BDSM Basics: Who’s Who in the BDSM Scene

Rear view of a woman wearing a restraint cuff and holding a flogger behind her back

It’s time to introduce you to some of the most famous names in the kink community! This quick guide of who’s who in the BDSM scene will help you get to know the most common kinky characteristics of people playing in the kink world. 

The Dominant

These are the personalities inclined to control a scene, and ‘give’ the sensations. This can include a sexual role, but is generally more focused on establishing a foundation of trust to which a submissive can feel safe fulfilling the Dominant’s requirements.  

The submissive

Often identifiable by accessories denoting ownership or protection – collars, chokers, cuffs, harnesses – the submissive craves relinquishing control, while having someone trusted to care for them. They are the ‘receiver’ of the play.

The Switch

Chameleonic and quite prevalent, switches are people who enjoy participating in both sides of Dominance and submission. The dynamic shift with switches is generally dependent on their relationship with a play partner or the type of play, but is a very individual decision. There is no hard and fast ‘way’ to switch, simply people who are inclined to do it.

The Master/Mistress

If you see them at an event, they will always look phenomenal – they literally wear their kinks on their sleeve. In BDSM tradition, these titles were used by those Dominants who had ‘mastered’ themselves enough to take on the responsibility of mastering another by taking a slave, however these days it’s much more common that those using the Capital M are either known and respected long-term players, new players uneducated in the significance of the title, or pro-Dominants. 

The slave

Like the submissive, slaves can be quite easy to spot – sitting at the feet of their Master/Mistress, not speaking unless spoken to, or performing acts of service. The slave persona is a submissive one, but rather than wanting to be controlled, a slave wants to be wholly ‘owned’; consenting once to slavery, and trusting their Owner to use that consent in the slave’s best interest.

The Femme Domme

Due to the world at large assuming that dominant was ‘a boy thing’ (cos, y’know, men have to be in charge) it became necessary for women who enjoy the Dominant role to distinguish themselves. The term seems to be coined around the late 1970’s, by combining the French word for woman (femme) with a common French feminisation to the spelling of the English abbreviation of ‘dom’ (domme). A Femme Domme is simply a female-identifying person who enjoys a Dominant kink role.

The Dominatrix

If you have the opportunity to connect with a Dominatrix, chances are you will be paying for the privilege. This is another specifically female title, and is most commonly used by non-male-identifying kink professionals and sex workers who offer BDSM services.  

The Sadist

Be they armed with a sports bag full of impact toys, equipped with a box of needles and latex gloves, or simply chuckling amongst themselves, the sadists are the ones devising and desiring the giving of pain (to a willing partner, of course). Sadists are not definitively Dominant, although they do often take a Top (or Dominant) role in order to enact their kink.

The Masochist

A canvas to the sadist, the masochist is someone you’ll see actively enjoying the pain inflicted upon them, be it physical or psychological (eg. humiliation and degradation). Similar to the sadist, the masochist does not necessarily have to be on the D/s spectrum, but being the receiver of pain does tend to put them in the submissive position. 

The Sado-Masochist

Just as the switch varies their position of the D/s spectrum, the sado-masochist indulges in both sides of the sadist and masochism equation. Also similar to the switch, the sado-masochist changes their role depending on play and partners, but can also indulge both sides within the same scene.

The Fetishist

These are those who are drawn to kink based on a very particular sexual desire for something that is not generally seen as being sexual. Fetishists are often extremely committed, and in public play spaces some are quite easily identifiable by their adherence to a particular material – like rubber/latex or leather. But many fetishes are much more subtle and private, and are only revealed once trust is established.

The Kinkster

There’s a bunch of people who like variations to ‘the norm’ within their sex life or relationships outside of mainstream monogamy, but unless they embrace the open mind of the kinkster, they’re just having kinky sex. Kinksters play (and often live) by the code of ‘Your Kink’s Not My Kink, and That’s OK’ – aka  the very clumsy acronym YKNMKTOK. Kinksters are often all-rounders, tending to indulge in a range of play, but choosing to remain somewhat detached to a particular pattern of play.

The Hedonist

These are the pleasure seekers of the kink world; those who enjoy for the sensory, psychological, and/or sexual high that only comes with indulging in that which gives the most personal satisfaction. This is not to say hedonists are selfish lovers or partners. On the contrary, many hedonists find great personal joy in seeing pleasure in others. Hedonists are considered a part of the kink world, as their fundamental drives can tend toward non-monogamy, and a deep need for sensual exploration. 

The Primal

With drives very similar to the hedonist, Primals are people who enjoy sexual and sensual intimacy in ‘animalistic’ and purely instinctual expression – often with a ‘predator and prey’ dynamic that can also double as a D/s relationship. Although Primal play can be a rough and physical work-out (wrestling, fucking, biting, growling, escaping… more wrestling, yelping, fucking…etc) but there is also a softer side, with lots of snuggles, licks, and appreciative squeaks. 

As you continue your exploration of kink you will find that there are subsets within the roles we’ve listed and people may have multiple roles. Someone may be Dominant and also take on the role of being a Mentor to some, Protector to others whilst owning a slave or having one or a number of submissives. Those we’ve listed are the core players you will encounter and are fundamental to the “structure” of the scene. And of course this should be a handy reference if you’re reading a profile to determine if someone using one of these titles is someone you want to connect with, if they are aligned to what you’re looking for. However you choose to identify within the bdsm community always remember to respect that other people may choose roles which you don’t identify with or even understand and that’s fine too. The complexity of relationship dynamics within the kink world is possibly why the kink community attracts so many people. As you continue your kink journey you will start to appreciate the rich complexity and interplay which will allow you to be whoever you want to be. 

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21 comments

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  • Inquizitive

    Inquizitive

    More than a month ago

    Those of us that are versed & live a BDSM lifestyle feel there seems to be soooo much confusion around this.
    Many responders to my profile don't read it properly & assume BDSM is all about rough sex & hair pulling.
    Brisbane, seems to be a city lacking in knowledge of BDSM compared to Sydney & Melbourne.
    This is a Good brief overview. T.Y
    Would be great if we could post these as links on our profiles

    Reply
  • Jayvon

    Jayvon

    More than a month ago

    I think we are kinkster hedonists.
    Good to know lol

    Reply
  • BloodSlut

    BloodSlut

    More than a month ago

    Another great article.

    Reply
  • Masterplussub

    Masterplussub

    More than a month ago

    As there are dangerous drivers on the road ,we all to to keep clear of , there are dangerous , Dom/ Masters ect .
    Both can wreck you . I have had 3 slave over passed 14 years , I protect them and honor there trust in me and our relationship
    If you find a master that will protect and honor what you give them , keep them close as they are few and far between .

    Reply
  • Mockingbirdy

    Mockingbirdy

    More than a month ago

    Great article and I look forward to future articles. Its always been interesting to me when I ask people with bdsm interests in their profile if they are active in the local community, and the answer always seems to be no.

    • WoodynMinx

      WoodynMinx

      More than a month ago

      Mockingbirdy, many hide their privacy even more than swingers, and even after a couple of decades in the BDSM scene I still don’t announce it widely but we go through times of being very active, and periods very much doing our own thing.

      In the swinging scene I have had a fair bit of negative reaction and sometimes worse judgement than from vanillas, had it sprung on me at parties that someone that wanted to play with me was after something that I reserve for my partner and committed submissive or people we have vetted and had meaningful discussions with, or been treated as a BDSM jukebox with people wanting me to perform certain things for their entertainment and I disappointed them and called it. So it is shaky ground for most of us to put it out there. I still don’t acknowledge people I know from the scene in public venues because their lives rely on other’s discretion.

      If you are genuinely interested, that is a conversation you can ask for and most will be happy to share.

      It’s a great article and I like the work of MisKnickers and appreciate the effort she puts into introducing people to BDSM.

    • Mockingbirdy

      Mockingbirdy

      More than a month ago

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Woodynminx, I appreciate the information.

    Reply
  • BadMoodBunny

    BadMoodBunny

    More than a month ago

    This article is a great starting point.

    I will point out for those not in the lifestyle that a submissive may not be wearing a collar or their collar is non traditional so may not be easily recognised for what it is.
    And harnesses are not just worn by subs.

    I would also like to say for people starting out, there are many types of Doms, just as there are many types of subs and it will take some time to find what works for you.

    I myself am a sub but the types of sub that I am are little, brat, rope bunny, prey, with a bit of masochist and hedonist thrown in.

    No one fits in to one specific category 100% so don’t be afraid to research.

    But also beware of fakes and they are out there. The can be very dangerous.
    BDSM while an amazing lifestyle can be dangerous if the precautions aren’t taken and you are with the wrong person. SSC Safe, Sane, Consensual and RACK Risk Aware Consensual Kink are thing to keep in mind and open communication is key.

    • AMM.Editor

      AMM.Editor

      More than a month ago

      All good points and with reference to collars, MisKnickers did say "often identifiable" and we added a link to her article on collars so members could be more informed.

      Plus the link in the closing paragraph about continuing your kink journey will take curious newbies or those ready to explore through to her article which talks at length about mentors, staying safe, consent, RACK, negotiation, meeting prior to play, predators and red flags. This BDSM basics series is there to educate so we always add plenty of cross links.

    • BadMoodBunny

      BadMoodBunny

      More than a month ago

      I’d like to say that collars are not ‘often identifiable’ unless you are in a specific BDSM venue/scene. And that not all subs wear them. As these were simply two things that I have been asked about almost instantly when it comes to collars. So saw no issue adding the info.

      And I’ve read those articles myself, but I also know that not every one clicks on cross links with out some words that just pique the interest. Nor do they research with out specific terms.

      I’m encouraging newbies to research beyond just this site. Because it can better inform them in a more vast spectrum.

      Especially considering all the platforms people come into contact with BDSM content.

      I say this as a sub that has faced predators/fakes, and didn’t realise because of how early in my journey it was, that SSC and RACK as well as very open communication and clear consent are paramount.

      I encourage people to read the cross linked articles but I also encourage them to take the research beyond just a few sites to get some true understanding.

      I also encourage people to learn about kinks/fetishes that aren’t your style to promote understanding, it’s not your kink but showing understanding can mean a lot

    • AMM.Editor

      AMM.Editor

      More than a month ago

      Totally take your point about being informed. We see so many badly written articles on the internet which don’t talk about consent or are written by people obviously not in the bdsm scene or feel after having attended 2 parties that they know everything. Unfortunately this is always going to be the case especially with sites who use fiver writers or who plagiarise content from other websites without having a clear understanding of all of the aspects. That’s why we’re so grateful to have MisKnickers write our series of BDSM Basics for us as an Australian writer well respected in the Melbourne kink scene and has been DM at some of the largest dungeons in Melbourne, who has great attention to detail and a strong understanding of everything kink related.

    Reply
  • KinkyGirl101

    KinkyGirl101

    More than a month ago

    Very informative, thank you. I was not aware of Hedonist and Primal but can certainly relate to the former.

    Reply
  • Dirty.Martini

    Dirty.Martini

    More than a month ago

    A really enlightening piece - thank you.

    While I’ve generally thought of myself as a Switch, if one is required to choose a single title, this article reveals that kink is a journey and often an evolution. So I guess my inner Switch naturally allows my Primal and Hedonistic impulses to join the party too :)

    • BadMoodBunny

      BadMoodBunny

      More than a month ago

      You are in no way required to ‘choose’ just one, we are complicated beings and as such we can’t be put into set boxes or categories neatly

    • Dirty.Martini

      Dirty.Martini

      More than a month ago

      Couldn’t agree more BBG - I think it’s limiting and narrow minded to imagine we are only ever one way and not another, or that we can’t evolve. Appreciate your words. x

    • MisKnickers

      MisKnickers

      More than a month ago

      Hey Alpha.bet... :)

      Really glad this piece was enlightening for you. :) You're totally right, kink is a journey and an evolution - in fact, many people chop and change titles and labels as they discover what really delights them.
      Rather than thinking about it as a choice of titles, you could consider yourself a switch with hedonistic and primal tendencies... Or a Primal who likes playing both Predator and Prey... Or a Hedonist who can Top or bottom... :) Or a kinky human who likes exploring.
      Kinda like medical diagnosis, these labels never define us as people, but they can be useful shorthand for describing some core aspects of ourselves.
      Happy kinking!

    • Fuckudeep129
      Online status icon

      Fuckudeep129

      More than a month ago

      yes, i don't know if i could be dominant, being a shyish, introverted person, I'd think I'd more likely to excel in being a sub, but that would be open for discussion, i can be primal when in a sexual frenzy, but really i suppose each to their own

    Reply
  • 195Dee

    195Dee

    More than a month ago

    Thanks MisKnickers some good clarification on roles there and a good read, Well written. I'm not quite sure which role i am in, maybe a new role.....Dreamer lol.
    Miss Dee.

    • MisKnickers

      MisKnickers

      More than a month ago

      Ooooo! I would love to hear more about that role!

    • 195Dee

      Account Closed

      More than a month ago

      If you’d care to message me i’d love some psycho analysing as I’ve never had the opportunity to actually discuss my persona although I feel unique I’m absolutely sure i’m not
      Miss Dee

    Reply
  • AliGirl443

    AliGirl443

    More than a month ago

    Fantastic article and well written :)

    Reply
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