Often when we’re talking about sex, we miss out a crucial part of the sentence: the adverb. We think so much about what people are doing, we forget that how they’re doing it can be equally – or even more – important.

Someone could ask to kiss you, but without the adverb you would struggle to imagine the kind of kiss they may be looking for. Consider: is there a difference between kissing softly versus intensely? Brusquely or lovingly? Passionately or tentatively?

Adverbs are important, and especially important when it comes to sexual connection. We can engage in all manner of pleasurable activities, but if we focus only on the acts, we know nothing about the atmosphere. And the atmosphere is the foundation on which we build any scene.

Let’s take, for example, the simple act of pegging, and the bare, stark phrase “she pegged him.” We know from this sentence that she donned a strap-on, likely slathered it in lubricant and then penetrated him.

But how did she do it? That, surely, is as important as the pegging itself. Did she do it with an air of dominance, putting a naughty boy in his place by demonstrating the power she wields with that simple piece of equipment? Did she do it gently, taking care to stroke him and croon soft words of encouragement as he succumbed to the sheer intensity of sensation? Did she do it with loving passion – holding the side of his face with one hand and looking deep into his eyes as he sighed with gratitude at the gift of pleasure?

I adore the confident, assertive side of myself that comes out to play during pegging scenes. But ‘assertive’ doesn’t have to conjure adverbs like ‘cruelly’ or ‘harshly’, as many often expect. Sometimes assertiveness means harnessing the control I have in a way that is pleasurable for both of us. Power that isn’t just about taking, it’s equally about giving the gift of pleasure. Intensely. Joyously. Generously.

Power, like sex itself, cries out for adverbs. I don’t have to wield my power authoritatively or coldly – I can also wield it kindly and firmly: by teasing and building tension, and by focusing on the pleasure that I am giving.

My own pleasure often comes from this kind of control – embracing a hedonistic atmosphere and building it up in layers. Getting nourishment and inspiration from the ways in which physical pleasure is expressed in someone’s face and voice, and the knowledge that I am the one who has nurtured and curated it. Using my power to control someone’s senses, precisely conducting a concerto of feeling that builds inside them, one movement after another, until eventual climax.

Is it any wonder that I’ve been thinking so much about adverbs recently? That physical act, whether pegging or any other, is only a small component of a much bigger picture. When we talk only of acts, we cover the ‘what’ but miss the important ‘how’s and ‘why’s. The act of pegging itself is only the outline of the scene – adverbs add colour and life to create something dynamic and memorable.

2020 — Louisa Knight