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Faete, lifestyle slave and adult entertainer in bondage. Website: The Sub Mission (photo: Jack Musgrove).

BDSM is an abbreviation that stands for:

It is used to collectively describe the subculture of people who find activities in those areas erotic.

The majority of BDSM practitioners emphasize the principle "safe, sane and consensual" (SSC). BDSM activities are practiced by men and women of all sexualities. All pairings (F/F, F/M, M/F, M/M) are common. In practice most people prefer playing with a partner of the gender they find sexually attractive. Heterosexual women prefer to play with men (and vice versa), gay men play with other men, lesbian women with other women. However one can also enjoy BDSM play with a person who is clearly outside one's normal sexual interests, especially in mere play partnerships.

BDSM play can, but does not need to include (or end with) sex.


Photoshoot for Bizarre Magazine.

BDSM play in general requires that the partners assume two unequal roles, so that there can be a power exchange. Depending on the nature of the play, these roles are often dominant and submissive, or Master/Mistress and slave, but in general they are called top and bottom. The terms top and bottom are most general, they cover all types of roles and all kinds of BDSM play.

People who practice BDSM activities often refer to these activities as "play". The implements used are called "toys".

The BDSM and the spanking subculture[edit]

Vintage French photo of bondage bench with unusual rack device. Photo: Ostra Studio (c. 1930s).

A lot of people see erotic spanking, spankophilia and spanking fetishism as subsets within the BDSM cosmos. Others feel that although there is no doubt much overlap between the "spanko" and the BDSM subculture, there are also some typical differences.

An interest in BDSM often comes combined with other paraphilia such as leather or latex fetishism. On BDSM parties, wearing black fetish clothing is almost obligatory. In contrast, spanko parties tend to have a less strict dresscode and often encourage non-black outfits such as dressing up like a schoolgirl. While typical BDSM adherents favor master/slave and similar roleplaying, many spankos find ageplay more appropriate for spanking scenes, such as parent/child or teacher/student.

When it comes to erotica, spanking art and stories differ in many ways from ordinary BDSM art and stories. The spanko subculture has their own magazines, websites, web galleries, blogs and so on.

BDSM toys[edit]

An assortment of BDSM toys.
Latex-clad mistress and slaves. Photo: Biederer Studio (c. 1930s).

This list does not include toys that are also commonly used for spanking (see spanking implements for a list of these).


See also[edit]