Behavior modification is one of my biggest kinks, but it’s one that most people don’t know much about or think of as an independent kink. It combines my love for submission, my studies in the field of psychology, and the on-going process of making myself a better person.
Before I jump into the way this works as a kink, I find it’s important to first understand behaviorism as an academic subject.
The field of psychology is often divided among people who study different models. There are cognitive psychologists, for example, who study the way the brain and the human mind work to create perceptions of the world around us. For the purpose of this resource, we will be focusing on behaviorists–that is, people who study human behavior, as it is observable and measurable by external sources.
Behavioral psychology is utilized for a range of different things. It is often used in therapies with patients who suffer from anxiety, conduct problems, or phobias, and it is also combined with cognitive psychology for people with depression, bipolar disorder, and certain personality disorders.
Behaviorism seeks to use scientifically-supported evidence in order to change one’s negative behavior to a more desired one. This is most often achieved through the power of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is the supported theory that behaviors can be modified by providing reinforcement and punishments.
There are two types of rewards and punishments: positive and negative. While most people will think of “positive” and “negative” meaning “good” and “bad” it actually refers to whether something is added to the situation or taken away. For example, let’s say a submissive is working on their manners and the way they address their Dominant.
Positive Reinforcement: The submissive is polite and cheerful in addressing their Dominant by their title on a given day. The Dominant treats the submissive with a scene of their choice that night. This reinforces the behavior because the submissive will associate getting their way with being more polite.
Negative Reinforcement: The submissive is punished with orgasm denial for bad behavior earlier in the week but has been doing much better. As a reward, the Dominant shortens the number of days without orgasm. This reinforces the submissive because they will associate less undesired events as a result of good behavior.
Positive Punishment: The submissive has a bad day and speaks rudely to their Dominant. As a result, the submissive is spanked. This associates a (painful) punishment with acting out, and the submissive learns to avoid rude behavior, as a result.
Note: I personally don’t like to use pain as a punishment, because it isn’t especially effective, especially for masochists.
Negative Punishment: The submissive slips up and forgets to refer to their Dominant by their title. As a result, the Dominant refuses the submissive an orgasm that night during their scene. This is discussed and the submissive makes the association between not getting their way with bad behavior, and seeks to change that.
Now, this concept of a submissive trying to learn how to properly address their Dominant is just one example of a behavior one can modify. Everyone in BDSM has different kinks, limits, and personal goals, so this example may not be something everyone can relate to. However, the behavior modification kink can be used to change any behavior, sexual or not. Here are some more examples on things you can use behavior modification for:
- Performance during scenes.
- Quitting a habit (smoking, drinking, biting nails).
- Performance in school or at work.
- Overcoming a mental health problem. (Note that this can be used with stable submissives seeking to help themselves more in addition to therapy and/or medication. This should not be the sole method of treatment with people suffering from severe mental health problems.)
- Body-image issues/self-worth issues.
- Etiquette training.
- Kink-specific training (clothing restriction, speech restriction, orgasm restriction).
It is important to keep in mind that, like everything else in a healthy D/s relationship, behavior modification is consensual. This means you cannot modify your submissive’s behavior unless they want that modification. The idea of modification should be discussed in great detail before being agreed upon by both/all parties involved. Safewords are still active, even in this long-term kink. Any party may safeword to end the modification, and proper aftercare should be given to assure everyone is okay with modification ending as it is.
Once you and your partner(s) decide on a behavior you want to modify, you come up with a basic plan. Here are some additional ideas to get you started:
- Consider having the submissive make a blog or write in a journal each day about their progress in this modification. Read it daily and have frequent discussions on how they’re doing.
- Come up with a set of daily tasks, one month at a time. Go over the list before the month begins and get approval that all is within limits. Each day, the submissive will perform the task. Missed tasks result in punishment, while especially well-done tasks can have rewards to them. Add in little “special” reward days to keep them motivated and give them a little break now and then.
- Have weekly meetings about progress, going over what is done, what needs to be done, what should be changed, etc. Everyone should be enjoying the experience.
- Set up a token economy. Token economies work by rewarding the submissive with a chip, sticker, or a home-made form of currency. These can be exchanged for special rewards like new toys or privileges at the end of each week.
Try to keep tasks, punishments, and rewards centered around the behavior you’re modifying. Keeping everything in theme will help the submissive be more goal-oriented.
Here are some basic ideas for rewards and punishments you can alter to fit your exact modification:
- Choice of activities in a scene
- Home-cooked date night
- New sex toy
- Trip to an event they would enjoy
- Taking away chores
- Lessening punishments set ahead of time
- More freedom where there are set restrictions
- Cuddles, kisses, and general affection (do not withhold affection as a punishment)
- Writing lines (begin with a low number and increase the number of lines for repeat offenders)
- Orgasm denial
- New restrictions (clothing restriction, bedtime, orgasm restriction, etc)
- Loss of privileges
- Humiliation (keep limits in mind)
For more punishment ideas, check out my full guide on punishments.
This should be useful for those starting off with behavior modification. There’s much more you can do, as everything can be personalized to you and you partner(s)’ specific kinks and limits, as well as the behavior modified. If you have additional questions/comments/concerns, feel free to contact me. Good luck!