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What is BDSM?

Power exchange dynamics have been part of relationships for ever, BDSM is an acronym meant to serve as a catch-all term for the spectrum of kink relationships in one which one person is acknowledged as the Dominant partner and the other as the submissive.

In any given BDSM relationship, there may or may not be a total power exchange. Partners may choose to interact according to these roles all the time in what’s known 24/7 relationships, or only in the bedroom.

What do the letters in BDSM stand for?

The BDSM acronym stands for Bondage and Discipline (BD), Dominance and submission (D/s), and sadism and masochism (S & M).

To set the stage for understanding the variety of relationships and to know whether or not you might want to experiment a bit in this realm of kink yourself it’s important to first get a sense of the types of roles available to try on for size.

BDSM participants generally fall into three basic categories, but any one role or dynamic may be either fluid and changeable or clearly and consciously set as static for the duration of a particular relationship.

The three types of BDSM roles include:

  • Dominants: Those who take control in the relationship.
  • Submissives: Those who submit themselves to the control of their Dominant.
  • Switches: Those who are comfortable in either role, or who often prefer not to feel tied to either one at all times.

The following explains each of the four sub-types of Dominants, along with the sub-types of submissives they may engage in some sexy play.

Important things to know about BDSM before diving in:

  • All of these roles and relationships are entirely interchangeable in terms of gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
  • There are no hard and fast rules beyond those that the individuals set for themselves. While these are general concepts, one person who identifies as a Dom may do so in the way another identifies as Daddy or as Master.
  • All of these relationships are contingent on the mutual consent and satisfaction of both partners. Their choices may not be for you, but then, your life isn’t for them.
  • These roles and relationships involve an exchange of power, not a surrendering of power. In the vast majority of cases, submission is considered something that must be earned, generally through his or her Dominant’s respect, honesty, and character. Dom(me)s generally may feel, the sub really holds the power. If the Dominant screws up and loses trust just once, it’s likely to be over.
  • All of this is supposed to be fun! That’s why people in the BDSM community refer to what they do as play.

Now, let’s move on to the types of Dominants and submissives you find in the BDSM lifestyle.


Types of Dominants

Top

Within the context of BDSM, “top” is a catchall phrase for the dominant partner, the one doing the tying, taking charge, giving orders etc.

In some circumstances, a person may be a “service top,” which is someone who enjoys taking control of their partner primarily as an essentially submissive way of pleasing them or because they’ve been instructed to do so.

Dom or Domme

The main difference between a Dom (male-identifying) or Domme (female-identifying) and a top is that neither will follow instructions given by someone else.

Where a top may perform an act like oral sex on a bottom at the bottom’s command, a true Dominant will give orders to a submissive, or otherwise employ physical or psychological techniques of control … [in order to] instruct the submissive to perform the act on them.

Master or Mistress

While some believe that service and obedience are often the core values in Master/slave structures, there are others who consider this relationship structure to be more spiritual.

The primary distinction between this BDSM relationship type and others is that a Master (male or male-identifying) or Mistress (female or female-identifying) holds ownership rights to their slave’s body, as property or chattel.

Daddy or Mommy

A Daddy Dom is a slight variation from a traditional dominant in that they must consider their subs’ inner child dynamic. In these cases, Daddy or Mommy Doms are usually in full control but also have to take care of the social and emotional wellbeing of their baby boy or girl since their sub is in a slightly different mind space than traditional subs.

Daddies and Mommies get pleasure from spoiling, rewarding, disciplining and punishing their little as they see fit, and consider themselves to be protectors. These relationships tend to be loving and long-term, and may or may not include some level of age play.

Types of Submissives

Bottom

Bottom is the generic term for a submissive partner, the one being tied, spanked and commanded. A bottom may also be someone who enjoys submitting temporarily, and in limited ways.

Additionally, a bottom in BDSM does not have to be the receptive partner; for example, a male or female dominant may command their submissive to perform acts on them.

Sub

The main difference between a submissive and a bottom is that the submissive ostensibly does not give instructions, although they do set limits on what the dominant can do.

It is a submissive’s choice and role to follow the orders, cues and commands they are given by their Dominant.

Slave

A slave within the BDSM lifestyle is someone who consents to surrender themselves as property of their owner.

Duties, expectations, acceptable types of sexual activity, clothing, diet, routines, and more may be contained within a slave contract, a document that outlines the desires, limits, and expectations of [both] parties.

In addition, these contracts often outline clear expectations of whether the couple will be monogamous or polyamorous, and if there would be permission or expectation of sexual interaction with other people.

Domestic Servant

According to the BDSM blog The Power Exchange, “The Domestic servant lives to serve and fulfill the needs of the household. This form of submission includes taking care of all household chores and tasks.”

Pet

Pets are submissives who enjoy playing the role of an animal, often a puppy or kitten, to their Master or Owner. Entry-level animal play may involve imitating the sounds of animals, crawling about on all fours, being hand fed or petted, or wearing a collar.

When taken to a more extreme level, Masters might restrict their pet’s movements by keeping them in a cage or off the furniture or force them to use a litter box rather than a human toilet.”

Good Girl or Good Boy

Typically referred to as a little or baby girl/boy, the little girl or boy submissive worships her Daddy or Mommy Dom(me).

They will do anything to please him or her, because they know that it is their mission to care for them and to protect them. Since they are secure in their feelings for them, they trust their Daddy or Mommy and submit completely.

The little girl or boy puts her Daddy’s or Mommy’s needs first and pleasing them is of the utmost importance. In return the Daddy or Mommy fulfils their needs and disciplines them when they need it.

Princess

A princess differs slightly from other subs in that she is willing to serve and submit, but only if what she is going to get is what she really wants.

A princess loves being spoiled and pampered all day, there is another side to the princess role, and that is Princess by Day, Slut by Night.

This is when the woman loves to be completely cared for and treated like royalty by her Dom, but at night to thank him, she becomes the dirtiest little slut she can imagine and she loves every second of it.

Brat

Another one of Daddy’s or Mommy’s subs, a Brat is a submissive who enjoys talking back, misbehaving, and generally being difficult in order to get attention or have their needs met.

Brats are people who enjoy being ‘put in their place’ rather than submitting easily. Likewise, some Dominants enjoy the challenge of getting a brat under control. Some brats use talking back, or phrases such as ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ as a way to goad their top into heavier play.”

Conclusion

In truth, as no two people are exactly alike, no two D/s or M/s relationships will look exactly the same, nor should they. Relationships of all types, kinky or otherwise, involve trust, open and honest communication, discussions of wants/needs and likes/limits. Ongoing negotiations make sure each partner is happy and fulfilled. And, of course, it can be incredibly fun exploring each role to see which fits you best!


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Contributors: This article was researched and written by Umlindi, edited by Mistress Michelle and published by Umlindi.

These educational topics wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication from our Dom(me)sLife contributors – Thank you MM

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