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The Language of Kink

When it comes to language, meaning varies with context. And whether you’re trying to understand others or make yourself understood it’s important to understand that context. Nobody has yet, to my knowledge, written the official bdsm dictionary. But the meanings and connotations of some of the words we use are commonly agreed upon. Understanding this kinky language is very helpful when you’re trying to figure out where you fit in, and even more so when you’re trying to find a partner to play with. Knowing what you really want is vital but being able to express it is equally important!

 

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Kink vs BDSM

Both of these may be described as “the scene” and they’re often used interchangeably. But the kink scene is really a much bigger umbrella that bdsm clusters under along with playfellows like furries and wetlook enthusiasts. “Kink” covers ALL our oddball erotic triggers; bdsm is just the whips-and-chains stuff.

Except it’s not. Not always anyway. BDSM as an acronym includes several distinct concepts. As an example of kinky language it’s an elegant packaging of multiple meanings:

Bondage & Domination – this area of the kink universe involves, you guessed it, folks who like being tied up, chained, gagged, trapped in boxes, cages & vacuum suction beds – you get the idea. And of course the dominants who love to put their submissives in those predicaments. It’s an explicit power-play dynamic that relies largely on the stereotypical ‘dungeon’ aesthetic. But it doesn’t have to include things which cause actual pain. The chains but not necessarily the whips in other words.

Sado-Masochism – s&m, on the other hand, covers the ‘whips’ part of ‘whips & chains’. S&M activities can be part of a power-exchange relationship. But they don’t have to be. Which is why the pain-giver and the pain-receiver in this context are often referred to as ‘Tops’ and ‘bottoms’ rather than ‘Doms’ and ‘subs’. And there are LOTS of bottoms and Tops who aren’t into power exchange but just love getting/giving a beating.

Domination & Submission – and finally we have D/s, which is explicitly centered on the power exchange without necessarily having many – or any – of the stereotypical bdsm whips and chains elements. This is where you’ll find, for instance, a sissy sub who loves being enslaved & controlled but has little interest in being tied up or beaten.

 

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The Players

In recent years there’s been a growing recognition of people’s differing interests in the bdsm scene. In kinky language terms this has led to the use of ‘D-type’ and ‘s-type’ as catch-all labels for the folks who do the tying up, spanking, etc vs. those who get tied up, spanked etc. Which is a good thing as there’s also been an explosion in the variety of micro-niche labels. With the advent of the internet people are converging into groups and putting names to their shared interests such as findom, pet play, primal, etc. I’m not even going to try to list all of these, but I do want to mention a few of the old-school labels and their connotations.

For D-type women the classic role labels include Dominant (Domme), Mistress, Queen, and Goddess. Typical titles for the guys include Master, Lord & Daddy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dominant who identified as a man call himself “Queen” or “Goddess” but it’s not uncommon to find women who prefer “Daddy” or “Master”. Again, these titles can be a strong indicator of the dominant’s personal style. Both are superior authority figures, but a Daddy is quite different from a Goddess!

For the s-types classic labels include slave, submissive, bottom, and fetishist. In the common usage a bottom is someone who enjoys being on the receiving end of sado-masochistic play without necessarily wanting to surrender control at all. A fetishist is excited by shoes, or rubber, or whatever, but has little desire to actually submit. A “submissive” (aka sub, subbie, subguy) on the other hand wishes to surrender control to another, albeit temporarily and with limitations. And a “slave” is an s-type who wishes to surrender control 24/7/365, with no limits on what their dominant can command them to do.

These are often thought of as being a hierarchy, e.g. a fetishist or submissive is somehow less genuine than a “true” slave. I (and many others) think the notion of such a hierarchy is bullshit. Wanting to give up control does not make one person any better than another who just wants to be spanked. What DOES matter is understanding, accepting, and communicating your true desires to your partner.

 

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The Play

When using words as sex toys in bdsm it’s crucial to understand that the language is not to be taken literally. So for instance, if I call a guy “slave” during a play scene it does not obligate either of us to a life of 24/7 power exchange. Using that word is just a turn on, and that’s ok!

Very often bdsm language play involves using words that have strongly negative values out in the everyday world. Words like rape, abuse and torture are huge erotic triggers for loads of people in the right context. And there’s the key – context is everything. Being called a worthless piece of shit by someone with whom you have a bond of trust, when you know it’s part of an erotic game between you, is very different from having such words used in a vanilla context.
This seems like such an obvious point, but there are a great many people who appear unable to make this distinction. Which very often leads to censorship and misunderstanding. No rational person wants actual rape, torture & abuse to be considered acceptable. But under certain circumstances quite a lot of people enjoy talking as if they do.

I think a lot of the sexual power of kinky language comes from the appeal of the forbidden. We kinksters like to FEEL that we’re transgressing social boundaries, even as we take special care to ensure safety & consent. Like so many things in bdsm, there’s pleasure in paradox. Understanding the paradoxical pleasure of kinky language is an important step to being able to express your own needs and desires.

Come talk kinky with me!

 

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