Speaking BDSM A Glossary of Terms Used to Describe
ddIf you’re interested in exploring BDSM (bondage/discipline, domination/submission, sadism/masochism), you’ll need to understand BDSM terms. The glossary below will make it easier for you to parse the technical terminology as well as the not-so-scientific vernacular — aka, slang — you’ll need to speak BDSM.
Aftercare When a scene is over, aftercare is the emotional and physical care that’s administered, usually by a top. Proper aftercare may be used to prevent a drop.
Age Play When participants take on an older or younger role.
BDSM An umbrella term used to describe a sexual practice that involves the use of physical control, psychological power, or pain. It typically includes the components of bondage and discipline, domination and submission, or sadism or masochism.
Bondage and Discipline A type of BDSM practice that incorporates bondage (tying, binding, or restraining someone) and discipline (punishing a submissive partner when they break a rule).
Bottom The person in a scene who follows the orders and receives the sensations.
Breath Play A form of play when one participant controls their breath. This may include choking or holding the breath.
Consent Agreeing to certain acts in a BDSM scene or relationship. Practitioners believe that consent is what separates BDSM from assault.
Contract An arrangement that outlines the rules and structures of a BDSM relationship. It may be written or oral.
Dom A dominant role, often referring to a male.
Domina A dominant who is female and embraces a feminine gender role — sometimes called a Domme or Dominatrix.
Dominance and Submission (D/S) A term for the behaviors or rituals that a submissive person follows in a BDSM relationship. In D/S, one person usually has power over another.
Dominant A person who has the authority in a BDSM relationship or scene.
Drop The physical or emotional exhaustion that takes place after a scene. Both tops and bottoms may experience a drop. Crying, feeling sad, and physical shaking are all signs of a drop.
Dungeon A location where BDSM play takes place (usually in a person’s home or at a club).
Dungeon Monitor A person (or group of people) who supervises BDSM activities at a club or play party to make sure the acts are safe and consensual.
Edge Play BDSM acts that are considered more intense or dangerous, such as breath play.
Female Dominance When a woman takes the dominant role in a BDSM relationship or scene.
Female Submission BDSM activity in which a woman submits to a sexual partner.
Fetish An obsession with a specific experience, body part, or object.
Fetish Wear The clothing worn by those who practice BDSM (usually leather attire or other role-playing costumes).
Gender Play A type of BDSM play when an individual in a scene takes on the role of the opposite gender.
Hard Limits An activity that a person in a BDSM relationship absolutely won’t do. A hard limit can’t be negotiated.
Impact Play A type of BDSM play that involves striking the body. This can be done with a hand, paddle, cane, whip, flogger, or other instrument.
Kink Nonconventional sexual practices. BDSM is often referred to as kink.
Master The person who has control over a slave in a consensual master-slave relationship.
Male Dominance BDSM acts when the dominant partner is a man, also called maledom.
Male Submission BDSM activities when the submissive participant is a man, also referred to as malesub.
Masochist An individual who likes or becomes sexually gratified by their own pain or humiliation.
Munch An informal meeting or party, often at a public place, where people interested in BDSM can mingle.
Play A term used to describe the BDSM acts themselves.
Play Party A social gathering where guests can engage in BDSM activity.
Pro Domme A woman who is a professional top and dominant.
Protocol A rule or rules that people practicing BDSM agree to follow.
Role Play When one or more people take on a different identity during a scene. Examples may include teacher-student, doctor-patient, or boss-employee role plays.
Sadism and Masochism This subset of BDSM involves inflicting pain or humiliation for the purpose of pleasure or sexual gratification.
Sadist A person who enjoys or becomes sexually aroused by inflicting pain or humiliation on someone else.
Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC) This phrase describes what the BDSM community considers ethical behavior. Kink enthusiasts stress that activities must always be safe, sane, and consensual.
Safe Word An agreed upon word or phrase that a bottom, sub, or slave can say during a scene to stop the activity or session immediately. Some common safe words are “red,” “red light,” “pineapple,” and “banana.”
Soft Limits A limit that’s more flexible than a hard limit. It might be an act that a person is hesitant to perform but may be willing to try.
Scene The actual BDSM activities or encounters that take place.
Slave A person who gives up total control of one or more parts of their life to a master.
Submissive Someone who submits to a dominant person in a BDSM relationship or scene. Submissive can be shortened to sub.
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Switch A person who sometimes plays a top and sometimes plays a bottom in a BDSM scene.
Top The person who performs the BDSM acts in a scene.
Topping From the Bottom When a bottom tries to control a scene even though it was agreed that the top would be in charge.
24-7s When individuals in a relationship engage in some form of BDSM at all times (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
Vanilla Sex Used by people in the BDSM community to label sexual behavior that doesn’t involve kink.