Of all the kinks to be found in the world (and believe me, they are limitless), erotic humiliation is one of the most mysterious and least understood, among new and veteran kinksters alike.
As a former professional dominatrix who’s also spent more than twenty years as a lifestyle domme and kink educator with a special proclivity for erotic humiliation, I wouldn’t be bragging if I said I’ve got a pretty good handle on what this kink is and what it entails. My seminal book on the subject, Enough to Make You Blush: Exploring Erotic Humiliation, takes a deep dive into everything I’ve learned about nearly every facet of this kink over the years. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been playing with humiliation for years, it’s a fantastic resource to inspire you to take your fun to the next level—in a safe and consensual way, of course.
But to pique your interest—and hopefully clarify some of the biggest myths and mysteries around erotic humiliation—I offer you this brief introduction to my favorite kind of play.
Let’s start with the most basic question:
What Is Erotic Humiliation?
At its most simplistic, erotic humiliation plays on concepts like misogyny, gender roles, classism, and other cultural contexts that generally illicit the “ick factor” to create an experience that is ultimately pleasurable, rather than offensive, injurious, or disgusting.
Humiliation, in the context of play, is about purposely pursuing a misalignment between what we’re “supposed” to do and what we want to do (or are already doing) and then making it feel good.
So, how do we do that?
We take that “real world” thing/word/action that a player understands as something that’s meant to be shameful and add a layer of acceptance, appreciation, and mutual enjoyment that makes the experience enjoyable instead.
I like to call this “The Pervert Paradox”—“pervert” being a former slur that I’ve reclaimed as unequivocally positive—because it explores such contradictory feelings of desiring to do all these things we’ve been taught to avoid, or even abhor. The result is that players reclaim these traditionally negative experiences such as guilt, shame, and disgrace, and use them as building blocks to create attraction and arousal during consensual interactions.
As you start to explore erotic humiliation in your own life, keep in mind that everyone’s experience is going to be vastly different. There is no such thing as a universally humiliating activity, because what constitutes humiliation entirely depends on the mindsets of the people involved. So there’s no perfect formula—it really is something you have to personalize.
Is Erotic Humiliation Always Super Intense?
It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Every player—or pair or group—gets to customize the play to their desired level of intensity, from light embarrassment to full-on cruelty and degradation. The further you stray from “normal” or “acceptable” in your play, the higher the intensity. In general, we can break humiliation play into three levels of intensity, starting with the lightest:
Embarrassment: A Pinch on the Cheek
To embarrass someone is to cause them to experience a state of self-conscious distress. Embarrassment is fairly low-level play, along the lines of teasing or even flirting. Think of it like a pinch on the cheek. It may be annoying, and you can certainly feel it, but it’s not going to do any real damage or startle you too much. Embarrassments are usually simple things that might happen to anyone, but they become embarrassing when attention is called to them.
Humiliation: A Slap in the Face
To humiliate someone is to reduce them to a lower position in their own eyes or the eyes of others by showing disdain and/or engaging in harsher and more intense behaviors. This is the middle level of intensity, and you can liken it to a face slap. It’s less playful than that pinch on the cheek, and it’s got an edge to it. If you’re the one doing the humiliating, you’re delivering more of a blow, but you’re not knocking them out.
Degradation: The Knockout Punch
Degradation is where the edgiest edge lives, and it requires the most trust and careful expertise to employ without causing unintended harm.
To degrade somebody is to bring them to low esteem, and I mean hardcore. Degradation happens when a dominant takes a submissive to very low places. This is the highest intensity of psychological play. It’s savage, vicious, and can even be downright cruel. It’s the right hook to the jaw, TKO, knocked the fuck out!
Unfortunately, the degradation level is where most of the stereotypes you’ve likely heard about cruelty in erotic humiliation come from. So, let me remind you that humiliation play must involve mutual enjoyment and the commitment to lifting a partner back up after taking them down. The kind of cruelty that comes with degradation is consensual and takes place within carefully negotiated boundaries.
What Kinds of Activities Does Erotic Humiliation Involve?
People tend to think of humiliation play as a very one-level, one-volume activity. The image that likely comes to mind is one of a leather-clad dom(me) yelling, “Go lick my toilet, you maggot!” Sure, that’s one style, but like everything in BDSM, there are multiple ways to play, and just like you can tailor the intensity, you can tailor the specific activities or types of play to suit your particular fetishes and fantasies.
Here are a few of the types of play you might explore:
- Verbal Play
- Foot Fetish
- Sex & Masturbation
- Chastity & Orgasm Control
- Gender Fucking & Gender Failure
- Sissification & Forced Feminization
- Bodily Functions
- Domestic Service & Cleaning
- Punishment & Protocol
- Impact & Sensation
- Bondage, Restraining, & Sensory Deprivation
- Public Play
- Financial Domination
Any of these sound like they might tickle your fancy? I explore each in depth in Enough to Make You Blush!
This Kink Is More Common than You Think
One of my favorite things about teaching erotic humiliation is seeing audience members realize that they are already incorporating this type of energy into their scenes. Enjoy being called a slut during foreplay? Enjoy making your partner beg for it—and then mocking them for their filthy desires? That’s erotic humiliation!
When you broaden your understanding of what erotic humiliation is, you might be surprised at what you’re attracted to! And once you know how to talk about those “quirky” little things you like in the bedroom (or elsewhere), then you have the power to explore even further and add to your repertoire of kinky fun.
And here’s another secret about erotic humiliation: it’s everywhere.
Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find fodder for erotic humiliation all over pop culture. It’s fairly innocuous in reality, like a food fight or some verbal teasing, but we kinksters have no problem transmuting it into something sexual. I call it “covert porn for perverts.”
Don’t believe me? Start with Dazed and Confused, and just try to tell me the seniors girls’ hazing activities aren’t inspirational.
As you learn more about erotic humiliation, start looking out for it in the movies you watch and books you read. I guarantee that you’ll start to see it everywhere.
Interested in Learning More About Erotic Humiliation?
If you’re curious about incorporating erotic humiliation into your own kinky play, welcome! I encourage you to learn as much as you can both about ways to play and, equally if not more importantly, about safety, communication, ethics, and the process of setting up a healthy experience.
To get started, I encourage you to visit enoughtomakeyoublush.com, where you can explore a wide range of resources I’ve created in order to educate and inspire the humiliation-curious.