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BDSM DYNAMICS AND PLAYERS
I am intrigued by the variety of BDSM dynamics and players out there. The more I explore them, the more I want to learn.
I’ve always been interested in the interpersonal dynamics of relationships and how they work. After all, first and foremost I’m a romance writer. I’ve been reading about relationships and their dynamics since I was a tween. I’ve also gone through a few serious relationships and a few serious breakups and always sought to understand what worked and what didn’t work.
Since dipping my toe into the BDSM world (and erotic romance), I’ve learned that relationships can work in all sorts of ways. Some are romantic. Some are not. Some start out as strangers that turn into love and some start out as marriages that turn into something else. Some involve multiple people with multiple roles and some establish houses with rules so everything makes more sense.
I’ve always been a rule follower which is perhaps one of the reasons a BDSM type dynamic works for me. If you’re new to this world or like me, always wanting to learn something new and explore different dynamics, here are some of the basic BDSM dynamics and its players.
AFTERCARE: Emotional and physical support, usually provided by the Top, for the bottom after play to help calm the bottom down.
BDSM: BDSM is an abbreviation for the words bondage, discipline (or domination), sadism (or submission), and masochism. When people use the term BDSM, they’re referring to the community of people who practice these abbreviations. Not everyone practices all of them but people involved in the BDSM community usually use some form of power exchange, whether it’s in play only, 24/7 or somewhere in between.
CONSENT: The agreement between people to engage in a particular dynamic and/or play.
CONTRACT: A written agreement between people that outlines the specifics of their dynamic. The contract usually includes the length of the contract (from as little as playtime only to a lifetime), the roles and expectations of each participant, limits and the rules each need to follow. The contract also outlines safe words and gestures to be used to pause and stop play.
KINK: Unconventional sexual preferences.
LIMITS: HARD LIMITS: Activities that either the Top or bottom will not do. SOFT LIMITS: Activities that either person are reluctant to do but will try. It’s essential for anyone engaging in BDSM play to discover each other’s limits prior to play. Limits are often spelled out in contracts if there is one for the dynamic.
POWER EXCHANGE: One person giving their power over themselves to another. This could be temporary (playtime only) or more permanent (24/7 or TPE, total power exchange). Most BDSM dynamics include some form of power exchange.
SAFE WORD: A word or gesture (if unable to talk) used to pause or stop action. It’s important to agree on safe words before engaging in any power exchange dynamic to ensure the safety of everyone involved. They also allow the bottom to feel safe and comfortable during any play or protocols. The basic safe words used are RED for stop and YELLOW for slow down or pause. When used, the Top must adhere to the safe word rules and either stop or slow down/pause action. Not honoring a bottom’s safe words will not only corrupt the dynamic but is very dangerous.
SWITCH: A person who enjoys both the Top and bottom roles, who switches roles based on circumstances and/or play partners. For example, some switches are Dominant to one person while being submissive to another. Some switch with the same play partner, each taking turns being the Top and bottom.
BDSM SAFETY PHILOSOPHIES + CREDOS
When dealing with risky sexual play, many people find it essential to adhere to one of the various BDSM philosophies and credos. Here are a few of the more common ones. Decide for yourself which one makes the most sense to you and your dynamic.
CCC (COMMITTED COMPASSIONATE CONSENSUAL): Not as popular as the others, this philosophy emphasizes commitment to the dynamic, compassion for the participants and that everything is consensual. Used mostly in TPE type dynamics, it ensures that all participants have each others best interests in mind at all times.
CCCC (CARING COMMUNICATION CONSENT AND CAUTION): This philosophy emphasizes the caring and communication within the dynamic along with having consent and using caution in play.
PRICK (PERSONAL RISK INFORMED CONSENSUAL KINK): Derived from the RACK philosophy, PRICK emphasizes personal responsibility for acceptance of others behavior towards them as well as their own behavior. This philosophy also emphasizes making informed decisions prior to any play or activity.
RACK (RISK AWARE CONSENSUAL KINK): This philosophy emphasizes that all involved are aware of the innate risks involved in BDSM play and all agree to participate.
SSC (SAFE SANE AND CONSENSUAL): This BDSM credo emphasizes that participants focus on creating safe play for all those involved while also assuring that all consent to participate.
TPE (TOTAL POWER EXCHANGE): When one person gives total power of themselves over to another to be effective always. Otherwise known as a 24/7 dynamic. Usually, people in a TPE fall under the Master/slave relationship dynamic. Most have rules and protocols in place to make their relationship run smoothly. Some would argue that it isn’t a true TPE if there are limits but I’m not sure how realistic this would be while remaining safe for all those involved.
TAT (TOTAL AUTHORITY TRANSFER): When one person gives all decision making power to another. This could be for a set amount of time or complete authority for unlimited time. In this dynamic, one person is giving the other full authority over them. Similar to the TPE dynamic, rules and protocols are usually in place to help the dynamic run more smoothly. The couple may also choose to allow one to have authority over all decisions or only some decisions (such as financials, etc.).
CNC (NON-CONSENSUAL CONSENT): When one person consents to engage in forced (non-consensual) play. This one usually resolves around some sort of rape play where two people (or more) agree (consent) ahead of time that one will be forced sexually to do what the other(s) want. This type of play allows an extreme lack of control that some people crave. Rules and safe words are established prior to play to ensure the safety of all involved.
DD (DOMESTIC DISCIPLINE): When one person has authority over another that involves consensual corporal punishment, usually spankings, as a form of discipline. This dynamic is typically between a husband (the Dominant) and a wife (the submissive) but not always.
These are only a few of the typical BDSM players that I’ve found in my exploration. I’m sure there are many others and you’re always free to create terms that work best for you.
These terms are not dependent on gender identities or sexual orientations so I will try to keep my pronouns as neutral as possible. Most people capitalize the word identifying the person who has the control in the dynamic while never capitalizing the word identifying the one who has given up control, i.e. D/s, M/s, T/b.
TOP/bottom: These are the most generalized terms to describe two (or more) people in a power exchange dynamic. The Top is the one with the control while the bottom is the one who gave up control. Many people use these generalized terms when describing the basics of their dynamic even though they identify with more specific terms.
DOMINANT/submissive, DOMME/submissive or D/s: The Dominant or Domme is the one who has the control in the dynamic while the submissive is the one who has given up control. Most people use Dominant when male and Domme when female but this isn’t always the case.
MASTER/slave, MISTRESS/slave or M/s: Usually a more strict form of D/s with the Master or Mistress being in control and the slave giving up control. People often consider the slave property in this dynamic and it’s typical for the slave to give up more control and authority over to their Master or Mistress than in a D/s dynamic. The M/s dynamic is usually a TPE or TAT dynamic. Most people use Master when male and Mistress when female but this isn’t always the case.
SADIST/masochist: This dynamic revolves around pain, giving (Sadist) and receiving (masochist). Sometimes both enjoy giving and receiving. This dynamic is sometimes part of another BDSM dynamic, such as a D/s or M/s dynamic, but it doesn’t need to be. There are Sadists who identify as bottoms and masochists who identify as Tops and some who identify as switches (can go either way).
BIG/little, DADDY DOM/little girl (DDlg) or MOMMY DOM/little boy (MDlb): This dynamic involves one person taking on a parental role over the other while the other acts younger than they are. Littles usually engage in age play where they act significantly younger than they are, as young as infants up to early adolescents, and give up significant control their partner. The Big often offers a more nurturing approach to their domination, often acting as a guide and mentor.
HANDLER/pet: This dynamic involves one person taking a Handler (Dominant) role over the other while the other role plays as an animal, such as a puppy, cat, horse or pig. These roles may be used during playtime only or the dynamic may decide to take them on more 24/7. The pet play partner usually adapts to the characteristics of the pet they’re playing, going as far as to drink out of a water dish, whimper instead of talking, and wearing a collar and leash while walking on all fours.
HUNTER/prey or PREDATOR/mate: This dynamic involves primal play where one takes on the Hunter or Predator (Dominant) role while the other plays the prey or mate (submissive) role. The Hunter/Predator loves the chase while the prey/mate loves being chased, captured and consumed by the Hunter/Predator.