Hi Captain Awkward!
So, my boyfriend is a masochist. I’m not a sadist. Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy pleasuring him, but I don’t actively get joy from causing pain. The only thing that bothers me about the whole situation is his use of the word “abuse” in reference to the completely consensual things that I do to him. I grew up in an extremely abusive household. That word rightly holds a lot of negative baggage with me. We’ve talked about the use of the word and he’s fine with changing it if there was a better word to come around. Unfortunately I cannot think of another word to use for it, and this has led to me being less than happy about inflicting whatever it is that we do together on him. I don’t want to keep this to a situation where I feel bad about doing something that is pleasurable to him but I also don’t want to be abusive and that is the connotation that I currently have with what that is going on because of the word choice.
So is there a better word that we could use? Or am I just going to have to suck it up and deal with this?
In Need of a Better Word
It’s problematic language week at Captain Awkward!
I am maybe not the best person to ask about this stuff, because I think that context is king and most attempts to divorce words from their context quickly get absurd. For example, my aunt plants trees in tiny pots in order to retard their growth and turn them into bonsai. There is some evidence that rapeseed oil can have ill effects on asthmatics and hay fever sufferers. Still, I certainly understand why the word “abuse” has negative connotations for you, so I don’t want to try to talk you out of you of your own feelings. You have an absolute right to set a boundary with your boyfriend for whatever reason you want, and given the kinds of games you’re playing you have an absolute obligation to set a boundary to say and do only things you are comfortable with. Since you’ve asked your boyfriend not to use that word, he has an obligation to comply with you if he wants to to remain as awesomely GGG as you have been with him.
Quickly consulting a thesaurus, I can suggest the following sexy synonyms: Debase, exploit, harm, defile, damage, pollute, hurt, manhandle, mistreat, violate.
You could also go with a strict diet of verbs that describe specific actions: Hit, strike, bind, grasp, grab, shove, punch, twist, slap, spank.
Hopefully your dirty talking can get more specific and more hot as a result of this exercise.
Problem solved? Because, I have to ask: As a regular Captain Awkward Dot Com reader you are obviously of above-average intelligence and good looks, and both you and your boyfriend could have consulted a thesaurus on your own at any time. If you are an abuse survivor, I can absolutely see how certain BDSM practices would bring that stuff up for you – maybe in a bad way, maybe in a good way, always in a messy and unpredictable way. You owe it to yourself and your partner to make sure you’re really, really safe and really, really comfortable (or willing to be interestingly uncomfortable) with exploring this side of sexuality. You’ve been willing to explore this with your boyfriend, but you can renegotiate this stuff at any time and make sure that, to quote Commander Logic, “kink is A Sometimes Food.”