Definitions & Terms


Ally: A straight person who supports LGBTQ rights and/or supports LGBTQ friends and family members. This term is usually applied to those who take an active role in preventing discrimination and harassment, rather than passively/silently advocating for LGBTQ rights.

Alternative Sexuality: Non-monogamy, gender and erotic variation; Alternative forms of erotic play, relationships, expressions of sexuality. Any form of consensual sexuality between adults can be considered healthy if practiced in a safe and responsible manner.

Asexual: Term used to describe someone who does not experience sexual and/or romantic attraction towards individuals of any gender.

B&D: Bondage & Discipline.

BDSM: Bondage Discipline Sadomasochism—Behaviors involving the consensual exchange of power, intense erotic stimulation and/or mental and emotional discipline to produce sexual arousal and satisfaction. In 1990, five to ten percent of the adult population in America engage[d] in BDSM on at least an occasional basis.

Today, that number has more than doubled.

Wikipedia states, BDSM is a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, roleplaying, bondage, and other interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. Interest in BDSM can range from onetime experimentation to a lifestyle.

The term BDSM is dated from 1969. BDSM was formed by joining the term B&D (bondage and discipline) with SM (sadomasochism, or sadism and masochism). It is sometimes believed to contain within it the compound D&S (dominance and submission), but this is an example of folk etymology.

BDSM is used today (2015) as a catch-all phrase covering a wide range of activities, forms of interpersonal relationships, and distinct subcultures. BDSM communities generally welcome anyone with a non-normative streak who identifies with the community. This may include cross-dressers, extreme body modification enthusiasts, animal players, latex or rubber aficionados, and others.

For many years, BDSM was considered a mental disorder, immoral and disgusting. False stereotypes labeled people engaging in alternative sexual relationships as mentally ill and unstable. Health professionals and the general public thought of fetishism, kink and BDSM as deviant and dysfunctional. People assumed participants were incapable of healthy, mature relationships. Today, the climate has slowly begun to cool, especially towards members of the gay, transgender and alternative sex communities.

Bisexual: Refers to a person who is attracted to two sexes or two genders, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally.

Bootblacking: Shining boots.

Bottom/Submissive: The person who receives the stimuli that is administered by the Top. Although outwardly it may look as through the Bottom gives up control to the Top, they actually maintain control by setting limits and by using a safeword that can stop all play.

D&S or D/s or D/S: Dominant & Submissive.

Demisexual: A demisexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone. It’s more commonly seen in but by no means confined to romantic relationships. The term demisexual comes from the orientation being “halfway between” sexual and asexual.

Erotic: Relating to sex: causing sexual feelings; Collins Dictionary defines erotic as:

  • of, concerning, or arousing sexual desire or giving sexual pleasure
  • marked by strong sexual desire or being especially sensitive to sexual stimulation
  • a person who has strong sexual desires or is especially responsive to sexual stimulation

Femme: A lesbian whose appearance and behavior are seen as traditionally feminine.

Fetishism: Fetishism is a powerful erotic association of material goods or body parts not essential to intercourse and enhanced sexual arousal.

In the words of Midori, a fetishist is someone whose sensual and sexual arousal is greatly enhanced by objects, body parts and other elements not directly related to intercourse. There is an infinite list of potential objects that may be fetishized by anyone, bounded only by the person’s imagination.

Within the world of kink, fetishism varies widely. Ordinary objects including airplanes, balloons, car crashes, diapers, dressing as animal characters (ferbies), guns, jock straps, leather, long nails, silicone, stuffed animals, tattoos, uniforms, etc. can become one’s fetish.

Some people are mono fetishists, committed to one particular fetish or preference, and so committed to that one particular inclination, if they stray, it may ruin their sexual high.

A poly-fetishist, on the other hand, is not as specific or strict in their patterns of fetishizing. To poly fetishists, mono fetishists are too strict, rigid. To the rest of the “vanilla” world, fetishists are usually seen as sexual deviant weirdos.

“Many individuals who self-identify as fetishist practitioners do not necessarily report clinical impairment in association with their fetish-associated behaviors. Such individuals could be considered as having a fetish but not fetishistic disorder” (DSM-5, p.701).

“For example, an individual who[se] sexual partner either shares or can successfully incorporate his interest in caressing, smelling, or licking feet or toes as an important element of foreplay would not be diagnosed with fetishistic disorder; nor would an individual who prefers, and is not distressed or impaired by, solitary sexual behavior associated with wearing rubber garments or leather boots” (DSM-5, p. 702).

Gay: A man who is attracted to other men. This term is sometimes used as an umbrella term for LGBTQ people.

Gender Identity: Gender identity is one’s personal experience of one’s own gender. This is generally described as one’s private sense of being a man or a woman, consisting primarily of the acceptance of membership into a category of people: male or female. All societies have a set of gender categories that can serve as the basis of the formation of a social identity in relation to other members of society. In most societies, there is a basic division between gender attributes assigned to males and females. In all societies, however, some individuals do not identify with some (or all) of the aspects of gender that are assigned to their biological sex.


  1. The doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.
  2. A way of life based on or suggesting the principles of hedonism.

Incest Play: Daddy/Daughter, Mommy/Son (pretending to be related).

Kinky: Involving or liking unusual sexual behavior.

LGBTQ: Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer.

Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to other women.

Lifestyle Slave: Structured authority-based household living that is a 24/7 commitment. A slave (male or female) will usually reside in a household with a Dominant Master, their spouse and other slaves. The Master controls the slave’s actions, behavior and daily routine. The slave can have a job outside of the home, but ultimately dwells in the household and abides by all rules and wishes. The slave is usually allowed to leave the household only with permission and for work.

Limits: That which terminates, circumscribes, restrains, or confines; the bound, border, or edge; the utmost extent; the boundaries that are discussed and set during the negotiation phase. These limits are set in order to make sure that the scene is enjoyable for all parties involved.

Masochist: Enjoyment of pain: pleasure that someone gets from being abused or hurt; especially: sexual enjoyment from being hurt or punished.

Negotiation: Also known as bargaining; communication between participants that occurs prior to a scene in which participants discuss their interests, set limits, and communicate the safeword to be used. There are many different ways to negotiate; while face-to-face is usually best, technology has opened avenues such as text message, email, and telephone conversation. Participants should use whatever style works best for them.

Pansexual: Being sexually attracted to any person of any sex or gender.

In a 2015 UK magazine article, Miley Cyrus declared herself as pansexual. A pansexual can also be referred to as an omnisexual, and the word refers to someone who feels “sexual attraction, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of any sex or gender identity.” A pansexual person believes that gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant when it comes to sexual or emotional attraction to another.

Paraphilia: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, defines paraphilia as “any intense and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling.” A paraphilic disorder is a “paraphilia that is currently causing distress or impairment to the individual or a paraphilia whose satisfaction has entailed personal harm, or risk of harm, to others” (DSM-5, pp. 685-686).

Play: The specific action or actions that occur(s) during a negotiated scene.

Polyamory, Polyamorous—Polygamy or multi sex: Intimate relationships in which consenting adults explore love and sex outside of traditional monogamy, often forming multiple committed relationships with the consent of all partners.

Queer: Webster’s Dictionary defines this as homosexual. A blanket term used to refer to LGBTQ people.

Over 15 years ago, the SM/Leather/Fetish Community established a community-wide ethic known as “Safe, Sane and Consensual

    Safe: Free from risk or harm45 ; being knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what you are doing.
    Sane: Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes sane as having a healthy mind; mentally sound; knowing the difference between fantasy and reality.
    Consensual: FConsensual is defined as existing or made by mutual consent without an act of writing; respecting the limits imposed by each participant. One of the most easily recognized ways to maintain limits is through use of a “safe word”—whereby participants can withdraw consent at any time with a single word or gesture. Merriam-Webster Dictionary differentiates between consensual and the medical definition of consensual. Consensual is:
  1. existing or made by mutual consent without an act of writing a consensual contract
  2. involving or based on mutual consent consensual acts
  3. Medical Definition of consensual: existing or made by mutual consent consensual sexual behavior

Safeword: The Urban Dictionary defines it as: In the BDSM community, a word (usually irrelevant and strange in the context of the sexual situation) agreed by the participating parties to cease the activity. This is so that the submissive partner(s) can say “stop” and “no” as often as they want during the session and use the safe word when they actually mean it.

Ultimately, it is a word or phrase that is agreed upon prior to the beginning of a scene. In instances where a person is gagged or temporarily unable to speak, a hand signal or bell may be used. When this safe word is uttered or the defined signal is gestured, all play is ceased or paused immediately. It is very much like saying “stop” or “time-out.” The safe word is usually sex neutral in nature, and a word that wouldn’t be normally uttered during sexual play, (i.e., napkin, apple, pickle, bus, etc.).

Scene: Describes the negotiated interaction that takes place between two or more consenting adults. This is very much like a scripted role-play.

Sensual: Relating to, devoted to, or producing physical or sexual pleasure.

SM/SadoMasochism: defines SM as the interaction, especially sexual activity, in which one person enjoys inflicting physical or mental suffering on another person, who derives pleasure from experiencing pain; gratification, especially sexual, gained through inflicting or receiving pain; sadism and masochism combined.

SM is often referred to as BDSM, SM, Kink, Leather Sex, and/or SM/Leather/Fetish. Kinky is not a diagnosis. BDSM, fetishes, swinging and polyamory are not pathological disorders. Interest in SM crosses race, class, ethnicity, creed, socioeconomic status, educational level, sexual orientation, and gender identity

The Difference between SM and Abuse. SM is:

  • Always consensua
  • Done with respect for limits
  • Fun, erotic, and loving for all partners
  • Done with an understanding of trus
  • Never done with the intent to harm or damage
  • SM is a generally accepted umbrella term for a broad group of behaviors that involve the consensual giving and receiving of intense erotic sensation. The behaviors used in consensual SM are negotiated and involve the communication of limits and the use of a safeword that can stop all action at any time.

The American Psychiatric Association depathologized sadism, masochism, cross-dressing and fetishes in the Diagnostic and 166 Kink Test Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) in 2013.

Sexual Masochism: “Such individuals openly acknowledge intense sexual arousal from the act of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer, as manifested by fantasies, urges, or behaviors. In contrast, if they declare no distress, exemplified by anxiety, obsessions, guilt, or shame, about these paraphilic impulses, and are not hampered by them in pursuing other personal goals, they could be ascertained as having masochistic sexual interest but should not be diagnosed with sexual masochism disorder” (DSM-5, p. 694).

Psychology Today explains that sexual masochism falls under the psychiatric sexual disorders category of paraphilias, meaning “abnormal or unnatural attraction.” Sexual masochism refers to engaging in or frequently fantasizing about being beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer, resulting in sexual satisfaction. Blindfolding, spanking and humiliation in the form of defecation, urination, or forced imitation of animals are other methods used by sexual masochists. Masochists may inflict their own pain through shocking, pricking or choking. Approximately 30 percent also participate in sadistic behavior.

Sexual Sadism: Dr. Stephen Hucker, a Forensic Psychiatrist, explains that it is important to distinguish between “Sadism,” which is the term used in conjunction with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD), and “Sexual Sadism,” which may be associated with SPD yet is classified as one of the paraphilias because of the specific sexual component. The two are most certainly related and an understanding of sadism is paramount to the understanding of sexual sadism, but this particular section deals only with the paraphilia of sexual sadism.

Sexual sadism refers to the derivation of sexual pleasure from the infliction of pain, suffering and/or humiliation upon another person. The pain and suffering of the victim, which may be both physical and psychological, is pivotal to the sexual arousal and pleasure. The ICD-10 (World Health Organization, 1992) defines sadism as “preference for sexual activity that involves bondage or infliction of pain or humiliation.”

Swinging: Partner swapping, a non-monogamous behavior in which both singles and partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity; Social and sexual interaction with someone other than your significant other, with each couple honestly defining the limits of their activities for themselves. Two percent of adults in America have tried swinging, which is also known as “The Lifestyle.”

Switch: Top & Bottom

Top/Dominant: The person responsible for controlling the interaction. This is the person who administers the negotiated stimuli and sets the tone/mood for the scene.

Transgender: Not Found in Webster’s Dictionary, but Google defines it as denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender. People whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with.

Transvestism: A search on Google explains Transvestism (also called transvestitism) as the practice of dressing and acting in a style or manner traditionally associated with the other sex. “The diagnosis of transvestic disorder does not apply to all individuals who dress as the opposite sex, even those who do so habitually” (DSM-5, p. 703).

Vanilla: Normal, plain, boring, aka everyday life.

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