Kink and BDSM Glossary

Kink Lingo Glossary

(Used with permission from “Playing Well With Others: Your Guide to Discovering, Exploring and Navigating the BDSM, Kink and Leather Communities” by Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams)

Getting kinky folks to agree on anything is a monumental task. In the interest of establishing a common lexicon for the purposes of our book — and being as clear as we can with our language — we present the following definitions for some of the more common terms you’ll encounter in your explorations of the kink community.

Aftercare — Post-scene activities or processing. Styles of aftercare vary.

Ageplay — Any role-playing that involves playing a younger or older character. May include a range from infantilism/adult baby and littles / kidz, to adultz and geriatric roles.

Animal Role-playing — A style of play where individuals dress and/or role-play as animal characters or manifest an animal persona. Common animal roles include dogs/puppies, horses/ponies, cats/kittens, pigs, cows and worms. May include mythical creatures. (also known as pet play, pony play, puppy play, ponygirl/ponyboy, human animal)

Asexual — A sexual orientation categorized by a lack of sexual interest or attraction to others. May also be considered having a lack of sexual orientation (also known as nonsexuality).

Bad Pain — Intense physical sensation outside the desires of the participants.

BDSM — An acronym used to stand for Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism and Slavery/Mastery. This acronym is often used to refer to the kink communities as a whole or any kink activities.

Bisexual — A sexual orientation categorized by an interest or attraction to both men and women.

Body Modification — Any practice that is intended to modify or change the appearance of the body, often permanently. This may include piercing, tattooing, branding, scarification and waist training/extreme corsetry.

Bondage — Any practice that involves the application of physical restraint. This may include total restraint, partial restraint or decorative restraint. Materials include rope, metal, cling wrap, fabric, leather, latex, and more.

Bootblack — A leather identified individual who enjoys using leather care and boot care as service or is a leather fetishist.

Bottom — An individual who secedes a degree of control by becoming the recipient of physical sensation in a scene.

Boundaries — Personal guidelines that outline a person’s desires and comfort zones.

Compersion — The feeling of pleasure when a loved one feels pleasure, often from an outside source. (also known as frubble)

Contract — A negotiated agreement between individuals involved in a power exchange dynamic. Contracts may be as simple as a verbal agreement, or as complex as a twenty page document. (also known as slave contract, temporary contract, verbal contract, formalized agreement)

Corporal Punishment — Activities involving punitive physical discipline.

Cross-dressing — Sexual arousal or gratification from wearing clothing appropriate for the opposite sex.

Cruising — The act of walking, driving, or looking on the internet in search of a sexual partner, often of an anonymous, casual and one-time variety.

D/S — An erotic play or relationship style that focuses on power exchange. (also known as d/s, D/s, Dominance/Submission)

Default World — A slang term for the broader society outside the kink community. (also known as the world at large, vanilla)

Discipline — Psychological restraint, supported by rules and enforceable by punishment, designed to control behaviors.

DM — An acronym short for Dungeon Monitor. Someone who is empowered to facilitate the party, event or dungeon experience of others. Their roles may include safety, ambiance, medical assistance, and labor. (also known as a safety monitor, party monitor, event assistant, venue facilitator SM, PM)

Dominance — The act of asserting control.

Dominant — (1) adj. The quality of asserting authority or influence. (2) noun. An individual who exercises control in a power exchange dynamic. (also known as a Dom, Domme)

Drop — A physical and emotional post-scene reaction. This can be characterized by feelings of loss, sadness, anxiety, or regret. (also known as bottom drop, dom drop, sub drop, top drop, con drop)

Dungeon — A space where BDSM encounters take place. (also known as a play space)

Endorphin Rush — A term for the “high” resulting from physical and emotional stimuli. Endorphin is a generic word for a morphine-like substance originating from within the body, produced under duress or physical stress.

Exhibitionism — The compulsion, desire or fetish to expose one’s self to others. This may include physical, mental or emotional exposure.

Fetish — A sexual arousal resulting from specific objects, situations, or individuals. (also known as a fetishism, a kink, but may be confused with the psychiatric definition “paraphilia,” and thus needs clarification with psychiatric professionals)

Fetish Ball — A kink-themed event featuring performances and a high fetish dress code. (also known as a costume ball, fetish gala)

Fetish Night — A kink-themed party event, often in a night club. (also known as a club night)

Fire Play — Activities involving the deliberate use of fire on or around the body. This may include fire cupping, flash cotton, cell popping, branding, torches and fire flogging. Often considered edge play. Please note that persons engaging in fire play should be aware of the risks involved and take appropriate precautions.

Flagging — The use of props, symbols or tools to denote role, orientation, identity or sexual interest. Examples may include bandannas, handcuffs, keys and more.

Flogger — A multi-tailed impact tool, often made of leather. (also known as a cat-of-nine-tails, flail, scourge)

Fisting — A sexual activity of inserting a lubricated hand into the vagina or rectum. (also known as handballing)

Frenzy — Obsessive interest in experiencing everything kinky, sometimes sacrificing common sense or safety.

Good Pain — Intense physical sensation desired by the participants.

Hard Limits — Scenes or activities that are forbidden as non-negotiable, usually because that are contrary to core values, identity or capacity. (See Soft Limits)

Heterosexual — A sexual orientation categorized by an interest or attraction to individuals of the opposite sex or gender.

Homosexual — A sexual orientation categorized by an interest or attraction to individuals of the same sex or gender.

House Party — A kinky gathering of individuals and couples in a private residence.

Impact Play — Any practice that involves physically striking the body. Tools may include bare hands, fists, belts, birches, canes, paddles, whips and more.

Kink — The great big world of sexual adventure including but not limited to voyeurism, exhibitionism, fetishism, fantasy role-playing, cross-dressing, power exchange, swinging, leather identity, erotic restraint, consensual non-monogamy, “naughty sex” and BDSM between consenting adults. In short, the realm of sexuality perceived to be outside the mainstream.

Kinkster — An individual who engages in voyeurism, exhibitionism, fetishism, fantasy role-playing, cross-dressing, power exchange, swinging, leather identity, erotic restraint, consensual non-monogamy, “naughty sex” and/or BDSM between consenting adults.

Kinky — An identity or description of societally non-normative sexual expression.

LDR — An acronym used to stand for Long Distance Relationship.

Leather — (1) A material made from the tanned hides of animals. (2) A tribal culture that traces its origin back to gay male leather and kink of the 40s and 50s. (aka Old Guard) (3) A personal identity based on the constructs of the leather sub-culture.

LTR — An acronym used to stand for Long Term Relationship.

Masochism — The act of receiving intense sensation, pain or suffering for sexual or sensual gratification.

Masochist — An individual who experiences sexual or sensual gratification from the act of receiving intense sensation, pain or suffering.

Master — (1) An individual who practices consensual ownership or possession of another human within the structure of a power exchange dynamic. An individual may identify as a master regardless of relationship status. (2) An individual who demonstrates proficiency and skill in a particular play style, tool or form of kink expression.

Mentor — An individual who is more experienced or more knowledgeable in a field, who is helping a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. (See Protector)

Mistress — An individual who practices consensual ownership or possession of another human within the structure of a power exchange dynamic. An individual may identify as a mistress regardless of relationship status.

Monogamy — The practice in the kink communities of knowingly and voluntarily engaging in one relationship.

Munch — An informal gathering for people involved with or interested in kink, usually in a public venue. Originally referred to as a Burger Munch. (also known as a coffee, happy hour, meet-up, round-up, salon, birds of a feather, wet munch, liquid munch)

Negotiation — (1) The act or process of negotiating. (2) Mutual discussion of and arrangement for the terms of an interaction or relationship.

Non-monogamy — The practice in the kink communities of knowingly and voluntarily engaging in multiple relationships. (also known as consensual non-monogamy, open relationship, polyamory, swinging)

NRE — An acronym used to stand for “New Relationship Energy.” NRE is a state of mind experienced at the beginning of a relationship, often involving heightened emotional and sexual receptivity and excitement.

Orgy — A sexual encounter involving four or more people. May also refer to a gathering of swingers.

Outing — The non-consensual disclosure of someone’s sexual or cultural affiliations, status, identity, or activities.

Pansexual — A sexual orientation categorized by an interest or attraction to individuals of any sex or gender.

Pick-Up Play — Scenes or play of a spontaneous or casual nature.

Play — (1) The actions and interactions within a scene. This term is often used in the kink communities. (2) Sexual interaction between two or more individuals. This term is often used in the swinger or anonymous sex communities. (See Work)

Play Date — A pre-agreed time to connect with another individual, usually for the purpose of exploring kink together or having a scene.

Play Party — A social event in the kink community in which participants interact with other kinksters and participate in kink activities.

Polyamory — The desire, practice or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time, with the consent of all parties involved.

Play Party — A kink, leather or BDSM event where space is created so that participants have the opportunity to engage in scenes. (also known as a dungeon party, dungeon event, house party, private party)

Power Exchange — An interpersonal association in which the participants mutually consent to assume or yield authority. (See D/S, M/S)

Protector — An individual who is more experienced or more knowledgeable in the scene, who acts as a buffer for less experienced or knowledgeable individual as that person develops their confidence or experience level. Protectors are often aligned within the identity of an individual seeking protection (e.g. an experienced submissive “protecting” a less experienced submissive, or a house “protecting” a novice member of the community).

Protocol — A code of behavior that delineates expectations. Protocols may be used within a sub-community or power exchange dynamic to standardize etiquette.

Queer — (1) An umbrella term for persons operating beyond a gender or identity binary. (2) Individuals operating outside social or societal constructs of identity or sexuality. (3) A sexual orientation categorized by an interest or attraction to individuals, unfettered by gender identities or labels.

RACK — An acronym for Risk Aware Consensual Kink.

Sacred Kink — Kink activities or expression which explore the connection between kink and spirit, energy, and/or a higher power (also known as sado-shamanism, erotomancy)

Sadism — The act of providing intense sensation, pain or suffering for sexual or sensual gratification.

Sadist — An individual who experiences sexual or sensual gratification from the act of providing intense sensation, pain or suffering.

Safe Call — A safety technique used with a scene partner where an individual shares information about the scene (location, planned activities, general information about the people involved) with an unbiased outside individual and specifies a check-in time. If there is no check-in at the agreed upon time, permission is given to release information to a predetermined authority. (also known as a silent alarm)

Safer Sex — Tools and techniques for reducing the potential transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

Safeword — A communication tool used for managing the flow of a scene. Often used as a means to indicate that there is a problem or may soon be a problem. Common versions include the stoplight system (red meaning stop, yellow meaning pause, and green meaning go) or simply saying “safeword” to end. (also known as a safe signal)

Scene — (1) A kink encounter that has a delineated beginning, middle, and end. (e.g. “They had a scene.”
(2) An umbrella term for the kink community as a whole. (e.g. “We are part of the scene.”) (also known as a scenario, session)

Scene Name — A pseudonym used to maintain the anonymity of an individual, or to delineate between one’s kink and default world experiences.

Sensation Play — Activities that focus on a wide range of physical or sensory techniques or interactions. This includes exploring touch, sight, scent, taste, sound, or the deprivation of input to those senses.

Service — The process of providing assistance or engaging in helpful activities. In the kink communities, service may include household chores, body care, attending to company, administration, or sexual acts.

Slave — An individual who practices consensual servitude to another human within the structure of a power exchange dynamic. An individual may identify as a Slave regardless of relationship status.

Soft Limits — Scenes or activities that are potentially negotiable, but usually require very detailed negotiation and /or a higher degree of intimacy between the involved parties. (See Hard Limits)

Space — An altered state of consciousness often as a result of fully engaging in one’s kink desires or activities. This can be characterized by euphoria, disorientation, hyper-sensitivity, disassociation, reduction of communication skills, hyper-focus, or primal energy. (also known as bottomspace, domspace, subspace, topspace, ropespace, headspace)

SSC — An acronym for Safe, Sane and Consensual.

STD, STI — Acronyms for Sexually Transmitted Disease and Sexually Transmitted Infection.

Submission — The act of seceding control.

Submissive — (1) adj. The quality of ceding authority or influence. (2) noun. An individual who surrenders control in a power exchange dynamic. (also known as a Sub)

Swinging — The activity of lifestyle in which individuals or couples consensually trade or engage with others. Styles of swinging vary and may include gang bangs, orgies, group sex, swapping or cuckoldry.

Switch — (1) An individual who enjoys playing in the role of both top and bottom. (ex. “They are a switch”) (2) The act of moving from “top” to “bottom” in the course of a scene or encounter. (ex. “They switched mid-scene”) (3) An individual who explores fluidity within power dynamics. (ex. “They switch within their relationship”)

TNG — An acronym for The Next Generation. A group or organization which caters to younger people involved in BDSM, typically ages 18-35.

Top — An individual who controls the action of and is the provider of physical for sensation in a scene.

Troll — Slang term in the kink and alternative sexuality populations for individuals who post online or come into groups with the intention of causing maximum disruption or getting maximum attention.

Vanilla — Slang for individuals who are not kink-identified, not actively engaged in BDSM activities, or part of the kink lifestyle. May refer to non-kink activities. This term is often derogatory in nature.

Voyeurism — The compulsion, desire or fetish to view others. This may include physical exposure or mental and emotional observation.

Warm up — The practice of gradually escalating the intensity of a scene. This may include both physical and mental adjustment to the session.

Work — The actions and interactions within a scene. This word is considered more formal in its approach that using the term “play.” (See Play)

YMMV — An acronym for Your Mileage May Vary.

(c) Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams

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Lee Harrington

Lee Harrington is an internationally known sexuality, relationships, and personal authenticity educator. Having taught in all 50 states and in 6 countries, he brings a combination of playful engagement and thoughtful academic dialogue to a broad audience. An award-winning author and editor on gender, sexual, and sacred experience, his books include “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Journeys,” and "Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond," among many other titles. He has been blogging online since 1998, and been teaching worldwide since 2001. Welcome to his world, and your chance to expand your mind and heart alike.

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