If I were to tell you that historically, punishment has not been something I've enjoyed, I'd appear to be stating the obvious. Of course no-one enjoys punishment, that's sort of the point. But even within the familiar paradox of kink, punishment has not been a framework that I've tended to find fun to play with. Hot, undeniably; but in the context of a real dominance and submission agreement, coupled with a hopelessly strong desire to please those I love, earning a punishment has never been a fun way to initiate play for me. It's been rare, and when it's happened it's been about genuine upsets or disappointment, it's been tearful and it's not been pleasant for either of us.
Of course that mode of punishment also has value: catharsis; the putting to bed of heartfelt remorse, relief from guilt; the raw intimacy that comes from undergoing such an ordeal together for the sake of maintaining good faith. The self-respect that can be earned by bravely facing the unpleasant but necessary consequences of regretted actions.
Until now it's only ever arisen in two contexts; the breaking of pre-negotiated agreements, or the resolution of relationship conflicts where I came to see myself as being in the wrong, and craved some sort of absolution before I could forgive myself and move on. Neither an experience I'm inclined to seek out.
Recently, this sort of "serious" punishment hasn't been a feature of either of my primary relationships. Tom's health problems are well chronicled, as is D's reticence about adopting the more ceremonial aspects of D/s.
So the deal I've made with D this year has been an interesting experiment. My first punishment under our new agreement took place in a highly sexually charged context, and wasn't, to my surprise, the edgiest aspect of our play that day. Since then, at my instigation, we've expanded our agreement so that he's helping me keep track of more than just my drinking levels. I'm currently trying to improve my health and fitness more generally, and regular exercise is part of that, as well as the exercises I've been given by my physiotherapist to address my particular back problems. So as well as booze, I'm now reporting in on two additional counts: if I do my back exercises every day, and if I visit the gym three times a week.
Of course, as soon as he agreed to help me keep track of these extra factors, I immediately came down with a filthy cold, so I had a temporary reprieve until I was better. I was still not at all well the last time I visited D, which led to the punishment for the two missed days of back exercises before I got ill being postponed. Then once I recovered, I was working all hours of the day trying to make up for lost time on various client projects, I'd got out of the habit, and finding half an hour a day to do back exercises was not top of my priority list.
When we came to deal with things yesterday, then, I had quite a lot accumulated. One missed daily report. Six missed days of back exercises. To my relief, it turned out that I'd been doing really well with drinking moderately (thanks in part to the cold!) and I hadn't missed any gym sessions - but still. He'd already told me it would be six whacks with the bath brush for every missed day of exercises. Plus twelve for the missed report, adding up to a colossal 48.
So you'd think that I'd be a mess of nerves, leading up to it. But to my surprise, when he mentioned that he was packing the brush, when I saw it waiting for me on the pillow in the morning, when he came up behind me at my desk and softly kissed the back of my neck to give me my 15 minute warning, I didn't feel anxious, or upset. My primary emotion was one of reassurance, of security.
I felt loved, knowing that he cared enough to put energy into keeping his side of the bargain, even though it's not his normal style. My fear of the brush translated into a thrill of arousal. I knew I wasn't going to get shouted at. I knew I wasn't going to have personally disappointed him. The goalposts were set by me, and the only person I was letting down was myself. And I - well, I was doing my best, and working out this deal with D and accepting my punishment was part of that endeavour. There was no point feeling guilty about it. Half an hour of exercises every day is a tough habit to get into straightaway. I knew I wasn't going to manage it straight off. I'd done worse than I hoped, but there weren't going to be any recriminations or hard feelings. Just a quick punishment to deal with past 'failures', and the chance to do better next time. It felt honest, and straightforward, and strangely liberating.
When I reached a stopping point in my work, I joined him on the bed. He let me look at the spreadsheet and we discussed how I'd done. He was impressed with me for going to the gym while I was still ill; and my drinking had been lighter than my stated aims. But the back exercises were a problem. We talked about ways to help me get into the habit. Setting a time each day, and an alarm on my phone. It feels strange to stop working when I'm being productive, but I should justify it by thinking of the break itself as a health benefit; the consequences of doing computer work all day will be lessened if I get up and move around regularly. They only take half an hour, less time than the washing up, less time than a bath, less time than it takes to tidy my room or go to the shop.
After a little while I realised I was using the talk to put off the inevitable. Our eyes met. He stood up and held out his hands, and I joined him. A kiss, and then his eyes scanned me, and with a quirk of his lips he said quietly "Take off all your clothes, I think."
I did. Then I lay down, as instructed, over pillows on the bed, and he told me that I'd be counting these in sets; not each stroke, but each misdeed, starting with the missed report.
I felt so safe in his hands, so reassured by his gentle manner, that I forgot how much that damn brush hurts. It doesn't seem to have much weight to it but every stroke is a targeted, stinging punch and I am incapable of thinking while it's going on. It just gets to me, pure and simple. The pain is startling, shocking; even when I know it's coming it takes me aback.
Tom was in the next room, so I tried to be quiet. I hissed, I took deep breaths, I yelled silently into the pillows, I grabbed fistfuls of duvet, and when one set of six landed hard and fast I couldn't do anything except twist and howl and involuntarily clench both buttocks and try to flinch away. In between he stroked my back with a tender hand, and I gasped and thanked him and gritted my teeth for the next.
Then it was over; and as I cuddled up to him I realised that I hadn't cried, hadn't had the catharsis experience I usually associate with punishment. This was less distressing and less complex than that. On one level it was wholeheartedly, straightforwardly consensual. This whole thing was my idea. D wasn't being domineering, making me do things I didn't want to do; he was my team-mate, my equal partner, working with me to help me achieve my aims. On another, my crime was not emotionally distressing; a minor blip in my striving for self-improvement, but I hadn't hurt anyone and had no reason to be overwhelmed by remorse or regret. This punishment was a tool in my arsenal; it was part of the plan. It wasn't anything to feel bad about. And I didn't feel bad. I felt relieved, satisfied, loved, reassured, safe.
And - oh, my treacherous cunt - actually really turned on.
It turned out I wasn't the only one. Of course, snuggling up to him, naked and trying to rub the persistent itchy sting out of my bottom, it was easy to get distracted. More kisses didn't help. When my hand brushed against the hot bulge in his jeans I asked "Is that from kissing me or spanking my bottom?"
He smiled. "Yes."
His hand, exploring in due course, discovered what I'd suspected - that all my protestations of being a good girl who hates being punished were belied my by body's reactions. I was slippery wet. "My cunt and I disagree on the question of the bath brush. It thinks it's hot."
"Your cunt," said D, around promising kisses, "thinks anything you're afraid of is hot."
He told me to put on black and white stripy stockings, and spanked me again just because he could, making me kneel with my arse stuck right out so there was no padding to bounce under his palm, just taut skin. He smacked the backs of my thighs, too, and at various points my breasts. Our enthusiasm was mutual, and our lovemaking an excruciatingly pleasurable mix of tenderness and violence.
I can't help feeling that there's something wrong with this positive feedback loop; that if we have so much fun every time I'm punished, won't it be self-defeating? I do genuinely want it to help me improve. But those objections are theoretical. Deep down, I'm not conflicted at all; my satisfaction is too self-evident to argue with. Yes, I'll try to earn less punishment next time. If I get some, I'll take it and it'll bring us closer together. If I don't, he'll probably find an excuse to beat me anyway. Or perhaps I'll just keep raising my goals to stay slightly ahead of my progress, so I'll always fall slightly short of them - all in the name of self improvement, of course. It's all good.
(I'll leave you with one final image: me, just after D had put his jeans back on and returned to his work, doing my back exercises on the floor in knickers and a t-shirt, bottom still glowing from my recent spanking and the carpet feeling very rough where I was tender. The whole thing probably helped me loosen up, but if I'm going to used that method regularly I'm going to need to get a yoga mat.)
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