Play Punishment

Updated: MAY 17, 2022
Reviewed by Dr. Laura McGuire

Play punishment is a specific type of punishment used in a BDSM relationship to spark an erotic encounter. Unlike traditional BDSM punishments, a dominant serves up play punishments for trivial misdeeds rather than true behavioral breaches.

A dominant may administer a play punishment to their submissive for a minor misstep, such as overcooking dinner or forgetting to address their dominant as sir or ma'am. Play punishment does not look to correct these behaviors. Instead, it often serves as an act of foreplay and a way to build a sexual and emotional connection between the submissive and the dominant. A dominant may look for any tiny thing to play punish their submissive for, knowing they will both enjoy the erotic fun it triggers.

While pain may be an element of play punishment, it is not usually too intense or severe. Despite its differences, play punishment can look a lot like traditional punishment. A dominant may spank their submissive, tie them up or use erotic humiliation during play punishment. However, play punishment does not take the same negative emotional toll on participants that "real" punishment can. For this reason, some common BDSM punishments, such as the silent treatment or removal of privileges, may not work for play punishment. Play punishment is for the mutual pleasure of its participants. It can also be an emotional experience, although the emotions tend to be more positive than those "real" punishment triggers.

Play punishment is only used to punish a submissive for small and trivial missteps. It is never used to correct serious issues in a relationship or major problems with the submissive’s behavior. In play punishment, there’s an unspoken rule that, while the dominant is punishing their submissive, they are not doing it to correct their behavior. In fact, they hope the submissive repeats the behavior so they can play punish them again.

Play punishment is also sometimes called funishment—a portmanteau of "fun" and "punishment".

More About Play Punishment

As play punishment exists for the mutual pleasure of the dominant and submissive, it’s best practiced in a trusted BDSM relationship. A dominant who knows their submissive well understands what will give them pleasure and what could cause real harm.

Acting out can be a good way for submissives to satisfy their sexual needs. A submissive may commit minor offenses, knowing that it will trigger a play punishment. Being a brat can be a good way for a submissive to satisfy their sexual appetite while staying within their submissive role.

Role play punishment is a variation of typical play punishment. In role-play punishment, the dominant and submissive take on specific roles or characters. For example, the submissive may play a student while the dominant plays a teacher. A submissive may also play a secretary for the dominant’s powerful businessperson. The number of role play punishment scenarios is only limited by imagination. The submissive may then confess to a misstep that the dominant punishes. Alternatively, the dominant may “find out” the submissive has behaved “badly.” As the scenario is imaginary, the submissive may be guilty of a minor or major infraction.

Some people find the term play punishment problematic, as they see play and punishment as polar opposites: Play is joyful and lighthearted, while punishment is more serious and severe. They argue that any punishment, no matter how light it is, can cause unhappiness to one or both parties. For these couples, play is always clearly separated from punishment. They believe doing this gives any punishments extra depth and intensity. There is no one way to explore BDSM or behave in a BDSM relationship, so this stance is certainly valid. However, couples who enjoy combining play and punishment find blurring the lines can be rewarding, erotic, and cathartic. The reasons for punishment don’t have to be real or serious for the punishment to have a real impact.

As with other BDSM activities, play punishment always involves mutual consent. This doesn’t mean the submissive volunteers for or expects play punishment, although they may if they deliberately act out in a minor way. Instead, a submissive gives informed consent ahead of time which allows their dominant partner to play with them whenever the dominant desires or feels it’s necessary. The play punishment generally stays within the submissive’s soft limits. If the dominant goes too far, the submissive may use their safeword to stop or slow the play punishment.


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