Obedience vs. Understanding

My girl has the same set bedtime ritual; place clothes in laundry basket, remove make-up, wash face, brush teeth, crawl on her knees to the bed, have a chain padlocked onto her collar for the night…You know, normal bedtime stuff.

Over the length of our relationship more and more rules have been brought into our ongoing dynamic. The rules started with small things, easy to remember instructions, uncomplicated. Everything was designed for her to be easy to follow. The objective with setting her rules was not for them to be challenging, it was never to set her objectives that she would fail to achieve. The reason for setting simple rules was to help her get use to obeying.

By giving her simple instructions that she could easily follow I had lots of excuses to reward her. This was the first step in building the positive reinforcement pattern which made her look forwards to receiving new rules and following them.

Obedience is not enough.

The training of compliance falls into a number of specific steps.

First is the rule, that is for us to create. What do we wish to achieve, and how do we want it to be achieved?

Next we have to communicate the rule. There is an entire art to this as well, it is important that however we introduce the rule we are certain we have explained it clearly and there is no misunderstanding in what we are expecting of them. Any vaguity at this point shall certainly come back to haunt us. If they fail to follow a rule and achieve our objective because they did not understand then that is on us, not them.

Now we come to what I consider the optional steps, first I shall explain them, then I shall explain why I think they can eventually be done away with and why I think it worth doing so.

Once a rule is explained it is almost inevitable that we shall be asked why there is a new rule. This can be explained in a positive, negative or neutral manner. Positive explanations take the form of: I enjoy this and I want more of it, I like it when you do this so I want it to become a pattern of behaviour. Negative explanations can often be expressed as a dissatisfaction: I have noticed you have been doing something I don’t approve of, I don’t like it when you do this so you won’t any more. Neutral take no stance, it is often more experimental: I want to try doing this, I want to see how this rule effects us.

Which even method of explanation you choose to use the end of the explanation should always include the objective. The objective is the justification of the rule. Your partner should be able understand how once the objective is achieved it will be a positive thing for your relationship. This helps them to become invested in the new rule.

Once the rule is understood and both parties are invested in following it there is the positive reinforcement of rewarding adherence to the rule. These rewards can be achievement based, something to strive for and to keep them going through any difficult parts of the new rule. You might choose to reward them throughout the period of their compliance. Small, regular rewards allow you to let them know that their obedience is recognised and valued.

Achievement of the rule normally takes two major forms, either to turn a rule into an unconscious habit so that it is followed without the need for constant maintenance or to achieve a very particular objective, a one off behaviour perhaps.

But why?

It is normal to question orders when we first receive them. We want to know why we are doing something, what purpose is there to it, why should we do it? This is even more the case if the new order changes our normal pattern of behaviour, or is challenging to achieve.

As I first started to introduce new rules into my girls day to day life I would spend time explaining the reason for each of the rules. I would talk through the reasoning of the rule, the objective, even the ramifications for failing. Sometimes I would indulge my sadistic nature and give her a very practical demonstration of the punishment that awaited her in case she even considered not obeying my rule.

Over time I would give her less reasons, I would simply tell her what the rule was, and why I wanted her to follow it. Until finally I would just tell her what I expected of her. When she would question me as to the reasons for a new rule rather than explain I would ask her “Do you need to understand to obey?” and she would agree that she didn’t need to. I would simply restate the rule, and make sure she understood what was expected.

Obedience is its own reward.

In the same way that the explanations would start to fall away as she grew more comfortable with receiving new rules so did the rewards. Rather than persistently providing positive reinforcement throughout the time of a new rule settling in to a pattern of behaviour I would rather only reward her intermittently. I would make a point of sometimes holding her against a wall and just telling her how proud I was of her, how she was a good girl, how she pleased me.

However these moments of positive emotional reinforcement are not tied to specific actions of hers, but rather her ongoing obedience and following of rules, old and new. By not tying these moments to specific actions it rather connects positivity to having rules at all.

If someone is only following a rule because they want the reward at the end of it then the rules are only a chore to get through before getting what they really want. Training has focused on helping my partner to find satisfaction in obedience, not in rewards. If she enjoys following orders and achieving my objectives then any new rule is welcomed as another chance to derive satisfaction from obedience. Rather than trying to follow rules because she wants a reward, she wants to follow a rule because it feels good to follow rules.

Obedience does not require understanding or rewards.

By shifting her attention from why she is obeying to just obeying she can focus on that, without any distractions of independent thought. Having her rewards be more about a sense of satisfaction and emotional affirmation she is not chasing a reward but rather is able to find comfort in her ongoing obedience.

She does not need to to understand to be satisfied in her obedience. Her satisfaction comes from obedience, not understanding. She does not need a grand reward to feel her obedience is valued. Her satisfaction comes from obedience, not rewards.

I recently asked my partner why she crawls into bed every night. She looked a little puzzled and offered the answer of “It reminds me of my place? Maybe? I don’t really know, I hadn’t thought about why.”

My girl obeys without understanding, and that satisfies us both.

About the Author

Will Hunt has been involved in the UK kink scene for the last 10 years; running clubs, teaching workshops, performing and generally encouraging naughty behavior wherever possible.


  1. interesting distinctions

  2. ghostofyou says:

    love this

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