BDSM Defintions

Definitions of words in the BDSM sometimes appear to be out of context when relating to other forms of verbal communication. Many of the following definitions and terms will shed an entire new light on the words you have grown accustomed to and how they have been used in other contexts.

Many of the following definitions and terms have been presented to you through a number of years of research and reading of the various publications on the subject of BDSM. We do not take credit for the creation of the terms provided here and would like to thank all of the various people that have written on the subject of BDSM everywhere.


ABRASION: or surface play with abrasive materials. Rabbit fur, rough silk, chamois leather, fine sandpaper, assorted brushes and wire wool are just a few samples of some very effectives items to enhance the body sensations of a blindfolded bottom.

AFTERCARE: Communication after scenes is part of what is called aftercare. Aftercare is a time when the partners typically cuddle, decompress, and eventually talk about the good and bad parts of the scene. The importance of quality aftercare cannot be stressed enough. Most people do aftercare naturally, with both partners enjoying it as part of the entire BDSM experience.

AGE PLAY: a common variant of role-play in which the top becomes the Daddy or Mommy and the bottom child-like. Most commonly, adults take on the role of children, perhaps in a submissive capacity. Younger people may also take on the role of older people.

ATOCALCIPHILIA: fetish for high heels.

ANIMAL TRAINING: Play scenes where the bottom usually takes on the role of an animal. A very common example of this scenario is the sub playing the role of a dog. Horses are also popular, as in pony girls. In order to emphasize this behavior the sub will wear items such as collars, leads and bridles.

ASPHYXIAPHILIA: auto-erotic asphyxiation (if solo play). Games involving control or restriction of air and/or the supply of oxygen to the brain. Strangling is usually the compression of the carotid arteries to prevent oxygenated blood reaching the brain; suffocation involves reducing the level of oxygen in the air available to breathe. Hanging, where the body is suspended by the neck, though a relatively common fantasy is very difficult to stage in a non-harmful way. This form of play is extremely dangerous and not recommended by the in experienced.

ASSPLAY: next to the clitoris, the anus contains the largest number of nerve endings on a female body. For males the prostate is an extremely sexually arousing gland on the male body. Inserting dildos fisting, fucking and douching can be very stimulating forms of ass play. Hygiene should always be a main consideration with this type of play.
Return to Top


BD: B/D, B&D. bondage and discipline or bondage and dominance. Sometimes used interchangeably with SM but more strictly referring to bondage and role-playing or humiliation but rarely with any great deal of pain.

BDSM: bondage, domination, sadism, masochism: An overall compilation of overlapping initials intended to identify three components play BD, DS, and SM.

BALL TORTURE: Ball Torture (BT) refers to a range of techniques to cause sensation, discomfort and pain in the male testicles and scrotum. Common examples are squeezing with hands, slapping and beating with hands and other objects, crushing using various vice-like devices and applying pressure with bindings, straps and weights are favourite techniques. Often found in conjunction with cock torture (CT), thus CBT. As most men know, the balls are highly sensitive, particularly to pressure. Most men find handling, stroking and squeezing gently is a pleasurable sensation in itself, and the boundary between strong sensation and outright pain seems particularly malleable here. For many people there is also the thrill that the balls are regarded as probably the most delicate and vulnerable part of the male anatomy and using them in SM games requires great trust and carries a particularly intense charge.

BASTINADO: Form of torture or punishment involving beating the soles of the feet.

BELT CLIP: These fasteners are normally made in a g-shape, opened and closed with a sprung lever, designed for fastening key rings onto belts and so on. Heavy-duty versions are useful and convenient fastenings in bondage.

BIRCHING: Light wooden rod or bundle of twigs, traditionally from the birch tree; striking with such an implement.

BLINDFOLD: Temporarily blocking the sense of sight is a common technique in SM scenes. It can make the bottom feel more vulnerable, help them concentrate or 'get into the headspace', and is essential to the sorts of abrasion and surface play games where everyday objects are used to give unexpected sensations. Use purpose-made blindfolds such as the cheap ones made for travelers and often distributed free by airlines, or the more expensive ones in leather or rubber from sex shops. Improvised blindfolds that are quite effective range from scarves, hankies, long socks to bandages.

BODY MODIFICATION: Making permanent but usually superficial alterations to the appearance of the body, sometimes by painful processes like branding and piercing.

BODY TRAINING: uses specialized apparatus to train a body part or area to look a certain way for an extended period of time. Corsets are used to train the waist and lower abdomen to make it smaller. Nipple training devices pull the nipple out from the breast to lengthen it.

BONDAGE: Restriction of a person's bodily movement for erotic reasons using fastenings of various kinds. Restriction of movement during a play scene, utilizing ropes and various restraints.

BOTTOM: umbrella term for the person in the scene who takes the submissive, receptive or masochistic role. BDSM activities go on between two (and sometimes more) partners. The person following the top's lead is called the bottom. These terms originated from missionary-position sex, where the male is literally on top of his partner. However, in the context of BDSM they are quite general and do not have any connotations about who is positioned where. (See also the definitions of Dom and sub below.) doms and subs are particular kinds of tops and bottoms. Some people use the terms dom and sub to be synonymous with top and bottom. Others use the terms top and bottom to refer to people who emphasize SM as opposed to DS in their play. Which exact definition is being used is usually clear from the context, but it can be helpful to ask.

BRANDING: Making a permanent or semi-permanent scar on the skin by burning it with a heated metal object, as practiced on livestock and in earlier times on slaves and criminals. Can be carried out safely with the correct technique and aftercare but still likely to be intensely painful, and seen by some as the ultimate either in body art or as the culmination of a heavily submissive relationship or scene.

using feces (scat) in an erotic context. The scientific name for being aroused by excrement is coprophilia, though games involving shit are known more commonly (and euphemistically) by the term scat (this word is derived from 'scatology', originally the medical practice of diagnosis through the inspection of feces.

Return to Top


C&B or CBT: cock and ball torture; intense stimulation of the male genitals more often associated with pain, bondage, and endurance. See ball torture and cock torture.

CANING: use of a cane, a flexible rod. Caning a bottom is very intense and leaves very pronounced marks. Canes are semi-flexible rods that have a long history as an implement of corporal punishment. They are made from a variety of materials and in range of sizes, each one of which has its own particular qualities. Softer materials, like hazel, are often very flexible and resilient. They will strike with more speed and more "cutting" capability, but because of their compressibility they strike with less overall force than a more dense material such as rattan. Some modern materials, such as fiberglass, combine flexibility with high density to produce sensations not possible with natural materials. However, most caners prefer the psychological effect of natural bamboo and rattan canes.

CHAINS: to be used for suspensions mainly. In some cases a smooth chain with a proper finish can be used on the skin. Quick release clasps are recommended.

CHASTITY: In SM circles most likely to mean banning or physically preventing someone from achieving orgasm or even any form of genital stimulation in the long term, usually as a means of asserting domination. Also known as enforced chastity (EC). A device intended for this purpose is known as a chastity belt or a chastity device, and wearing such a device is a form of bondage.

CLAMPS: Clamps are devices that apply pressure to a body part. They can be used on nipples, the chest and outer genitalia. There are many styles of clamps, from plain clothespins to specialized genital clamps. Nipple clamps are items that pinch the nipples. Some have adjustable settings so the pressure can be customized or varied. Others work only by a single spring mechanism and do not allow the top to adjust the pressure. Nipple clamps can also be used on other areas of the body, but here we will stick to nipples. Most tops test clamps first on themselves to get a feeling for the level of intensity imparted, often on the skin of the inner wrist or the webbing between the thumb and forefinger.

CLOVER CLAMPS: are intricately curved spring mechanisms whose actual purpose is to hold fabrics tightly for sewing. They can be bought very inexpensively at sewing stores. For scene use they are often sold in pairs with a chain attaching them. The flat ends have rubber coverings. The pressure they yield is intense and cannot be adjusted; in fact, they tend to ratchet to a tighter level when the chain is pulled. But many bottoms find them hot for exactly those reasons. They are very attractive and many tops never travel without them.

ROACH CLAMPS: (named not for the insect but for marijuana butt holders) are matchstick-thin tweezers with small rubber coverings on the tips and a sliding ring that lets you adjust the tightness (like barbecue tongs). They are good for many nipple sizes. For scene use they are often sold in pairs with a chain attaching them.

ROLLS-ROYCE CLAMPS: are heavy, strong-looking clamps with rubber tip coverings, a chain between them, and an adjustment mechanism that works by screwing them tighter (like screw back earrings). The adjustment mechanism works very well, and if the bottom's nipples are not too small, these clamps can be adjusted from very light pressure to fairly tight. Novices often find them the most comfortable of the nipple clamp styles.

COCK TORTURE: in the SM context means causing intense stimulation, discomfort or pain to the penis, usually including the foreskin, if present, using hands and any number of improvised or purpose-made devices. This is not so horrific as it might sound to some men: the penis is often regarded as a particularly delicate and sensitive part of the anatomy but although there are specific health and safety issues to consider the organ sturdier than you might think, and can take a good deal of punishment without serious risk.

COLLAR: a band of leather, metal, cloth, or nylon encircling the neck to signify a bottom role. Chains or straps can be attached to it to secure the hands or legs. These collars can be different from a standard collar, which denotes ownership.

CONSENT: The consent of both parties is of vital importance in any sexual encounter, but the issue seems more pronounced in SM because many of the activities are those that are widely seen as unpleasant and undesirable in everyday life. Many SMers have therefore devised particularly techniques for managing consent.

CONSENSUAL: based on mutual agreement; not coerced; one of the three cornerstones of social BDSM play: Safe, Sane & Consensual.

CONTRACTS: are actual written documents specifying the terms and conditions of a BDSM relationship or even defining the parameters within a specified play period.

CONTROL: In an SM context, most likely to mean scenes where the top takes control of the bottom through various techniques. Could also include scenes where actions which are normally volitional are closely controlled by the top, either through physical restraint or role-play.

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT/CP: Originally, retributive punishment involving the infliction of pain, often though not exclusively through blows administered with some form of flexible object like a whip or cane, and the palm of the hand. In an SM context, normally refers to the activities of caning, whipping and spanking. This term often implies some form of role-playing in which the bottom is 'punished'.

CROSS: Wooden crosses provide convenient points for stretching arms out of the way and exposing someone, and are particular popular for back-whipping or flogging scenes. The straight (St George's) cross may look good and have powerful associations for some people but a far more flexible and practically comfortable design is x-shaped or St Andrew's cross. These are normally built to lean slightly inwards so that the bottom can rest against them: the arms can be stretched above the shoulders or, for longer scenes where comfort is required, fixed downwards on the other side of the cross. It's important that the cross is stable and the dimensions and the angle of the lean have a big impact on its usefulness.

CROSS DRESSING: Dressing in clothing usually worn by the opposite sex. In a sexual context, can be carried out as a sexual thrill in itself, in which case these men would be called transvestites. However, is also sometimes employed in power and humiliation games, and seems most common on the heterosexual BDSM scene where male bottoms are instructed to wear female clothing and even wigs and makeup by female tops. Unsurprisingly, given the unequal social roles of men and women, men are more likely to find women's clothes humiliating, whereas women might dress in men's clothes to feel powerful and dominant.

CUFFS: Cuffs are mainly used for wrist and arm restraint. When referring to leg and ankle restraint, they are normally called shackles. They can be made from many different materials, from nylon with Velcro closings, to leather, to metal. Care must be taken in using cuffs since a tight fit can cut off circulation. Cuffs can be used to bind the hands to the sub's waist, ankles, thighs, or to other objects.

CUNT TORTURE: Any form of intense stimulation or pain inflicted on the female genitals: perhaps by abrasion, clips and clamps, electricity, temperature play, play piercing, gentle whipping and flogging and with nails and hands. The clitoris is the most sensitive part, and the clitoris hood (prepuce) and both labia will also repay attention. Some women are also particularly sensitive in the G-spot, a round raised area of fatty tissue about 1cm (1/3") diameter just inside the front wall of the vagina. Apart from the G-spot, the inside of the vagina itself is fairly insensitive.

Return to Top


D&S: dominance and submission. Other kinds of deferent activities, ranging from service such as polishing the dominant's boots, to cooking dinner, to kneeling at the dominant's feet, to body worship, to orgasm deprivation or having an orgasm on command, are also common parts of DS. The rules of DS are not standardized. They are typically worked out between the partners during negotiations prior to playing. A submissive is not required to kneel at the foot of the dominant unless the partners have agreed that kneeling is an acceptable play activity. Nor is a submissive automatically required to defer to dominants other than the submissive's own partner.

DISCIPLINE: Like many SM terms, used rather loosely, but usually refers to the imposition of rules of behavior on the bottom in domination scenes and the 'punishments' used to enforce them. A distinction is often made between intense and painful activities that are carried out so the bottom gets direct enjoyment from them and those carried out as a 'punishment' for infraction where in certain kinds of ongoing relationships the bottom does not determine the limits of the activity.

DOM: and sometimes for females, domme" or femdom; the term "dominatrix is not generally used for female doms. Doms and subs are particular kinds of tops and bottoms, ones who emphasize power exchange in their play. Some people use the terms dom and sub to be synonymous with top and bottom. Others use the terms top and bottom to refer to people who emphasize SM as opposed to DS in their play. Which exact definition is being used is usually clear from the context, but it can be helpful to ask. Tops and doms do not all wear leather and boots or carry whips and chains; nor do owned submissives all wear collars.

DOMINANCE: controlling and directing the scene.

DOMINANT: the person who directs the scene and issues the commands. 1. Exercising the most influence or control; governing. 2. Most prominent in position or prevalence; ascendant. Comes from Old French and Latin dominans, to dominate.

DOMME: and sometimes for females, domme or femdom; the term "dominatrix" is not generally used for female doms.

DOMINATE: 1. To control, govern or rule by superior authority or power. Comes from Latin dominari, to rule > dominus, lord.

DOMINATRIX: The Latin feminine of the term 'dominator', one who dominates, could just mean a woman who enjoys taking the dominant role but almost always refers specifically to the professional dominatrix who charges for staging scenes where she dominates mainly male clients. The work of these women is rarely classed legally as prostitution because very often genital sex is not involved. Some dominatrixes are renowned for their knowledge and skill at both the psychological and physical aspects of SM techniques and a number have made valuable contributions to the BDSM community. generally used for female doms.

DOUCHE: A simple item of equipment for douching, usually consisting of a rubber bulb and nozzle, though the term is sometimes extended to cover other items of douching equipment. Also the activity of douching, as in 'I had a douche' or 'I douched'.

DOUCHING: From the French douche, 'shower', in a sexual context this means injecting liquid, usually water, under pressure into the ass or cunt, either for hygiene purposes prior to sex, for contraceptive purposes afterwards (not terribly reliable), or as a sexual thrill in itself. In the vagina the liquid is entering a closed cavity and only a limited amount can be used. In the rectum, the cavity immediately behind the asshole can be flushed, or liquid can be made to penetrate higher and further into the bowel and colon: such a thorough anal douche is known as an enema and the sexual enjoyment of them is termed klismaphilia. The body will quickly attempt to expel water introduced in this way with a shitting action and controlling this can be part of the fun.

DRESSER: A person who likes dressing in fetish wear or leather, and might be mistaken for a player, but their actual fetish is the dressing!

DROPS: tops or bottoms sometimes experience drop the blues or moodiness following an exciting scene or weekend of play.

DUNGEON: a room designed and decorated specifically for BDSM play. Also known as "play room."

Return to Top


EDGE PLAY: Sometimes limits change as partners get to know each other. Occasionally, the bottom simply offers to remove a limit. Other times the top, with the bottom's consent, pushes a limit by approaching it, threatening it, or otherwise convincing the bottom to accept it in scene, if only for a moment. Pushing a limit or playing near a limit is called edge play.

ELASTRATOR: Device, resembling a pair of tongs, used for applying very strong and tight elastic bands, intended for veterinary use in castrating and tail-cropping young animals, but sometimes used as a form of clamp in SM play, especially on nipples (prolonged wearing of such bands should be avoided).

ELECTRICAL STIMULATING DEVICES electrotorture.: use electricity directly applied to the skin. On most, the intensity of the applied electricity can be altered, from a low voltage to a fairly high amount. The sensations that come from these devices range from pleasant to very painful. Electrical play is best left alone. It is very dangerous edge-type play, and must be thoroughly researched before being embarked on.

EMOTIONAL SADISM & MASOCHISM: A combined ground between DS and SM is emotional sadism/emotional masochism. The most common form is embarrassment or humiliation. Examples include name-calling, having one's partner say he or she has behaved naughtily, or having one's partner engage in an emotionally uncomfortable activity (e.g., masturbating with the window blinds open or eating from a dog dish). Another form of emotional SM is emotional abandonment: play wherein the top responds coldly to the bottom or deserts the bottom. Flirting with someone else at a party or behaving with indifference toward the bottom after a difficult scene (where the inducement of jealousy or the indifference are part of the play) are examples, as is the controversial situation of leaving a bottom who is bound and helpless. (Before you do anything like this latter, think about extreme possibilities such as: What if the bottom has a heart attack or an emotional or physical crisis like becoming entangled in the bonds while no one is present? Leaving a bound bottom is universally considered to be not a safe or recommended activity.)

EMS unit: EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulator) units and Relaxicisors. Similar machines include Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation unit, one of a number of machines designed for applying electrical pulses to the body at safe levels.

ENDORPHINS: A group of endogenous, morphine-like hormones secreted by the brain when the body is under unusual stress, which fit into the brain's optiod receptors and stimulate them to fire, producing tranquilizing and pain-killing properties that appear to help induce a sort of euphoria; some people report feeling a state of well-being similar to endorphin euphoria after experiencing intense sensations such as those associated with prolonged flogging. A common question asked by newcomers is: How can anyone like to experience pain? There are as many answers as there are people who like it. For some people, pain is directly erotic. Some people have orgasms from being flogged; others are highly aroused by nipple clamps. For others, pain is often accompanied by internal chemical reactions, most notably the release of brain chemicals called endorphins.

ENEMA: A thorough anal douche using a bag and tube. See Douche or Douching also.

Return to Top


FACE FUCKING: a particularly intense form of fellatio.

FEARPLAY: achieved, say, by threatening the bottom with a knife.

FEMDOM: A female dominant or female and sometimes called "domme".

FETISHIST: A person who regards an object or body part as sexual.

FETISHISM: eroticisation of objects, behaviors, and/or body parts. In anthropology, a fetish is an object to which powers are attributed that go beyond its natural ones; when the term is extended to sexuality, it indicates an object not naturally connected with sexual reproduction that nonetheless causes sexual arousal for some people.

FISTING: insertion of hand or large part of hand into rectal, vaginal or oral cavity. Fist fucking, FF, handballing. Placing or attempting to place the whole hand (or even both hands) into the rectum or vagina.

FLAGELLATION: Sometimes abbreviated to fladge or flag (the latter pronounced identically to the former), though these are both rather dated. First used in English for the self-whipping of mediaeval religious flagellant cults. In the modern era used by psychologists and sometimes among practitioners as a general term to describe SM-related whipping, beating and spanking for erotic stimulation.

FLOGGER: Multi-tailed implement designed for striking the body, similar to a cat but normally with broad, blunt tails rather than those that end in sharp knots or spikes. A basic leather flogger is a good device for novices because it is relatively safe, and fairly easy to use.

FLOGGING: A term that can be used for striking with a variety of different flexible implements, sometimes used as a general term for these sorts of activities.

FREE PLAY: A form of play sometimes employed when the main interest in an SM activity is the physical sensation (see pain) or experience, where no domination or submission is involved and the partners swap roles during the scene or do things to each other simultaneously.

Return to Top


GENTITORTURE: Sometimes used as a general term for pain games involving the genitals.

GOLDEN SHOWERS (GS): playing with urine for erotic purposes. (See Water sports also). The sexual enjoyment of piss (urine) is officially known as urolagnia, and sometimes referred to as golden showers (GS), water sports (WS). Someone who likes drinking piss might describe himself or herself as thirsty. Fascination with piss is fairly common: it may be enjoyed for its own sake, but in a BDSM context it can be part of a degradation or humiliation scene.

GOREAN PLAY: is stylized kind of play that is DS-like but with highly standardized customs. It is
based on a series of science fiction novels about an imaginary planet called Gor in which females are all extremely deferential to males. A female slave (called a kajira) on the planet Gor is subject to the whims of any passing male according to some specific customs. Males are assumed to be dominant, also according to some specific roles. There are occasional roles available for those who cross gender assumptions; this is more common on IRC than in the books themselves. What differentiates Gorean play from D/s is that D/s does not involve any standardized rules applying to all submissives or all of any single gender or category of people. The rules of D/s are typically worked out in a highly customized manner between the partners.

Return to Top


HANDCUFFS: These metal bondage items, familiar from police use, are another one of those well-known SM icons that have real practical drawbacks: they can be painful and damaging to nerves and bones, and like all metal bondage items should be used with great care. Two popular types are the U-shapes with a cross-piece and the ratchet type. Straight 8s have both cuffs as one solid piece rather than joined with a chain, thumb cuffs are usually mini straight 8s and ankle cuffs are larger and with a longer chain.

HARNESS: Bondage apparatus consisting of a network of straps designed to form a web over a large area of the body or the head. The best known is the leather body harness for wearing around the upper torso, as seen in the classic leather look. However they can be made of a variety of materials, and not all are just made for show.

HEAVY PLAY: sophisticated or advanced activities or techniques used for psychological or physical stimulation that require special training for safety reasons, e.g. breath control, cutting, temporary and/or permanent piercing, branding, burning, electroplay: also play that is very intense physically and / or psychologically, as very intense pain, or very intense surrender. Edge play is not the same as heavy play. The term "heavy play" generally refers to play that is considered relatively risky by experienced players.

HOBBLE SKIRT: Very narrow skirt with hem just below the knee that restricts the wearer's ability to take anything other than very short steps, sometimes used as a bondage item.

HUMILIATION: deliberate ego reduction for consensual erotic purposes, ranging from mild embarrassment to degradation; may be physical and/or psychological. Humiliation is a specific style of domination that centers on making the sub do a particular act, or doing something to a sub that is repugnant or causes the sub to feel less powerful.

HYPOXYPHILIA: sexual arousal from the limiting or withholding of oxygen.

Return to Top


ICE: Ice can be used on external body parts, external genitalia, or even internal genitalia if care is taken. Ice can quickly sensitize affected body parts, or numb them slightly. Ice can even be used to intensify an orgasm in either sex. With males, a thin piece of ice, inserted into the anus during ejaculation, can give the male a more intensified orgasm than normal. Ice rubbed on nipples will cause almost instant stiffening.

IMMOBILIZATION: rendering a bottom helpless by completely restricting movement through bondage.

INFANTILISM: Mainly refer to those who gain satisfaction from dressing up in infants' clothing and using associated objects like dummies and cribs; may also indicate those who enjoy elaborate role-playing scenes in which they act out the part of a baby as fully as possible.

INFIBULATION: Fastening of the genitals to prevent intercourse or even sometimes arousal, as in chastity games, usually achieved by piercing or suturing (sewing).

Return to Top



KELOIDS: To the surprise of many, light cuttings do not ordinarily scar. Light cuttings through only the top three epidermal layers tend to heal completely within one to six months. However, some skin types, age, and area of the body present unpredictable factors, and scarring is a definite possibility in any cutting. In general, the older someone is, the more likely the skin is to retain marks as scars. In general, thinner-skinned areas (like above bones as opposed to on the fleshy part of the ass) are more likely to scar. And in general, blacks or those with swarthier Mediterranean skin tones are more prone to keloids than fair-skinned whites and orientals. Keloids are a raised permanent skin reaction that is manifested in striated scarring lines in the skin or striated welts. The striations sometimes develop instantly or might take a week or so to manifest. Be aware, though: any skin type can keloid or otherwise scar; it is not completely predictable when it happens.

KLISMAPHILIA: The obtaining of sexual enjoyment from enemas. See douching.

KNIFE PLAY: Knives as scene implements typically impart fear, pain, control, and sometimes blood. It is useful to distinguish between what is commonly called "knife play," and what are commonly called "cuttings." In general, the term knife play does not involve the intentional drawing of blood. However, the term cutting does generally involve the drawing of blood. If in doubt, this is a matter to clarify in advance negotiations.

Return to Top


LIFESTYLE or 24/7: For some people, BDSM is full-time (also called lifestyle or 24/7). For others, it is confined to the bedroom. For yet others it is an activity to engage in once every few months. What BDSM is about is often a very personal experience, something to be worked out and tailored between the partners, something that grows and changes with the individuals and their relationships.

LIMITS: boundaries of consent as negotiated between partners, including activities in which one person does not wish to participate. A primary goal of negotiation is that activities that are off-limits are commonly asked about by the top or volunteered by the bottom prior to play. For a top to violate intentionally a bottom's stated limits or boundaries is nonconsensual and unethical. Limits can be anything a person wants them to be. A surprisingly common limit is "No tickling!" Other common limits include "No drawing blood," "No permanent damage," "No blindfolding me," "No tying me up," "No oral sex without a condom," "No humiliation," " No sex with anyone not of my preferred gender," etc. Limits can be as arbitrary as you want. Tops also have limits and often state them during negotiations!

LUNGE WHIP: Quirt. Long thin whip used in coaching and carriage driving.

Return to Top


M/s: Sometimes MS, M&S or M-s. Master or Mistress and slave.

MALACCA: Thick cane with a knob-shaped handle at one end.

MALEDOM: A male dominant or male domination.

MARTINET: This was the only whip to be designed exclusively for the punishment of juveniles. It is of French design, and is for use on the bare bottoms. It closely resembles a cat'o'nine tails. Martinets are not true whips & are usually made of strips of leather (usually 6) and the tails and handle should be of equal length.

MASOCHISM: A form of play in which pleasure or sexual excitement and satisfaction depend largely on being subjected to abuse or physical pain, whether by oneself or another.

MASOCHIST: a person who enjoys receiving intense sensation in a consensual, usually erotic context.

MASTER: Female equivalent: Mistress. Dominant, controlling partner or top in a relationship based on sexual domination and submission (DS), where the submissive partner is known as the slave. Such relationships are known as master/mistress-slave relationships.

MEDICAL: Scene involving some form of medical procedure or scenario, perhaps with the top playing the role of a doctor or nurse and the bottom a patient, scenes, examinations, procedures, and/or equipment such as uniforms, rectal thermometer, catheters and sounds.

MENTOR: One frequent way to explore BDSM is for a top to begin by bottoming, or apprenticing, to an experienced top that can teach the person safety, ideas, style, and technique.

MIND FUCK: Another common element of DS is the mindfuck. Mindfucks are a kind of trickery, illusion, or gaming with the bottom's mind. Sometimes mindfucks deceive the bottom into believing that whatever is going on is real when it is not. Thus, a common mindfuck is for the top to show the bottom a sharp knife, but then substitute a dull item (like a letter opener) before running the blade over a nipple or inserting the item into the bottom's cunt. Alternatively, the bottom might discover afterwards that the situation was worse than the bottom believed at the time. Yet another kind of mindfuck is for the top to cause the bottom mild embarrassment or confusion, tripping the bottom in his or her own words. More generally, mindfucks include any sort of mental manipulation.

MISTRESS: feminine title of respect accorded one who dominates or owns a consenting partner. Female equivalent of Master.

MUMMIFICATION: A specialized kind of bondage in which the whole body, including the head if some form of breathing tube is used, is wrapped tightly using materials like cling film (saran wrap) and gaffa tape, cloth or latex bandages until the bottom is completely immobilized.

Return to Top


NIPPLE TORTURE-NT: nipple torture, or intense stimulation of the nipples. Rubber bands and dental floss are not recommended for nipple binding, though they are sometimes used. The nipples tend to swell, sometimes dramatically, when bound, and these items cannot be loosened or removed easily. They can become so hidden in the flesh that it can even be impossible to cut them off without cutting the skin. Many household items can be used perfectly well as nipple clamps. Examples are clothespins or much fiercer items like chip clips or binder clips. Though they do not have adjustable settings, sometimes the spring mechanism can be bent to reduce the pressure. The circular openings in clothespins can also be used, sometimes to better effect, than the tips if the person's nipples are sensitive. Chopsticks positioned on either side of the nipples can be used to bind the nipples and tightened or loosened with twist ties. The chains that attach many styles of nipple clamps have a variety of uses. They can be pulled, weights can be hung from them, or they can be used to lead or tie off the bottom. They can also be used to yank the clamps off at the end.

Nipple clamps, like other tight binding, reduce circulation. The rule of thumb many tops suggest is no more than ten or fifteen minutes of use at a time. Coldness, numbness, and discoloration are signals that it is time to release the clamp.

Releasing the clamp often brings more pain than placing the clamp on in the first place because of the sudden inflow of circulation to the blood vessels. If you want to reduce the sudden pain, you can press your warm palm or squeeze the tips of your fingers on the clamped area as you release the clamps. The pressure slows the blood return, which for most people eases the fierceness of the pain. Of course, sudden pain may be the goal, but it is always nice to have options.

NEGOTIATION: conferring and discussing to reach an agreement about what will happen in an BDSM scene regarding likes, dislikes, limits, health issues, roles, etc.

NOVICE: The usual term for someone new either to BDSM as a whole or to a particular activity. Very few people come out onto the scene with no experience at all. Most have experimented on themselves or perhaps persuaded vanilla partners to indulge some of their desires. Nonetheless a good top will take a different approach to a novice bottom than to an experienced one.

Return to Top



PADDLES: are characterized by a broad, flat striking surface attached to a short handle and are designed to be used at short range on the buttocks. They are normally made of leather or wood, sometimes of rubber, in a variety of shapes and sizes.

PAN SEXUALITY: All encompassing sexuality, disregarding gender differences and, sometimes, preferences for particular activities. Could be used of a person, in which case it suggests a wide interest in all forms of sex with partners of any gender. Much more commonly used of a community: some people have argued for the pan sexuality of the BDSM community. Alternatively pansexual can mean simply pertaining to all sexes and sexual orientations.

PARACHUTE: A toy shaped like a shallow cone, usually of leather or neoprene, with a hole in the center and chains or cords hanging from around the rim and joined together belief, slightly resembling a parachute, and use for weighting the balls by resting the parachute on them with the scrotum passing up through the hole and hanging weights from the chains.

PERCUSSION PLAY: Term used by some SMers to group together all activities involving repeated striking, with the hands or with any heavy or light, blunt, cutting or stinging implements.

PETTICOAT DISCIPLINE: Making a boy dress up as a girl to punish him by humiliation, as was apparently carried out in Scotland by making boys wear a kilt without a sporran.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: covers anything that involves interpersonal physical touch. Examples are bondage, a backrub, sex, tickling, and the causing of pain by, say, spanking or whipping.

PHYSICAL DOMINATION: This style of domination includes a wide range of activities, including spanking, whips, flails, floggers, and electrical stimulating devices. This style is often included along with restriction.

PIERCING: Piercing is a way of ornamenting the body in other places than the ear with jewelry. Pierced areas can include the nose, eyebrow, lip, and nipples. In females, piercing can include the clitoris, clitoral hood, inner and outer labia. In males, piercing can include the penis shaft, the glands, and the scrotum. Any activity that involves piercing the body with a thin, sharp object such as a needle. There are two basic types: permanent piercing, sometimes called ringing, and play or temporary piercing.

Play piercing is carried out for the experience of the piercing itself, the sensation of which can vary between barely noticeable and excruciating depending on where and how it is done. Thinner needles are used and are removed before the end of the session.

PLAY: BDSM activities between consenting partners.

PLAYER: A person who participates in a scene, scenes, or fetish activities.

POWER EXCHANGE or TPE: Total Power Exchange: has, in the last 20 years, become an increasingly popular term and an activity of interest in the popular press. Formally, the term emphasizes a pervasive subgroup of the psychological components of BDSM, most notably what is called power exchange. DS is widely experienced by tops as feeling high or aroused from exerting control, and by bottoms as a high or arousal from being controlled. That is, the partners agree to an exchange of power, ownership, command, or property rights.

Total power exchange (or TPE) is a term that is sometimes used to describe a certain class of 24/7 (full-time) DS relationships wherein the submissive gives up to the dominant a very comprehensive range of rights to control the submissive's daily existence.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ACTIVITY: covers the psychological effects of punishment, praise, love, obedience, control, orders, humiliation, etc., as well as the moods engendered by ritual, symbolic, or religious activity, catharsis, rage, and a variety of what are sometimes called "altered" states.

PUNISHMENT: Another common, though by no means universal, component of DS is punishment or discipline. This also falls under the less-used category of B&D, but these days it seems to mostly be discussed under the heading of d/s. Punishments: for example, spankings, canings, standing in the corner, or whatever the partners agree on, can be quite desirable by the bottom.

Return to Top


QUIRT: A long coaching whip. See lunge whip also

Return to Top


RACK: Item of bondage furniture consisting of a horizontal platform or table with fixing points allowing someone to be stretched out on their back or front with easy access all round: rarely do modern racks provide the facility for progressive stretching familiar from the popular image of the mediaeval torture chamber.

RESTRAINTS: cuffs, usually made of leather, that close around wrists and ankles and sometimes, around the thighs and waist.

RESTRICTION: Restriction is a style of domination where the sub is restricted in movement. Restriction can be enforced with restraining devices, such as ropes, or merely words. Restricting the movement of a sub is a widely used training technique.

RETIFISM: The fetish for boots and shoes.

RIDING CROPS: are another disciplinary tool. Short whip with a loop of leather on the end intended for use on horses but very useful and adaptable on humans too.Tack stores are a good outlet for a riding crop, but choose the material carefully. The harder the material the more damage you can do.

RIMMING: Giving a rimjob. Mouth contact with the asshole, including insertion of the tongue inside it. More common than you might think in vanilla sex; in BDSM it may be as a form of service performed on a top by a bottom, but in view of the intensity of the sensation it could go either way. Hygiene precautions should be observed with this activity: unless the area.

ROLE PLAY: using some standardized elements, such as a teacher with a student, a doctor with a patient, an interrogator with a spy, a pet with an owner, etc.

Return to Top


S&M or SM: sadism and masochism.

SMer: Sadomasochist, person who does SM.

SADISM: Deriving pleasure or sexual satisfaction from the infliction of pain on others.

SADIST: person who enjoys giving intense sensation in a consensual SM context.

SADOMASOCHISM: Taking pleasure, or sexual gratification from simultaneous sadism and masochism.

SAFE WORD: word or gesture previously agreed upon for use by both Tops and bottoms to halt the action in a scene or a relationship.

SCARIFICATION: many people desire intentional scars because they can be enticingly beautiful decorations, memories of particular relationships or scenes, or private symbols of ownership and d/s. Because of the skin's natural resilience, intentional scarification (that is, intentionally leaving a scar) via cuttings can in fact be hard for some people to accomplish even if it is desired! Raelyn Gallina is one of the finest scene-friendly piercing/cutting/scarification experts in the world. Asking in your local tattoo/piercing parlors and asking experienced players you meet through groups in your local Scene Community may also get you much useful information.

SCENES: BDSM activities between consenting partners.

SCOURGE: A scourge is typically a whip of several leather thongs, as once practiced by religious flagellants. Used loosely, the term 'scourging' is likely to imply a whipping severe enough to draw blood.

SELF BONDAGE: Bondage carried out on oneself during solo play. Special safety precautions must be taken with this style of bondage.

SENSORY DEPRAVATION: using blindfolds, gags, earplugs, hoods, bondage, etc. to reduce information available to one or more senses.

SERVICE: doing for another; the bottom for the Top, as an expression of obedience, respect, submission, devotion, love, etc.

SESSIONS: BDSM activities between consenting partners.

SIGNAL WHIP: Medium-length plaited leather whip similar to a small bullwhip, as used with dog teams.

SLAVE: person who is consensually owned as property of another. A slave's primary purpose in life is to serve the needs and desires of the Master. The slave relinquishes all control to the Master, because the slave knows the Master has their well being totally at heart.

SLEEPSACK: A bag in which to wrap the body for a particularly intense form of bondage, custom-made from leather or rubber or improvised from a sleeping bag and rope or straps.

SPANKING: Usually the punishing device is the open palm. The five popular postures for spanking are: across the knees, between the thighs, across a single elevated thigh, tucked under the arm, between the legs, or held down by the collar across an appropriate item of furniture.

SPECULUM: Device intended for medical examination of the rectum or vagina, normally made of steel in a duckbill design. The 'bill' is lubricated and inserted and then the two jaws are moved apart with a screw mechanism, stretching the opening to give a clear view down the throat of the instrument.

SPENCER PADDLE: Form of wooden paddle with holes drilled in striking surface.

SPREADER BARS: are used to separate extremities from each other. They are normally around 2-3 feet long, though the size varies. The ends of the bar can be attached to cuffs around the wrists, ankles, or neck. The bar enables the Dom to control the movement of the sub, and enables the Dom to access certain body areas easily.

STRETCHER: Term covering a variety of toys used for stretching muscles or parts of the body. A ball stretcher in fact stretches the scrotum above the balls -- see under ball toy. In bondage, stretchers are cuffs attached to long solid bars designed to hold limbs apart.

SQUICKED: There will be things you will encounter in BDSM that will not be interesting for you. In fact, there will be things that may stun you or gross you out! This effect is so common that there is a word for it. People say they are squicked when they encounter something that someone else does that makes them feel squeamish or "icky." (The word "squick" conflates those two words. The word is attributed to STella, a well-known and articulate woman in the BDSM community in San Francisco.)

STOCKS: are basically constructed from two pieces of wood with semi-circular indentations that fix together to trap arms, legs or neck: there are a variety of designs, from ankle stocks that fix the bottom in a sitting position to wrist-and-neck stocks that bend him or her over. They can be quite uncomfortable and lining the holes is suggested. They can be made at home or bought from specialist suppliers.

STRAPS: Normally, these are special items made of nylon webbing or leather. These are items that go a step beyond mere binding of hands or feet. They are much more difficult to get out of, and are more restrictive. Some strap items bind the wrists to the thighs, or to the ankles.

SUBMISSION: volitional giving up of control and power.

SUBMISSIVE or SUB: person who gives up power and control in a scene.
The submissive (or "sub") agrees to defer to the other partner the dominant.

SUBMIT: To yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of a Master or Mistress.

SUSPENSION: a form of bondage in which a person is partly or fully raised off the ground.

SWITCH: Although some people are 100% top and some are 100% bottom, the majority of folks switch, at least occasionally. That is, many folks sometimes bottom and sometimes top. This can be arranged in many different ways. Sometimes partners take turns with each other. Other times, someone will only top one partner and only bottom to some other partner.

Return to Top


TAWSE: Leather strap split most of the way down its length, formerly used for the corporal punishment of juveniles in Scotland.

TENS UNIT: Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation unit, one of a number of machines designed for applying electrical pulses to the body at safe levels. Similar machines include EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulator) units and Relaxicisors.

TOP: The person leading or initiating the BDSM activities. Doms and subs are particular kinds of tops and bottoms ones who emphasize power exchange in their play. Some people use the terms dom and sub to be synonymous with top and bottom. Others use the terms top and bottom to refer to people who emphasize SM as opposed to DS in their play. Which exact definition is being used is usually clear from the context, but it can be helpful to ask. Tops and doms do not all wear leather and boots or carry whips and chains; nor do owned submissives all wear collars.

TOTAL COVERAGE: Expression used by rubber fetishists for when the whole body is encased in rubber.

TOTAL POWER EXCHANGE: TPE. Term occasionally used to describe a full-time (24/7) Dom/sub or Master/Mistress-slave relationship.

TORTURE: In SM, usually used to indicate the use of techniques that produce sustained sensations of continuously variable intensity, some of which may be painful, usually focused on some identifiable body part. May also refer to pleasurable sexual stimulation alternating with deliberate frustration.

TOY: used in a BDSM scene. aka, tool, gear, equipment. Implements, which might be common household items like kitchen spoons, rope, clothespins, neckties, or especially made items like handcuffs, spreader bars, floggers (a kind of multi-tailed whip), or furniture with eyebolts, are called toys.

24/7: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Master/Mistress-slave relationship

Return to Top


URETHRAL PLAY: Any play involving the urethra, the tube that runs between the bladder and the outside of the body, emerging in men at the end of the penis and in women just inside the vagina. Except for the very end nearest the surface, this tube is sterile, and anything inserted into it deeper than a few millimetres should be sterile too otherwise an infection is easily caused. Serious damage can be done by inserting inappropriate objects or using excessive force or bad technique. The best known forms of urethral play involve catheters and sounds, items of medical equipment specifically designed for use in the urethra.

Return to Top


The opposite of BDSM is loosely called vanilla sex, a term that roughly refers to sex without any elements of BD, DS, or SM. The distinctions between vanilla sex, foreplay, and BDSM are not clear-cut. How you describe yourself is largely a matter of personal choice. Many common vanilla activities are in fact components of BDSM.

VERBAL DOMINATION: This style of domination is not as direct as other methods of domination, but is a style in its own right. Verbal domination is control using words and speech to effect a change in the sub.

VIOLET WAND: A device used in electrical play to discharge radio energy as spectacular sparks onto a bottom: the sensation is similar to the static charges sometimes encountered when walking in certain shoes on certain artificial fibers, but can be varied in intensity.

Return to Top


WATERSPORTS: this is a slang term for the practice of passing bladder fluid in order to enhance sexual intimacy, or in other words, erotic peeing. The medical term for this is urolagnia or urophilia.

WAX: play is utilized by many couples for enhancing their play. Candle wax, dripped onto sensitive body areas, such as the nipples, chest, or groin can be intensely stimulating for couples who have a greater pain tolerance and can be very erotic.

WEB: Alternative name for a rope harness, useful for bondage and suspension.

WHIPS: Single tails are whips with one long tail (as oppo sed to floggers, which have multiple tresses). Bullwhips, signal whips, stock whips, and blacksnakes are particular types of single tails.

WHIPPING POSTS: are simple fixed wooden posts, with two metal wrist shackles fixed at about waist height, and were formerly found on many village greens in conjunction with stocks. The bottom can be either standing with hands below or kneeling with hands above.

WORSHIP: adoring and / or loving a person, a person's body or body part, or a thing in a reverential manner such as boots.

Return to Top

X, Y, Z