I’m a 62-year-old cranky pants. If I had a cane, I’d whack all the young whippersnappers with it, grumbling all the way. This natural tendency towards being a tweedy curmudgeon is exasperated by many mannerisms including underuse of the Oxford comma, aimlessly texting while walking, sitting on the outer seat in public transportation while leaving the inner seat vacant, and the use of the word “play”, “playroom”, and “scene” within a BDSM context.
This is an issue for me because I write kinky smut and I enjoy doing kinky things. But not at the same time; I have my standards, and namby-pamby as they may be. If you were a voyeur gleefully watching me get flogged and fisted, you’d say that I play during scenes, and I would disagree vehemently. Then I would whack you with the nearest stick…not really.
I’m exceedingly pleased that I wrote my smutty novel, Behrouz Gets Lucky, without using the word “scene” once, only using “play” when followed by “party”, but it was difficult. This is the standard vocabulary that one uses in this country when describing sadomasochistic activities. One plays with their play partner within a scene.
Why does this annoy the fuck out of me? Some of it is my innate mistrust of colloquialisms. I grew up using a slightly formal vocabulary devoid of colloquialisms. Because I traveled from culture to culture as a child, I never developed an ability to use slang. Slang changed so rapidly as I moved from country to country that I couldn’t keep up, so I gave up. Colloquialisms now intimidate me. The hairstyle term “fade” is another colloquialism that I have difficulties saying; I have tried to say it casually, but feel like a faker of the worst sort each time the word leaves my lips. And it took me an entire year of practice before I could say “awesome” like I meant it. I’m just not a casual person.
Another part of my crankiness is my associations with these words; “scene” makes me think of acting, and “play” feels too childlike. I’m certainly not acting when I’m sobbing in pain and devotion as my lover beats me. If anything, I’m the opposite of acting; this is one of my truest selves. As to my problems with the word “play”, I will own up to that issue. I’m serious; having childlike or spontaneous fun is not one of my talents. When I play, I do so intently. I associate the word play with being childlike, and being childlike feels too vulnerable. I also don’t like to mix childlike words with adult activities and sadomasochistic behavior. I want to prissily declare, “Children have no place in the playroom.”, but there you go. I just said “playroom.”
I can substitute “dungeon” or “bedroom” for “playroom” with ease. I can avoid the word “scene” without much trouble. “Play” is a whole other story though. Any alternative is going to be wordy and awkward. Take the simple declarative sentence, “I’d like to play with you” and remove “play.” ‘I’d like to tie you up, flog you, and then fist you” is a little too wordy and specific. Or how about, “Behrouz and Lucky were play partners” becomes ”Behrouz and Lucky were sadomasochistic lovers.”
How can I describe what I do and what my characters do if I find modern vocabulary terms objectionable? I recognize that these are the words that my audience is accustomed to, however I can’t bring myself to utilize them. On the other hand, if my goal is to translate the vision in my mind into words, using standardized vocabulary certainly assists in that process.’I want to be deliberate with my word choices, use words that are descriptive, poetic, and accessible. If my work is not accessible, then does my work matter?
I have no conclusions, except that my brain is an immense pain in the ass. “Scene” and “play” (along with it’s variations) will continue to annoy me, I can evade using “scene” and “playroom”, but “play” seems unavoidable, and inventing a BDSM vocabulary seems pretentious. If any of my readers have any feedback or ideas, I’m open.