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BDSM: A composite acronym for "B&D" (bondage & discipline); "D&S" (dominance & submission); and "S&M" (sadomasochism). Used to refer to any consensual activities or lifestyles between adults which include some or all of these things. The term "BDSM" is used in a general sense to describe any situation or practice which includes erotic power exchange, dominance and submission, pain play, bondage, sensation play, or anything related to these.

BDSM activities and relationships differ from conventional activities and relationships in that they are based on the concept of partners taking on deliberately unequal but complementary roles, in an eroticized - but not always sexual - context. I.G. Frederick's novel Dommemoir, for example, is a fictionalized story of one woman's quest for complete ownership and control of her male slave. Beyond these basic tenets of eroticism, and of purposefully unequal roles within an activity or an interpersonal relationship, there is almost nothing which universally unites all the disparate subcultures which are grouped under the umbrella term BDSM. Interpersonal relationships which are based on the social conventions of one of the BDSM subcultures, exist in marked contrast with the current Western ideal of such relationships being based on a partnership between equals.

While the terminology for these unequal roles varies widely within the various BDSM subcultures, Top and Dominant are widely recognized terms for those partner(s) in the relationship or activity which are respectively the physically active or controlling participants, and Bottom and Submissive are widely recognized terms for those partner(s) in the relationship or activity which are respectively the physically receptive or controlled participants. The interaction between Tops and Bottoms, where physical and/or mental control of the Bottom is surrendered to the Top - whether in the context of a short term encounter typically referred to as a scene, or in the context of a longer-term relationship - is sometime known as power exchange.

 

 

BDSM actions often take place during a specific period of time agreed to by both parties, referred to as "play," "a scene" or "a session." All parties involved usually derive pleasure from this, even though many of the practices that are performed, such as inflicting pain, humiliation or being restrained would be considered unpleasant under normal circumstances. Sexual intercourse, be it oral, anal or vaginal, may occur within a session, but is not essential.

 

The fundamental principles for the exercise of BDSM require that it should be performed by mature and responsible partners, of their own volition, and in a safe way. Since the 1980s these basic principles have been condensed into the motto "Safe, sane and consensual", abbreviated as SSC, which means that everything is based on safe, sane and consenting behavior of all involved parties. This mutual consent makes a clear legal and ethical distinction between BDSM and crimes such as sexual assault or domestic violence.

 

 

Some BDSM practitioners prefer a code of behavior that differs from "SSC" and described as "Risk Aware Consensual Kink" (RACK), indicating a preference of a style in which the individual responsibility of the involved parties is emphasized more strongly, with each participant being responsible for his or her own well-being. RACK focuses primarily upon awareness and informed consent, rather than accepted safe practices. Consent is the most important criterion here. The consent and compliance for a sadomasochistic situation can be granted only by people who are able to judge the potential results. For their consent, they must have all relevant information (extent to which the scene will go, potential risks, if a safeword will be used, what that is, etc.) at hand and the necessary mental capacity to judge. The resulting consent and understanding is often summarized in a "contract", an agreement of what can and cannot take place.

 

In general, it must be possible for the consenting partner to withdraw his or her consent at any given time; for example, by using a safeword that was agreed on in advance. Failure to honor a safeword is considered the most serious misconduct that can take place in BDSM and can even change the sexual consent situation into a crime, depending on the relevant law, since the bottom has explicitly revoked his or her consent to any actions which follow the use of the safeword.

 
 
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