A list of commonly-used terms in the local scene and their meanings.
An overlapping acronym (see image) referring to consensual adult activities involving pain/humiliation, the exchange of power or the use of restraints, among other things. BDSM can include sex and/or nudity, but doesn't have to.
The first recorded use of the acronym is in 1991 but the concept is much older, with references to it found in Etruscan tombs, murals from Pompeii and the Kama Sutra. BDSM is becoming more and more accepted by the general public as a healthy means of self-expression, and a 2005 survey by Durex found that 37% of UK respondents had used "masks, blindfolds, and other forms of bondage" as part of sex.
"BD" is the first third of the overlapping BDSM acronym. It stands for bondage, where movement is restricted using rope, handcuffs, bondage tape or similar, and discipline, where one party consensually imposes an agreed-upon penalty on the other in retribution for real or pretend undesirable behaviour.
Usually spelled with a capital D and lowercase s, "D/s" is the middle third of the overlapping BDSM acronym. It stands for Domination/submission, where one party (the Dominant/s) consensually assumes control and influence over the other (the submissive/s) within discussed limits.
The last third of the BDSM acronym, S&M stands for sadism and masochism: sadism, named after the Marquis de Sade (an 18th century French nobleman) is the act of finding pleasure in inflicting pain on others, and masochism, named after 19th-century author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, is the act of finding pleasure in experiencing pain. Meanwhile, a sadomasochist is someone who enjoys being on both ends of a pain exchange. There are many reasons why people may enjoy causing or submitting to pain: some like pain for pain's sake, whereas others enjoy the idea of enduring pain to please another person.
Sadomasochism can be incorporated into many activities on the BDSM scene - rope bondage can be designed to safely inflict pain, hitting implements cause a range of pain sensations, etc. However, not everyone enjoys pain and there are a wide range of activities which don't involve it.
A stylised variation of the Celtic triskele symbol, originally designed in 1995 as a way for kinky people to subtly identify each other. It's now used as a general symbol for the community, and designs vary greatly from the original (see our vaguely unfaithful logo). The three curves of the symbol represent the trifold nature of the BDSM community: the parts of the acronym, BD/DS/SM, our most common conduct philosophy, Safe/Sane/Consensual, and the three main identities, Dominant/Submissive/Switch.
The designer of the original emblem goes into more detail on his website.
Adjective describing someone who doesn't have BDSM inclinations, or who isn't involved in the fetish community. Can also mean activities which don't fall under the BDSM umbrella, e.g. people sometimes refer to their existence outside the lifestyle as their "vanilla life".
The backbone of all BDSM activities, consent is actively agreeing to participating in BDSM or sex. Consent must be enthusiastic, unambiguous, informed and freely given, and can be revoked at any time before or during the activity by anyone involved. Common practice is that once BDSM activities have commenced, consent can only be withdrawn and not expanded, as many people enter altered states of mind which affect their decision making.
A limit is an activity someone does not want to do during a scene. They are usually divided into two categories: hard limits, which are things that the person never wants to try and must be avoided; and soft limits, which the person may be willing to overcome based on circumstances (e.g. location or play partner) and with prior discussion. Being aware of and respecting limits is a vital part of upholding safety and consent.
An agreed word which can be freely used by any participant in a scene to call an end to the activity or a temporary time-out. The ideal safeword is short, easy to remember and not likely to be used as part of the scene. For play restricting verbal communication, people use keys or another item they can drop to end play.
One example of safewords is the traffic light system, commonly used to check in during scenes:
- "Green" means "everything's good"
- "Orange/Amber" means "I need a break" or "ease off a bit"
- "Red" means "I need to stop now"
A discussion prior to a scene in which the participants talk about what they'd like to do, what they hope to get out of the scene and any limits or triggers. This can take place several weeks or months before the scene, in which case a quick follow-up discussion usually happens on the day in case anything has changed.
The period of time after a scene in which the people involved relax, discuss the scene (what went well/if there is anything that should be done differently in the future), and emotionally and physically look after each other. May include some combination of: cuddles, water or sports drink, blankets, sugar, fluffy socks and being away from loud noise and bright lights. For some people it can also involve just being away from other people. What works for one person may very well not for another.
Participating in a scene can cause a sudden increase in adrenaline and endorphins. The effects of the resulting crash in these hormones can cause drop some time after a scene has ended. This can be relatively shortly after the scene, or as long as a day or two after; everyone drops in different ways and at different intensities.
The effects of dropping can include:
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Symptoms similar to those of depression
Both tops and bottoms can experience drop ("dom drop" and "sub drop" respectively). It is important to be aware of the best aftercare for yourself and your partners to mitigate the effects of drop.
Developed in the 1980s by small gay S/M groups in New York and Chicago, an acronym for the philosophy that BDSM activities should be:
- Safe - reducing or eliminating all potential risks to ensure no unwanted or lasting harm is inflicted
- Sane - ensuring activities are only performed when all participants are in a good state of mind, acting responsibly, and not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol
- Consensual - with all participants fully consenting
An alternative to SSC proposed in 1999, standing for Risk Aware Consensual Kink. The philosophy that nothing is completely safe (including vanilla activities such as crossing the road and driving a car), so participants in BDSM should educate themselves on the inherent risks in their activities and minimise those risks as much as possible.
Short for "Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Your Kink Is OK".
An acronym used on the scene to highlight that not sharing someone else's kink does not make that kink not okay (so long that it is consensual with relevant safety considerations). No one shares exactly the same preferences or interests as each other and that's fine.
Participating in a BDSM scene, as in "I played with [name] last Friday". Also used as a noun to describe types of kink, as in "wax play".
- The BDSM community or membership thereof, as in "the Birmingham scene" or describing an active BDSMer as being "on the scene"
- A period of time in which BDSM activities happen between two or more people, as in "I did a scene with [name] last Friday"
A person who enjoys exposing or displaying themselves in a public or semi-public manner, a practice known as exhibitionism.
A person who enjoys watching others, usually in a sexual or intimate context, without engaging with them, a pracice known as voyeurism.
A casual gathering of members of the BDSM community, good for meeting new people and getting to know your local scene. Munches are usually held in "vanilla" environments such as pubs and sometimes involve board games. BDSM activities aren't allowed and many people prefer not to discuss kink in public, so to an outside observer a munch in a pub is typically indistinguishable from any other social group.
A gathering of people engaging in BDSM activities at a public club, private venue, or someone's house. Some parties serve food and most serve alcohol, but people drink very lightly because of the safety and consent implications of drinking and playing. Different parties have different equipment, rules, and dress codes. It's normal to go to play parties just to socialise, but you will see play and people dressed up or down in various ways - asking previous attendees is a good way of knowing what to expect.
Dominance and submission
An arrangement in which one or more people freely and consensually relinquish authority to one or more other people, either for a brief period (e.g. half an hour for a specific scene) or something more long term (e.g. over the course of a relationship). This can include one party adressing the other with defined titles, asking permission for things or obeying agreed-upon rules.
The dominant is the person who takes charge in a scene. Usually shortened to Dom or Domme and can generally be used interchangeably with the word "top".
The sub is the person who takes the orders/punishment in a scene. Usually shortened to sub and can generally be used interchangeably with the word "bottom".
A person who acts in some scenes as the sub and in others as the dom.
Any D/s relationship in which the dynamic is maintained at all times.
Note that being in a 24/7 relationship does not allow you to include non-consenting third parties to be included in your behaviours, nor is it an excuse to ignore consent and wellbeing. Both should be checked in regularly for all involved parties. Your dynamic should never come above your mental or physical health.
A piece of clothing worn by a submissive to indicate their status as a submissive in a D/s dynamic. Usually it is a neckpiece, but some people wear bracelets or get tattoos with the same symbolic meaning.
In some dynamics the act of collaring (sometimes performed in collaring ceremonies) is a very formal affair potentially on par with the act of marriage. For some submissives the collar is to be worn full time rather just during scenes as a permanent mark of their submission.
Materials can range from leather to steel, with some steel ones being semi-permanent in design.
The act of submitting to someone by performing domestic or other lifestyle services for them. These services can include household chores, or fulfilling the role of a butler or chauffeur.
A protocol is a set of rules as part of a D/s dynamic defining the behaviour of the members of that dynamic.
Common rules include specifying how the submissive addresses their dominant(s), how they dress, any tasks or chores that need to be performed, and expected outcomes for their misbehaviour. The protocol can also specify how the dominant provides the needs of their submissive(s). For example in some dynamics the sub may have to cook as an enforced chore, whereas in others the dominant may cook as part of providing for their sub.
Some dynamics have protocols that are enforced 24/7, while others only during certain periods or in scenes. In 24/7 dynamics it's important to ensure the general health and medicial and social needs of the submissive are still maintained. It is also important to remember that third parties that have not explicitly consented should not be included in the protocol in any way. Similarly, if you have not gained the consent of a group with a protocol you, as a third party, should not engage in their dynamic.
The person who does the tying in a rope bondage scene. Also known as a rope top.
The person who gets tied up in a rope bondage scene. Also known as a model or rope bottom.
A form of rope bondage named after the Japanese word for "to tie" and originating from Hojo-jutsu, a martial art involving tying people up. Japanese Samurai warriors between 1400 and 1700 were bound by their code of honour to respect their captives, and thus would incorporate artistic techniques while tying in order to reflect the prisoners' status.
Modern-day shibari focuses on intricate, elaborate rope patterns, and may incorporate artistic, athletic, sensual or sexual aspects to varying extents. All rope bondage has inherent risks and should not be undertaken without appropriate education and safety measures.
Types of play
In which one party is struck by another for each others' gratification. It can be done empty handed (spanking) or with implements like canes, paddles, floggers, and whips.
Play involving electricity. It can range from light sensual contact with low power implements or full-on pain-based play with the likes of shock collars. Be sure to be aware of any heart issues or other health issues before engaging in play with electricity.
An electric play implement that applies a current through a person either for sensual play or pain play.
Play involving the melting of wax over someone for sensation play or to cause pain. Be aware of how hot a candle burns before using it for wax play. For example bees wax should never bee used as it burns at 60 degrees Celsius.
Play in which participants (usually the sub/subs) enter the mind space of another species. For example puppy play is a common example in which the sub is dehumanised and treated as a dog. There is also pony play where subs are dressed up with hoof-shaped heels and made to pull carts.
Play involving urination, usually involving one person urinating on another. Also referred to as a Golden Shower.
Play involving the handling of feces. Not to be confused with scat singing.
Cock and ball torture: play or discipline involving the male genitals.
Activities range from restrictive devices (like chastity cages) to needles.
Play ranging from roleplay in the context of a medical/hospital settings (with doctors, nurses, and patients) to play involving medical-based activities including wearing masks, catheterization, diapering, enemas, injections, insertions, dental objects, medical restraints and gags, and other activities using medical tools.
Play involving the insertion of needles into or through a person.
Common play involves only surface-level insertion in which needles only pass shallowly into the skin and then back out again. It also includes acupuncture-style insertions where needles enter the body at a more-perpendicular angle and the tip remains inside the body.
Needle play has a high risk due to the possibility of contamination, the breaking of needles inside the body, and is a form of play which is upsetting for many people. You should not participate in blood play if you do not understand fully what you're doing and have the proper equipment available.
Breath play/erotic asphyxiation/choking
Play involving the restriction of breathing in some form. This is extremely dangerous and should not be performed, arguably even when you know what you are doing - see the relevant resoures here.
Play where the situation of one party not consenting is simulated. It is not play in which one party has not consented to the activities they are participating in, but in which they have agreed to enact scenarios in which they pretend to have not consented.
A form of roleplaying in which one or more parties fills the role of an age they are not.
The most common dynamic is that where the sub roleplays as an infant or adolescent. In these set ups they are treated as a child with activities like being diapered, given pacifiers, or dressed in childish clothing; being punished like a child (with examples ranging from spankings to time outs); or partaking in childish interests like colouring or playing with toys.
Note: the desire to act as a child, or act as a d-type in an ageplay dynamic has no relation to paedophilia and you should not feel any shame for having this fetish.
Someone who acts younger than their real age.
Littles usually do not act little most of the time, instead falling into a "little" headspace. This change can be a dramatic difference to their normal personality, with them speaking in a completely different manner and acting more vulnerable and submissive.
A lesser used term for the party filling the adult role in an ageplay dynamic with a little.
An acronym for Adult Baby Diaper Love.
A fetish for wearing diapers. It can be part of an ageplay dynamic, or just for the experience of wearing a diaper for either the mental or physical effect on the wearer. The amount of time the wearer has a diaper on varies from person to person, as does whether they use it instead of a toilet.
There are multiple ABDL communities online and you should look into the best way to find a diaper and deal with the issues of wearing one before investing in the fetish.