BDSM is an expanding term traditionally referring to bondage and discipline, dominance and submission as well as sadism and masochism. In many circles it has grown to include or welcome anyone with non-normative desires or kinks. BDSM often focuses on pleasure and gratification while emphasizing exchanges in power between people partaking in a given session. Often associated with pain, restraints and potentially humiliation - it is important to note that none of those factors are a requirement and the community at large is highly attune to the safety and consent of all individuals at all times.

Activities and relationships within a BDSM context are often characterized by the participants taking on complementary, but unequal roles; thus, the idea of informed consent of both the partners is essential. The terms "submissive" and "dominant" are often used to distinguish these roles: the dominant partner ("dom") takes psychological control over the submissive ("sub"). The terms "top" and "bottom" are also used: the top is the instigator of an action while the bottom is the receiver of the action. The two sets of terms are subtly different: for example, someone may choose to act as bottom to another person, for example, by being whipped, purely recreationally, without any implication of being psychologically dominated by them, or a submissive may be ordered to massage their dominant partner. Despite the bottom performing the action and the top receiving they have not necessarily switched roles.

The abbreviations "sub" and "dom" are frequently used instead of "submissive" and "dominant". Sometimes the female-specific terms "mistress", "domme" or "dominatrix" are used to describe a dominant woman, instead of the gender-neutral term "dom". Individuals who can change between top/dominant and bottom/submissive roles—whether from relationship to relationship or within a given relationship—are known as switches. The precise definition of roles and self-identification is a common subject of debate within the community.
BDSM actions can often take place during a specific period of time agreed to by both parties, referred to as "play", a "scene", or a "session". Participants usually derive pleasure from this, even though many of the practices—such as inflicting pain or humiliation or being restrained — would be unpleasant under other circumstances. Explicit sexual activity, such as sexual penetration, may occur within a session, but is not essential.

BDSM play is usually structured such that it is possible for the consenting partner to withdraw his or her consent at any point during a scene. For example, a person might use a safeword that was agreed on in advance to immediately stop the session. Use of the agreed safeword (or occasionally a "safe symbol" such as dropping a ball or ringing a bell, especially when speech is restricted) is seen by some as an explicit withdrawal of consent. Failure to honor a safeword is considered serious misconduct and could even change the sexual consent situation into a crime, depending on the relevant law, since the bottom or top has explicitly revoked his or her consent to any actions that follow the use of the safeword. For other scenes, particularly in established relationships, a safeword may be agreed to signify a warning rather than explicit withdrawal of consent.

YesNoMaybe is a proud supporter of the BDSM community and urges everyone to consider the benefits of inclusion of such activities within their life. Some of those are:

  • Understanding and respecting explicit consert - either in giving or receiving - between individuals.
  • Increasing communication and trust between partnerts.
  • Expanding one's horizon and fulfilling the human experience of life.