Good Grammar in Takedown Scenes
Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.
Dear Sexy Grammarian:
I know I’d offered to write a guest column on this topic, but I’m
noticing you recently entertained a reader question and thought I’d
submit this instead. Hope it’s not too racy for your blog.
So we’d decided to do a takedown scene in the dungeon, and she had me
pinned down over her lap and told me the spanking would continue until
I said, “I’m a little bitch slut whore.” Since it was resistance
play, I of course did not (immediately) comply. Among the many
specious objections I raised to this statement, I remember at some
point squealing, “But it’s not even grammatical! That’s, like, three
nouns in a row! (Ow!) I’m a writer, I can’t say an ungrammatical
This had about as much persuasive power in the moment as you might expect.
Much later, in my post-play endorphin haze (a phase that, by the way,
doesn’t usually involve grammatical deconstruction), I did find myself
wondering about it. Was I correct? Is it actually ungrammatical? Or
is this a sort of compound noun situation, perhaps involving hyphens
I was going to look it up, but you know, I really love a grammar Top
who can just tell me what to do.
My darling M.,
It is a rare honor to grammar-top a writer as talented and naughty as you. I’ll spare you my bottomish thoughts on the pleasure and risk of questioning your top’s grammatical authority while being spanked–resistance scene or not– and offer my most sincere and sexy grammatical analysis of the sentence in question.
I’m a little bitch slut whore.
Several interpretations and punctuation variations spring to mind when I read this delicious little sentence. That’s what I love about punctuating dialogue–you can take a string of words that somebody might say in real life and sprinkle them with some commas, hyphens, and periods to make sense of them as a written sentence.
For instance, we could do this:
I’m a little bitch, slut. Whore!
Here, we’ve made bitch into a predicate nominative describing the subject/speaker and added a comma in order to clarify that the word slut is the person to whom the sentence is addressed. That should keep the spanking coming.
By ending the sentence there and tacking the word whore to the end of it as a single-word exclamation, we set the speaker up for some extra punishment for calling her top a whore. But I’m sure you would never be so naughty as to address your top as a slut or a whore, M.
Let’s try another approach:
I’m a little bitch, slut, whore.
Here, we put commas between each noun to create a series, but a noun series requires a conjunction before the final noun.
I’m a little bitch, slut, and whore.
I’m a little bitch, slut, or whore.
We could spend some time on the controversial “serial comma” in these examples, but what bothers me about these grammatical fixes is that you’re going to get into trouble for adding words to an otherwise perfectly hot sentence. It’s just not as sexy with the conjunctions thrown in, in my opinion.
Let’s play with hyphens and dashes. Scanning through the very good hyphen chart in the Chicago Manual of Style, I find three possible interpretations of bitch slut whore as a compound noun.
Descriptive phrases, or “combinations of words describing a character” can be open (that is, no hyphen) or hyphenated. The CMS suggests consulting a standard dictionary for terms such as jack-of-all-trades and snake in the grass, and hyphenating accordingly. I did not find bitch slut whore in my Webster’s Encyclopedic, but we may choose to employ this rule to set a standard here and now. After all, bitch slut whore certainly is a combination of words that describes a character. I’d be happy to count votes in the comments section for either of these:
I’m a little bitch-slut-whore.
I’m a little bitch slut whore.
The CMS also lists two types of noun + noun combinations:
Noun + noun combinations with different but equal functions should be hyphenated, as in scholar-poet and author-critic.
Noun + noun combinations with a single function should be left open, as in police officer and water bearer.
What an entertaining distinction for our example! Is bitch slut whore a noun + noun + noun combination of words that serve different but equal functions? If so, why not hyphenate it like its 2-noun cousins?
I’m a little bitch-slut-whore.
Or, like water bearer, or one who bears water, do the words bitch, slut, and whore somehow combine to create a new, singular meaning? Is a bitch slut whore, unhyphenated, a special sort of bitch who sluts around and sometimes takes money for it?
I have one more idea: the em dash.
The CMS explains that the em dash–that’s two dashes with no spaces on either end of the pair–denotes a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure. Use the em dash when you want to interrupt yourself or your dialogue speaker mid-sentence. I think it might work well here:
I’m a little bitch–slut–whore.
Punctuated this way, it’s as if you or your top changed your mind–twice. I’m a little bitch. No, wait. I’m a slut. No, wait. I’m a whore.
Because, as you know well, M., good grammar and punctuation ultimately offer the writer and speaker the best way to clarify intention and meaning in the sentences we construct. So I have to turn your question back to you and your verbally creative top. When you say, I’m a little bitch slut whore, what exactly do you mean?
It’s Dialogue Month on The Sexy Grammarian’s Blog! This week’s posts include dialogues between the The Sexy Grammarian and my dad, my coach, and an almost-self-described grammar bottom. Subscribe now to follow the conversation.
In addition to being an almost-self-described grammar bottom, M. Svairini is a writer I admire, one of this year’s honorary Sexy Grammarians, and the creator of the red-hot erotica blog The Bottom Runs the Fuck. Go give her some love.