Empress of All Space and Time

» BDSM, D/s, S&M: Speculations

Word, titles and power exchange: a topic I’ve been helplessly drawn to since I started this site.

Living in the Post-Postmodern 21st century we’re all too aware of the false assumptions that cling to words. Language seems tainted by commerce and blemished by banality.

We don’t want our kink life - our sex life - corrupted by the seemingly inescapable implications hidden in terms and honorifics.

OK, some people aren’t. Though if you are literate and analytical it doesn’t seem possible to not be put off by the unwelcome associations. But if you are happy to be called subbie cutie pie or the Empress of Ecstasy … well - I’m not talking to you.

The issue of honorifics if you use them to distinguish scene space from the rest of your life or you just plain want to be addressed by something other than your legal name can seem insoluble.

Recent discussions of D/s honorifics made me wonder:

  • Do some people just use a different name? Jay becomes Jason (or Fred for that matter).
  • Do some tops have the bottom address them simply as Ms. RealLastName?
  • Some obscure character from myth or legend? (Really obscure, not somebody from Star Wars / Trek!)

Perhaps some - like Ms. Reciprocity - adopt a quality they value as a role name.

I can’t recall whom but I know one woman said something about being addressed by a Japanese word of respect.

One of the more interesting titles I remember seeing was Trainer. People will call someone their Owner, but ever as a title?

Ideally you create your own private vocabulary just as you create your own style of living.

Given sufficiently imaginative force of will perhaps some words can be shorn of the dross.

On Fetish Lore: “Mistress”

On Femdom Blogs: Goddess, Lady, Ma’am, Mistress?

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Comments

The history and etymology of “mistress” deserves more investigation.

I believe it was used in the past for women of a higher social standing, originally, and I suspect it was commonly used for brothel madams. I don’t know when it was used to refer to a man’s extramarital lover.

I think the use of titles in BDSM is part of a tradition of people in subcultures granting themselves titles in mockery of established authority.

I have a faint impression that it was used in Elizabethan, Jacobean plays as a title for a pompous woman. I’ve always tended to assume that at some point it was the same as “Mrs.”

titles in mockery

I wish I felt that kinky people had that much humor and irony. But this whole honorifics business seems too often be taken with tedious earnestness.

This entry is still playing through my mind:

1 - Ms. LastName

2 - Ms. PersonalQuality

3 - “Owner”

All resonate in different ways in my imagination.

2 Seems like an interesting idea but I can easily imagine it fizzling.

3 - might be hot only in fantasy.

Still it is fun to let my imagination play with possibilities.

(“Language is a cruel mistress.”)

Beginning with Latin (always a good place to start any language discussion), “Domina” literally means “the lady of the house,” in the sense of “domestic boss.” (“Domine” is Biblical Latin for “Lord,” as in deity, and “Domina” is simply the feminine.) So that’s a good title.

“Mistress” is a feminine of “Mister,” which can be understood as “lord,” “sir,” or any number of similar terms. Until the 19th century, it was used as a title for any woman, single or married. It came to mean the female owner of a pet in the 19th century, and as a translation of the old Latin “domina,” the female in charge of a household, and hence of the servants (or slaves) working in that household.

“Mistress” as a euphemism for “kept woman” is fairly recent, apparently a matter of finding a word to fit a vacant place in Victorian vocabulary. It is this meaning that seems to bother most people in the Woman Worship scene today. A century ago, it clearly meant that she was there for his use, an unofficial employee, as it were, at his command.

Clearly, that will not do here! The significance we want is that of the Lady and Her servant, the Owner and Her dog. As long as both understand that is the exclusive and exact meaning, there is no problem. If others outside the relationship do not use the term that way, we have a problem. Solve it either by excluding them (keeping the FLR confidential) or change to a term that will not be understood.

What term, then? “Lady” implies a “Lord.” “Madam[e]” reminds us of the euphemism for a brothel owner, which leads back to the male-dominant model. “Domina” may require conversation in Latin only [;-D]. “Madonna” is confusing, “Maitresse” good if you have some French, and “Herrin” if German is part of your linguistic landscape.

“Ma’am” (a contraction of Madam) works well, except that it brings back memories of school days to some. (That may be just right, though, for many of us.)

Keeping the relationship private solves many problems; private may mean behind the bedroom door (and maybe in the basement!), or it may mean in the company of others who are in the scene. There you can do as you like, and it’s nobody else’s business.

In the end, that may be the best way to handle the whole thing: privately.

Your feelings?

Please share your feelings about Empress of All Space and Time. Please stick to the topic of the entry. Forthright disagreement is fine as long as it is civil.
My thanks,
Richard


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