Slut, whore, cunt, bitch—what do these words have in common? If your answer is “degrading terms typically used to describe women,” you’d be correct. But if you said “names that Mimsy likes to be called in bed,” you’d also be right. So how is it that words I find highly offensive outside the bedroom are unbelievably hot in it? Welcome to the world of erotic humiliation.
Taboo as a Turn-On
Before I identified as a submissive, or even as a kinky person, I knew I liked dirty talk—specifically that which played with taboo and the contrast between expectation and reality. I privately reveled in the idea that I was a “lady in the streets but a freak in the sheets.” I had spent years feeling trapped in a goody-two-shoes persona of my own making: I didn’t start having sex until I was in my 20s; I wasn’t much of a partier; I was introverted and loved to read. Despite liking sex, I often had difficulty thinking of myself as sexually desirable and was overly anxious about contracting STIs. In short, the idea that anyone would actually consider me to be a whore or a slut in real life was laughable, which is precisely why it was such a turn-on for me in bed. It gave me the opportunity to be someone else—someone who was completely comfortable desiring others and being desired.
Although I understood why I liked this sort of dirty talk, this knowledge didn’t prevent me from feeling some feminist shame about it. After all, wasn’t I supposed to find such derogatory words horrifying? It wasn’t until I became more kink aware and began learning about the ins and outs of erotic humiliation that I fully embraced this side of myself. In her book Enough to Make You Blush: Exploring Erotic Humiliation, Princess Kali says, “there is a huge difference between shame and erotic humiliation of any level: Non-erotic shame is about leaving you feeling less-than. Erotic humiliation is intended to build you up—to leave you satisfied, and ultimately more empowered than when you started.” Consent is key to making this distinction. In giving someone permission to call me a slut, whore, or cunt I’m reclaiming those words and allowing myself to feel sexy and transgressive in a safe way.
The Art of Erotic Humiliation
Of course, the art of erotic humiliation is exactly that—an art. There’s a fine line between humiliating and wounding, which is why it was never something I engaged in during casual hook-ups, only with people who knew me well. Even then, there were times when the level of trust needed to engage in this kind of play wasn’t where it should have been, and humiliation veered into degradation that left me feeling worthless and small. Those experiences did show me where my hard limits were, though (anything that makes me feel subhuman), and made me realize that I need to be sure the person I’m playing with isn’t actually a misogynist in real life.
When Vagabond and I started dating, he had less experience with erotic slut shaming than I did and expressed some hesitation about jumping into it. Because I was asking him to say misogynistic things that he didn’t believe, he thought it was important to figure out how to use the language in a way that felt true to him while still being hot for me. Over time he’s done this by making me his whore or his slut. This subtle shift makes a big difference. Suddenly, the words aren’t about my behavior at large, but my behavior with him. This also fits our D/s dynamic well since as the sub, I love feeling owned.
While our dirty talk game was pretty solid once we got going, we really got into a groove after attending a kink convention where we went to a slut shaming class taught by Princess Kali, the premier authority on humiliation in the BDSM world. She made the critical point that erotic humiliation isn’t just about bringing someone down; it’s also about raising them back up again. This last part is what was missing from the failed attempts at humiliation I’d experienced in the past—I’d been brought down and left there. While bringing someone back up can certainly happen as part of aftercare, it can occur in the moment as well. One of Vagabond’s favorite things to say to me is, “You’re such a fucking whore.” (That’s the humiliation.) “Only a whore like you could make me feel this good.” (Then he brings me back up by complimenting me in the context of the humiliation.) It’s amazing how these few words push all the right buttons for me: they make me feel slutty, sexy, dirty, humiliated, and deeply appreciated all at the same time.
Trust and Growth
I anticipate that our humiliation play will continue to change and grow in the course of our relationship because we have a deep foundation of trust to build upon. As Princess Kali points out, “the context of affection and support is a linchpin” of healthy humiliation play. Knowing that we love and respect each other as equals gives us the freedom to dive deeper into humiliation without fearing negative repercussions. Lately, I’ve expressed an interest in expanding the slut shaming to incorporate a public element—the idea that everyone knows I’m a slut. To make this fit inside a framework that resonates for both of us, Vagabond puts an ownership spin on it (i.e., “Everyone at that party could tell that you’re my whore”). For his part, even though Vagabond is dominant, he’s confessed that he’s fantasized about being on the receiving end of a particular kind of humiliation that involves me antagonizing him and challenging his ability to dom me effectively. As with many of our kinky activities, it feels like we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of erotic humiliation, and the best is yet to come.