This glossary of BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism) terms defines terms commonly used in the BDSM community.

BDSM activities are described as play in BDSM terminology.[1]

The BDSM term is a portmanteau acronym intended to take in all of the following activities:

BDSM Glossary


  • 24/7: A relationship in which protocols are in place continuously.

  • Animal transformation fantasy: Fantasy in which the focus is on the sub entering the altered mindspace of a different species, often a dog, cat, or horse.

  • Abrasion: Using something rough (such as sandpaper).

  • Aftercare: The time after a BDSM scene or play session in which the participants calm down, discuss the previous events and their personal reactions to them, and slowly come back in touch with reality. BDSM often involves an endorphin high and very intense experience, and failure to engage in proper aftercare can lead tosubdrop as these return to more everyday levels.

  • Ageplay: Usually referring to daddy/daughter or mommy/baby role play. Does not usually include or imply aspects of incest, but rather the nurturing relationship of parent/child or teacher/student. 

  • Anal torture: The BDSM practice of inflicting pain on the anus.

  • Animal Play: The sub acts or dresses like an animal (puppy, cat, pony, cow, etc.).

  • Auctioned off: Dominant auctions off the slave to the highest bidder (usually supervised and for temporary use).

  • Bad pain

    1. Good pain and bad pain are terms used lightheartedly by BDSM practitioners, signifying that whilst BDSM may include an element (often quite pronounced) consensual pain, there is a purpose to it, and some pain is consented to and accepted whilst other pain is not. "Bad pain" is pain which is outside hard limits, non-mutual or non-valued, not wished for, and of limited or no value in this context.

    2. Good pain and bad pain refer to pleasant vs. unpleasant pain. As a "vanilla" example, imagine soreness after a good workout at the gym versus the pain of breaking a leg. Author Jay Wiseman suggests a correlation between perception of "bad pain" during BDSM play and subsequent injury.

  • BDSM: Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism: a combined acronym often used as a catchall for anything in the kink scene.

  • Black sheet party: An orgy for people into BDSM sex.

  • Bondage: Acts involving the physical restraint of a partner. Bondage typically refers to total restraint, however it can be limited to a particular body part, such as breast bondage.

  • Bottom: one who receives physical sensation from a top in a scene; the one-done-to rather than the do-er.

  • Breast bondage: The act of tying female breasts so that they are either flattened against the chest or so that they bulge.

  • Breath Control: The dominant controls the submissive's breathing.

  • Butt plug: Much like a dildo, but pear-shaped with a flared base. The flared base prevents the plug from being lost in the anal cavity; the pear shape helps hold the plug in place. They come in a variety of sizes; some can vibrate.

  • Chastity: A form of erotic sexual denial or orgasm denial whereby a person is prevented from access to, or stimulation of, their genitals, save at the whim or choice of their partner, usually by means of a device (called a chastity belt or sometimes for men a cock cage) that prevents contact and is controlled by means of a lock by the partner.

  • Cock and ball torture (CBT): Torture of the male genitals for sexual gratification.

  • Collared: Submissive or slave who is owned, usually (but certainly not exclusively) in a loving intimate relationship. A dominant may have multiple persons collared. Also: a pup's status, as differentiated from a "stray".

  • Collaring: The formal acceptance by a dominant, of a sub's service, or the "ownership" of a pup by a Master or Trainer. Also the ceremony when a dominant commits to a sub (much like a wedding or other contract).

  • Consent: Mutual agreement to the terms of a scene or ongoing bdsm relationship.

  • Consensual non-consensuality: A mutual agreement that within defined limits, consent will be given as read without foreknowledge of the exact actions planned. As such, it is a show of trust and understanding and usually undertaken only by partners who know each other well, or otherwise agree to set clear safe limits on their activities.

  • Contract: A written-out agreement between the dominant & submissive. It can be either formal or non, and is usually written after much negotiation by the dominant and the sub, outlining what structure, guidelines, rules and boundaries to the relationship are agreed upon by the two. It is not legally binding.

  • DM: Dungeon Monitor, a person who supervises the interactions between participants at a play party or dungeons to enforce house rules - essentially, the bouncer of a BDSM event. They sometimes also play cruise director to keep/get the party going.

  • Dom: A person who exercises control (from dominant-contrast with sub).

  • Dominant A person who exercises control - contrast with submissive.

  • Domme: Woman who exercises control (see also Dominatrix). Often associated with a particular brand of traditional femininity; many younger female dominants prefer to use the non-gendered terms dom/dominant.

  • D/s: Dominance/submission: play or relationships that involve an erotic power exchange.

  • Dungeon: Usually referring to a room or area with BDSM equipment and play space.

  • Edgeplay: SM play that involves a chance of harm, either physically or emotionally. Because the definition of edgeplay is subjective to the specific players (i.e., what is risky for me may not be as risky for you), there isn't a universal list of what is included in edgeplay. However, there are a few forms of play which almost always make the cut, including fireplay, gunplay, rough body play, breath play, and blood-play.

  • Endorphin rush: Endorphins are the chemicals responsible for the "high" people often get from activities such as sex, or high-risk sports, and is the body's response to heightened or intense experiences of certain kinds. BDSM activities, especially those incorporating a degree of sensation play often cultivate the endorphin rush as part of their "payoff" to the sub. But also see aftercare for the care needed to ensure that subdrop does not occur afterwards as the body returns to normal.

  • Erotic sexual denial: keeping another person aroused while delaying or preventing resolution of the feelings, to keep them in a continual state of anticipatory tension and inner conflict, and heightened sensitivity. (see also tease and denial andchastity).

  • Erotic spanking:The act of spanking another person for the sexual arousal or gratification of either or both parties.

  • Fetish: A specific obsession or delight in one object or experience.

  • Fire play: Using fire as an implement of BDSM. This can mean blowing the heat of a light torch onto a bottom, lighting pools of fuel on the bottom's skin, lighting flash cotton on the bottom, and other creative uses of heat. Cupping is usually considered an offshoot of fireplay, although in sensation it's closer to the use of clips and clamps. Usually considered edgeplay.

  • Genitorture: Torture of the genitals.

  • Good pain (1): Good pain and bad pain are terms used lightheartedly by BDSM practitioners, signifying that whilst BDSM may include an element (often quite pronounced) of consensual pain, there is a purpose to it, and some pain is consented to and accepted whilst other pain is not. "Good pain" is therefore pain that is mutually agreed, desired or permitted by the submissive partner to be experienced, and seen by them as of enjoyment or value.

  • Good pain (2): Good pain and bad pain refer to perception of pain as pleasant vs. unpleasant. Sensations that non-practitioners imagine to be painful are instead perceived and described by BDSM practitioners as pleasurable or a good form of pain, in much the way that muscles after a workout at the gym may be sore, but in a good way. The transition of perception from "bad pain" to "good pain" may require a warm up beforehand.

  • Golden showers: Urinating on, or being urinated on by, another person.

  • Gorean: A sub-genre based upon the rituals and practices created within the world of Gor in the erotic novels by John Norman. Gorean culture is based on stereotypical gender based roles which is considered by many to be in conflict with BDSM where there is freedom for either gender to act in any role (Male/Female as either Dom/sub or Top/bottom)

  • Gunplay: The practice of including actual (or simulated) firearms into a scene.

  • Handkerchief codes: Visible signs to indicate to others your area of BDSM interest; a color worn on the left indicates a top, on the right indicates a bottom.

  • Hard limits: What someone absolutely will not do; non-negotiable. (As opposed to "soft limits.").

  • Harem: A group of subs serving one or more dominants.

  • Impact play: Part of sensation play, dealing with impact such as whips, riding crops, paddles, floggers, etc.

  • Infantilism: Parent/child or parent/baby role playing.

  • K-9 roleplay:

  • Knife play: Slow, methodical sensation of the bottom with the edges and points of knives, usually without cutting the skin. Fear of the weapon plays a large part in the stimulus of the bottom.

  • Limits: What someone "won't" do or is hesitant to do.

  • Maintenance: Weekly spankings to cover the little things that might have been missed, remind the submissive to behave and allow the Dominant to release stress.[2]

  • Masochism: Act of receiving pain for sensual/sexual pleasure.

  • Masochist: Person who enjoys pain, usually sexually.

  • Master/slave: A consensual relationship in which one person receives control (the Master) when given it by another (the slave) for mutual benefit. An extreme form ofD/s which usually involves a 24/7 relationship rather than a short period of time (scene or perhaps a week end.) The slave will usually accept a collar from their Master to show that they are owned.

  • Mummification: Immobilizing the body by wrapping it up, usually with multiple layers of tight thin plastic sheeting. Breathing and other safety measures must be appropriately taken care of, often by leaving the face (or at least the mouth and nose) open. Body temperature (maintained to an extent by movement) may also be affected so a warm environment and warm aftercare may be important. Mummification is often used to enhance a feeling of total bodily helplessness, and incorporated with sensation play.

  • Munch: A group of people that are into BDSM meeting at a "vanilla" place in street-appropriate attire. Sometimes this is a club. You might see an announcement like, "This weekend's munch is at Denny's".

  • Needle play: Temporary piercings done with sterile needles of varying gauges, usually only for the duration of a scene.

  • Nose torture: A traditionally Japanese form of BDSM often involving nose hooks.

  • Nyotaimori: Human sushi platters.

  • OTK: Over the knee (spanking).

  • Painslut: A person who enjoys receiving a heavy degree of pain but may or may not necessarily enjoy submitting.

  • Paraphilia

  • Play party: A BDSM event involving many people engaging in scenes.

  • ProDom: Male professional dominant (charges money).

  • ProDomme: Female professional dominant (charges money).

  • Ponygirl or Ponyboy: Sub is dressed in a pony outfit, with mouth bit and anal plug with a tail. They are told to prance or behave like a pony.

  • Pup-play: Sub is made to act like a puppy. Sub barks, whines, eats from a bowl, etc. Such play is sexual, but also focuses on the altered mind-space of bottom/pup and the complete dominance of his/her Trainer/Master.

  • RACK - Risk Aware Consensual Kink.

  • Rape fantasy, ravishment: The pleasurable fantasy of inflicting or being a victim to an act of consensual play-rape.

  • Sadism: The act of inflicting pain.

  • Sadist: Person who enjoys inflicting pain, usually sexually.

  • Safe, sane and consensual - (SSC) a credo used by some BDSM practitioners to determine the appropriateness of BDSM play. Sometimes contrasted to RACK (risk aware consensual kink).

  • Safeword - A codeword a bottom can use to force BDSM activity to stop - used especially in scenes which may involve consensual force.

  • Scat play: Feces play(coprophilia).

  • Scene: A time period of BDSM activities. Also used to refer to the BDSM community ("the Scene").

  • Sensation play: BDSM play where the intent is to push people's sensory limits, thus exploring texture, sensory deprival, through to whips, flagellation and edgeplay.

  • Service-oriented submission: A person who enjoys performing a service in a sexual or BDSM environment.

  • Slave: A person (usually submissive) who consensually gives up total control of one or more aspects of their life to another person (their Master).

  • Soft Limits: Something that someone is hesitant to do or nervous to try. They can sometimes be talked into the activity, or preferably it may be negotiated at a trial or beginner level into a scene.

  • Subdrop: A physical condition, often with cold- or flu-like symptoms, experienced by a submissive after an intense session of BDSM play. This can last for as long as a week, and is best prevented by aftercare immediately after the session.

  • submissive, or "sub" for short. Person that gives up control either all the time or for a specified period (Not to be confused with "bottom" or "slave.").

  • Subspace: A "natural high" that a sub (or bottom) gets during a scene or when being controlled. The sub may feel disconnected from time, space, and/or their body, and may have limited ability to communicate. It is critical that a Dom(me)/top take responsibility for the sub/bottom and be aware of their sub's wellbeing if they are in subspace.

  • switch: Someone who likes being both top and bottom, either in one scene or on different occasions.

  • Taken in hand: 24/7 Male dominance in monogamous marriage, with or without BDSM aspects.

  • Tease and denial: Keeping another person aroused while delaying or preventing resolution of the feelings, to keep them in a continual state of anticipatory tension and inner conflict, and heightened sensitivity. (see also orgasm denial).

  • Tit torture: The act of causing deliberate physical pain to the breasts and nipples.

  • TNG: The Next Generation. A tag commonly used by groups and organizations which cater to younger people involved in BDSM, typically ages 18–35.

  • Top: Person "doing the action" (contrast with bottom - person receiving the action.) Not to be confused with Dom which is the person who "puts the scene together". A male Dom could enjoy CBT and tell a sub what they are to do. In this case the Top is the submissive (following the direction of the Dom) and the bottom is the Dom (receiving the attention of the top).

  • Topping from the bottom: A bottom who purports to be a submissive but who nonetheless wants to direct the top.

  • TPE or Total power exchange: a relationship where the dominant or owner has complete authority and influence over the submissive's life, making the majority of decisions.

  • Training: Either referring to a short period of time (a scene) or an ongoing effort of the dominant teaching the submissive how to act.

  • Vanilla: Someone who is not into BDSM. Alternatively, sexual behavior which does not encompass BDSM activity. The term is sometimes used in a derogatory sense.

  • Warm up: The period at a beginning of a BDSM scene which involves gentle play, allowing the bottom to begin endorphin production, enter subspace, and undergo physiological changes (such as bringing fluids to the surface before impact play) that will accommodate more intense play.

  • WIITWD: What it is that we do. A broad term referring to all forms of alternative sexuality.

  • Wax play: The top drips hot wax on the bottom.

Some people in the BDSM community begin dominant terms with an upper case, for example: Top, Master, Dom, Domme, etc., as well as to begin submissive terms with a lower case, even where normally incorrect, chiefly in acronyms and abbreviations, such as D/s for Dom/sub. Some extend this to personal pronouns and names: for example Master Rob's slave linda may refer to him as Sir and herself as i. Others are highly dismissive of this "slashy speak."

In addition, high protocol refers to groups or individuals that adhere to strict roles and role-based rules of conduct, whereas low protocol refers to groups or individuals that are more relaxed. Old Guard now usually refers to high protocol groups, particularly gay leather BDSM groups; people who use this phrase may be romanticizing a perception of leather history: see Old Guard leather.

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You are my work of art, mine to possess, sculpt, mend, bend, and make beg for mercy. You will adore worshiping, pleasing and serving me.” ~ Mistress”
― Ruby Madden, Under Mistress Cherry's Control

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