Many, if not most, players in the scene know that humiliation and/or degradation can be a part of play. However, some may not realize that there are different types. If you are negotiating this as part of your scene – being specific can be extremely important. First I want to define what these things mean.
Erotic humiliation: “consensual psychological humiliation in order to produce erotic excitement or sexual arousal. This can be for the person being humiliated and demeaned or for the person humiliating, or for some spectator. It may be part of BDSM and other sexual roleplay or accompanied by the sexual stimulation of one or both partners in the activity. Humiliation is a subjective issue, and is dependent on context. It does not need to be sexual in nature; as with many other sexual activities, it is the feelings that are obtained from the experience that are desired, regardless of the nature of the actual activity. Erotic humiliation can be done verbally and/or physically, and can take place privately or publicly. Some individuals assume an acting role and others prefer to be spoken to in a degrading way. A classic technique that can be used to put the submissive into a bottom mind space is to humiliate them while also providing them with sexual stimulation. Select individuals who desire this form of humiliation also use it to acquire emotional release.” (Wikipedia)
Degradation: “the act or process of damaging or ruining something; the act of treating someone or something poorly and without respect.” (merriam-webster) In BDSM play this can often involve objectification which means acting as if the bottom is an object, like a table, footrest, ashtray, etc.
The two sub-categories I usually use are sexual vs. non-sexual humiliation/degradation. Sexual humiliation and degradation may include calling the bottom things like slut or whore. It can also include speaking to them in a way that suggests promiscuity. “You like it when I make you squirt in front of all these people, don’t you?” or “All you’re good for is being used as a cum dumpster”. (for example)
Non-sexual humiliation/degradation may include calling the bottom things like stupid or fat. Perhaps telling them they were only put on this earth to serve others and get used like a punching bag. Perhaps using their body to rest your feet on or including golden showers (human toilet) as part of your scene. (again, just some examples)
For many bottoms this type of play – just the use of one humiliating word, can trigger them and put them in a bad head space or even end the scene. This is why I think it’s important to be a bit more specific when negotiating this. While one bottom may be fine with “all of the above” when it comes to this type of play, another may only be ok with sexual humiliation/degradation. Another may take this type of play off the table completely. Be mindful that this type of play can include physical aspects, but also goes beyond that to the psychological/emotional. This is not a realm you want to mess around with – especially if the bottom is new or they are a new partner to you as a Top.
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.