By Sophie Saint Thomas14 February 2020
The world of BDSM contains not only its own sex acts (Is smelling a foot sex? Sure, if it gets you off!), but its own highly-robust vocabulary, too. Since all that terminology can be intimidating for newcomers, let’s start with the basics: “BDSM” stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism—the core pillars of kinky fun. Beyond that, there’s a whole language to describe the consensual power exchange practices that take place under the BDSM umbrella. Whatever you’re into, just make sure to snuggle and practice lots of aftercare when it’s all said and done, especially if anyone involved is a painslut and needs ice after some impact play.
At press time, “kink” is not a language you can learn on Duolingo, so here’s a handy glossary of some of the most common BDSM terms, from A to Z.A is for Aftercare
Aftercare is the practice of checking in with one another after a scene (or “play session,” a.k.a., the time in which the BDSM happens) to make sure all parties feel nice and chill about what just went down. The dominant partner may bring the submissive ice for any bruises, but it’s important to know that aftercare involves emotional care as well as physical. BDSM releases endorphins, which can lead to both dominants and submissives experiencing a “drop.” Aftercare can help prevent that. There’s often cuddling and always conversation; kinksters need love too.B is for Bondage
Bondage is the act of tying one another up. In most cases the dominant partner is restraining the submissive using ropes, handcuffs, Velcro, specialty hooks, clasps, or simply a belt if you’re on a budget.C is for Cuckold
We can’t let the alt-right ruin the term “cuck” for us. Traditionally, a cuck is a man who enjoys, often for submissive and erotic humiliation reasons, watching another man have sex with his wife. In a cuckolding scene, the other man invited to have sex with the wife is a “bull.” Female cucks are referred to as “cuck queens,” but people of all genders can be cucks.D is for D/S
D/S refers to dominance and submission, the crux of a BDSM relationship. While kinky people can be on a spectrum (see: “Switch”), typically you’re either dominant or submissive. If you take away one fact from this guide, it should be that even though the dominant partner in D/S relationship may be slapping, name-calling, and spitting on the submissive, BDSM and D/S relationships are all about erotic power exchange, not one person having power over another. The submissive gets to set their boundaries, and everything is pre-negotiated. The submissive likes getting slapped (see also: “Painslut”).E is for Edgeplay
Edgeplay refers to the risky shit—the more taboo (or baddest bitch, depending on who you’re talking to) end of the spectrum of BDSM activities. Everyone’s definition of edgeplay is a little different, but blood or knife play is a good example. If there’s actually a chance of real physical harm, it’s likely edgeplay. Only get bloody with a partner who knows what they’re doing without a doubt and has been tested for STIs. You don’t have to get maimed to enjoy BDSM.F is for Foot Fetish
One of the most common fetishes out there, a foot fetish is an attraction—often a need—for feet. Foot fetishists may enjoy worshiping a foot, kissing it, smelling it, massaging it, getting a footjob, licking it, sucking on toes, or (actually) getting stepped on.G is for Golden Showers
A golden shower is when you lovingly shower your partner with your piss. It’s high time for the BDSM community to reclaim this word from Donald Trump, who, may I remind you, allegedly paid sex workers to pee on a bed that Obama slept in out of spite. This is not the same thing as a golden shower. Kink is for smart people.H is for Hard Limits
Hard limits are sexual acts that are off-limits. Everyone has their own, and you have to discuss these boundaries before any BDSM play. Use it in a sentence: “Please do not pee on me; golden showers are one of my hard limits.”I is for Impact Play
Impact play refers to any impact on the body, such as spanking, caning, flogging, slapping, etc.J is for Japanese Bondage
The most well-known type of Japanese bondage is Shibari, in which one partner ties up the other in beautiful and intricate patterns using rope. It’s a method of restraint, but also an art form.K is for Knife Play
Knife play is, well, knife sex. It’s considered a form of edgeplay (our parents told us not to play with knives for a reason.) If you do play with knives, do it with someone who truly respects you and whom you trust. Often knife play doesn’t actually involve drawing blood, but is done more for the psychological thrill, such as gliding a knife along a partner’s body to induce an adrenaline rush. Call me a prude, but I wouldn’t advise it on a first Tinder date.L is for Leather
The BDSM community enjoys leather as much as you’d expect. Leather shorts, leather paddles, and leather corsets are popular, although increasingly kinky retailers provide vegan options for their animal-loving geeks.M is for Masochist
A masochist is someone who gets off on receiving sexual pain.N is for Needle Play
Also a form of edgeplay (blood!), needle play means using needles on a partner. Hopefully those needles are sterile and surgical grade. Don’t do this with an idiot, please. Most professional dommes have clients who request or are into needle play. It can involve sticking a needle (temporarily) through an erogenous zone such as the nipple or… BACK AWAY NOW IF YOU’RE QUEASY… the shaft of the penis.O is for Orgasm Denial
You know how sexual anticipation is hot AF? Orgasm denial is next-level sexual anticipation for those who love a throbbing clit or a boner that’s been hard forever just dying to get off—which is to say, almost everyone. The dominant partner will typically bring the submissive close or to the brink of orgasm, then stop. Repeat as necessary.P is for Painslut
A painslut is a dope-ass submissive who knows what they want, and that’s pain, dammit.Q is for Queening
Queening is when a woman, a.k.a. the queen you must worship, sits on your face. It’s just a glam name for face-sitting, often used in D/S play. Sometimes the queen will sit on her submissive’s face for like, hours.R is for RACK
RACK stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink, which are the BDSM community guidelines on how to make sure everyone is aware of the dangers they consent to. Another set of guidelines are the “SSC,” which stresses keeping activities “safe, sane, and consensual.” We kinksters want everyone to feel happy and fulfilled, and only experience pain that they desire—without actual harm.S is for Switch
A switch is someone who enjoys both the dominant and submissive role. Get thee a girl who can do both.T is for Topping From The Bottom
Topping from the bottom refers to when a bottom (sub) gets bratty and tries to control the scene even though negotiations state they should submit. For example, a submissive male may start yelping at his domme that she’s not making him smell her feet exactly like he wants. It can be pretty annoying. It can also be part of the scene itself, such as if the submissive is roleplaying as a little girl with her daddy (this is called “age play”).U is for Urination
Urinating means peeing (duh) and aside from pissing on a submissive’s face or in their mouth you can do other cool and consensual things with urine, like fill up an enema and inject it up someone’s butt! I am not a medical doctor.V is for Voyeurism
A voyeur is someone who enjoys watching others have sex, undress, or whatever floats your erection boat. Voyeurs can get a bad name, because we think of peeping Toms, but there are lots of wonderful ways for a voyeur to consensually engage with their kink, such as going to a play (sex) party or kink event. Voyeurs watch the exhibitionists and everyone wins.W is for Wartenberg Wheel
A Wartenberg Wheel is a nifty little metal pinwheel that you can run over your partner’s nipples or other erogenous zones. It looks scary, but in a fun way, like the Addams Family. It can be used as part of medical play (doctor fetish) or just for the hell of it. Fun fact: It’s a real-life medical device created by neurologist Robert Wartenberg to test nerve reactions, but kinksters figured out it was good for the sex, too.Y is for Yes!
BDSM is all about enthusiastic consent. The dominant partner won’t step on their submissive’s head and then shove it into a toilet without a big ole’ “yes, please!”Z is for Zentai
Zentai is a skintight Japanese body suit typically made of spandex and nylon. It can cover the entire body, including the face. Dance teams or athletes may wear Zentai, but some people get off on the sensation of having their entire body bound in tight fabric, and wear it for kinky reasons.
Enjoy your new vocabulary, pervs!