Filthy, dirty words...

"What the fuck is 'edgeplay'?"


You'll come across a lot of kinky lingo on this site that's commonly used in the BDSM community. To help you understand what the hell I'm talking about at any particular point, I've created this nifty glossary page.


This alphabetically ordered list of kinky terms is an ongoing work in progress. If there's a term you don't see and you think it should be here, I either haven't gotten around to adding it yet or haven't heard of it.

(There's always something new to learn!)


Kink Glossary

24/7: a BDSM relationship in which rules or protocols related to power exchange are expected to be followed by those involved at all times. This is in contrast to relationships in which partners only engage in their BDSM dynamic at certain times, such as during scenes or sex.

"I never thought I could do 24/7, but my boyfriend and I went for it last year and I've never been happier."


abandonment: a psychological form of kinky play where the top appears to 'abandon' or neglect their partner during play to create powerful feelings of loss, uncertainty, or fear. This may involve locking the sub in a cage and leaving them for a certain period of time. Tops who practice abandonment play should be careful not to leave bottoms unsupervised in any sort of dangerous position, such as tight bondage that could make breathing difficult. They should also take steps to ensure they'll be able to hear the sub if a safeword is called or a non-verbal safe signal is used. Leaving a submissive tied, caged, or otherwise held captive with no way for them to communicate can be dangerous.

"Abandonment play with my domme puts me in a weird headspace. I know she'll come back, but playing the waiting game drives me a bit mad."


abrasion: the act of damaging the skin with some type of rough material, such as sandpaper.

"Be sure to sanitize the skin after any sort of play involving abrasion."


a bottom: a practitioner who generally acts as the receiver of stimulation and/or follows the lead of a top for the duration of a BDSM scene. People like submissives and masochists fall into this category. Switches can also be bottoms when they participate in scenes as receivers or followers.

"Wait, you saw Kendra pegging Mike? I thought she was a bottom!"

The word is often also used as a verb, i.e. "to bottom."

"Topping is fun at times, but I prefer bottoming."


a brat: a bottom who enjoys resisting or talking back to their top(s). This is in contrast to submissives who appear to follow the orders of their top(s) willingly. Some bottoms only act bratty occasionally, while others enjoy being bratty all the time. While many tops can't stand playing with brats, others relish the challenge of "taming" them via punishment.

"If you're gonna act like a brat, you're gonna get treated like one, and I promise you won't like it."


a butt plug: a sex toy commonly used for anal play. It's like a dildo, but comes with a flared base and is usually shorter. Butt plugs come in many shapes and sizes, and can be made from materials like glass or silicone. Specialty butt plugs, such as those that vibrate or have 'tails' attached for pet play purposes, are widely available. The great thing about butt plugs is that they remain snugly in place, making them easy to combine with other activities during scenes. Most of them can also be worn discretely under clothing.

"My dom bought me a super cute fox tail butt plug recently. I wear it every time we do pet play now."

(I wrote an in-depth article on butt plugs for Beducated magazine. Click here to check it out! )


a collar: neck jewelry that symbolizes a dom's 'ownership' over a sub. This may look like an actual dog collar, but is often more stylish or subtle.

"My dom bought me this new collar and I love it so much!"

Subs who wear them are referred to as "collared."

"He's collared, but I'm not sure whether he and his domme are monogamous or not."

As a verb, "collaring" is the act of putting a collar on a sub. Some practitioners hold elaborate ceremonies to mark the occasion, much like a wedding.

"Jim and Justine held a collaring ceremony last month. It was so beautiful!"


a contract: a document that lays out expectations, rules, and protocol between a dom and a sub. Some dominants ask their subs to sign them before starting a formal BDSM partnership. BDSM contracts are not legally binding, but created more as a symbolic gesture and means of communication.

"The BDSM contract I signed states that my dom can spank and fuck me anytime he feels like it." 


a dominant (or dom/domme, for short): a practitioner who enjoys taking control over one or more submissive partners. Some doms only assume control at specified times, such as during scenes, while others prefer a relationship dynamic where their dominance or leadership is acknowledged at all times.

"Good dominants always keep the limits and preferences of their submissives in mind during play."


a dominatrix/pro-domme: a woman who dominates clients in exchange for money

"The first time I went to my dominatrix, she walked me around her apartment on a leash and had me drink from a dog bowl. It was fun!"


a dungeon: a public or private venue where people practice BDSM. Dungeons are equipped with BDSM-related furniture, tools, and space to play. Many are also made to be sound proof in order to neutralize any screaming, moaning, or other loud noises that may worry people in the surrounding area.

"Most public dungeons in the U.S. don't sell alcohol or let in anyone who appears to be intoxicated."


a dungeon monitor (or DM, for short): a staff member at public dungeons who walks around and makes sure everything stays consensual. DMs are essentially bouncers for BDSM clubs. 

"I just watched the DM toss a guy out of here for groping a tied-up sub without permission. Good riddance!"


a fetish: an object, activity, or other element that's a focus of obsession or particular enjoyment for a practitioner, such as high heels, spanking, anal sex, or leather. Some practitioners feel the need to do, think about, or look at images of their fetish in order to get off, while others simply prefer their fetishes over other aspects of kink.

"My husband has a foot fetish. He loves to look at pictures of women in heels."

Some people also use the term more generally to describe the entire scope of kinky activities that interest them.

"How would you describe your fetish? What kinds of things are you into?"


aftercare: the process play partners go through to transition back to reality after finishing a scene. The point is to make sure everyone can walk away from play feeling valued, safe, and emotionally stable. This can include talking about what happened during the scene, cuddling, having a drink, taking a shower, sleeping together, or whatever makes both partners feel good and connected. Aftercare exists for the well-being of both partners, not just submissives, and can be especially important after particularly intense scenes.

"Aftercare is my favorite part of BDSM. I love cuddling with my dom after he beats my ass and fucks me silly."

(Check out this article for more info on aftercare and how to incorporate it into your dynamic.)


age play: role-play that involves the submissive acting and/or dressing younger than their actual age, often imitating the characteristics of a child. This usually takes the form of daddy/daughter, mommy/baby, or teacher/student roles. The point, in most cases, is not to imply or mimic aspects of incest or pedophilia, but instead to tap into the nurturing nature of these roles.

"My boyfriend and I share an age play fetish. Sometimes it's hard not to call him 'daddy' in public."


a hard limit: an activity that a practitioner is absolutely not willing to do under any circumstances. Hard limits are often communicated between partners during the negotiation process prior to play, and unlike soft limits, they are non-negotiable.

"Mummification is a hard limit for me. I get claustrophobic easily."


a kinkster: a person who enjoys 'kinky' sexual activities that are considered unconventional by mainstream social standards. That can include BDSM, but can also center on other kinks like exhibitionism or foot worship.

"Kinksters are some of the most open-minded and creative people I know."


alpha/beta/omega (A/B/O, for short): a dynamic or belief system that relates human dominant and submissive behavior to the animal kingdom, where alphas lead the group and dominate others. Betas are seen as weaker and can compete with alphas for dominance, and omegas are submissive in nature. A/B/O tropes are commonly seen in BDSM-focused erotica, particularly alternate-universe (AU) fantasy works that may be labeled 'omegaverse'.

"My favorite kinky stories are always based on A/B/O dynamics."


a masochist: a practitioner who derives pleasure from the sensation of pain. This pleasure is often sexual in nature, but not always. Masochists enjoy feeling pain at varying degrees of intensity, and often prefer certain types of pain over others. They don't usually enjoy pain produced outside of a controlled and intentional context.

"As a masochist, pain is my drug of choice."

We also refer to 'masochism' as an activity, or can describe people or acts as 'masochistic.'

"I've always thought of masochism as a type of spiritual practice."

"Agreeing to have your balls flogged is rather masochistic, don't you think?"


a master: a dominant who enjoys taking total control over one or all aspects of their partner's life, either during scenes over longer periods, or as a continuous 24/7 arrangement. Their partners are known as slaves, and the relationship is designed to benefit both practitioners mutually. Masters may collar their slaves as a symbolic show of ownership.

"My master decides what I wear and eat every day."


a munch: an event where kinky people can meet, chat, and network. Munches can be held in neutral environments, such as non-kinky cafés, or kink-oriented venues like fetish clubs. Munches are not meant to involve BDSM play, and members are often encouraged to dress in street-appropriate attire. Some munches cater to kinksters with specific fetishes, such as ageplay, pet play, or spanking.

"This week's munch is aimed at people who practice or are interested in rope bondage."


a play partner: a person one regularly practices BDSM with. A relationship between play partners can involve sexual activity or romance, but doesn't have to.

"Kelly's not my girlfriend, but she is my play partner."


a play party: a public or private event where guests engage in BDSM scenes, either as a large group, in smaller groups, or in pairs.

"Judy's having a play party at her place this weekend, but you'll need a personal invitation to attend."


a primal: a practitioner who engages in primal play. Primals may further identify themselves as 'predators', referring to tops, and 'prey', referring to bottoms. Primals enjoy the freedom that primal play affords them, as it centers around acting on instinct and raw emotion rather than learned behavior.

"My master mainly identifies as a primal. He likes to get wild during play. He bites, scratches, pulls my hair, and is generally quite rough. As someone who identifies as prey, I wouldn't have it any other way."


a riding crop: an implement used for impact play that may be similar or identical to riding crops used by equestrians. Most designs are made from leather. People who seek intensity can purchase riding crops with additional features like metal spikes or studs. As is the case with all impact play tools, tops should practice using riding crops before using them on a real person.

"I love the SWOOSH sound my crop makes as I swing it through the air, followed by the SMACK it makes when it hits my sub."


a rigger: a practitioner who specializes in rope bondage. The term is often used to refer to tops who perform rope suspensions.

"He's been tying for more than 20 years. He's the best rigger I know."


a sadist: a practitioner who enjoys inflicting pain on consenting partners. This enjoyment is usually sexual in nature, but not always. Ethical sadists within the BDSM scene work within the parameters set by their masochistic partners.  Sadists who cross boundaries into truly non-consensual territory are not welcome in the BDSM community.

"My last play partner was a sadist. He used to beat me for hours and I loved it."

We also refer to 'sadism' as an activity, or can describe people or acts as 'sadistic.'

"Sexual sadism is often frowned upon by people who don't understand BDSM."

"I personally prefer to beat my masochistic partners until they beg for mercy. Then again, I am a fairly sadistic motherfucker."


a safeword: a code word or phrase used to communicate the true feelings of practitioners during scenes involving role-play, particularly those that may involve consensual force or the illusion of non-consent. Different safewords may be used to express that a practitioner wants to stop a scene, pause a scene, take a scene in a different direction, or continue a scene as-is. Safewords are typically discussed during the pre-play negotiation process, and are used to prevent real-life trauma, conflict, or serious injury.

"My safeword is 'bollock cheese' because it's too fucking random to be confused for anything else."


a scene: a BDSM session typically involving two or more people. Scenes can be extensively pre-planned or happen organically, and may or may not involve sexual activity.

"My girlfriend and I got into a scene yesterday and ended up going for four hours! I'm whooped."

The word can also be used with a definite article, i.e. "the scene," to refer to the public BDSM community as a whole.

"I try not to generalize about kinksters. The scene is made up of all sorts of people."


a service top: a practitioner who tops in order to serve the needs and desires of their partners

"I'm a service top. I love nothing more than to torture my pet in exactly the way he likes." 


a slave: a bottom or switch who consents to give up all control to their top, known as their master, in a 24/7 relationship involving Total Power Exchange. Slaves are expected to follow the orders and rules of their masters at all times, and sometimes sign BDSM contracts to express agreement to their partner's terms, rules, and expectations.

"What I love about being a slave is the simplicity of the lifestyle. My master makes almost every decision in our relationship."


a soft limit: an activity that a practitioner is hesitant or nervous about, but might be willing to do under certain circumstances or with certain partners. Soft limits are often communicated between partners during the negotiation process prior to play. Partners can express the specifics of their feelings about the activities in question at that time.

"Needle play is a soft limit for me. If I had a play partner who was trained to use needles safely, though, I'd probably be willing to try it."


a submissive (or sub, for short): a practitioner who enjoys relinquishing control, to some degree, to one or more dominant partners. Some subs only wish to submit during specified periods, while others prefer a relationship dynamic with the psychological aspect of submission present at all times.

"My partner is a sub, but he doesn't enjoy pain, so we focus on other types of activities during play."


a switch: a practitioner who likes to top and bottom at different times, in different situations, or with different partners. 

"I've always submitted to him during our scenes, but he bottoms when he plays with Mistress Layla. He's a switch."

The word is often also used as a verb, i.e. "to switch."

"I started out bottoming, but recently I've been interested in switching. I want to give other bottoms the same pleasure tops have given me in the past."

A switch is also a type of rod-shaped tool used for impact play. Switches are generally made from strong but flexible varieties of wood, like hazel, willow, or hickory. They're made by cutting a branch from the stem of a tree and removing any twigs, leaves, or other such features before use. Being beaten with a switch can result in some rather nasty cuts and bruises to the skin.

"Go outside right now and cut me a switch, you fucking brat. I'm about to teach you some manners."


a top: a practitioner who generally acts as the giver of stimulation and/or leads a bottom for the duration of a BDSM scene. Dominants and sadists are examples of people who would be considered tops. Switches can also be tops when they participate in scenes as givers or leaders. 

"Great tops exude patience and confidence."

The word is often also used as a verb, i.e. "to top."

"Topping entails a lot of responsibility."


a Wartenberg pinwheel: a metal tool consisting of a handle and a small rotating wheel with sharp spikes. It was originally invented as a medical device for neurological purposes, but is often used by BDSMers for pain or sensation play. This tool tickles a bit when dragged lightly across the skin, but can feel painful when pressed into the skin. Wartenberg pinwheels are great for pain-play fans looking to avoid bleeding, as it's fairly difficult to accidentally cut the skin while using them.

"My favorite thing about Wartenberg pinwheels is that they feel so different on each area of the body."


bastinado: the act of hitting the soles of a receiver's bare feet, often with a cane, switch, or other impact play implement. It's also sometimes referred to as 'foot whipping'. Special care must be taken by tops who perform this activity, as feet contain tiny bones and tendons that can be damaged through hardcore varieties of play.

"I like when my dom does bastinado on me, but it always makes me walk funny the next day."


BDSM: a set of related activities that consenting partners do for pleasure. The acronym simultaneously stands for Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, and Sadism & Masochism.

"For some people BDSM is just about sex, but for others, it's an entire lifestyle."

(Check out this article for an in-depth definition of BDSM as a practice and lifestyle.)


bondage: the practice of restraining a partner with rope, cuffs, chains, tape, or other materials. Rope bondage practitioners make up a particularly strong and unique subset of the fetish community.

"Bondage is my favorite part of BDSM. I adore tying up my partner and watching them struggle helplessly. Squee!"


caning: the act of hitting a receiver with a long, flexible cane that's usually made of rattan, a type of tropical climbing plant similar to bamboo. Caning is a popular and painful type of impact play that's relatively quiet but can leave intense (and beautiful!) tiger-stripe marks.

"I don't consider caning to be a warm-up activity. It hurts like a bitch."


cock and ball torture (CBT, for short): painful treatment of a receiver's penis and/or testicles. Some masochistic male practitioners live for this type of play. CBT can include activities such as genital piercing, wax play, flogging, squeezing, urethral play, electro-play, and more. Cock and ball torture can entail serious health risks. Tops who inflict it should be properly trained and proceed with adequate caution.

"My dominatrix and I do cock and ball torture every time I see her. I like it because it's terrifying."


consensual non-consent: play involving simulated rape or the illusion of non-consent. The submissive participant may struggle, wrestle, fight, cry, or scream things like "Stop!" or "Please don't!" In spite of how these scenes appear from an outsider's point of view, the bottom in these scenes does consent to and enjoy the activities at hand. Bottoms can enjoy consensual non-consent for a number of reasons. They may love the simulated experience of total domination, or enjoy the feeling of playing the victim. As consensual non-consent entails a number of physical and emotional risks, it's often considered edgeplay and should be explicitly negotiated and planned for in advance.

"My boyfriend and I practice consensual non-consent from time to time. He puts on a ski mask and "breaks into my apartment" in the middle of the night to "rape" me."


consent: permission to do something to someone, such as spanking or spitting on them during play. Consent is the single factor that separates BDSM from abuse and ensures that play remains enjoyable for all involved. Consent in BDSM is implemented via pre-play negotiation, safewords, and continuous communication between practitioners. Ethical kinksters understand that consent is never implied and can change at any time.

"It's fun to surprise subs with new activities during scenes, but it can be super risky if you haven't gotten consent to do that particular thing in advance."


degradation: a type of play involving disrespectful or contemptuous treatment toward a bottom. Everyone has different ideas about what activities are considered degrading, but they could include things like spitting on someone, objectifying them, or inflicting verbal abuse.

"Some subs find degradation to be incredibly arousing, while others consider it a hard limit."


discipline: a type of play or partnership dynamic where the top creates behavioral structure for the bottom in the form of rules and expectations. The bottom's obedience is rewarded, while disobedience is punished. Some partners who practice BDSM as a lifestyle take their disciplinary systems quite seriously, incorporating punishments that are genuinely disliked, while others solely focus on 'funishment' during scenes.

"Discipline is my number one fetish. I'm always looking for sexy excuses to punish my sub for his misbehavior."


domestic discipline (DD, for short): a relationship dynamic wherein a male or female 'head of the household' disciplines their consenting partner in order to maintain a harmonious home environment. This typically involves spanking and seems to be especially popular among Christians. There's disagreement among practitioners as to whether domestic discipline counts as BDSM, as the main point isn't sexual gratification and the discipline-enforcing top is meant to wield legitimate power. Therefore, tools like safewords aren't likely to be used by participants.

"I always laugh when domestic discipline practitioners say they don't do it for erotic purposes. Come on, y'all. You know that shit's sexy."  


edgeplay: kinky activities that are considered to be particularly dangerous due to potential risks involving disease, death, and/or serious injury. Definitions of edgeplay tend to vary, as we all have subjective ideas about what's risky. However, activities that usually make the cut are breath play, bloodletting, gun play, scat play, consensual non-consent, knife play, and fire play.

"I consider choking to be edgeplay. Many people don't understand just how dangerous it is."


edging: the process of repeatedly bringing one's partner close to orgasm and then backing off in order to build desperate feelings of arousal. Edging isn't unique to BDSM, but is often used by tops as a means of torture.

"I fucking love edging my sub. Hearing her beg me to let her come is like music to my ears."


electro-play: kinky play involving low levels of electrocution. Special toys can be bought for this purpose, such as the ever-popular violet wand. Electro-play comes with a number of health risks and considerations, and many consider it to be a type of edgeplay.

"Electro-play produces a unique type of pain. I love it."


enema play: kinky play in which the bottom's rectum/colon is filled with water by their top, either to cause feelings of embarrassment or to clean the area in preparation for anal play.

"The first time I tried enema play, I thought I might die of embarrassment. These days I love it, however. It's a fun, uncomfortable feeling."


figging: the act of inserting a raw, carefully carved piece of ginger root into a receiver's ass or pussy. This is often done as a form of punishment, as ginger creates a painful or uncomfortable burning sensation.

"Figging is fun, but I can't handle it for too long. It hurts, dammit!"


fire play: kinky play involving fire. In most cases, the point isn't actually to burn the skin, and flames are doused before actual harm is done to the skin. Fire play can be a thrilling form of edgeplay, but extreme caution must be taken before attempting it.

"I attended a few workshops on fire play before I tried it with my sub. You've got to have a safe place to do it, so we only get into it once in a while."


fisting: the act of inserting a hand into a receiver's ass or pussy. Some bottoms are aroused by the feeling of fullness that fisting inspires. As it takes time for the muscles of the vagina or anus to stretch, fisting must be done slowly and with caution as the receiver is allowed to relax over time. Fisting comes with some rather unpleasant risks, like vaginal or anal prolapse. Proceed with caution.

"I never thought I'd get into fisting, but my top fisted me during a scene last month and it was so intense. Now I want to do it ALL THE DAMN TIME."


flogging: a type of impact play where the receiver is hit repeatedly with a flogger, an implement consisting of a handle and several tails. Floggers can be made from leather, rubber, or a variety of other materials. Nailing a pleasurable rhythm and combination of levels of intensity ranging from soft to hard can bring both tops and bottoms into a hypnotic state during scenes.

"My dominatrix always starts off light while flogging me, but I'm usually bleeding by the time she's done."


funishment: play punishment that's done for fun. Scenes involving funishment are sexy and pleasurable for both the dom and sub, and don't involve sincere attempts at discipline. If the bottom is a masochist, for example, the top may find a trivial excuse to spank them or make up a reason to do so. This is in contrast to actual punishment that the bottom would genuinely not find enjoyable. For practitioners who incorporate discipline into their dynamic, it's helpful to clarify whether funishment, actual punishment, or both are desired.

"I'm into spanking and funishment is my main kink. I don't want to be punished for real by anyone."


golden showers: kinky play involving pee, usually with the top peeing on their partner in order to embarrass or degrade them.

"My sub doesn't get embarrassed easily, but he's mortified by golden showers, so I like to bring them into scenes when I want him to feel especially uncomfortable.


hypnosis: psychological erotic play that involves a top putting their partner into a trance-like state to influence, guide, or control their behavior or ways of thinking. Possibilities abound for tops who are trained in hypnosis. They may incorporate it to help the sub relax, to bring them into a state of full mental immersion in their role, or to help them explore or deepen certain fetishes. This is not an activity for novice tops or partners without much experience playing together, as mind control can have intense psychological effects. Tops practicing hypnosis must be committed to providing proper aftercare to bring the bottom back to a neutral state of mind.

"I was curious about infantilism when my dom and I got together. He used hypnosis at the beginning of a scene to bring me into the mind state of a baby. It was incredibly powerful and we had a great scene."


impact play: play in which the top repeatedly strikes their partner with a hand or implement. This encompasses a range of activities such as spanking, flogging, whipping, paddling, caning, and more. It may be used as a form of punishment for submissives who are averse to pain, or funishment for masochistic subs. It may also simply be incorporated into scenes as a form of sensation play. Impact play can create intense pleasure for receivers via the release of endorphins, sometimes sending them into subspace or allowing them to release deeply pent-up feelings of stress.

"Target areas of the body for impact play have sufficient fleshy padding, such as the ass and thighs. Impact play shouldn't be focused on areas where injury could occur, such as the spine or the area covering the kidneys."


kinbaku: a form of Japanese-style rope bondage in which the rope model is tied so tightly that they can't move. This is often said in contrast to the word shibari, which simply means "to tie". Riggers often choose to use one term or both to describe their activities.

"I prefer to use the term 'kinbaku' to describe what I do to my sub because shibari can be used in a variety of contexts related to tying, while 'kinbaku' is specifically used to denote erotic activities."


kidnapping (also referred to as abduction play): play that centers around a sub being kidnapped and forcibly detained by their dom, who they may or may not know in the context of the fantasy. Much like consensual non-consent, people who fantasize about being kidnapped are often drawn to the prospect of completely giving up control. Kidnapping scenes are often elaborate and require detailed advance planning and negotiation. 'Victims' may take time off work to engage in extended, multi-day kidnapping scenes, and tops may or may not specify exactly when or where they'll show up to abduct their partner, or where they'll be taking them for the duration of the scene. Kidnapping is a particularly immersive form of role-play that can involve intense elements of physical and psychological torture, and is therefore considered by many to be a type of edgeplay. Thorough aftercare may be necessary in order to bring the bottom back to a comfortable state of mind following the scene.

"My partner and I are into kidnapping play. One time he came up behind me while I was walking home, grabbed me and threw me into the trunk of his car, and imprisoned me in a cabin in the mountains for three days. It was the must fucked-up, exciting thing I'd ever experienced. I can't wait to do it again."


kink: an umbrella term used to describe 'unconventional' sexual practices, concepts, or fantasies. This is in contrast to activities or ideas that are considered 'normal' or vanilla in mainstream society. The term is often used as a loose synonym for BDSM. However, BDSM is actually a subcategory of kink and can refer to fetishes that aren't specifically related to it, such as group sex or sexual activity involving furries. Definitions describing what does or doesn't count as kink vary depending on time, place, cultural norms, and other factors.

"Incorporating kink into your relationship can be a fun way to build intimacy with your partner."

The countable form of the noun is sometimes used to refer to one or multiple specific sexual fetishes.

"Most of my kinks revolve around discipline."

The word is often used in its adjective form as well.

"You like to jack off while your girlfriend smokes cigarettes, shits on your chest, and cracks raw eggs on your forehead? Dang, dude ... that's pretty kinky!"


kneeling: a show of respect for one's dominant that's often incorporated in scenes or protocol between partners to bring the bottom into a submissive headspace. Sometimes subs are trained to kneel in order to offer themselves to their partners.

"My partner and I have a 24/7 dynamic. She's expected to be kneeling in front of the door every evening when I get home."


 knife play: edgeplay involving knives, razors, or other blades. Knife play can involve cutting the surface layers of the skin or just involve the top dragging a blade across the surface of the bottom's skin. This can be used as a form of sensation play and/or incorporate psychological play involving fear. Tops interested in performing knife play should study up, as areas of the body with arteries located closer to the surface of the skin should be considered off limits. Bottoms receiving this type of stimulation must keep absolutely still to avoid accidents. Therefore, knife play shouldn't be combined with other forms of play involving movement, such as sex or impact play. 

"I love knife play. My dom ties me up and runs a dull kitchen knife across my back and ass. It makes me shiver."


mummification: the act of wrapping a sub's body partially or fully to restrict their movement, perhaps inciting feelings of claustrophobia. Tops can accomplish this using a variety of materials, like plastic wrap or duct tape. Mummification can be thought of as an extreme type of bondage, or a type of sensory deprivation play. Tops performing mummification must be sure their partners can breathe, should keep a pair of scissors on hand during play in order to quickly release their partner if necessary, and are advised not to leave mummified bottoms unattended.

"I never knew mummification was a thing until my mistress wrapped me in cling wrap from head to toe. Not being able to move an inch was quite unsettling after a while."


needle play: play that involves needles, naturally. This often centers on temporary piercing. People make very pretty designs or tie "corsets" into needles positioned on either side of the spine.

"I love to do needle play with well-trained sadists. It's such a smooth, focused type of pain."


negotiation: a process of communication play partners go through to establish limits, preferences, safewords, and more. Practitioners usually negotiate before playing together for the first time, and continually afterward to tweak agreements and protocols as the partnership progresses.

"I wouldn't agree to play with anyone who doesn't understand the importance of negotiation."

(Click here for an in-depth guide to the negotiation process.)


objectification: the act of symbolically removing a bottom's humanity by treating them as an object, such as a piece of furniture or a sex toy that exists solely for the pleasure of the top. This is often regarded as a type of degradation and/or emotional sadism.

"Objectification turns me right the fuck on. I love it when my mistress refers to me as her 'property'."


paddling: a type of impact play where the receiver is hit with a paddle rather than a hand or other implement. Paddles can be made in many different sizes and shapes, and with various materials like leather, wood, or plastic. Some paddles cause a stinging sort of pain, while others feel more "thuddy." Paddling is often associated with discipline and conjures up images of strict boarding school teachers and the like.

"My dom paddled my ass good last night. Wanna see my bruises?"


pet play: roleplay in which a submissive enters the headspace of a domesticated animal such as a dog, cat, or horse. The dominant partner may be referred to as the pet's 'owner'. Tops in pet play scenes may 'ride' their partner, walk them around on a leash, have them drink and eat from pet bowls, have them sleep in beds made specifically for pets, and more. Pet play can involve awesome kinky accessories like cat ears or anal plugs designed to look like animal tails. While pet play is typically considered a subset of BDSM when it involves elements of dominance and submission, it can also be done without any elements of BDSM.

"When we're at home, my husband and I do a lot of pet play. I put on kitty ears and he pets me while we watch movies."


pony play: pet play in which the submissive partner enters the headspace of a domesticated horse. Tops may 'ride' their partners, whip them, or have them pull them as they sit in a chariot. Elaborate costumes complete with horse bridles, saddles, bits, and more may be involved. Ponies may also perform in order to show off their dressage skills for their top and/or other observers.

"My sub and I share a love of pony play. One of the first things I did was train her in pony protocol."


power exchange: a term describing a bottom's willingness and consent for their top to assume control of their dynamic, either during a BDSM scene or in general. The term illustrates a contrast between BDSM and abusive relationships where power is taken by the abuser rather than given willingly by the receiver. The degree to which the top is afforded permission to make certain decisions and perform certain actions is often decided during pre-play negotiation.

"Power exchange allows participants to explore their sexuality on their own terms."


primal play: a type of play that focuses on things like instinct, raw emotion, and natural impulses. Societal norms and learned behavior are eschewed during play, allowing participants to adopt animalistic personas without concern for social protocol. Wrestling, biting, scratching, hair pulling, and growling are common elements of primal play. Primal dynamics can feel particularly liberating for practitioners who fantasize about complete, unbridled domination. It's important to keep in mind that going "full primal" isn't advisable, for purposes of safety. This type of play should be backed up, like any other in BDSM, with negotiation, safewords, aftercare, and constant communication between partners.

"Primal play makes me feel alive."


punishment: the act of disciplining a submissive who has broken a rule or violated an expectation previously negotiated between them and their dominant. The goal of punishment is to help submissives become the best version of themselves in areas where they tend to lack self-discipline, whatever that may mean in the context of their dynamic. Punishment differs from 'funishment' in that it involves disciplinary actions that they'll find genuinely unpleasant. (Spanking a masochist, for instance, can't be considered much of a punishment.) Partners must be sure to communicate and compromise about punishment in order to ensure their dynamic doesn't cross over into the realm of genuine abuse. If a particular punishment will create trauma for the submissive, an alternative punishment should be sought out instead, and crossing hard limits should never be involved. BDSM punishments must also be realistic, safe, and should never be carried out in anger.

"When my sub and I first got together, he told me he had a bad habit of staying up late and playing on his phone. If he ever sleeps in late as a result, I take away his phone for 24 hours as punishment."


Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK): an ethical philosophy that permits more dangerous types of kinky behavior in BDSM, provided that all participants are aware of the risks involved. The term is often used in contrast to Safe, Sane, Consensual (SSC), which tends to be less permissive of kinky activities considered risky or dangerous.

"I'm a fan of RACK. As long as people are aware of the risks, who am I to judge what they do in the bedroom?"

(Click here for more info about SSC and RACK.)


sadomasochism (S&M or s/m, for short): the 'SM' portion of BDSM, which specifically centers on the giving and receiving of pain. 'Sado' refers to sadism, performed by the top in BDSM partnerships, while masochism is practiced by the bottom, who receives pain. Sadomasochism can be physical, mental, or a combination of both, and may be performed via activities like biting, spanking, piercing, whipping, knife play, public humiliation, degradation, and more.

"According to this survey, about 5% of the population reports being in sadomasochism."


Safe, Sane, Consensual (SSC): an ethical philosophy that states BDSM activities must be safe, sane, and consensual to be considered permissible in the community. The term is often presented in contrast to Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK).

"I prefer RACK  over SSC, but I understand why it was created as an ethical standard for the community."

(Click here for more info about SSC and RACK.)


scarification: a form of body modification where practitioners cut, burn, or scratch designs into their skin with the intention of creating scars. This ancient tribal practice has become popular in the BDSM community due to the pain involved in the process.

"I have a number of tattoos, but I'm starting to get interested in scarification too. It seems like a natural progression."


scat play: kinky play involving poop. Some practitioners may like scat play due to its taboo or humiliating nature. Scat play is fairly uncommon and considered a form of edgeplay, as it's unsanitary and can cause illness.

"Many public dungeons and other BDSM forums prohibit scat play."


sensory deprivation: the act of depriving a bottom of one or multiple senses, such as sight, hearing, smell, etc. Being blindfolded is a common form of sensory deprivation used in BDSM, and can create suspense or anticipation during scenes. Sensory deprivation may also produce a meditative state, causing bottoms to feel calm or relaxed.

"I incorporate a fair bit of sensory deprivation when I play with my sub. I love blindfolding her and watching her squirm in anticipation when she can't see what I'm about to do to her."


shibari: the art of Japanese rope bondage. The word itself means "to tie" in Japanese. Shibari is often said in contrast to the word kinbaku, which essentially translates as "to tie tightly to the point where movement is impossible". Rope artists often use one term or both to describe what they do. Shibari is an intricate process that requires practice and skill, as bottoms can be injured if tied too tightly or in improper ways. Some rope artists use shibari to suspend their partners in mid-air during scenes. In this case, special care must be taken in regards to safe weight distribution and other considerations. Tops interested in performing shibari should always have a strong pair of scissors on hand in case they need to release their partners quickly during an emergency.

"I started learning shibari about five years ago. It took a while, but now I can safely suspend my partner during play. I love how he looks when he's all tied up and helpless."


spanking: the act of hitting a receiver's ass and/or thighs, usually repeatedly, with a hand or other implement. Spanking is considered one of the safest and most common acts in BDSM. Being spanked can feel pleasurable on a physical level for masochists, often sending them into subspace. Spanking is often utilized as a form of punishment and/or 'funishment' for submissives who find discipline arousing. To ensure safety, tops should always spank their partners on the fleshiest areas of the body, as layers of fat protect bones, joints, and internal organs. Tops must take care not to hit skin covering the spine, kidneys, or other risky areas of the body.

"I'm sorry I called you a useless, two-bit, twat-mongering coward, master. You should probably spank me so I learn to watch my filthy mouth."


subdrop: an extremely unpleasant physical and/or mental condition sometimes experienced by bottoms after intense BDSM scenes. It can arise due to several causes, such as a submissive being jerked out of subspace too quickly or not being properly cared for after play. The body and mind can have trouble 'leveling out' after experiencing the strong effects of endorphins, hormones, or other elements released during scenes. Symptoms of subdrop may include extreme feelings of sadness, uncontrollable crying, panic, anxiety, or physical cold and flu-like symptoms. Subdrop can usually be avoided by way of proper aftercare.

"I've only experienced subdrop once and cried uncontrollably for three days. I'd never felt so sad in my life."


subspace:  a calm, pleasurable state of mind that bottoms can experience during play. The feeling is similar to an opiate high, and may cause the person experiencing it to feel disconnected from time, space, or their own body. This state is usually produced as the brain releases endorphins as part of the body's response to pain. Some submissives report experiencing subspace while being controlled, rather than as a response to painful stimuli. Though subspace is a natural high, the power of this state can't be underestimated, as its the effects can cause legitimate intoxication. Bottoms shouldn't drive or operate heavy machinery, for example, while in subspace, and might have only a limited ability to communicate. Tops must be able to take responsibility for the well-being of bottoms while they're in subspace.

"Subspace is the main reason I love BDSM. I'm addicted to the feeling of it."


suspension: the act of suspending a bottom in mid air with ropes or metal hooks that are pierced through the skin. Tops wishing to suspend their partners must study and practice in order to learn the necessary skills required to do this type of play safely. Considerations like proper weight distribution and positioning must be taken into account.

"I've been studying shibari for a couple of years, but I'm finally getting good enough to do rope suspension with my sub."


The Next Generation (TNG for short): Not Star Trek, you goose! (Though I am allll about that Patrick Stewart big dick energy.) TNG is a subset of the BDSM community aimed specifically at providing support and networking-focused groups for young adults between the ages of 18-35. TNG was started in 1999 and acknowledges the fact that younger practitioners have unique experiences and unique challenges as compared to those who are older. TNG groups are often described as particularly sex-positive and dedicated to a more consent-focused, laissez-faire brand of play, rather than a more traditional "doms call the shots" attitude that stresses hierarchy and strict protocol between doms and subs. TNG groups have received criticism for age discrimination. While some of these groups do only cater to participants 35 and under, others merely market themselves toward a younger crowd while accepting older participants.

"The scene can be intimidating for new younger members, especially if they show up at an event and don't see anyone in their age group. TNG groups offer a gateway for them to ease into the community."


the stoplight system: a safeword system that's comprised of three words: green, yellow, and red. 'Green' essentially means that the person saying the word is enjoying what's happening and wants to continue. It's usually said as a response to a check-in from the other partner. 'Yellow' means that the person saying the word wants to continue playing, but something needs to change. Perhaps they're reaching their pain limit and want to ease up on intensity, slow down, or switch to another activity. 'Red' means that the person saying the word would like play to stop altogether. In this case, the scene should end and practitioners can move onto aftercare. The stoplight system is a great communication tool for practitioners who want to clarify and express different levels or aspects of consent during play.

"My play partner and I use the stoplight system. I rarely ever call 'red.' I usually call 'yellow' and we have a quick chat before continuing the scene."


to co-top: to top with one or more other tops during a scene

"My best friend is also a dom. He's awesome to co-top with. Last weekend we went to town on his subby girlfriend together. What a ride!"

topdrop: an extremely unpleasant physical and/or mental condition sometimes experienced by tops after intense BDSM scenes. It can arise due to several causes, such as feelings of guilt, exhaustion, or the physical comedown off adrenaline after play. The body and mind can have trouble 'leveling out' after experiencing the strong effects of endorphins, hormones, or other elements released during scenes. Symptoms of topdrop may include extreme feelings of sadness, uncontrollable crying, panic, anxiety, or physical cold and flu-like symptoms. Topdrop can usually be avoided by way of proper aftercare.

"After really intense scenes with my sub, I need a lot of cuddling and time to decompress. Otherwise, topdrop sets in and I feel awful."


to play: to do BDSM with one or more other practitioners, usually in the context of a scene.

"I heard you're a masochist. Want to play sometime? I know a great dungeon we could go to."

The noun 'play' is also used to describe certain categories of BDSM activity, such as impact play, wax play, needle play, fire play, or edgeplay.

"I've never tried fire play, but I'd like to sometime."


Total Power Exchange (TPE for short): a partnership dynamic in which the top has complete control over the bottom's life and makes the majority of decisions about the relationship.

"Lisa and Frank have a TPE thing going on. She decides what he eats, how he dresses ... the whole nine yards!"


to tap out: to stop a scene, usually via use of a safeword.

"I tried electro-play once, but had to tap out after a few seconds. I really didn't like how it felt."


to top from the bottom: to take, or attempt to take, control of a BDSM scene or relationship dynamic despite having previously agreed to play a submissive role. For instance, if a masochist were to direct a sadist, telling them exactly how hard to hit and which implement to use, this would be topping from the bottom. Some tops enjoy this type of dynamic, while others can't stand it. Following standard BDSM best practices, such expressing limits via use of a safeword or indicating preferences during negotiation, is not considered topping from the bottom by responsible practitioners.

"My sub has never tried to top from the bottom. He always follows my orders and does exactly what I say."


vanilla: not interested in or involving BDSM. The term is a metaphor based on the idea that vanilla is the plainest, most basic, or most boring flavor of ice cream, which is how some BDSM practitioners view sexual activity that doesn't involve kink. It's sometimes used in a derogatory sense by BDSM practitioners with a superiority complex.

"I just can't enjoy vanilla sex. If there's no BDSM involved, I find it boring."

The term can also be used as a noun, i.e. "a vanilla," to refer to a person who isn't into kink.

"It's not cool to do BDSM in front of the vanillas unless they've specifically consented to watch."


wax play: play that involves dripping hot wax on the skin. Wax play should ideally be done with candles created specifically for BDSM, as they burn at lower temperatures. Wax play involving non-kinky candles is likely to burn the skin and leave scars.

"You might want to set down a sheet of plastic before you do wax play. Otherwise you'll get wax all over the floor and it's a pain in the ass to clean up."


whipping: the act of striking a practitioner with a leather whip, usually repeatedly. Whipping is a technical skill that should be practiced extensively before being performed on a person, and is often taught at BDSM-focused workshops and seminars.

"Whipping is my favorite type of impact play because it's so intense."