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 commonplace. If you dissect the definitions of Bondage, Discipline, Sado, and 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 search for BDSM, many images are submissives with strained faces being subjected to painful experiences. It can be hard to see past that first glimpse for many.
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 most people in this world, submissives are commonly drawn to positive forms of reinforcement than 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 enforce 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 and resulted in a punishment. Too much focus on negative punishments can lead a submissive into a state of depression and/or resentment towards their Dominant.
This brings us to a very important point before you begin to reward or punish a submissive, all training methods must first 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 a D/s relationship that consent is always required.
Secondly, just because you may think something is a reward does not mean it is for your submissive. This means you will 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 your submissive in a way that matches their needs and desires.
Reward someone you know with this article 😉
Some sample questions a Dominant can ask a submissive to better understand their needs/desires to improve 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, you are asking whether the submissive finds pleasure in actively serving their Dominant.
- From there, a Dominant can become more detailed, with 1-10 scale questions 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 is 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 themself?
- How does it make the submissive feel when they put others ahead of themself?
- Does the submissive ever feel negative emotions when they put another person before themself? Did the person do anything specific to stir those negative feelings?
- How much control does the submissive want the Dominant to have in their life?
- 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 greatest skill a Dominant has is their ability to listen and learn. The more detail you can get from your submissive, the better you will be able to tailor a submissive program to them. While the submissive will think you are reading their mind throughout their training, you are adjusting everything to what they have told you.
With this information, you can better create a more favorable 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 pretty straightforward. 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 joy in the control a Dominant wields upon them. For this submissive, acts like receiving a spanking or flogging could be extremely rewarding. This submissive might actively misbehave and break known rules 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 feel 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 occurs in an individual’s life that would promote enhanced survival, dopamine is released to reinforce this action and/or behavior. If performing a specific 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, this has not stopped dopamine from being excreted to help better assist us in our everyday lives. The main release of dopamine in our modern world is for sexual arousal, strengthening fetishes, and learning about things that we find pleasurable and rewarding.
What Kinds of Rewards Are There For Submissives
When it comes to rewards, you must understand that it is highly individual and particular. Meaning what one submissive finds rewarding and what another submissive find to be an effective reward can be two completely different things. Sit down with your submissive and discuss the following potential areas :
- Things that jump to the top of their mind when they think of something that genuinely makes them happy and that they enjoy.
- Things they enjoy (food, activities, gifts like clothes, makeup, tech, or even special BDSM gear etc.)
- Favorite activities that allow them to rest (a day at the spa, a massage, or a manicure/pedicure)
- Ideas that they find arousing/pleasurable (ie, certain types of role play, access to specific bodyparts like the Dominant’s feet or ass, spankings, floggings, access to a favorite toy, etc)
Be open; allow your submissive to express themselves freely. This is their moment to suggest anything they want (it may not mean they will receive it). However, it is crucial to receive all this information nonjudgmentally. In addition, watch their body’s reactions to each new idea. A significant dilation of the eyes, flushing of the skin, shifting in one’s seat, 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, then you will have a difficult time effectively rewarding your submissive. Any reward will be lackluster 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 from nonverbal 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.
Regarding 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 a reward unto itself for many. 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 expression of disinterest can crush a sensitive soul.
Rewards are wonderful, but they 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 by 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 they hold their body more confidently, they are responding to your positive, rewarding body language.
If, however, you see an expression of disappointment, then obviously, despite your approval, you are not providing them with the nonverbal enforcement the submissive needs.
Keeping an eye on your submissive’s reactions is also an excellent 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. If you have a monotone voice or have difficulty expressing excitement or happiness, your submissive will have a difficult time understanding when you are pleased. For someone who finds pleasure solely from the act of pleasing, the vocal tone is vital to have them genuinely accept your words as true.
While this may seem pointless for some, for many submissives, their love language is positive words of encouragement and affirmation. With nonverbal communication forming 93% of your communication with 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 entirely 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 – When a submissive misbehaves on purpose, they want 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”
Many of these submissives are crying for 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 asking for is more attention from you, their Dominant. If you find that your submissive is doing things to force you to take more control, then you need to take a step back and ask yourself if you are providing them with enough Dominant attention.
If you give the bare minimum of attention to your submissive, it might be time to sit down and discuss.
- 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?
If you are a Dominant who enjoys misbehaving and rule-breaking, than you can ignore this. Otherwise, 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.
Once you understand how attention can be a highly effective reward, you can now utilize it to you and your submissive’s benefit. This does not mean ignore your submissive if they misbehave. Instead, since the Dominant’s attention is what the submissive desires, this form of attention can be reserved for good behavior instead of breaking the rules in a desperate attempt to get your attention.
If a submissive loves being spanked, flogged, tied up, etc, you can save those activities and attention for when the submissive behaves as a reward. Often, 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. The submissive will then learn to misbehave whenever they want something they enjoy. 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.
- Physical punishments of activities the submissive enjoys are not a good thing to incorporate into your training. They can teach a submissive to hate an activity that they once loved, leading 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 renewed vigor once they hear praise for a well-done job. They don’t need a promotion, a salary increase, or an extra vacation day. Just hearing the acknowledgment of their effort 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 essential to any form of training. Just watch a submissive’s face light up when they hear how good they have been, what a good job they have done, and how proud their Dominant is. How does a submissive/slave know they are on the right track if their trainer does not tell them.
Nicknames – Can also be good in making praise more effective. Many a slave becomes weak in the knees upon hearing “Good girl/boy”
One thing you have to keep in mind is that positive reinforcement depends 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 desired effect.
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 and ready for gifting when the submissive has performed as requested can be an excellent way to enforce their behavior positively.
Rewarding with Their Favorite Activities – Everybody has specific activities that they love more than anything else, things that they would do anything to enjoy.
For bondage lovers, a night entwined with some beautiful rope is blissful.
Impact lovers will eagerly beg for an opportunity to crawl onto their Dominant’s lap and feel the sting of their Dominant’s hand on their bottom.
Allowing Access – Some submissives have stronger urges towards particular objects than others. Allowing the submissive access to these objects of desire can be a massive reward to the proper 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 of 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 extremely gratifying.
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.
Make A Date Of It – As in vanilla relationships, it is essential to take time to get out and enjoy one-on-one time together, away from the stress of work, kids, bills, and the regular grind of life.
A romantic date night at the sub’s favorite restaurant can be a reward for a job well done.
A day off from the submissive’s duties to enjoy a day with their Dominant doing whatever they desire.
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 a week or month is based on 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 has not gone unnoticed and is a beautiful reward for obedient service.
A relaxing day at the spa, a massage to release tense muscles and/or a complete makeover to help them feel like a new person. Not only will this allow them to rest so they can return to service more refreshed and renewed, but they will also have the knowledge that their efforts are appreciated, so they will be eager to please more.
Gifts – Gift-giving is a beautiful way to show you appreciate the submissive and everything they do. And for the most part, there is always some particular item or items every person has their eyes on. Those items may be too much for that person to spend on themselves but are truly special when gifted to them. Giving a submissive a gift they have always wanted can be a special moment. Having the submissive earn the gift they have always wanted can be an enriching 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 they desire. Here is your chance to let their imagination and impulses run wild. Once they have created their list of the items, they most desperately want, 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 add a few pieces of your 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 accurate 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 actively have something to work for. Something tangible that they can see and feel besides just the idea of having grown as a submissive. It is gratifying to graduate or be promoted, but now you have a new collar and title to show off to those in your circle.
Of course, with a title change comes increased responsibilities and duties, which means more challenging training. For a slave/sub that has experienced the same training for an extended time, this extra challenge to please their Dominant and prove they deserve their new collar/title is 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.
These graduating collars are perfect for keeping your submissive motivated
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 their title and collar standards, you can remove the collar and replace it with a collar you feel they need to retrain. Essentially, you are demoting them, and nobody wants the shame of being demoted and having to carry around the visual symbol of that loss.
This is a strict punishment, showing the submissive that they have disappointed you and that they obviously need to relearn some basic skills they should have already mastered. Their desire to get their old collar back should snap them back into shape.
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 one.
Let’s say you have been trying to teach your submissive to receive a caning gracefully and elegantly. Every Monday, a caning session is performed. As a reward for their behavior and ability to handle the caning so gracefully, you, as their Dominant, decide to allow them to have the following Monday off.
Perhaps the submissive has been locked in chastity for some time, but their behavior has dramatically improved. Maybe an early release is in order for good behavior. The Dominant can release the submissive from the chastity belt as a reward.
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 To Your Submissive
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 be pretty complex. Rewards can be administered in different methods and should be to keep the submissive always guess. Unlike administering punishments, where an infraction occurs, a punishment is given to associate the bad behavior with a negative consequence.
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 the reward being earned. 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 behavior is performed correctly, a reward is given each time immediately. 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 drawbacks.
1) It can become expensive to give a submissive a spa day every time they learn a new position and perform it correctly, for 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 expect to be told they are a “good girl/boy” and no longer work to hear it.
3) Too much of a good thing can lead to the 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 ask not to have any more chocolate. Just one night of play could very well turn you off your favorite food altogether.
With that in mind, you can see how constantly rewarding a submissive/slave can 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 most significant 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 keep playing; they don’t know when it will happen. Maybe the next one, perhaps the next one, a win is just around the corner.
Not always rewarding a submissive every time they do something right will keep the submissive on their toes and striving for their Dominant’s approval. With that said, a Dominant shouldn’t solely rely on an erratic reward system. Too many random rewards 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 a topic of the Dominant’s choosing
Be creative, and keep a close eye on your submissive to ensure the point system keeps 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 a 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 of varying points based on each wishlist item
How you determine the point system is based solely on the submissive’s desires and how important they consider each reward. 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 they never want to save points to have a date night or worship your body. Maybe you have made reaching these goals too difficult and the submissive doesn’t feel they are obtainable. 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 is 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 particular reward to be more effective, 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
By Master Bishop
The founder of the BDSM Training Academy. Master Bishop has been involved in the Dominant/submissive lifestyle for over 19 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 14 years.
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