BDSM terms in simple words - illustrated guide

Well, as with any type of hobby, job or specialized group, the BDSM community uses its own jargon. Even the term BDSM may not be familair to you. This page will attempt to explain some frequently used terms. Please be aware that these are not absolute definitions and that some people may explain these words entirely different. Also, please be aware that this page, as is true for the entire site, is a work in progress. Words will be added over time.

This illustrated guide is our attempt to pull together some of the things we've been asked most. Its set out alphabetically for simplicity and includes the main BDSM terms you might come across. Wherever possible we've included pictures because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I hope that, as you browse through, you find things that are helpful or interesting to you. I would never claim to be an expert because in BDSM we're all just enthusiastic amateurs, whatever anyone may say to the contrary. If there's anything you're curious about or think should be covered in this guide, then you're welcome to send me an email here and I'll do my best to include it in future updates...

24/7 Age play Animal Training B&D BDSM Beating Birching Bondage gear Bottom Brat Breath control Buggy whip Bull whip Cane Caning Chastity belt Clamps and clamping Cock ring Corset Chastity belt Dildo Dominance, Dominant, Dom, Domme, Dominatrix Dungeon Edge Play Electrical play Enema bag Erotic power exchange Exhibitionist Fisting Flogger Foot play Foot worship Forced feminization French Maid Gag Golden Showers Gor Handcuffs Harness Hood Humilation and Abuse Kajira Masochist Master Messy Mistress Nipple clamps One trew wayers Over-the-knee (OTK) Pain Slut Panty training Pussy Torture Roleplay Sadist Safeword Safe sane & consensual Scene Slave Spanking definion Strapping Submissive Switch Switching Tawse TENS Top Total power exchange Vanilla Violet wand Water sports Wax Zippers


People who choose to live a total power exchange lifestyle on a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week basis.

pony girl training
Animal Training

Fantasy play in which one partner is an animal trainer and the other is the animal. Ponyplay and dogplay are the two most popular forms this takes. Fantasies including obedience training, exercise training, paper-training (in dogplay), harnessing and riding (in ponyplay), and so on. Other popular animal roles include cats (especially kittens), tigers, pigs, cows, and worms.


Acronym for Bondage & Discipline, also written as BD or B/D, and sometimes combined with SM to form BDSM. B&D; is an old expression and is still used fairly interchangeably with D&S; and SM, but some people define BD as bondage and discipline without pain, and also without defined power roles.


Acronym for Bondage, Domination (or Discipline),Submission (or Slave or Sadism), Masochism (or Master) depending on whom you listen to. shorthand for any behaviour or style of playing which involves any of the above.


"Unfashionable word in the BDSM world due to its connotations of abuse, however can also mean striking with a whip or other implement such as a flogger, a switch. Also: trashing, hiding."

bondage harness gagged slave
Bondage gear

Accessories such as a harness, bondage sleeves, bondage gloves, a hood etc... used primarily for bondage. These items are used to invoke sensory deprivation and a feeling of helplessness. Mostly these items are made of leather with a comfortable lining, but can be made of latex, spandex and other materials.


(noun) Collective term including all varieties of submissives and masochists. (verb) Generally, to receive consensual pain.


A bottom or submissive who enjoys struggling against control or challenging a top or dominant partner. Bratiness varies from playful to a smart-assed resistance to control. Some brats simply have the desire to be tamed.

Breath control

The process of limiting the breathing ability of the bottom, ie: choking. This can range from mild to near-asphyxiation. Not a thing to be toyed with.

Buggy whip

Long handled whip that is a synthesis of a riding crop and a single-tailed whip. Sensation can be moderate to severe and takes little practice to learn after using a riding crop.

Bull whip

Also known as a stock whip, this whip is used primarily for show in a dungeon and not used primarily on a person. These whips take skill and training to learn how to hit and are considered extremely painful.

Butt plug

This device came into fashion in the gay community, but has been accepted into the bdsm crowd. Butt plugs are used for many reasons, such as pain, pleasure, and anal training. They come in many models and some are vibrating and also can emit electric shocks. A small one that is specified for starting out is a good idea for your first one.

chastity belt
Chastity belt

A garment made of leather or metal that locks and restrains the submissive from being able to touch themselves or having others touch them. It can be worn for as little as an hour and many months at a time.

Cock ring

Used to prolong erections, most are made of an adjustable material. A cock ring can be used during intercourse; they also make electric ones.


A ceremony in which a submissive formally accepts the dominant's "collar" and becomes "officially" owned. It is the BDSM equivalent of a wedding, and is witnessed by friends and other people friendly to the lifestyle

corset bondage

Used as fetishwear and body modification. The boning restricts the wearer into a specified waist size and type. Extremely tight ones can only be worn for a few hours.


A non-moving penis-like toy. Dildos can be made out of wood, plastic and jelly.

Dominance, Dominant, Dom, Domme, Dominatrix

A specific type of top; someone who derives pleasure from exercising control in a consensual relationship. May also be a sadist, but not necessarily.

ebony dungeon bondage

Any space set aside for SM activity, public or private, and furnished with some SM equipment. Not all dungeons have large-scale equipment--home dungeons, because of space limitations, may have only small toys.

Edge Play

Again, this can mean many things. Technically, any play that pushes an individuals limits can be called edge play. In a broader sense, it means more extreme play. Some examples would be electrical play, breath-control, cuttings and play piercings.

Electrical play

This is the use of electrical implements in play. Some frequently used toys are the Violet Wand and TENS unit. These toys should be used only after receiving proper instruction in their uses and risks.

Enema bag

One of the key toys in watersports. Enema bags come in different styles and some players prefer to add certain peppers and herbs but this is not all safe. Always observe the watersports rules when using enema bags

Erotic power exchange

The relinquishing of control for a specific duration for erotic purposes.


A person who likes an audience during a spanking or scene, or who likes to erotically display her/himself in front of an audience.

Exhibitionists are people who love drawing attention to themselves. The term has a specific use in psychiatry, where it describes a compulsion to exhibit ones genitals in public. As with most other things, its just a bit more complex than that within BDSM.


Also known as fist fucking, FF and handballing, it's the slow insertion of a hand into a vagina or anus. Some tops will ball their hands into fists once inside, depending on the receptivity of the bottom, ergo the term "fisting."

leather mistress with flogger

A multi-tailed whip that is usually made of leather. Suede, cowhide, bullhide, shock chord, and metal chain are some of the materials being used. It consists of a handle and many long strands.


Erotic interactions with feet and all forms of foot fetishism (see chapter on Fetishes)

Foot worship

Also called "foot service." Oral service (licking, kissing, sucking) to bare feet.

Forced feminization

Fantasy role-play in which the submissive (male or female) is dressed in a "french maid's uniform" and serves food, drinks, and so on. The uniform usually comprises a very short, one piece dress, often made of fetish material; a frilled petticoat; a frilly apron; stockings and high-heels; and other frou-frou (such as a lacy headpiece, lace wrist-cuffs, and white gloves).

french maid blonde
French Maid

A ceremony in which a submissive formally accepts the dominant's "collar" and becomes "officially" owned. It is the BDSM equivalent of a wedding, and is witnessed by friends and other people friendly to the lifestyle


A mouth restraint used in bondage and many scenes. The simplest one can be made with a jawbreaker or practice golf ball and some electrical tape. Reputable toy companies make some safer, more longer lasting ball gags that can be a part of a head harness also.

Golden Showers

Also known as GS and piss-play. It specifically means to pee on someone or to be peed on. However, the term is used generically to describe the spectrum of urine-play, including ingestion, wetting one's pants (or ordering someone to wet theirs), and having one's bladder controlled (or doing the controlling) either through verbal commands or devices which prevent or cause urination.


This is a type of Master/slave relationship based on an old science fiction book series. It's pretty much a 24/7 type of life-style with the slave being nothing but property. The slave is not allowed to say words like "I" and "me."

handcuffed blonde

Metal wrist restraints with a locking device. Avoid the novelty-shop handcuffs with clover-leaf keys, since these cuffs are cheaply made and keys can break off in locks. Find in a police shop or catalog or one recommended by a good toy company.


Body restraint usually made of leather used for suspension and other bondage play. A harness can be decorative and used as fetishwear for show.


A full head cover used in bondage/mummification scenes. Hoods can be used in combination with ball gags and blindfolds. It is recommended to start out with a cheaper comfortable spandex then move to a leather one.

Gorean Kajira

This fictional term for "slavegirl" derives from the GOR series, and denotes women who attempt to live by the standard set in the books.


A specific type of bottom; someone who enjoys receiving (certain types of) pain in an appropriate context. May also be a submissive, but not necessarily.


A specific type of dominant, typically exercising more control and in more facets of a relationship.


Usually used in combination with "wet" ("wet and messy"). Refers to a fetish for being covered, or having one's clothes covered, with wet, messy substances--typically mud or oil, but can also include body wastes or gooey foods (honey, chocolate syrup, ice cream, and so on). "Messy sex" means the people like to get gooey and get it on.


Same as above, but in reference to a woman.

One trew wayers

People who believe that *their* form of lifestyle BDSM is the One Trew Way and that every who believes anything different is wrong (yes - there are intolerant bozos in *every* walk of life).

Over the knee spanking
Over-the-knee (OTK)

A spanking position in which the spankee's bottom is bent over the knee (or lap) of the spanker. The spankee's bottom may be bared or not, but the norm is to start off with the underwear up and proceed to the panties (or briefs, or whatever) being lowered. The position of the panties/briefs/whatever varies from being caught around the thighs above the knees, to being pooled around the spankee's feet. OTK is a traditional spanking position.

Pain Slut

A heavy masochist (male or female)

Panty training

This is when a dominant "forces" a male submissive to wear panties and other embarrassing bits of feminine lingerie, both to cross-dress and humiliate him Petticoat training or petticoating: the same as panty training, but with ruffled slips.


Acting out one's fantasies, kinda like amateur theatre. Eg playing Doctors and Nurses, or Headteacher/naughty schoolgirl.


Specifically ethical sadist: a specific type of top; someone who enjoys delivering pain in a consensual relationship. May also be a dominant, but not necessarily.


During a scene, a verbal signal that communication is required (usually a word out of context, eg elephants, so that scene participants are free to call our 'no stop' as part of the fantasy without stopping the scene) some people use a traffic light system (Red - Stop *NOW*; amber - proceed with care and attention; Green - more please!).

Safe sane & consensual

The watchword for anyone (especially novices) who engage in BDSM behaviour.

BDSM scene

Either referring to what is publically available in the BDSM world or a specifc playtime, quite often involving role-play.


A specific type of submissive, typically controlled more tightly and in more aspects of a relationship.

This is a person who gives total control to their Dominant. It's often defined as giving up all rights to their Master/Mistress. slaves are defined as having no limits and basically hoping that their Master's are wise, attentive, and giving.

Spanking definion

"To strike the buttocks, and possibly the backs of the thighs, with the hand or a flat, rigid implement such as a paddle."
Janet Miles

"Smacking with the open hand - usually on the buttocks."

"...a spanking can be defined as being put over someone's knee and having your backside beaten with a hand, paddle, wooden spoon, or like instrument. It can be administered with the pants on or, as it was when I was a child, with your pants down and only your underpants on."


Using a belt or leather strap to give a spanking.

submissive girl

1. This is where it gets *real* sticky. A sub is one who submits to a Dominant. Some believe this is a lesser level of submission than is slavery. I happen to disagree. (Gee, can you tell what *I* am??) A submissive gives control to his/her Dominant, yet retains the option of questioning, negotiating, safewording, and saying "no."

2. A specific type of bottom; someone who derives pleasure from being controlled in a consensual relationship. May also be a masochist, but not necessarily.


A top likes to give pain or sensation, a bottom likes to receive it, and a switch is a person who enjoys both roles. This person alternates between being a Top and bottom or Dom/me and sub/slave.


"A switching is when my Master cuts a thin branch off of a tree, strips the leaves off, smoothes out the stem, tapers the end with his pocket knife, and whips my bare bottom with it until he's satisfied that I've learned a lesson of some sort. Part of the technique of switching, is to brandish the switch around in the air within earshot of the errant spankee. If you're not careful (or maybe you are!), a switching can leave stinging red welts that can last a day or two."


A schoolroom discipline object that is shaped like a strap. Usually a leather tongued strap of leather with a fancy beveled handle.


A common name for an electrobox used in electroplay. It emits pulsating DC current and can be used with many attachments including butt plugs, dildos, whips etc..


(noun) Collective term including all varieties of dominants and all varieties of ethical sadists. (verb) Generally, to inflict consensual pain (act as an ethical sadist).

Total power exchange

A style of relationship worked toward by some dominants and submissives. The aim is for the dominant to exercise complete control over the submissive, and for the submissive to be completely devoted to the dominant, to the extent that zie cannot disobey, cannot end the relationship, and, in some cases, cannot even consider leaving the relationship. Humans being humans, I don't think that *total* power exchange can be achieved; every human has a breaking point somewhere.


A non-kinky person. It can apply to any heterosexual or homosexual who does not care for kinky sex. There are two differing roots for this term: some claim it refers to the plainness of "vanilla ice cream" (as opposed to those who like more adventurous flavors). Others believe it comes from techno- culture, where a "vanilla" PC means a very basic machine, without bells and whistles.

Violet wand

Electro-play toy that sends out purple sparks (UV light) when held at the right angle to the submissive. Made originally as a cure-all for many problems such as wrinkles and hairloss Violet Wands generate their electricity through a Tesla Coil. It is best to buy one from a reputable manufacturer.

Water sports

Also called "golden showers." This involves urinating on someone, in someone, or in their mouths. Sometimes this is used for the power and humiliation factors. Other folks just enjoy it.


Paraffin wax used in fire play that is used to coat the submissive's body. Remember to only use 'emergency candles' or non-colored non-fragranced white candles.


A bunch of clothespins linked together by string or chain. These are placed on various points on the body then pulled off. owie....


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