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Did You Know That There Is A Glossary of Terms To Help You Learn All The Aspects Of BDSM? Here Is The Beginner’s ABCs Of Kink-Related Terms Part One

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Whether you are a well-versed BDSM practitioner or a new initiate, it can be helpful to learn all the terms that are commonly used in the BDSM community. Use both articles, part 1 and part 2, as a fun, easy guide to knowing more about the community and the different practices that make it up. In an effort to showcase and celebrate the beautiful variation that exists within human sexuality, this glossary also includes terms that are not necessarily kink-related, but that focus on promoting sex positivity and pleasure. 

The terms “kink” and “vanilla” are subjective meaning what may seem kinky to one person may not be to another, and ultimately both of these viewpoints are equally valid. There are times when the words we have access to fail to do justice to what we are trying to describe. Sometimes the metrics we have in place are not very accurate or reflective of how things are. 

It is important that we honor and validate different sexual expressions, frameworks, and ways of being. 

Disclaimer:

I am not endorsing any BDSM, kink, fetish, or lifestyle. It is a highly personal decision. Before beginning, these decisions should be formed only after considerable thought and care, as well as after successful, open communication with any other person who may become involved in the practice. When you are considering implementing any aspect of BDSM, consider any health issues or risks that may be associated with the activities/lifestyle you are exploring and seek out relevant and accurate information.

The purpose of this article is to simplify a collection of BDSM-related terms and to share information. This body of work was not written to endorse participation in any BDSM lifestyle, kink, or practice.

Participate at your own risk. 

Furthermore, all of the terms listed refer to legitimate BDSM practices that occur between consenting adults without the use of force, coercion, or manipulation. However, distinctions may be made between terms that are often misconstrued or confused with valid BDSM activities for the sake of providing nuanced, informative research. 

bdsm-terms

ABCs of BDSM Terms

Abduction Play: A form of roleplaying where a person consents to being “abducted” by an individual or group of individuals and taken to a different location where the scene will then proceed. 

Adult Baby: An adult baby is a person who roleplays as a person much younger than they are. They may roleplay any age between infancy to toddler age (Seif, 2021). 

Adult Pacifier: Adult pacifiers are larger-sized pacifiers that individuals may use in order to self-soothe or as a way of getting into their headspace, a mental state that allows them to engage in scenes or roleplay in the way they have chosen for themself.  (Interested in learning more about adult pacis? Then check out a previous article I wrote where I interviewed the owner of an adult pacifier brand, Custom ABDL.) 

Aftercare: Aftercare refers to a period of time directly following a scene. Aftercare is a way for those involved in the scene to decompress and spend time together in a relaxed, comforting way. Aftercare activities may include but are not limited to cuddling, massaging one another, watching television together, or even coloring in an activity book. Any activity that allows all parties involved to unwind and perhaps process the completed scene.

It is a widely mistaken belief that aftercare is administered by dominants exclusively for submissives, instead, aftercare is really about everyone being taken care of and this includes dominants/doms.

Aftercare is important because it can help to prevent “drop,” a term used to describe a significant drop in mood that may follow an intense scene, even if that scene was highly enjoyable. Many community members agree that aftercare is a mandatory practice for all scenes, even if the individuals are all highly experienced practitioners of BDSM. 

Age Play: Age play can be sexual or non-sexual, depending on the preferences of the individual and their partners. Essentially, age play is when a person roleplays as a different age instead of the age they currently are (Seif, 2021). 

Anal Training: The practice of anal training is when an individual gradually inserts larger objects into their anus. Anal training is quite similar to vaginal dilation where individuals stretch and lengthen the vaginal canal through the gradual insertion of dilators. It is crucial that anal training only be done with the use of body-safe, as well as anal-safe toys. Toys that are anal-safe will have a wide, flared bottom, in order to prevent the toy from being sucked up by the body. If this happens seek immediate medical attention. 

Asphyxiation: Asphyxiation, also known as choking, or breath play, is an activity where a person’s air supply is being actively limited. This activity is dangerous and definitely not a beginner activity.

Asphyxiation can result in broken blood vessels, trouble swallowing, loss of consciousness, and death, which is why it is crucial that all BDSM practitioners safely engage in scenes and that they each acknowledge their limits and stay within those limits (WebMD Editorial Contributors & Brennan, 2021).

Asphyxiation in BDSM practice may be achieved manually, such as through the use of someone’s hands on another person, but it can also be done with implements like plastic bags or wraps. Additionally, asphyxiation may also occur with only one person limiting their own air supply. This is called auto-asphyxiation. 

 

BallBusting: A sadomasochistic activity where an individual’s testicles are the recipient of pain in a range of activities including, kicking, slapping, and being stepped on. Testicles are an especially sensitive part of the human body. Practice ballbusting with caution and have safety measures in place. 

Ball-Gag:  A gag fastened and tightened around the wearer’s head, often with a buckle for an added snug fit- where in the middle of the gag, is a ball that the wearer places inside their mouth (Edwina, 2020). 

Bit: A bit is another style of gag that includes a cylindrical piece in the middle of the gag, that is then placed in the wearer’s mouth. 

Blood Play: Blood play refers to activities where artificial or real blood is implemented in a scene. May be used in conjunction with knife play. 

Bondage: Bondage is when a person’s mobility and movements are restricted. This can be accomplished with implements such as ropes and handcuffs. It is important to note that there are restraints that are safer to use for bondage scenes.

Silicone handcuffs are safer than regular cuffs, for example, regular cuffs can restrict blood supply and damage nerve endings. Similarly, silk restraints and hemp ropes are an alternative to harsh cords using them may cause unintentional harm, uncomfortable feelings, and pain. 

(In an earlier article I mentioned an amazing company that makes bondage restraint and kink furniture. I highly recommend checking out the amazing furniture creations Lust and Lore produces.)

Brat: A brat is a person who identifies as a submissive, but who engages in roleplaying behavior that actively challenges the authority and power of the dominant. 

Breath Play: Breath play encompasses any activity that restricts one’s air supply. It may be used to increase erotic sensation and pleasure. 

Camming: Camming is a form of internet-based sex that is accomplished with the aid of webcams. Internet platforms for cammers allow fans to interact with their favorite performers and show their appreciation through tips. 

Cat-o-Nine Tails: A cat-o-nine tails is a type of whip with long pieces of fabric or cord at the end that allow the user to lash the recipient. It may be used as part of impact play, or as just a gateway into experiencing different sensations, such as often is the case when individuals drape the tails over another person’s body as opposed to using the device for the infliction of pain. 

CGL: CGL (Caregiver Little) is a lifestyle dynamic where one person roleplays as the dominant or the caregiver, and the other person(s) takes on the role of submissive, or little. CGL does not always involve age-playing, but it can include age-play, and it does not always happen in a sexual context. There are platonic CGL relationships that may be formed outside of an already established monogamous committed relationship. CGL expressions look different between practitioners (Seif, 2021). 

Chastity Belt:  Essentially a restraint worn and fastened around the genitals. Usually worn within the sadomasochistic practice in order to prevent masturbation or to control when orgasm occurs. AFAB and AMAB bodies may wear chastity belts as there are different designs that can accommodate all bodies. 

Chemical Play: Chemical play refers to the exploration of different chemicals that can produce varying sensations. Common chemicals include toothpaste, essential oils, tiger balm, menthol, mint, hot sauce, and ginger. (Rodman, 2022). Participation in chemical play does come with its own risks. Before embarking on chemical play it is imperative that every individual’s allergies are known to the entire group and that the necessary safety precautions are undertaken. 

Cock Milking: The stimulation of the male prostate until the point of ejaculation. 

Cock Ring: Cock rings are devices worn around the penis that allows a person to maintain an erection for an extended period of time. (These are not to be confused with the OhNut ring, which is a silicone ring worn around a penis that allows couples who experience painful penetration to discover which penetrative depth is most comfortable for them without losing the desired sensation for both parties.)

Collar:  A piece of jewelry that a submissive wears to indicate to the community that they are “owned” by a dominant. It is a symbol of commitment and reflects the deep bond a sub and their dom have established. Collars do not have to be pet collars or necklaces but can be any accessory chosen by the pair (Rodman, 2022). 

Contract: A contract is a written or verbal agreement between all members that stipulates the boundaries and limits of all parties. Contracts can be amended as participants see fit. 

Compersion: Finding happiness in the happiness of others. This feeling is commonly discussed in the context of polyamorous couples who feel joy for their partners when they find other partners who make them happy. It is often characterized as the opposite of jealousy (Gonsalves, 2020). 

Cuckold Fetish: Individuals who enjoy fantasizing about their committed partners having affairs with other people, or who take pleasure in witnessing sexual acts between their partner and other individuals, may have a cuckold fetish (Cuckold, 2021). Cuckold fetishes often have mental humiliation as a component. It can be gratifying for individuals who enjoy humiliation within a masochistic context, and for those who feel gratification at seeing their partners’ sexual satisfaction, even if that is occurring without their participation. 

Daddy: A term used to refer to someone who identifies as a daddy dominant. This may occur within daddy kink sex where an individual experiences sexual pleasure from daddy roleplaying, but it may also be used non-sexually to refer to a partner who engages in age play. Daddies do not have to identify as male. Titles are interchangeable and may vary depending on different practitioners and their preferences (Seif, 2021).

Diaper Lover: Diaper lovers are individuals who enjoy wearing diapers. Diaper lovers may also identify as adult babies or as littles, but not all do. Furthermore, not all diaper lovers choose to urinate and/or defecate in their diapers. Some may decide that they feel comfortable urinating in them, but they do not wish to defecate in diapers, while other individuals are open to doing both (Seif, 2021). 

Dominant: Dominants are individuals who display authority within a scene, after having obtained informed ethical consent from all parties. Domming can be sexual or non-sexual depending on the context and preferences of all who are involved. Additionally, doms may be any gender. (i.e.: female dominance, dominatrix, mistress, owner, master) 

Dollification: Dollification is perhaps less common than other lifestyles, including cgl, abdl, and petplay. Submissives who practice dollification fetish may choose to dress and behave like living dolls. This transformation includes the style of makeup worn, frequency of speech, and specific doll poses. Dollification fetish is a dom/sub dynamic where one party is the dominant and the other is submissive. In this case, the submissive usually identifies as a doll. Doll submissives may enjoy being dressed and undressed by their “owner,” or dom and they may prefer to be quiet or totally silent during sexual activity (LovePanky, 2022). 

Drop: Drop, previously referred to as dom-drop, occurs when an individual crashes after a scene. They may have been experiencing high emotionality including positive emotions like satisfaction, joy, and pleasure. Drop may look like physical and/or emotional exhaustion. It is worthwhile to note that drop does not occur solely in doms. It can happen to anyone who participated in a scene. 

Dungeon: The term dungeon can be used to refer to the location in which a BDSM scene will take place. Sometimes clubs may offer their space for a particular event, but it is also very common for scenes to take place at a person’s home (Marks, 2019). 

Edging: Edging is when an individual sexually stimulates another person just to the point of orgasm before switching activities or stimulation speed in order to avoid a completed orgasm. Edge play can be used in order to heighten orgasm once it has been achieved (LaMorgese, 2017). 

Erotica: While erotica may seem strikingly similar to pornography, erotica is considered to be a genre of its own. Erotica refers to any creative body of work that delves into the sensual and the sexually arousing. Popular mediums include literature, such as novels and fanfics, as well as fine art, paintings, and sculptures. 

Ethical Porn: A genre of pornography dedicated to ethical practices. Where all contributors are fairly paid and recognized for their contributions. Pornography free from extortion and exploitation. 

Exhibitionism: In this definition, I will refer only to non-threatening exhibitionism, or exhibitionism that occurs safely, sanely, and consensually, without intending or attempting to harm others (i.e. indecent exposure). Non-threatening exhibitionism occurs between fully consenting adults. Exhibitionism can refer to a kink in which a person feels sexual arousal or gratification at the idea or practice of exposing some aspect of one’s private self in a public context. Exhibitionists within BDSM may enjoy having sex in public areas where there is the danger and thrill of being discovered, but they may also have sex at sex clubs where watching is permitted and allowed (Exhibitionism, 2018).

Exhibitionism can also be just sending a nude picture of one’s self to a partner while they are at work, or having a partner watch you engaging in sex with another partner or alone. It is worth noting that while exhibitionists may enjoy having sex in novel areas such as outside, it does not mean they wish to be discovered (Andrews, 2020).

Engaging in public sex outside of a sex club that sanctions the activity can be very risky and dangerous. Parties who are caught may be redirected to the authorities. As with all activities it is up to each individual to determine what the associated risks are and if they are worth taking or not. 

Fetish: A fetish is anything that a person may feel deeply attached to and like very much, that may be an important part of their personal experience with sexual arousal and gratification. The fetish facilitates sexual pleasure (Collins, 2022). 

(ex: foot fetish; latex fetish) 

Fetish wear: Fetish wear is any kind of clothing or accessory that one might wear when engaging in a scene, particularly if the clothing item or accessory is linked to a particular fetish (Your Dictionary, n.d.; The Free Dictionary, 2022). Leather and latex are two prime examples of popular fetish wear. This is not to be confused with a clothing fetish, which is a fetish for a specific garment, for example, a shoe fetish. 

Fetlife: Fetlife is a popular social networking site within the BDSM community. Fetlife allows members of the community to meet with one another online or in real life. The site also highlights events that may be happening online and in real life. 

Flogging: Flogging is an activity typically occurring within a sadomasochistic dynamic where the dominant inflicts pain with the help of the flogger in this case, and the submissive is the recipient. Flogging is intended to bring physical and sometimes sexual release and pleasure to individuals who participate in sadomasochism. 

Furry: Furries are individuals who roleplay as anthropomorphized animals (Brennan, 2021). 

These individuals often wear costumes that align with their furry identities. (dogs, cats, foxes, etc). Furry costumes do not have to look like the animals they are based on and can even have mythological elements. These costumes are then worn while mingling within their community with other furries. 

Frottage: Not to be confused with frotteurism which is a sexual paraphilia in which a person finds sexual enjoyment in rubbing their body against another individual without their consent. Unconsented activities or events are never classified as a form of BDSM. Legitimate BDSM is founded on mutual respect and ethical consent. Frottage refers to sexual rubbing, where individuals rub their bodies against one another. Frottage is a form of non-penetrative sex. 

Hard Limits: Practitioners of BDSM frequently discuss boundaries and limitations. Hard limits refer to activities that a person does not wish to ever engage in. These hard limits can refer to any number of practices. Limits may look different from person to person because of how variable and unique sexual expression is. Adherence as well as acknowledgment of a person’s hard limits is non-negotiable. Limits may evolve over time, so it is important to regularly check in with partners to see where everyone is at mentally, emotionally, and physically (Thorne, 2022). 

Hentai: Hentai is a form of adult, pornographic anime and manga. 

Hog-tie: A hog-tie is just one example of a position that practitioners of bondage may utilize. In the hog-tie position, a person is laid on their stomach, while their hands are brought behind them and joined together with their feet. Many adult stores carry hog-tie equipment. 

Human Furniture: Submissives who enjoy being used as living furniture, such as a footrest or a table. 

Human Toilet: Similar to human furniture, except individuals specifically engage as toilets. This practice is often categorized under degradation play. 

Humiliation: The use of shame, embarrassment, and degradation as a way of bringing pleasure to a consenting adult who enjoys the practice of humiliation. Humiliation is widely practiced by dominants towards submissives. Acts of humiliation include verbal insults, dirty words, spitting on a person, forcing them to engage in cross-dressing,  and ordering them to complete tasks to an unusually high standard with the threat of punishment if the tasks are sub-par (Rodman, 2022). 

Impact Play: Impact play includes all activities that may leave behind markings on the body, such as love bites, hickeys, and bruises. More intense impact play may involve the use of paddles and other tools.

Again it is important to be realistic about your level of BDSM expertise and to acknowledge the limits you and your partners have before engaging in a higher-intensity activity. If you are not sure what you are doing or how to properly engage in impact play without harming yourself or others, do not attempt it. Reach out to an experienced BDSM educator. 

 

Kink: Kinks and fetishes are very commonly misunderstood terms that are usually mistakenly interchanged. The easiest way to remember the difference is that a kink is not necessary for sexual arousal or gratification, but it may of course add to the sexual experience in a positive, satisfying way. Whereas when an individual has a fetish, the fetish object must be present in order for that person to achieve sexual arousal (Purewow Editors, 2021). 

Knife Play: The use of knives within a scene, either to visually arouse fear and excitement or in order to lightly graze the skin or even cut into it. Knife play is not a beginner activity and comes with risks, such as the risk of infection and the risk of damaging nerve endings. This activity should not be attempted without training under an experienced knife-play practitioner. Knife play may be done in conjunction with blood play, but it may also be a separate practice. 

Latex: Latex is a commonly worn fetishwear for both submissives and dominants. Sometimes latex full-body suits are referred to as “gimp suits.” 

Leather: Leather is another common fetishwear choice. There is a dazzling selection of leather accessories and clothing for practitioners to choose from, like leather lingerie, men’s underwear, masks, floggers, and restraints. 

Little: In a CGL dynamic a little is the submissive role-player (Seif, 2021). 

I hope you learned some new and exciting terms from reading this article. I am stopping here for now part 1 of the glossary of BDSM ABCs terms. The glossary of terms part 2 article will be posted in a week to keep the conversation going.

References (parts 1 and 2)

Andrews, T. (2020). Here’s your everything-to-know guide on consensual exhibition. Cosmopolitan.

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a32760449/what-is-exhibitionism/

Collins. (2022). Fetish. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/fetish

Cuckold. (2021). Kinkly. https://www.kinkly.com/definition/911/cuckold-bdsm

Edwards, H. (2022). Words matter! A glossary of pleasure and kink. Heather Edwards Creations.

https://www.heatheredwardscreations.com/blog/words-matter-1

Edwina. (2020). What is a ball gag for? The purpose and uses for ball gags. BedBible.com. 

https://bedbible.com/what-is-a-ball-gag-for-the-purpose-and-uses-for-ball-gags/

Exhibitionism. (2018). Kinkly. https://www.kinkly.com/definition/1242/exhibitionism

Gonsalves, K. (2020). What is compersion? The polyamory practice for rethinking jealousy. mbg relationships. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-is-compersion-and-how-to-practice-feeling-empathy-instead-of-jealousy

Hsieh, C. (2018). 8 things you need to know about orgasm denial. Cosmopolitan. 

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a21271473/orgasm-denial/

LaMorgese, S. (2017). How ‘edge play’ can spice up a monotonous sex life. HuffPost.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/edge-play_b_9473490#:~:text=Not%20to%20be%20confused%20with,walk%20to%20the%20dark%20side

Lexico. (2022). Teledildonics. Oxford Lexico. https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/teledildonics

LovePanky, T. (2022). Dollification: A Newbie Guide to Dolls, Arousal, and the Fetish.

LovePanky.

https://www.lovepanky.com/sensual-tease/fantasy/14-tips-to-get-your-partner-to-open-up-about-sex

Marks, J.L. (2019). Speaking BDSM: A glossary of terms used to describe BDSM. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/speaking-bdsm-glossary-terms-used-describe-bdsm/

Morales-Brown, L. (2020). Everything you need to know about tantric sex. Medical News Today. 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-is-tantric-sex#:~:text=Tantric%20sex%20is%20a%20slow,healing%2C%20transformation%2C%20and%20enlightenment

Mummification Bondage Position. (2022). Kinkly. 

https://www.kinkly.com/definition/1480/mummification-bondage-position 

Peter, M. (2019). The difference between open relationships, polyamory, and swinging relationships. Medium. https://medium.com/@bluehills1965/the-difference-between-open-relationships-polyamory-and-swinging-relationships-a4fdc833b007#:~:text=Polyamory%20means%20having%20multiple%20romantic,but%20they%20are%20not%20synonymous

Purewow Editors. (2021). Kink vs. fetish: A sex therapist lays out the difference. Purewow. 

https://www.purewow.com/wellness/kink-vs-fetish

Rigger. (2021). Kinkly. https://www.kinkly.com/definition/6463/rigger

Rodman, J. (2022). The BDSM kink dictionary, terminology, and vocabulary list. Jami Rodman. 

https://jamirodman.com/bdsm-kink-dictionary-terminology-vocabulary/

                        Seif, D. (2022). 3 Books for Cultivating Sex-Positivity in Your Life. Kiss & Tell Magazine.           https://www.kissandtellmagazine.com/sexual-health/sex-positive-books/

Seif, D. (2021). 4 sexual acts: Age play, caregivers, littles, and adult babies…Several assumptions are laid to rest when you read this. Kiss & Tell Magazine. https://www.kissandtellmagazine.com/sexual-health/age-play-defined/

The Free Dictionary. (2022). Fetish Clothing. The Free Dictionary.

https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Fetish+fashion

Thorne, M. (2015). Munch etiquette for first timers. BDSM Relationships and education with Ms. Morgan Thorne. http://msmorganthorne.com/munch-etiquette-first-timers/

Thorne, M. (2022). What are “hard” and “soft” limits? Kink Weekly.

https://www.kinkweekly.com/article-guest-author/hard-soft-limits/

WebMD Editorial Contributors & Brennan, D. (2021), What is furry sex? WebMD.

https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-furry-sex

WebMD Editorial Contributors & Brennan, D (2021). What is sexual asphyxiation? WebMD. 

https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-sexual-asphyxiation

Your Dictionary. (n.d.). Fetishwear. Your Dictionary. https://www.yourdictionary.com/fetishwear

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