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...are wondering about taking their "erotic" only relationship to a level that involves real discipline.

Dear Bethany;

I love your new site, and would like to put a question in the advice column. Hope you think mine is good enough to answer!

My husband and I having been participating in spanking for about three years. At first it was mostly play, because we both get really turned on by it, but just lately, I started to feel like I could use some help in "real" areas of my life and wanted him to spank me for punishment. He isn't really against this, but we both are a little confused on how this works. Are we supposed to get turned on? Can you comment on it?

Casey - California

From Bethany

Hi Casey-

This is another question, similar to last week's, which illustrates an important factor of this interest: all spankings are not created equal. Many people enter this interest thinking that they are, and, like you find themselves a little lost when interest and practice start to evolve. This answer is meant to address spanking in a relationship that is also sexual. An entirely different set of issues come in to consideration for couples who play "spanking" but are not sleeping together.

Some people start out with spanking/discipline being 100% an erotic game. Couples abound in the "scene" who met through ads, met, played, married still using spanking as erotic play... and then, she sasses him "for real," he's more than a tad pissed, and suddenly he wants to turn her over his knee for something very different.

Part of the difficulty in assessing this is that the distinctions between the kinds of "scenarios" can be very blurred. It's not like wearing a shirt, where you either have on a red one or a blue one. It's more like the seasons; the distinction between spring and summer can be very indistinct, in spite of what the calendar tells us.

Very roughly, I think that the "scenes" break down into three categories. Although thinking about it this way, and possibly sitting down and discussing it, may seem a little "cold," it may be the only way for you and your husband to end up on the same page. Again, complicating this is that even for very experienced couples, the distinctions may not always seem clear.

The first stage, though, is definitely the "play" spanking. It is purely for affection and erotic enjoyment. It may incorporate "elements" of discipline (corner time, "you've been a bad girl," "are you going to sass me again?") but both participants are very much on the same page... it's erotic. This doesn't mean, of course, that it can't be plenty severe. The most severe spanking I have ever personally received was definitely in a fully erotic setting.

The second stage, which bridges play and discipline, is probably the hardest to quantify. Often, for many couples, a spanking in this "middle" category may start out as a somewhat serious addressing of issues but it evolves into sex anyway. One good friend receives weekly "maintenance" spankings. The purpose of these over-the-knee sessions is to deal with her destructive tendencies and the difficulty she has in managing her life. It's a "for real" deal... they hurt... and I know that her husband definitely "addresses" issues in the previous or coming week that require her attention. Yet, I also know that they almost always end up having sex afterwards. Is this erotic? Probably some people in the scene would say it is, yet I know for her it is different than the nights her husband walks into the bedroom and says with a gleam in his eye, "Now who's been a bad girl?"

The third level is the strong discipline scenarios which are not erotic at the time... and should NOT be mixed up with sex shortly afterwards. A truly disciplinary spanking is not intended to lead to arousal at the time or in the next few hours. In general it will involve inflicting "real" pain on a recipient who may be all too unwilling to receive the discipline. In general, it is likely to be as difficult and painful for the dom as it is for the sub. It is punishment, designed to correct harmful behaviors or real faults, and hopefully to ensure that the act is not repeated. Yet, in the context of a long-term relationship, even the most severe and non-erotic (in the short term) discipline and punishment, when it accords with the long-term agreement of both the man and the woman, does have a highly romantic/erotic impact - in the long term. It's the old distinction of not really getting turned on by the spanking, but getting turned on by the spanker. Many people who are active in spanking believe that "true" discipline should not be used between adults, and that it "doesn't work." Many others disagree.

Furthermore complicating all of this, even for the same couple, it is possible that given varying circumstances of anger, frustration, defiance, guilt, shame, what have you... a purely "erotic" spanking might be longer and more "painful" than a punishment spanking. I almost never cry during an "erotic" scene, but have been sobbing my eyes out before a punishment spanking even begins. Psychological state and intent of the participants is a far more accurate indicator as to what kind of spanking it is. Difficult to understand? You bet. Even those who have been around these theories, and may have practiced them at time in real life, for years have trouble seeing the distinctions at times. Trying to explain this to "newbies" is nearly impossible.

Back to your situation, Casey. Share this with your husband, see if you two even agree with what I've written, and then talk about it. It could be that you want to move to the second level, and never "go" to the third. Whatever is appropriate for you life and your relationship is where you should end up for now. And in a few weeks, months, or years, you might need to reassess again.