Domestic Discipline: Understanding Its Effect On Me (Or Why I Can't Be Fair)

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Title: Domestic Discipline: Understanding Its Effect On Me (Or Why I Can't Be Fair)
Creator: Annabelle Leigh
Date(s): late 1990s?
Medium: online
Fandom: The Sentinel
External Links: Domestic Discipline: Understanding Its Effect On Me (Or Why I Can't Be Fair), Archived version
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Domestic Discipline: Understanding Its Effect On Me (Or Why I Can't Be Fair) is a Sentinel essay by Annabelle Leigh.

It has the alternative title: "Domestic Discipline and Me."


Given the title, I don't think it will come as a big surprise to anyone that I don't like domestic discipline stories. Of course, this is not to say that people shouldn't write them or that there's anything wrong with reading and enjoying them. It's just to state my own personal opinion, which is that I don't like them. And when I say I don't like them, I mean I *really*, *really* can't stand them. This is not an intellectual disdain. It's not just some romantic preference for a sweeter, cuddlier view of the world. It is a deep, abiding visceral feeling of "Ewwwww!"

But for the longest time, I couldn't figure out why. At least, I couldn't come up with an explanation that captured the knee-jerk vehemence of my reaction against discipline stories. Oh sure, I could easily come up with a list of things I found objectionable. In my book, people who love each other don't hit. Freedom is the cornerstone of all happiness. Healthy relationships can only exist between equals who respect one another *as equals*. And, philosophically speaking, every legally competent adult is responsible for his or her own life, period, no exceptions. No one else can (or should) make their decisions for them.

And yet, while these are all solid enough reasons for me to shy away from discipline stories, somehow, they don't match up against the intensity of my dislike. They make logical sense, but they pale in comparison to the passion of my distaste.

The depth of my response is extreme, out of proportion, not especially rational. I fully admit that. Objectively speaking, domestic discipline is no more egregious than many other kinds of stories. In fact, in comparison to some of the torture fests out there, discipline stories can seem downright tame. What's a little spanking to enforce some very sensible rules in comparison to partner rape or extreme violence or betrayal or emotional devastation? Not to mention the whole colorful array of abuse and torment visited upon the characters by various bad guys and bad gals and evil organizations. There's some rather harrowing fan fare out there. And yet, none of it, no matter how gory or heart-breaking, strikes quite the same uncomfortable chord in me as domestic discipline.

So why is that?
After puzzling it over for a *really* long time, I finally struck upon the word that made it all clear to me: "infantilization." Eureka! It's the infantilization that bugs me so much. But not for what I think are probably the obvious reasons. Sure, it's demeaning to the characters, at least in my world view, not to mention out of character, the way I see it. But I've read other stories where one partner is overly feminized, while the other is turned into a domineering knuckle-dragger. These aren't my favorite stories, but I don't *hate* them.

This is because the characters still relate to one another as adults, one dominant and the other submissive, but adults, nonetheless. It's the same situation with BDSM stories, which I enjoy when they're done well. There may be issues of control and power while the characters are role-playing, but it's in a naughty, sexy, grown-up kind of way.

I have no problem with that.

My difficulty is that apparently I have a very active and far-reaching sense of the incest taboo. Domestic discipline situations strike that primal "Ewwww!" in me because one of the lovers is acting in a parentified way toward the other. *I'll tell you what to do and how to live, because you can't be trusted to make your own decisions. I'll teach you what's right. It's all for your own good. I only spank out of love. If you don't do what I say, then it's off to the corner with you, young man, and you'll stand there until I tell you otherwise!" To me, domestic discipline stories all strike a tone of someone's overbearing father.


Here, finally, is why I react so violently against domestic discipline. The blurring of the role of parent and lover in these stories crosses a powerful, primitive, non-negotiable line in me. It's why my response to domestic discipline stories feels more like a moral stand than a personal preference. Even though the characters are both adults and are not related by blood, having them take on roles that are so reminiscent of parent and child within the confines of a sexual relationship tramples all over some very important boundaries I have, in a way that feels fundamentally wrong. It triggers that primitive sense of taboo somewhere way deep down in the netherworld of my DNA.