The Vocabulary of BDSM: playing the scene


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.


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“My Dog” – at Sugarbutch!

collarI’m so excited, “My Dog”, my new romantic, filthy early morning fuck story is now available on Sinclair Sexsmith’s Sugarbutch! “I’m a morning person, but it’s early, too early even for me, when you wake me up with a soft growl. It’s low in your throat, a menacing promise, thick and thrilling. It goes straight to my cunt, flooding me, my flesh starting to swell, my cock’s morning wood hardening from pine to oak. I wake up, fuzzy-headed, with a start as I feel your hot breath on my neck. You smell like deep shadowed forests and green riverbanks when you become the dog, all dank and feral, ready to take what is yours. I’m half in dreamland, that nebulous point where reality is hazy.

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Sexual Pleasure in Fiction

What would happen if novels were rewritten with the sexual stories included? Not just included as an afterthought, but as important narrative devices. Having sex or BDSM play is typically a crucial component to developing romantic intimacy. If we want to see our characters fall in love or lust, let’s see it all. Show us flesh, skin, sensation, and heart. What day of the week was it? How did their skin taste? Where did this happen? And let’s just call it fiction, rather than compartmentalize get it by naming it smut.

What would the iconic dyke coming out novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, have looked like if detailed, lascivious sex was included? What if Molly and Loeta’s night together didn’t end teasingly with “And I soon found out”? In Molly’s torrid affair with Alice, sex was described as, “Alice steamed and shook and sighed…she loved being touched and she loved touching back”, but I longed for a more visceral description of sexual pleasure and bodies, instead of this delicate hint. Sensuous yet explicit sexual guidance would have soothed many a baby dyke’s nerves and provided affirmation of her sexual self-worth. Internalized homophobia would begin to dissipate.

Fiction that includes explicit sex is categorized in several ways, and the major ones are erotica, pornography, artsy, and erotic romance. With the possible exception of artsy, none of these categories are viewed as having any literary merit and are often scorned. The exclusion of sexuality and bodies in fiction perpetrates sexual shame and leaves us without fully realized literary role models. Although this lack of modeling in fiction is problematic for all people, it is particularly problematic for anyone struggling with their gender identity or their sexual orientation.

At what point does fiction cross the line from fiction to erotica, pornography, or erotic romance? How many explicit sexual acts, say blowjobs, are permitted per book? Does it make a difference if the blowjob is mentioned fleetingly, or if it is described graphically? What if it is described sensually or using metaphors? Does it make a difference who is sucking who? Do silicone or trans cocks automatically make it a sort of situational smut, even if the blowjob is the smallest fraction of the story? Is smut the narrative of sex without life, making fiction the narrative of life without sex? Why do we compartmentalize our lives, subtracting such a primal and basic pleasure from art? I believe that we censor pleasure from fiction due to a conglomeration of religion, shame, and power. If the power of sexual pleasure were shown and was culturally acknowledged without shaming, the world would change.

What would happen if sex was not compartmentalized in art or life? What if it wasn’t the dirty, private, faintly shameful function that it so often becomes? Could novels include realistic depictions of sex, side-by-side with the rest of the storytelling narrative? I long for that expansion of fiction, the inclusion of sexual pleasure.

Sex and sexual attraction are powerfully primal. Is that why we are reluctant to depict it? Romance novels sometimes depict sexuality in all its fleshy glory, but I am not interested their narrative tropes. I found such tropes as the powerful hero, the inexperienced younger woman, the millionaire, broken birds, and the rescue a turn-off at worst, and uninteresting at best. Then there’s bad boy fiction such as Henry Miller’s, but that sex was too misogynistic and gloomy.

These are some of the questions that I asked myself before writing Behrouz Gets Lucky. Like most of us, sexual pleasure is crucial in my life. I start many days with masturbation and an orgasm, have ended romantic relationships when the sex didn’t work, and stayed in relationships past their natural expiration date because of amazing sex. I’m 61 years old and hope to be having orgasms until I die.

I knew that I wanted to treat sex with as much importance as any other action in my book; a blowjob had to include as much detail as morning coffee and conversation. I wrote a list of sexual and BDSM situations that I wanted to include in the book, making a sex storyline. Then I added a nonsexual storyline to the sex storyline. Behrouz Gets Lucky was the story of a kinky, sensual couple’s courtship, from their first date onwards; if I glossed over the sex, it would not be realistic.

It is important to tell our stories, the ones that we hold in our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. This is how we know that we aren’t alone, and how we build a world where sexual pleasure is given the dignity and respect that it deserves. Silence and shame do not beget sexual healing. As writers, we need to begin the habit of incorporating sex into our fiction. As readers, we need to ask for it! Ask our favorite authors where they’ve hidden the sex, ask librarians and bookstore owners for fiction with depictions of sexual pleasure in their plots, write reviews on Amazon and Good Reads commending books that are inclusive of sexual pleasure and asking for it in books where it is missing. This is how we change the world, orgasms flanked by grocery shopping, walking the dog, and grousing about the rising cost of living, one book at a time.

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The Butch Lesbians of the 20s, 30s, and 40s Coloring Book is Here!

tara unpacking coloring book.jpg

It’s a whole gaggle of very grownup butches! The Butch Lesbians of the 20s, 30s, and 40s Coloring Book has arrived – 38 fabulous butches plus 11 pages of bad-ass butch history!

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Service Tops…Myth or Reality?

leather glove

I’m a bottom who frequently jokes around that I’m looking for a service top. I‘m not proficient with American colloquialisms, have a tendency towards word invention, and have never been heavily involved with the leather community. This means when I blithely throw around terms like “service top”, I’m usually in my own private Idaho. I’ve come across a slang term and personalized it to suit my purposes. What is a service top anyway?

When I start whining that I want a service top, usually I’m tired and lonely. I want a kind-hearted, proficient, and energetic top to mysteriously appear in my apartment, beat me senseless, and then fist me until we both collapse in a sticky puddle of come and sweat. I want a top who gets off doing this, who needs to control the scene and beat me, as much as I need to be submissive and beaten. I want a physical and emotional connection between us, albeit for just a few hours. I don’t want to plan it, don’t want safe words, don’t want to be in control, and don’t want to be passive. There is an enormous difference between submissive and passive, however that’s entirely another blog post.

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