Common BDSM Roles and Finding Your Place

“Dominant”

What does it mean to be dominant? As I’ve explained in a previous article, being dominant isn’t about being “in charge” of the scene or situation. 

“It’s easy to think slapping on some leather, holding a flogger, and being a bit bossy is enough to dub yourself a dom, but there’s far more to it than that…” 

Being dominant is about taking the lead in a story, yes - but it’s a story you’ve both written. One of my favorite sayings about dominance is from Kinkly, when they explain that a dominant is, at best, the co-author in the story. 

Important things to remember as a dominant:

  • Communication is key. 
  • Consent and safety are paramount. 
  • Your submissive’s trust and submission is a gift.
  • You’re the leader that is in charge of keeping everyone safe.
  • It may take a while to find your stride and style as a Dom/me. 
  • Everyone does D/s differently. 

Common names for dominant individuals: 

  • Master/Mistress
  • Dom/Domme
  • Daddy/Mommy
  • Sir/Miss
  • Top
  • Alpha
  • Goddess/God
  • Lady/Lord
  • King/Queen
  • Big

Although these are all “common” names used for dominant people in the BDSM world, they can all have different meanings attached to them. Certain types of dominants will act in certain ways or seek out certain types of submissives. This article will hopefully explain the different kinds of dominants and submissives to allow you to better find yourself on the spectrum. 

What is Master/Mistress play?
Master and Mistress play is (like many of these categories) a rather broad type of BDSM play that can look different for every couple. Essentially, a Master (or Mistress) will expect certain acts of compliance from their submissive. Some submissives undergo a kind of “formal” training to comply with these guidelines and expectations set out by their Master/Mistress, whereas others have a more laid-back approach to the dynamic.

What is Daddy/Mommy play?
There is a lot of misconception around Mommy/Daddy play. In reality, much of the time it has nothing to do with age play or incest (although sometimes it can). In reality, a Mommy or Daddy dominant is someone who acts with extreme care toward their submissive, often taking on a nurturing role. In this scenario, the submissive (often called a “little”) may act in a childish way without actually engaging in age play. 

What is God/Goddess play?
If you (or your dominant) likes to be referred to as a God or Goddess, there may be some form of body worship involved. This type of dynamic has the submissive as something of a worshipper toward the dominant. They can be a regular submissive or have a name assigned to them such as “peasant” or “boy/girl”. 

What is a FinDomme/Financial Dominance?
A FinDom(me), or financial dominant, is a person whose primary kink (and objective) is the financial gain from their submissive. In a healthy version of this dynamic, the FinDom(me) is paired with a submissive whose kink it is to spoil, dote on and please their dominant. Ideally, this wouldn’t mean any financial hardships for the submissive, and a part of being a good FinDom(me) would be to ensure your submissive is able to continue this kind of dynamic without real-world consequences. 

This shouldn’t be confused with Pro-dom(me), which is more of a pay-to-play system many professional dom(me)s have set up.

What is a BDSM Mentor?
A BDSM mentor is someone who is there to offer advice on various BDSM activities. Typically, this may be a seasoned dom(me) who has taken a new submissive under their wing, so to speak - but it can also be the other way around. In fact, many people only wish to have a mentor who is the same role or gender as themselves. 

Ideally, in this partnership, there is no sexual involvement between the two. Unfortunately, a common toxic dominant trait is to use this kind of partnership to gain sexual favors. 

“Submissive” 

What does it mean to be submissive? The most important thing to note with submission (and dominance, too, for that matter) is that it’s a spectrum. For some reason, when we think about submission, we think about it in “all or nothing” terms. 

You can be a little submissive...or you can be completely submissive to the point where you don’t speak unless you’re told you can. It’s really and truly your choice to make. The role of a dominant is to respect and encourage the submissive to be the kind of submissive they desire. And the role of a submissive is to respect and serve their dom(me) in ways that you’ve agreed upon and consented to. 

Finding where you lie on the spectrum of submission can take time and, like most things, practice. If you’re interested in reading my full article on what it means to be submissive, check it out here

Important things to remember as a submissive: 

  • Your submission is a gift you choose to give, not something dominants are immediately owed.
  • You have a say in what happens, how it happens, and when it happens. 
  • Consent is yours to give and take back as you feel you need to. 
  • Dominant personalities need checking-in and aftercare, too. 
  • Every Dom/me is different, needs different things, has different requirements/boundaries, etc. 

Common names for dominant individuals: 

  • Submissive
  • Slave
  • Sub
  • Property
  • Boy/Girl
  • Good Girl
  • Baby Girl
  • Princess
  • Little

Although these are all “common” names used for submissives in the BDSM world, they can all have different meanings depending on the kind of dynamic created between the dominant and submissive individuals. 

What is Slave play?
Slave play can be the most basic term for submissives, however, it can also mean so much more than that. In a D/s relationship where there is formal training involved, the submissive will begin as a potential slave. Earning the title of “slave” to your dominant may take a certain amount of weeks or months (or even years) and may require certain tasks to be completed before you’re awarded the role. 

Many slaves engage in collaring ceremonies with their dominants, where each kind of collar they may wear bears significance to their current position and role in regards to submission. If you’re interested in learning more about collars and what they mean, read this article

What is Baby Boy/Girl/Little play?
A “little” is an adult person who takes on the characteristics of a child (or regresses to something of a child-like state) during BDSM play. Sometimes they may prefer to be called “baby boy” or “baby girl”, sometimes they prefer “Little”, or sometimes they just prefer to have their dominant use their own name. 

“Little” play can be very vague (such as simply acting like a child) or it can be very specific (such as re-enacting who you were at a specific age or creating a new identity that is a specific age). 

People who identify as a “Little”  usually look to be paired with a “Daddy” or “Mommy”, someone who naturally takes on a nurturing role in the dynamic. 

What is a “Pay Pig” or “Human ATM”? 
The “pay pig” / “human ATM” submissive pairs with a FinDom(me). This is a person who enjoys the bottom/submissive role and gets off on being financially drained or dominated by their dominant. This can also involve forms of humiliation and degradation. 

What is an “Alpha Submissive”?
An “alpha sub” is not the oxymoron it appears to be. This is a “head submissive” in a multi-submissive household or group where all submissives serve one master (or dominant). The “alpha sub” may be given certain duties and responsibilities by the dominant that other submissives don’t have, and lower submissives in the group may even have to take orders from the Alpha sub. Think of this role as being a kind of ‘right hand’ to the dominant person. 

“Switch”

What does it mean to be a “switch” personality? Someone who identifies as a “switch” (also known as switch personality) is a person who, depending on the situation or their mood, can be dominant or submissive. This person may have one role they favor over the other (for example, I could be a switch personality, but am in a D/s relationship where I am the submissive, so that’s my favored role right now). 

This person often flows between dominant and submissive depending on their mood or their partner - some people prefer to be dominant with certain partners and submissive with others. 

Stefani Threadgill, a sexologist and sex therapist explains to Men’s Health

“Terminology serves to give us a language in which we can identify and name our experience and to communicate them to our partner. [Being a switch] is commonly relegated to BDSM; however, most of us have a comfort level of dominance and submission. This can change over time with the same partner and with other partners.”

If we are thinking of dominance and submission as a spectrum, which we should, a switch may fall somewhere in the middle. 

Many people involved in a D/s dynamic may have curiosities or questions about what it’s like on the other side of the spectrum. Dominants may have the urge to submit and submissives may be tempted to try their hand at dominance. 

If you’re in a long-term D/s relationship, talking to your partner about switching roles can be a healthy way to communicate your desires and try new things together. Having this discussion may take a bit of time and patience, but if they are happy to try switching places, you can finally experience what it’s like on the other side. 

If your partner isn’t interested in exploring this (which is totally okay - to each their own), there are some other ways you could attempt to explore your less-experienced D/s role. One of the best ways I’ve been able to experience switching to a more dominant perspective is by writing erotica that is told from a female dominant perspective and imagining myself as the character. 

Another really fun way to explore your switch curiosities is by watching visual porn or listening to audio porn and getting into the headspace of that role. 

Are You Still Undecided? Don’t Worry...

Are you undecided? Don’t worry - you’ll find your place soon enough. 

How do you figure out what role you prefer? How do you know if you’re dominant, submissive or somewhere in between? 

Am I dominant?
Dominance isn’t as easy as you may think. This role requires a lot of self-control, responsibility, and restraint. The submission of your partner is a gift - they are trusting you to respect their limits and dominate them in the way they’ve consented to. There are many different types of dom(me), as outlined above. 

One of my favorite articles on becoming a dom explains: “Of course the nature of a Dom can be somewhat selfish but they should always make sure that the sub is satisfied not just sexually, but emotionally and physically too.”

According to this article, the definition of a dominant is someone who likes to be an important, powerful person who is “in charge” - they crave obedience and like to be in control. 

A dominant personality may crave control and stability in their own lives, they may be extremely organized and it’s not entirely uncommon for dominant personalities to also have obsessive-compulsive tendencies. 

Am I submissive?
DomSubLiving has another great article on what it’s like to be a submissive (check it out here), that explains: “First and foremost, a sub is not a doormat.  They have feelings and needs and so they shouldn’t serve apathetically or reluctantly. A real Dom wouldn’t want a doormat anyway.”

A submissive is a person who is obedient and compliant. They like to give up control, much of the time to escape having so much control and responsibility in their own lives. They enjoy being a serving partner and pleasing their dominant gives them pleasure, too. 

A submissive might enjoy doting on or pleasing other people in more than just a sexual capacity. While some submissives are mild and quiet, not all submissives fit this personality type. However, during D/s play, many submissives like to conduct themselves in a modest and respectful manner towards their dominant. 

A brat (hi, there!), is someone who likes to push back a little. They enjoy submission but don’t like to give up control so easily. A brat is like a subsection of submissive - not all submissives are brats, but all brats are usually submissive in the end. 

Some submissives see themselves as “property” of their dominant while others see D/s as a dynamic that is strictly for sex. Some submissives wear their service around their neck in the form of collars, and some like to leave things a bit more discrete and intimate. 

Online BDSM role tests...can they really tell me if I’m dominant or submissive?
Figuring out who you are (dominant, submissive, or somewhere in between) can take a lot of patience, experimentation, and soul-searching. While this is ultimately something you need to decide for yourself (and something that can ebb and flow throughout time), there are some fun ways you can get some insight into which role you lean more towards. 

This BDSM test is one of my favorites, I’ve talked about it in a previous article. It’s like a personality quiz, it takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and I personally found it quite accurate, as someone who knows they are submissive with switch potential. 

The Bad Girls Bible test and this Cosmo article are also helpful resources if you’re still searching for your BDSM role. 

Defining Other Roles in the BDSM World

Swingers: Most often swingers are a couple who engage in sexual/romantic activities with another couple. 

Cuckold/Cuckquean: An individual (male = cuckold, female = cuckquean) who enjoys the idea of their spouse having sexual/intimate relations with another person. Some call this “arranged cheating”. 

Bull: The “other man” in a cuckold relationship. 

Harem: A group of submissives that serve a single dominant individual. 

Metamour: Your lover’s lover. For example, your wife’s boyfriend would be her metamour.

Voyeur: This is someone who derives pleasure from watching other people indulging in sexual activities. There is an intense sense of arousal that comes from watching others engage in sexual activities. It’s important to note that this should only ever be done consensually, with all parties involved consenting to be watched by the voyeur. 

Exhibitionist: This is someone who enjoys being watched while performing sexual activities. There is an intense sense of arousal and pleasure that comes from people watching them either by themselves or with a partner.  

Monogamous: Having a sexual/romantic relationship with one partner at a time.

Polyamorous: Being involved in the practice of engaging in multiple sexual/romantic relationships with the consent of all people involved.

Polycule: A group of polyamorous individuals who are connected through their relationships with each other. 

Pet: A person who takes on the role of a pet during play (or within a BDSM relationship). This can also be the name given to a spoiled submissive by their doting dominant. 

Masochist: A person who enjoys receiving pain, often deriving sexual arousal and pleasure from it. This person is typically a submissive, but not always. 

Sadist: A person who experiences sexual arousal and pleasure from giving pain. This person is often a dominant, but not always. 

Sissymaid/Sissification: Sissification (or feminization) is a broad category that involves a consenting male partner being “forced” into a female role. This can involve costumes, and tasks that a female submissive might do. 

Brat: A brat is a submissive who purposefully misbehaves against their dominant’s wishes for attention, to test limits, or to provoke punishments. A brat may misbehave because they enjoy the punishments that their dominant will give or they enjoy being humiliated in response to disobeying commands given by their dom(me). 

DDLG: This abbreviation stands for Daddy Dom/Little Girl. This is a type of dynamic/roleplay that can include age play and incest but doesn’t always have to. Although someone is portraying a little (someone under the age of consent), all parties must be of age. This is a culture that is quite broad and can be a bit controversial. One of my favorite articles on this topic if from Sexual Alpha - give it a read if you’re interested. 

Experimentalist: These are people who are very eager to try new things. They are incredibly curious people who ask lots of questions and want to try different kinks and fetishes to see what they like. 

Rope Bunny: This is a submissive who enjoys (and has a particular fetish for) being restrained in bondage play. This can be by rope, chains, spreader bars, etc. 

Degrader/Degradee: A degrader is someone who gives degradation to their partner. This person is usually a dominant. This is done in a consensual way using terms that the submissive has consented to beforehand. A degradee is typically the submissive partner who enjoys being degraded by their dom(me). 

Things You Should Know Before Entering Into A D/s Dynamic...

  • A healthy D/s agreement takes time, negotiations, understanding, respect, and trust. 
  • Responsible dom(me)s understand their partner’s submission is a gift, not something they are entitled to. 
  • Responsible submissives understand that dom(me)s need aftercare and reassurance, too. 
  • There are such things as BDSM contracts - they can be written or oral agreements and they can be very helpful. 
  • All play requires a “yes” - even play that is scripted as CNC (consensual non-consent) and safewords are a must in any dynamic. 
  • Consent is ongoing and can be revoked at any time. Respect and communicate with your partner throughout the scene, be aware of body language and safe words or gestures being used. 

Lots of research needs to be done before painplay. Faceslapping, CBT, spanking, breath play/choking, etc...there are right AND wrong ways to do these things. Before you incorporate these things into your play, research them first.