Definition of Terms

As Used in BDSM

Many aspects of life have their own set of unique terms with definitions that can be confusing. In BDSM, we use words like Dominant or Dom and submissive or sub. Abbreviations are also used such as D/s, S/M, etc. Below are some commonly used words and their definitions. The list is not all inclusive. References for the definitions includes SM 101, written by our friend, Jay Wiseman. If you don’t yet have a copy of this text, you are urged to get one and learn more about these sexual pleasures. Another reference we used here and that we have found invaluable is Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon.

So, what are the commonly used terms and what do they mean? Please note that this list is not all inclusive, but merely an introduction to some of the more commonly used terms.

BDSM – Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism

SM – Sadism and masochism in which one person dominates another who is considered submissive. A sadist is one who is gratified by inflicting physical or emotional pain on the other person. A masochists, in one who receives pleasure from the physical or emotional pain inflicted by the other partner.

Dominant – This person is the one who gives the orders or direction during SM play. The dominant likes to be in control of others. They are often referred to as the Dom or Domme (female dominant).

Submissive – This person is the one who enjoys getting and following orders from the Dominant. They are often called sub or subs.

D/s – Dominance and submission

Top – The top is the person who enjoys being dominant and/or sadistic. People use the word top to indicate the person who enjoys giving the ‘sensations’ involved in D/s or SM play. Simplistically stated, the person who does the spanking is the top.

Bottom – The bottom enjoys receiving physical sensations from the top. He or she may also be submissive, but this is not always true for every bottom. Simplisticly stated, the bottom is one who gets the spanking.

Switch – A person who enjoys both top and bottom roles, often changing from top to bottom or vice versa depending on the situation and his or her sensual needs.

Play – Erotic activity that includes sadomasochism as well as bondage and discipline.

Bondage – Tying or restraining with ropes, cords, or other material to prevent the bottom from moving about freely.

Discipline – A form of punishment for not obeying the dominant’s orders.

Scene – When two or more people get together to enjoy SM play, it is known as a scene.

Toys – Sensual equipment used in SM play such as floggers, collars, whips, chains, clamps, etc.

Training – Conditioning or modifying the sub’s behavior. This is undertaken by both the dom and sub.

Sensual play – Erotic activity that focuses on physical sensations and generally does not include pain.

Safe word – This is an agreed-upon word that the sub will use when he or she wants the dom or top to stop or lessen the intensity of the scene.

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