Honorifics in the BDSM community are a controversial topic, with many differing ideas regarding how submissives should address dominants. This is largely because until recent years, the community was a secret and closed one, with strict protocols on honorifics. Master or Mistress was a title somebody had to earn through a long apprenticeship, but submissives were always required to address dominants by some form of respectful title, such as Sir or Ma’am.
However, with the explosion of interest in kink over the last decade—especially as an online phenomenon—many of these traditions are seen as somewhat old school and restrictive. These days, many submissives refuse to use honorifics for anyone other than the dominant they’re in a close relationship with, or those who have earned their respect. Similarly, dominants might also require submissives to earn the right to call them by a certain title.
All of this presents a challenge when writing modern-day BDSM. How traditional are the players? Do they use titles 24/7 or just in the bedroom? Do you have to capitalise honorifics? (short answer: let your publisher decide!) And just how silly are some of those titles, anyway?
Screwing the System is a novel that grew out of a short story written for the Goodreads MM Romance Group’s Love is Always Write event. This was inspired a reader’s prompt which specifically used the term “Daddy” to refer to the dominant partner in the relationship. I’d read other books using this honorific and had no problem with it myself. While I can understand why people might find it disturbingly incestuous, to me it symbolises a more nurturing role for the dominant. Perhaps it helps that I haven’t called my own father “Daddy” since I was tiny!
When turning the short story into a novel, however, I decided to lose the Daddy honorific. I didn’t want to put readers off a story they might otherwise enjoy because of one tiny little word (which wasn’t used all that often anyway). That left me in a real quandary, though. Cosmo is a rebellious sub and refuses to use terms like Sir, Master or Lord, so I knew these were out. What did that leave me with, then?
There are a whole wealth of less common honorifics out there, used less as official titles and more as terms of endearment. Anything that conveys some kind of position of authority works well: Chief, Mister, Commander, Captain, Emperor, Duke, Majesty, Supreme Commander of My Orgasmic Universe… okay, that last one might be a bit much. I do like Emperor Spanky-hands, though
In the end I realised that I already had a perfectly suitable honorific for Alasdair already in the story, and despite Cosmo using it in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion, it worked for both of them. I won’t tell you what I chose—you’ll have to read the story to find out!
Could you ever call someone Sir, Master, Ma’am or Mistress while keeping a straight face? And can you come up with any more suitable (or silly) alternative honorifics?
Comment to win! Jo is offering a choice of a book from her backlist to one lucky commenter on this post, and all commenters throughout the blog tour will also be entered into a draw for the grand prize of a handmade suede flogger, to be announced on 25th February.
Also, watch out for the Valentine’s follow-up short story, Screw the Fags. To be available as a free download from Smashwords and All Romance eBooks on Thursday 14th February!
Screwing the System
Forced to apply for a job he doesn’t want, Cosmo Rawlins has only one aim in mind: fail the interview and get back to making music. Except his attempt to shock the older, sharp-suited Alasdair Grant doesn’t have the desired effect.
Instead of getting thrown out of the office by flaunting an interest in BDSM, Cosmo finds himself on his knees, apologizing to the sexy, good-looking Top.
Alasdair has more important things on his mind than training a novice sub, especially a rebellious bad boy like Cosmo. But there’s something beneath the younger man’s defiant attitude that’s too intriguing to ignore.
As Alasdair takes Cosmo in hand—and for a wild ride on his Harley—he becomes obsessed with bending the young rocker to his will, both in and out of bed. Until he goes one demand too far, and Cosmo is gone in a cloud of dust. Forcing Alasdair to admit that earning Cosmo’s loyalty—and love—will involve the toughest challenge he’s ever faced.
Warning: This title contains an overbearing Top with a less-than-glamorous job, a rebellious brat who refuses to call him sir, and a total lack of high-end BDSM clubs or playrooms. Expect floggings over the kitchen table instead.
About the author:
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com