Topologies

This thing of ours: more terminology

Posted in identity, political theory by Delilah Wood on December 1, 2009

Ivy and Cal have already chimed in on the terminology parade, so after some reading and thought I figured I’d take a stab at it.

Dominatrix. Domina. Domme. Goddess. Mistress. Princess. Lady. Maitresse. As a pro-domme, I’ve gone through a love-hate relationship with them all.

I really appreciate Ivy’s point that a lot of it depends on who you’re playing with: if someone just decides that they’re going to call me Mistress, it tends to turn me right off. From time to time in sessions, though, I would tell people to call me Mistress – usually in order to have an excuse to slap them if they forgot. I don’t love the term on its own: the meanings that arise for me include “adulterous female partner” and “lame feminine cognate for Master, as of lands and/or slaves.” Both strike me as archaic and referring to some strange feminine mystery in which I don’t care to participate.

Nothing quite overblows that feminine mystery thing, though, like “Goddess.” I never could stand being called Goddess – especially by people who just decided that’s what they would call me without asking my preference. Bah.

Variations on the “dom” root tend to be more self-applied than what one is called during a scene: I chose “Domme” because I liked how it went with “Delilah,” and because I didn’t want to be called “Mistress” like everyone else. Nobody ever called me “Domme”; it just sounds silly.

So that leaves the two questions still open: how do I think of myself when defining my sexuality, and how do I like to be referred to?

Mostly, when I’m approached by strangers, I’d prefer to be referred to by my name. I enjoy basic respect, not overblown pedestalizing; I find the latter presumptuous and alienating.

Surprisingly enough to me, I’ve found that the term I like best during some scenes is “Ma’am.” It’s short, sweet, to the point, has the cultural weight of respect and deference behind it. But mostly, being named during a scene doesn’t have that much power for me. Five things I’d sooner hear out of a submissive’s mouth during a scene than “Mistress” include: “please…” “ow, fuck!” “nonononono!” “fuck me,” “god, yes…” The list goes on, but even more than the words are the sounds, and even better than the sounds are the looks in the eyes: the fear, the desire, the adoration.

So the short answer for all of that is that I’ve found it’s not that important to me what you call me: depending on the context I’ve enjoyed “Lover,” “My love,” “Ma’am,” “Mistress,” and so on.

But what do I call this thing I do?

I called myself a “domme” for enough years that I refer to what I did as being a “pro-domme” rather than a “dominatrix,” though more people know what that means. While, like Ivy, I kind of like the word “dominatrix;” like Cal, I don’t like how the word others female dominants, and I don’t like what the word refers to: that cartoonish image of the hired female dominant. I find it as strange and pretentious to refer to myself as a dominatrix in a non-pro scene context as I find it for men to refer to themselves as Sir Thumpalot or Lord Wankmeoff at BDSM gatherings.

The word I use most often for myself is Switch, since that most accurately reflects my true sexuality. Topping or bottoming is more something that I do than something that I am, and so much of it – and here’s the key for me – depends on the relationship. My labeling system, as a bi poly switch, is by nature chameleonic: though all of my selves are authentic, who I am depends on who I’m with. My struggle, as a pro domme, was pushing up against the boundaries of who I didn’t want to be: I’m good enough at being what others want that I had to draw the line when it came to whom I’d play with.

I should touch on another place my favorite terminology tends to come from, and that’s the gay leather scene. I don’t do ageplay, but I love playing with a Daddy in the leather sense. On some very special days I’m a boy. I love the word Master and the word Sir and it turns me on whenever someone calls a woman “Sir” on Battlestar Gallactica. My absolute favorite porn book is The Leather Daddy and the Femme, and interestingly, my least favorite part of that book is the part where the Femme is given over to a classic dominatrix for training. I adore the second chapter, however, where the Femme fucks the Daddy in the shower. Go figure.

Words, words, words. It’s complicated. Call me Delilah. I’m a switch, and if you smell right to me, I may want to hurt you. How’s that?