3 Common Stereotypes about Erotic Humiliation


A lot of folks who might be curious about erotic humiliation avoid exploring it because, more than just about any other aspect of BDSM, it’s tied up in a long list of negative stereotypes about both the behavior and the people who engage in it. If these stereotypes have stopped you from exploring your interests and desires, you’re not alone. My goal now is to help you reframe your thinking so they’re no longer an obstacle in the way of your fantasies. There are a lot of myths and stereotypes surrounding humiliation play, so let’s look at three of the most common ones.


Only Damaged People Like It


People on both sides of the humiliation dynamic worry about what their desire for this kind of play says about them. I’ll speak more extensively later about why people like it, but for now I want to address two corollary ideas: first, that only people with low confidence and low self-worth would let someone humiliate them, and second, that those who want to humiliate are hateful and genuinely disgusted by their partners. 


My experience and research show that neither is true. Nearly 70 percent of people who responded to my survey said they thoroughly enjoy their desire for erotic humiliation play and feel that a high level of confidence is an important part of engaging in healthy erotic humiliation. Others noted that, although they are very confident already, erotic humiliation is actually an opportunity to recreate an “emotional ordeal” that allows them to look their insecurities right in the face, and the result is that they come out on the other side feeling even stronger and more sure of themselves.


The biggest concern most respondents expressed was judgment from others in cases of nonconsensual discovery. My experiences support that finding, as well. I’d estimate that 90 percent of the submissives I’ve played with have very high self-esteem. In fact, I’ve found that the people I've played with tend to think very highly of themselves. Perhaps that's part of why they are so turned on by being humiliated.


The humiliation for me does not come from a lack of confidence or self-esteem, but from the interplay between knowing I am strong, smart, capable, and knowing I get turned on from being told I am none of those things and less.

- Em the Sissy


It’s Abusive


Even within the larger kink community, there seems to be an attitude that there is more potential for abuse with psychological play than physical play, but that’s not entirely true. No, psychological play won’t leave any bruises for others to see, but safety is safety, and when partners engage in consensual humiliation play, even when they’re pushing boundaries, they are doing so for the purpose of pleasure while keeping each others’ safety in focus. I’ll talk in detail about the line between humiliation and abuse in chapter 3, but for now, just know that, when players are building on a foundation of trust and consent, erotic humiliation is not abusive. 


For a long time I wouldn't let myself humiliate others because I don't enjoy experiencing humiliation myself. I had to realize they are having a very different experience than I am. I just feel emotional pain. They feel much more and experience much more.

- S


It’s Cruel


Another really common myth that hinders people from exploring erotic humiliation is the idea that it's cruel, and that submissives are supposed to feel “bad.” For those who aren’t attracted to this kind of play, it can seem outright repulsive (which can be the appeal for a certain type of humiliation player). So, trying to wrap their heads around the psychological and emotional version of “pleasurable pain” can be difficult. Here’s the key distinction: Cruelty is born of sudden and inexplicably intense action, whereas consensual humiliation is nuanced and exists within well-established boundaries.


To play well and safely at any intensity level takes a very strong level of affection between the people in the scene. This affection, combined with frequent check-ins using established language or signals, ensures that nobody ever has to exceed their own limits. (Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re not then humiliated for their incompetence and reticence!)


There are other [activities] I simply wouldn't do because I find them too hurtful, like body image insults, or calling him a loser. Anything I do that involves humiliation play really must at its core be something that binds us or helps the two of us bond. I would never want to do anything that does any actual psychological harm, or even makes him doubt my love.

- Anonymous


And by the way, sometimes erotic humiliation is exactly the opposite of cruel. Praise kink has been trending lately, and as a fan and frequent perpetrator of aggressive pep talks, I am here for it. Here’s how it works: The dominant requires the submissive to stand in front of them and receive sincere compliments until they're so overwhelmed and embarrassed they can’t stand it. Why does this work? Because for most people, accepting compliments without downplaying our achievements or positive traits is incredibly difficult and embarrassing. So the goal of praise kink, far from cruelty or degradation, is to embarrass a willing sub into oblivion by telling them incredibly true and complimentary things about themselves. It’s a surprising, beautiful, and healthy form of erotic humiliation and a great example of how this kind of play is diverse and has the potential for a wide range of emotional experiences and intents.


Other Stereotypes and Misconceptions

The stereotypes listed above are the most common, but they certainly aren’t the only ones out there. Others that have come up in my workshops include the following:


  • "It's all about being brutal."
  • "That it’s disrespectful.
  • "People assume it's nonconsensual."
  • "That you're not right in the head."
  • "It's a dysfunctional way to play."
  • "There's no way for it to be spiritual."
  • "That there is no connection between players."
  • "The humiliator is insecure, so therefore, they must be mean to others."
  • "That people engage in this only to relive past trauma."
  • "The dominant is seen as being careless."
  • "That it’s exploitative."
  • "It’s payback for past experiences."


These assumptions (and many more) might come from other kink players, or we might struggle with them ourselves. It can be helpful to consider what stereotypes we might be internalizing in order to overcome those obstacles and achieve the most pleasurable, healthy expression of erotic humiliation.


This article is an excerpt from the updated edition of my book, Enough to Make You Blush: Exploring Erotic Humiliation, which is available in my Etsy store or on Amazon.