What do you mean "bdsm"?

The abbreviation bdsm summarises three other terms: b&d, d&s, s&m.

b&d: bondage & discipline
d&s: dominance & submission
s&m: sadism & masochism

Some people use the term s&m or SM to mean all of those. But I don't like the etymology of that, for the following reasons:

  1. the usual meanings of sadism and masochism are about giving & receiving pain, whereas dominance and submission and bondage, and even "discipline", may well not involve any pain at all, so it's a bit like calling all vacuum cleaners "Hoovers" in my opinion

  2. the word "sadism" comes from the Marquis de Sade, and those stories are not notable for their inclusion of the key principles "safe, sane and consensual"...

  3. ...and the word "masochism" comes from some bloke's name as well.

On the other hand, some people say that SM stands for Sex Magic or Sensual Magic...

On the other other hand, some people feel it's important not to evade the point that pain is sexy for some people sometimes, so for that reason they feel it's important to use the words sadism and masochism...

On the other other other hand, some people refer to the whole area as "Consensual power exchange".

What I like about the term bdsm is it's both explicit and inclusive, without putting too much emphasis on old Leopold & de Sade. So there is my reasoning!


The coolest place on the net for bdsm used to be alt.sex.bondage. Unfortunately, last time I looked there, it had been entirely taken over by the dreaded spam. a.s.b had a really good FAQ somewhere too.


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