Any online glossary you read
will differ slightly on the meanings of certain terms.
As a bondage fetishist, you will
probably also notice a difference in what terms mean to you, as opposed to what
they mean to other types of fetishists.
D/s, D&S, Ds =
DOMINANCE & SUBMISSION
This is the most comprehensive term for the world of fetish play, though it does
miss a few individual categories: some fetish acts do not assign a top or bottom
B/D, B&D, BD =
BONDAGE & DISCIPLINE
This refers to play of physical restraint plus application of physical or mental
stimulation or duress. BONDAGE and DISCIPLINE can be separate! Don't use the
term BD and lump them together unless you do mean both.
S/M, S&M, SM =
Original meaning: a person interested in application of pain, or receipt of
The term then widened to refer to play which stimulates the senses in any
unusual way. This stage also saw the term sometimes being called Sex Magic.
The term is now being loosely applied to all players and fetishists, which I
think is an unfair overgeneralization. (I've seen SM writers lump all sexual
variations as "SM". For a basic foot fetishist, it is erasure to be
labeled as an SM player.) However, the culture trend right now is making
"SM" the umbrella term. I've noticed it's mostly actual SM players who
are pushing this label to cover all types of players and fetishists.
BDSM = all of the
An umbrella term that is growing in popularity. Unfortunately, it doesn't
exactly include pure object fetishists.
A person who regards an object or body part as sexual. Psychology's hard line
states that a true fetishist is one who can't achieve sexual gratification
unless they involve their fetish -- but psychologists seem to only meet that
.0005%; most of the fetishists I've known were also able to enjoy themselves
without involving their fetish every time.
I tend to overuse the term "fetishist" to refer to many sexual
variations. Many people tell me I shouldn't refer to myself as a "bondage
fetishist." But "bondagist" sounds goofy.
DOMINANT, MASTER, TOP,
CAPTOR, ACTIVE PLAYER
SUBMISSIVE, SLAVE, BOTTOM, CAPTIVE, PASSIVE PLAYER
There are many related terms for the complementary roles of D/s. Taken narrowly,
these terms usually refer to the role or actions engaged in DURING PLAY; most
people do not behave submissively or dominantly 24 hours a day. No one term
covers all people satisfactorily, and in particular, many of these labels
translate poorly for bondage players. For example, if Jon pretends to be a
burglar and he grabs and ties me up, he would be taking a dominant role, but if
I resist and enjoy struggling against him, I'm not really being
Here are rough translations of the
paired terms, though you'll find other explanations that differ:
Dominant & submissive. Noun
and/or verb. "I am a Dominant person and my submissive relinquishes control
to me." "I feel like being dominant tonight."
Dominate & submit. Action.
"I would like to dominate you, will you submit?" (Dominate is NOT A
NOUN. You are not "a dominate male.")
Master & slave (Mistress &
slave). Roles. Each person takes on a
fantasy of sexual identity. This is usually temporary and only lasts as long as
the scene does. There are very few people who stay in these roles all the time.
Top & bottom. Noun
and/or verb. This refers to activities more than roles, since some people like
to do D/s actions without assumption of roles or one person playing submission.
The Top is the person administering the scene, the bottom receives it. The terms
do not literally mean being on top or lying on the bottom, nor having things
done to a butt. However, the term sounds confusing in spanking, because the
bottom is indeed getting things done to his/her bottom. Used as verbs: "I
would like to top you. Do you like to bottom?"
Captor & captive. Noun.
You'll rarely see these terms used except in the bondage sub-culture.
"Captive" is a particularly useful term for bondagers because it
encompasses scenes where the bottom is not submissive, they are resisting or
playing a non-compliant role. Some players use the word victim instead; the only
reason I use that less frequently is, in mainstream culture it describes someone
who has actually been harmed by a power-loss experience.
Active & passive. Verb.
Very general terms for play, and can be occasionally used if you're not sure
whether someone considers themselves a top, or a dominant. Still, exceptions
blur these terms. In most play, the active person is the top, but there are also
scenes where the bottom is the one being physically active, such as a servant
bringing things to the Mistress.
TOPPING FROM THE BOTTOM
A philosophically and sociologically loaded term, usually meant to be a negative
label. Narrowly speaking, it's a bottom who is disrupting the scene by trying to
over-control the top. However, some tops take this to mean that bottoms should
just shut up and put up with whatever happens. A bottom should be able, at any
time, to negotiate the scene, re-negotiate the scene, or volunteer information
if something is going wrong. Beyond that, there is a range of play styles; some
tops like you to tell them what you like all the way through the scene.
There is a convention in the D/s Scene that Tops -- both roles and names --
begin with a capital letter, and bottoms -- both roles and names -- begin with a
lower case letter. In the most casual form, this would translate to,
"Hello, my name is Mistress Vanessa and this is my slave tim." The
most formal players would write this as "Hello, My name is Vanessa and this
is My slave tim."
You don't have to follow this convention for your own name, role, or writings
unless you wish to. The general etiquette is to address people the way they like
to be addressed. This doesn't mean, however, that you must call a stranger
"Master Charles" when you're not his own sub. I would call such a
A word, sound or motion that communicates a need to change something in the
scene. A safeword is not exactly needed if you're playing a scene sans role,
because in that context you can just tell the partner what they need to know.
However, if you're going into role and don't want to leave role to discuss
adjustments, or if you'll be gagged and can't communicate clearly, decide on a
safeword (or several) before beginning a scene. Common safewords are
"red" and the word "safeword." My safeword is barking
through my gag.
People use safewords differently. For some, the use of a safeword means
"stop the scene immediately." For others, it simply means something
needs adjustment. My barking safeword means that I need the top to ask me what's
wrong (he might have to take out the gag to find out). Be sure you let other
players know what they should do if a safeword is used.
A person who participates in a scene, scenes, or fetish activities.
A person who likes dressing in fetish wear or leather, and might be mistaken for
a player, but their actual fetish is the dressing. Don't take it seriously if
you hear people criticizing dressers for not playing; we don't all have to be
A scene is a time period during which D/s play occurs. You can use this term to
refer to a certain act, or to the entire time that you stay in play mode. If I
get grabbed & hogtied, then chair-tied, then spread-eagled, I can either
refer to it as 3 bondage scenes or one long roleplay scene.
Variant term for the ongoing scene. "They were 'in scene' so they didn't
notice the rest of us staring."
The Scene is used to refer to a community, subculture, play group, club, the
internet fet subculture, etc. It all depends on which "The Scene"
you're talking about. If I'm conversing with a friend about "The
Scene," they will know which one I'm referring to by the content. For
"The [Los Angeles] Scene has a
lot of good membership clubs, but it could use some public clubs like New York
"The [online Bondage] Scene is
really vast, with a lot of good websites and chatrooms and people, but it's hard
to track everything down because of all those SM sites that call themselves
"The [play] Scene has been
really dead lately, I can't find any good play parties to go to."
"The [international] Scene is
slowly becoming more connected and communicative, thanks mostly to the
You'll sometimes hear people refer
to The Community instead of The Scene. "Community" tends to emphasize
organizations, information structures and emotional support, while
"Scene" tends to emphasize play and socializing that is play-directed.
These terms are mixed too loosely for my taste. If you're the only one in your
community who does bondage, the other players might think you're amazing and
call you a bondagemaster. But here's a hint: if your non-bondage friends say
you're a bondagemaster, and you call yourself a bondagemaster, but you've never
heard one of your captives identify you as a bondagemaster (of their own
volition), then... you're actually a bondager, not a master. You need to start
asking your subjects what you could be doing better.