Hey again E/everyone! If you’re new to this series, SubSays, my name’s Lydia, an active submissive in my local BDSM community. I write to bring awareness to O/our lifestyle, encourage others to explore alternative means of relationships, and provide answers to kinky questions to the best of my ability. It was requested of me to produce the article mentioned in my last publication, “Ask a Submissive: Vol. 2” on the topic of behaviour modification. I’ll start by defining behavior modification, both in the BDSM world and in the vanilla world, including the definition, techniques and examples, then move into basic models of operant conditioning including positive and negative reinforcement, punishment, and extinction. Lastly I’ll dive right into how this all related to relationships and different D/s dynamics.
As always, you can tweet me at @SubSaysHello with any ideas for future articles or questions that you'd like answered!
Behavior modification refers to the techniques used to try and decrease or increase a particular type of behavior or action. Whether you know it or not, you’ve actually used some method of behavior modification at some point in your life, whether that entailed training a dog, getting a younger sibling to do something for you, or to try to change the behavior of a close friend.
The theory of behavior modification actually originates with the concept of conditioning, where you reinforce different learning patterns on a person to ensure the outcome that you would want. Classical conditioning relies on a particular stimulus or signal versus operant conditioning that involves a system of rewards and/or punishments. Basically, to make this as un-scientific as possible, the theories all come from the same belief that whatever has been learned can also be un-learned.
Operant conditioning was actually developed by a behaviourist by the name of B. F. Skinner. The general idea of operant conditioning is that behavior can be modified through consequences and through positive and negative reinforcement. The goal of operant conditioning is always to replace those undersirable behaviours with more desirable ones (2). To elaborate on operant conditioning, here are a few terms that are good to know:
- Positive reinforcement is providing a positive or good stimulus for positive or good behavior! For example, if you’re training a puppy, and he does something good or preferable to you, then you would provide him with a treat as a positive stimulus
- On the opposite side, negative reinforcement is pairing that behavior to a negative stimulus!
- A punishment is anything designed to deter that bad behavior from happening again – a good example of this would be detention for missing a class
- Flooding can be described as overwhelming the brain with the thing that you’re trying to change. For example, if you’re looking to change that you have a fear of heights, you would have to force yourself to sitting on a roof’s ledge for however many minutes.
- Extinction is another one that is commonly used, and it involves removing anything that has to do with the unwanted behavior.
During these learning and unlearning cycles, there are also outlined schedules which involves continuously training and reinforcing, versus partially reinforcing.
So the applications of conditioning and behavior modification are seriously endless — you could even try to change your own behavior by following models such as the ones above, for example, if you wanted to quit smoking or you need to learn how to study more productively. It’s used daily by parents, teachers, professionals, in the business place, and by therapists!
Now to relate it to kink.
Behaviour modification is a fetish where one individual (the Dominant) attempts to change the behavior of another (Their submissive) through the theories discussed above. It’s an amazing fetish to really dive into and explore, since there are so many avenues of reinforcement that are so deeply rooted in psychology that no dynamic is the same. This could involve changing the behavior of the submissive in regards to their performance during scenes, quitting a habit, their performance at work, body image or self-worth issues, high protocol training, or even clothing restriction, organism restriction, or speech restriction.
As always, but especially with this kink, it’s so important to have full consent into the modified behavior, since you’re literally changing someone’s life, the way they think and the way they talk. It can be extremely scary for the submissive to not understand why they’re doing something, or wonder why their D-type is being so controlling. Open communication with this kink is an absolute must.
Behaviour Modification in Different D/s Relationships:
The Caregiver/Little Relationship
This is a super fun one to explore behavior modification for. Of course it depends on how ‘little’ the submissive regresses, but 'children' are typically easier to change the behavior of than adults, since they’ve had less time to learn that behavior. When littles are… well, little… their mindset literally regresses to that of a child (typically ages 3-10). From here, the D-type can…
- Positively reinforce behavior with things the little likes, like stuffed animals, toys, games, movies, and their favorite snacks
- Negatively reinforce behavior with the opposite, making them do menial things that they don’t enjoy, for example chores and exercise instead of that behaviour
- They could punish the little with a time out, a spanking or chores
- Flood the undesired behavior, like being scared of the dark, by making them stay in the dark until they’re okay (this should be done safely and with consent, of course)
My favorite one that I’ve seen happen in my real life is a Dominant trying to get their little to do their chores. The little had already regressed to about age 5, and they HATED doing any chores. Their argument was “chores are for big people, and I’m just little. The broom doesn’t even like me!” Too cute, I know. But they loved stickers! So every time they did a chore, they’d get a new sticker! It worked pretty well for that dynamic! The little then came up to me and showed me her sticker book full of five whole stickers, and was really proud of what they got!
The Dominant/submissive Relationship
This is a pretty regular kink for this type of lifestyle. Having a Dominant alter the behavior of the submissive is a popular kink for both parties. For example, teaching a submissive to wait for a cigarette or to make dinner for their Dominant could result in a positive outcome if successfully completed. A super popular one with this dynamic is orgasm control, where a D-type would tell the s-type not to have an orgasm until they said it was okay (rude, right!) If they fail and orgasm anyways, then next time they will not be able to, or something along that degree where there would be a negative reinforcement taking place thereafter. Some other examples of rewards or reinforcements could be the lessening of punishments, choice of activities or toys to be used in a scene, taking away a restriction for a period of time or a pampering or massaging session.
As for negative reinforcement and punishments for this dynamic, writing lines, orgasm denial, new restrictions, humiliation, or loss of privileges are some of the most popular to be used. Again, all of the punishments have to be spoken about beforehand, especially humiliation!
The same can be said for a D/s relationship that involves a Master or Mistress and Their slave. It’s usually just taken to a higher extent for different behavior patterns. Some behavior that would be reinforced in this dynamic would be completely up to the whim of the Master/Mistress and could include waiting to enter a room, needing permission to get up/off the floor/stand up, training so that the slave understands what position they’re supposed to be in at what time, and what cues indicate what movement.
In a Dom/Master and submissive relationship, please do remember that the choice as to how far behavior modification should go should really be up to the slave. It all depends on how willing they are to let their Dominant control their life. For example, some slaves want their Dominant to have full and complete control over their every move, breath, and blink. They might want to eat when told to eat, shower when told to shower, and sleep when told to sleep. This is an extremely different dynamic from that of a soft Dom(me)/submissive lifestyle, where both the Dominant and submissive have much more control over their own lives, (3).
I’ll let your mind wander with that thought for a little while longer.
Yes, hypnosis is a kink. The purpose of hypnosis is to put the submissive or subject into a trance-like state that forces them to relax and access a deeper level of the mind that would otherwise have remained dormant. I am no expert in hypnosis by any means, but it is a method of behavior modification since you can literally alter what the subject does in their daily life via this method. It happens on the premise of suggestion, where the hypnotist offers a relation between two ideas or behaviours and the subconscious mind of the person under hypnosis forms that relation. It’s even been proven that subjects can actually achieve orgasm while under erotic hypnosis.
So, I’ve reached the end of my short report on behavior modification. I really do hope that you’ve learned something about the fetish, and can recognize now when it’s happening, to who and why. As a final reminder, please make sure that all play is consensual and that every party participating is aware of what’s happening. It’s crucial in this case to make every party aware, because you’re physically changing the way that they go about their lives. If you would like to learn more, I’ve included the links I used for references down below, but I’d be happy to find some articles for you as well. Tweet me at @SubSaysHello with any question, recommendation, idea, or concern about my articles!
Cheers! XX LC