BDSM and D/s Terms



Defining BDSM and DS terms
By Master Len


BDSM- Bondage Discipline (Dominance Submission) Sado Masochism
DS - Dominance Submission
Dominant - a personality trait
Submissive - a personality trait
Master - owner
Slave - consented to be owned
Sadist - enjoys other’s pain
Masochist - enjoys pain
Bondage - tying with rope
Discipline - Teaching
Punishment - earned for behavior
Torment - inflecting pain
Torture - Not used in BDSM
Judicial corporal punishment ("JCP") is the formal application of flogging, caning
Penance is repentance of sins
Top - Person giving, the whipper
Bottom - Person receiving, the whippee


It is my intent to make a clear definition for some terms that will allow for better discussion and debate as well as better understanding.  The definitions are my own and you may choose to use them or not.  You may give these words different definitions or you may use other words to describe the same thing.  Perhaps some other person will add a list of synonyms to the list.

I have lived a lifestyle for over 20 years that has given me much insight into what many of the terms represent and have a good understanding of the difficulties in discussing the many ways that people live an alternate lifestyle.  I am not attempting to describe a lifestyle or relationship by a simple definition.  I am not saying that any particular lifestyle or personality is correct, incorrect, better, worse, truer on not truer, real or not real or make any assumption about anyone.  I am simply giving a set of definition for words that will allow for the discussion of all of the above and much more with a lot less confusion.  It is my humble contribution and I hope that it is of some service.

Please do not put the word true or real before any of my definitions they are meant to stand alone. 


BDSM:   B.D.S.M. is an acronym Bondage, Discipline, (Dominance Submission )Sado, Masochism.    Generally us as the overall term for any kinky activity, power exchange, or pleasure/pain activities.
It is a misnomer in that Bondage and discipline are activities and Sado masochism are more personalities then activities.   Many years ago the term included Dominance and Submission and the two letters in the middle had a duel meaning.  Today the terms are usually used separately.

D/S:  D/s stands for Dominance and submission.  Dominance is an activity in which one person asserts his/her will over another person.  Submission in when a person chooses to submit their will to another.  This is power exchange.  The term D/s is also used to describe our alternate lifestyle and is more accurate than BDSM.

Dominant:  This is a person that has a strong dominating personality.  It is a personality trait.  Dominants do not use physical force they use strong leadership to command.

Submissive:  This is a person that has the ability to bend their will to that of another.  The submissive would rather follow than lead. The submissive person can be quite capable of leading and taking charge. The submissive person can choose to submit to one, none or many others. This is a personality trait. Submissive are not week and do have a mind of their own. To submit your will to another you must have a will.  To give your power to another you must have power to give.

Master:   A master is one that has accepted another person’s service.  There is no special knowledge required.  A master does not have to be dominant simply willing to lead and make decisions for the person that is willing to follow them.   A master owns a slave.  If you have no slave you are a former master of future master.  I would not say that I am a car owner if I do not own a car. Master implies ownership.

Slavemaster: Long term masters with skill and knowledge.  Could also be called training master.  Often this is a student teacher relationship.  I think of Slavemaster as sensei or professor.

Slave:  By definition slavery was abolished. If our slave runs away we cannot go to the law and demand his/her return.  What we call slavery is actually consensual slavery.  The slave consents to a contractual relationship with a master.  Consensual slavery is a contract and can say anything that two people or more agree to.   There is no right way or correct way.  The consent can be withdrawn at any time.  If the consent is withdrawn and the master does not honor that withdrawn consent he/she may find out about a lot of other laws that do exist and be criminally prosecuted 

Sadist:  A sadist is a person that is turned on by others pain. Giving pain to a masochist is giving pleasure.  If a sadist wants to give pain to a masochist the do nothing. Sadists can feel what others feel and enjoy their pain.

 Masochist:  A masochist is a person that can find erotic what is usually considered pain.  Some people have a very high tolerance for pain but do not eroticize it.  It is not a turn on.  They are not masochists they simply do things that look painful for other reasons. They may like the effect it has on others watching.  We all enjoy light touching a masochist enjoys things harder than what most others would enjoy.  At some point a masochist will reach a pain threshold and no longer be able to erotize it.  Then in becomes pain to them just like everyone else. They sometimes call it good pain and bad pain.  Where our heads are at is a big factor in how much we can take and enjoy. You can be a sadist and a masochist at the same time. Trust me on this one.

Bondage is the tying up of someone usually with rope.  It can be an art form.  Bondage can be used to give pleasure or pain. It can be a form of discipline. There is some form of power exchange involved. There are many styles and reason people enjoy bondage. Bondage in this context is a consensual act and not imprisonment.  Bondage is an activity

Punishment:  Any word or action that causes pain or discomfort given for cause. The reason for punishment may be real or perceived.   Punishment does not have to be fair, just, or effective to be punishment. The reason may be a thought, word, action, or inaction.   Corporal punishment is one method of punishment.  There can be self punishment.   Penance is a reason for punishment.  To be forgiven or to forgive one’s self is a reason for punishment.  Punishment is not enjoyed.   Pain is not punishment to a masochist.  When a sadists is hurting someone for fun that is not punishment. 

Discipline: Discipline is teaching for the purpose of effecting change.  Punishment is one method used in discipline.  There can be self discipline.  Cause and effect is another method of discipline.  Reward for good behavior is another method of discipline.  A lecture is another form of discipline.  Showing disapproval with the instructions on how to gain approval or avoid further disapproval is discipline.

Torture: Torture is causing severe physical or psychological pain to get something from the victim. Torture cannot be self inflicted.  The torture stops when the tortures get what they want.  In the BDSM context torture is not used because it is not consensual.  If a person consents to something that is usually torture then by definition in that case it is not torture.
 Torment: Torment is pain or discomfort caused for the benefit or enjoyment of the top and or bottom.  Sadists like to torment.   Masochists like to be tormented.  Non-masochists will consent to be tormented for a sadist’s pleasure.   Non-sadists will torment a masochist’s for the masochist’s pleasure.    

Judicial corporal punishment ("JCP") is the formal application of flogging, caning, birching, whipping, or strapping as an official sentence by order of a court, as laid down for specified offences under the law of the country concerned
Source: Wikipedia

 Penance is repentance of sins as well as the proper name of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Anglican Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation/Confession. It also plays a part in non-sacramental confession among Lutherans and other Protestants. The word penance derives from Old French and Latin poenitentia, both of which derive from the same root meaning repentance, the desire to be forgiven;
Source: Wikipedia

Top and bottom are positions in an activity.  The whipper is on TOP the whippee in on the BOTTOM.  If the master or dominant wants to try out something to see how it feels on them they are on the bottom during the tryout.   If I am topping for someone that is not a slave or submissive I usually just call them bottom.  Top and bottom are for just the moment during the activity.  Such as I toped in the spanking scene but bottomed in the bullwhip scene.


Master Len - All rights reserved  copyright 2006   revised July 2009