A couple of weeks ago I read a book that I both loved and hated. It was one of those that I couldn’t just put down when it was done, because the ideas in it left my head spinning. The book was Disciplining the Duchess by Annabel Joseph, and the idea that left me so conflicted is Domestic Discipline.
I consider myself a natural sub, so the idea that there was a duke out there to keep his duchess in line sounded very appealing to me. But I’m also a woman whose mother taught her to demand respect in relationships. The conflict between these two sides of my personality left me very curious about the DD lifestyle.
I’ve invited Annabel to join us today to talk about her book and the DD lifestyle it protrays. As with any other facet of BDSM, how it works is very dependent on the parties involved. I think you’ll find the overview of the lifestyle interesting.
Please, take a moment to help me welcome Annabel between the sheets.
Voirey: Annabel, set’s start with a brief explanation of what Domestic Discipline (DD) is. I think most of our readers are familiar with BDSM. How does DD fit into the umbrella of lifestyle? Can you point out any key points that distinguish this facet it from some of the BDSM that is prevalent in erotic romance today?
Annabel: Domestic Discipline, briefly, is the management of behavior with a system of expectations and consequences. The Domestic Discipline that I enjoy, that me and my partner practice, is rooted in the fetish/BDSM world. It is modern, consensual, and negotiable. It is also, to an extent, tongue in cheek. I am a grown, capable woman! I don’t literally need my behavior managed. We do it because we both find it a huge turn-on and because it brings us closer.
As for what distinguishes DD from general BDSM, Domestic Discipline is more…domesticated. In other words, the dynamic is usually based in a home setting, in a relationship or marriage. It’s not something you’d do with a random kinkster in some scene down at the local club. DD also has its specific rituals. In most DD dynamics you will see the following: expectations for behavior, a regular accounting to discuss whether behaviors are being met, a lecture or teaching moment if they are not, a physical correction to drive home the point, and finally, forgiveness (or aftercare). Punishment is used by many various dynamics in BDSM, but in Domestic Discipline it is relationship/affection based, with the purpose of improving discipline and behavior, and hopefully promoting harmony in the marriage or relationship. Punishment in DD can be anything, but most commonly it is some type of spanking or other traditional corporal punishment.
Voirey: I love an author who doesn’t tiptoe around hard subjects or shy away from showing the negative aspects of live and choices. I think that’s one reason Disciplining the Duchess stuck with me. You let us see things take a bad turn. Understanding every couple has its own boundaries, here do you feel that line between lifestyle and abuse was for Court and Harmony?
Annabel: One big challenge for a DD couple, especially the “Head of Household” or top, is making sure that actions and motives are pure. If an HOH has a bad day at work, he or she has to guard against bringing that home and polluting their program with it. If a bottom just wants a spanking and starts misbehaving intentionally to get one, this also pollutes the program.
In Disciplining the Duchess, it’s kind of different since they weren’t doing a modern-fetish-type DD program. Back in those times it was permissible for husbands to correct wives with corporal punishment, and that’s what he does. It crossed the line when it became less about correction and more about his frustrations and hurt feelings. Once you’re correcting for some other reason than your partner’s well-being, it stops being Domestic Discipline and starts being your own petty agenda. It’s not affectionate, but abusive. That was something to guard against back then, and still something to guard against now when couples practice DD in a modern-fetish way.
Voirey: Can you tell us why a DD lifestyle was good for Harmony and Court? Why did it suit them?
Annabel: For Harmony particularly, she’d been raised in a very permissive and almost wacky household, and I think she longed for some boundaries. She was drawn to the duke because of his sternness, his propriety and his honor. For her, he represented the correctness she lacked. And the duke…well, he is like my husband in that he likes things to run smoothly. He likes to manage and improve whatever he can. In that way Harmony presented him with the perfect project. What he probably didn’t understand is that he also needed the lightness and humor she brought him. Ideally, in any DD relationship, the partners fulfill each other. It should never be a one-sided thing, where only one partner’s needs are being met.
Voirey: In our emails, I mentioned that I wasn’t sure what I thought of Disciplining the Duchess and the DD lifestyle portrayed in it. It plays my sub side against my feminist side in ways I didn’t expect. Do you feel DD and female submissiveness in general are in direct opposition to feminism, or can the two ideals cohabit peacefully?
Annabel: I think when DD is practiced in a serious, institutionalized sense, as in some cultural communities, it is repellent and extremely anti-feminist. When it comes to fetish-type DD I think most couples agree they do it for harmony and pleasure, for BOTH parties, which negates the idea of it being anti-feminist. Consent is always present in a healthy DD arrangement. If a couple was doing DD and one of them said, “you know, this behavior plan and punishment stuff isn’t working for me anymore,” then it ends at that point. It’s like regular BDSM in that way.
In the end, it helps to remember that DD bottoms choose that lifestyle because it brings them either peace of mind or sexual pleasure, or both. And seeking happiness and sexual pleasure is very much a feminist quest.
Voirey: Tell me a little more about Court and Harmony. What did you love about them. Were there any aspects of their relationship that you weren’t sure you wanted to write or weren’t sure how to write?
Annabel: With Court and Harmony, I wanted to create a couple who were so different from each other that they actually completed each other. I loved Harmony’s awkwardness and pluckiness, but I also loved Court’s properness and the way he was willing to sacrifice all, even his happiness, for the sake of honor. I love that Harmony brought fun and abandon to Court’s life, and that Court gave Harmony that sense of safety and boundaries that she’d never known. In that way they were enjoyable characters to write, because from the start they seemed destined to fulfill each other. It was just getting them past those awkward learning experiences that any newlywed couple undergoes.
Voirey: In closing, I just want to say once again that this is a book that really stuck with me. I loved it at times, didn’t at others. Through it all I admired the way you showed us this couple with all their flaws, with the dirty underbelly of the lifestyle they chose, and still made something very beautiful and redeeming of it all.
Annabel: Thanks Voirey. DD is one of those things you have to buy into in order to enjoy the ups and downs of a DD couple. Like all BDSM lifestyles, there are red flags and pitfalls, and also great fulfillment if partners look out for each other. If you’d like to learn more about modern-fetish DD, the ADDS website is exhaustive and painstakingly curated. (ADDS stands for A Domestic Discipline Society.) You can find that site here: http://adomesticdisciplinesociety.blogspot.com/
And I would love if your readers would check out my book, Disciplining the Duchess! They’ll laugh, cry, worry, get angry, and hopefully enjoy the couple’s eventual triumph over their relationship struggles. And enjoy many hot spanking and discipline scenes!
Over five seasons, Miss Harmony Barrett has managed to repel every gentleman of consequence and engineer a debacle at Almack’s so horrifying that her waltzing privileges are revoked. If she’s not in the library reading about Mongol hordes, she’s embarrassing her family or getting involved in impulsive scrapes.
Enter the Duke of Courtland, a man known for his love of duty and decorum. Through a vexing series of events, he finds himself shackled to Miss Barrett in matrimony. But all is not lost. The duke harbors a not-so-secret affinity for spanking and discipline…and his new wife is ever in need of it. Will the mismatched couple find their way to marital happiness? Or will the duke be forever Disciplining the Duchess?