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BDSM Labels and What they Mean

by Ms. Ryan of www.alphafemdomphonesex.com

When you're first dipping your toe into the larger BDSM pond, all of the terminology can be rather overwhelming. It can seem awfully technical and perhaps not entirely relevant to your situation. But the terminology--and the labels especially--can come in handy when you're negotiating a scene or even a whole relationship with another person. So I am going to try to simplify some of the more popular BDSM labels for you. Perhaps you will find one that suits you. Or perhaps even more than one. Keep in mind that none of these terms are really mutually exclusive.

Sadists and Masochists

Let's start with one that most everyone is familiar with: sadists and masochists. A sadist is, of course, a person who enjoys dishing out pain to other people, and a masochist is someone who enjoys receiving that pain. A sadomasochist is someone who enjoys both, be it at the same time or at different times. Many people who are into BDSM are either sadists, masochists, or both, but not all. (Remember that last line. You'll need it later.)

Tops and Bottoms

Moving on into the terminology of scenes, we have Tops and bottoms. You may recognize these terms from the LGBT subculture, although they're used somewhat differently here. A Top is the person who, when playing with another, does all the "doing unto." Tops may do bondage, swing floggers, use violet wands, etc. They are the person who does the action within a scene.

A bottom, on the other hand, is one who is "done unto." Bottoms may be bound, or be flogged, or have a violet wand used on them, etc.

Some people oversimplify this and assume that Tops are dominant and bottoms are submissive. While this is sometimes the case, it is not always true. The roles of Top and bottom assume no roles--submissive, dominant, or otherwise--outside of "one who enjoys doing unto" and "one who enjoys being done unto." A person may identify as a Top or a bottom at all times, or they may go back and forth between the two at different times. A person who does this is called a switch.

Dom/mes and Submissives

Now, the labels Dom/me and submissive do, in fact, assume certain roles. A Dom is a male dominant, and a Domme is a female dominant (although you may hear female dominants called Femdoms about as often as you will hear them called Dommes). These are the people who wear the pants in a relationship, as they say. And, naturally, submissives--subs, for short--are the ones who follow the dominant party's lead. A person who likes to take the submissive role sometimes and the dominant role at others may also be called a switch, as in the previous paragraph.

Master/Mistress and Slave

A similar concept is that of Master or Mistress and slave. These terms are very closely related to Dom/me and sub. There have been arguments in the BDSM community from time immemorial about the differences between Masters/Mistresses and Dom/mes and between subs and slaves, and no consensus has ever been reached. So that is not an avenue we will pursue today.

A common misconception is to assume that, say, for example, all Dommes are sadists and Tops. Dominant people can be masochistic and even bottom for sadistic subs. If a dominant party is telling a submissive how to top him or her, that dominant party is no less in control of the situation than if he or she were the one wielding the flogger. Additionally, switches (of the sort who like to both top and bottom) are not necessarily either dominant or submissive, though they can be either or both at different times.

's very important to realize that, as I said before, none of these terms are mutually exclusive of one another. You can, in fact, identify with *all* of them in different contexts (though that would be somewhat unusual). There is no "correct" way to label yourself. All you have to do is choose what fits you best, and that is what is right!

As I said, a submissive *submits*, regardless of the circumstances (barring something very unusual, of course). Everything else they might do or say or think or feel, any labels they may wish to apply to themselves...it's all secondary. If they're genuinely submissive, they submit. That's all there really is to it.