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Perverted Vocabulary: a Glossary of Terms Used in BDSM

   

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Some Words of Warning About BDSM Jargon:

  1. Jargon is a double edged sword. Terms best serve us as tools to identify complicated ideas and concepts for our convenience.  But once we begin to conform our behavior to the terms -- rather than use the terms to explain or describe -- they become problematic. We should look at people as individuals instead of types. We need to decide who we are and what we want as individuals before we try to slip into categories. In other words, if there's no one special person to whom you seek to please, don't aspire to conform to someone else's concept of who you are but instead try to live your own ideal.
  2. The BDSM community is diverse. There is no universally recognized authority on BDSM and we have no equivalent of the French Academy for deciding what words are acceptable and which of their many definitions are correct. Most terms are loosely defined with a wide degree of interpretation as to their meaning. As Larry Towsend writes in the Silver Jubilee edition of The Leatherman's Handbook, "language is not hard and fast enough to provide a single defintion for every term. There is no magic formula to make each word register identical images in the mind of each person who hears it." (p.237)   Moreover, some terms such as "sensual sadist," and "competitive exhibitionism" are personal and carry unique meaning to the person who coined them. In other words, many terms have many meanings depending on who uses them and their mood at the time.
  3. Many of the terms we use -- such as "domme" -- are recently coined on the Internet so they don't have a long historical foundation.
  4. Sometimes people use definitions and qualifiers as a means to assert themselves over others: "I'm a true Old Guard Master. She's not a slave, she's just a sub. He's not a Dom, he's just a top." That kind of dominance is small.
  5. It's good to remember that for some perverse reason we in the scene enjoy embracing many terms -- such as slave, boy, rape, torture, and fetish -- which have very negative connotation outside the community -- for understandable reasons.  To avoid misunderstandings, you need to be aware of what you are saying as well as what you mean to say.

"People are feeling like, what's the point of labeling? If I must label, let me create my own."
Andy Duran, 19 (Quoted in Marech)

 

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Terms For What It Is That We Do:

BDSM
  1. "Ritualized sexual aggression and submission." - Jay Wiseman
  2. "The exploration, between consenting partners, of alternative or nontraditional forms of eroticism." - Slakker
  3. A four letter contraction of three abbreviations for three phrases -- BD, D/s, and S&M. It is an umbrella term encompassing Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & submission, and Sadism & Masochism (or Sex Magick or Master/slave) -- and, to a lesser degree, other concepts such as Fetishism, Exhibitionism, Voyeurism, and occasionally Crossdressing. The first three items are distinct but related concepts. These three separate elements are neither mutually exclusive nor synonymous: Participants in the BDSM community might practice only one of these concepts or all of them. For example, someone might like playing the sexual aggressive role and tying up his lover (while dressed in a Catholic nun's habit) but he doesn't want to cause her pain.
Bondage
The application of ropes, chains, or other restraints placed over one's body -- or parts of one's body such as hands and arms -- to restrict one's physical movements.
Discipline
  1. A combination of correction and punishment administered by the dominant to the submissive for educational purposes and to enforce rules and proper behavior.
  2. "Discipline is something that comes from within a person; a will and ability to meet expectations. It can be taught, but it cannot be forced without a substantial loss of quality." Furthermore "discipline as a skill that is prevalent within the context of all relationships and roles in life ... I see correction as just that: there has been an error, fault or problem identified which requires change. I agree that if the act was performed with malice or intent to harm or destruct it may require punishment. However, depending on the error, it may simply require review, correction, adjustment, improvement or restitution. While I am of the opinion that correction in some way, shape or form is necessary in order to learn from one's mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future; I feel punishment is above and beyond correction of an action and more appropriately addresses unsuitable intent or attitude." - Austin Bunny (in what she stresses is a "personal definition.")
Dominance
governing or exercising one's will, influence, or control over another in a consensual -- and ideally mutually pleasurable -- exchange of power.  (Sometimes it is combined with elements of sadism.) See the D/s (Dominance and Submission) terms below.
Submission
(often written in lower case) yielding or surrendering one's control to the will or authority of another in a consensual -- and ideally mutually pleasurable -- exchange of power.  (Sometimes it is combined with elements of masochism.)
Sadism
The condition in which (sexual) gratification is gained through causing pain or degradation to others. (Sometimes it is combined with elements of domination.)
Masochism
  1. The condition in which (sexual) gratification depends on physical pain and/or humiliation. (Sometimes it is combined with elements of submission.)
  2. In the scene, "enjoying sensations and feelings caused by things usually thought of as physically or emotionally painful or disquieting." (Cyne Enright)
"S/M is the use of a strategic relationship as a source of pleasure."
- Michel Foucault

 
Sex Magick
"Any sexual act done as part of a ritual with a non-sexual purpose... a sexual act which has a deliberate transformative effect on any parties involved." (Cyne Enright)
Master/slave
Relationships where partners play the roles of masters (or mistresses) and slaves. (See Master -- or Mistress -- and Slave below)
Fetish and Fetishism
  1. In Anthropology, a fetish is an object attributed with magical power in pre-literate cultures.
  2. In Psychology, fetishism is a fixation -- or recurrent, intense, sexual obsession with -- an inanimate object (such as shoes or mud) or body part that is not intrinsically sexual in nature (such as armpits or nostrils) and which is absolutely essential for the Fetishist's sexual arousal and sexual gratification. Fetishism falls under the general category of paraphilias: "abnormal or unnatural attraction."
  3. In colloqual speech, a Fetish is "something one likes" (as in "she has a shoe store fetish" or "he has a fetish for women in thongs."). In this sense it is not "absolutely essential for ... sexual arousal and sexual gratification."
(the BDSM contraction doesn't include an "F" for Fetishism but perhaps it should.)
Vanilla
In the scene, vanilla is a term to designate "not BDSM" -- people and practices outside the scene. As the term implies, it's "plain, ordinary, normal." (The author believes that there is nothing inheritantly wrong in being "vanilla". He has many friends and family members who are vanilla and who are good, decent, law abiding citizens. The author believes we should show them the same degree of respect and toleration we ask for ourselves.)
 

Note: While all these concepts -- even vanilla -- are practiced within and encompassed by the BDSM community as a whole, they are separate concepts -- none of which are completely representative of the entire community. It's possible to be a sadists without being a dominant or be a masochist without being submissive. (It's also possible to be a "sadistic submissive" or a "masochistic dominant.")

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Qualitative BDSM Terms

Abuse
  1. "physical maltreatment" and "improper or excessive use or treatment" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  2. "An abusive relationship is one in which substantial physical, mental, or emotional harm is inflicted, that is not temporary in nature, and is not clearly compensated for by positive and loving experiences over a long period of time." -- by louise, 1997
  3. "Acts inflicted on a person without their freely given consent." -- Leather Leadership Conference III, Statement on Abuse, San Francisco, April 16-18,1999 (see the Leather Leadership Conference III Statement on Abuse)
  4. "In any relationship these things can happen: Sexual, Physical, Emotional, Financial, Verbal and Mental ABUSE. Inside the home when someone tries to control you by bullying, bashing, threatening, name calling, harassing, frightening and isolating you, it is called DOMESTIC VIOLENCE." - CrimsonLord
"If thou dost ill, the joy fades, not the pains;
If well, the pain doth fade, the joy remains."
      - Benjamin Franklin
 

(For more about Abuse in BDSM visit the Abuse and BDSM section.)

Harm
"Negatively influencing others for a perceived gain, either for yourself or someone else." (anon)
Old Guard
(See the definitions of "Old Guard" in "Marginalia on the Old Guard, Leather Traditions, and BDSM History")
Safe, Sane, and Consensual: (Leather Leadership Conference definitions)
Safe
Being knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what you are doing.  
Sane
Knowing the difference between fantasy and reality.  
Consensual
Respecting the limits imposed by each participant.  
Safe, Sane, and Consensual (The Eulenspiegel Society definitions)
Safe
All parties have taken the necessary precautions to prevent psychological and physical damage to themselves, including the transmission of any disease.  
Sane
All parties are in possession of their mental faculties and are aware of the risks involved in the intended play.  
Consensual
All parties understand the potential risk involved and have consented to these activities. This consent can be withdrawn or modified at any time.  
Consent in S/M
"An active collaboration for the benefit, well-being and pleasure of all persons concerned." - Dossie Easton
Insane (as a legal definition)
The state of being unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of one's acts -- in other words, not knowing right from wrong -- as a result of a severe mental disease or defect. If a criminal takes careful measures to cover his tracks, that is usually evidence that he knows what he is doing is wrong and therefore he is sane. Even a paranoid schizophrenic who kills his neighbor because he believes God told him to do so would be considered sane if he makes an effort to avoid detection and capture.
RACK
Risk-Aware, Consensual Kink.  Term coined by Gary Switch as an alternative to Safe, Sane, and Consensual.  Mr. Switch argues that 1) Nothing's perfectly safe, 2) Negotiation cannot be valid without fore knowledge of the possible risks involved in the activity being negotiated, and 3) The "sane" part of SSC is very subjective. (See also Origin of RACK / RACK vs. SSC)
Rape
  1. Sexual intercourse without the consent of all participants and chiefly by force or deception. Usually it means a man forcing himself on a woman. The exact legal defintion varies by location. On January 6, 2003, in the People v. John Z., S103427, the California Supreme Court defined an act of rape as continued penetration by a man after a consenting woman demands that the intercourse stop. Justice Ming Chin wrote that "a withdrawal of consent effectively nullifies any earlier consent and subjects the male to forcible rape charges if he persists in what has become nonconsensual intercourse."
  2. "Imposing oneself on an unwilling partner." (Irma Kurtz)
  3. In the BDSM subculture, "rape" -- often but not always coupled with qualifiers such as "fantasy," "play," and "scene" -- is often used to specify rape fantasy roleplay, in which two parties agree in advance to enact a scenario where they both pretend to engage in non-consensual sex. As Larry Townsend writes in Ask Larry "There is a great deal of difference between consensual SM and rape, and if you are not able to distinguish that difference you don't belong in the scene." (p. 85).  Because of the dangers of miscommunication, "rape" play is not a type that is to be engaged in lightly. The use of safe words and careful negotiation is strongly encourage but even then there is a potential of the scene going seriously bad.
S.A.M.
  1. In the scene, from Gay male culture, S.A.M. means "Stand and Model": posing in leather -- usually at a leather bar -- as if it's a lifestyle statement when it's actually a fashion statement.
  2. In the scene, S.A.M. means "smart ass masochist" also known as a "brat." As the name implies, S.A.M.s are non-submissive masochistic bottoms who -- under the pretext of submission -- become deliberately disobedient and disrespectful to their dominants in order to provoke punishment. While many doms dislike this sort of manipulation and consider it "topping from below.", S.A.M. behavior can be appropriate -- if all parties enjoy and consent to it. Some doms call any bottoms who choose not to submit to them S.A.M.s In truth it's a bottom's prerogative not to submit to just any dom. To be a real S.A.M., a bottom must be inappropriately and intentionally rude, disrespectful, and provocative. BTW, playful bratty behavior -- while often unacceptable in the BDSM scene -- is quiet common and acceptable in the spanking scene where D/s is not a component of that subculture.

Questions About Qualitative BDSM Terms

  • Can a BDSM relationship be abusive or are BDSM and abuse mutually exclusive? How so?
  • What's the difference between abuse and "safe, sane, and consensual" BDSM? When is a BDSM relationship abusive and when is it not?
  • There was a criminal case in Germany where one man mutilated, slaughtered, and partially ate a consenting victim in a fully negotiated scene. Would you consider that situation to be abuse, insane, SSC, or RACK? Should this sort of consensual activity remain illegal or is it a victimless crime when both parties consent?

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D/s (Dominance and submission)

Dominant (or Dom)
  1. (adj.) Exercising the most influence or control; governing. (American Heritage Dictionary)
  2. (adj.) Most prominent in position or prevalence; ascendant. (American Heritage Dictionary)
  3. (n.) In the scene, a person that enjoys assuming control, dominating others, and taking the active roll in making most -- or all -- of the decisions in a scene or in relationships with a submissive or bottom. (Compare with "top.")
Domme, Domina, Dominatrix
(n.) A dominant who is female.
Dominatero or Dominaterer
(n.) A dominant who is male. (Not really. I made that up.)   ;^)

An Etymological Note on "Dom" Words (from Miss Oscilla): The original Latin word for "dom" is "dominator" (dah-mih-nah-tor), of which "dominatrix" is the feminine form (dah-mi-nah-tricks). In Latin, the term of address to any superior (be it slave to master, pleb to patrician, suppliant to god, and whatever the modern term "sir" represents) is "domine" (dah-mi-nay.) (n.b. A sub would address her dom as "domine," but he would be her "dominus.") The feminine term is "domina" (same whether addressing or talking about.)

Submissive (or Sub)
  1. (adj.) The quality exhibited in committing to the discretion or decision of another or others (after Merriam-Webster dictionary)
  2. (n.) In the scene, a person that prefers to give up control to a dominant in the course of a scene or in their relationship. The term is often written in all lower case where dominant is often capitalized. (Compare with "bottom.")

Questions About D/s Terms

  • Are the terms submissive and dominant used as nouns anywhere outside the BDSM community?
  • In your opinion, does the use of these nounjectives (adjectives as nouns) imply a fixed or absolute quality?
  • Is it possible for a dominant to be dominant in all situations or a submissive to be submissive in all situations? Would that be desirable?

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Positions

Top
  1. (noun) In the gay male culture, a "top" is the person doing the f**king or an individual who prefers to be the f**ker. The term originated in the fisting scene.
  2. (noun) In the pansexual BDSM scene, most often used as a synonym for dominant.
  3. (noun) In the pansexual BDSM scene, less often but more specifically meant to describe the active participant in a scene.  The person doing something to the bottom -- whether or not the active participant is in control.  For example, a dominant with a masochist streak can instruct his submissive to flog the dominant.  In this sense the top can be a submissive.
  4. (noun) In the pansexual BDSM scene, a sort of "weekend warrior" who engages with a bottom or series of bottoms in recreational play for the sake of play, not needing or even looking for a relationship. Using this definition, the distinction between top, dominant and Master is more accurately stated as a graduation in the intensity of the relationship experienced between the players with Master being most intense and top least intense. The Master, it is assumed, is actively engaged in a full-time, permanent relationship with a slave, in which he retains full control and responsibility over any and all activities engaged in during said relationship. (Paraphrased after dorei)
  5. (verb) In the heterosexual BDSM scene, also used to describe the action of being active participant in a scene or relationship.
Bottom
  1. (noun) In the gay male culture, a "bottom" is the person getting f**ked or an individual who prefers to be f**kee. The term originated in the fisting scene.
  2. (noun) In the heterosexual BDSM scene, most often used as a synonym for submissive.
  3. (noun) In the heterosexual BDSM scene, less often but more specifically used to describe the passive participant, or recipient of sensations, in a scene.  The person having things done to him by the top.  In this sense the bottom can be a dominant if the bottom is give the top directions on how the scene should be proceed.
  4. (verb) In the heterosexual BDSM scene, also used to describe the action of being on the receiving end in a scene or relationship.
Switch
  1. A female character in the movie The Matrix.
  2. In the gay male culture, individuals who enjoy both the top and bottom roles in f**king (also referred to as 'being versatile')
  3. In the BDSM Scene, "Someone who both enjoys and seeks both ends of the lash or leash." (Ms. Siren)
  4. In the BDSM scene, someone who alternates between the roles of dominant and submissive and/or top and bottom -- usually at different times.
(See also "Switches: Are they misunderstood or do they miss the point of BDSM?" by Ms. Siren at http://www.houseofsaade.com/fromthemiddle_may_04.html)

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Master -- or Mistress -- and Slave

24/7
An always on, full-time master/slave relationship. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
Master
  1. A male person having another living being so far subject to his will, that he can, in the main, control his or its actions; -- formerly used with much more extensive application than now. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) In this sense the term includes employers, slave owners, sovereigns, princes, feudal nobles, chiefs, the heads of households, male teachers, the male heads of schools or colleges, and the master craftsman who articled apprentices in medieval Europe.
  2. One who uses, or controls at will, anything inanimate. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  3. One who has attained great skill in the use or application of anything. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) Applications that can be mastered include ken-jutsu, carpentry, leatherwork, and the use of bull whips.
  4. In the scene, a dominant who has absolute control over a slave.
  5. In the scene, a dominant who has achieved a high level of status and respect from his peers often because of his experience, knowledge, wisdom, and seniority. (See The Old Guard History, Origins and Traditions By Guy Baldwin, M.S. from The Ties That Bind)
  6. In the scene, the title a submissive addresses his or her dominant.
  7. In the scene, a man who has claimed the title of master -- regardless of skill, seniority, merit, or competence.
Napoleon Bonaparte crowning himself Emperor of the Holly Roman Empire

The Historical Context for "Master":

In Medieval Europe to become a master craftsman required spending many years learning a craft -- such as metal work, masonry, or carpentry -- under the guidance of and in the service of an established master craftsman, first as an unpaid apprentice and then as a paid journeyman. To establish one's own business as a master craftsman, the journeyman would have to have a sample of his craft approved by a body of master craftsmen known as a craft guild. In short, the title was earned over the course of many years of hard work.

On Mastery: A Selection from the Hagakure

    One of the personal guards of the Shogun came to Tajima no kami one day wishing to be trained in ken-jutsu. The master said, "As I observe, you seem to be a master of the art yourself; pray tell me what ryu (school) you follow, before we enter into the relationship of teacher and student."
    The guard said, "I am ashamed to confess I have never learned the art."
    "Are you trying to fool me? I am a teacher of the Shogun himself, and I know my judging eye never fails."
    "I am sorry to defy your honor, but I really know nothing."
    The denial on the part of the visitor made the swordmaster think for a while. "If you say you do not, then it must be so; but still I am sure you are a master of something, though I do not know what."
    "If you insist, I will tell you this. There is one thing of which I can say I am complete master. When I was a boy, the thought came upon me that as a samurai I ought, in no circumstance, to be afraid of death. After many years this problem has ceased to worry me."
    "Exactly!" shouted Tajima no kami. "This is what I mean. I am glad I made no mistake in my judgment. For the ultimate secrets of swordsmanship also lie in being released from the thoughts of death. You need no technical training. You are already a master."
-- Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Hagakure
translated by George R. Parulski, Jr.

Mistress
  1. A woman who has power, authority, or ownership: as a : the female head of a household b : a woman who employs or supervises servants (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  2. The female lover, usually illicit, of a man, who is often wealthy and married. A mistress is rarely afforded the same degree of respect from society that is given to a married woman.
  3. In the scene, the female equivalent of a master. Many dommes do not like to be referred as a "Mistress" because of the connotations from the second definition
Slave
  1. In the larger world, "a person held in servitude as the chattel of another" or "one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence."  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  2. In the scene, someone who has freely and completely relinquished all freedom to a specific person or persons in a structured relationship in order to satisfy their need to serve another. Some consider it is fantasy role playing.  Others are quite ouspoken in their belief that it is real. (Slave is often written in all lower case.)
  3. In The Leatherman's Handbook, Larry Townsend defines a slave as "a man who's need for total mastery over him leads him to enter into a state of voluntary servitude." In Ask Larry, Mr. Townsend adds "a slave obeys his master, even when he doesn't want to obey" (p. 254) and "a real slave is just that: the complete and unquestioned property of his Master. So long as you maintain that you are a slave, you have no recourse. Your Master's word is law!" (p. 259) [But I need to also point out that Mr. Townsend doesn't believe that the Master doesn't have his own obligations. In Ask Larry, he writes "If you accept a slave and make him subservient to your control, you must assume responsibility for his well-being." (p. 301)]

News Story - The Legal Standing of Slavery:

Pair Arrested For Sex Slave Contract
Police File Prostitution Charges
WLKY NewsChannel 32
February 23, 2002

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- A man and woman who signed a document characterized as a "sex-slave contract" were arrested by Pikeville police Thursday on misdemeanor charges of prostitution and criminal solicitation.  Ike "Sly" England, 31, of Belfry and Amanda Pinion, 22, of Harold claim a notarized five-page document was an Internet form they filled out for fun and filed by mistake at the courthouse.  But Pike County Attorney Howard Keith Hall and Pikeville's police department shrugged off the explanations and issued arrest warrants yesterday.  Pinion was charged with prostitution and England with criminal solicitation.  Both warrants, Class B misdemeanors, were based on the contents of the contract. Assistant County Attorney Roger Varney said that the slave contract itself is void because slavery is illegal.

Amendment XIII of the Constitution of the United States

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Questions:

  • In the BDSM subculture, what qualifies someone as master?  Is it self-control, technical skill, authority over another, seniority, or something else?
  • What deference do you owe a master or mistress who isn't your master or mistress?
  • Can one be a master or mistress without owning slaves?  Can one be a slave without being owned?
  • Do we have the equivalent of a "Craft Guild" for recognizing BDSM Master status? If so, is it recognized throughout the BDSM community?
  • Is slavery real if it's consensual? Can one consent to give up consent?
  • A Question for Slaves: If your master ordered you to be vanilla for the rest of your life, would you do it? Could you do it?
  • Is slavery illegal in the United States?
"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power."
- Lao-Tzu
 

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Familial Model

Daddy
  1. FATHER i.e. "a man who has begotten a child" or "one related to another in a way suggesting that of father to child." (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  2. In the scene, a dominant man or a woman who is the father figure to a boy.  The parent child role playing is usually loving, nurturant, and educational.
Boy
  1. a : a male child from birth to puberty b : SON c : an immature male (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  2. Sometimes offensive: a male servant (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  3. In the scene, "typically a biological male or, in some instances, a biological female who identifies as a male ... boys typically have a strong desire to serve or please others--especially Dominant, masculine individuals. ... In general ... boys are typically allowed more freedoms and are often allowed to make more decisions without consulting their dom. And, of course, boys will be boys--we have a playful mischievous side that sometimes gets us in trouble." (anon.)
  4. In the scene, a adult male or female who often relates to another adult who adopts a Father role to the boy. Boys are usually submissive but occasionally are a switch.
Boi
  1. In both the Lesbian subculture and the pansexual BDSM scene, "typically referring to a biological female who presents herself in a typically masculine or 'butch' fashion." (anon.)
  2. In the pansexual BDSM scene, an adult -- most often a biological female but sometimes a male or transgendered person -- who identifies as a boy (2nd definition above) but with qualification and understand that he is biologically female.
  3. "A boyish gay guy or a biological female with a boyish presentation." (Rona Marech)
  4. In the scene, a adult male or female who looks to another adult to act as his father figure in part of a Daddy/boy relationship.  Usually a boi is submissive but occasionally a switch.
Girl
  1. a : a female child b : a young unmarried woman  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  2. In the scene, similar to a boy or boi but the person identifies as female.
  3. In the scene, "typically a biological female who presents herself in a typically feminine or "femme" manner and may be lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual"

lisa littlewolf on Bois, Boys, Submissives, and Slaves


[In response to a question on an Austin, Texas based mailing list, lisa littlewolf gave her explanations of what the terms boi, boy, and submissive mean. Her answer is reposted with her permission.]
a boi is a female version of a boy (although some female bois go by boy as well, rather than boi)

a boy is a leather partner of a leather Daddy - the definitions are as wide and vast as the boys/bois who identify as such.

boy/bois are generally bottoms or submissives, but not always, they can be switches and even primarily Tops who may serve just one Daddy and be Dominant to everyone else. A Daddy/boy relationship is generally seen as more of a partnership type relationship that has some similarities of a parent/child relationship as well as Dominant/submissive, but again, not always. In that respect, the Daddy acts as mentor, sometimes disciplinarian, guidance, the decision maker, etc., The boy is generally, but not always, in service of some sort or in a subservient role to the Daddy or Sir, a caretaker, a companion, the bottom for play inside a scene, etc. Both roles require great responsibility, both to yourself and to your partner.

Some boys like to differentiate themselves from slaves or submissives in that they are not property (although some are and most boys who are in service to a Daddy wear a collar), they have a will/mind of their own and are more than an extension of their Master's will, although when I was a slave I saw myself as far more than just an extension of my Master, even if he didn't always see me that way.

boys tend to think of themselves as more assertive, more aggressive, etc., than slaves. Some believe it comes down to a protocol expectation of boys versus slaves, although these too are similar and sometimes the differences are so subtle that it's not always obvious. To elaborate on the protocols would take a whole other email and that is also defendant upon which protocol you mean, which community you are in, or are you talking about the protocol between just yourself and your Dominant, or the protocol you have with other boys/slaves?

However, I myself have been both boi and slave (and I generally call myself boy these days, not boi, although i quite enjoyed being a slave too), and the similarities are many. I want to do a good job for the Dominant that I am serving. I want to feel good about myself and the things that I do. I want my community to be a better place not just for me, but for everyone. I want my Dominant and my community to be proud of me and proud to be associated with me as I am with them. I know that this may seem egocentric or self serving from a submissive's point of view, but to me self less serving is somewhat of a crock (I don't mean to say that is the same case for everyone, but the reasoning for me is just not something I can get ahold of) :) if you didn't feel good doing it, or got something out of it, why would you bother to do it at all?
Lisa Littlewolf
NLA International Austin Chapter Rep
Founder And Co-Chair Of Central Texas Boys Of Leather
http://www.ctbol.org/

(See also "The Difference Between Boy And Slave" by Jack Rinella at http://www.fetishalliance.net/Stories/Slave_Stories/9313.htm or http://www.leathernroses.com/submission/rinellaboyslave.htm)

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice, and everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
 

A boy is told what to do. A slave does what he's told.
- Larry Burden, Avatar LA

 

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Miscellaneous Terms

Butch
  1. "Usually a woman, but sometimes also a man, who embraces and empowers the masculine energy in themselves" - lisa littlewolf
  2. "A female bodied gay woman who carries very masculine energy.  She is fine with being a woman and has no plans on transitioning."  Butches and Femmes "are the Ying/Yang of each other and become even more of themselves when they are together." - Sir Cougar of Houston
  3. At the risk of revealing the depth of my ignorance, I used to think that a butch woman was a lesbian who imitates men but now it seems to me that a butch woman is emulating her ideal of what a man should be.  It's a subtle difference but an important distinction.  For those women who disagree with me I apologize and welcome their clarification. - Ambrosio

Cruise
"To be on the prowl or lookout for someone to hook up with, either for sex or play or both.  If you're cruising, you're actively looking for someone. "If you're being cruised, someone is actively interested in you." - slave marsha, slave to Master Jim, International slave 2001

Cruise Party
"A party set up for the express purpose of bringing together people who might be interested in hooking up with someone for play or sex or both." - slave marsha, slave to Master Jim, International slave 2001

Exhibitionism
  1. As defined in Psychology, exhibitionism is a paraphilia -- an abnormal or unnatural attraction -- involving exposing one's genitals or sexual organs to a nonconsenting stranger but with no further attempt at sexual activity with the stranger.  Exhibitionists are sexually aroused by the shock or surprise of the victim. (Psychology Today)
  2. The act or practice of so behaving as to attract undo attention sometimes by indecent exposure.  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  3. As practiced in the scene, exhibitionism is deriving erotic pleasure through the provocative display of one's body -- often during play -- in front of a consenting and hopefully appreciative audience. (Note that exhibitionism is not an open invitation for audience participation E.G. you can look but don't touch without permission.) While not everyone in the scene is an exhibitionist, a lot of people seem to enjoy playing in front of others. BDSM doesn't include an E for Exhibitionism but perhaps it should.
Please note: Exhibitionism is not synonymous with nudism. (see Nudism below.)
Femme
"A female bodied gay woman who carries very feminine energy. "Unfortunately, she is often mistaken for a straight woman.  She presents as the epitome of feminine with her clothes and make-up." Butches and Femmes "are the Ying/Yang of each other and become even more of themselves when they are together." - Sir Cougar of Houston

slave marsha, International slave 2001 and Femme leatherdyke, on Butches and Femmes:

There are various "flavors" of Butches and Femmes, including "Stone Butches" and "Stone Femmes"  -- names that identify the way in which they engage sexually.  (A Stone Butch generally does not want to be touched sexually in any way that "feminizes" him -- that generally means no vaginal touching or penetration and no breast play.  A Stone Femme does not want to touch a Butch in any way that "feminizes" him.)

Some Butches -- like Cougar -- carry so much masculine energy, they are more comfortable being addressed with masculine pronouns and honorifics, such as "Sir" or "Daddy."  However, that doesn't necessarily mean they have any plans to transition.

We Femmes often see ourselves as the invisible members of the dyke community -- we are usually tagged as being straight (which can make it difficult to get the attention of  a Butch!), we often have come out later in life because we "pass" so well in the straight world, and other dykes frequently doubt that we're gay at all.

FYI, Butches and Femmes are not generally accepted with open arms in the larger lesbian community.

As for me, Femme is my identity and my sexuality.  While I am not at all sexually attracted to men, I also generally am not attracted to women unless they're Butches.  I am a High Femme, but by nature, not Stone.  (Although prior to Cougar, I only dated Stone Butches and so I interacted with them as a Stone Femme.)

I adore the "dance" with my Butch -- the way he treats me with old fashioned courtesy -- pulling out my chair, opening doors, helping me as I step off a curb, assisting with my coat.  ...  I adore the "power dynamic" between us -- not a D/s dynamic, but a power dynamic just the same.

Mentor
  1. capitalized : a friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of Odysseus' son Telemachus.
  2. a : a trusted counselor or guide  b : tutor, coach
(For more on mentors and mentorship in the scene, please read "Mentorship" by Mistress Constance at http://www.evilmonk.org/A/constance04.cfm.)
Neo-Pagan
"Someone who attempts to reconstruct pre-Christian European, East Asian, or Egyptian beliefs and puts that reconstruction into practice as a religion or spiritual path" (anon.)
Nudism
  1. The belief in and/or practice of going nude, including when in gender mixed, age mixed groups, for reasons of health. (nudist adj. and n.)
  2. (American Heritage Dictionary)
  3. The practice of living without clothes for reasons of health [syn: naturism] (American Heritage Dictionary)
Notice, that unlike exhibitionism, nudism is not provocative or sexual in nature.

On Nudity:

"Being natural and matter-of-fact about nudity prevents your children from developing an attitude of shame or disgust about the human body. If parents are very secretive about their bodies and go to great lengths to prevent their children from ever seeing a buttock or breast, children will wonder what is so unusual, and even alarming, about human nudity." - Dr. Lee Salk
"Because God created it, the human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty." - Pope John Paul II
Pagan
An adherent to a polytheistic religion
Pansexual
  1. In the BDSM community, pansexual refers to organizations, meetings, and parties that are open to all sexual orientations: straight, gay, bi, and transgendered.
  2. Recently in the LGBI community, pansexual has been used to describe someone who "is attracted to people of multiple genders." (Rona Marech) Drew Campbell write that pansexual is "often used by people who are open to sex with people of any gender or orientation." (p. 41)
 
Player
  1. In the English speaking world, one that plays, such as
    1. a person who plays a game
    2. a muscian
    3. an actor
  2. As a slang vanilla term, a player is a guy who is sustaining supposedly exclusive relationships with multiple girls simultaneously. (from UrbanDictionary.com)
  3. In the swinging community, a player is a participant in the swinging community.
  4. In the BDSM community, a player is whomever is currently participating in a scene at a play party.
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players"

~ Shakespeare, As You Like It    

 
"Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass ..."

~ Shakespeare, Hamlet    

 
"His heart is a tightened lute; as soon as one touches it, it echoes."

~ Edgar Allen Poe (after de Beranger),    
"The Fall of the House of Usher"    

 
Polyamory (or "Poly" for short)
"responsible non-monogamy." Loving, stable, and open long-term emotional and sexual relationships among more than two people. Unlike swinging, the relationships are long-term, committed, and emotional. (For more information on Poly, visit the "Polyamory and BDSM" page at http://www.EvilMonk.org/A/polybdsm.cfm.)
"If you fear lest you may not be perfectly equitable in treating more than one wife, then you shall be content with one."

The Koran - 4:3    

 
Puppy
A submissive who play acts as a puppy in a fantasy role playing scene.
Safe Call
Security measure in which a participant in a play session or meeting tells outside parties where he will be, with whom, and when he will be checking back in.  If a person does not check in, the third party calls for help. (Please see Some Notes on Safety for Meeting Online and Off)
Safe Word
A pre-arranged signal to notify the other play partner(s) -- usually the top -- if they go beyond negotiated boundaries, the sensations become too intense, or it becomes necessary to slow down a scene or stop it for any reason.  (Please see the Safeword section of "Some Notes on Safety for Meeting Online and Off" at http://www.evilmonk.org/A/safenote.cfm)
Subspace
"Simply put it is a dream-like state of peace, sometimes accompanied by visions of light, a feeling of floating, security and safety. It is very hard to describe." - Jack Rinella
Swinging
Engaging in non-monogamous recreational sex with the knowledge, consent, and often reciprocal participation of one's partner. Unlike polyamory, the extra-relational sex does not include a romantic relationship.
Transgendered
  1. Having a gender (a mental measure of masculinity, femininity, or something else entirely) which does not match one's sex (being physically male or female).
  2. "An umbrella term for transgression of the binary gender system. May include surgical, hormonal or nonhormonal changes that result in a gender identity different from the one assigned at birth." (Rona Marech)
Trick
"The person you hook up with for sex or play or both is your 'trick.'  Carries the same kind of connotation as 'fuck buddy' -- this probably isn't your long term partner." - slave marsha, slave to Master Jim, International slave 2001
Trick Card
"In many gay bars and gay leather bars, small cards and pencils are provided at the bar for you to jot down your name, number, email address, etc. for someone you're cruising or being cruised by." - slave marsha, slave to Master Jim, International slave 2001

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Personal Coinage

Competitive Exhibitionism
Performing a scene at a play party for the sake of notoriety and enhancing one's reputation as a heavy player or a skilled top more than playing for pure love, enjoyment, and/or the thrill of being watched.
"Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art"
      - Constantin Stanislavsky
 
Creative Memory Syndrome (CMS)
The condition of remembering past incidents, conflicts, accidents, and disagreements in such a way as to prove oneself as being completely blameless and in the right. People experiencing this condition will not be lying but they will forget all unflattering aspects of their own behavior and motivation and misremember incidents in such away as to support their own views of themselves as right and good. A woman might remember the her one time fiancee and "one true love" as "the guy I hung out with." Unlike lying or dissembling, the victim of this condition believes his own account absolutely. It's a condition all of us have experienced on occasion but some of us are blessed with memories that are more fluid than the rest.

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Sources

  • The Eulenspiegel Society
  • Leather Leadership Conference III, Statement on Abuse, San Francisco, April 16-18, 1999
  • American Psychiatric Association, DSM-IV: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Psychology Today http://www.psychologytoday.com/
  • Austin Bunny
  • Drew Campbell The Bride Wore Black Leather
  • Crimson Lord
  • Cyne Enright
  • Dottie Easton
  • Irma Kurtz, "Agony" advice column for Cosmopolitan magazine
  • louise
  • Rona Marech, "Nuances of gay identities reflected in new language," Sunday, February 8, 2004, San Francisco Chronicle
  • Miss Oscilla
  • Ms. Siren of Central Texas
  • Larry Townsend Ask Larry: The Collected "Leather Notebook" Columns Masquerade Books, New York, 1995
  • Larry Townsend The Leatherman's Handbook: The Silver Jubilee Edition Masquerade Books, New York, 1997.
  • slave marsha, slave to Master Jim, International slave 2001
  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  • American Heritage Dictionary
  • http://www.UrbanDictionary.com/
  • Webster's New World Dictionary
  • "Pair Arrested For Sex Slave Contract" WLKY NewsChannel 32: http://www.thelouisvillechannel.com/news/1249342/detail.html

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Further Reading

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Coming Soon! (Eventually):

I plan to add definitions for the following terms at my earliest convenience (ie. when I find the time.)

  • Bear
  • Cross dressing
  • Cruising
  • Femme
  • Goth/Gothic
  • Hurt
  • Labrys
  • Leather
  • Norm and normal
  • Passive
  • Play
  • Preditor
  • Real
  • Scene
  • Stalking
  • Transvestism
  • Voyeurism
I'm open to suggested definitions. I can't promise I'll use every definition that's sent to me but which ever definitions I use, I'd like to attribute it. If you'd rather not be credited, inform me in your email, otherwise I'll cite you.

 

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In Closing:

When scene people meet someone new to the BDSM lifestyle, they will often ask "What are you? Are you a Dom, sub, or switch?"  This should belong with other introductory questions such as "How old are you?," "How much do you weigh?," "How much do you earn?," "Do you like giving oral sex?," and "Are those real?"  The "What are you?" question is a disservice to the novice, to the community, and the person asking.

Our vocabulary is meant to be a communication aid. The terms we use are the best we have but sometimes they cause more trouble than they're worth. The terms we use most often -- Dom, sub, slave, switch, top, and bottom -- are too limited and confining. As Larry Townsend writes in Ask Larry, "One of the difficulties in writing about human behavior is that people have such an infinite variety of possible responses and attitudes that there is no way to set up categories that include everyone." Our definitions are useful for explaining general concepts, but they don't adequately explain who we are as individuals. Other more exotic terms do a slightly better job but they are vague and confusing.

The use of categories -- like Dom, sub, and even switch -- so early in people's BDSM experience can be confining and counter productive. For BDSM novices -- who are still trying to figure out where they belong in this brave new world -- the simple question "What are you?" creates a subtle but compelling prescription to declare their intentions and their identities at a time when they're still trying to make sense of their feelings and desires. I see a problem in the scene right now in that people are being presured to conform to roles before identifying who they really are.

"What am I?"  the novice might think to herself.  "I don't know. I'm kind of submissive, sometimes, and I like the idea of pain but I don't know if I want to be someone's slave 24/7. Maybe I'm a boi. But doesn't that mean I'm gay?"

It's like joining a new church and immediately being asked "So who here are you planning to marry?" We're not born knowing who we are, we need a lifetime to figure that out. Most people really don't know where they fit so early in their BDSM experience. By asking this question too early, we're forcing round pegs into square holes. Or maybe just slightly asymetrical pegs into completely symmetrical holes. In either case we're forcing pegs where they don't fit. (It reminds me of the Japanese Maxim which says "The nail that sticks out will be hammered in.")

What is the alternative? I propose to forgo the usual "What are you?" question and ask each other "What is it about BDSM which interests you?" or "What do you like to do?" instead. Those questions are open ended and less demanding -- and paradoxically more demanding -- than the "what are you" variety. The questions might be less demanding in that they're not asking people to make an immediate declaration as to who they will be for the next several years. At the same time the questions might be more demanding in that the people asked must undergo some introspection to answer honestly. But the advantages for those of us asking the questions is that the answers will be more interesting -- and more informative.

 

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Other Glossaries

 

Related Article: Please see also Definitions by Mistress Constance


 
 

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Additional Articles by Ambrosio

 

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