This is a guest post by Mistress Steel. It was part of her Steel’s Chamber Scrolls which is now defunct. Shared with Permission.
Punishment is one of those areas which is not what it seems. Before you can develop tools or methods of punishment you have to look at the concepts behind the issue itself.
To punish is to impose a penalty, such as: pain, suffering, shame, humiliation, strict restraint or loss. Punishment is incurred for: fault, offense, violation or wrongdoing based upon an organized structure of preexisting rules or directives. It can also occur in retaliation or retribution. It is also seen as to chastise, chasten, discipline, correct or castigate. It is particularly applied when the transgression appears to have occurred under a conscious or purposive intent.
While this may appear to be rather clear, it is anything but. The object of punishment so described above tends to present itself as to 'cause harm'. This decision or determination to cause harm to another human being is then justified by presenting the 'failure' which has occurred as a means to validate the action of causing harm. (permission to assault or abuse) In a broader sense punishment is viewed as a means to 'direct' or 'correct' behavior. This by extension becomes the idea that you can change the behaviors of other human beings by the application of harm to them. In this case I am speaking of real harm. To injure or damage another human being is from my perspective completely contrary to the interaction within a S/m relationship. I cannot 'harm' or 'force' another human being into conformance to rules - this violates the concept of reasoned consent. If a person consents to a relationship, consents to obedience to certain rules or directives then they should comply willfully with these directives without even the illusion of force. If force is necessary then the individual is not consenting. If the individual within the relationship is violating the terms of the relationship regardless of whether that person identifies themselves as Top or bottom then the response to such a violation should not be the application of actions designed to injure, harm or damage that person - or to take actions designed to retaliate for the violation. Such a threat to the terms of a relationship should be an active warning that something is very much wrong. You cannot solve real problems by hitting someone or shaming them. You can only solve real problems by finding out what is wrong and making a joint decision to solve those problems or vacate the relationship.
Sometimes people believe that 'acts' of punishment may serve as a form of physical 'removal of responsibility' or 'forgiveness' of wrongful acts, particularly if the person so injured is the same person who applies the act of physical punishment. There is an underlying concept of absolution for the voluntary action of violation.
If you participate in this type of practice you are encouraging the continuation of actions of purposive wrongful actions against the integrity of the relationship. To some extent the 'victim' of this behavior not only endures the original violation but now must additionally bear the acceptance of absolution of the perpetration of this voluntary action against them - upon them. This becomes a secondary assault or violation upon the victim. If a person can be 'absolved' for their damaging behavior then there is nothing to restrain them from taking that action again. They never 'own' the consequences of the action but are 'relieved' of those enduring consequences by the action of punishment.
In addition, some bottoms enjoy jointly agreed to 'minor' applications of pain - such as paddling or spanking. If you set up a relationship which has this premise of cause and effect then the bottom has motivation to maintain behavior contrary to what is established within the relationship. This perpetuates the inappropriate behavior and often becomes a means of the bottom manipulating the Top into responsive behaviors wherein the 'rules' purported to correct wrongful behavior become turned around as a means for the bottom to solicit 'minor' applications of pain whenever the bottom feels a need for attention. In this case the bottom under these conditions is 'acting' as the top by controlling the relationship.
Discipline or punishment should be kept entirely separate from any connection with 'scening'. If you enjoy the application of sensory stimulation during scene - do not use ANY sensory stimulation within the framework of discipline or punishment. Scening is by and large an intensive interactive mutual attention activity. It should occur or take place when there is NO anger present, no hard feelings, no problems being resolved. Both persons within the scene should be there because they want to be there, they want to be with each other within the framework and activity of the scene itself. If anger, hurt or bad feelings are present one may move from scening into assault or from feeling scened to feeling abused. The threshold is very close. If a scene is accompanied by anger or bad feelings then the experience of the scene is not one of play, willful enjoyment of your partner but an experience with an agenda. That agenda might be to pay 'back' another person for your own experience of being harmed by their actions. In such case you are no longer scening but actively 'doing harm'. Doing willful harm to another human being is contrary to consent with the partners no longer having the 'interest' of their partner but in fact seek to injure to in some form 'ease' or address their own feelings of pain and injury.
Expect and even 'demand' that your partner in a relationship be competent. If you or your partner willfully violate your relationship agreement then deal with 'why' you or they wish to destroy the relationship openly. For an action or violation to 'end' the person taking the action has to decide to cease taking that action. This is a simple decision on their part. If they decide to continue destructive to relationship behavior then you can reason that their real active mental desire is not to comply or be in the relationship but to end or cease the relationship. People do exactly what they want to do. Do not mistake words of contrition for contrition.
If you wish to 'stage' discipline then set up activities which your partner truthfully dislikes as 'earned reward' for minor lessons in cause and effect. Such activities might be to purchase a copy of Emily Post - Etiquette and have that person sit on a hard wooden chair and read aloud from the book - use an egg timer placed close to them to clock the time. Discipline techniques should always be instructive or helpful. The person experiencing the technique shouldn't like it but will in spite of themselves learn something or do something positive. Consider cleaning toilets with toothbrushes, cleaning the garage, cleaning the car - actual tasks. Many people also enjoy utilizing written essays where the miscreant must research a topic then write about it. Please note, these are staged disciplines designed to encourage behavior and thought they will not change behavior. Only the individual can behave.
I am occasionally asked what redress a bottom has when a top violates the relationship. As noted above - both partners should pause - the relationship contract once violated may in fact cease to materially exist. You are not 'in' a relationship unless both of you are 'there'. If EITHER one is violating the contract then the contract 'doesn't' exist. At which point the bottom is no longer the bottom and the top no longer a top - what you have is two people with a serious relationship problem, one that won't be resolved easily. You cannot solve any relationship issue by force. A top cannot simply tell a bottom to 'accept' it, or 'get over it'. If that top does try this in a fairly short time they will be just a person living single.
Written by F.R.R. Mallory – also known as Mistress Steel. This article may be excerpted from Extreme Space, The Domination and Submission Handbook, Safe, Sane and Consensual, Dangerous Choices or other books by F.R.R. Mallory and shared here with her permission. Please click on the book title for information on how you can order a copy of these books and others by F.R.R. Mallory.