Humiliation is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission. It is an emotion felt by a person whose social status has just decreased. It can be brought about through intimidation, physical or mental mistreatment or trickery, or by embarrassment if a person is revealed to have committed a socially or legally unacceptable act. Whereas humility can be sought alone as a means to de-emphasise the ego, humiliation must involve other person(s), though not necessarily directly or willingly. Acting to humiliate oneself may be linked to a personal belief (as with mortification of the flesh, with some religions), or it can be part of erotic humiliation where the belittling activity provides emotional and/or sexual arousal or heightened sensation. Humiliation is currently an active research topic, and is now seen as an important - and complex - core dynamic in human relationships, having implications at intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional and international levels.
Humiliation play is the consensual use of psychological humiliation in a sexual context, whereby one person gains arousal or erotic excitement from the mixed and powerful emotions of being humiliated and demeaned. The humiliation need not be sexual in itself, as with many other sexual activities it is the feelings derived from it which are sought, regardless of the nature of the actual activity. It can be verbal or physical humiliation, and can be relatively private or public. Often it can become ritualized, and unlike some sexual variations it can also be easily carried out over a long distance or online. The distinction between humiliation and dominance in an activity such as erotic spanking is that the sought after effect is primarily the humiliation, the activity is just a means to that end.
Whilst mild or moderate humiliation is not an uncommon part of BDSM or other sexual roleplay, humiliation play can be taken to a point where it becomes considered edgeplay by most people, either due to its extreme nature or due to the controversial views on its psychological impact. This is a highly subjective issue, and depends greatly on context.
Psychology and RACK
Humiliation is not precisely the same as domination, as the bottom/devotee is not necessarily seeking to be ordered about, but does require that the humiliation come from a dominant space. Humiliation comes into its own as a sexual force when the devotee seeks the humiliation over and above the means, for example when being spanked is primarily valued because of the belittlement involved, not the physical sensation of the spanking. As such, it might be considered an eroticized version of what otherwise might appear to be paraphilia. Humiliation can also be for a set scene or as an ongoing facet of a relationship.
Humiliation in general touches strong emotional buttons, the more so when it becomes sexualized. Because of this, consent and paradoxically a high degree of awareness and communication is needed, to ensure that the result is desirable rather than abusive. For example, a submissive may enjoy being insulted in some ways, but genuinely crushed and devastated if humiliated or insulted in other ways.
Humiliation play is also connected to sexual fetishism, in that non-sexual activities may become sexualized by association with arousal, and also may be associated with exhibitionism in the sense of wanting others to witness (or being aroused by others witnessing) ones sexual degradation.
For some people, activities such as name-calling are a way of achieving ego reduction or getting over sexual inhibitions.
As with all sexual activities, some people have sexual fantasies about humiliation, and others actually undertake it as a lifestyle or in a scene/session. Sexual fantasies of humiliation are very common, but for most people remain a fantasy - they would have strong reservations about it being public, or engaged in with a partner for real, however erotic the idea may be. Others do explore humiliation with partners, and many people use online humiliation (where the humiliator and others are involved via the internet using chat, email, websites, etc.) as a compromise between exhibitionism and reality on the one hand, and safety and anonymity on the other.
If you are going to add a humiliation element to your scenes, be sure to use effective communication and negotiate this element before doing the scene. Ask about cold words, words to avoid that cause bad forms of humiliation, and hot words, words to use to cause good forms of humiliation. Some people may not know what their hot and cold words are, or may be exceptionally shy about speaking of them, even pretending they do not exist. If you are to experiment with humiliation, tread very carefully and remember to move low and slow.
Sincere degradation carries with it an implied erosion of a person that does not require consent. To that end, the term humiliation is preferred to avoid implication of destructive behaviors that would constitute abuse, though the term might be acceptable as part of a humiliation fantasy.
Humiliation is very open ended and entirely subjective as well as contextual. What one person finds devastatingly humiliating may fill another with pride. Broadly it can be divided into verbal, and physical aspects. The activities listed could be enjoyed for entirely non-humiliating reasons as well. Some sexual humiliation involves inflicting pain but much of it is far more concerned with ridicule, mocking, degradation and embarrassment.
Sexual role playing may or may not involve humiliation. For example, one person might play the part of a dog because they enjoy being mock-forced into it and the top will emphasize the lowness of the bottom's status as an animal, whereas another person might play the role of the dog without any element of humiliation, simply as an expression of their inner animal or playful spirit.
Verbal aspects might include:
- Verbal belittlement, such as "slave", "boy", "boi", "girl", "missy", "pet".
- Insults and verbal abuse, such as "fat", "ugly", "stupid", "worthless".
- Degrading references such as "slut", "tart", "bitch", "faggot" and "whore".
- Slighting of body parts or behaviors, such as disparaging or cruel references to breasts, facial appearance, genitalia or genital size, bottom, and slighting of mannerisms such as walking, responsiveness, standard of self-care.
- Having to ask permission for everyday activities such as toilet, or eating or spending money.
- Small penis humiliation, where scorn is addressed towards the supposed inadequacy of the male's genitals or his inability to please a woman (and by implication his essential worthlessness as a man and his penis becomes an object of play for the woman).
- Forced exhibitionism
- Forced repetition, such as being obliged to repeat back commands to confirm them.
- Use of dicriminatorily charged statements.
- Mockery and ridicule.
Physical and tangible aspects might include:
- Ejaculating or urinating on the bottom's body or, especially, the face.
- Performance of menial tasks.
- Utilizing a spider gag.
- Detailed accountability and control (micro-management) as to time spent or activities done, including list of jobs to do, precise directions as to how the housework is to be performed, exactly how to act and behave, and so on.
- Specific rituals and affectations to be adopted. This includes displays of subservience, such as lighting cigarettes, walking a pace behind the dominant, only speaking when spoken to, kneeling or eating after others, low status place to sleep, etc.
- Roleplaying "lower status" beings such as animals or babies (see human animal roleplay and adult baby play).
- Spanking, restraint or other BDSM activities.
- Prohibitions or restrictions on clothing, or (for men) feminization, cross dressing and/or sissification.
- Use of chastity belts or other means of erotic sexual denial.
- Wearing of external signs of "ownership" such as a collar.
- Having friends, family or strangers aware of or witnessing one's treatment (i.e.: public humiliation).
- Forced Exhibitionism
- Erotic objectification, where the bottom is cast in the role of an object.
- Forced Sex or Homosexuality
- practice fellatio on a dildo or strap on
- experience anal sex using a strap-on
- learn cunnilingus using an anatomically correct, female latex doll or other “sex toy”
- eye contact restrictions
- Snake Play
- Forced Zentai, or alternately forced nudity
- Abduction, Torture and/or Interrogation
- Medical Examinations
- Mind Fuck
- See above examples, turn into articles