supposed to be in control of everything and if your sub is acting out, well that surely must mean you have not done x1 domination correctly. Surely, if you just punished them enough or better or more, they wouldn’t do x thing.

But that is far from the truth. While I do believe dominance in a lifestyle sense involves some aspect of leadership, there is a difference between leadership and playing the role of a parent.

Don’t get me wrong – a dynamic can act as a framework for all manner of self-improvement. Protocol be employed to support the development of a variety of habits. But it is important to draw the line between supporting someone in pursuing a goal they are already committed to and doing the work for them. At the end of the day, you can’t control someone who will not even attempt to control themselves.

So, to sum it all up…

Be clear on what you’re after, both with yourself and your partner. Do you want actual rules, backed up by consequences, or are you after a bit of fun thwacking for mutual edification? There’s nothing wrong with either – the issues are all in differing expectations. Know what you want. Be clear on what the words you’re using mean. Talk about it. And have fun, you fabulous, adventurous rutabaga, you.

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Miss Rosalie

Lifestyle Domme & Writer
I'm a lifestyle domme with a 24/7 TPE dynamic. I started this blog to put my perspective, thoughts and experience on lifestyle femdom, D/s, kink and life in general in one handy place. If you like my thoughts, do let me know in the comments and / or follow me on the social media of your choice.

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  1. “… one of the driving aspects of a sub is the need to please and the idea that they did something wrong can stick around.” This statement is 100% true for many. Atonement and being given the opportunity to make up for a mistake are appreciated by many of us submissives. That atonement does not need to be at the cost of the dominant’s energy. Many great pearls here. Well done article! Thank you!

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