Thursday, June 19, 2008

Severity!

If you have read some of my movie reviews, which include the work of notorious producers like RGE / Lupus and Mood Pictures, you know that I like severe corporal punishment. Both watching it and in my own kinky play. Not all of my sessions include ferocious beatings, mind you. Actually, that is pretty rare and reserved for special occasions. And I like many lighter CP films, too. As much as anyone else, I treasure the personal chemistry, the creativity and imagination behind a scenario, the sizzling intimate athmosphere, the interesting altered mindset we enter. I thoroughly enjoy play that has all of the above without going into harsh territory.

However, to make a scene truly special and memorable, or to place a movie among the greats, I need a proper level of severity in addition to all that. It is one of the prerequisites for perfection. Among other prerequisites, mind you, and not sufficient in itself: as we all know, there is no shortage of undeniably severe CP films that are plain boring. But conversely, you can have wonderful erotic chemistry, an intricate story, sublime acting, sharp dialogue, elaborate sets, props and costumes... And if the action isn't severe, the end result is still a merely good movie for me. Maybe very good, but not quite a classic. So, while severity alone is not sufficient for perfection, it is one necessary element among others for me.

I stress "for me", because all this is a matter of personal taste. It really is. Some people seem to think that it is a question of morals or standards. As a result, the spanking community is burdened with one of its endless and unnecessary debates: the one between "wimps" and "sickos". One side argues that gentle hand spankings are fine and dandy, but punishment resulting in welts and broken skin is disgusting and goes too far. The other side argues that hard play is the only real kind of play, and if you have never been beaten until you bleed, you are not genuinly kinky.

Both standpoints are nonsense, of course, because there simply is no right and wrong here. Severity, or the lack thereof, is not a matter of official norms, but of purely subjective preference. As long as everything is consensual and no permanent damage is done, it's perfectly alright to thrash the living daylights out of someone. On the other hand, if the participants are into it and fulfilled by it, a playful light over the knee spanking is as intense and "real" as any other form of kinky play. It all comes down to individual taste, not objective right or wrong.

Not only is the debate unnecessary, there is also a lot of confusion, because severity is a rather vague term when you come to think of it. Sometimes, I think it's almsot in the same ballpark as "art" - something that seems both highly familiar yet strangely ineffable. Or think about Justice Stewart's immortal line when he was asked to define obscenity: "I know it when I see it!"

As spankos, we profess to be experts on severity. We all think that we know it when we see it. But as soon as we start to talk about it, there is a surprising level of disagreement. That was a severe beating. No, it wasn't. "Tina's Ton Up" contains the most severe CP scene ever filmed. No, it doesn't.

How come? True, some kinky people have more personal experience (or a bigger movie collection) than others. They have a better eye for what is really rough and what isn't. But the main reason, I believe, is that severity is simply a more complex issue than one would initially expect. As is the appeal that it holds for some of us.

As I said, I like the vicious stuff. That's my personal taste. So I've thought a lot about what it is that appeals to me, and why it is so darn exciting. The following exploration is highly subjective. It attempts to describe what severity is for me, not for everyone. However, I believe that a lot of other sadists probably have similar feelings.

Let me start with what severity is not (yeah, philosophers love to do that - ask them for a definition, and they'll begin with some examples of what you aren't looking for): it is not synonymous with physical force. That is the most common misconception. It's true that force is one aspect of severity: there is just something intoxicating about seeing a cane or whip at high speed, a hard-hitting arm in motion, the swishy sound of the implement, the thwack as it strikes its target, the rebound. However, there is more to severity than "velocity of the cane in miles per hour". If there wasn't, we'd be turned on by hitting pillows.

But dummy targets aren't interesting, living and feeling human beings are. Obviously, what excites us is not simply the force of the stroke, it's the result it produces. To start with, there are the marks, an incredibly powerful visual turn-on for me. Stripes are good, welts are better. They are a signal saying, look, there is damage here, there is an effect, something is happening. Now, as any experienced spanko will tell you, the severity of the marks doesn't necessarily give you a clue about the force of the strokes. Some bottoms mark easily, others you can thrash for hours without making any visual impact. So in addition to the severity of the strokes, the physical force, there is a different kind, the severity of the marks or damage. And while the two are causally related, they aren't directly proportional (across different scenes).

Then, there are the reactions of the victim. The squirming and movements, the facial expressions, the moans, yelps, screams and other sounds, maybe tears. In a word, the observable behaviour. Like the marks, the reactions are sensuous turn-ons in their own right, on a pure "sight and sound" level. In addition to that, and more importantly, they give insight into how the victim feels. The latter may seem self-evident (unless you are a behaviorist...). But I emphasize it because this is what really interests a kinky sadist most of all - the subjective experience of the victim, the inner states, that which is not directly observable. The reactions are exciting precisely because they are expressions of pain and suffering.

Some reactions are more severe than others. Again, like the marks, this (third) kind of severity is not directly proportional to the physical force of the chastisement. It is influenced by various individual properties of the victim: pain tolerance, personality, previous kinky experience, mindset on the day, and so forth. I also believe that it depends, to some degree, on the surroundings, the whole scenario, and the relationship between top and bottom - that can affect how painful a punishment seems to you, or how you react.

I find it difficult to describe what, exactly, I consider a "severe" reaction. Just as severity as a whole isn't simply the same as physical force, a severe reaction does not automatically mean loud or excessive. Things aren't so straightforward.

I also find it hard to say which reactions I like best. I suspect that preferences vary not only among different sadists, but also with the same sadist and different victims or scenarios. Most of the time, I find somewhat restrained reactions, like gasps or yelps, to be the most erotic, while extreme screaming tends to irritate me. On the other hand, there are some CP scenes where the victim is screaming like mad, and I think it's just wonderful.

That may seem inconsistent and strange (did so to me for a long time), but it starts to make sense when you consider what I wrote above: that the reactions are not exciting as mere sights and sounds, but as expressions of suffering. So screaming, even though it is loud, isn't all that interesting when you suspect that the victim is hysterical and not actually in a lot of pain. Conversely, suppressed moans are a supreme turn-on if you get the impression that they convey great distress. So it all depends on the victim and the circumstances. I could say: a severe reaction is one that appears to express genuine, severe pain, however that manifests itself in the individual case.

In summary, I've distinguished between three kinds of severity: the severity of the strokes, of the marks, and of the victim's reactions. What do we make of all this? First off, I think it explains a lot of the disagreement about what is or isn't a severe scene, or which one is more severe than another. We simply conflate the three kinds of severity. And even if we don't, we tend to think that they are all directly proportional. "The welts are more extreme, so the beating must have been harder." But this isn't so. The latter two kinds (marks, reactions) are caused by the first (physical force), but their connections are much less rigid than we usually assume. Even experienced spankos, who actually know better, sometimes make this mistake.

Secondly, I believe that we often think of severity in terms of something that comes mostly from the dominant side. After all, the top is the one dishing out the strokes, right? But both the marks and the reactions depend as much on the properties of the victim as they do on the physical force that is applied. So again, while the top is "first" in the chain of events, it takes two to make a scene look and feel severe.

A case could be made that the victim, albeit passive, might actually have a larger part to play than the top. Take three different people and whip them, with exactly the same force. I bet that the severity will not only vary subjectively for them, depending on their individual pain tolerance, experience, condition on the day etc., but also for you because of the different reactions you are getting. You know it's the same force, but the severity feels different somehow.

Finally, we tend to think of severity as something primitive and unrefined. That is certainly true for the dull and over-long "mindless beating" scenarios which revolve only around this one element. They are the antithesis of subtle psychological role-playing. But it doesn't mean that severity as such is devoid of all psychology. Actually, the third and arguably the most interesting kind, the victim's reactions, are all about that. There is an intriguing psychology of pain and sadism. Its very rawness and lack of subtlety can also make high severity a powerful kinky tool. Of course, like any other tool, it will be limited and yield boring results if you use nothing else.

And that is the end of my verbose rambling for the day. At least you know now why I still consider Wild Party one of the most severe CP films I have ever seen - true, there are many with higher velocity canings, but the marks are vicious, and the reactions of the girls are on a plane of intensity that few other videos have reached. A severe video, to me, is one that has all three kinds - force, marks and reactions - at a sufficient level. And the three are progressively more interesting and important, with the reactions being the aspect that probably gets most of my attention, just ahead of the marks.

Now that I've shed some light on what severity is for me, what elements it has and why it is a more complex thing than we usually assume, the next big question would be: why is it exciting in the first place? Where is the appeal? Are people just into mindless brutality, or is there more to it than that? Which leads to the subject of sadism and the psychology of pain. That's the juicy part, actually, and after these long but necessary preliminaries, I'll tackle it - some other time! Stay tuned for more mental masturbation from your friendly neighbourhood sadist.

13 comments:

Indiana said...

Ah, severity. An appropriate topic for you to contemplate as you prepare yourself for your beating at the hands of Ms. Flynn. Any volunteers among the readers to write that film review?

Gosh, Ludwig, you've got *me* feeling all sadistic now. How did that happen?

Ludwig said...

"Ah, severity. An appropriate topic for you to contemplate as you prepare yourself for your beating at the hands of Ms. Flynn."

So kind of you to remind me (rest assured, it's on my mind rather a lot these days).

And yeah, when it comes to being the bottom, of course I like severity, too. Not literally - I don't enjoy pain at all. I'm in the "I don't like being punished, I like having been punished" camp. But my sadistic "prerequisites for perfection" criteria apply here, too. So I much prefer to look back on a severe punishment rather than on a lame mediocre one.

As well as that, switching is pretty rare for me, and since I only get about one caning per year, it might as well be a proper one. Half-measures are boring.

Having said all that, of course it's a scary prospect! Especially this time, with the public aspect and everything. As I wrote in the "The Readers Have Spoken" post, it's the looking *forward* to it that is the awkward part...

So I'm in two minds about it and I'm compartmentalizing. In my "Neutral Sadistic Observer" persona, I am glad that option D won, actually, because I feel that the memory and the video will be all the more exciting with 30 (hard) strokes instead of 12. But in my "Yikes, this will happen to ME!" persona, I am appropriately nervous, thanks for asking.

"Any volunteers among the readers to write that film review?"

How about you write one when the time comes? Follow (teasing) word with deed. As I do!

"Gosh, Ludwig, you've got *me* feeling all sadistic now. How did that happen?"

When it comes to sadism, I'm a believer in the "the statue was already inside the stone block" theory. So I'd say you are discovering something that was always there.

By the way, how did you like the actual post? Let's hear some feedback on that. People seem to be talking enough about my impending comeuppance these days...

Indiana said...

The post? Oh, yes, the post. As always, I found it to be interesting and thought-provoking, Ludwig. As you know, I'm not a huge fan of the more severe films. I identify too strongly with the victim, and I don't want to see her beaten beyond her endurance. (Having said that, I have seen a couple female tops that actually draw me in to their role, instead. Male tops don't.) I've never really been able to watch horror films, either, probably for the same reason-- I get too drawn in and can't remember that it's not real while I'm watching it.

I liked the way you divided severity into three parts. For me, it's the damage/heavy marking that is the hardest part of severity to handle. Good reactions and obviously firm strokes in the absence of heavy visible damage are a turn-on. Funny the way our minds work!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ludwig, I fell into your site via sadistic curiosity. I don't get much oppor. to 'do' but fantasize a lot & ponder 'Why?' a little. I'm a war-baby; I remember when such stuff as we are involved in here was unthinkable to 'decent' suburban folk. Pre-my-puberty, nice girls were delicate, deserving chivalrous protection that I was too wimpish to offer. At 14 I was fantasizing about flogging the pretty little blonde neighbour. I still fantasize, over the full age-range of nubility.
I saw myself as warped but your posts are intelligent insights into our branch of the 'human condition tree of knowledge'. Www.is a growing revelation of community with kindred, after being long alone. You correct my error; 'dwelling on morality' with all its good & evil hang ups; worrying about other's ignorant prejudice. In daily life I am compassionate & outraged by those domineering the weak. But that very dynamic 'turns me on' in SM fantasy/role-play. Is this a symptom of my mind seeking to re-balance my actual weakness? Individually I feel a victim in life but fantasy lets me lust for power over the helpless. I lack confidence to seek women who'll legally let me satisfy their compensatory need (if thats what it is) to act as my victims & to feel humilation/pain in role-play. Maybe I will soon, thanks to guys like you helping me understand myself somewhat.
I love Caning Machine precisely for its psychopathic indifference to victims. In reality I weep easily at anyone's misfortune but relish imagining merciless cruelty upon females (whom I mostly adore in fact) Often, in cruel fantasy only, I imagine & write from point-of-view of innocent feminity being punished & grateful, or commanded to be grateful. Weird or normal?
Cheers, Dom le Fuetteur.

Ludwig said...

Thanks for your comment, Monsieur le Fuetteur. I'm glad if blogs like mine help you a little bit on your journey of self-discovery.

Weird or normal? Well, we kinky people are certainly weird! That's alright, too. The world would be a boring place without weirdness. People engage in many strange activities for fun and fulfillment. Jumping out of airplanes with parachutes, for instance. Ultimately, kinky role-play isn't really any crazier than that. So, enjoy your weirdness. You are entitled to it.

Are you normal? That depends on how you define normality. You aren't normal in the sense of statistical majority, because kinky people are a minority (as are recreational skydivers).

However, from what you describe, you are not abnormal in a psychological sense. It doesn't seem as if your fantasies prevent you from functioning normally in our society. So, in that sense, you are normal. It's important not to conflate the two. You're part of a statistical minority, but that doesn't make you abnormal in the sense of being dysfunctional. You're a kinky sadist, not a sociopath.

As you point out, real life and erotic fantasy are two seperate fields. You can be kind and compassionate in your normal everyday life, you can weep and be outraged at the real violence and the real misfortune that some people have to suffer, and at the same time, you can be turned on by floggings and various forms of torture as erotic fantasy.

There is no contradiction here. On the contrary, I believe that many kinky sadists have high compassion and empathy, are finely tuned into others' feelings and state of mind. That might be part of the reason why we get off on inflicting pain and suffering in play.

Real violence and real torture involve lack of consent. That is the essence. Erotic fantasy is just that, fantasy, there is no victim. Kinky play is consensual, even if it depicts a non-consensual scenario. Therefore, erotic fantasy and play are not immoral. As long as everything is safe, sane and consensual, no hard limits broken, no permanent damage inflicted, it's all good. It's part of your freedom as an adult.

I'm less sure about your compensation theory. "Is this a symptom of my mind seeking to re-balance my actual weakness?" Well, do you feel weak in your everyday life, day in, day out? I guess we all have moments when we feel weak and powerless, when we face a difficult challenge that seems insurmountable, when we suffer a blow of fate, or when we see all the injustice in the world.

But as for me, I don't feel weak as such. I'm actually very happy with what opportunities and influence I have. So I tend to be skeptical when someone suggests that we kinky people are trying to "compensate" for one thing or the other. I think things are probably a little more complicated.

Who knows. What matters is that you accept yourself and your fantasies, realize that there is nothing wrong with them and that you have lots of company, and enjoy yourself and your journey of discovery. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

sixofthebest said...

Ludwig, I agree with you 100%. I like a naughty woman to be severely punished. I personally would like to see the 'whipping post', come back into play, where each town square would erect one, and have naughty women, humiliatingly display their bare tender bottoms, and birched and caned most vigorously. Do you agree?

Ludwig said...

sixofthebest: No, I don't agree, actually. I also have a nagging feeling that you didn't read my post at all, did you?

Whippings in town squares are great as an erotic fantasy. They're also great in kinky role-play or kinky movies - if you have a "play area" which is big enough, that is (performing vile kinky acts in a real town square will probably get you arrested for indecent exposure).

But I don't support real, i.e. non-consensual corporal punishment. Consenting adults can whip each other until the blood flows as far as I'm concerned (I've done it myself). But real CP in real schools or in judicial systems isn't quite compatible with the concept of human rights and with the values of an enlightened society, which most of us believe in, you see. As well as that, it's actual usefulness, the "educational effect", is debatable.

I realise that you're probably just fantasising yourself, and I appreciate your enthusiasm in making all these quirky little comments. But I'm not sure what exactly you are trying to do here?

If you want to engage in conversation with me, flooding my movie reviews and other random posts with short, unsubstantial comments isn't going to get me interested. You have a better chance by actually reading what I write and replying on topic.

Anonymous said...

I loved your video with Niki Flynn, thanks. I like severity in my videos too but certainly nothing as bloody as Mood videos. Lupus have made some good ones, especially Crime at St Thomas School and the Exchange student. A little too much nudity for my taste but the right amount of severity and of course beautiful Czech girls. For some reason I always prefer to see a hard caning over clothing and complete nakedness seems so artificial, especially in a school setting.

As for reactions, I find it more interesting when their is a restrained reaction. When I was young I had several relationships where I was on the recieving end but in my late thirties I met a woman a lot younger than myself. She was very much into role play where she was a schoolgirl or a maid and I would cane her very hard indeed. In fact it still is a mystery to me how someone can absorb that much pain without screaming but I found it incredibly erotic. So I love to find videos where the caning is severe but the reaction is muted. It takes me back to a very happy time in my life.

S3Chairman said...

Okay, so I am a Johnny-come-very-lately to this thread (only just discovered the blog), but I thought I'd add my 2.16 Yen worth. I agree with the notion that severity varies along several axes, and this post helped me to understand why I have always loved the BDSM videos that (to a greater or lesser extent) showed the bottom's face. I love to watch a girl's facial reaction when she receives the next stroke. After reading this, I have a better understanding. Furthermore, I think there is another dimension to severity: I enjoy reading impossibly severe fiction, I enjoy viewing fairly severe porn, but only rarely do my personal scenes reach the really severe level. So that is yet another way to distinguish severity. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. :-)

Ludwig said...

@ Anonymous: "For some reason I always prefer to see a hard caning over clothing and complete nakedness seems so artificial, especially in a school setting."

It's true that complete nakedness in a school setting is usually pretty artificial, but I thought Lupus gave a good reason in The Exchange Student for why Niki was naked during her first caning scene. It was, after all, a misuse of power by the insurance agent posing as the headmaster!

At the end of the day, I think what I like to see in a spanking video (and what most of us probably like to see) is merely a suspension of disbelief, not strict realism. The former is enough. If we were portraying strict realism all the time, then canings on the bare in school settings would be very rare, as would be any type of school scene with both male and female participants. That may be realistic, but it doesn't make for good variety or fun in my opinion.

S3Chairman: Thank you for your comment as well. It's good to see that this post is still being read, almost two years after I put it up. I'm still planning to write a sequel to it one day, which will probably be titled "Sadism!". Stay tuned for that, it won't be another two years.

Peter8862 said...

Ludwig - I've just read your April 2008 blog on "Severity" and the thought occurs to me that the time has surely come to re-issue these early essays, revised as appropriate. It would be a pity to lose such well thought out worldy wisdom.
An alternative would be to issue two years edited blogs in E-book format, leavened with adequate clips. I've no idea how much this would cost however.

Peter

Ludwig said...

@ Peter: thank you, I am always glad when readers dig up and enjoy my older posts as well. I don't think there is any need to "re-issue" them, though. They are in the archives, they can be accessed by date or through the post category filter anytime. I also regularly link to older posts of mine in my newer posts if there is an interesting connection of some kind.

Maybe I will publish a "best of" selection in book form one day, like The Spanking Writers. But we are not there yet!

Regarding the "Severity!" post, I have been planning a follow-up for ages. It is one of those things I haven't been able to bring into the final form yet. I will eventually get around to it, though.

Lady J said...

Ludwig,

Gee. Thanks. 3 years later, I *did* read your post - and now it has my little brain spinning. An interesting topic, dear to my heart. (I am almost pure switch. I couldn't say which I enjoy more.)

However...before jumping in, I want to give it some actual thought. I'm not exactly a born philosopher, but I can run a few thoughts through my brain, so long as I'm careful not to let too many in at once. Steam coming out of one's ears tends to draw attention, you know.