Roles and Relationships in BDSM


With the popularity of the 50 Shades novels, as well as the growing interest on the internet, I decided to layout the different roles and relationships seen within the BDSM community.

Many of you are probably already familiar with them, but the way I see things might differ from your own views and it's always nice to see a fresh perspective on the Lifestyle.


Remember that not all people fall under one label or category. Some people are self proclaimed Masters instead of just a Dominant, others are self proclaimed slaves instead of just a submissive. It is not about the labels. It is about what you feel deep inside yourself. BDSM is about the deep connection you get when taking complete control of another person or surrendering complete control.


Also remember that there are many kinds of Dominants and submissives in sub-categories. I won't expound on those today. If you have a different view, please comment. I love feedback and am always wanting to grow in my knowledge.


Top/Dominant/Dom/Domme 

These refer to the person in charge or in control. These titles are generally used only during scene play. They are not used as a form of address a Dominant, but only to describe the person.


Master/Mistress 

This title refers to the person in control and is usually only used in a Master/slave relationship. It is also the most commonly used name to address the Dominant in a M/s relationship.


Bottom/Submissive 

These titles refer to the one that submits.


Slave 

A slave is an individual who is wholly under the control of a Master. They freely surrendered their rights and privileges as an individual. A slave thrives on the opportunity to provide unconditional service and to exceed their Owner's expectations. The slave is devoted to the service and the will of their Owner.


Switch 

This title refers to someone who plays both Dom and Sub roles, usually with different partners.


Relationships 

Depending on how you and your partner decide to practice a BDSM lifestyle, will determine which relationship you fall under. There are three main areas relationships can be categorized as, with many variations possible underneath.


Top/bottom 

This type of play is normally reserved for a Dom and sub that play with each other from time to time. They do not have a fixed relationship. It also encompasses people that just meet up on the weekends at BDSM clubs and do a scene together. Their knowledge of each other is limited or non-existent. The power exchange and negotiations are in place solely for that specific scene.


Dominant/submissive 

In these relationships the focus is not on just play, but also on the mental aspects of the power exchange and service by the submissive. The power exchange is not always obvious, but each person involved knows their place whether play has occured recently or not. In this kind of relationship, one finds rules of behavior, expectations, and tasks put on the submissive. The majority of mainstream BDSM relationships fall into this category. Such a relationship may or may not include love. It also may or may not include limits on play activities, which were imposed by the submissive.


Master/slave

In this type of relationship, there is a total giving of power from the slave to the Dominant. It is, in fact, a total power exchange (TPE). Like the D/s relationship, the power exchange is present outside of sexual encounters. Unlike the D/s relationship, the slave can not and does not set any limits on the Dominant and usually does not have a safeword. As in the D/s relationship, you will find rules of behavior, expectations and tasks placed on the slave.


These rules normally cover a lot more area, such as tone of voice, body movements, sleeping and eating habits, poise and more. The main focus of this relationship is the service of the slave, not sexual gratification. The service of the slave is the most satisfying and driving force behind the relationship. Those involved in an M/s relationship, do so because they need to serve or be served. The slave wants to relinquish all control to the Dominant and is happiest when he/she finds the right Dominant for them to which they can fully submit.


There is a fourth type of relationship I have seen, yet have not heard anyone name it or clearly define it, but it does exist. It comes between a D/s and an M/s relationship. It has traits of both types. It focuses more on service and mental aspects than a standard D/s relationship, yet still has a bit more focus on the physical aspects than the M/s relationship.


In such a relationship, the submissive exhibits and is happiest with quite a few attributes of the M/s relationship. It usually contains blanket consent, no safe words, and no limits. Such a relationship can grow into an M/s one or revert to a D/s one, depending on what the participants want.


Because of the many variations of relationships, it is good to have a general idea of the different relationships that are possible. Armed with such information, it becomes easier to avoid finding yourself in a relationship that you either can't handle or just are not happy in. It is extremely important that prospective partners discuss what they want in a relationship, and honestly evaluate if their visions of the ideal relationship match.

© 2018 by Michelle Fegatofi