Schadenfreude and real life spanking

10Jan14

schadenfreudeschadenfreudeSchadenfreude is a German word meaning ‘to take pleasure from someone else’s misfortune.’ This sentiment or emotion often goes to the heart of those interested in spanking and this is also true where consensual spanking is concerned.

From time to time A Voice in the Corner gets comments and emails lamenting articles on real life spanking and indeed stories that are not entirely about fully conscious consent. In real life this attitude is commendable and entirely appropriate. As the disclaimer for this blog has it, ‘Spanking and other sexual activities represented here are intended for adults. Nothing here should be interpreted as advocating any non-consensual spanking activity.’

But this blog does try to explore the unconscious and contradictory nature of the spanking need. A story with the naked plot ‘I want to be spanked, will you spank me?’ has a limited interest. Especially if after every page you feel you have to break into the narrative with the caution ‘this spanking is entirely consensual and no bottoms were harmed during its creation.’

Nevertheless, it is worth exploring the honour, taste and appropriate attitudes of enjoying or merely reading stories about the punishments of yesteryear. After all a memoir about a woman being birched as a maid in an Edwardian household might have been written to horrify or educate the modern audience. At best it is likely that the woman telling her story seeks only to amuse by way of grim humour. She may well be horrified if she knew that some gained some gratification from it.

But then again she may not. Why should we assume what was in the mind of the long dead? When one writes anything and gives it to the world, one cannot dictate how those words will be received. Writing is not a passive medium; it is an art form that is born of an interaction between the writer and the reader. If one wants to retain control then write only for a private diary.

One also has to consider that what was written may never have happened. Just because someone says it is a true account, does not mean that it is. In fact it is often the case that these ‘true accounts’ were written for the very purpose for which they were received.

Furthermore consider this excerpt originally written as a true account:

“I was seized by three large men who bundled me into a car. The next thing I know they were stripping me naked and despite all my protests drove me to an old warehouse and hung me up by my wrists. The whipping they gave me hurt more than I can say and the more I sobbed and begged the more they laughed and beat me.”

“It was lovely. The best thing about it was that I could enjoy the whole thing free of guilt and there was no danger that they would take any account of my begging.”

“Of course sadly this never really happened. Oh how I wish it had. But a girl can hope can’t she.”

This is not a great piece of writing and even if it had been well written it is far too extreme for most tastes, even those of this author. But reading the first paragraph were you titillated or horrified? Did the second paragraph change your mind or validate your feelings?

What about the third, with the admission that the whole thing never happened? What if it had? Is the fantasy only valid if it comes with a warning?

The important thing is that we discern what we can control from what we cannot. But more than that, we must know where we draw the line. If one cannot be honest about that and only permit oneself approved emotions, then that line is far more easily crossed.

Another important factor is how much time has passed. We might deny this, but schadenfreude is much harder to swallow when it is about current affairs rather than history. This is even true in our own lives, even when we consider issues such as punishment. Time heals and years on we might find our previous misadventures funny.

But getting back to cases, what if we agree that we are talking only of fantasy. How is it then valid to enjoy non-consensual punishment scenes even if they never happened? Many have been troubled by this, as has this author. Many domestic scenes featured on this blog in the past might be said to have bordered on abuse, even though the characters never existed.

Some can be justified because such stories have been used as metaphors or to explore the origins of the spanking fetish. But this is beside the point maybe and for some ducks the question and leaves them unsatisfied.

Consider this then. If schadenfreude in spanking stories is inappropriate it is a society-wide malaise and there is no particular reason to single out the spanking community. Indeed one might argue that there is far less reason to single them out.

This week in the UK millions enjoyed Sherlock Holmes making jokes about murder and then describing such incidents during, of all things, a best man’s speech. Sherlock (BBC TV) is at least often tongue in cheek about it.

Elsewhere serious and sadistic murder is the staple of TV and movies and has been for decades and yet millions more beyond the spanking community gobble up such fair with scarcely a backward glance; schadenfreude anyone? At least in a spanking book nobody dies or is even really harmed.

As both a writer and a reader one draws one’s own line, but there is such thing as society and it has rules. It is not always a defence to say that no one is hurt by fiction. Sometimes bad taste is harm enough. But we must beware here too, for who is to say what bad taste is and where do enforceable lines get drawn?

A champion of ethics once said ‘if it feels wrong, then it probably is wrong’ but then there is real life and schadenfreude.

Coming to terms with one’s own dark side and trying to square that with real life, human rights, gender rights and just plain good taste is a circle that can never be entirely squared. It is a fascinating and constant struggle we explore and one that can only exist perhaps as an adjunct to our lives or kept in a box marked ‘handle with care.’



5 Responses to “Schadenfreude and real life spanking”

  1. 1 paul1510

    Damian,
    much food for thought here.
    As you know, I find some of your fictional spankings rather much and in some cases well over the top.
    However, I still enjoy them, but in no way am I tempted to emulate them in real life.
    This post reminds of an article written by RG but be blowed if I can find it at the moment.
    Paul.

  2. 4 Karl Friedrich Gauss

    Damien, thank you for this. It is certainly a good discussion of one moral dilemma that many of us feel with regard to our interest in spanking culture. However I think it’s over-simplistic to sum up the mode of enjoyment as “schadenfreude”.

    In the spanking stories we customarily encounter, the spankee is usually the one going through the most powerful emotional experiences in the course of the story or at least the one whose experiences are focused on by the writer. We don’t read a lot about “topspace” now, do we?

    Though it might be an interesting challenge for a writer such as yourself to write some stories from more of the top’s point of view. Trouble is, such stories would run the risk of being even more politically incorrect than the usual bottom-centric tales.

    So the way I see it, the spankee is usually the star of the story and in the best cases there’s an empathic relationship between the reader and that character. We readers are like bystanders but (thinking of discussions of bystanders in the study of bullying) readers are bystanders who have no responsibility to intervene.

    In one of the spanking scenes in his book “Gravity’s Rainbow”, Thomas Pynchon describes the scene is which a young woman is spanked in the company of others as “a Saturnalia”. To me that speaks of a shared experience of mixed emotions being undergone.

    While the person being spanked would be more riveted in foreground of the moment by physical distress, the others present, would be freer to tune in to other “sidebands” of the experience, such as perhaps the erotic dimension. And the same would go for readers, in their role as bystanders.

    Some UFO researchers such as Robert Monroe (“Journeys out of the Body”) have observed that at least some grey aliens — whose own emotional development is apparently stunted — can get a “second-hand high” from tuning into strong human emotions.

    And if aliens can get a second hand high from this sort of thing, who’s to say we humans can’t also do that? I think the appeal of spanking, from the onlooker or reader’s point of view, is at least as much of a vicarious experiencing, as it is schadenfreude.

    • 5 DJ

      I don’t know about aliens – but what you describe is a kind of voyeurism which is often central to our enjoyment in this field.

      You are right about the story being centred on the submissive – in my stories it is usually the ambiguous feelings of the woman that get explored. Writing from the tops point of view is so much harder and is better handled in a stand-back narrative with dialogue in such scenes as are handled in Magic with a character like Dniester perhaps.

      Thanks for this long and considered comment.


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