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.