Despite the commonly held belief that BDSM is essentially all about punishment, pain, whips, chains and anything that might cause severe agony, the exact opposite is more common place. It can be hard to see past that first glimpse for many. If you dissect the definition Bondage, Discipline, Sado, Masochism; three of those words can be related to pain play, and even bondage can be used in a painful way depending on how it is applied. If you do a simple search for BDSM, many of the images you will find are submissives with strained faces being subjected to painful experiences.
While much attention is focused on discipline and pain for dramatic effect, when it comes to actual submissive training rewards and positive reinforcement tend to be more effective in submissive training.
As the old saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”
As with the large majority of people in this world, submissives are more draw to positive forms of reinforcement than to negative forms of punishment. That is not to say that negative forms of punishment are not effective, but far too many times Dominants believe that submissive training should consist primarily of punishments to hold what they feel is a Dominant position. Sadly this is to the detriment of the submissive.
More submissives than I can count have shared stories of the negative and draining experience of being in a relationship where everything they did was wrong or everything resulted in a punishment. Too much focus on negative punishments can lead to a submissive into depression and/or resentment towards their Dominant.
Which brings us to a very important point before you begin to reward or punish a submissive. First, all training methods must be discussed with the submissive and agreed upon by all individuals involved. While this should go without saying, it is still a good reminder and an essential part of D/s relationship to always get consent first.
Secondly, just because you may think something is a reward does not mean it is for your submissive. This means you are going to have to truly delve into learning about, knowing and understanding everything that is your submissive. Only then will you ever be able to truly reward them in a way that matches their needs and desires as a submissive.
Some sample questions a Dominant can ask a submissive to better understand their needs/desires to improve awarded rewards:
On a scale from 1-10 (1 being least and 10 being most) how much pleasure does the submissive receive from performing activities for their Dominant? Essentially what you are asking is; does the submissive find pleasure in actively serving their Dominant? From there a Dominant can become more detailed, with 1-10 scale question in regards to sexual service (ie. oral service), domestic service (ie. cleaning the kitchen or cooking) or Personal assistance (ie. handling the Dominant’s bills).
On a scale from 1-10 how much pleasure does the submissive receive from having Dominant activities performed by their Dominant? This trying to determine how much passive submission is involved in their desires. Again you can ask more detailed questions to discover more. BDSM service (ie. being on the receiving end of impact play), sexual service (ie. how much sexual control of the submissive’s body does the Dominant have), personal service (ie. ordering in a restaurant, what clothes to wear)
On a scale from 1-10 how much influence does pleasing another person factor into the submissive’s daily decisions. How often in a week does the submissive put others ahead of their self? How does it make the submissive feel when they put others ahead of their self? Does the submissive every feel negative emotions when they put another person before their self? Did the person do anything specific to stir those negative feelings?
On a scale from 1-10 how much control does the submissive want the Dominant to have on their life? On a scale from 1-10 how much control of their own life does the submissive want to have? What areas and things does the submissive want the Dominant to take control of in their life?
The more detail you can get from your submissive the better you will be able to tailor a submissive program to them. While they will think you are reading their mind throughout their training in fact all you are doing is adjusting everything to what they have told you. The greatest skills a Dominant has is their ability to listen, and learn.
With this information in hand you can now better create a more positive reward system for your submissive. For example if a submissive receives much of their pleasure simply by serving another, a positive reward for their service can be quite simple. A positive facial expression, the call of a nickname or being allowed to perform a more intimate act of service could all be rewarding to this kind of submissive.
On the other hand, a submissive may not find much pleasure in the act of serving, but truly enjoys the pleasure in the control a Dominant wields upon them. For this submissive, acts like receiving a spanking or flogging could be extremely rewarding. In fact this submissive might actively misbehave and break known rules in order to receive punishments to feel the Dominant’s control. This is essential to know, because now a Dominant can implement a plan to ensure a submissive feels their control, so they don’t need to act out.
So depending on what is on and off limits and where your submissive falls on the scales of desires will determine what constitutes a reward for them.
What Makes A Positive Reward
A reward tends to come from a neurological process in which neurons release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. While the process is quite complicated, it has been found that dopamine release is linked to motor control, executive control, memory, learning, reward-motivated behavior, arousal, sexual gratification and reinforcement.
What you need to understand about dopamine is that when something of benefit occurred in an individual’s life that would promote enhanced survival, dopamine was released to reinforce this action and/or behavior. If performing a certain action helped to catch more fish, better ways to avoid predators or collect more food, the brain would release dopamine to reinforce this behavior to improve a person’s chances for survival in the wild.
While we are no longer in danger of starving or being attacked by wild beasts any longer, this has not stopped dopamine from being excreted in an effort to help better assist us in our everyday lives. A main release of dopamine in our modern world is for sexual arousal, strengthening fetishes, and learning about things that we find pleasurably rewarding.
What Kinds of Rewards Are There
When it comes to rewards you must understand that it is highly individual specific. Meaning what one submissive finds rewarding and what another submissive finds to be an effect reward can be two completely different things. Sitting down with your submissive and discussing:
1) rewards you know they like
2) things they enjoy (food, activities/sexual & nonsexual, interests, physical items like clothes, makeup, tech, etc.)
3) favorite activities that allow them to rest
4) ideas that they find arousing/pleasurable (ie certain types of role play, access to certain bodyparts like the Dominant’s feet or ass, spankings, floggings, access to favorite toy, etc)
Be open, allow your submissive to freely express themselves, this is their moment to suggest anything they want (it may not mean they will receive it). However, it is important to receive all this information in a nonjudgmental manner. In addition watch their body’s reactions to each new idea. A large dilation of the eyes, a flushing of the skin, shifting in ones’ sit and grooming oneself can be indicators of potentially more powerful rewards.
It is estimated that 93% of all communication is a form of nonverbal communication. This means if you have not mastered your nonverbal communication skills than you will have a difficult time effectively rewarding your submissive. Any reward will be lack luster and ineffective in properly motivating their internal desires.
Body Language/Facial Expressions – It is believed that the most common form of communication (attributing to at least 55% of all communication) comes in the form of non verbal body language. Yet for many people it is the last thing we ever think about. When training a submissive it is in fact essential we keep our body language and facial expressions front and center in our minds.
When it comes to people like submissives who live for pleasing others and their Dominant specifically, positive facial expressions and body language are essential. Seeing their Dominant light up with joy from something the submissive has done for them is for many reward unto itself. At the same time nothing is more demoralizing for a submissive to see all their hard work, thoughtfulness and submission brushed off like it was nothing. Even handing a submissive a reward with a blank express of disinterest can crush a sensitive soul.
Rewards are wonderful but their are nothing if the Dominant is not mindful of presenting a more positive and rewarding form of nonverbal communication.
You can always gauge your nonverbal skills but keeping a close eye on how your submissive reacts after presenting something for your approval. If their expression becomes lighter, their head held higher, and hold their body more confidently they are reacting to your positive rewarding body language. If however, you are seeing an expression of disappointment then obviously despite your approval they are not providing them with the nonverbal enforcement they need.
Keeping an eye on your submissive’s reactions is also a good way to stay conscious of your own body language/facial expressions.
Vocal Tone – Can be up to 38% of communication understood by those listening to U/us. This means if you have a monotone voice or have a difficult time expressing excitement or happiness, your submissive will have just as difficult time understanding when you are pleased. For someone who finds pleasure solely from the act of pleasing, vocal tone is key to have them truly accept your words as true.
While this may seem pointless to talk about for some, for many submissives their language of love is positive words of encouragement and affirmation. With nonverbal communication forming 93% of your communication to your submissive, what you say isn’t as important as how you say it. Saying “Good girl” isn’t as powerful when the Dominant looks depressed and their tone is completely monotone. However, it is quite the body tingle when the Dominant says it with a deviously husky breath while staring at their submissive with a fire in their eye.
Attention – Many times when a submissive misbehaves on purpose, they are looking to be punished (this does not mean all the time). They want to feel their Dominant take control, and enforce their Dominance. I hear it all the time from brats, princesses, and babygirls:
- “sometimes I misbehave because I just really need to be spanked.”
- “Or I love how aggressive my Dominant gets after I have broken a rule”
What many of these submissives are crying for is more attention from their Dominant. This isn’t to say that these submissives aren’t craving a spanking or a strong Dominant touch, but what they are really asking for is more attention from you the Dominant. If you are finding that your submissive is doing things to force you to take more control, than you need to take a step back and honestly ask yourself if you are providing them with enough Dominant attention.
If you are currently giving the bare minimum of attention to your submissive, it might be time to sit down and have a discussion.
- Do they require you to take more control of their life?
- If so what aspects of their life would your control help them to feel more fulfilled?
Try ramping up your control and see if this helps to provide your submissive with the kind of positive reinforcement they need to avoid the urge to misbehave. There is no need to misbehave for attention when that attention is already there. If you are a Dominant who enjoys the misbehaving and rule breaking than you can of course ignore this.
Once you understand how attention can be a highly effective reward you can now utilize it to reward your submissive. This does not mean ignore your submissive if they misbehave. Instead, since it is the Dominant’s attention the submissive desires, this form of attention can be reserved for good behavior instead of breaking rules in a desperate attempt to get your attention.
If a submissive truly loves being spanked, flogged, tied up, etc you can save those activities and that kind of attention for when the submissive behaves as a reward. Often times many Dominants will spank a submissive for misbehaving when their favorite BDSM activity is spanking. Two things can happen from this:
- you reinforce the behavior that misbehaving will be rewarded with their favorite activity. They will then learn that anytime they want something they enjoy just misbehave. This leads to an increase in the submissive manipulating the relationship to get what they desire, instead of asking for what they desire and communicating properly with their Dominant.
- I have said in past articles and I will say it again, physical punishments are not a good thing to incorporate into your training. They can teach a submissive to hate an activity that they once loved and that can lead to the submissive resenting the Dominant.
These are the kinds of rewards most Dominants think of when trying to motivate their submissive with rewards.
Verbal Positive Reinforcement – Many people live for verbal reinforcements. We all know individuals who live for and glow with a renewed vigour once they hear praise for a job well done. They don’t need a promotion, an increase in salary or an extra vacation day. Just hearing the acknowledgement of their effect is all they ever need. Many submissives/slaves are the same way.
Hearing their Dominant praise their skills, abilities, personality, and effort can be a massive reward and emotional boost for a sub.
Praise – Is absolutely essential to any form of training. How does a submissive/slave know they are on the right track if their trainer does not let them know when they are doing good. Just watch a submissive’s face light up the moment they hear how good they have been, what a good job they have done and how proud their Dominant is.
Nicknames – Can also be good in making praise more effective. Many a slave become weak in the knees upon hearing “Good girl/boy”
One thing you have to keep in mind is positive reinforcement is all dependent on who the submissive is and what it is they find motivating. Some subs might prefer to be reminded how naughty, kinky or dirty they truly are.
- My naughty girl/boy
- My dirty lil slut
- My lil sissy bitch boy
Don’t forget to keep a positive or appropriate facial, body language and vocal tone when giving your submissive praise otherwise it will not have the effect you desire.
Small Treats – It always feels good when someone gives U/us a piece of O/our favorite food, or candy. As a Dominant having some of these items locked away ready for gifting when the submissive has performed as requested can be a nice way to positively enforce their behavior.
Rewarding Activities – Everybody has certain activities that they love more than anything else, things that they would do anything to be able to enjoy them.
For bondage lovers, a night entwined with some beautiful rope is blissful.
Impact lovers, will eagerly beg for an opportunity to feel the sting of their Dominant’s hand on their bottom.
A romantic date night at the sub’s favorite restaurant can be a reward for a job well done.
A day off their submissives duties to enjoy a day with their Dominant doing whatever they desire.
Allowing Access – Some submissives have stronger urges towards particular objects than others do. Allowing the submissive access to these objects of desire can be a massive reward to the right submissive.
For a submissive with a foot fetish, just being allowed to touch and smell the shoe of their Dominant can be a powerful reward. Allowed to worship the foot their Dominant can be even more rewarding.
For other submissives access to a favorite pleasure toy can be something they truly desire.
Still other submissives can find access to their Dominant solely for the purpose of being allowed the opportunity to worship and pleasure their Dominant is highly rewarding.
Whatever the object of desire, limiting and controlling the sub’s access can lead to a highly effective reward. Removing access can also be a highly effective punishment.
Spoiling – No submissive in this world can serve 24/7. It is a physical and mental impossibility. A submissive should regularly receive days off from serving. How many days in a week or month is based upon the Dom/sub agreement.
When a submissive has gone above and beyond their regular duties and expected service spoiling them can help to remind them that their effort is appreciated. Not to mention a wonderful reward for obedient service. A relaxing day at the spa, a massage to release any tense muscle and/or a complete makeover to help them feel like a new person.
Not only will this help them to rest so they can come back to service more refreshed and renewed, but they will have the knowledge that their efforts are noticed so they will be eager to please more.
Gifts – Gift giving is a beautiful way to show you appreciate the submissive and everything you do. And for the most part there is always some special item or items every person has their eyes on. Those items may be too much for that person to spend on themselves but truly special when gifted too them. Giving a submissive a gift they have always wanted can be a very special moment. Having the submissive earn the gift they have always wanted can be a very rewarding experience.
Have Your submissive/slave Create A Wishlist
At the BDSM Toy Shop you can have your submissive create a wishlist of all the wonderfully devious little toys, gear and outfits that they desire. Here is your chance to let their imagination and impulses run wild. Once they have created their list of the things they most desperately desire, you as the Dominant can now reward them with special items from their wishlist.
Just imagine how hard most submissives would work for a new BDSM toy to intensify your play together.
As the Dominant you can even add in a few pieces of your own choosing. Just click the link below to start creating your sub’s wishlist:
Promotion – Isn’t the point of submissive training for the submissive to learn, grow and become the submissive they truly desire to be? For many subs/slaves it can be hard to see how they have improved and advanced in their training if there is no true measure. At the Academy, W/we like to utilize a title and collar graduation/promotion system in O/our slave/sub training.
By having a system that the slave/sub can now see, they have something to actively work for. Something tangible that they can see and feel besides just the idea of having grown as a submissive. Not only is it highly rewarding to graduate or be promoted to but now you have a new collar and title to show off to those in your circle.
Of course, with a change in title comes increased responsibilities and duties, which means more challenging training. For a slave/sub that has experienced the same training for an extended period of time this extra challenge to please their Dominant and prove they are deserving of their new collar/title an excellent motivator.
- Black/Blue – (trainee/Collar Of Consideration) the person has been accepted into training but has not proven themselves to be a submissive.
- Black/Red – (sub) the person has shown a desire to be a submissive and their knowledge has grown. They have been accepted as a sub.
- Black/Purple – (submissive) A submissive is someone who has accepted their role in life. They have learned most of the skills of a submissive and continue to be happy and eager to prove themselves.
- Black/Black – (slave) The final graduation of the program is to become a consenting slave. This person has mastered the skills and knowledge of being a submissive and are happy to live a life as a Dominant’s slave.
What is even better about the Submissive Colour Collar System is that you can also use it to punish a slave when they misbehave. If a submissive is not behaving up to the standards of their title and collar, you can simply remove the collar and replace it with a collar that you feel they need to retrain in. Essentially, you are demoting them and nobody likes to be demoted.
This is a strict punishment, showing the submissive that they have disappointed you, and that they obviously need to relearn some basic skills that they should have already mastered. Their desire to get their old collar back should snap them back into order.
While this article has been all about positive reinforcement in submissive training, that does not mean you can’t utilize a negative form of training and turn it into a positive. Let’s say you have been trying to teach your submissive to receive a caning in a graceful and elegant way. Every Monday a caning session is performed. As a reward for their behavior and their ability to handle the caning so gracefully, as a Dominant you decide to allow them to have next Monday off.
Perhaps the submissive has been locked in chastity for a period of time, but their behavior has dramatically improved. The Dominant can allow the submissive to be released from the chastity belt.
Orgasm denial can be an extremely painful experience for some but when a Dominant chooses to allow their submissive to orgasm the release is all that more powerful.
Essentially you are still giving them a positive reward but it is coming from the release of a negative experience.
How To Administer Rewards
Now that W/we know what works best for rewarding your submissive to better motivate their obedience and desire to serve, how and when to reward may seem simple but it can actually be quite complex. Unlike administering punishments, where an infraction occurs a punishment is given to associate the bad behavior with a negative consequence. Rewards can be administered in different methods and should be to keep the submissive always guess.
How you choose to administer rewards should be based upon the kind of reward you choose to use, the behavior being rewarded and how the submissive responds to receive rewards. Meaning if a submissive/slave is not showing any excitement or gratitude for receiving a reward, either the reward is not a strong enough incentive or perhaps the submissive has been rewarded too often. The submissive can also become disenchanted and disgruntled if they are not rewarded and motivated enough. This is why keeping an eye on your sub/slave’s behavior/moods, knowing what is highly rewarding for them, seeing how they react to such motivations and keeping a record of such behaviors will help the Dominant to create a reward system that better suits their sub/slave.
Continuous Rewarding – In this method whenever a behavior is performed correctly a reward is given immediately each time. While this can work for a short period of time, when first introducing a new training technique to a submissive over time this method has a few draw backs.
1) It can become expensive giving a submissive a spa day every time they learn a new position and perform it correctly, as an example. So the kinds of rewards you can reward the submissive without constantly interrupting training are limited by time and expense.
2) The effectiveness of the reward decreases when used too frequently and too often. Constantly telling your submissive they are a “good girl/boy” every time they use proper slave expression can reach a point where the slave doesn’t even hear it after a certain point. They just expect to be told that and no longer work to hear it.
3) Too much of a good thing can lead to distaste of something they once loved. Imagine receiving an extremely rich overly sweet piece of chocolate every time you obeyed a command. By the end of the night, not only would you be full, your teeth would probably be aching from all the sugar and you would be asking to not have any more chocolate. In fact, just one night of play could very well turn you off your favorite food all together.
With that in mind, you can see how constantly rewarding a submissive/slave can actually not help motivate them despite what most would commonly believe.
Erratic Rewarding – Much research has been conducted on the addictive nature of gambling. While the bells, sirens and flashing lights are big motivators when someone wins, the biggest addictive component is its erratic reward system. It is that unknown component that makes people keep pulling that lever of the slot machine. They know a win will come if they just keep playing, they just don’t know when it will happen. Maybe the next one, maybe the next one, a win is just around the corner.
By not always rewarding a submissive every time they do something right, will keep the submissive on their toes and striving for their Dominants approval. With that said, a Dominant shouldn’t solely rely on an erratic reward system. Too much random rewarding and too much time between rewards can lead to confusion, frustration and possibly resentment.
Point system – Acts of service, obedience and servitude are given ‘X’ amount of points when completed. As these points add up, the sub can exchange them for different kinds of rewards of different values.
Points can be accumulated by completing domestic tasks, daily assignments to anything a Dominant can imagine.
- 2 points – Cooking a meal
- 2 points – Cleaning a room (living room, kitchen, bathroom, etc)
- 2 points – for exercising
- 1 point – give Dominant or a dildo a blowjob for 10 minutes
- 1 point – wear a butt plug for x amount of time
- 0.5 point – For every time the submissive edges themselves
- 1 point – For essay on topic of Dominant’s choosing
Be creative, keep a close eye on your submissive to make sure the point system is keeping them motivated and not demotivating because it is too hard.
All or some of their points can be cashed in for their rewards:
- 25 points – allowed to masturbate
- 75 points – allowed to masturbate with favorite toy
- 100 points – allowed to see and smell sub’s favorite body part – no touching
- 100 points – a night of restricted bondage for submissive
- 100 points – impact play night
- 200 points – romantic date night
- 300 points – allowed to worship Dominant’s body
- 750 points – one wishlist gift or set varying points based on each wishlist item
How you determine the point system is based solely on the submissive’s desires and how important each reward is considered by them. Every point system will look different for every submissive it is used with. So don’t think once you create one it will be universal for all. Also be fluid with your points, see how your submissive reacts and adjust accordingly.
If all your submissive wants to do is cash in their points to masturbate perhaps it is not valued enough and it they never want to save points to have a date night or worship your body maybe it has been over valued. The point is to motivate your submissive with a chance to earn their rewards not make it impossible so that they don’t even want to try.
Alone each of these methods are only so powerful in motivating a submissive. When used together in combination, they can truly show your submissive the benefits of behaving as a good submissive should.
If you have a favorite way to reward your sub, method/system or are a sub and have found a certain reward to be more effect please feel free to share it in the comment section below. W/we can all grow when W/we share what W/we know.
Wishing you all the best in your training,
The founder of the BDSM Training Academy. Master Bishop has been involved in the Dominant/submissive lifestyle for over 14 years. With a love for education both learning and teaching, Master Bishop has passed on his knowledge and experience to others entering into the BDSM lifestyle for over 11 years. Join Master Bishop on Google+
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