It tells the story of a relationship involving sadomasochism and an abusive female in a position of dominance. In the lyrics, the phrase "ashtray girl" is meant to refer to a woman who uses her partner as an "emotional ashtray"; "cigarette burns on my chest" makes reference to a supposed particular fetish of James Dean. As singer/lyricist Brian Molko commented, prior to its performance at a concert,
There's an old story that somebody told me once about James Dean. For those of you who don't know this yet, James Dean was gay. Yes, I'm sorry, it's true. He had a particular fetish where he liked to have cigarettes stubbed out on his chest. That's kind of an image that's always stayed with me, and part of the inspiration for this song.