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BDSM: a REAL short overview

We're becoming a regularly respected reference site, who knew?

BDSM stands for "Bondage Domination Sadomasochism" OR "Bondage Discipline Submission Masochism" OR "Bondage Dominance Sadism and Masochism". There's a bit of conflict in what BDSM actually stands for because it's the summation of 3 different initialisms.

B & D or B/D: Bondage and Discipline is the fine art of being helpless and having rules. The object of B/D is often the physical enforcement of those rules through corporal punishment. However, many enjoy the simple act of bondage without this physicality.

DS or D & S or D/s: Dominance and Submission is the act of one person being in control and the other giving up that control. Within BDSM we refer to this relationship as 'Power Exchange', and for those looking to structure a relationship completely around it are often looking for a 'Total Power Exchange' dynamic. If you've ever been to a kinky dating site and seen someone 'seeking TPE relationship', now you know what they want. S & M: Sadism and Masochism or simply Sadomasochism is the enjoyment of the more physical aspects of BDSM. Sadism is the enjoyment of giving pain or humiliation and masochism is the enjoyment of receiving pain or humiliation. There's been a lot of debate on this particular aspect, but modern psychology sees this as a fairly healthy way to express physical pleasure when done between consenting adults.

So BDSM is those 3 pairs if initialisms inexpertly summarized into an umbrella term that sort of means: all kinky activities.


So lets expand on the different aspects of BDSM


Industry terms

SSC or Safe, Sane, and Consensual: The philosophy that all BDSM needs to be done with safety, between sane adults, who are all consenting.

RACK or Risk Aware Consensual Kink: The philosophy that BDSM does carry some inherent risks and that those practicing it need to be aware of them and mitigate them when playing consensually with other adults.

Informed Consent: The idea that if an adult is ignorant of an activity, they must be educated about it prior to consenting.

Enthusiastic Informed Consent: The gold standard of consent, this is when an adult is fully informed and is enthusiastic about participation. There is no sense of peer pressure or coercion and they fully understand the activity.

Safeword: A way for a bottom to communicate to the top that activity needs to slow down or stop. This is most often given the traffic light system of GREEN: good to go; YELLOW: we need to slow down; RED: this needs to stop now. However, there are some who pick a specific safeword, or use a non-verbal cue such as tapping out or dropping a ball to indicate the need to stop.

Scene: this refers to a session of BDSM activity. It comes from theatre terms where the 'players' are on stage together for a 'scene'. A large BDSM event might have many scenes between many different people.

Limits: anything that someone is not willing to do. This can sometimes be broken down into 'soft limits' where someone might be hesitant but will do it sometimes and 'hard limits' in which someone will never participate.

Negotiation: the act of discussing what will happen during a scene. This is where limits are discussed, and negotiation is necessary to have informed consent.

Subspace: the state of euphoria that can happen to a Bottom when participating in BDSM. This is most often caused by endorphins flooding the brain.

Top space: same thing as subspace, just for the dominant/top.

Subdrop & Topdrop: yes topdrop does exists and is well documented, but is not as widely recognized by the BDSM community. This is a physical condition that can be categorized by depression or even flu-like symptoms after a scene. This can happen for as much as a week after participation but can be prevented through effective aftercare and checkups.

Aftercare: the act of taking physical and emotional care of BDSM participants after a scene. Often experienced BDSM folk learn what works best for them and prepare accordingly. However: snacks, hydration, warm blankets, close physical contact, and a calm room are typically a good universal form of aftercare. And yes, tops need aftercare as well.

Vanilla: the BDSM term for someone who is NOT into BDSM.

Kinkster: a term coined by the online community to mean anyone who participates in BDSM or other kinky actives.

Play Party: an event where people get together to be social and do BDSM scenes. These are typically very private events and almost never generally open to the public.

Munch: a very non-kinky event, usually held in a public place, that's a social gathering for kinksters. Munches are designed to bring the community together, help folks get to know one another, and do vetting for new people.

Dungeon or Playspace: the industry term for any area designed\repurposed specifically for BDSM play. This can be a temporary designation for an area or is can be a space that has been remodeled or built specifically with BDSM in mind.


Relationship terms

Dominant & Submissive: Dominant likes control and the submissive likes giving up that control. This also works both ways where the dominant assumes responsibility while the submissive gains a freedom from responsibilities while under the control of the dominant.

Top & Bottom: typically a more physical relationship, a top is typically a sadist and the bottom is the masochist, but this can also be applied to people with a more bondage heavy relationship. The bottom might just enjoy being restrained while the top enjoys doing the restraining. This typically just means that the Top is the one doing and the Bottom is receiving.

Dom/Domme: Both pronounced exactly the same, these are semi-gendered terms to mean dominant. Male dominants are referred to as a dom, and female dominants are referred to as a domme. Please don't pronounce it dom-i.

Slave: a historically problematic term, but it typically means a submissive who is in a more in-depth relationship where they give up most or all of their control to their dominant or 'owner' within a total power exchange dynamic.

Switch: someone who can be either submissive or dominant depending on their mood and situation.

Brat: someone who uses bad behavior to gain attention and corporal punishment from their dominant.

Protocol: a series of strict rules and codes of conduct observed by people participating in total power exchange. They often will have different standards of protocol based on the situation.

______play: Be it petplay, pup-play ageplay, ponyplay, or some other form of ____play, this is the term for people who like to ROLEplay as something for a time.

Squick: the term used by kinky folks to mean something that creeps or grosses them out. This is often means that they are not trying to shame people for participating in that kind of kink, but that it is not for them. This is how BDSM folk talk about kinks without needing to feel ashamed of their desires.



And that's it. That being said, there are people who dedicate years of their life to learning and perfecting their interests in BDSM, and this is just scratching the surface. This should, however, at least allow you to come into the BDSM community from a place of shared knowledge and vocabulary.

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