Language and Bubble Popping

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I identify as a submissive.

That is the very first line of my Fetlife profile, as to the point as I can possibly be. I do not say sexual submissive, I do not say bottom or switch. I say that I identify as a submissive.

Labels have power, and as much as we hate to admit it the world of BDSM is absolutely chock full of ’em.

submissive
Dominant
Top
bottom
Sir
sir
Master
Mistress
Ma’am
pet
brat
nonbinary
binary
secondary
primary
girlfriend
boyfriend
play partner
leather family
tribe
chosen

I could go on..and on..and on..

But if I did this entry would just be one long list and nothing explained, and that would be bad.

That being said, I am far from an expert when it comes to terms of ownership and how everyone should properly use them (honestly, there doesn’t seem to be one proper way, but that’s a whole other ball of wax). I am, however, very good at seeing the terms fumbled, and fumbling them myself.

What makes all these terms so messy is that every small orbit, every family, every clique or dungeon or group or sect or event has their own definitions for each one of these terms and what they mean to them. Every small clique of people I’ve seen uses these words in a slightly different way. That SLIGHT difference can cause a shit ton of drama if you’re drifting from one kink bubble into another.

A good example: When Cal and I first started speaking, he instructed me to call him Sir. Capital S, term of respect, proper noun to use as his name. I happily agreed to this. I knew nothing of other terms of ownership and language of the BDSM world at this point. I was green as green can be, and he was the center of my little BDSM orbit.

Enter into our dynamic Cal’s primary at the time. She had been bouncing around the Bay Area scene longer than I had been on the West Coast. Like Cal was trying to do with me, she was properly mentored, but by a hardcore Domme. She had her ways of communicating, her own kink language. To her, addressing someone as Sir was a term of respect earned. It bothered her that I used the term so half-haphazardly and automatically when addressing her Dom and boyfriend.

They were in a TPE (total power exchange) relationship, and she was as possessive and protective of him as he was of her. So, in talking to me, hearing me address her boyfriend as Sir, as if that was his name, bothered her a lot. From her perspective it was understandable, but I was following an order. I didn’t know what else to call him besides Sir. He calmed her, explained this to her, but she still had her issues with the conflicting languages. Certain things were embedded from way back when, when she was where I was at that moment. Green, new, absorbing everything and anything I could get my hands on that would set the foundation for how I navigated this new, kinky world.

This is my personal language, as it works in communicating with my friends in the San Francisco kink scene. It’s one person, in one bubble, in one community’s views. I identify a submissive as someone who gets pleasure from service, and from pleasuring others. It doesn’t always have to be naughty, kinky things. One of my favorite rituals thus far was having the opportunity to make Kane coffee in the morning and serve it to him to start his day. I enjoy cleaning up to make someone else’s life easier. I like doing dishes, as odd as that is to say. It makes me feel very zen.

I enjoy sexual service. I enjoy submission in the kinky sense, on my hands and knees, back arched, ass presented for use. I willingly give my body to those I trust to use for their pleasure, and I get pleasure and gratification in knowing that I’ve pleased others. But that is not why I label myself as a submissive.

I call myself a submissive before a bottom, a Little, a Furry, or any other fetish or label because I need to submit. I don’t want to. I need to. I am most content on my knees in service of someone I adore… The only term that comes first is “girlfriend” and that only goes to a primary for me (I know. I’m weird).

I am, personally, very big on showing respect in the language I use. It was instilled in me very early on that the use of capitalization of certain words helps in that. I was taught to capitalize the word Dominant in reference to any Dominant man in the kink scene, just as I was taught to reference submissive with a lowercase s (any time I reference any sort of D/s play, this capitalization comes into play). Capitalization, however, can be a land mine to walk into when talking to people from different kink groups. Some people reference capitalization Dominant with ownership. Ex: Dom James hit me with the cane at the party last weekend. It is assumed that Dom James is THEIR Dom, not just a Dom in the scene.

I am not one of those people, and I try to be aware that the language I use can trigger someone who is. For me, and for the community around me, there needs to be a “my” in front of the Dom to make that person mine, and mark him as the man who dominates me. I have also frequently heard the phrase “my Sir” used. I have played with many Dominant men in the scene, and will continue to show respect with that upper case D, but there is only one man that I have ever referenced as my Dom.

The only time that capital letter comes into play with ownership for me is the word sir. It slips out of my mouth when I’m in subby mode, even if it’s just a scene in a dungeon with a friend. It’s a term of respect for the people I serve, especially those I’ve played with more than once. It’s for Dominant men that I respect and have relationships with, even if they are very good friendships that extend into the dungeon and I’m not dating them. When I am in a submissive mindset, the man topping me is sir. However, the man that collared me is always referenced as Sir. Capital S, proper noun. I learned something from Cal’s primary a year ago. That capital S needs to be earned for me. Getting me to kneel at your feet is one thing. Getting me to stay there is something all together different.

I realize that not everyone uses the language and terminology I do in reference to the partners in their lives. As stated earlier, I don’t claim to be an expert on this. I am just sharing what is true for me, in my little kink community. I know there are others out there who use other words, other upper case letters, other phrases to explain relationships and interactions.

The one thing that I will stress as a truth in all this is the same thing I would stress as true in any dynamic of D/s or BDSM. Communication is absolute key. Please remember, dear readers, that almost every conflict is worth talking out. If you have an issue with language someone uses, pull them to the side and ask them about it. They may come from a different kink background than you do. They may have been taught that every man they play with is called Sir with a capital S and that anyone who puts a collar on them is Master. It doesn’t make them wrong. It makes them different from you and your group. They may come from a group where everyone is called a Top until they show their dominance, then they are referenced as Dominant, or they may be in a relationship where a submissive will only talk about her Dom using capital letters (He hit me with His new paddle, which W/we bought together at the Fetish Flea a month ago).

Wrong is not always wrong. It is just different. I challenge readers to expand their bubbles and learn other kink languages. Be open minded. Ask questions that will help prevent miscommunications and remember that everyone has their own path to walk. Each path has taken different twist and turn along the way and led people to learn different truths. They may not be your truths, but they are truths just the same, and they should be respected.

Yours walking her own path, as always

-Rena

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