The Two Sides of Shame in Kink and BDSM

“Shame attends only where we are interested.” (p. 4) I came across this quote in Failing Desire by Karmen MacKendrick, a book I recently started reading due to my interest in kink and self-discovery (and on the recommendation by Roxy). Shame is no stranger to BDSM and so Failing Desire, which “draws on theology and queer theory to argue for the power of humiliating pleasures in a culture oriented very strongly to denying any enjoyment that is not about success,” seemed like just the book I wanted to read.

What does it mean that shame only attends where we are interested? I suppose I can start with a rather simple example. I started making fan websites and Anime Music Videos when I was around 12 / 13-years old and kept this hidden from most people around me. My parents didn’t care and it wasn’t cool to like anime at school. (Never mind I was just being creative, thank you very much.) I didn’t mind though. I felt perfectly happy in my online community far away from the people who didn’t matter. Except it did matter. One day the boys in my class found my Youtube Channel and started teasing me. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed but shame would not have attended it these videos did not matter to me. Their comments hit so hard because my work meant so much to me. So yes, shame only attends where we are interested and shame has long been entangled with kink.

For as long as I can remember I have been ashamed of kink to some extent. If I were to draw a graph the line representing my feelings of shame peaked when I realised I longed to be tied up, hurt and worse, dominated. In my head, I very symbolically pictured digging a grave, throwing these disgraceful thoughts in the mud and burying them. The line in this graph stayed flat for most of the following years with some up and downs when I budged and gave in to my desires by reading erotica. When I was older and got to speak with some like-minded people my line slowly started to drop but by this point, I had not realised how successful I had actually been at my self-imagined burial. It wasn’t until I met Lois and we started lifting the veil together that my graph started changing more drastically.

I have talked a little bit about shame in previous posts and many of you relate to the feelings of shame I have described. Feelings of shame surrounding kink are rather universal and there’s an obvious explanation for this. BDSM has long been a taboo and has been stigmatised in society. People who identify as being kinky are people “whose sexual behaviours are outside the mainstream,” and the stigma “marks the boundaries a society creates between ‘normals’ and ‘outsiders.’”[1] In other words, the majority of society or the ‘normal’ deem kink practitioners as ‘other’ and therefore ‘outsiders.’ We are rejected by the masses and are pressured into hiding in order to remain accepted as a part of society. And if kink is something that needs to be hidden then it can’t be good. As a collective, we have learned that kink is something to be ashamed of as it goes in against the norm.

But shame and humiliation carry a double meaning in kink. Shame, Google tells me, is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour,” which is in line with the shame I describe in the paragraph above. Erotic humiliation, on the other hand, is the act of actively pursuing the intention to humiliate for (sexual) pleasure. (And / or can be used to establish roles in dynamics amongst other things). How come we suddenly seek to feel ashamed when we so desperately try to avoid shame by hiding our desires? This causes a never-ending conflict. I’ve found acceptance in the community and take part in a scene, now feeling strong enough to step over my feelings of shame. I’ve been tasked to spell out the word slave with Alphabetti Spaghetti which humiliates me and when I’m done I notice wetness on the inside of my thighs. Suddenly I feel even more humiliated because “the arousal through humiliation is even more humiliating than the initial shame,” (p. 6) but my arousal clearly indicates pleasure and is increased by this second wave of humiliation.

This raises another question. If shame is regarded so inherently negative that it pressures us to burry our kinky identities, then surely the goal is to overcome that shame. But if we overcome that shame, our interest ceases to exist and a kinky dynamic starts looking very differently. “The masochist or submissive who has ceased to blush will find humiliation at best uninteresting, and this will be uninteresting to the sadist in return.” (p. 6)

So often when Lois put me in degradation situations I’ve thought, but what if I look ridiculous now wearing this ball gag, will you still find me attractive enough? Am I even worth your attention? And she’d reply that if I looked silly it was because she wanted me to look silly. It’s the presence of shame that makes a scene like this interesting; it’s the shame of the submissive which pleasures the dominant. Without that shame, wearing a ball gag would be rather boring. It’d simply become just that, an object in your mouth with no meaning. Thus we have to remain interested because shame only attends where we are interested.

All of us in this community, whether online or in the real world are embracing or attempting to embrace humiliating pleasures, even if we don’t understand it or are unaware. I could keep on writing and dissecting so many of the things written in this book but the thoughts which sparked this post only cover just the first few pages of this book. In other words, I could keep going and going and going, haha. I would highly recommend reading this book if what I’ve written above interests you.

I do have to mention that this book is rather academic and even I, despite reading loads of these texts only just a year ago, had to get into it at first. I imagine this blog post itself is a little too academic compared to what I usually write here. I tried not to go all out lol.

Xx Marie Louise

[1] Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, When Someone You Love Is Kinky (Emeryville: Greenery Press, 2000)

45 Replies to “The Two Sides of Shame in Kink and BDSM”

  1. Marie Rebelle

    First off: you are a brilliant writer. I really enjoy your posts, the clear way you express yourself. This post really sparked some memories of shame for me, and reminded me of some things I still want to do, but where I think I will just look ridiculous. And what Lois said to you “if I looked silly it was because she wanted me to look silly” is something my husband has said to me too in the past. There is some kind of magic in that, right?!

    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

    Rebel xox

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      Thank you so much Marie. Makes me really happy when people compliment my writing, especially when you say brilliant!
      And yes there is some kind of magic in that!! When she said that for example, I just felt some sort of endearing feeling, as well as arousal and idk. It’s great!
      I think we will always have some things that we want to do but might be hindered by shame. But shame is good, for kink and I think that’s where the dominant can really push and help. The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to like shame, haha.

      Thank you for your lovely comment. Xx

      Reply
  2. PurpleSole

    Lovely post. Making videos at 12 is pretty cool and it’s a shame that it became a source of humiliation, some people will do anything to make you feel lower than them.

    Erotic Humiliation was a lot for me to get my head around to begin with since I only associated it with negetive experiences. It is an interesting Dominance tool though.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      Thank you 🙂 It’s okay, because it died down pretty soon and I continued making them regardless!
      But that’s such a true sentiment. There will indeed always be those kinds of people.

      I think erotic humiliation must be difficult to get our heads around in most cases. It’s so against what we’ve learned just by being alive in this society. But on the other hand, when we break away from that, I think it gives us a lot of power now.

      Reply
  3. MrsK

    Shame is a powerful tool, but I don’t think it’s the shamer that uses it, but the shamee (weird word, but it’s the best I’ve got). It took me a long time to realize that my shame prevented me form experiencing almost everything completely. Great post!

    Reply
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  5. collaredmichael

    I’ve been thinking about kink and kink shaming. I’ve started a post dealing with it. It’s early yet and will be a while before I finish, so we’ll see what finally comes from my head. This is a good post. It’s very true that if we don’t care then there is no shame and the activity will lose the interest of all involved. So shame is a good thing!! lol

    Reply
  6. Jae Lynn

    Very interesting post ML. I think that shame in the vanilla part of our lives feeds into the kinky side.

    Pet and I have only begun to add Erotic Humiliation into our bag of tricks. Degradation is a hard limit for me as a submissive so trying to get into the head space to humiliate pet was challenging. I’m a soft Domme (think Gentle FemDom) so it wasn’t something we jumped into, it took a lot of time and baby steps to be okay delving into it.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      Thank you Jae. I definitely think you’re true. And I can imagine if degradation has played some negative role in your vanilla life, it would be a difficult hurdle to get over if you wanted to introduce it in a dynamic/play. Does it feel okay now?

      Reply
      • Jae Lynn

        It’s still something difficult for me to take, but being to do it for him comes from a different place. At first it didn’t feel right- if you can dish it you should be able to take it right? At least that is how I’ve always felt. It does something good for him though so it is easier to bring into our dynamic. I remind myself often that our relationship is not the same as any of my prior ones.

        Reply
        • MLSlavePuppet Post author

          I guess if you can see it does something good for him, it will automatically shed the negative association eventually, to some extent. At least I hope that’s true 🙂

          Reply
  7. missy

    This was really interesting to me so thank you for posting it. I have written about shame quite a lot because I am into erotic humiliation and of all kinks that is probably the one that will trigger and allow me to access my submissive space most easily and most deeply. I have thought about it a lot and have also made the connection between cognitive dissonance and emotional masochism which are an integral part. I am interested to read the book you refer to as I would like to know more. Thank you. And I agree – brilliant writing.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      I relate to that, I also feel like humiliation triggers me really well into submission. It might be because it shows your place in the dynamic very strongly? I remember being very aware of the conflict when talking to a Domme and she said she could help me, which I was very much behind but also, I knew I wanted to keep part of the conflict somehow? Which might be because, if it’s fully resolved the humiliation aspect does go? Thank you so much Missy!

      Reply
      • missy

        Yes that is how it is for me. I can’t ask for the things that I know will work as to do that means that I want them and I want to be made to want them as it’s that whole transition to losing control that is my submissive space. Not sure if that makes sense.

        Reply
  8. Empress Hexe and The Emperor

    Very thought provoking. I think the fact that there are two sides to shaming is very interesting. In my experiences of healing through D/S, I have often set up scenes, in discussion with the submissive, where it was about recreating situations of traumatic experiences with shame. Each scene was profound and, in most cases, resulted in intense expression of suffering and pain, which was a release for them. Through these scenes, there was always an intermeshing of the erotic dimension of shaming, and the painful, traumatic aspect. It’s through this dynamic interplay that the individuals reported release and relief; a way of reliving and starting to let go of deeply traumatic experiences. Thanks for this beautiful piece of writing!

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      That’s rather interesting. I’ve heard before that D/s can help work past things, which I think has been true with my dynamic with Lois too.
      The way you describe it it’s almost like how they recreated the war for soldiers in a virtual sort of world to help them get through their trauma, I’m glad you’ve been able to help her that way, that’s really awesome and thank you so much!

      Reply
  9. May More

    Thank you for recommended this book – it looks facinating – although checking it out on kindle it is rather expensive. I may search ebay.
    From my own life I came to understand the shame of my kinky sexual desires quite early – a partner treated me as if I was “dirty” – not in a nice way – for expressing my needs. So i hid them. How predictable. I thought because I had been abused as a child perhaps it was me who was wrong.
    Then fast forward to a time when my kinks were accepted – letting myself be vulnerable, controlled and shamed by someone who understood me, inside and out – I felt liberated – free. It was an eureka moment!

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      It is rather expensive yes, these kinds of books always are it seems. Because of corona I get to use my research fund to buy books so I happily took that opportunity, as I wouldn’t usually buy a book so expensive either. If we meet someday, I’ll happily borrot it to you 🙂

      It makes sense that you would have responded like that considering having been abused as a child. I’m so glad you’re in the place where you’re at now, you deserve to feel liberated and free and happy! ♥

      Reply
  10. ams

    Wow I have like so many things to think right now. You kind of hit a nerve and I put the book on my reading list as well. I am so sorry that no one really gave you support when you made your videos. I can only imagine how proud I would be if my daughter did such a creative thing.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      I’m so glad to read that. It’s great knowing that something you’ve written has given someone to think about or a new perspective. It’s why I enjoy reading other people’s content too!
      And thank you. My dad is very proud now! He finally watched the things I made as a kid over Christmas. He suddenly wanted to

      Reply
  11. tedstrutz

    Wow, ‘go all out’ I can not imagine, I thought this essay was pretty well done, and I am envious of that writing, nae ‘thinking’ process. At this stage in life I have left the serious side behind. This was a beautiful piece, ML. Thank you too, for displaying the cover of the book. Darn, I should have thought of that on my post.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      Thank you so much, that brightens my day. Does it feel good to have left the serious behind? I think I’d like to leave some of the serious behind but I love being intelectually stimulated by books like this

      Reply
  12. jupitergrant

    This sounds like a very interesting book, and I intend to procure a copy tonight. You’ve made some really perceptive connections here and your words about shame and humiliation being a crucial part of BDSM (the ball gag being little more than an object in one’s mouth when viewed outside of the text or narrative of shame and humiliation) really resonated with me.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      I hope you find the content of book as interesting as I do. (Otherwise I’ll feel bad for recommending it haha!)
      Thank you so much. Makes me really happy when something I write resonates with others

      Reply
  13. Posy Churchgate

    What an enlightening article ML – thank you so much for sharing it and explaining one of the aspects it covers. Truly you have done a great job of relating what you’ve read to personal experiences – great share.

    Reply
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