Discipline in BDSM is the practice in which the dominant sets rules which the submissive is expected to obey. When rules of expected behaviour are broken, punishment is often used as a means of disciplining.
In BDSM, rules can be made so that a submissive ("sub") knows how they should behave in order not to displease the dominant. Rules can also be used for reminding subs of their inferior status, or for training a novice sub. When the rules are broken, even accidentally, punishment is often used as a means of discipline. Punishment itself can be physical (e.g. whipping or piercing) or psychological (e.g. erotic humiliation through public nudity or golden showers) or a combination of both (e.g. through predicament bondage).
The goal of discipline is to teach the sub how they should behave as well as the consequences that may arise as a result of breaking the rules of behavior. When subs receive punishment on breaking the set rules, they learn self-restraint and become better subs. The punishment is generally related to the mistake, and is generally proportionate to the severity and frequency of the mistake. For example, a punishment for speaking out of turn for the first time may be a simple restraint (such as being silenced using a gag). Similarly, the punishment for a male sub's penis becoming erect despite not being allowed, even if unintentionally, can be a chastity cage.
The sub may also be given the option of choosing his/her own punishment. For example, for a minor mistake made repeatedly, the punishment can be an option either to be caned a few times (physical punishment) or to be paraded nude in public with a pet animal leash (mental punishment). For a major indiscipline by a female sub, the choice can be between breast torture and pussy torture. For a major indiscipline by a male sub, the choice may be the instrument type to be used (e.g. whip or cane) and the body part to be punished (e.g. back or buttocks) with a number of hard strokes.
Punishments carried out on BDSM submissives, even harsh ones involving severe pain, should not be confused with those carried out in sadomasochism. S&M involves giving pain/torture to a "sub" for the sake of the enjoyment of the "sub" and/or "dom". In BDSM, punishments for disciplining are in response to violations of predetermined rules by a sub, or for otherwise displeasing the dominant. One thing the two activities have in common is that there are limits and safewords in both.
Punishment is often considered a necessary evil in BDSM, as without it, a sub may repeat mistakes and thus not become a proper sub. 'BDSM punishment' is also not 'forced abuse' – in the former a sub must have granted the trainer prior authority to punish and so the activity cannot be termed 'forced'. Punishment should also not be confused with BDSM training which may involve giving pain simply in order to increase the endurance limit of the sub. Sometimes, disciplining may avoid punishment altogether, and instead a hard glance or loud voice from the dominant may be effective.
- 16 BDSM Punishments For Effective Behavior Training, Bad Girls Bible, retrieved 3 Feb 2019
- Knotty Girl (5 October 2012). "Bound and Shagged: Discipline". Swarthmore Phoenix. Retrieved 27 Aug 2017.
- Forsyth, Craig J.; Copespage, Heith (2017). Encyclopedia of Social Deviance. SAGE Publications. p. 75. ISBN 9781483364698.
- Bill Henkin, Sybil Holiday: Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About It and How to Do It Safely, Page 71. Daedalus Publishing Company, 1996, ISBN 978-1-881943-12-9.
- What is BDSM?, MensXP, October 2015, retrieved 27 August 2017