Verbal humiliation

Verbal humiliation is a type of humiliation play that involves verbal abuse. Both the submissive's humiliated condition and the dominant's rhetorical power may be fetishized.

The premise of most verbal humiliation is the submissive's failure at being a whole, successful person. The details of this failure may be pure fantasy, or they may incorporate facts from the submissive's real life, but in either case the humiliating words are aimed at the submissive's self-image.

The intensity may vary from belittling to fully dehumanizing; the tone, from playful tease to objective assessment to hatred. The range of possible themes is vast, including the submissive's intelligence, health, attractiveness, or general social value. The submissive may be treated as an infant, a pet, or an inanimate object. The dominant may also use words that would ordinarily be taboo in conversation, such as obscenities or racial slurs.

Some of the most effective verbal humiliations are based on open secrets. The dominant may state the most basic facts about the submissive's appearance — the first thing anyone would notice at a first meeting — which the submissive has never heard spoken aloud, because rules of politeness forbid their utterance in most conversations. (The sociologist Erving Goffman called such facts "stolen information." That is, one steals the information not by knowing it, but by saying it, and thereby acknowledging it.) The submissive's interest in sexual submission, and in particular humiliation, may itself provide material for humiliation.

The other side of verbal humiliation is the submissive's relationship to speech. The dominant may require the submissive to repeat the insulting language in order to internalize it. Or the dominant may enforce a prohibition against speech, or use a gag or a hand to render the submissive's speech inarticulate. Or the dominant may intentionally misunderstand what the submissive is trying to say.

Because verbal humiliation involves no physical impact, both dominants and submissives can easily underestimate its potential for inflicting damage. However, the sexual charge in even the lightest humiliation depends on activating emotions whose effects can be toxic. By the same token, they can be exhilarating. Care should be taken when testing limits.

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