course a headline like the above will entice more readers
than it will deter. But you've been warned. This column
is about humiliation, mostly verbal abuse, and has explicit
examples. Stop reading now, or endure the profanities
that follows at your own risk.
Over the holidays my good friend John invited me to a
Friday evening party where I met many of his associates
from work. That meant, of course, that most of the people
there were neither leather folk nor homosexuals.
Eventually a tall, powerfully-built man began to ask me
about myself. I'm sure you're familiar with the usual
questions about "Where do you work?" and the
like. "I write", I replied. "Write what?"
he asked. Well you get the picture.
In short order I was telling him about my next column
-- on humiliation. The woman sitting next to him joined
in the conversation. "What do you mean?" they
By the end of the conversation, the gentleman wanted to
read the column. I guess there are more open-minded straights
than we queers realize! Or is it that we are so fascinated
(straight, queer, and bi) by humiliation that it transcends
My trusty dictionary says that to humiliate is "to
lower the pride or dignity of; mortify." Humiliation
uses the word "degradation." It's certainly
a practice that flies in the face of empowerment, encouragement,
and edification. Humiliation is about as far from PC as
you can get. It smacks pride right in the face.
In fact, that smack is very much like a slap. There's
something about a slap that is humiliating.
Most humiliation takes the form of verbal abuse, as in
"Suck that cock you god damn mother-fucker."
From there we can go easily down hill with phrases like
"Take my prick you ass hole." In a conversation
recently (that prompted this column) an acquaintance told
about being called "cum tongue." That was a
new one for my list, to be added to shit sucker, fuck
hole, fuck face, faggot, and hole. My favorite is "toy"
and that isn't short for Tolstoy.
"Jack, how can an affirming and loving person like
you get into this stuff (read shit)?" you wonder.
Questions like that are what make this column thrive.
The answers are more difficult. In fact, I'm not sure
I can give an answer, though that won't stop me from trying.
In essence it boils down to balance. Why does a prosperous,
intelligent, and successful person enter the "dark"
world of Leathersex seeking to be humiliated? To regain
and maintain his balance. Let me cite a favorite example.
Charles is a loan officer at a major metropolitan bank.
He is responsible for the management of loan portfolios
worth millions of dollars. He grants or denies credit
to Fortune 500 corporations throughout the Midwest. He
is wined and dined by men of power and prestige. Yet,
when he enters his Leather world, it is as a collared
"dog-slave". He eats from a bowl on the floor
and gives his Master whatever pleasure his Master requires.
His "two lives" are in complete juxtaposition.
Each of them is real, vibrant, and fulfilling. Each balances
the other and makes the other possible, desirable, and
Show me a one-sided coin. None exists. The round Yin-Yang
symbol, with its equal and contrasting white/black design
illustrates the principle of complimentary balance.
There's probably more than that going on as well. It is
a matter of need. We feel a certain way, for reasons that
may or may not be clear, and those feelings urge us, sometimes
even demand, that we have an appropriate experience to
satisfy the need.
see leather play as allowing us to satisfy needs within
a "culturally acceptable" framework. I hasten
to add that it is acceptable within the leather culture
and at best only tolerated or ignored by other cultures.
Satisfaction comes with catharsis.
Retreating to the dictionary again, catharsis is "a
purifying or figurative cleansing or release of the emotions
or of tension, especially through art; a technique [in
psychology] used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing
repressed material to consciousness."
I admit that there are negatives involved here. The need
to be humiliated may be based on self-loathing, on guilt,
on some kind of condemnation felt from others, manifested
as ill feelings towards oneself. To think that all human
needs are pure and wholesome is unrealistic. To ignore
and repress them is drastically more naive and, in some
Western civilization recognizes the polarities that surround
and under-pin our universe. We see the complements of
night and day, light and dark, give and take. We have
learned, though, to equate opposites in terms of good
and evil, to affirm one side as better than the other.
Yes, there are things we ought to avoid, actions to shun,
just as there are things that are better done than not.
What, though, if we were to embrace both as equal, to
somehow see all things as one, to rest in the middle,
balanced and centered?
Shakers' song, "Tis a gift to be simple," is
exquisite in urging us to be what we are meant to be.
That, I think, brings us to facing, experiencing, owning,
who and what we are intellectually, emotionally, physically,
spiritually. Wholeness can not be found by denying or
emphasizing. It must rest in awareness of its whole self.
I have long seen my feelings of gayness as worship. It
was only a few months ago, as I was masturbating that
I "discovered" the complement of worship: revulsion.
Can we worship without reviling?
That night, as I jerked off in my candle-lit bedroom,
I began to explore another side, another kind of reality.
I don't know where it leads, what it means, but the new
territory, I am sure, holds a side of myself, a part of
my growth and enlightenment, that is a necessary part
of my journey.
The young man who asked about humiliation and the stranger
who wanted to read about it are simply looking to meet
deep and hidden needs. We have this conceit concerning
the way we ought to go. We are prejudiced that it must
be one way or another.
We deny there can be health in sickness, life in death,
empowerment in belittlement. But are we sure? How many
times are we deceived by the appearance of opposition?
1996 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in
any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact
What if seeking the Truth demands knowing the Lies? Oh,
what conversations Plato, Aristotle, and I could have!
And what do you think?
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