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“No thank you, Ma’am.”

Sunday, November 27th, 2011 by
A few months ago, I wrote the following on my fetlife profile:

A bit of a rant about titles and honorifics

Sometimes, when I’m dealing with random passers-by on fetlife, I kind of feel like Carl from UP. (I AM NOT YOUR MASTER.)
I say right there at the bottom of my profile that I don’t like it when strangers address me as “Mistress” or “Ma’am” or “Miss” or “Goddess” or any other silly awkward title when they write to me. It’s even in bold. For, you know, emphasis. To show people that hey, if you’re contacting me out of the blue, here is something you might want to read first.
And yet people do it anyways.
When you write me a message out of the blue and address me as one of the former terms, it shows me that either:
a. You are too lazy to read my profile (in which case I have no use for you)
b. You are too stupid to understand simple instructions or basic courtesy (in which case I have no use for you)
or
c. You’re not actually interested in getting to know me.  You have some libido-induced idea of what a dominant woman should be like, you see the sexy photo on my profile paired with “25 FEM DOM,” and suddenly the blood is rapidly diverted to your genitalia, the unfortunate side-effect of which being that that blood was, in fact, diverted from your brain, the result of which is that you mistake me for pornography and you are then surprised when I’m not, in fact, interested in fulfilling your fantasies and I turn out to be a real person with my own desires.

In which case?

I HAVE NO USE FOR YOU.

I’m not anyone’s Mistress. I like being called “ma’am” in the right situations, but only when I’ve earned it. Otherwise it just feels fake. And here’s the thing about honorifics–while they ostensibly confer respect or honor, using them when it hasn’t been warranted, completely devalues them and, in fact, negates the intended effect.

So unless I have you with your hands tied to my bed, making lovely and horrible noises, while I straddle you and whisper sweetly into your ear…

Don’t fucking call me ma’am.

Random people I don’t know calling me “ma’am” or “mistress” over the internet has almost completely killed the erocitism of those words for me.  I don’t like it.  It’s not consensual.  It is the equivalent of taking a picture of a dominatrix stereotype and pasting a cut-out picture of my head on it.  It’s people trying to submit to me without any domination.

I have other issues with these words too.  They are way too gendered for my liking, and “mistress” has another meaning, one which is undeniably negative at that.

So hearing these words in reference to me, which used to send a little thrill down into my very core, is something I can no longer stomach.

But this has never been an issue.  I mean, I’m the dominant, so I get to be the one making the decisions, right?  I tell people what to call me, and that’s what they call me.  It’s never been an issue, up until now.

For a few months now, I’ve been dating a submissive man who is relatively new to the scene.  He has a surprisingly little amount of damage.  He doesn’t feel the same way I do about those words.  In fact, he likes them.  And, I want to take his preferences into account when we play (not only because I want to be considerate but because I like being able to push his buttons.)  And likewise, he wants to be the one to bend to my will, but at the same time, he cannot deny how much erotic power those words hold for him.  His reasoning is that the words sound sexy and that their meaning and association shouldn’t be limiting, because words can mean anything you want them to mean.

It is a complicated struggle between me, and the words.

Thanks to the BDSM scene, I no longer like the things I used to.  In certain ways, because of the BDSM scene that I can no longer enjoy this aspect of BDSM.

That is very sad.

There are some people who have such a strong aversion to the word “submissive” that they don’t even identify with it any more.  That’s how the words that are supposed to connote respect and affection are starting to feel to me.

I’m dominant.  It doesn’t mean I always know the right thing to do.  I’m faced with a crossroads here.  I feel I have two options.  I can take the words back, reclaim them, use them with defiance.  Or I can find new words to use instead.  The latter appeals more to me.  I enjoy creativity, and coming up with something new seems fun.  But part of me wants to revel in them with my boy toy, and take enjoyment from his untarnished view of D/s, and see if I can learn to forget the stain of bitterness that the scene has left on mine.

11 Responses to ““No thank you, Ma’am.””

  1. Asanisimasa says:

    Very, very awesome.

  2. Aurora says:

    I feel the same way about these words. I know you and I have had discussions about this, but I feel compelled to add my 2 cents. There is one single honorific that I go by on a regular basis and allow any one to call me. Although this word does not Push my pleasure button, it gets my attention enough to know someone is indeed being respectful of me.

    On the flip side, Boy and I have agreed on a single word HE may call me alone. We decided on it together and it is something not used often in the scene so it still makes me shiver. Only those who have my collar are allowed to place this honorific on me and I hold that one single title proud.
    I know you will find something that will work for you and your boy. I have to say we are a lot alike in many ways my dear friend. I miss you!

    • Professor Chaos says:

      Thanks for commenting! I miss you too!

      That seems like a very good solution. I like that you have a mutuality with the title and the collar.

  3. nell says:

    Every time I’ve either witnessed or been subject to non-consensual submission, it’s always left a bad taste in my mouth and further discourages me from hanging out in those kinds of spaces. I can only imagine what it’s like for someone who actually identifies as a dominant!

    I’ve often wondered about how much I should try to educate someone who approaches me like this on the inappropriateness of their behavior, versus whether I should just extricate myself from this scene I’ve not agreed to partake in as quickly as possible. I’ve so far always picked the latter.

    • Fizz says:

      “Non-consensual submission” is an interesting term for something that Chaos and I have discussed before offline. I mean, obviously it includes what she’s writing about here, but it also came up in the context of someone who would submit within an already-existing sexual relationship without discussing it first. To us it was nonconsensual BDSM, but the friend we were talking to didn’t see how it was anything different from just being a bad lay. We never did manage to articulate the difference; if I figure out how, I might write a post about it.

      • FFL says:

        If I may try to articulate the difference…

        In a trusting relationship where partners have established certain boundaries and comfort levels with one another, many couples come to an understanding that one partner initiating sex or sexual activity without explicit consent is OK, so long as they stop when their partner says “no.”

        If one considers submission (verbal or physical) to be a kind of sexual activity, then attempting to initiate it with a trusted, long-term partner with whom one has agreed that initiating sexual activity is OK… is OK, until the partner says “no.”

        Initiating submission with a stranger, on the other hand, is non-consensual since there is no established trust and understanding, and no agreed-on parameter about what is OK to initiate.

        Doing something like this in email format is even worse, since the person is clearly not listening for a possible “no.” If you meet someone at a play party and address her as “Mistress” or “Ma’am,” she can correct you. If you do so in an email, especially if it is a long email that rambles on about how much you want to worship her and lick her boots and whatnot, you’re making way too many assumptions and not giving the person a chance to correct you. At that point, you’re just writing yourself a fantasy and pasting a cut-out picture into it.

        Hope I’m not making too many assumptions here myself! I’ve never been a FemDom or a woman at all, so I can’t know from firsthand experience.

        • Fizz says:

          I agree with you, but that’s not the difference I was referring to; I meant between unagreed-upon submission and being, as my friend put it, a bad lay. I think the key is the expectation of me, though: if you’re just passive in bed because you’re lazy, that doesn’t come with any particular demand, but if you’re trying to submit to me, you’re asking me to dominate you, and I may or may not be okay with that and definitely need to talk about it out of role first.

  4. Chris O'Sullivan says:

    I think this is a result of premature role entry, kind of like acting the role of Hamlet without context, the conduct is annoying and I tend to fall back onto a friend’s humorous response.

    “Being a lofty and twu [insert contextual role here] I hereby command you to henceforth refer to me by the honorable title of [insert actual preferred name or pseudonym here,] so be it.”(paraphrase, no attribution)

    On occasion I might do a bad Elmer Fud, Sean Connery or Warf voice, but if I’m being kind I’ll speak softly and then explain that roleplay is for play and I’m not playing with someone unless I know and like a person that way.

    I find it annoying but I don’t find it violating because I have hardly ever eroticized honorifics, indeed I have a hard time saying or hearing “sir” without overlaying sarcasm onto the term, something I have to watch. My former higher ranked comrades in the military might have, on occasion found my “sir’s” a bit lackluster.

    When someone abuses a term or conduct to attempt to manage a situation it presses buttons differently with different people. I find it annoying because it assumes a relationship that isn’t there. If I found the conduct erotic and very personal I’d feel much differently. I’d feel pushed into a sexually charged situation by a stranger or acquaintance with no permission. It’s no wonder that your emotional reaction to being submitted to without negotiation is similar mine at having a stranger stroke my crotch. I’d be offended and after it happened over and over in a particular setting I would avoid that setting. In addition it might become neutral to negative if even someone I were interested in did the same thing unexpectedly. I’d have to overcome a defensive reaction in order to relax again and then I’d be angry that I had to overcome the emotional armor I’d built up regarding that action. That would be yicky.

  5. Stabbity says:

    It is the equivalent of taking a picture of a dominatrix stereotype and pasting a cut-out picture of my head on it.

    Exactly! It’s not sexy, it’s not flattering, and it’s certainly not submission.

    Like Aurora, I also have a title that only my boyfriend gets to call me. We thought it up together, which involved a lot of me vetoing suggestions. It’s actually kind of funny to me that people still find the word Mistress sexy. It’s so tainted for me that I can only use it in a joking context – my boyfriend only ever calls me Mistress to tease me.

  6. FFL says:

    Thank you for another wonderful post, Professor Chaos!

  7. [...] and I found myself adding it to my Google Reader not even having finished reading the first post, a little rant about the way people use titles (Sir, Madam, etc) in the kink community – which gives you a hint of what you might find [...]

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