“What’s in a Name?” – All About Honorifics

“They call me Hell, they call me Stacey

They call me Her, they call me Jane

That’s not my name

They call me quiet, but I’m a riot

Mary Jo Lisa, always the same

That’s not my name”

–The Ting Tings, “That’s Not My Name”

Hey, my kinky, polyam peeps! Welcome back for what I hope is another great blog post! Before I start, I want to say “Congratulations!” to Vixen for receiving her Consideration Collar from her Dominant!

You’re more than useful, love, you’re AMAZING!!!

I told her last week that, even though I’m a submissive, even though I’m polyam, I can’t help but feel a little jealous. I told her that I recognize it makes no sense. My relationship with Vixen is unique in that we don’t have a BDSM dynamic and I haven’t been with her for eighteen years like I have with Panda, so her having a new Dominant is something I’m adjusting to. I’m mentioning all this to prove to you that no matter how confident you think you are in your relationships, jealousy is a normal thing that we all will face at some point in our lives.

It was actually Vixen’s idea that I write this blog post (If you haven’t noticed by now, 90% of my material is ideas stolen from other people, which I just repurpose for my own means. Think of me as your “Eco-friendly” blogger. I upcycle content). I absolutely hate writing about things that I don’t know because I’m always afraid I’m going to speak out of turn since I’m not the expert. With that said, everything you’re gonna see in this post is someone else’s opinion. If I provide incorrect information, PLEASE call me on it, and I will point out to you the person who gave me that information so you can take your frustration out on them.

So, as usual, before I get started, time for the resource dump. In addition to Vixen’s wide-ranging knowledge, I pulled information for this blog post from this article by fellow WordPress Blogger Maeve, this article from Kayla Lords on Submissive Guide, one of my FAVORITE sites for submissive education, this piece by Domina Chase, and finally, the protocols entry on BDSMWiki.

So what exactly are honorifics? Well, simply put, they are a “word or expression with connotations conveying esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person.” You’ve probably been using honorifics your whole life and never realized it. When you refer to an adult as “Sir” or “Ma’am”, that’s an honorific. When royalty is referred to as “Your Highness” or “Your Grace”, that’s an honorific. When the military addresses soliders by rank of “Commander” or “Captain”, that’s an honorific. An honorific is simply any term used to assign a certain level of formality and respect.

In the BDSM community, honorifics function essentially in the same manner. They are used as titles to convey respect. While we often see honorifics used towards dominants (since they are generally the top in the scene) honorifics can be used for Submissives as well. Much like a sub needs to show respect to their dom, a dom needs to show an equal amount of respect to their sub.

A honorific can be anything you and your partner decide on. There’s no specific list of what is considered an honorific, however there are quite a few common honorifics that are used in the community. For Dominants, these include:

  • Boss
  • Daddy/Mommy
  • Dom/me
  • Goddess
  • Governor/Governess
  • Headmaster/Headmistress
  • Lady/Lord
  • Master/Mistress
  • Mr./Miss/Mrs./Mx
  • Sir/Ma’am

For Submissives, common honorifics include:

  • Baby/Babygirl/Babyboy
  • Bitch
  • Boy/Girl
  • Doll
  • Kitten
  • Pet
  • Pig
  • Princess
  • Slave
  • Stud
  • Toy

I’d like to point out that there’s a difference between an honorific and a “pet name”. While many of the terms listed above can be used as both (technically, any term of endearment you and your partner choose can be used as either an honorific or pet name), honorifics are used in the BDSM context, while pet names can be used more universally. For instance, while Penguin calls me “Kitten”, and Bunny calls me “Kitty Cat”, they use these term outside of our dynamic as my polyamourous partners, not as my Dommes. It’s no different than a monogamous, vanilla couple calling each other “Sweetie”, or “Baby”.

So why exactly do we use honorifics? I’ve said numerous times that BDSM is in many ways a form of theatre. It’s role play in which we take on certain character traits used to explore our specific desires. In that sense, an honorific is no different than the name of the character that you are playing. Not only does it set the scene for those around you, more importantly, it puts participants in a head space to properly play out those roles. Furthermore, honorifics can be a kink unto themselves. If someone has a praise kink, phrases like “good girl” or “good boy” can get the endorphins flowing. Likewise, with a degradation kink, an honorific like “my dirty little slut” can have the same effect.

So when exactly should we be using honorifics? Obviously, honorifics should not be used towards your partner without their consent. Calling someone by a name or term that makes them feel uncomfortable, no matter how cutesy it sounds, isn’t cool. The one exception to this would be something like a bratting dynamic. For instance, mid-scene, I have a tendency to refer to Penguin as “Mom” (which ironically, is an honorific she uses in her other dynamics, just not ours) as a way to draw her ire. The reason this is an exception is because I’ve already gained her consent to the bratting behavior, and this is just an extension of that. If we didn’t have that brat/brat tamer, or some sort of mommy dom/little boy dynamic, using that honorific with her would be inappropriate.

Once consent has been garnered, there’s really no right or wrong time to use an honorific between you and your partner. For those in 24/7 dynamics, it’s not uncommon for honorifics to be used in every setting. I’ve seen many subs use the term “sir” in vanilla settings because that’s what their dynamic dictates. Others choose only to use honorifics in certain spaces or during a scene. While I don’t use honorifics myself (because it clashes with the whole “brats get to show disrespect” dynamic), I imagine that if I ever would, it would be an “in-scene only” thing for me. While BDSM is a big part of my life, unlike polyam, it doesn’t encompass my entire identity. I see my Dommes as my partners first, and my Dommes second. BDSM is something we do, but it doesn’t entirely define our relationship.

One last point I would like to touch on before closing out this post would be the idea of using honorifics outside of your dynamic. I debated even bringing this up, however, I do pride myself on bringing to light every side of the issue, even if they are unpopular. There’s a general consensus in the kink community that honorifics need to be earned. For someone to demand to be called “Sir” without having an established dynamic, or for a sub to use that phrase with a dom they just met is seen as a major faux pas and trivializes the meaning by the word. Maeve mentions in their blog post that she supports the idea of subs using honorifics with doms who are not in their dynamic. After asking around with several of my resources, I discovered this is quite an unpopular opinion. As I previously stated “Sir” is not a general term of respect, but rather an intimate one that should not be thrown around in casual conversation. Likewise, if you’re ever cruising profiles on sites like FetLife and a dom states that “You must call me Sir/Master”, run. Don’t walk, run. Any dom that demands honorifics without even taking the time understand the needs of the sub is clearly putting their own ego first, and that is not going to end well.

That wraps it up for this entry. HUGE play party tonight with Penguin, Panda, and Kitty Kinz, so needless to say, I am QUITE excited. Stay tuned as I have a great article on Polyamory and the Matriarchy coming up next.

So until next time, stay kinky, my friends…

–The Bratty Cat

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