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Kink 101

A local expert explains how to tell a bottom from a sub and other BDSM mysteries


Published February 23, 2010 at 6:43 p.m.

Most of us can claim some familiarity with the basic tools of the kink trade — whips, paddles, leather, handcuffs. We’ve seen enough in pop culture to know they’re the implements of those who prefer their eroticism exotic. But when asked to describe the BDSM scene in more detail, most of us vanillas come up short.

Well, you needn’t be in the dark anymore, unless that’s your thing — Flirticia is here to help. This buxom kinkster has been involved with the nascent Vermont BDSM community for the past 10 years. As the director of Rose & Thorn, a BDSM group serving the Greater Burlington area, Flirticia sees it as her responsibility to educate people on exactly what the kink, fetish and BDSM group is all about. (See “Spanks for the Memories,” for a primer on Vermont kink event the Spectacle of Sin.)

Lucky for you, Flirticia agreed to be your guide through the sometimes-murky waters of extreme sex. Below is a beginner’s dictionary of important BDSM terms. Think of it as Kink 101. Study hard. There will be a test, you dirty beasts.

Autoerotic asphyxiation — the act of curtailing one’s own airflow to achieve a more intense sexual experience. Flirticia warns that this act is very dangerous and rare in BDSM. The highly publicized deaths of actor David Carradine and singer Michael Hutchence have made the practice seem more widespread than it is.

BDSM — umbrella term for any sort of extreme sexual behavior. Bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadism and masochism.

Bondage — the act of restraining or tying someone up.

Bottom — someone who is the recipient of sexual acts. He/she is not necessarily a submissive.

Consent — an absolute must in the BDSM community. A person who gives consent agrees to the scene and understands the implications of the activity in which he or she is engaging. Anyone who doesn’t ask for a participant’s consent should not be played with, says Flirticia.

D/s — abbreviation for the dominant/submissive relationship.

Discipline — controlling behavior through the use of rules and punishment. Punishment can include physical or psychological pain.

Dominant — person who has power and influence over another in a scene. He/she is not necessarily a top. Opposite of a submissive.

Domination — act of exerting power and control over another. Opposite of submission.

Fetish — any inanimate object given unreasonable attention, or any nonsexual part of the body that arouses erotic feelings.

Kink — any unconventional sexual practices, including sexual fetishism, bondage, domination/submission and sadomasochism.

Level I-III groups — designation of BDSM groups. Level I groups meet in public places for discussions about the lifestyle. Level II groups are private and host demonstrations and educational opportunities for members. They do not sponsor play parties. Vermont Rose & Thorn is a Level II group. Level III groups host play parties with multiple people at private homes or clubs.

Masochism — the state of deriving sexual gratification from pain or emotional abuse inflicted on oneself. From Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-95).

Master/Mistress — “owner” of a slave in a Master/slave relationship. A Master has usually been given the right to exercise authority over the slave. Obviously, says Flirticia, there is no true ownership, since human bondage was outlawed almost 150 years ago.

Munch — informal meeting of people interested in the BDSM scene. Does not involve any sexual activity.

Play — participating in BDSM activity.

Play party — private party where people can engage in BDSM activity.

Poly — person who is polyamorous (in consenting sexual relationships with more than one person).

Pro domme — a professional dominatrix who gets paid to engage in BDSM play. According to Flirticia, there are no such women in Vermont. However, there are plenty in Montréal.

Sadism — the state of deriving sexual gratification from inflicting pain or emotional abuse on others. From the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814).

Safe word — word agreed on by both parties in a BDSM scene that means “stop.” Often that word is “red,” says Flirticia.

Scene — verb meaning to play. Noun meaning a BDSM play session.

Slave — human chattel “owned” by a Master/Mistress. See definition of Master/Mistress.

SSC — guiding tenet of BDSM, meaning “safe, sane and consensual.” All parties must be safe and sane, and the activity must be consensual.

Submission — state of yielding to the power or authority of another. Opposite of domination.

Submissive — a person who yields to the will and wishes of another in a scene. He/she is not necessarily a bottom.

Subspace — psychological state of the submissive partner, or the feeling of euphoria that comes from intense experiences of both pain and pleasure.

Top — person who performs sexual acts on a bottom. He/she is not necessarily a dominant.

Vanilla — anything that society views as normal. As Flirticia says, “Anybody but us.” “Vanilla sex” is standard sex that does not involve BDSM, kink or fetish activity.