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Semantics

October 22, 2008

Unspeakable Axe had an interesting post the other day about kinky semantics, specifically about whether to tell potential play partners that he identifies as “submissive” or “slave” (I must say I don’t understand why the women he meets only want men to be submissive in sex. Like, that’s cool if that’s what they’re into, I guess, I just don’t get it) which made me think a lot about kinky semantics in general.

Kinky semantics are confusing. All the words and vocabularies were invented by different subgroups at different times to identify different things, and now they all seem to be mashed together and no one is quite sure what the same words may mean to someone else, but rarely does there seem to be any clarification.

When I first started exploring kink online, I was really confused by the difference between “top”/”bottom” and “dominant”/”submissive.” Sometimes people seemed to use the sets interchangeably, which suggested they were synonyms, then other times it seemed like they were distinctively different things.

The first person I asked for clarification broke it down like this:

  • Dominant – a person who desires to control and/or have power another physically, emotionally, mentally, or financially.
  • Submissive – a person who desires to give control and/or power over to another physically, emotionally, mentally, or financially.
  • Top – a person who takes a typically dominant role (such as being the one doing the hitting, tying up, or yelling), often for the purpose of a scene, but doesn’t necessarily take control or power from the other person.
  • Bottom – a person who takes a typically submissive role (such as being the one hit, tied up, or yelled at), often for the purposes of a scene, but doesn’t necessarily give up control or power to the other person.

Then there were more semantics about masters and slaves, and sadists and masochists, etc, but it was the top/bottom vs dominant/submissive issue which confused me. These are the definitions I’ve been using since, though.

I originally thought I might be a switch when I first began exploring my sexuality (albeit 99% dom and 1% sub), but now I think “dominant who will bottom occasionally” better describes me. I totally agree with Jones when she says “sadism is masochism turned outward” (at least, I think it was her who said that. I can’t find the post). As a sadist, I feel that the only way for me to get the fullest experience out of someone else’s pain is to know what it feels like, so I bottom educationally to another dom. Now, through my educational bottoming, I’m coming to believe that I’m probably a masochist as well as a sadist. Fortunately for me “sado-masochist” is already a word. Last night, for instance, I got flogged at a demo. I liked it. It was the most relaxed my shoulders had been in years.

Naturally, a mandom who I had met once before approached me afterwards (I swear to God I attract mandoms like motherfucking flies), and asked me another ten times (just like the previous ten times) how I identified (he conveniently forgets, it seems).

“I’m a dom.”

“What? Sorry? I can’t hear you.”

“I’m dominant.”

“What? Oh.”

In his stereotyped little brain, probably like many other people in the audience, the fact that I was being flogged meant I just couldn’t be dominant. At the very least I had to be a switch, cuz obviously, doms don’t get flogged. Doms can’t be masochists. Subs can’t be sadists. Oh no! Kinky iconoclasm!

But, well, Axe’s post just made me think, and then the mandom who really wanted me to be a sub annoyed me, but I don’t really have anything else to talk about on the subject for now. Oh well.

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