Sorry Should Be The Hardest Word To Say

Model: Domina Mara
Taken by: Domina Mara

Disclaimer: This but one person’s opinion/perspective in the community. What this writer is describing still falls within SSC (safe, sane, consensual). He is not describing anything non-consensual. Before the practices he is describing take affect the submissive must consent to said terms and protocols. Please note this when reading this article.

I often write about words, single words. I enjoy burrowing down into their meanings, how and why we use them, what effect they have on people. Words have a power and a depth we often miss in day to day. We may be primed to explore them at a poetry reading, or when listening to a song, but we often forget their depth in casual conversation.

For this article I have chosen a word I have long felt was underestimated, the humble Sorry. We hear it in so many situations; Sorry, I didn’t mean to, sorry, I forgot, sorry, that was a mistake…

Sorry can be an immensely powerful word, and as many of us have kinks which veer so strongly towards the consensual inequality of power in a relationship we need to pay very close attention to those words I refer to as power words. I define power words as those words and phrases which carry with them a limited number of social acceptable responses. Sorry is a word that triggers a limited range of acceptable responses; ideally of acceptance and then either direct forgiveness, or consequence then forgiveness.

However, if it is used callously, sorry can be abused and lose its meaning entirely. It is our responsibility as tops in D/s dynamics to safeguard the importance of the word.

Make it mean something

Ideally in a D/s dynamic the person who is sorry takes a submissive position, expressing their weakness or failure and requesting that it be forgiven. If the expression of sorry is said with an assumption of forgiveness then the person saying it is using it rather as a method of absolving themselves from the repercussions of their action, rather than placing themselves genuinely in the position of submission.

We, as the top, are responsible for continuing to give the word sorry meaning. Our response to the use of sorry is what gives it value.

As a top it can be very hard when they say sorry, and you know they really mean it, to not respond with instant forgiveness. The big, tearful eyes that tell you they really are sorry, that they never wanted to fail. Even harder than not immediately forgiving them is not even letting them say sorry, but that is exactly what I am advocating. I am going to suggest that you do something emotionally very difficult here, and please do remember I am only sharing my philosophy, it may not work exactly this way for all of you.

With that said here is my advice:

Do not even let them say sorry until you say that they can. Even more than that, punish them if they say sorry without permission.

Say it when I say you can

It can be the hardest thing to not let them say sorry, to delay that apology and the forgiveness that shall follow. However you have to, if this is the path you have chosen to take you have to be strong in it. You have to be the unwavering figure of authority, in you the stability and safety of the rule governed relationship resides. So tell them you know they are sorry, that you will let them say sorry, but not yet. The rules you have set, and the security those rules provide, are more important.

By controlling the access to apology and forgiveness we also emphasis the dreaded power of failure. Failing so badly that they will need to say sorry is its own punishment, there is no easy solution to their failing. Not only is forgiveness yours to give, but even the right to apologize is controlled by you.

I break an apology down into a number of steps. First, sit with them and have them explain to you why they want permission to say sorry? What is it they wish to be forgiven for? Have them tell you what they have done, and why it is wrong. Make them understand that if they wish to say sorry it shall only be after the punishment, in whatever form it takes.

It should be clearly understood that the permission to apologize will only be granted after the punishment, they don’t even have the right to say sorry until you have punished them for their mistake. Then they can say sorry and have the catharsis of forgiveness directly.

We grant the right to use such a powerful word, we control their ability to express their sorrow

and allow it only at our direction. We are choosing what happens when our partner wants to apologize, how they will be allowed to do and if they will be allowed to. Even when all of that is done there is another step, we need to think about how we punish them.

Make sure the punishment doesn’t fit the crime

In ordinary life sorry might be accepted in one case without greater consideration, and in the second not. Spilling coffee on a stranger might mean nothing, or might result in a shouting match. This makes sorry an inconstant word, who’s weight is unknown when uttered. We can provide it with a constancy by taking control of the use of the word and its consequences. There is a comfort in knowing where you stand and what consequences there shall be. So if rather than sorry being something they can just say with unknown consequences, change it and give it a constancy of meaning, or consequence. We can do this by letting them know there will always be a punishment.

We live in a society with a concept of proportional response. Any consequence should be proportional to the act. We are taught that failings, crimes, mistakes are ranked on some sort of cosmic scale of moral righteousness. As such all punishments should fit the crime, they should be proportional.

The risk to making the punishment fit the crime is that we allow our partners to, consciously or unconsciously, to run risk/benefit analysis. Is a certain action worth the 10 strikes of a cane? It provides an unconscious ranking of rules, not sitting on a sofa is less important than not making permanent physical changes without permission. Because one results in a talking to and the other in 500 lashes. Of course one seems more important than the other, perhaps the first even seems trivial in comparison.

I prefer for it to be understood that if they have done something bad enough that they need to say sorry it will be a straight 100 lashes. It doesn’t matter how great or small the transgression, the simple act of having done something which actually requires an apology is enough. There are no small failings when it comes to my rules, because there are no small rules. In this situation the rules cannot be ranked, a risk benefit analysis cannot be done, because any rule that is broken will result in the same punishment.

Other punishments may be laid on top of that as well if required, however, in my experience, if it is something they are truly sorry for then the act of having to sit, explain themselves, and beg to be allowed to say sorry is enough to reduce them to tears as it is.

The catharsis of forgiveness follows the punishment, and they don’t get the punishment unless they are going to be immediately forgiven. In this way the punishment is something to look forward, as they know that they won’t be punish if you are unwilling to let them say sorry and forgive them immediately afterwards.

Learn what it actually means

As always there is a second layer to kink, if we want there to be. In my D/s dynamic this training extends to teaching my partner what is actually their responsibility. I have seen far too many people who apologize for things that are not their fault. It is a deeply unfortunate truth that too many people have been taught to take responsibility for things that are not actually their fault, sorry my friend was drunk, sorry that someone else did a thing…

When our partners are no longer just allowed to say sorry but rather have to explain why they want permission to say sorry they are forced to think. This means they have to consider why they feel the need to say sorry for things that may well not be their fault.

My partner has had to learn that she cannot apologize for things that are not her fault. If she says sorry without permission she has broken a rule and it is a straight 100 lashes. If she wants to say sorry she has to ask permission to say sorry, which I will challenge. If she has asked to say sorry for something that isn’t her fault I will lead her through the situation and help her to understand that it isn’t her fault before finally telling her that she cannot say sorry to me.

Say it like you mean it

In my experience kink happens in the mind first of all, and the more we play in that domain the hotter and kinkier we can get. Taking control of what their words mean and even when they are allowed to be used can be very rewarding to both parties.

As with many aspects of D/s kink we can choose to restrict it to specific times and places. Use titles only when alone, collars only at kink clubs, but manners of behavior often stretch far beyond just a scene. Taking control of language and superseding social norms with our own structures is far more than a causal scene, and if that is what you want to explore then you need to take your time and plan what you are doing very carefully. If you do take that time, plan your actions, consider the reasons for your rules, you will be rewarded with a rich D/s dynamic where control is enforced more with language than with the crop.

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. whippedmistress says:

    Interesting perspective

  2. genderbender101 says:

    intriguing and thought-provoking

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