We all know that words have power: the right ones can lift your spirits, but when they are degrading or insulting they can leave deep psychological scars, even during consensual play.

Words can also be tremendously arousing. With humiliation play, though, it’s the difference between a hot time and one that has the potential to ruin a scene - and maybe even an entire relationship. So what can you say during humiliation play? And what should be left unsaid? Here are some tips on how to walk the line.

What Is Humiliation Play?

Humiliation play is a form of BDSM that uses the power of words - often in an demeaning way - to arouse those involved, either by speaking the words or hearing them. Because it can use some pretty strong vocabulary, think of it as sexual wordplay on steroids.

Fortunately, there are some pretty well-proven techniques that you can use not just to make humiliation play effective, but also to avoid any negative experiences.

It’s All About Communication

To begin with, treat the decision to use humiliation as a serious one: never do it casually or thoughtlessly. Again, all it takes is one wrong word, said in the wrong way, to be emotionally crippling. So don’t just call your playmate, “slut,” “worm,” “bad boy/girl,” “trash,” or anything even slightly derogatory out of the blue.

Before you do anything, you have to clearly and precisely communicate: both as the speaker as well as the person on the receiving end. Since you don’t want any kind of interference or miscommunication, it’s recommended to do this negotiation before (and outside) of the scene. This means that you don’t sit down together as Dominant and submissive but as equal participants in the relationship. This way the submissive will feel free to speak without fear of being disrespectful toward their Dominant; on the other side of things, the Dominant will know that the submissive is not just saying what the Dominant wants to hear.

Because humiliation play has the potential to be emotionally damaging, do not engage in it if there is any kind of doubt or hesitation on anyone’s part.

Take It Slow!

Even if things seem to be crystal clear, take things slow and steady. Don’t just leap into verbal abuse like you’re both old hands at it. Instead, try it for a short time, maybe just one part of a BDSM scene, and then immediately check in with each other as equals and not as Dominant and submissive.

Another thing about humiliation play is that it is often something that many people fantasize about but have not directly experienced. As anyone who has participated in BDSM play for a significant amount of time can attest, there can be a huge gap between fantasy and reality. So, even if your partner says that they emphatically agree to try it, still take it slow. After all, you can always ramp it up as you both get more comfortable with what’s going on.

Let’s talk about Dominants for a moment. Humiliation play is something that can work both ways, so the Dom, as well as the sub, needs to be careful about emotional reactions. Let’s say that you are playing with someone who likes to be called a “useless piece of shit” and you find yourself becoming uncomfortable, or emotionally distressed. Use your safeword. BDSM, after all, is about sharing a sexual and emotional experience. If one person is pleased but another is not, it’s time to step back and rethink what’s happening.

Like with physical negotiation, always respect the limits of everyone involved. If someone likes being called “a slut” then don’t call them “a filthy boy/girl.” Even though you meant it as an equivalent to the word "slut," this could be the difference between your sub feeling nicely aroused and having an emotional breakdown.

What You Say and How You Say It

Then there’s context. Patting a slave on the head and saying, with a smile, that they’re a “no good slut” is very different than angrily calling them a “no good slut” and making them stand in the corner. Because of this, don’t just negotiate the words to be used in a scene. You must discuss the emotions behind them as well. Humiliation, after all, can mean different things to different people, so always make sure you are both on the same page.

What to do, and what to say, is really up to those involved. If you, as the Dom, are puzzled by what to do it’s a good idea to have your sub write a story about their ideal scene. If they are uncomfortable doing that, they can share their favorite BDSM porn. This can help give the Dom a good framework to them build on. Though, again, remember that fantasies and reality can be a very different thing.

If your sub really wants to try humiliation play but is being particularly obtuse about what that means, you can either keep working on the negotiation or try what can best be called “stepped play.” Stepped play means not doing a full-blown scene but, instead, trying a casual one where you can test out various words and actions to see what works or doesn’t. The reason for taking a more casual approach is that submissives will often enter a state of emotional fragility when they get deep into play. By making your training session gentler, you can find out what might be painful to your sub in a way that is less intense for them.

Speaking Clearly… and Thoughtfully

In the end, as with anything in BDSM, you should only do humiliation play after learning as much as you can about it - and only after entering into it with both eyes open to the pleasures as well as the risks.

Finally, it would be easy to conclude this article with a joke about how now you should go out and do humiliation play, and then calling you something demeaning. Yet, since we did not negotiate or discuss me doing this, I will simply end this article by suggesting that you should do humiliation with both eyes (and ears) open. And that you never forget the power of words.