Basic primer on what the heck all these letters mean in romance:
MF = heterosexual romance, male with female
MM = gay romance, male with male
FF = lesbian romance, female with female
MMF = menage romance, male with male and both with female
MFM = menage romance, male with female with male (no guys touching)
MMM = all men all the time
MMMMMMMF = reverse harem, female with many men
BDSM = bondage discipline sadism masochism
BD = bondage and discipline
Ds or D/s or D&S = dominance and submission
S/M or SM or S&M = sadism and masochism
top = the one who gives
bottom = the one who receives
switch = someone who is capable of both
And here’s the long version of this primer:
Ever since I received an odd review on one of my books, I have wondered how much readers know about the weird terminology that abounds in the erotica world. “What the bloody hell are all those slashes?” some might have wondered a few years ago. Then the slashes disappeared and all that was left were letters. What’s with all those letters? The reader who posted the review probably didn’t know what mmf meant. Here is a primer:
The slashes originated with fan fiction, specifically when a cadre of enterprising writers began writing stories about certain characters on a beloved television show *cough* Star Trek *cough*. Seems many of the fans of this show decided that there was a ton of delicious romance going on under the surface and they categorized their stories with a sort of shorthand so that everyone would know what they were getting into when reading them. So, Kirk/Spock attached to a story meant that it detailed a romantic relationship between those characters. Yes, yes, a male/male relationship. M/M. Or as we would say today: mm.
Fast forward to 2012 and voila! Tons of mf and mmf and mm and mfm and even mmmmmmmf all over the romance novels at Siren-BookStrand as well as other publishers. What the hell? The slashes are gone and instead we’ve got a pile of letters. Personally I think everyone just got tired of typing all the slashes, especially when the abundance of mmmmmmmm’s began to come out (heh, punny).
Basically, the m stands for male. The f stands for female.
mf –> male with female
mfm –> male with female and another male, male/female/male. The guys don’t touch! Classic menage. Often involves brothers with one woman.
mmf –> male/male/female. The guys often do touch each other, as well as the girl. True menage!
ff –> female/female. Femme slash. Femslash.
mmm –> male/male/male. Guys all touching each other.
mmmmf –> male/male/male/male/female. Could also be mmmf or mmmmmmmmf or whatever. Everyone touches everybody. Most of the time. With trapeze (kidding! or wait, really?)
Crazy, huh? It’s code! It’s code just for us! Personally I think it’s cool to have a type of code that details exactly which body parts touch or do not touch in erotica. It makes buying the books much easier if you know what’s going to happen inside. It makes avoiding your squicks much easier. There are other codes too:
BDSM –> bondage discipline sadism masochism but it basically means a novel with any or all of these and included submission as well. There are a whole pile of fun codes that go with this!
BD –> bondage and discipline
Ds or D/s or D&S –> dominance and submission
S/M or SM or S&M –> sadism and masochism
There’s a bit more involving tops and bottoms and switches. These terms aren’t really just used in BDSM however, they’re also used in mm fiction and sometimes in mf and ff fiction.
top –> the one who gives
bottom –> the one who receives
switch –> someone who is capable of both
A lot of these terms seemed to originate in the fan fiction communities across the internet, at least when applied to writing. There are also a ton of genres and tropes like sex pollen, bonding fic (ahem, like my Dream Marked series), kinks (knife play, fetishes, etc.), angst, fluff, and on and on. If you’re curious, check out Fanlore. It’s a great resource.
Anyway, maybe this will help when perusing the shelves at your favorite online bookseller. If you know what you like or don’t like, remember to check the book description for the erotica code. It might save you some money and quite a bit of angst.