Technically speaking, erotic humiliation and erotic degradation are not quite the same thing, though they are often spoken about interchangably or lumped together as “humilation and degradation”.
Humiliation is a mental state, and what humiliates one person may not humiliate another. For example, telling a man he has a small penis may be humiliating, if it injures his dignity or reduces his self respect. It’s not necessarily degrading though. Making him a public cuckold might be degrading because in the eyes of the world and himself it would make him something less than he was.
It’s really like splitting hairs, and the two forms of play tend to be used together by the same people, so for the purpose of this article, I won’t draw a distinction.
WHEN IS HUMILIATION AND DEGRADATION EROTIC?
Erotic humiliation is the consensual use of psychological humiliation in a sexual context. Whereby one person gains arousal or erotic excitement from the powerful emotions of being humiliated and demeaned, or of humiliating another; it is often, but not always, accompanied by sexual stimulation of one or both partners in the activity.
The humiliation need not be sexual in nature; as with many other sexual activities, it is the feelings derived from it that are sought, regardless of the nature of the actual activity. This is usually a feeling of submission for the person being humiliated, and dominance, for the person doing the humiliation.
It can be verbal or physical, or in private or public. Often it can become ritualized, and unlike some sexual variations it can also be easily carried out over a long distance (as online). Humiliation is an example of the power dynamic that exists in a Dominant/submissive or Master/slave relationship. For example, in an activity such as spanking, the sought effect is primarily the humiliation; the activity is just a means to that end.
It can also be a part of Emotional Sadomasochism, which doesn’t always have a Dominant/submissive element. Some sexual humiliation involves physical inflicting pain, but much of it is far more concerned with ridicule, mocking, degradation, and embarrassment.
Humiliation play can be taken to a point where it becomes emotionally or psychologically distressing to one or the other partner, especially if it is public humiliation. Erotic humiliation can become extreme enough to be considered a form of edgeplay.
It’s important to understand that erotic humiliation and degradation is based firmly on consent. If there is no consent then it is abusive. This doesn’t have to be consent given in that exact moment, it could be an agreement between partners of Consensual Non-Consent. But it HAS to be there.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF HUMILIATION AND DEGRADATION
Humiliation in general stimulates the same brain regions that are associated with physical pain, the inference being that humans evolved to remember social rewards and punishments as strongly as they recall physical reward or pain in response to their environment. As with any form of pain experimentation in a sexual context, consent and (paradoxically) a high degree of awareness and communication are 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 sexualised 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 and dyke.
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 common. 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. The desire to be beneath the other partner during intercourse, the idea of “getting caught” (as in having sex in the garden or woods), and mild rape fantasies (in which the people imagine themselves to be forced in ways they would like, and which are different from any real form of rape) are mild emotional games that emphasise status, vulnerability, and control.
However, for most people such ideas remain fantasies; the people would have strong reservations about the fantasies’ being made public, or engaged in with a partner in real life, however erotic the idea may be. When someone reveals a fetish to a partner, this usually is a result of great trust. However, the desire to be humiliated may be a motivating cause for confession, in that the act of confessing can itself be humiliating.
Many people worry about being ridiculed for their fetishes, and such ridicule from their partners could be psychologically catastrophic. Therefore, many people use online humiliation (in which 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.
WHAT CAN BE HUMILIATING OR DEGRADING?
To a large extent, what is humiliating or degrading is quite individual and varies a lot from person to person. Animal play is mentioned several times in this article as degrading, but the guys I know into pup play would totally disagree. The same goes for age play, exhibitionism, crossdressing, servitude and pretty much everything else on the list. One person’s “humiliating” is not necessarily another’s.
Some scenarios may be based on verbal abuse and others on physical aspects. Some possible examples are:
Verbal humiliation and degradation
• Animal play—describing the submissive as a pet, dog, girl, or bitch; making the submissive eat and drink from pet food and water bowls.
• Verbal belittlement, with such words as slave, boy, girl, missy, and pet.
• Insults and verbal abuse, such as fat, ugly, stupid, and worthless.
• Degrading names, such as slut, shit, bitch, and whore.
• Racial and ethnic slurs.
• Slighting of body parts and behaviors, such as disparaging or cruel references to breasts, facial appearance, genitalia (including size), buttocks, and slighting of such mannerisms as walking, responsiveness, and standard of self-care.
• Requirement to ask permission for everyday activities, such as going to the toilet, spending money, and eating.
• Forced repetition, such as the submissive’s being obliged to repeat commands that he or she has been given and 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.
• Scolding of the type commonly reserved for children.
Physical humiliation and degradation
• Ejaculating, spitting, and urinating on the submissive’s body, especially the face.
• Forced sexual degradation, including such acts as erotic massage, cunnilingus, analingus, and fellatio.
• Detailed accountability and control (micro-management) as to time spent and activities done, including lists of jobs to do, precise directions as to how the job is to be performed, and exactly how to act and behave.
• Real Humiliation is the act of making a person carry out specific tasks which involve other real people who are not aware that there is a task or dominant relation issuing the task in the background.
• Specific rituals and affectations to be adopted. This includes displays of subservience, such as lighting cigarettes, walking a pace behind the dominant, speaking only when spoken to, kneeling or prostrating oneself in front of the dominant when expecting orders, eating only after others or on the floor, and low-status place to sleep.
• Body worship, including such activities as kissing or licking the dominant’s feet, boots, buttocks, anus, vulva, etc. to express acknowledgment, subservience, shame, and even positive emotions (such as happiness and excitement).
• Deprivation of privacy, which may include the submissive’s never being able to leave the room in which the dominant is present without permission.
• The dominant watches while the submissive uses the toilet.
• The submissive’s being forbidden to leave the house or ‘dungeon’ in general for the duration of slavery or servitude, etc.
• Discipline (BDSM), including erotic spanking, slapping, whipping, restraint, and other BDSM activities (such as cock-and-ball torture (CBT)).
• Dresscode (BDSM): prescriptions and proscriptions of clothing, even in public.
– For women, a common example is being mandated to wear only bikinis or lingerie.
– For men, forced feminizing and cross-dressing.
• Both sexes may be expected to go completely naked, with decorative objects such as collars, diapers, bands, tiaras, and cuffs as the only exceptions.
• Erotic sexual denial, including the use of a chastity device.
• Wearing of external signs of “ownership”, such as collars.
• Public humiliation, in which the submissive’s friends or family, or strangers, are aware of or even witness the treatment.
• Erotic objectification, in which the submissive is used as human furniture, such as a footstool.
• Forced anal penetration, with dildos, anal plugs, and similar objects.
• Cuckolding, a mostly heterosexual fetish in which the dominant woman has sex with a man outside of the relationship while the submissive man may or may not be present. If the man is not present, he might help her choose what clothes to wear when she meets the other man, or they might get together afterward so she can tell him about it, either while having sex or in addition to withholding sex. If the man is present during the cuckolding, he may or may not be allowed to pleasure himself while watching. The cuckolding may or may not be followed by sex between the couple. Another variant of the cuckolding fetish is that a heterosexual couple fantasizes that another man has already impregnated the woman.
• The submissive’s having to ask permission to orgasm during sex or masturbation.
• The submissive’s being forced to wear a gag or restraints on the body.
• Forced masturbation in a humiliating manner.
• The Village Voice – Tomatoes Can Be Torture Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
• A Submissives Journey – Humiliation and Degradation in BDSM
• Human Bondage – Humiliation and Degradation
• Seekers.org.uk – Humiliation Play
• Xero Mag – Humiliation? Why Would You Want To Do That?
• Kristina Lloyd – Erotic Degradation: The Pleasure of Unpleasure
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A large chunk of this article has been adapted from World Heritage Encyclopedia, published on Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press. Project Gutenberg is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, and under that license you are welcome to use the article on our site for your own projects under the same license.