Every specialized topic has its jargon, and authority-based relationships are no exception. This glossary gives my working definitions of key terms relating to alternative relationships, kink, and BDSM. Some of these definitions are hotly debated in their respective communities, and not everyone will agree with where I come down on them, so don’t be surprised if you see these terms using differently by other authors.
Please note that all of these terms refer to consenting adults.
Terms Used to Describe Relationships
- Master/slave (M/s) relationship: A relationship paradigm in which, by mutual agreement, one partner (the slave) unilaterally transfers authority to the other (the Master) to direct most or all areas of the slave’s life. In some instances, the Master may return the right to make decisions to the slave in clearly defined life areas, such as parenting or religious observance; for specific purposes, such as making purchases or running a business; or for limited time periods, such as when the Master is unavailable or incapacitated. In an M/s relationship, withdrawal of consent by either party typically marks the end of the relationship. See also: Authority-based relationship.
- Dominant/submissive (D/s) relationship: A style of relationship in which, by mutual agreement, one partner (the submissive) agrees to a limited transfer of authority to the other partner (the Dominant). The limits may be defined by time, location, life area, or some combination of these. Either party retains the right to say “no” without that refusal implying an end to the relationship. See also: Authority-based relationship.
- Owner/property (O/p) or Ownership and Possession (O&P) relationship: A style of M/s relationship that emphasizes that the submissive partner is consensually owned human property. It may focus on objectification of the s-type. Sometimes used as an alternative to M/s to avoid the historical associations and emotional charge of the word slave. The original O&P manifesto was written by Tanos and published at ownership-possession.com, although at this writing, the site is unavailable.
- Authority-based relationship: a negotiated, consensual, non-egalitarian relationship; an M/s, D/s, or O/p relationship. I prefer this expression because it presents our dynamics in relatively neutral terms. In non-kink contexts the words dominant and submissive often refer to personality types rather than relational roles, and this use sometimes carries over into the kink community as well. Using “authority-based relationship” rather than “Dominant-submissive relationship” avoids the potential for confusion caused by these differing meanings.
- Egalitarian relationship: a neutral term for a relationship in which the partners have equal authority and retain individual autonomy; the opposite of an authority-based relationship. Sometimes referred to in the kink community as a “vanilla” relationship. Because “vanilla” can sound dismissive or even mildly pejorative, I tend to avoid it, especially in non-kink contexts.
- 24/7 relationship: a committed, full-time, ongoing relationship.
- Live-in: a 24/7 relationship in which the M- and s-types live together. Also used to refer to the s-type in such an arrangement, e.g., a live-in slave.
- Live-out: a 24/7 relationship in which the s-type does not live with the M-type. Also used to refer to the s-type in such an arrangement, e.g., a live-out slave.
Terms Used to Describe People
- D-type: generic, gender-inclusive shorthand for the leading partner in a D/s relationship, e.g., Dom/Domme Daddy, Mommy, Trainer, Handler, etc. Sometimes also referred to as “the left side of the slash.”
- M-type: generic, gender-inclusive shorthand for the leading partner in an M/s relationship, e.g., Master, Mistress, Owner, etc. Sometimes also referred to as “the left side of the slash.”
- s-type: generic, gender-inclusive shorthand for the following partner in an authority-based relationship, e.g., slave, submissive, girl, boy, pup, pony, etc. Sometimes also referred to as “the right side of the slash.”
Terms Used to Describe People in a Pleasure-Focused Dynamic
Note: These are terms used in my book The Way of the Pleasure Slave; not all are in common use in the wider community.
- Pleasure slave: an s-type whose function is to bring pleasure, primarily but not exclusively sexual, to their M-type.
- Unbonded slave: a single s-type, able to enter freely into an authority-based relationship. May be seeking training or undertaking a course of self-education in preparation to serve as a slave. If the latter, roughly equivalent to what I called a “ronin slave” in the Miss Abernathy books.
- Bonded slave: a partnered pleasure slave, one currently in an authority-based relationship. Equivalent to a slave who is “under contract” or “collared.”
- Odalisque: historically, a female slave in a harem; in a kink context, a type of pleasure slave, inspired by the traditions of the harem as depicted in 19th-century European Orientalist art and literature. Primarily represented in the kink world by the Code d’Odalisque and the Octagram of Tanos.
- Companion: one of a class of elite courtesans in the television series Firefly by Joss Whedon.
Terms Used to Describe Activities and Interests
- BDSM: shorthand for bondage and discipline (BD) and sadomasochism (SM); sometimes expanded to include dominance and submission (DS) as well. Those in the M/s community typically distinguish between BDSM activities (rope bondage, flogging, caning, etc.) and M/s and D/s relationship paradigms. I use the terms SM or BDSM to refer exclusively to activities.
- Kink, kinks, kinky: refers to erotic activities or tastes outside the norm. Since sexual norms vary from place to place and from community to community, so do definitions of “kinky.”
- Protocols: repeatable actions that lead to a predictable result. A protocol enumerates the steps in “how we do things.”
- Rituals: protocols designed to lead to a predictable emotional or spiritual result. Rituals primarily reinforce the M/s dynamic itself rather than to accomplish a practical goal.
- Vanilla: non-kinky, as in “vanilla sex.” See also: Egalitarian relationship.
Terms for Communities, Organizations, and Events
- M/s community: people involved in authority-based relationships who come together for mutual support; the big tent of M/s.
- Kink community: the big tent that includes BDSM, fetish, and other out-of-the-ordinary erotic interests along with authority-based relationships.
- Masters And slaves Together International (MAsT): an education, support, and resource group for people involved in, or interested in, the Master/slave lifestyle. At this writing, MAsT has more than 125 chapters worldwide. Chapters hold monthly discussion meetings.
- Master/slave Conference (MsC): annual educational conference held in the Washington, DC, area over Labor Day weekend. Includes the Northeast Master/slave Contest, a feeder contest for the International Master/slave Contest that is held annually at South Plains Leatherfest in Texas.