everything you ever wanted to know about BDSM/kink scene names but didn’t even know to ask . . . (part 1)
Michael Samadhi is my scene name
I write here as Michael Samadhi. By some strange coincidence, it’s also this site’s domain name.
Michael Samadhi is also the name I go under at FetLife. And, over at Facebook I go by that name too. Michael Samadhi is the name I’ve used at pretty much every other alternative sexuality site where I’ve registered, or have some sort of membership, with the exception of one or two where I’ve registered as SpiritulBDSM.
But, as you may have already guessed, the name “Samadhi” is not on my birth certificate. Nor is it currently found on any legal documents associated with me. Outside of the BDSM world there is no one named Michael Samadhi. Obviously then, the name is an invention. Instead of using my given name, Michael Samadhi is how I’ve chosen to identify myself in the BDSM and kink community.
Michael Samadhi is my “scene name”. Today’s essay is all about the use of scene names in the world of kink and BDSM. We will discuss the reasons why you might consider a scene name for yourself, the pluses (and minuses) of their use, as well as other considerations in this multi-part series of essays on the use of scene names.
what is a scene name?
While I was writing I assumed it would be published under a pseudonym, and that liberated me: what I wrote was exactly what I wanted to read.
~ Nicholson Baker
One way to understand a scene name in BDSM is to look at it the same context as an actor’s stage name, an author’s pen name, or a writer’s nom de plume. Mark Twain, the famous author of novels about the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckelberry Finn, was actually named Samuel Clemens at birth. In artistic fields like writing and acting there are long-held traditions where some people, for a variety of personal and professional reasons, use a fake name. Why should the world of artistic lovemaking be any different from the world of writing or acting?
Another viewpoint on scene names would be to consider them like a pet name (or perhaps a nickname) that distinguishes one special part of your life from the others. Back when I was growing up I had a friend named Joey on the playground. But, all our teachers (not to mention his mother) called him by his given name, Dante. I think we actually called him Dan in class. Joey wasn’t exactly the same kid that sat next to me in science class, his behavior varied in different settings. So, what we called him changed appropriately.
Yet another way to look at a scene name is to consider it to be something like a self invented alter ego. I’m talking something short of a full-scale Dr Jekyll / Mr Hyde style alter ego, more along the lines of a persona and not a split personality. Although it wasn’t related to BDSM play, I ended up being known (at parties I’d attend) as Arthur Deco. It all happened through a strange set of circumstance where a friend, while in art class, made up fliers for a party I was throwing. Acting on a whim, he decided to call the event an “Art Deco party”. Then, several of the attendees, not knowing a thing about art history, thought my name actually was Art Deco. Suddenly, my wild (party animal) alter-ego was born.
Another alternative model for a scene name is the way a special name might be used within a secret society, social club, or fraternal organization, as a matter of protocol. In cases like these, the name itself could be a ritual title, passed from one office holder to the next. It might also be a name chosen for them as a part of an initiation. That brings to mind the classic movie scene from Animal House, where John Belushi’s character assigns all of the fraternity’s new pledges their new Delta Tau Chi names.
Obviously then, when deciding whether to use a scene name, the novice to the world of BDSM and kink has a number of “models” they can choose from. They can look at a scene name and consider it to be something like a ritual name used in a fraternal organization. A scene name could also be looked at as a pet name or nickname, an alter ego, or even a writer’s pen name. Who’s to say you couldn’t enjoy having any of these options as a model for choosing your own identity for kinky adult playtime?
Why should I have a scene name?
I’ve always kept this part of my life private, other than with people who I know are also involved. I’m a businesswoman, a quilter, a softball player, a town official, a volunteer at a residential care facility, make great jambalaya, read voraciously, and am learning to ballroom dance. None of the people in these other areas of my life need to know how I fall to my knees in surrender when a partner grabs my hair.
~ Stacy (quote originally from sensuoussadie.com)
I’ve heard and read a number of reasons why an individual would want to use a scene name when entering and navigating within a subculture like BDSM, some of them being better justification than others. The reasons you might consider using a scene name include:
- Security / Confidentiality – To my mind, this is by far the strongest and most compelling motivation to have a scene name, to serve as a means of protection. A scene name makes it harder for a person from your regular personal (vanilla) life to somehow accidentally connect your public and private lives. The converse is also true, using a scene name makes it harder for anyone who might be negative, disruptive, or disreputable to cause any harm in your everyday life.
- Empowerment / Liberation – While these two reasons might well be considered separately, there is also some logic in grouping them together. When looked at from this particular perspective, a scene name becomes a conscious act in taking control of your own unique personal erotic identity. Some might find such an act not only empowering, but also liberating, as choosing a name for this reason has the potential to help free their own individual erotic personality from the repression of their upbringing and/or the expectations of ‘mainstream’ society.
- Heighten Reality / Dramatic Effect – This is the primary motivation for assigned ritual names that are used by clubs and fraternities, to separate a person’s everyday identity from the role they take on for a ritual or similar dramatic event. Let’s be honest here, calling someone ‘Exalted Grandmaster’ has a lot better potential sound and effect for creating ritual drama than using their real name, especially if they ended up named something like John Jacob Jingleheimer-Schmidt.
- Whimsy / Escape – Sometimes it’s just more fun to be somebody other than your regular everyday persona. Using a scene name in this context could be considered to be similar to adopting a persona for a role playing game like Dungeons and Dragons. There’s a reason role playing games are popular among geeks while they are growing up (and sometimes after too!) Playing a role is a great escape, it can be great fun, and transport a person away from their daily grind, or any reality they don’t find too pleasant
- Popularity / Recognition / Brand Identity – There’s sound logic behind the thinking of Hollywood starlets and television broadcasters who change their names, it’s to become more popular, better known, and ultimately more successful and profitable. Norma Jeane Mortenson might never have become so famous had she not changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. I’m sure the name “Twisted Monk” is a lot more effective at creating a brand identity for a BDSM ropemaker than anything that might appear on his birth certificate.
Now in speaking frankly on this topic, I need to express to you that it’s my opinion that how you or I might happen to enjoy consensual sex should never impact anyone’s employment or child custody status. But, that’s really 100% theory now, and just my own personal philosophy, the real world we live in is sometimes very different.
It’s hopelessly naïve to think that people like a ultra-conservative employer or a vindictive ex-spouse is going to turn a blind eye to the blatant practice of an alternative sexual lifestyle. In the real world people lose jobs over their sexual desires, people living a kinky alternative lifestyle might very well have their own 100% legal sexual desires used against them in a court of law as well. I’ve seen it happen far too many times!
In my personal case, having an scene name allows me to become a member of the BDSM community without needing to sacrifice any of my personal privacy, which can be important for a good number of reasons. Going by the name Michael Samadhi diminishes the risk of bad things happening to me. Using a scene name helps prevent my private enjoyment of kinky pleasures from turning around and later causing problems in professional life. I also happen to think that Samadhi has a better dramatic effect than the surname I inherited from my father.
And while my scene name might be useful as an alter ego or persona I could adopt, that’s not really how it evolved for me. I usually have no trouble switching modes to inhabit what might be called ‘dom space’ or ‘master mode’. I’ve been there enough it’s a natural part of who I am, you might even say it’s where I live, and that the ‘persona’ is now what I adopt to go off to work.
I was not terribly worried about recognition (or brand identity) when I choose a scene name. But, I suppose this might be a renewed consideration, now that I’m authoring more and more essays and advice on alternative sexuality. With that said, I’ve been Michael Samadhi for more than 15 years, I’m not going to change now to make my writing more marketable, like Popeye used to say, “I am what I am!”
everything you ever wanted to know about BDSM scene names but didn’t even know to ask . . . (continued)
People’s fates are simplified by their names.
~ Elias Canetti
It’s essential for folks to realize that a scene name isn’t some kind of anonymous shield for illegal or abusive behavior. On the surface, the use of scene names might appear to be an invitation for predator types who prey on an unsuspecting victims. The common use of scene names could allow them to change their identity and move on. It’s quite true that sort of thing can happen, in theory. But, thankfully, in terms of anything of that sort actually occurring, it’s probably less common than it might have once been, in the days before our community got “connected” via the Internet.
Because of the dramatic increase in the number of educational and play events, as well as the popularity of the social networking site FetLife, the North American BDSM community is more tightly knit that ever before. That’s probably true worldwide, but I can’t say so with any real authority. My primary knowledge is limited to the USA and Canada.
Not only does the highly networked status of our community work as a deterrent against those with bad intent, it can actually help to drive abusers and predators from our midst. If an individual refuses to follow other’s limits, acts in a brutish or thuggish manner, if they have problems with hygiene or personal habits, the word will spread around. And, it will spread quickly. Once that kind of reputation spreads, you’ll likely find potential play partners in very short supply.
Attempting to change your scene name to avoid the inevitable consequences of poor behavior will never ultimately be successful. I believe our community is just too connected, and too aware, to allow such a thing to occur with any regularity. Predatory types are undoubtedly targeting newbies already, as experienced kinksters are usually too aware to be pulled into the web of deceit that kind likes to weave. That’s what makes educational efforts within our community so very important. And trust me, there’s no need for monstrosities like the Dominant Blacklist, a little bit of private networking is all it takes to check out another person’s reputation.
What are a scene name’s downsides?
Secret lives make for secret suffering, and the time for secrets about who we are and what we enjoy is slowly ending.
~ Guy Baldwin
Because we don’t live in a truly sex positive culture, some folks feel huge stigma attached to taking part in BDSM activities. That was very much true for my former spouse, and that led to some issues. What does my ex tell her co-workers on Monday morning when they inevitably ask how she spent her weekend? What does she say when she is not comfortable telling them she spent the weekend as “bliss”, tied and cuffed to her Master’s bed?
It could be argued that scene names are counterproductive. Having to adopt a scene name could potentially contribute to diminished feelings of self-worth. I’ve heard this called a form of “self-loathing”, although that wouldn’t be my person preference for how I personify it. I mean, it’s good to be open about who we are. Generally, it’s healthier to live your life without having to compartmentalize everything you do. In a perfect world, we’d never be judged for how we love, how we serve (or require service) from another. In a perfect world we’d all be safe to express who we are without worry of repression from any other.
Yes, ideally, it’s better to be completely open about our sexuality. The Gay/Lesbian/Transgender communities have made incredible strides in having the open expression of their sexuality become safe and protected. In their corner of the kink world, it’s good to be “out”. I suppose it’s good to be “out” as an individual who practices BDSM, or any other alternative sexual kink for that matter. But, for some folks that’s just not realistic.
Whether you should be “out” as a participant and practitioner of any alternative sexuality including kink and BDSM, is an extremely personal question, and it’s far too complicated a topic to be discussed offhand in an essay about scene names. Just know that people who can freely and safely express their kinky sexuality are more likely to feel good about their sexuality. They are also far less likely to feel shame or remorse about their desires. If you can safely use your real name to navigate all your worlds, the world of kink and alternative sexuality inclusive, then go ahead and use your real name if you like, it’s totally up to you.
I’m not there myself, to be very honest. I’m doing as much as I can, in that I’m close to being “out”, but I do have limits. I am very carefully choosing friends, so that my time away from work won’t have to be full of compromises. With that said, I still work in an environment that isn’t terribly supportive of anything to do with alternative sexuality, and my relationship with my business partners might best be considered to be along the lines of “don’t ask don’t tell”. In other words, I’m not totally “out” – so I choose to use a scene name. I am aware of the potential negatives that might be associated with a scene name, but I find it’s positives outweigh the negatives. Only you can decide what’s right for you, and hopefully after reading this, you’ll feel better ready to decide whether adopting a scene name is right for you, as you explore the joy of kink.
everything you ever wanted to know about BDSM scene names but didn’t even know to ask . . . (part three)
The Bard – would he be remembered the same if his name had been Bill Jones?
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
~ William Shakespere / Romeo and Juliet
What we call ourselves really does matter. You name will influence how others treat you. Despite the classic line by Shakespeare, a rose by another name might actually not smell so sweet. In so many ways it’s true that perception is reality. So, there’s no denying that the scene name you choose for yourself creates a “reality” that will impact how others see you.
I’m not going to bore you by citing studies about the impact people’s names have on their future and career in the business world. Nor will I inflict studies from academia on how a name impacts performance in school. If you have an interest in such things, you are already aware of that news. If it’s not of personal interest, those kinds of reports might just put you to sleep, and the point of Michael Samadhi’s Joy of Kink isn’t to be a sleep aid!
Just know that all the recent research and studies I’ve seen show that our names will affect our lives in both academia and the business world. Why would it be any different when exploring the joy of kink?
by any other name
“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”
~ L.M. Montgomery / Anne of Green Gables
A random listing of scene (and screen) names of people I’ve known (or encountered) would include: Serafina Samadhi, Alpha1Bull, MaximusLycan, Omega, mouse, Dark_Kitty, dragonmoon, PassionAndSoul, Star, Natasha, GermanChick, PMBondage, SableBinder, Master Dream, Precious Treasure, Gaspar, Blissful Torment, dione12, Chief_Ironwood, Gatekeeper, Remembrens, Dahlia Grace, Lord Cholm, Lady Jane, EssenceofRed, JackHammer, Twisted Monk, Nameless One, StarsROn, Dark One, MasterJohn, swt14sir, FireRunner, knottylilmonkey, QCShadowPuppet, Lady_Jennifer, Lady_E, Scott Paul, Sartan, SG Sue, and of course Michael Samadhi . . .
The list could go on and on, seemingly forever, if I thought for another few minutes I’m sure I could add another 40 or 50 new names to the list. Scene names can be (and are) as diverse and varied as the human mind. They do have a certain power all their own. While I may know QCShadowPuppet’s real name, I think of him as simply “puppet”. That’s the name his Mistress calls him, so that’s what I call him. His given name is an afterthought for me. By any other name, he simply wouldn’t be the same person in my eyes.
And lets be quite honest, I’d be a bit different in your eyes if I were wearing a different moniker. If the author of this site wrote under the name – DeSade4u – I’m guessing the same words would carry more than a little different tone than when written by Michael Samadhi. The words could remain the same, but by any other name, their meaning would change.
what not to do
Jason scratched his head. “You named him Festus? You know that in Latin, ‘festus’ means ‘happy’? You want us to ride off to save the world on Happy the Dragon?”
~ Rick Riordan / The Lost Hero
In theory, choosing a scene name for yourself is a simple task. As we discussed earlier in this series, it’s kind of like picking a stage name or a nom de plume. Just imagine yourself as who you wish to be and pick a moniker that suits. Right? Hahaha, life should be so simple!
Rather than start with a how-to, it might be best to start with how not to choose a scene name. For a little help with that, we’ll look to some snarky advice dispensed by a lovely writer/dominatrix from Seattle, Mistress Matisse. This excerpt is from a short article she wrote for a Seattle weekly newspaper – The Stranger:
I’m too late for the perverts who’ve already chosen scene names, but let me lay out some rules for all those fledgling Jimmys and Jennifers who are poised on the brink of reinventing themselves.
1. You absolutely may not use Wolf, Bear, Hawk, Dragon, or Angel in any form. There are already way too many people using these names. I’m thinking of instituting a Kinky Names Registry, and anyone who wants one of those names will have to get on a list and wait until someone who’s already using it either dies or goes vanilla (which I see as roughly the same thing).
2. You must choose a name that people can say without snickering. By “people,” I mean me. I’m fine with unusual names, but there’s a difference between being unusual and being ridiculously descriptive and self-aggrandizing. I am simply not going to address you as “SexyAngel”–unless I’ve got a handful of your hair in one fist and the other one is up your… oh, never mind. I’m just not. I’m also not going to call you SteelDom or SweetSub. If you want to style yourself thus in a chat room, go ahead. But if you introduce yourself to me like that at a party, I’m going to give you a look like Simon Cowell gave William “She Bangs” Hung.
3. Go gently with any honorifics: Insisting acquaintances always address you as Master or Mistress So-and-So smacks of desperation. The best don’t advertise.
Remember, the power of naming yourself doesn’t come from the letters you string together, but from the act of doing it. The Mistress’ advice: Do not squander that power by over doing it.
I’d like to see Mistress Matisse give someone a look just like Simon Cowell gave William “She Bangs” Hung. I really would! So, I’m not going to tell anyone that you absolutely have to follow her advice, it’s up to you. Hahahahaha! You really and truly are free to describe yourself as you choose. Seriously, I mean that, as I’m pretty sure that a dirty look from Mistress Matisse won’t actually hurt (unless you become a client of hers that is . . . ) With that said, she does make some good points, and it is worth considering her advice if you do intend to become part of your local BDSM community.
It really is best if you avoid giving yourself with an overtly honorific or self aggrandizing scene name. And, it is true there are a lot of folks using the name Wolf, Bear, Hawk, Dragon, and/or Angel in some manner, shape, or form. It really is ok if you do too, but be prepared to sooner or later meet somebody who shares your scene name.
Now, let me say that having someone else who share’s your scene name is probably not the end of the world. At least it’t not the end until it happens that the other “SirWolfHawkDragonMaster” in town starts ignoring safe words when he plays with local submissives. Then you’ve got a problem on your hands.
other things I would avoid
Names are what people sometimes use to excuse their thoughts and actions towards you.
~ Simon Travaglia
I met an educator at a munch a while back, he seemed like a great guy. Serafina mentioned him as one of the most interesting and intelligent people we met at the event. But, while I have no doubts about the gentleman’s intelligence, I do begin to wonder about the wisdom he shows in choosing his scene name. At FetLife, his scene name could easily be connected to his line of work, perhaps not the greatest choice for a profession dealing with people’s children. His list of fetishes from that site includes, “teacher/student (everything to do with it)” along with other BDSM/Fetlife goodies guaranteed to give the members of a local school board apoplexy – “braless women of any breast size” (watching), “i’m old enough to be your dad…for real!” (everything to do with it), “skirts with no panties” (watching), age play (everything to do with it), bare bottom spanking (giving), bare handed spanking (giving), erotic photography (giving), fingering (giving), handjobs (receiving), mutual masturbation (everything to do with it), sex with strangers (everything to do with it), spanking (giving).
Everyone has to find their own level of comfort in becoming part of the BDSM scene, and it should be said that our new educator friend seems to have been part of the community for some time now without any problems. Apparently, he’s had no problems with anyone connecting his fetish identity with his profession. I do wish him luck and hope that he maintains his anonymity from discovery. But, I also question the wisdom of too closely identifying one’s profession with a screen name.
Although it’s not an absolutely hard and fast rule, I’d strongly suggest keeping some real world separation between your profession and and your scene name. That’s especially true when working in an industry where involvement in the kink community might become problematic. While I’ve seen more than my share of ladies working in the health care field using the term ‘nurse’ in their name (Nurse Nancy, SubNurse, naughty nurse, etc) and while I do recognize nurse fantasies are common, I really do question the wisdom of choosing a scene name that’s so intimately connected to one’s means of financial support.
The same advice holds true for individuals serving in the armed forces. While military and uniform fetishes are fairly common fare, playing to them while on active duty could pose problems for servicemen and women if their kink involves BDSM, spouse swapping, or other activities in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice . Certainly having a scene name involving the word “soldier”, while also posting pictures of yourself in uniform on FetLife, is a prescription for trouble with the Department of Defense. “Don’t ask – don’t tell” policies are perhaps a thing of the past, but as an attorney friend has been quick to remind me, “Consent is not a defense for assault.”
Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
That fairly well concludes this particular installment – the “things to avoid edition” of everything you ever wanted to know about BDSM scene names but didn’t even know to ask . . .
Next time, I think we’ll finally get around to presenting some ideas on how to actually choose a scene name.