A while back, after my homily on Dangerous Rope at the DC GrUE, I found this message from Raven1st in my Fetlife inbox. I’ve redacted and edited, but I think you’ll get the gist:
In a discussion about keeping our own personal relationships with our partners exciting, significant, personal, intense, private (even in a room full of our fellows), then WHY was it never mentioned that the nomenclature we use almost defies that?
It’s called a play-date…not a date. The word “play-date” connotes “fun”…”no strings attached”…it’s just play, nothing serious. Even if you thought I was serious about you, we’re just playing here. No sex, no “connection”, just hedonistic pleasure…I have nothing against pleasure. But on the few…very very few occasions where I was hoping that it MIGHT lead to something, I had a little gripe with that word. I was aware of its subliminal power.
It’s called a scene…not an Erotic Episode or a Sensual Interlude. It’s named in such a way as to suggest that “this thing from moment A to moment Z is a thing where we’ll perform whatever actions and take on whatever emotions are appropriate for two (or three or …seven) people in this situation, and will come away from those emotions post-Z… It seems to say…this moment exists in a bubble, and once we step away from it, the bubble is broken, and we’re back in the real world. Leave the emotions behind
It’s called a toy bag. Okay. No argument. That’s fucking cool. And the only other name I could come up with if I tried would be Sexual Arsenal, or Amore Ammunition, or eh…screw it…I like Toy Bag.
Top & Bottom…those are terms for quarks. sigh
This one had me stumped.
As I wrote in the Dangerous Rope piece, I agree with her. I agree with Lee Harrington that we need to get the shadows back. But I also agree with my friend up there who points out that as long as it’s a “toy bag” and a “play partner” it’s going to be hard to reach those depths of meaning. If my doing an intro-to-flogging experience with someone I just met is labeled with the same word as the scary mind-blowing needle scene I just did with my lover of years, how can I differentiate. I personally fall into the category of linguiphiles that believes that words contain power in shaping how we think and value things; it’s important to me that words either mean what they say or that they are a basis for further conversation, not the end of it.
But the question had me stumped. I did think that perhaps “ritual” was on the right track, but there are so many religious and spiritual associations with it that it didn’t seem quite right…not for me, anyway.
On the first leg of my journey out here to Pittsburgh, I spent an evening in the home of my friends Edward Dain, Sekhmet Dancing, and Keris. They are, among other things, some of the hottest sapiosexual kinksters I know. If I locked them in a room with Midori, Andrea Zanin, Lee Harrington, Ateavey, and Franklin Veaux for a weekend, I’m convinced the resulting ideas would advance the sexual maturity level of humanity by at least a decade. Either that, or the hidden cameras would have some of the hottest porn since Tristan Taormino’s Chemistry.
So I posited the question to them. Keris spoke up first. “Not toys, tools,” she said. “And it’s not play, it’s work.” Seeing my expression of distaste, she clarified. “That is, Work. With a capital W. It comes from the Leather Scene, actually.”
When she capitalized the W, I liked it better. And it resonated, not entirely, but in a way that seemed to lead off in other directions that I’d not thought of before. For me, with my performing arts background, Work is not something that you do as a “job”, it is a vocation. It is a creative enterprise, it is pouring your soul into something – music, a play, a book – to create a thing of awesome and terrible beauty. I like this; it gives me a way to differentiate from a “play date” from a “scene” from a “Work.”
But I’m not sure that vocabulary would be appropriate or fit, and so we continued to play with ideas. Edward Dain brought up the idea of “instruments”, for example, in lieu of toys, and how that works with so many metaphorical models: music, medicine, strategy, science… Sekhmet and I also liked the word “Gear” instead of “toys”, probably due to a shared military background.
DoNotGoGently suggested “pilgrimage”, which didn’t work for me right away (again, that kneejerk resistance to religion) but it led me to the idea of the “Way” in the Taoist sense. The Ordeal Path, the Road of Sorrows, the Gauntlet, the Journey. That also resonated with me, in the idea of “Will you join me on the Path?” It’s not a “scene” with everything ending – it’s more like an exploration further along some realm of identity and consciousness that can be shared by the individuals involved.
I’m still letting it percolate; I don’t like getting too Deep Into Woo for fear of becoming more enamored of the trappings and losing the meaning. But I’d like to propose a puzzle for you, a way to open this conversation for others to spin off and enjoy. I’m hoping we’ll find silliness and profundity and profanity and perversion in the exercise, just like we tend to find in any human interaction.
The Exercise (to be completed in the comments) is to fill in the blanks
“I _______ my _______ when I ______.”
So, to use the examples from above, and then some:
- I sharpen my tools when I work.
- I practice my moves when I create my gestampkunstwerk.
- I focus my lens when I capture my image.
- I tune my instrument when I make music.
- I revel in my cock when I use my pretty fucktoy.
This is not a hard and fast exercise; there are no grades, and feel free to add or subtract. But if someone asks you, “What happens when you kink?” how can you answer that without using the words that we always use: toy, toybag, scene, play. Not that there’s anything wrong with those words; the Rope Bomb was some of the best “play” I’ve ever had, and that’s a perfect way to describe it.
But we are communicating here in a difficult language that doesn’t always say what we need it to (as proven by my lapse into German up there). So it will take a little work…let’s see what we come up with.
5 thoughts on “Eros by any other name…”
I connect with my partner when we explore together.
I enjoy my journey when I find something new.
I like where you are headed with this. I don’t play with with a lot of people and usually have something going on between us if I do. When I do, I am apt to say things like explore, have fun, spend time together. I may use play in there somewhere but really as a way of finding common terms.
Of course sometimes it is just play and I will call it that. Hmmm.
I like journey and exploration synonyms with the occasional experiment thrown in 🙂
Thanks for the post. I got here via fetlife status comment if you’re wondering.
I use my own body when I take down and physically dominate eager lusty wenches
I use my voice and imagination when I whisper words which conjure up a world of wet wonder in the mind of the one contorted into physical submission.
This may be a complete tangent, but I’ve been pondering Lee’s shadow post for awhile now and this concept of language in the scene for much longer than that and I’ve been wondering if the nomenclature issue is linked to what Skip Chasey called “internalized kinkaphobia.” In his workshop on grief at the last M/s Con he mentioned the resistance kinksters have around the concept that our interactions are as real, sacred and emotion-laden as vanilla ones. I think that resistance leads us to descriptors like “play-date” and “scene” and makes our minds a confused mess when we try to find nomenclature that matches the energy of our interactions.
But going back to the exercise:
My answer to “What happens when you kink?” I open myself to the possibility of radical intimacy.
For the objects I use during kink activities: toys, equipment, instruments, implements, tools, weapons, accoutrement, or simply calling them what they are, e.g. my rope (in my rope bag), my floggers. (Also: Kinkstruments?!?)
For the times I have with others while engaging in kink activity: experiences, adventures, encounters, rendezvous, play-dates, sessions, scenes, making love, enjoying each other’s company, etcetera.
The definitions and differentiations I have for those in my head are clear enough, but they also overlap left and right.
I have been a long standing fan of verbs helping out where nouns aren’t working out well enough. There are still general ones like scening or playing, but I’m talking about being specific like I was with my kink objects. I tied, flogged, submitted, ravished, was bitten, etcetera. That can get cumbersome in scenes with a lot going on though.
I explore my partners when we adventure. I utilize my accoutrement when I rendezvous with perverts.
I always liked Flagg/Soulhuntre/SirC’s term WIITWD — “What It Is That We Do.” Which, of course, is an admission of defeat in itself (how very Flagg, no?), to say within one’s own terminology that we can’t truly define it. But I think that gives it some depth and mystery, to say that perhaps WIITWD is so vast and potentially profound that we can’t quite name it. Of course, WIITWD can also include things like silliness, mistakes, fuck-ups, casualness, as well as intense connection, danger, emotional vulnerability, commitment, etc. I like it precisely because it implies that what we do has the potential to be anything, sometimes even without our conscious intent.