BDSM Symbolism

BDSM Symbolism

BDSM symbolism

I’m a sucker for symbolism. I love it. Especially when it comes to the BDSM lifestyle, I love for things to be orderly and clear. It’s vital for communication to be clear between BDSM players but wouldn’t it be great to have symbols to let others know certain things about you? Of course, people not in the BDSM community would have no idea and I love that it’d be a little wink (or more) to others in the know.

In my Sweet Island Series, I created a collar color system to let others know the extent to which they could use the submissives on the island. I know this isn’t a new concept but I enjoyed creating this system and watching it unfold in my writing. It makes me long for something like this in real life.

I looked around for BDSM symbols in use, outside of the flags, and here are some that I found. Most of these were created by Tanos in 1990s. I tried locating his current site but had no luck.

If you know of any I left out, please let me know in the comments and I’ll include them. I want to have them all in one orderly place. Keep in mind that consent is essential in all power exchange dynamics and play. Read the guide on BDSM Dynamics and Players for more info.

This symbol was purposefully made to not be easily identifiable as a BDSM symbol. It allows people to wear it without people outside of the BDSM community knowing what it means.

Its three-spoked wheel represents the three divisions of BDSM: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. It also is said to represent the three-word creed of BDSM: safe, sane consensual. Another aspect is that it represents the three roles people play in a BDSM dynamic: top, bottom and switch.

I forget where I originally bumped into this symbol but it represents someone’s inequality to another. It’s mostly been used to represent a woman submissive being unequal to her male Dom but I’m sure it can be used in all sorts of BDSM dynamics.

Designed as a keyhole, the free use symbol lets others know that a woman (the keyhole) is available for sex at any time under any circumstances if the symbol is visible.

This symbol is controversial due to its limitless nature which could lead to dangerous situations.

When used in roleplaying scenarios with well-vetted partners, limits, consent and safe words, it can be a fun symbol to use. But it is not recommended to be used without safeguards.

The circle with the plus sign represents a female submissive or slave while the circle with the up arrow represents a male submissive or slave. The circle represents the collar that many submissives and slaves wear. This was designed by Tanos in 1995.

The open square represents an unlocked cage and/or an uncollared submissive or slave. It shows others that this person is available and may be approached. The plus sign represents a female while the arrow represents a male. This was designed by Tanos in 1995.

The shield represents an owner, Master and/or Dominant. It represents the ownership of a slave or submissive. The plus sign represents a female owner while the arrow represents a male owner. This design was created by Tanos in 1995.


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