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If you explore the organized communities of SM/fetish sex, you will come across a plethora of words, acronyms, and terms that may be unfamiliar to you. This subcultural slang is used to help kinky people clarify what they do with their partners. The slang comes from all corners of the kinky world--gay, lesbian, professional domination, leather, fetish. The Internet too has given rise to a variety of terms relevant to kinky people.
Below is a primer that should cover almost all your needs in understanding what people are talking about. Some terms left off this (like spanking, whipping, flogging, etc.) are plain English and do not require special definitions here.
Most of these terms are not set in stone. Indeed, people may disagree with some of my definitions. It's also important to note that the definitions of all the terms below are continually evolving, as people debate their meaning and strive to find new ways to articulate the realities of kinky sex.
Adult Babies: also
known as AB's or
infantilists, are people who
get erotic and emotional pleasure from wearing diapers or acting
Ageplay: Animal Training: B&D.; BDSM. Bear: Bi-Kinky: Bi-Possible: Biological
Female/Male: Black Party: Blood-sports: Body modification: Body service: Body worship: Boot-boy: Bottom: Boy: Breath Control: Brown Showers: Butch: CBT, CBTT: Collaring: The Community: D&S;: Daddy:
Ageplay:when one partner assumes the role of the adult in the relationship and the other assumes the role of the child. Ageplay is usually roleplay only but some couples extend it to a lifestyle and remain in role with each other at all times.
Animal Training:fantasy play in which one partner is an animal trainer and the other is the animal. Ponyplay and dogplay are the two most popular forms this takes. Fantasies including obedience training, exercise training, paper-training (in dogplay), harnessing and riding (in ponyplay), and so on. Other popular animal roles include cats (especially kittens), tigers, pigs, cows, and worms.
B&D.;Acronym for Bondage & Discipline, also written as BD or B/D, and sometimes combined with SM to form BDSM. B&D; is an old expression and is still used fairly interchangeably with D&S; and SM, but some people define BD as bondage and discipline without pain, and also without defined power roles.
BDSM.This portmanteau covers most SM/fetish-related kinks. It is a popular way of linguistically uniting the various types of players whose actual practices may differ.
Bear:a hairy, often large-sized, and typically cigar-smoking man, usually gay. There is a sub-cult of kinky people who are hopelessly turned on by bears.
Bi-Kinky:someone who is heterosexual when it comes to penetration, but who will do SM with same-sex partners
Bi-Possible:someone who is heterosexual but may, in a power dynamic, be willing to explore bisexual scenarios
Biological Female/Male:refers to someone's sex at birth. A biological female (also known as "gender girl" or "gg") was born with the sex organs of a female, and a biological male was born with male organs. (See "transgenderism" below.)
Black Party:a party, usually at a gay leather club, which only people dressed in black clothes (and preferably black leather) may attend.
Blood-sports:radical SM play involving cutting, piercing or anything else which deliberately draws blood
Body modification:this includes tattooing, branding, corsetting, piercing, binding or distending flesh, cutting, and any other things people do to alter their body in primitive ways.
Body service:when a submissive takes care of all the dominant's bodily needs, acting as a trained servant in bathing, shaving, hair-styling, manicures, pedicures, and other hygiene and grooming rituals.
Body worship:oral service (including licking, sucking and kissing) by a submissive to the dominant Implies no taboos or inhibitions about oral contact with any and all body parts.
Boot-boy:submissive (usually gay) male who has a fetish for leather boots worn by tops, and who frequently works at a leather bar or charitable event shining shoes. The conclusion to the shoe-shining often is oral service to the boots. (See "boot worship," under "foot worship" below.)
Bottom:person who receives pain or bondage in an SM scene, but who may or may not have a power relationship with the top. Also used as a verb ("to bottom").
Boy:widely applied to male submissives, but has special meaning in gay leather culture, where it may also refer to the submissive partner in a Daddy/boy relationship. Also used in lesbian culture to denote a male-identified (but biologically female) bottom. Used with less frequency among heterosexuals (to mean the same things).
Breath Control:a form of edgeplay in which the top restricts the bottom's ability to breathe, either by constricting the neck or by blocking the mouth or nose. It's important to point out that this is done for extremely tiny intervals, and seldom to the point of unconsciousness.
Brown Showers:being pooped on (or doing the pooping on someone)
Butch:usually refers specifically to lesbians who express a masculine identity, but can apply to any women who seem mannish. The butch is usually the top in a leather relationship.
CBT, CBTT:acronyms for, respectively, cock-and-ball torture and cock, ball and tit torture. CBT refers to any sadistic play with male genitalia; tit torture means rough play with nipples (male or female).
Collaring:a ceremony in which a submissive formally accepts the dominant's "collar" and becomes "officially" owned. It is the BDSM equivalent of a wedding, and is witnessed by friends and other people friendly to the lifestyle
The Community:a blanket term used to refer to the organized SM/fetish communities, including the thousands of leather clubs, SM venues (bars and play-spaces), educational outreach groups, social clubs, support groups, and all other organizations which openly celebrate SM/fetish sex. The Community does not include everyone who is interested in kink but is limited to those who actively seek out and maintain close social contact with other kinky people through groups and organizations.
D&S;:also known as Dominance and Submission, DS, D/S, or D/s. Sometimes called "Power Relationships" (see "power exchange" and "total power exchange" below). D&S; may be used interchangeably with B&D; or SM; or it may be used to refer to a power relationship, where one partner is the sexual dominant and the other is the submissive.
Daddy:anyone who assumes a paternal/mentoring role with a submissive or bottom and, in that role, expresses a masculine identity. (In other words, lesbian, bi and het women may take the Daddy role with their partners if they enjoy transgender play.)
Daddy/boy relationships also exist in the non-leather gay
community: among non-kinky gays, Daddy/boy relationships are
generally focused on mentoring and care-taking.
Dominant: Dungeon: Edgeplay: Electroplay/electrotorture: Fat Admirer: Femme: Fisting: Flag/flagging:
People also flag their top/bottom orientation with the left/right "code" or "convention". Dominants or tops flag on the left; submissives or bottoms on the right. The applies to other SM attire (for example, a dominant always wears her whip on the left side of her belt).
Below, I've listed the most popular "SM"-type flags, according to color, and indicating what it means if you wear the color on the left and on the right.
Dominant:a woman or man who assumes sexual (and possibly more far-reaching) control over a submissive partner.
Dungeon:any space set aside for SM activity, public or private, and furnished with some SM equipment. Not all dungeons have large-scale equipment--home dungeons, because of space limitations, may have only small toys.
Edgeplay:SM which is on the "edge" of safety. No area of SM raises more controversy as a good number of people feel that no one should walk the edge. Others, obviously, disagree.
Electroplay/electrotorture:using electrical devices for stimulation.
Fat Admirer:also known as FA. A person who has a fetish for fat people. A "feeder" is a dominating person who derives pleasure from watching their partners consume large quantities of food and who actively encourage (or compel) them to gain more weight. "Feeding" could be considered "edge-play" in that obesity causes serious health problems. There are also FA's who simply appreciate a BBW (big, beautiful woman) or a Bear and who don't want power over their partner's eating habits or weight.
Femme:usually refers specifically to a feminine lesbian (may also be known as a "lipstick lesbian"), i.e., one who outwardly conforms to conventional female role models but who is bisexual or lesbian. Used, but rarely, to refer to het women.
Fisting:also known as fist fucking, FF and handballing, it's the slow insertion of a hand into a vagina or anus. Some tops will ball their hands into fists once inside, depending on the receptivity of the bottom, ergo the term "fisting."
Flag/flagging:the use of color-coded bandannas (called "hankies" or "flags") to let others know what turns you on. The "hanky code" is a system--developed within the gay culture--where colors represent different kinks. The hanky code has faded in popularity but some still abide by it.
Foot-play:erotic interactions with feet and all forms of foot fetishism (see chapter on Fetishes)
Foot worship:also called "foot service." Oral service (licking, kissing, sucking) to bare feet.
Forced feminization:this is when a dominatrix (or sometimes a male dominant) "forces" a submissive man into feminine clothes. It is confusing to some people that this scene is described as "forced" when the submissive consented to it--or even requested it.
French Maid:fantasy role-play in which the submissive (male or female) is dressed in a "french maid's uniform" and serves food, drinks, and so on. The uniform usually comprises a very short, one piece dress, often made of fetish material; a frilled petticoat; a frilly apron; stockings and high-heels; and other frou-frou (such as a lacy headpiece, lace wrist-cuffs, and white gloves). See "sissy maid" below.
Gender dysphoria:the clinical term applied to people who feel unhappy in their biological sex
Gender fuck:when someone emulates, or partly emulates, the opposite sex, often to shock others. By partly, I mean they may appear with one surprising element to their dress: a man otherwise dressed male who adds (fake) breasts to the combination; or a woman dressed in regular clothes who packs a large strap-on in her jeans. Genderfuck has a political element to it as it is intended to upset standard notions of gender.
Golden Showers:also known as GS and piss-play. It specifically means to pee on someone or to be peed on. However, the term is used generically to describe the spectrum of urine-play, including ingestion, wetting one's pants (or ordering someone to wet theirs), and having one's bladder controlled (or doing the controlling) either through verbal commands or devices which prevent or cause urination.
Gorean Master:a male dominant who adopts the code and style of life as portrayed by the GOR books of John Norman
Head-play:also known as mind-play, mind games, head games, head trips, and mind-fucking. This means any kind of manipulation by the top which heightens anticipation and fear in an emotionally masochistic bottom and thus intensifies the bottom's erotic response. This includes everything from "verbal abuse" (see below) to complex scenarios that confuse or surprise the bottom into deeper "sub-space." A "mind-fuck" (deliberately misleading a partner into believing something horrible is about to happen) is the deepest level of this play.
Kajira:this fictional term for "slavegirl" derives from the GOR series, and denotes women who attempt to live by the standard set in the books.
Kink-Friendly:this describes someone who, while not necessarily kinky him or herself, is nonetheless sympathetic and supportive to kinky people. A "kink-friendly therapist," for example, is someone who has a permissive view of kinky sex. "Kink-friendly" is also used to describe businesses which welcome leather people as customers.
Kink-Positive:something (such as a magazine article) which portrays kinky sex in a positive light, or someone (like this author) who espouses positive attitudes towards sexual diversity.
LDR:the acronym for "long-distance relationship." It originated on the Internet as short-hand for couples who form serious relationships with partners who live far away.
LTR:the acronym for "long-term relationship"
Leather Culture:the united societies of men and women (largely gay and lesbian, but increasingly open to bisexuals and heterosexuals) who embrace the traditions, ethics and pride of open involvement in the leather Scene. This may include (and isn't limited to): active participation in leather society and politics, the wearing of black leather, formation of leather "families," attendance at competitions,
Leather Family:a surrogate, adults-only family comprised of lovers, friends, and sometimes mentors who share compatible sexual interests and socio-political goals. Leather families share deep, binding, and sometimes spiritual commitments to one another based on their joint devotion to all things leather. The famous phrase cited by lesbian SM activist and scholar, Gayle Rubin, sums it up best: "leather is thicker than blood."
Leathermen/Leatherwomen:long used to refer specifically to gay or lesbian leatherpeople, but now used more generally to apply to all people committed to leather culture. (Lesbian leatherwomen may also refer to themselves as leatherdykes.)
The Lifestyle:when used with "the," it usually refers to "the leather lifestyle," meaning people who embrace all aspects of leather culture in their dress, their sexual politics, their social commitments, their traditions, and their sex lives. "Being in the lifestyle" is not the same as "being a lifestyler," because someone "in the lifestyle" or "in the life" could be single or otherwise uninvolved in a full-time SM relationship.
Lifestylers:people who assume their dominant, submissive, top or bottom roles as a way of life. Lifestyle relationships are role-based, but not role-play. Many lifestylers are not "in the lifestyle" in that they do not participate in the organized SM Scene, but instead conduct their SM relationships in privacy at home. (See Chapter 7: Role-Playing and Role-Based Relationships)
Limits:the basic set of physical or other limits that the bottom sets during negotiation. For example, if a bottom does not like anything more painful than erotic spanking, she may set a pain "limit" that rules out whippings and other intense stimuli. (See chapter on submissives.) Dominants too have limits on how far they wish to go with a submissive. (see chapter on dominants for a complete discussion of this).
Master/Mistress:a master is a male dominant; a mistress is a female dominant. Masters and Mistresses (as opposed to tops) always have power exchange relationships with their partners.
Messy:usually used in combination with "wet" ("wet and messy"). Refers to a fetish for being covered, or having one's clothes covered, with wet, messy substances--typically mud or oil, but can also include body wastes or gooey foods (honey, chocolate syrup, ice cream, and so on). "Messy sex" means the people like to get gooey and get it on.
Munch:this term originated on the Internet, and refers to a group lunch or brunch at a public restaurant where kinky people can make new acquaintances or socialize with old friends in a low-key, pressure-free "vanilla" setting.
Negotiation:the art and science of reaching a clear, consensual agreement with your adult partner about the type of relationship you will have and the kinds of kinky things you will do together. The negotiation process lasts as long as the couple needs to hammer these things out--it could be days, weeks, months or even years. Couples also may re-negotiate terms periodically as their relationship evolves and their needs change.
New Guard:a recent movement in the Scene which embraces many traditional Old Guard standards and updates them with some freer-flowing and more permissive attitudes towards role-playing, lifestyle, and pansexuality which are more responsive to the needs of younger people entering the Scene. Sometimes called Next Guard (to signify the youngest generation of traditional leatherpeople).
Old Guard:the nearly mythic, exclusively gay male, loosely organized network of leather clubs (circa 1940s-1950s) which established the rituals and mores of leather culture. Old Guard members took a highly regimented, quasi-militaristic approach to leathersex, and organized a tight, profoundly interconnected community based on solidarity in leather diversity.
Pain Slut:a heavy masochist (male or female)
Pain threshold:the limit at which pain ceases to be pleasure and becomes undesirable for the submissive or bottom.
Pansexuality:a political, philosophical and social movement within the organized SM/fetish communities which unites kinky people across orientation lines (i.e., gay, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual, and transgendered together). This movement is fairly young but already gaining widespread acceptance in North America, although the old traditions of gay- only or lesbian-only venues and events continue as well.
Panty training:this is when a dominant "forces" a male submissive to wear panties and other embarrassing bits of feminine lingerie, both to cross-dress and humiliate him
Percussion play:an umbrella term used to describe all forms of striking. Spanking, paddling, slapping, whipping, flogging and caning are all types of percussion play.
Permanent v. play piercing:a permanent piercing refers to the implantation of body jewelry (such as nipple rings). A play piercing is a form of radical SM play in which needles or other piercing implements are temporarily inserted in flesh, either as part of a ritual (sometimes spiritual) or for the erotic pleasure of the pain it brings.
Petticoat training or
petticoating: the same as panty training,
but with ruffled slips. (See chapter on Transgenderism.)
Play: Play-partner: Play-space/playroom: Ponyboy/ponygirl: Power exchange: Puppy: Pushy (or Greedy)
Sub: R/T: SAM:
SM: Safe, Sane and Consensual (or
Safe, Sane, and Mutually Consensual: Safe Word: Sash queen: Scat: Scene:
I must interject a personal comment here. From time to time people write me and criticize me for not being more open-minded about eating poop. After all, I seem perfectly comfortable with many other extreme types of sex, including ones that make some of my poop-eating fans faint with horror. Am I secretly a prude after all?
I will explain. You can't eat poop without putting yourself at risk of disease. It is true that some people who do this don't get sick. Some people who step in front of speeding cars don't get run over, either.
Human feces (unlike urine) is, by its very nature, infested with bacteria. Bacteria is what breaks food down and turns it into waste in our alimentary canals. Those bacteria remain alive in our waste after our bodies eliminate it. A bacterial infection transmitted by ingesting feces can be fatal. There is no absolute way to protect yourself against getting one. It is purely luck of the draw, so to speak.
Therefore, to my mind, ingestion, while a perfectly acceptable fantasy, can never be acted out with a guarantee of safety, unlike many seemingly more dangerous types of SM.
My advice: substitute chocolate. They don't call the anus "Hershey Highway" for nothing.
Play:a popular term for describe kinky encounters. "Players," however, usually means lifestylers or people with Scene experience. "Heavy players" or "hardcore players" are those who prefer intense SM.
Play-partner:generally refers to anyone with whom one has BDSM encounters but more specifically implies a casual, for-kinky-sex only friendship and not a committed, romantic relationship.
Play-space/playroom:alternate term for a dungeon. Any space regularly used for SM scenes.
Ponyboy/ponygirl:the submissive or bottom in an animal play relationships (see above)
Power exchange:the consensual transfer of power by the submissive to the dominant. The exchange takes place when the returned energy from the dominant empowers the submissive.
Puppy:the submissive or bottom in an animal play relationship (see above)
Pushy (or Greedy) Sub:usually used playfully in reference to a submissive who likes a lot of play, and will act naughty to get the dominant to take action. It can also be used to refer to submissives who push so hard that they turn dominants off.
R/T:acronym for "real time." Another term which came from the Internet to distinguish "real" (in the flesh) from on-line/email relationships.
SAM:the acronym for "smart ass masochist;" a bottom or submissive who likes to verbally tease and otherwise act feisty with a dominant, usually in hopes of a little extra discipline.
SM:also written as S/M, S/m, and S&M.; The abbreviation for sadomasochism.
Safe, Sane and Consensual (or Safe, Sane, and Mutually Consensual:the fundamental ethical standard of kinky sex. It means that all activity between adults should be "safe" (no form of pain or stimulation that causes harm), "sane" (with respect for both body and mind), and consensual (all partners involved are adults who are able to give informed consent). First formulated by David Stein, for GMSMA.
Safe Word:also called stop word, stop code, safety code. This is a word or expression that partners agree upon which gives the bottom the right to stop the action. A "safe gesture" is used if the submissive or bottom is gagged or otherwise incapable of speaking.
Sash queen:someone who regularly participates in leather contests and wins awards. This term can be used to poke fun at someone who is considered vain or as a good-natured joke between friends.
Scat:also known as scat-play, refers to excrement. Poop, to put it more plainly. This may include enemas, brown showers, watching or being watched while expelling, being ordered to soil one's pants (or ordering someone), and (yes, I'm afraid so) eating poop.
Scene:there are several definitions for this word. I list them in no particular order:
a) The Scene (always with a capital S) refers to the SM/fetish/leather worlds. To "be in the Scene" means that one participates, even if only nominally, in organized events and considers oneself a member of this subculture. To be "out in the Scene" means that you are a known player.
b) a scene (always with a lower-case S) refers to one's kink or fetish, as in "My scene is feet" (i.e., the person has a foot fetish).
c) a scene (also with a lower-case S) refers to a time- limited SM encounter; the synonym of session (see below). "I did a hot bondage scene with him."
d) to scene: unfortunately for those of us who are
sticklers on grammar, definition (c) of scene has morphed into a
verb. It means "to do SM," as in "I scened with her the other
day" or "I'll be scening with him next week."
Session: Sharps: Sissy: Slave: Slave contract: Subspace: Switch: TPE: 24/7: Toilet slave: Top: Top's Disease: Toys: Tranny Chasers: Transgendered/transgenderist: Transvestite: Transsexual: Vanilla: Verbal Abuse: Water Sports: WIITWD (acronym for "What It Is
That We Do"):
A "pre-op transsexual" is someone who has taken some steps towards change--hormone therapy, breast implants (for male-to-female) or removal (for female-to-male), electrolysis, plastic surgery--but has not yet had "sexual reassignment surgery" (the medical procedures which alter genitalia).
A "post-op transsexual" is someone who has completed the process by undergoing surgery to change her or his sex and, from then on, lives as a full-fledged member of the opposite sex.
Some transsexuals do not want sexual reassignment surgery and instead opt to live as hermaphrodites, with the secondary characteristics of both sexes. The slang--but not necessarily flattering--terms for male-to-female hermaphrodites are "chicks with dicks" and "she-males."
Session:professional dominants refer to their time with a client as a "session." The term has however spread out into the general community to refer to any time-limited SM encounter. ("I had a great session with her at the club last night.")
Sharps:knives, razors, or any other instrument objects used (consensually) in radical SM sex
Sissy:may also be called sissy slut. Refers to a submissive male cross-dresser (or a male submissive who is panty-trained even though he is not actually a transvestite). A "sissy maid" is a male, cross-dressed in a maid's uniform, who performs household duties and otherwise serves his dominant.
Slave:someone who has made a commitment to surrender sexual control to a dominant. In lifestyle slavery, the slave commits to a total power exchange in which the dominant's power goes beyond the realm of sex and enters daily affairs.
Slave contract:a document written cooperatively by the dominant and the submissive in which the negotiated terms of their relationship are set out in clear language. Contracts are usually term-limited: 3 months, 6 months, a year. Some couples sign permanent contracts, vowing a lifetime commitment.
Subspace:the euphoric, detached state that submissives experience in service to (or during a scene with) their dominant
Switch:someone who switches D&S; roles. It can apply to someone who switches roles with one partner (sometimes being on top, sometimes being on bottom); or to someone who switches according to the natural dynamic between several partners (for example, someone may be exclusively dominant with one partner and exclusively submissive with a different partner). Also includes people who primarily take one role, but will switch on special occasions or with certain people only.
TPE:the acronym for "total power exchange," usually referring to a lifestyle relationship (see above) in which the submissive grants the dominant blanket consent to make all decisions, erotic and otherwise
24/7:refers to a lifestyle relationship in which partners are living together or one in which the power dynamic is a constant
Toilet slave:someone who has a fetish for serving the dominant's toilet habits or who has a fetish for being ordered to clean or worship toilets. May also refer to someone who wishes to roleplay as a toilet (see chapter on Role-Play and Relationships)
Top:person who gives pain or bondage in an SM scene, but who may or may not have a power relationship with the bottom. Also used as a verb ("to top").
Top's Disease:refers to the clueless attitude some tops or dominants develop when their egos get so big that they offend and insult others. One form would be the delusion that being dominant means one has the right to command all the submissives one meets. Another is the delusion that the top is infallible.
Toys:adult toys and particularly ones used for SM play (both large-scale and small equipment)
Tranny Chasers:specifically, the ardent male suitors of male- to-female cross-dressers and transsexuals. Generically, anyone with a fetish for transgenderists.
Transgendered/transgenderist:someone who either enjoys or needs to express an opposite-sex identity. Biological males who have female identities are called male-to-female or m-t-f. Biological females who have male identities are female-to-male or f-t-m.
Transvestite:also known as TV or cross-dresser, and sometimes abbreviated to "X-dresser" in writing. Someone (usually male), who finds emotional and/or erotic gratification wearing opposite- sex clothing. Many, but not all, transvestites are aroused by the clothes and shoes themselves. It is estimated that roughly 2-3% of all men cross-dress. The vast majority of transvestites are heterosexual males. "Drag queens" are gay men who cross- dress to seduce other men and "female impersonators" are cabaret performers. With rare exceptions, neither drag queens nor female impersonators are aroused by the clothes themselves.
Transsexual:also known as TS. Someone who believes s/he was born in the wrong-sex body, and often seeks to make physical changes. It is estimated the one out of every 30,000 men and one out of every 100,000 women are transsexual.
Vanilla:a non-kinky person. It can apply to any heterosexual or homosexual who does not care for kinky sex. There are two differing roots for this term: some claim it refers to the plainness of "vanilla ice cream" (as opposed to those who like more adventurous flavors). Others believe it comes from techno- culture, where a "vanilla" PC means a very basic machine, without bells and whistles.
Verbal Abuse:also known as "VA," this refers to the cruel or mocking insults and threats that a sadistic top will shower on an emotionally masochistic bottom to push him or her further into sub-space. It is the linguistic and emotional (as opposed to physical) version of pain-play.
Water Sports:a general category which includes golden showers, enemas, and other erotic interactions involving body waste.
WIITWD (acronym for "What It Is That We Do"):this term was spawned on the Internet, where it gained popularity as the best single way to refer nonjudgmentally to the wide variety of ways people do kinky sex.
The glossary above was excerpted from
A Commonsense Guide to Kinky Sex
(Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 2000)
U.S. $13. Available at all bookstores
Reproduction or distribution is strictly prohibited.
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copyright © 1998-2000
Dr. Gloria G. Brame
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