Terminology

Note: Any definitions provided on this page are the author’s definitions and interpretations. While many of these may be applied in other places, BDSM is by no means universal. When in doubt, ask the person using a term what they mean by it.

  • 24/7: Used to refer to a BDSM style relationship where aspects of domination and submission are applied to the entire relationship, as opposed to “bedroom-only” activity
  • Aftercare: The time after a BDSM scene or play session in which the participants calm down, and slowly come back in touch with reality. Aftercare is intensely personal and no two people need the exact same form or duration of aftercare.
  • Ageplay: A form of role play in which the participant(s) act an age different than their own, often younger.
  • BDSM: An acronym that combines several aspects of “alternative” sexual expression.
    BD – Bondage and domination
    DS – Domination and submission
    SM – Sadism and Masochism
  • Cisgendered: Having a gender identity that matches one’s genitalia
  • DDLG: DaddyDom/Little Girl. This is a d/s relationship in which the dominant partner takes on a more nurturing, care-giving role. The submissive partner assumes a more child-like role. Elements of ageplay are often included in this dynamic. Although DDLG is a gender biased term, other variations of this include: MDLB (MommyDom/Little Boy), DDLB (DaddyDom/Little Boy), MDLG (MommyDom/Little Girl), and CGL (Caregiver/Little)
  • D/S: Commonly seen as D/s, where the capitalization is used to reflect the role of the parties involved. In this dynamic there is a Dominant partner and a submissive partner.
  • Dominant: Person who exercises control in a d/s relationship. Can be used for any gender. Gendered variations include dom, domina, and domme
  • Femdom: A relationship in which the dominant is female. Usually refers more specifically to a relationship between a female dominant and a male submissive
  • Fetish: Sexual excitement aroused by a specific object, body part, or activity not usually associated with sexual arousal
  • Flogger: A tool of impact play, consisting of a handle with multiple lashes attached to it. The lashes are typically made of leather, but may also be made of materials such as rope, suede, horsehair, or even rubber
  • Hard Limit: What someone absolutely will not do, usually non-negotiable
  • Heteroflexible: A person who identifies as primarily heterosexual but can occasionally find the same sex appealing; or is willing, in some situations, to have contact with the same sex
  • Impact Play: Striking with various objects, including the hand (spanking), riding crops, floggers and whips and canes
  • Informed Consent: The principle that in order for consent to be genuine, the consenter must know all significant information about the object of consent
  • Kink: Unconventional sexual preferences or behavior
  • Limits: What someone will not do (hard) or is hesitant to do (soft).
  • Little:  Those who take on a young persona, some or most of the time. They are sometimes age players, but not necessarily. Their relationships may or may not include a Dominant/submissive component, but always tend to favor a partner who is very nurturing.
  • Masochist: A person who enjoys receiving pain or humiliation. May or may not be sexual.
  • Mental Bondage: Being forced to remain in a position by orders of the Dominant
  • Metamour: The lover of your lover
  • Munch: A meeting of a group of kinksters at a “vanilla” place such as a club or restaurant, usually for discussion, not play
  • Negotiation: Communication before a scene, or during the formation of a relationship, in which the parties reach agreement about the goals, expectations, and limits of one another
  • Pervertable: Common item which can be applied for sexual, fetish, or other BDSM purpose; i. e. wooden spoons, chopsticks, spatulas, clothes pins, belts, saran wrap, etc
  • Play Party: A gathering for the purpose of enjoying BDSM play. May be held at someone’s home, or in a club or commercial space specifically intended for the purpose.
  • Polyamory: Having multiple romantic relationship with the informed consent of all parties involved
  • POV: Point of View
  • RACK: Risk Aware Consensual Kink – A philosophy of engaging in BDSM activity that emphasizes the inherent risk to many of the activities involved in BDSM scenes
  • Sadism: Taking pleasure in inflicting pain and/or humiliation upon others, or observing others being hurt
  • Safeword: A predesignated word or nonverbal cue used to stop or slow down a BDSM scene
  • Scene: A pre-planned space and time to engage in BDSM activity. This word often includes pre-planned actions.
  • Service: Acts, chores, or labor, sexual or otherwise, performed by a sub for the benefit of a Dom
  • SSC: Safe, Sane, Consensual – A philosophy of engaging in BDSM activity that emphasizes safety precautions, and the mental state of participants prior to starting a scene.
  • Slosh: A term sometimes used for a munch specifying that it is held in a bar, pub, nightclub or other location that serves alcohol and/or that it’s ‘drink-positive’, albeit usually still kept within “reasonable limits” for decency’s sake
  • Soft Limit: A limit which is not necessarily set in stone. It may be flexible, may be pushed or may change over time and/or with experience or knowledge of that type of play
  • Sound: A smooth rod, usually metal, for insertion in the urinary passage; comes in a set of graduated sizes. Medically used for expanding the urethra in cases of genital defect, or damage resulting from illness or injury. In BDSM, used for urethral play
  • Sub Drop: An emotional condition following intense BDSM play. May experience a wide range of emotions from weepy to clingy to angry to lost and more. This can happen immediately after play or many hours later, making diagnosis difficult. It can last for a few hours or days. It can often be prevented by aftercare immediately after the session.
  • Sub Frenzy: A very strong, sometimes overwhelming, desire to find a Dominant partner or to become immersed in BDSM-related activities. Sometimes seen in people who identify strongly as submissive, particularly those who have either newly discovered their submissive side or who have not partaken in BDSM-related activities for a long time. People in the grip of “sub frenzy” may make unwise or unsafe choices.
  • Submissive: Person who desires to give up control of themselves, or of certain aspects of their lives, to a dominant partner
  • Subspace: A “natural high” that a bottom may experience during an intense physical or emotional. The sub may feel disconnected from time, space, and/or their body, and may have limited ability to communicate. It is critical that the dominant takes responsibility for the submissive and care for their well-being while they are in subspace.
  • Switch: An individual who enjoys being both dominant and submissive, either with different partners or with a single partner
  • Top Drop: A sudden, abrupt feeling of depression, unhappiness, or similar negative emotion in a Dominant or Top which may occur after a period of BDSM activity. Some Tops experience it regularly; with others, it may happen when the “scene” did not go as planned, or goes counter to the Top’s ingrained beliefs, either immediately or even days later, and often lessened or prevented by aftercare
  • TPE (Total Power Exchange): A high level of D/s practice, striving for living in a D/s context as much as possible. The Dominant has complete and total power over the submissive’s life. Some TPE relationships do not recognize safewords.
  • Urethral Play: Play involving the urinary passage. Commonly uses sounds or catheters
  • Vanilla: 1. Person who is not in the BDSM/fetish lifestyle. 2. Anything not involving kinky activities (example: “…my vanilla job”). 3. Behavior which does not encompass kink activity (for example: a D/s couple may have “vanilla” sex).
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