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BDSM Terms You Need To Know

Lifestyle fetishists clue us into BDSM terms you need to know.

BDSM isn't just a fetish; it's a community, a lifestyle, and a concept. Really, it's what you make of it. Among community members in the BDSM world, there are a number of terms that you may have heard that don't really make sense. This is because a lot of BDSM communities basically have their own lingo to discuss fetish matters. 

If you want to get your kink on and reach out to people who are interested in BDSM as well, there are going to be BDSM terms you need to know - as well as a number of BDSM terms you may want to know just in case. 

BDSM

Let's start with the most common term of all: BDSM

BDSM stands for Bondage/Dominance/Sado-Masochism - or in certain circles, Bondage/Dominance-Submission, Masochism. It's also been noted as Bondage-Discipline/Dominance-Submission/Sado-Masochism. You get the drift. 

Any way is generally accepted. People understand what you mean by BDSM when you say it. It's a catch all for all fetish play, and as such is the most basic of all BDSM terms you need to know. 

Bondage is kink play that has to do with restraining one partner using ropes, ties, chains, or other contraptions. 

Dominance is kink play that has one person using dominance or power plays over another. For example, the most common form of dominance play would be a Master-slave session. 

Sado-Masochism is kink play that may be painful or humiliating for one partner. 

Some use BDSM as a way to get emotions out that they normally can't unleash. Most people will admit that there's a sexual element to it, and a very large portion also use it to reach orgasm.

Scene

The following are BDSM terms you need to know before you actually start going online looking for a BDSM partner. 

A BDSM Scene, not to be confused with the BDSM scene, is a single session where partners partake in their fetishes together. This is also called a Session, a Playdate, or Playtime.

Play Partners are people who partake in BDSM play together. They do not have to be romantically involved. 

The actual act of partaking in BDSM play is typically called "kink play" or "fetish play" in circles. These are really minor terms, but it helps to know them just in case. 

People who like BDSM are called kinksters or fetishists. People who aren't into BDSM or fetish play at all are called vanilla. 

Safe-Sane-Consensual

Of all the BDSM terms you need to know, remember these three. They can save your life. 

BDSM is all about being Safe, Sane, and Consensual. All three terms are the basic tenets of safety in BDSM, and not abiding by them can potentially get you killed. 

Safe means that the play in question is done using proper precautions, won't cause lasting damage, and also doesn't have too much risk. (Safe can be a relative term for many, but if you don't feel safe, it's not safe.)

Sane means that the kink in question doesn't end up doing emotional damage to any partner. It also means that it's within the realm of sanity. 

Consensual means that all partners agree to do the act, aren't pressured into it, and are free to stop if they feel uncomfortable. If someone in a BDSM session isn't comfortable, they have a right to stop the session. People have the right to stop consent at any time - just like with normal sex. If someone says otherwise, that person doesn't understand consent and they are not a suitable partner for BDSM. 

Consensual also means that you are fully aware of all the factors in a session when you agree to them. For example, if you are in a Gorean slave BDSM session, you agreed to be someone's monogamous slave, and you don't know you're about to be told to have sex with someone else, that's not consent. That's coercion. 

If a BDSM session isn't safe, sane, and consensual for all parties, it's no longer BDSM; it becomes rape, assault, or abuse. 

Safe Words

Safe Words are words or gestures that people use in order to tell a BDSM partner to stop what they are doing. In a proper BDSM relationship or scene, safe words are discussed before any sort of BDSM action happens. 

Generally speaking, safe words aren't phrases like "No" or "Please stop," since that could be part of a roleplay scene. Better safe words tend to be "Red light," "Mickey Mouse," or any other words that wouldn't typically happen in a session. 

Safe Gestures, for those times when you can't actually use your mouth to talk, include two finger taps on a person's wrist, multiple taps above your choker, or similar acts. 

When someone says a safe word, all play has to stop, and partners are to check on one another to make sure they're okay. Safe words are, in a way, a sign that you're revoking consent. Not doing this means that any act done after the safe word is said is rape, abuse, or sexual assault. 

Again, these are safety-related BDSM terms you need to know before you actually try to find a partner. If they don't know these terms, you might want to find someone more experienced for safety's sake.

Dominants

Dominants are the people in the BDSM world who enjoy wielding power and control when they're in a scene. They tend to be the "leaders" and love to take control over submissives. Unlike submissives, the terms relating to Dominants are always capitalized. (It's a sign of respect.)

Doms refer to male Dominants. Dommes or Mistresses are female Dominants. Dominants are the dominators in a BDSM relationship; what more can I say?

Dominants come in a variety of different "flavors," many of which are unique to a specific kink. Here are some of the more common domination-related BDSM terms you need to know that are a bit more genre-specific:

  • A male who happens to enjoy the father-daughter roleplay will often call himself a Daddy Dom as a way to say that he likes girls (or boys) who are submissive and willing to act younger than he is. 
  • Brats are people who love to be a young kid who "orders around" an older adult in age play roleplay sessions. A good example of a Brat roleplay scenario would be the young boy who "blackmails" his babysitter.
  • Mommy Doms also exist, but they are rarer and often focus on mother-son or mother-daughter roleplay instead. 
  • Owners are people who tend to be into owning a BDSM "pet." 
  • Gods or Goddesses are people who love the idea of being sexually worshipped by other people. Their Domination style tends to be a "lay back and receive pampering" type, making them much more laid back than typical Doms. 
  • Masters and Mistresses are people who like the idea of slaveplay. They enjoy the idea of having slaves, and often have a tendency of being more extreme with their kink sessions than others. This term is also very common among people who love pet play, pony play, or veterinary play. It's also a way to address Doms respectfully. 
  • Tops are Doms who tend to give, rather than receive, sensation in Sado-Masochism scenes. 
  • Hotwives and Hothusbands are Doms who enjoy humiliating subs by having sex with other partners (Bulls and Cuckcakes) in front of them. 
  • Bulls and Cuckcakes are Doms who enjoy dominating subs by having sex with their partners in front of them. They are not in a relationship with the cuckold or hotwife; they get off on being "the other person." 

People who are paid to dominate others are known as Dominatrixes, or Pro-Dommes, depending on their choices. Pro-Dommes accept payment in the form of a Tribute of cash, gifts, or other pricey goods

A common mistake is to believe that Dominatrixes are prostitutes or escorts; they're not. If you are a Dominatrix, you do not necessarily have sex for money; you just provide domination for a tribute. Some Dominatrixes may offer escortship or sex for an added fee, but that's not common. 

That being said, tribute is one of the BDSM terms you need to know if you're paying for Domination, or if you're on online forums where Doms are present. Escorts and prostitutes don't use the word "tribute" to describe cash; they often will say "gift" or "business first." 

A submissive's relationship with a Dominant is known as a D/s Relationship. This is a BDSM term that can mean they're a couple that has Dom-sub tendencies, or it can mean that a submissive has a strictly-BDSM relationship with a Dom. It depends from couple to couple (or group to group). 

Submissives

Submissives, also known as "subs," are people who enjoy relinquishing power in a BDSM session. They may enjoy being helpless, being a servant, or just being able to "let go" for a while. 

Being a submissive doesn't mean that you are weak, effeminate, have low self-esteem, or have "issues." It just means you like what you like. The BDSM scene is awesomely accepting of male, female, and nonbinary subs. 

Submissives come in a variety of different flavors, much more so than Doms do. Much like the different range of Doms, these are BDSM terms you need to know if you are into any of those kinks. Here are some of the more common types...

  • Babygirls are women who enjoy acting much younger during BDSM roleplay. Similarly, they also have babyboys who act like they are much younger. This is very common in the Adult Baby kink scene. 
  • Pets are subs who enjoy pet play. They may "play" as a sexy kitten, puppy, or horse. These positions generally will have an Owner as their Dom.
  • Slaves are people who get off on the idea of being someone's servant, sex slave, or personal prostitute. They tend to be extremely submissive, even among other subs. 
  • "Tops from the Bottoms" tend to be submissives who just really enjoy certain sensations, but may not like the idea of being dominated, humiliated, or disrespected. 
  • Cuckolds and Cuckqueans are people who enjoy being forced to watch their partners (often the Doms in a relationship) have sex with other people as part of humiliation play. 
  • Toilet Slaves are people who like to be used as personal toilets - either via urination or defecation. They may or may not want to be forced to consume whatever a Dom left on them.  
  • Gimps are the people who tend to be covered head-to-toe in leather or latex. 

Professional submissives do exist, but they are extremely rare because of how dangerous it can be. 

Switches

Switches are people who enjoy both Domination and submission, or Sadism as well as Masochism. A switch might go so far as to have multiple personas that they use in BDSM play - such as "Goddess Kira" and "Slave Kira." 

This is one of those BDSM terms you need to know before you get started. In many cases, people assume they're Doms or subs, not realizing that they can be both. This reduces the amount of enjoyment they can have in the BDSM world - until they realize they can be switches, that it. 

Limits

Limits are things that BDSM partakers are not interested in doing, nor comfortable with approaching. In a proper BDSM setting, Doms will discuss limits with subs before they start anything. 

Writing down one' s limits is often part of a BDSM Contract - a non-legally binding agreement that says what each person will and will not do during the duration of a D/s relationship. Doms will often keep a contract just because it's helpful for them to refer to - especially if they have multiple partners. 

Every BDSM partaker has limits - Dom, sub, or switch. Many Doms who hear a sub say that they "don't have limits" will not take the submissive into a relationship because it's a sign of mental wellbeing issues or inexperience. 

Hard Limits are things that the individual in question absolutely, totally will not do under any circumstances. Crossing a hard limit is typically immediate grounds for a session ending. 

Soft Limits are things that the individual might be okay with trying after a lot of trust has been built up. However, most soft limits will not happen within weeks' of play. It takes a while, and Doms will be wise to tread lightly here. 

Much like other safety-related BDSM terms you need to know, the devil is in the subtleties here. So, if you aren't sure what someone means by hard limits or soft limits in their own definition, find out before you play with them. 

Lifestyle

Some people really, truly love BDSM - often to the point that they don't really want to have it be just a once-in-a-blue treat. They actually will go so far as to live it, and that's why they call themselves Lifestyle BDSM aficionados. 

Lifestylers, as they're also called, can come in every flavor. They may be Lifestyle Doms, Lifestyle Subs, and Lifestyle Switches. 

"Lifestyle" is one of those BDSM terms you need to know before you hit online forums. Otherwise, you might find yourself overwhelmed or weirded out by some of the expectations your play partner may have of you. 

Lifestyle people tend to have an entire culture around BDSM that goes above and beyond other people. They will often only date other people who are Lifestyle or are willing to see BDSM as a lifestyle rather than a one-off thing. 

Hardcore Lifestylers will often go so far as to wear BDSM-related clothing on a daily basis, in public. This may be something as subtle as a submissive wearing a rubber corset under her shirt, or something as obvious as wearing a bondage collar every day. 

Lifestyle submissives who are taken are often "Collared," which means that a Dom chose to give them a collar that signifies they are "owned" by the Dom. The most common symbol of being collared by a Dom is a lock around the O-ring of a bondage collar. 

Players

Players are people who generally do not mix "real life" with their BDSM play. They see it as a once in a while treat, or as something that should be kept private from the world. Players, while they may be active online, tend to see BDSM as a lifestyle to be a bit too much. 

In some cases, players may actually end up having D/s relationships with other people outside of their main relationship. Why? Because they don't want their main partner to know about their fetish, or would prefer to just keep things separate. 

All in all, players just like kinky sex, and there's nothing wrong with that. Much like "Lifestyle," "Player" is one of those BDSM terms you need to know before you start hitting forums. This way, you can find another Player to start off with - and then choose if you want to be Lifestyle. 

Lifestyle or Player, most people will call the people who they engage in BDSM with "Play Partners." 

Gorean Lifestyle

Perhaps the most extreme form of BDSM out there is Gorean Lifestyle BDSM. This is a form of BDSM which is modeled after the Master-slave relationships found in sci-fi series called Gor by John Norman. 

Goreans are equal part fandom members and lifestyle BDSM people.

Goreans are known for having specific positions to "display" slaves, having strict rules about what slaves can do, and are also known for giving their slaves names according to the Gor series. 

Gorean slaves are known for wearing necklaces (or even having tattoos) with a "K." The "K" stands for Kajira, which is what a slave is called in the Gorean world. 

There are also Gorean Players, who enjoy the roles of a Gorean D/s relationship without actually making it a part of everyday life. However, these Goreans seem to be a minority - at least from what we've seen. 

That being said, some have argued that Gorean Lifestyle tends to be very close to actual human trafficking, and at least one Gorean has been arrested for starting a coercive sex cult based on Gorean teachings. 

Caution is strongly advised if you choose to try Gorean BDSM sessions. Gorean groups are known to be sexist, and may not allow for female Dommes. Even so Gorean BDSM is something that can be fun - as long as you choose the right Dom or sub. 

Sado-Masochist

Sado-Masochists are people who enjoy giving or receiving pain. Sadists like seeing people in pain. Masochists love receiving pain. It's important to remember that "pain" in BDSM can be both a physical or emotional kind of pain. 

Emotional pain may be doled out via humiliation play such as sissification, being forced to wet oneself, cuckolding, or taunting. Sometimes, tease and denial might be used for a more sexual style of BDSM. 

Physical pain can be done via a variety of different methods, most commonly spanking, flogging, caning, or candle wax. 

Sado-Masochism is one of the few BDSM terms you need to know, even if you aren't in the BDSM world. Most people will make references to it in pop culture, so you might as well get what's up there. 

Munches

Munches are meet-ups where fellow kinksters meet one another in hopes of finding new play partners or just other people who get their kink. Generally speaking, most munches are just casual meetups where people get a vibe for one another. 

Munches may take place in a BDSM dungeon, but more often than not, they take place at random bars, restaurants, or similarly casual venues. It's generally considered to be gauche to show up in fetish gear at a casual munch. 

Edge Play

Edge Play is generally the kind of BDSM kink play that most people do not find safe or sane for one reason or another. Generally speaking, most people in the BDSM world see edge play as the kind of BDSM fetish play that could impart lasting, permanent damage. 

Edge play is one of the few BDSM terms you need to know because it could potentially save your life or keep you from being traumatized. There is a reason, after all, why many people refuse to do edge play outright. 

That being said, edge play doesn't automatically or outright cross the line of Safe-Sane-Consensual. It is possible to do edge play safely, but it takes a lot of experience, trust, maturity, and skill to do so. That's why it's called edge play; it toes the edge of acceptability. 

Categories of BDSM that have been called edge play include...

  • Fireplay. Any time you're literally playing with fire as a way to get off, there's a chance of being burned. Even burning your pubic hairs can seriously hurt. 
  • Bloodsport. Any time where you're drinking another person's blood or cutting someone's arm open could potentially be a moment when HIV could be transmitted from one person to another. It's also very possible to end up cutting the wrong vein or tendon, which can cause a trip to the ER. 
  • Asphyxiation/Breathplay. Any time that you are willingly cutting off air supply to yourself or another person is a time when your play could turn lethal. It only takes one badly tied knot or one person's hand on another's throat to kill. 
  • Water Torture. This can be pretty traumatic for most people. You can also accidentally drown your play partner doing this. 
  • Cuckolding/Cuckqueaning. This doesn't leave physical scars, but it can definitely leave emotional scars. Many relationships do not recover after a cuckolding session gone wrong. 
  • Gunplay. Pointing a (nonloaded) gun at someone crossed many lines for many people. 
  • TPE. TPE stands for Total Power Exhange, and basically says that one person gives up any rights during a BDSM play session. Many people (including myself) believe that TPE crosses the line between edge play and abuse. That being said, TPE is one of those BDSM terms you need to know, just in order to ensure you avoid it. 

Aftercare

Aftercare happens after a BDSM session is complete. This is the time when both partners check on one another to make sure that they're okay, get back into their "normal selves," and also just show each other appreciation for the experiences they share. 

Aftercare is crucial to a healthy BDSM relationship. Without aftercare, many BDSM relationships tend to dissolve into toxic, abusive messes. You need aftercare, even if you don't think you do. 

This is one of the BDSM terms you need to know when you search for a Dom, simply because bad (fake) Doms will not know what it is or will refuse to do it. 

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