BDSM Terminology

Discussion in 'General BDSM discussions' started by sugar, Aug 6, 2011.

  1. sugar

    sugar Member

    Top, Master, Domme vs Bottom, Slave, sub

    it wasn't until recently i found out that the term "Master" is different from the term "Top"....and being a slave is different from being a sub....?! i know it is confusing.
    in simple english (Top, master, Domme) all mean that you are the boss....you are in control; whilst (Bottom, Slave , Sub) mean that you obey, you follow orders..

    but what is the difference between (sub & slave) or (domme&master)....
    I wrote this thread trying to get an excat definition of each of the above terms...to clear things out once for good...
     
  2. Smallest

    Smallest Moderator

    As an introduction/disclaimer: All of these are debatable and could be nuanced down to wits end, so I'm doing this to a brief understanding. Dom/me and sub are matched, as are top and bottom and Master and slave, but they're all nuances of the same ideas. All of them could be bedroom only or 24/7 total power exchange. And of course, all of them, despite degrees of severity, only are what they are if they're SCC.

    Dom and sub are pretty straightforward. A dom is one who likes to be dominant and in control, where a submissive likes being controlled and/or submitting to a dom.

    I find the main difference between this and Master/slave to be the severity and that a submissive is generally submitting to a Dom/me and trying to please, a slave is completely under control (at least during play). Master and slave are generally D/s, but that doesn't make all doms and subs Master/slave.

    Master/slave obviously, even in a 24/7 TPE relationship doesn't mean the same thing as a slave defined by the dictionary. It is, in the most basic sense, a more severe version of D/s. A master would have more control over his slave than a Dom over a sub, and the slave's servitude would be total, or at least during play. Instead of just submitting to the master's will and trying to please, a slave would be under complete control of the master during play.

    Top and bottom are more confusing, in my opinion. From both my perspective and a discussion with others, I've perceived this: Though it's been taken to mean that way sometimes, and seems like it makes sense, being a top doesn't necessarily mean you're in control. You could be a master who likes to always have their slave ride them, thus a bottom in control. However, due to the fact that it's been used crosswise, now it's somewhat crossed with dom, though a top could, technically be a sub. Same thing with bottom.

    Pretty much the same thing as top/bottom goes on for sadism and masochism. A masochist could be a master who loved having their slave hurt them for his (the master's) pleasure, or as usually interpreted, a submissive being tortured for he and his master. It's less likely for a sub to be sadistic though, I find, seeing as that means taking control, something subs aren't inclined to.
     
  3. sebastian

    sebastian Active Member

    Top and bottom originated in gay BDSM terminology to mean the one in control and the one being controlled. They spread into the vanilla gay community, which now uses them to mean the one inserting the penis and the one receiving the penis. Dom and sub emerged to replace top and bottom (at least that's my reading of the history).

    Another complication: in the gay community, in addition to all these terms, there is also daddy/boy, which tends to have an age or size distinction, though not always. And boys have more self-determination than slaves do.
     
  4. Knots

    Knots Member

    My understanding is thus:

    1. Dominant and submissive: A dominant (the dom/domme) is someone who, during a scene or otherwise, is acting "in control" of the submissive. Likewise, the submissive chooses to be controlled by the dominant. The two terms are fundamentally broad roleplay descriptors, which is why confusion will always arise to some extent; each D/s scene/relationship is unique, there is no codified "correct" way to be dominant or a way of being submissive which'll make every dominant in the land wet their underwear, it's what's agreed between the parties concerned.

    2. Master/mistress and slave: I would explain M/s relationships as an evolution of D/s relationships. The master/mistress has a more entire control over the slave than they would a sub, as the slave has surrendered their will to the master/mistress; they serve, instead of submit. I would say I agree with Smallest's earlier definition.

    3. Top and bottom: These terms can both compliment or contradict with M/s or D/s terms. However, the broadest possible understanding of the current use would be that the top delivers a sensation whilst the bottom receives a sensation during a scene. Thus it is often (in it's core sense) quite far removed from D/s and M/s.

    So, for instance, a master/mistress may have a slave pour hot wax on them, making the slave the top during the wax scene (as they're delivering a sensation) and the master/mistress the bottom (as they're receiving the sensation). Likewise, a dom/domme may decide to "punish" their slave with a spanking, meaning the dom/domme is acting as a top and the sub is acting as a bottom.

    The scene can be of any nature, of course, and could be quite vanilla; I think the term stems from literally "being on top" in vanilla relationships, as the person on top (typically) does more of the work. In the gay community, as Sebastian rightly pointed out, being a top typically refers to one inserting the penis; which, again, is referring to the one delivering a sensation.

    Hope this helped.
     
  5. sugar

    sugar Member

    i liked knots definitions the most.
    the slave serves, whilst the sub submits.
    i thinking being a slave means that you don't have a safeword, there are no rules, however being a slave doesn't come that easy, usually -if not in all cases- Master/slave relationship is an evolusion of dom/sub as knots mentioned.
    after the Sub spends long time with his/her Dom, the trust will be built to an ultimate level in which both parties would have complete understanding of each other and the sub would have 100% faith in his/her Dom, at this moment the sub will evolve into a slave.

    Master-Dom thing is kinda confusing.....for i have read that Master is a professional Dom, it is more like a title bestowed to the Dom by the BDSM community, it is like saying the Master has a Ph.D in BDSM, and there is even something like the "Grand Master"..!!! i don't know if that exist

    Top/Bottom is a scene related (time-limited) relationship, once the scene is over means that is it, everybody goes on his way....

    there is also another terminology....sadist/masochist, i think that is an easy one...they simply define your inclination.
     
  6. Knots

    Knots Member

    Sugar: Many M/s relationships retain a safe word, and many D/s relationships do not have a safe word. It'd be foolish to use this as a differentiating factor.

    I think you've slightly misunderstood how I meant evolution; I more meant an evolution of concept (I.E. a more intense level of BDSM play/lifestyle, as Smallest indicated) as oppose to m/s relationships always evolving from d/s relationships; as although you're right and this does happen, many recruit slaves as slaves to begin with.

    I expect using master to refer to a respected member of the BDSM community is used in certain circles (like how we might refer to Beethoven as a "master of music"), but this is a very different usage of the word to the sense I've defined above; which describes the role an individual plays in a relationship.

    Sadism is derving pleasure from inflicting pain, masochism is deriving pleasure from pain being inflicted upon you. There's no ambiguity at all with this terminology.
     
  7. sebastian

    sebastian Active Member

    Part of the problem is that there is not, and never was, a truly universally accepted definition of any of these terms. Different players use them in different ways. Some 'Old Guard' players think 'Master' should be an earned title, bestowed by the BDSM community in recognition of skill, while others simply use it because they like it. I've chatted with many subs online who immediately started calling me 'Master' the moment they opened their mouths. Sometimes I correct them and tell them to call me Sir. Other times I don't bother--clearly they like saying it. And some dom/mes like other titles such as 'god/dess' or 'queen'.

    The end result of this is that there's never going to be complete consistency on this. I would suggest just working out a rough idea of what you think those terms mean, but keep in mind that someone else may define them a little differently. For me, here is the relative scale of degree of power exchange, from least to most:

    Top/bottom
    Dom/sub
    Daddy/boy (or girl)
    Owner (or trainer)/pet (or pup)
    Master slave
     
  8. master jey

    master jey Moderator

    I'd give Daddy/boy a higher place on pedestal
    and my scheme will be like this
    Top/bottom
    Trainer/pet
    Dom/sub
    Daddy/boy
    Master/slave

    I think of Top/bottom relationship as a fan level of BDSM while I see Master/slave relationship as a dedication to lifestyle

    Also we had a really interesting thread about classification of the BDSM relationship levels it was a long time ago so many of our users won't remember
     
  9. Knots

    Knots Member

    Hehe, my scale would be different also:

    Top/bottom
    Daddy/boy
    Dom/sub
    Owner/pet
    Master/slave

    Noticing a pattern of consistent polar ends and muddled middle bits in these three scales hehe.
     

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