Punishment and Minimums

She asked me why I had never been able to punish her, take her reins, force her to do what I asked of her.  She needed a firm hand, deserved a firm hand, longed for a firm hand who could take her wild filly heart and break her.  Train her.  Make her mine.

I am not that Master.  I am not that Sir.

Over the years I have stumbled my way through my relationships, even as I help others find their own course.  I assign folks to read books like Intellectual Foreplay, challenge them in three day weekends like Delving Into Power, push people to their highest potential.  But how much of the work have I done for myself and my own relationship journey?  Likely more than the lay person, but not as much as I wanted to have done.  But I breathe in, remember I am still on the journey, forgive myself, and try to be a better partner next round.  Each round, a little better of a partner, for myself and for others.

I have done punishment and firm hand in relationships before, because a Slave who was part time mine asked me to help him with some of his work, his goals.  Each time he did an infraction to his own list of issues, I noted the number to him.  After a year together, we finally hit ten.  We set aside the night for punishment- this could not please me.  I had no interest in creating a subconscious effect in his mind that misbehaving would lead to any pleasure on my part.  We set aside the evening and I beat him.  I hurt him.  I left him with marks he carried with him, and no joy from it for either of us, no bliss.  Love, yes love, but only in a “I wish neither of us had to be here” love sort of way.

Two years of relationship after that night, and he and I ended on six.

I hated that night.  I am able and willing to do that work, help someone course correct on their own goals… but on my desires, I have realized I think differently.

I want you to want to serve me.  To want to be with me.  To remember the things that matter, or take the time to make notes and look at them.

I am someone who has, in the past, been very deeply affected by disappointment.  I have had a lot of people talk big dreams, weave big stories, and after convincing me to buy in emotionally to the fact that the honeymoon, the gang bang, the vacation, the home made dinner, the date night, is actually going to happen… it doesn’t.  Another excuse, another (often very valid) reason it didn’t happen.  But I still invested, I still got excited, I still was let down.

So I stopped investing.  I stopped expecting.  I tell folks in my life to surprise me instead, to buy me presents randomly from my wishlist, whisk me away, show me more than I dreamed of.  This is easier when I don’t dream- a bitter thought, but one I have had on my tongue in various parts of my life from time to time.

What I do instead is gauge people.  I did not use to do in consciously, but I know I do it.  I ask little things, set the bar low.  Can they do the minimums?  Do they surprise me, show that they can do more?  Can I meet the minimums they ask of me?  Can we do 101 before we move onto 301?

So when I ask that someone do a small daily task, or call me once a week, or be ready to leave so we can go catch a friend’s play… and consistently they can not deliver?  My mind assumes they do not have the capacity to do more than that.  I check in with them, ask them what is up, what can we do for highest success for everyone?  If I need to hear from someone a few times a week to feel connected, and you can’t call- can we email?  Text?  Skype?  Twitter?  Send letters?  Smoke signals?

For a long time I thought I must be a demanding human to not get my needs met, but what I realized recently was that I was not clear that these were NEEDS.  Not wants, not desires, not dreams- these little “stupid” things are core values of my heart, things that make me feel connected, allow me to engender trust with a partner.  For example, I recently drafted up a covenant with a new Boy in service to me, and it hit me, a few points that really… really are needs for me.  It took me by surprise to see them on the page, so clear.  As I stared at them, as they applied to him, it made me think about my needs in all relationship, and it suddenly became clear how I had not stated clearly that these things are things I, Lee, needed.  And not just that, but if you expect more than minimums from me, I need them met.  I can change them, require less, but in my mind I take that person from someone I can dream big with, to someone I need to not expect stuff from.  Someone I should be tickled at to get anything at all from.

So I created a list, today, of what I need from all relationships I am in that are romantic or D/s in dynamic…

• Touch base/connect a minimum of 3 times a week (separate encounters- one flurry of texts does not count for the week’s minimum)
• Some sort of calendar system to notify me when school/work/dates are so I can treat you as is needed for highest success.
• Date night (minimum 2 hours, pre-set for chat/skype/phone/etc) a minimum of once a month.
• Both parties agree to clear new relationships with the other before having them transition from temporary to full-time status.
• Both parties agree to keep “dramatis personae” list updates with each other, with new dramatis personae notified to the other within 7 days.
• Both parties agree to be transparent about their ability to engage in requested engagements in any direction, including but not limited to their emotional state, how busy they are, if they are distracted at that moment, etc.
• Both parties agree to try their best to not bullshit themselves or each other.
• Both parties agree to laugh and share joy with one another.

It was pretty big for me.  Now don’t get me wrong- I am happy to have relationships and play partners and friends I see and hear from once a month, see once a year.  Those are still valid and delightful relationships.  Those are not what I am talking about.  I am talking about folks who consider me a Partner, their Sir, their Master, etc.

And then it hits, hard- these minimums apply for me too! If I consistently don’t deliver on them, what does that say about my internal thoughts on this relationship?  If I start negotiating a new relationship without talking to the old, where is my head at?  It’s a great gut check for me- can *I* do the 101 before jumping to the 301?

If you can’t do the basics I ask for as my needs, how can I ask for my dreams?

I don’t feel I can.

I keep my dreams wrapped up here, next to my heart.  Wrapped up in layers with names on them, names like Home and Oprah and Peace and Passion.  Layers of leather and linen, cloth of gold and oak leaves.

I don’t want to beat you.  I want to coerce you into being in my vision of love and beauty, welts and moans dancing across your lips.  I don’t want you to fear doing something wrong and being punished.  I want you to wow me and be spoiled rotten.  I want you to beg for my ferocity, not to fear that I will raise my hand.  I have little interest in cowering pups.  I collect powerful people, willing to work for their dreams.  Willing to open their own wrappings around their dreams, give me space to do the same, and together take over the world.

Blow me away.  Give me more than my minimum needs.  We both deserve it.  The whole world deserves us, all of us, every single one of us, at our greatness.


Lee Harrington

Lee Harrington is an internationally known sexuality, relationships, and personal authenticity educator. Having taught in all 50 states and in 6 countries, he brings a combination of playful engagement and thoughtful academic dialogue to a broad audience. An award-winning author and editor on gender, sexual, and sacred experience, his books include “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Journeys,” and "Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond," among many other titles. He has been blogging online since 1998, and been teaching worldwide since 2001. Welcome to his world, and your chance to expand your mind and heart alike.


  1. Lee, I love you. Seriously, you have made so much possible for me that I never would have imagined. For me, recently, I gave to my Master a promise to play 100% into the game that we together created: Me as her Submissive. She as my Master leading to me as Her Slave.

    All this was precipitated initially by you, at your age play class at ITW 2008. Thank Goddess for that seminar for it brought Sannabelle from the deepest depths of my subconscious. Lee, your class gave me, a manly man; a person whom, for so long has striven to defend my male persona with even violence; abhorrent as it may be by not allowing Sannabelle access to light.

    So yeah… First, ITW 2008, you bring forth Sannabelle from the deepest hidden dungeons into light; into a place where it is ok to love and cherish my Mommie, and best of all to allow Her to contribute to me.

    And this year, Slave Paul’s class on “putting your heart into it” brought us both present to the reality that neither of us was doing that.

    You, Lee are a major step in our collective transformation; a vessel that keeps on giving to both of us.

    Thank you Lee!

  2. Wow! Just amazing how you said exactly what I have been trying to articulate. Thank you

  3. Woof!

    You deserve your hearts’ desires and more, Sir… never accept less (even from me). As always, You inspire me and the world.

  4. Dear Lee,
    That was so beautiful – it made me weep. Yes – Yes – Yes. And Your words are also true from the bottom perspective as well. I do not want to be punished – I want my Sir – My Master to love me with his leather, love me with his strength – to hold this river tightly – and it is from that place that I can connect and serve. It is from that place that I can reach up way past any minimum. Thank you for sharing – it has touched me heart.

  5. So beautiful, and so true, and those last two paragraphs captures so truly for me what I love as a top, and why ‘punishment’ doesn’t jive with my internal moral compass….. though sometimes it *is* fun to play pretend with it in order to allow people a scenario in which to enjoy pain. 😉

    I’m going to have to get _Intellectual Foreplay_, by the way, thank you. 🙂

    p.s. I think you meant ‘reins.’

  6. Lee,

    Reading this echoed within my own heart and brought tears to my eyes. My needs, my wants , my ability to trust are all tied into will the other person pursue me with equal passion.  Will they desire and appreciate the gifts I give?  I’ll move mountains and make the heavens sing if they will. 

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