The words ‘good girl’ shoot through me like ice water, I feel cold, my muscles start to contract inward, and my face contorts into an angry snarl. My hands try to form into fists but I grab his ankles instead, something solid I can hold onto, something to stop me from pulverizing my lover with my bare fists. I breathe deep, steady, concentrated breaths, my fingers pressing deep into his legs, and I am holding on, riding this crazy inner tide of anger.
I am not a violent person. Language is like a loaded gun, waiting for the trigger, and I never quite know when it’s going to go off.
I identify as a non-gendered (agender, off-continuum) individual and I have felt this way since the age of three, but only came to recognise it a year ago. Mostly I accept gendered language, I have acclimatised to it over my 43 years of living, and it rarely bothers me unless it’s in the bedroom. I am writing this in the hope that others may share their stories around the language of ‘dirty talk’ and how it has impacted on their sex lives, lover-ships, and relationships. I also would like to share alternate words, non-gendered words…because building a broad vocabulary allows for more creative options in the bedroom.
The scene I described at the beginning resulted in my complete meltdown, and you could say it really killed the mood. The words ‘good girl’ escaped my lover’s lips without their knowledge, without awareness, they had no idea they had even uttered them. This did prevent the open flow of dirty talk between my lover and I for some time, and I missed it, I missed hearing his/her voice in my ear, dirty talking does turn me on…but it can just as easily turn me off, or apparently, make my feelings chaotic.
So how do we negotiate this territory? You may have noticed from the above that my lover is gender fluid…sometimes more male, sometimes more female…and we participate in BDSM, power play – which has some of the most gendered language I’ve ever heard. Are you starting to see the challenge? Sir, master, daddy, boy, ma’am, mistress, mommy, girl. And then there’s bitch, slut, whore etc. Those last few have mostly been reclaimed as non-gendered, sex-positive terms, but still the roots of those words, the history in them, will trigger some people.
Then there’s the issue of what to call my bits, and my lover’s bits. We might avoid talking dirty if we can’t name the body parts involved. I find it helps when my lover gives consent by using the terms they want in that given moment, as it gives me ‘green lights’ to follow with the same terms.
Communication may have different priorities depending on the nature of the relationship, for example during a hook-up you might communicate very little or not at all, and take the full risk of the other person mis-gendering, or gendering you or your body. Hopefully this is different in a longer-term relationship/lover-ship in which a safe environment has been created where this language can be discussed.
Exploring genderless sex, both in how I see myself and in how I see my partner, feels like a liberating frontier. There’s safety (and hotness to follow) in being ‘seen’ exactly as you are, expressing how you would like to be seen and asking your partner to do the same. For agendered people, this might be their only option. We might also chose to re-invent gender. We could use gendered language in our dirty talk in a hyper-real or ‘role-play’ way as an active and empowered choice.
It’s going to take us a while to find each other’s limits and we accept that they will probably change over time. Keeping track of it all can feel overwhelming, so we keep lists (just like in the BDSM world, lists are made and shared upfront) and hard limits are our no-go words, soft limits are the maybe sometimes words, and green are the all good to go words, used anytime. We need to continue to update and share our lists.
I believe in having truly great sex, and that gender can get in the way, but it can be powerful if used with the awareness of roleplaying – not used as a default, but as an intention. All the world is a stage…the bedroom is no exception.
Please contribute to my non-gendered, dirty talk word list:
HB is not a writer, but really enjoys journaling, not an artist but really enjoys doodling in the margins of pages, and not an expert on gender but finds herself drawn to sharing this part of her life in the hope that others may find their voice a lot earlier than she did.
For partners of transgender people who come out
Trans masculine India: Gender role play, prejudice and the hijra community
Chivalry: How modern men inherit medieval misogyny
Fanfiction: Coding homosexuality as a teenager
Transgender children: doing it for the kids
Drag king spaces in Sydney: Remember the King
Archer Asks: Get Hairy February organiser, Alex Andrews