From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Erotic humiliation is the consensual use of psychological humiliation in a sexual context, whereby one person gains arousal or erotic excitement from the mixed and powerful emotions of being humiliated and demeaned. The humiliation need not be sexual in itself, as with many other sexual activities it is the feelings derived from it which are sought, regardless of the nature of the actual activity. It can be verbal or physical, and can be relatively private or public. Often it can become ritualized, and unlike some sexual variations it can also be easily carried out over a long distance or online. The distinction between humiliation and dominance in an activity such as erotic spanking is that the sought after effect is primarily the humiliation, the activity is just a means to that end.
Whilst mild or moderate humiliation is not an uncommon part of BDSM or other sexual roleplay, humiliation play can be taken to a point where it becomes considered edgeplay by most people, either due to its extreme nature or due to the controversial views on its psychological impact. This is a highly subjective issue, and depends greatly on context.
Terminology and overview
The person being humiliated is often called a bottom, and the person who humiliates them is often called the top, (though these are standard terms used in general dominant/submissive role play and are not specific to humiliation interests) or if female, sometimes humiliatrix. Other common names are slave or sub/submissive for the bottom, and Master/Mistress or Dom/Domme for the top.
Humiliation is not the same as dominance, as the devotee is not necessarily seeking to be ordered about. Humiliation comes into its own as a sexual force when the devotee seeks the humiliation over and above the means; for example, when being spanked is primarily valued because of the belittlement involved. As such, it encompasses a range of paraphilia, in particular foot fetish or shoe fetish, body worship, spanking, bondage and most BDSM styles. It can be as basic as the desire to kiss and massage feet as a precursor to sex, or it can be complex, involving roleplay or public displays of subservience. It can also be for a set period of time (a "scene") or as an ongoing facet of a relationship. The "humiliation" is not intrinsic to the act or the object. Rather, it is semiotically charged by the shared attitude of the partners engaged in the act. It is they who invest specific acts, objects or body-parts with a humiliating aspect.
Means of humiliation
Sexual humiliation is very open-ended. Broadly, it can be divided into verbal and physical aspects. Verbal aspects might include:
- Reduction to Human animal roleplay or human pet, referring to these individuals as pet, dog, girl, bitch, or making them eat and drink from pet food and water bowls.
- Verbal belittlement, such as "slave", "boy", "girl", "missy", "pet".
- Insults and verbal abuse, such as "fat", "ugly", "stupid", "worthless".
- Degrading references, such as "slut", "tart", "bitch" and "whore".
- Slighting of body parts or behaviors, such as disparaging or cruel references to breasts, facial appearance, genitalia or genital size, bottom, and slighting of mannerisms such as walking, responsiveness, standard of self-care.
- Having to ask permission for everyday activities such as going to the toilet, spending money or eating.
- Small breasts humiliation, where scorn is addressed over the supposed inadequacy of the adult female's breasts, or her inability to please a man (and by implication her essential worthlessness as a woman), and her breasts become objects of fun.
- Small penis humiliation, where scorn is addressed over the supposed inadequacy of the adult male's genitals, or his inability to please a woman (and by implication his essential worthlessness as a man), and his penis becomes an object of fun.
- Forced repetition, such as being obliged to repeat back commands to confirm them.
- Forced flattery, such as agreeing that every decision that the dominant makes is wise, correct, and justifiable, while additionally praising the dominant's physical and personality traits.
- Mockery, derision and ridicule.
Physical and tangible aspects might include:
- Ejaculating, farting, defecating, spitting, slapping or urinating on the bottom's body, especially the face.
- Performance of menial tasks or abusive workload, such as cleaning the floors with a toothbrush.
- Frequent performance of passive-aggressive sexual services for the dominant, such as erotic massage, cunnilingus, analingus, or fellatio, without expectations of reciprocal acts or intercourse.
- Detailed accountability and control (micro-management) as to time spent or activities done, including list of jobs to do, precise directions as to how the housework is to be performed, and exactly how to act and behave.
- Specific rituals and affectations to be adopted. This includes displays of subservience, such as lighting cigarettes, walking a pace behind the dominant, only speaking when spoken to, kneeling or prostrating in front of the dominant when expecting orders, eating only after others or on the floor, low status place to sleep, and a wide variety of body worship activities such as kissing and/or licking the dominant's feet, boots, buttocks, anus, vulva etc. to express acknowledgment, subservience, shame, or even positive emotions such as happiness or excitement.
- Suppressed freedom of movement. This may include never being able to leave the room in which the dominant is present without permission, and may be forbidden to leave the house or 'dungeon' in general for the duration of slavery or servitude.
- Detailed punishments for a variety of 'infractions' or misbehavior, such as having to stand in a corner facing a wall for several hours, flogging or whipping, reduced rations, or forced exercise.
- Roleplaying "lower status" beings, such as animals (for example dog or horse) or babies (see human animal roleplay, pup-play and adult baby play).
- Spanking, whipping, restraint or other BDSM activities such as cock and ball torture (CBT).
- Prohibitions or restrictions on clothing, even in public. For females a common example is being mandated to only wear revealing bikinis or lingerie. For men, this may include feminizing or cross-dressing. Both sexes may be expected to go completely nude, with decorative objects such as collars, bands, tiaras, or cuffs being the only exceptions.
- Use of chastity belts or other means of erotic sexual denial.
- Wearing of external signs of "ownership", such as a collar.
- Having friends, family or strangers aware of or witnessing one's treatment (i.e.: public humiliation).
- Erotic objectification, where the bottom is cast in the role of an object, such as a footstool.
- Cuckoldry, taking on a third party lover to humiliate the bottom as an expression of the relationship between the top and the bottom.
- Having to ask permission to orgasm during sex or masturbation.
- Forced to wear a gag and/or restraints on the body.
Some sexual humiliation involves inflicting pain, but much of it is far more concerned with ridicule, mocking, degradation and embarrassment.
Sexual roleplaying may or may not involve humiliation. For example, one person might play the part of a dog because they enjoy being mock-forced into it, and the top will emphasize the lowness of the bottom's status as an animal, whereas another person might play the role of the dog without any element of humiliation, simply as an expression of their inner animal or playful spirit.
Psychology of humiliation
Humiliation in general touches strong emotional buttons, the more so when it becomes sexualized. Because of this, consent and (paradoxically) a high degree of awareness and communication is needed to ensure that the result is desirable, rather than abusive. For example, a submissive may enjoy being insulted in some ways, but be genuinely crushed and devastated if humiliated or insulted in other ways.
Humiliation play is also connected to sexual fetishism, in that non-sexual activities may become sexualized by association with arousal, and also may be associated with exhibitionism in the sense of wanting others to witness (or being aroused by others witnessing) one's sexual degradation.
For some people, activities such as name-calling are a way of achieving ego reduction or getting over sexual inhibitions. For example, between gay people, terms usually associated with homophobia may be used, such as "faggot" or "lesbo."
As with all sexual activities, some people have sexual fantasies about humiliation, and others actually undertake it as a lifestyle or in a scene. Sexual fantasies relating to mild humiliation are not uncommon. Some humiliation roleplay (pup-play and age play in particular) is combined with loyalty and care-giving to the extent that these fetishes can be seen as exercises in trust rather than primarily a humiliation fetish. Consider that the desire to be beneath the other partner during intercourse, the idea of "getting caught" such as with having sex in the garden or woods, or mild rape fantasies (where the person imagines themselves to be forced in a way they would like, and which must be seen as completely different to any real form of rape), are mild emotional games that emphasise status, vulnerability and control. However, for most people such ideas remain a fantasy and they would have strong reservations about it being made public, or engaged in with a partner for real, however erotic the idea may be. If a person does reveal their fetish to their partners, this usually is a result of a huge amount of trust invested in them, due to the similarly huge psychological struggle they would have had to have gone through to tell them. Many people have the worry of being ridiculed for their fetish, and such ridicule from their partners could be psychologically catastrophic. Therefore, many people use online humiliation (where the humiliator and others are involved via the internet using chat, email, websites, etc.) as a compromise between exhibitionism and reality on the one hand, and safety and anonymity on the other.
Blackmail and Humiliation
The use of blackmail as a means to exact leverage over a humiliated individual is widely considered to be an extreme aspect of erotic humiliation. In relationships where the humiliated discloses sensitive personal information to the humiliator, and the release of that information would be catastrophically devastating to life of the humiliated, the consensual pretext of the relationship comes into question. The humiliator could demand the humiliated to take embarrassing photos and later threaten to expose the photos to a spouse or family member unless they further submit or force them to comply to their monetary demands. The legal implications of such an arrangement have not yet been explored.
Online humiliation is the desire to be seen in a sexually embarrassing context via the internet. This practice allows the submissive to seek fetish partners from across the world.
Common methods of online humiliation include:
- Public pillory (See external links for examples)
- Embarrassing photographic or video assignments for submissives
- The requirement for submissives to keep online journals, detailing personal information such as masturbation frequency and details
- Verbal abuse
- Publicly bidding for items that reveal their fetishes
These practices can be conducted via chat, webcam, email or BDSM contact websites.
- Erotic sexual denial
- Bukkake (genre of Japanese porn)
- Strip search prank call scam for an example where erotic humiliation has been raised as a legal defense to a civil lawsuit.