For those who practice humiliation kink, there’s a saving grace in being debased.
This article was originally published in Hustler Magazine.
Joe* was not the first client to slide into my DMs on my phone-sex platform and tell me that he wanted to debase himself for my amusement, but for whatever reason, he was the first one that I decided to humiliate.
Up until I started working with him, I redirected or ignored those sorts of requests. I have a relatively quiet and soft demeanor, and I thought humiliation work was best left to the dommes who were more comfortable with dishing out verbal degradation, name-calling, and orders.
But something about his message—he told me that if I simply asked, he would flush his head in the toilet—seemed sincere and sparked my curiosity. At the time, I didn’t have any desire to have a relative stranger flush his head in the toilet for me, but I did desire to know what made him want to do so. I started asking questions. And then I started giving orders. And then I started calling him names. And then we formed a bond. In the process, I learned that humiliation kinks are as complex as the people who hold them.
For this article, I interviewed my client Joe—along with two other people who desire humiliation as a form of sexual gratification—in an attempt to learn what it is about the humiliation that holds an erotic charge for them. Their reasons are as varied as they are.
Joe tells me that he turned to Niteflirt, where we met, in part because of the death of his sex life in his marriage after his wife’s illness. “I have been really grieving the fact that, as far as I know, my wife and I can never have sex again,” Joe shares.
Joe’s sexlessness is something he doesn’t share outside of the context of our D/s dynamic. “My wife would be terribly embarrassed and anyone I told would feel uncomfortable,” he comments. “You know this secret; I will never have sex again.”
His sexlessness is our secret, and it is also the basis for much of his desire to be humiliated. In our sessions, I tease that while I get to enjoy my sex life, he will never have one. I let him listen to the orgasms that he didn’t give me. And I make him do humiliating things like wrap his cock in duct tape in the bathroom stall at his office so that he cannot masturbate. This is also a secret. “It feels intimate … going back into my office with this little secret,” Joe reflects.
For Joe, it is not only the fact that he shares his humiliating secrets that makes him feel connected; rather, he sees the humiliating tasks as a way to receive the intimacy he desires but feels cut off from. In an online context, this is a faster route to connection than sex. “Calling or texting someone and pretending they are doing something [sexual] to you can be fun, but it feels a little limiting,” Joe offers, “but having them ask me to complete a task, especially one that I wouldn’t otherwise do, makes me feel more connected.” In Joe’s words, “The purpose of humiliating tasks is to bridge the gap of distance between us.”
Things that Joe normally wouldn’t enjoy—like flushing his head in the toilet, wrapping his cock in tape and being teased about his sexlessness—become an act of submission. “There’s a thrill that comes with, ‘I’m giving this other person control over me,’” he says. Joe describes this as an emotionally validating experience—one that sexual pleasure (at least within the online realm) doesn’t get at.
For most of Daniel’s* life he was very averse to humiliation. However, about seven or eight years ago he and his wife Beth started getting into cuckoldry (where she would have sex with men other than Daniel, sometimes in front of him), and that led down a path of sexual humiliation that he found arousing. Small penis humiliation (SPH) is one such instance.
While Daniel doesn’t objectively have a small penis, he tells me in an email, “What I’ve always been anxious about is performance, prowess—I come quickly and am not a hardcore pounder.” In this regard, part of the fun of their cuckold dynamic is the way that Beth taunts and denies him, all the while fucking other men. Daniel says, “Beth mocks me for [having my penis locked in a 3-inch cage], how it can’t fuck, and how it could never really fuck like a real man’s…”
While Daniel describes Beth’s taunting as something that “enflames” him, he also wants more. He says, “I’d love to be locked in a cage under a bed while [his wife is] fucking someone above me. I’d love to sign myself over to a virtuoso humiliatrix and see what happens.”
Like Joe, part of Daniel’s wish for more intense humiliation is a desire for submission: “I often say I want to break down my ego to be a more submissive bottom, though I resist. Humiliation is effective at quashing the ego.”
In addition to nullifying his ego, Daniel describes humiliation as a playful way of gaining power over his insecurities. He says, “I’ve always felt undesirable, unsexy—some cross between invisible and repulsive.” Expressing those fears through kink allows him to face them head on. “I think that’s the core psychological aspect of finding humiliation hot – in Freudian language, turning passive into active,” Daniel posits. “By foregrounding the humiliation in the context of play, I’m eroticizing a fear.”
While Daniel and Joe have found connection and power through their use of humiliation, Vanessa* has a more complicated relationship to her desire to be humiliated.
A few years ago, she set up an online dating profile that was filled with all of the things she thought were wrong with her. “I felt like I was creating a character who was bad,” Vanessa tells me, “and that character was who I was, 100%.”
While Vanessa was in a relationship at the time, she felt like her partner didn’t really understand who she was, and as such, her partner couldn’t treat her the way she desired to be treated—or perhaps more precisely, how she thought she deserved to be treated.
“I put up the profile because I wanted someone who did,” Vanessa recalls. “I was looking for sleazy motherfuckers on this app.”
Online, Vanessa was able to meet a couple of people who fit this bill. She says, “I sought out people to talk shit to me, I liked being verbally humiliated. I had a deep masochistic urge to be beat on like that.”
In particular, Vanessa wanted to be humiliated about the things that she was ashamed of; and what she was most ashamed of were her own desires. When I ask her what about her desires caused her shame, she responds, “The fact that sexual gratification is that important to me; I felt like a degenerate placing such a high importance on sexuality.”
Part of this intense desire for sexual gratification, Vanessa believes, stems from her experience as an autistic woman: “Growing up, especially as a teen, I was always weird; the weird, smart girl. I didn’t choose that identity. I wanted to be someone else.” Vanessa’s online explorations, she says, “gave me an identity besides being the weird autistic girl.”
Once Vanessa discovered the sort of power that her sexuality gave her, she put a lot of attention into it: “It is a lot of power immediately. It felt like a really good thing that I could use to know people and get close to people, different kinds of people.”
For Vanessa, even when she was being humiliated in her sexual encounters, it still felt like the fast-track to intimacy. And for an autistic woman who found connection to be difficult, this was appealing. In this way, her experiences aren’t that dissimilar from Joe’s. In these intense sexual dynamics, Vanessa says, “You are getting to know a man really deeply, that side he doesn’t show everyone. You are seeing a part of someone.” In this way, even the humiliation felt like a secret. “There is an intimacy in knowing a part of someone that other people don’t see,” Vanessa offers. “It’s kind of like having dirt on someone, but dirt on the human condition.”
While Vanessa received some immediate gratification from these interactions, she realized that for her desire to seek out partners who humiliate her stems of an intense desire to repeat the trauma from her youth, behavior that damaged her marriage and kept her stunted. She says, “Ultimately I want to have a healthy relationship and marriage.” As such, Vanessa has stepped away from her sexual relationships based in humiliation.
Yet, like all sexual acts and dynamics, humiliation can be healthy or unhealthy depending on how you use it. Vanessa sought out being humiliated for her sexual desires, Daniel for his insecurities (his lack of sexual prowess and desirability), and Joe for his life situation (his sexlessness). They were all looking to fill deep needs, in the way that sexuality can be used as a tool. This points to the power of sexuality—for good for ill.
*All names have been changed to protect privacy.
Jessie Sage is a sex worker and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She’s also the co-founder of Peepshow Magazine and the co-host of the Peepshow Podcast. Her words can be found in the Washington Post, VICE’s Motherboard, Hustler Magazine, Men’s Health, BuzzFeed, and more. She’s currently writing a book on sex work, motherhood, and illness called An Unexpected Place (forthcoming on West Virginia University Press).