"‘Gentle As A Kitten And Likes Dogs’..........Does that mean he likes dogs or likes to eat dogs?"


by subaltern


Since this column is aimed at folks of all levels of knowledge and experience, Babel’s esteemed editor has asked that we write something of an introduction explaining the terminology that will be used here, and that you will likely often see elsewhere when wiitwd (an acronym that stands for "what it is that we do"- see, I’ve started already) is being discussed. And so, without further ado, I present to you some of our St. Giles’ Greek, the lingo, the argot, the peddler’s French, the lingua franca, the thieves’ Latin- oh hell, the terms we’ll be using. When a term is newly presented, or when some important facet of the definition appears later on after the term has been first presented, that term will be capped for emphasis.



WIITWD- See above. An acronym that stands for "what it is that we do". It is in very common use as being a rather non-specific term, it can be used without implying any sort of value judgements or narrow-mindedness concerning specific types of kink (merely using the term s&m will usually not suffice for this purpose, for reasons explained below- don’t worry if you’re a bit confused).


BDSM- Another common catch-all term that has much the same use. It stands for Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism. I prefer to use the term wiitwd, myself, so from me you will see it more often than you will from He Who Must be Obeyed. I only use bdsm when I am speaking to someone who will have no clue what I mean when I say wiitwd, which isn’t you, since you read the definition. Right? Er, you read it, right?


LEATHER- Which is of course, that material that one makes coats and carseats and other nifty things out of. It is also used in a general sense to describe the people who do bdsm, wiitwd, or whatever else you call it. Most commonly it is used as an adjective, e.g., LEATHER COMMUNITY, LEATHERFOLK. It does not necessarily denote a particular taste for that material.


S&M (or SM, S/M)- This can be confusing, because it is understood two ways. Many people use it both ways depending on the context, which makes things even worse for those trying to understand us. While it can be and has often been used as a catch-all term akin to the more recently coined "wiitwd" mentioned above, it is also often used to denote the -physical- activity of pain given and received. This means that when you are using S&M in a general sense, you should make well sure that those you are talking with understand it the same way, otherwise a big mess could be heading your way. We will try to avoid using it in the general sense in this column, in order to (hopefully) keep things as clear as we can.


SCENE- I didn’t know where else to put this term. It is not quite analogous to the preceding terms, rather it is roughly analogous to LEATHERFOLK or LEATHER COMMUNITY above, and when used in this way it is usually preceded by "the", as in THE SCENE . It refers to any or all aggregates/groups of people who do what it is that "we do". THE SCENE can refer generally to all people involved in "wittwd", or it can refer to all the people involved in "wiitwd" in a particular geographic area (e.g., New York scene) or with a particular sexual orientation (e.g., Gay scene). In this sense it is also frequently used as a qualifier, e.g., SCENE FOLK, SCENE PEOPLE. The word "scene" is also used as a verb, which will be discussed below.





(a section concerning specific activities
and what they involve will follow later on)

S&M- The other way to understand the term. As said above, this often refers to the -physical- pain given and received. See SADIST, MASOCHIST, below.


BONDAGE- The practice of restraining your victim. This most commonly involves rope, but can also involve chains, leather straps, &c., and in the case of He Who Must Be Obeyed and other creatively inclined minds, can include anything from gift ribbon to bungee cords to Saran Wrap.


FETISH- A sexual fixation on a particular object, activity, scenario, &c. As far as I am aware, the clinical definition of fetish is something that must be present to achieve orgasm. People who do wiitwd will use the term fetish to describe both a fixation of this magnitude and fixations which are more in the line of extremely strong turn-ons but aren’t strictly speaking -necessary- to enjoyment. Frequently the usage is similar to saying "he/she has a real thing for.......". For the purposes of this column, we will use the term fetish to denote both something that is necessary for enjoyment and something that someone "has a thing for", and which meaning is implied will no doubt be apparent from the context.


DOMINANCE- See DOMINANT below. Dominance basically means that one has been given some measure of control by the submissive person (this level obviously varies) and in exchange for the submissive’s obedience, the dominant takes control and assumes the responsibility of caring for the submissive and for both partners’ general well-being, either for the purpose of a SCENE (see below) or for a longer period of time.


SUBMISSION- See SUBMISSIVE below. Submission involves the gift of some level of power/control by the submissive to the dominant, and the gift of obedience. In return, the submissive will be cared and provided for, and (hopefully) lavished with attention and sensation, either during a SCENE (see below) or for a longer period of time.


DOMSPACE- This can mean one of two things. Which one will usually be apparent from context.

1. It is often used in the sense of entering a DOMINANT frame of mind. The vast majority of DOMINANTS don’t feel DOMINANT all the time, but only at certain times and situations or under certain circumstances. A deliberate effort must often be made in order to -access- this particular area of consciousness. This is also often referred to as being in a DOMINANT HEADSPACE.

2.DOMSPACE also has another meaning which is analogous to the second meaning of SUBSPACE below, and just as difficult to describe (even more so for me, because at least SUBSPACE is something I have experienced). It is when the DOMINANT becomes so intensely focused on the PLAY (see above) that they feel as if they are in themselves, outside of themselves observing, and also gloriously one with the SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM. Like SUBSPACE, it is a transcendant and overwhelming state.


SUBSPACE- This can mean one of two things. Which one will usually be apparent from context.

1. The vast majority of SUBMISSIVES (see below) are not in a SUBMISSIVE frame of mind all the time, but only under certain circumstances, at certain times and situations &c. Like the DOMINANT, the SUBMISSIVE must also make a deliberate effort to access this part of their consciousness. This is also often referred to as being in a SUBMISSIVE HEADSPACE.

2. SUBSPACE has another meaning which is considerably more difficult to define, especially for those who have never been there. The best way I know how to describe it is that it is like a spiritually transcendent state of complete and overwhelming bliss, the aftereffects of which can last for hours and even days. I have heard it referred to as "a spiritual high". While this is happening, the SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM is often said to be FLYING. It is similar to, but exponentially more intense and powerful than, what is often called "runner’s high". /Lecture Mode: On/ An understandable mistake that many, many VANILLAS (see below) make is thinking that all of this fancy stuff we do when we PLAY (see above) is solely for the purpose of a physical orgasm, that this is really just very weird and baroque foreplay. I’m not knocking orgasms, mind, I like ‘em as much as the next girl, but SUBSPACE and DOMSPACE are often really what we’re ultimately trying to achieve. Many of us, myself and He Who Must Be Obeyed most definitely included, are also quite fond of VANILLA (see below) sex as well, and yes, I like kissing and caressing and oral lovemaking, and come when someone stimulates my clitoris, just like the average vanilla woman does./Lecture Mode: Off/


TRAINING- Something a DOMINANT (see below) does with a SUBMISSIVE (see below). Teaching the SUBMISSIVE how you like your coffee, how to rub your feet, and all of that good stuff. Teaching the SUBMISSIVE the particular forms of etiquette you wish for them to espouse, whether it involves always sitting on the floor, always calling other DOMINANTS "Sir /Ma’am" &c, is also a part of TRAINING. TRAINING can also be used to denote the teaching of certain cues, rules, and/or signals such as the system of whistle signals that He Who Must Be Obeyed trained subaltern to obey in a timely fashion.


DISCIPLINE- DISCIPLINE can have various meanings. It can be a synonym for a system of TRAINING (see above). It can also be what happens to you when you are a bad subaltern. PLAY DISCIPLINE (or PLAY PUNISHMENT) is a term that denotes that a punishment is not serious, but strictly for fun, e.g., when He Who Must Be Obeyed bends a giggling subaltern over his knee and spanks her rather theatrically.


POWER EXCHANGE- The commonly used term for play that involves some exchange of control or power. This can occur over the course of a SCENE or for a longer period of time.


SCENE (also PLAY- see PLAYER below) - The second meaning of the word, usually used with a verb as in "to do a scene" or as a verb, e.g., sceneing (also PLAYING). This refers to performing some or all of the horrible perverted activities referred to above. A scene can be as complex or as simple as the participants deem it. It can be whacking your partner a few times with a hairbrush and then ordering them to satisfy you orally, or it can involve elaborate bondage, 500 clothespins, chains, whipped cream, knives, and large scarecrows named Sven.


LIMIT- Self-explanatory. The thing(s) a submissive can’t/won’t do. Most SUBMISSIVES or BOTTOMS start out with a jillion of these, and find that the amount grows lesser with time, although most people have some lines that absolutely can NEVER be crossed for various physical, mental, or emotional reasons. Those particular limits are said to be HARD LIMITS. A good TOP, DOMINANT, or SADIST (see below) will be understanding and sensitive with regard to this and not insist on pushing people past a point that will be destructive to the person’s physical/emotional health.


SQUICK- I have seen many fanciful definitions for this word. I’m not even going to attempt to outdo any of them. I will merely say that if something SQUICKs you, it is something you find so utterly loathsome that visualizing it makes you want to vomit. Also used as a noun, e.g., ‘The Spice Girls are one of my big squicks". The adjective forms are SQUICKY and SQUICKSOME.


SAFEWORD- A code word that stops the SCENE (see below) cold. Used when someone has had all they can take, or in SCENES where resistance ("no! No! STOP") is being played with, in order to distinguish a playful or in-role declaration of "stop" from a real "no, I really mean it, STOP". This obviously varies with the individuals. Some use a system of "red (stop), yellow (slow down, lessen the intensity), and green (go ahead, dammit, I love it!)", others just have one word. When the SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM (see below) is gagged or for other reasons cannot speak, some specified signal, e.g., dropping a handkerchief, can serve as a safeword.


SSC- An acronym for "Safe, Sane, Consensual". There is naturally much disagreement as to how the individual terms safe, sane, and consensual should be defined, since obviously some level of risk is always going to be present. In some circles this term has a negative connotation, standing in as a codeword for a "gentrified" overly-safe brand of "wiitwd", in others it is completely neutral- how it is being used can be easily determined by context.





GREEK- A euphemism for anal sex. If you want to know -why- it is, read Plato. Or damn near any other ancient Greek literature. In any event, I wish people would quit saying this and just say anal sex, but then, I wish a lot of things.


ENGLISH- Also a euphemism, but somewhat more nebulous than GREEK (see above). He Who Must Be Obeyed informs me that this was traditionally a euphemism for CANING (see CANE below). I have also heard it used to refer to "Victorian-style" practice, and to the use of CROPS (see below).





MUNCH- A social gathering for persons of the pervy persuasion. It usually takes place at a coffee shop or restaurant, on rare occasions at a pub or bar-and-grill type place. MUNCHes are solely for the purposes of socializing, discussing, support &c.- it is considered extremely bad form to attempt to "pick someone up" at one, and since the occasions are for informal socializing and the venues are VANILLA (see below), it is a pretty good idea to come in street clothes rather than FETISHWEAR (see below), unless being alarmingly conspicuous and disastrously overdressed for the occasion is your cuppa.


PLAYPARTY- A different kind of social gathering where people gather for the purpose of socializing and PLAYING (see above), and to watch others play. Contrary to what some paranoids may tell you, no one is -obligated- to play at play parties, and in fact, the majority of people are usually there to watch and socialize and hang with fellow pervs in a more or less relaxed atmosphere.


DUNGEON (also PLAYSPACE, PLAYROOM)- This doesn’t strictly speaking fit into this section, but it seems appropriate to squeeze it in here. A dungeon is any place specifically designated for PLAY (see above) and where larger equipment specifically used for the purpose of play is kept. A dungeon can be your own basement with an X-FRAME (see below) and some ropes in it, or it can be a commercial space (these are usually more elaborate and often contain equipment which is too large or expensive for most people to conveniently have in their home) which is rented out for individual use or for PLAY PARTIES (see above), in which case it is called a PAY DUNGEON or a COMMERCIAL DUNGEON. A DUNGEON is not necessarily the same thing as a CLUB (see below).


CLUB- A commercial hangout where equipment and often TOYS (see below) are available for the patrons’ use, and beverages and sometimes food, are also available. People go to CLUBS to socialize and hang out as well as to PLAY (see above). It is important to note that the vast majority of CLUBS do not serve alcohol, sometimes because it is difficult to obtain a liquor license because of laws concerning nudity, more often because it is considered dangerous to drink and play and the CLUB does not wish to be liable for the consequences of or appear to be condoning that practice.





LEATHERFOLK (see above), BDSMers (see above), PERVS or PERVERTS, KINKSTERS or KINKY FOLK- These should be fairly self-explanatory. Obviously not everyone will want to use every one of these terms, it is very much a matter of personal preference.

Two important qualifiers here:

1. It is extremely important to note that there exist factions within the community that are usually termed OLD LEATHER (also OLD GUARD, OLD GUARD LEATHER) and NEW LEATHER, with OLD LEATHER referring primarily to a very formal and codified style of PLAY (see above) and practice, and NEW LEATHER being obviously, a newer, less formal style. OLD LEATHER traditions are more common in the gay and lesbian community than in the heterosexual community, but this is not a hard and fast rule of thumb necessarily, as you will find heterosexuals who practice this style also.

2. It is also important to note that PERV and PERVERT when used in this way are meant in a humorous and affectionate way rather than an as a self-hating insult, similar to the way that the term "queer" has been to a large extent re-appropriated by the gay community. This is of course usually apparent from context. Related to use of the term PERV is the term PERVDAR, adapted directly from the gay community’s "gaydar", and it has exactly the meaning you would think it does.


SADIST- This is a tricky one, as are all of the terms that seek to define orientation. Even within the community you will find great dissension on all of these points. For the purposes of this column, a SADIST IS:

One who receives erotic pleasure from the application of pain. Pain, by the way, comes in all types, and as far as I personally (and many others) are concerned, the sadist who has never touched a pair of nipple clamps or a singletail whip in his or her life, but loves to see a masochist beg for a punishment, is still most definitely a sadist.

Other names for SADIST are:

TOP, PITCHER (unlike SADIST, also used as verbs, TO TOP, TO PITCH). It should be noted that TOP has traditionally been used as a catch-all term that encompasses DOMINANT (see below) and SADIST. There are a couple of good reasons for this, namely that it is a tricky endeavor to sort these things out and some prefer to just say TOP and have done, and also that some feel that making a distinction between TOP and DOMINANT is privileging dominance/submission and positing the PLAY (see above) that doesn’t overtly involve this as somehow lesser. This is to some extent gradually falling out of use but it’s still quite common, especially in more traditional leather communities, so I thought I should include it here because you will see it elsewhere- although for the purposes of this column, it will not be used in such a manner.

For the purposes of this column, a SADIST is NOT:

A wife-beater, a rapist, a serial killer, a kicker of dogs and a stealer of candy from babies. This misconception is common and one that I would like to address. While it is certainly not impossible that an erotic sadist could be any or all of these things, it is not common and by no means true across the board. Your average erotic sadist is interested in mutual gratification with a consenting partner, and in using all kinds of pain as pleasure-giving stimuli. It should also be noted that many sadists will prepare endlessly in advance, learning safety and medical techniques, learning how to use their instruments properly, learning the smallest details of their partners’ facial expressions and body language, in order to make the experience as good as possible, and take a great deal of pride in their knowledge and skill, as indeed they ought. Forget those whip-wielding weirdos you saw on Springer the other day. They aren’t exactly representative.


MASOCHIST- His or her counterpart. For the purposes of this column, a MASOCHIST IS:

A person who receives pleasure from receiving the sadist’s ministrations.

Other names for MASOCHISTS are:

BOTTOM, CATCHER (unlike MASOCHIST often used as verbs, e.g., TO BOTTOM, TO CATCH). BOTTOM is obviously the counterpart to TOP. Similar usage caveat applies here- it is used by some as a catch-all term, for (obviously) the exact same reasons, but for the purposes of this column a distinction will be made. A PAINSLUT is a specific type of MASOCHIST who is much much fonder of pain sensations in and of themselves than I, subaltern, will ever be.

For the purposes of this column, a MASOCHIST is NOT:

A person who has a massive orgasm every time they stub their toe (what I think of as the flipside to the "sadist as dogkicker" stereotype). A person who gets off on root canals. A person who enjoys being poked and prodded and fondled by random strangers in bars. A person who owns a video copy of "John Tesh Live At Red Rocks". A person who -loves- tax time.


DOMINANT (also Dom, Domme)- For the purposes of this column, a DOMINANT IS:

One who derives emotional and/or erotic satisfaction from a partner’s surrender of control. This could be surrender of control in erotic situations only, or in varying levels of life decision-making, or both. A dominant is often also (but not -necessarily-) a SADIST.

A DOMINANT who does it professionally is called a PRO-DOM (also PRO-DOMME, DOMINA, and I suppose DOMINATRIX but only if you absolutely must- it’s considered rather old-fashioned). Most professional dominants are female, but there are male professional dominants as well. A professional dominant can work either on his/her own, or as part of a HOUSE or a PARLOR. A professional dominant is often also a LIFESTYLE (see below) dominant.

Some names for DOMINANTS are (among others, many invent their own as they see fit):

Master, Mistress, Sir, Ma’am, Lady, Lord, Prince, Princess......you get the idea. These sorts of terms are referred to as HONORIFICS. The term MASTER is also used by some as a counterpart to the term SLAVE as indicating a different level of control in the relationship than the term DOMINANT. In OLD LEATHER (see above) circles, the title of MASTER is often honorary and always must somehow be -earned-. Often the person who uses the title MASTER (or MISTRESS) has a highly developed skill in one particular area. In -any- circles, arbitrarily insisting on the title MASTER without any experience, skill, or knowledge to back the use of such a term up is considered unspeakably gauche and will also cause all but the most naive of novices to snicker at you.

For the purposes of this column, a DOMINANT is NOT:

Someone who cavalierly orders everyone around all the time, including at work or social occasions. Someone who becomes nastily upset every single time they do not get their way. Someone who barks a lot. Someone who acts like Captain VonTrapp in "The Sound of Music". Some guy who woke up one morning and decided it would be really cool if he could get people to call him Master and bring him beer every time he clapped his hands (see CHUDWAH, below).


SUBMISSIVE (also SUB, or *yuck* SUBBIE)- For the purposes of this column, a SUBMISSIVE IS:

One who derives emotional and/or erotic satisfaction from surrendering some level of control to a dominant. A submissive is often also (but not -necessarily-) a MASOCHIST.

For the purposes of this column, a SUBMISSIVE is NOT:

A doormat. A weakling. Submissive to everyone, all the time. Automatically -your- submissive, unless you have an understanding to that effect. Ten times more likely to buy magazines from an over-the-phone salesman than a non-submissive. Put on Earth for the purposes of being manhandled and/or ordered around by any goofus who takes it into their head to do so (less clothes does not mean less manners, asshole!). A person who enjoys and welcomes being harassed by said goofuses. A person who will never fight back when so harassed. A person who owes it to every loser who thinks s/he is a DOMINANT (see above) to play along with his or her idiocy.

Other names for SUBMISSIVES are (and of course, many also invent their own as they see fit):

Slave, Boy, Girl, Slaveboy, Slavegirl, Pet. Many prefer to make a distinction between SLAVE and SUBMISSIVE, according to the level of control each surrenders. When a dominant and a submissive have come to a committed arrangement (often a committed romantic relationship, but not -necessarily-) of some kind, whether formally contracted or informally agreed upon, that submissive is said to be OWNED by the dominant. Usually this also entails the dominant presenting the submissive with a COLLAR, sometimes in a ceremony called COLLARING.


SWITCH- For the purposes of this column, a SWITCH IS:

Someone who can be both a MASOCHIST and a SADIST.

Someone who can be both a SUBMISSIVE and a DOMINANT.

For the purposes of this column, a SWITCH is NOT:

Someone who can’t make up their mind what they want to be. Someone who of necessity cannot be serious about dominance/submission or sadism/masochism, because of said "flightiness".

I think the best way to understand it is to think of a switch as the PERV (see above) equivalent of a bisexual. Their relationships are no shallower just because they are capable of both kinds.


PLAYER- Literally, a person who PLAYS, or participates in s/m and/or dominance/submission activities, usually carrying the connotation of someone who is a real-life participant rather than someone with lots of fantasy experience and a very tired wrist.


SERVICE-ORIENTED- A SUBMISSIVE (see above) who gets deep satisfaction from rendering service to a dominant, such as making their coffee, giving foot massages, &c. is said to be service-oriented. A TOP (see above) whose foremost pleasure and main purpose as regards PLAY (see above) is making the SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM (see above) squeal and writhe with ecstasy is saidto be a SERVICE TOP.


SENSATION PLAYER- Someone whose PLAY (see above) interests and chief satisfactions are physical and who has no serious interest in DOMINANCE/SUBMISSION (see above). Sometimes used in a derogatory manner, although for the purposes of this column the term is neutral, as we do not regard sensation players as lesser than we are.


LIFESTYLER- Someone whose DOMINANT/SUBMISSIVE inclinations and interactions extend beyond the bedroom or dungeon and into their daily lives. Such people are often said to be involved in what is called a 24/7.


FETISHIST- see FETISH above. One for whom a particular object, activity, scenario &c. is necessary for erotic gratification. For the purposes of this column, a fetishist could be someone with a fixation of this magnitude, or a more minor one, where the particular thing in question is a strong turn-on, but not strictly speaking necessary to enjoyment of erotic activity.


EXHIBITIONIST- Literally, someone for whom exhibition is a big turn-on. This can range from being turned on by displaying whatcha got to being hellaciously turned-on by PLAYING (see above) in front of others. Technically I suppose this also includes flashers and the like, but when someone is talking about being an EXHBITIONIST in the context of WIITWD (see above) they usually don’t mean they like to go out in raincoats and flash small children in parks, but simply that they like to strut their stuff for appreciative and consenting audiences at PLAY PARTIES (see above), DUNGEONS (see above), or CLUBS (see above).


CROSSDRESSER (sometimes abbreviated as CD)- Literally, someone who dresses up in the other gender’s clothes. Often male, but not always. Cross-dressing is quite common as a kink among male SUBMISSIVES, for a wide-range of reasons, ranging from the fact that some consider it "the ultimate humiliation" to be dressed as a woman (no comment) to the fact that they simply think women’s clothes are a lot niftier/prettier/sexier than their own. A large number of them are people who are turned on by wearing women’s clothes and, in case there’s -still- anyone who thinks that this automatically means a man is gay, it does -not-. In fact, it usually doesn’t. It is also important to know that a CROSSDRESSER is different from a TRANSVESTITE (see below).


TRANSVESTITE (also TV)- A transvestite is also someone who dresses up in the other gender’s clothes, but often the word has a different connotation. The difference is usually that this is way beyond a sexual turn-on, but actually more like a way of life. TRANSVESTITES are much more concerned with what is called PASSING, managing to actually pass for a member of the opposite sex. This is usually not a serious concern for the CROSSDRESSER, who pretty much just wants to wear the trappings on occasion.


TRANSSEXUAL (also TS)- Is someone who has reassigned their gender, or to put it more crudely, they’ve gone through the operation already- someone who has not yet undergone the operation, but is/has been taking hormones and all of that good stuff, and is for all intents and purposes fully reassigned aside from that one thing, is called a PRE-OP TRANSSEXUAL, or PRE-OP. Obviously this isn’t technically a kink, per se, but since there are not a few TSs in THE SCENE (see above) I thought this information well worth including.


VANILLA- A person who -doesn’t- do "wiitwd". In some circles this is derogatory, but usually it is a neutral term, and for the purposes of this column that is how it is intended. It is used both as a noun e.g., "My ex-wife was a vanilla" and an adjective e.g.,"We had vanilla sex yesterday". Also see THE MUNDANES, below. STRAIGHT is sometimes used to mean the same thing, but since for obvious reasons this can be rather confusing, we will never use the word STRAIGHT in that sense in this column.





SAM- An acronym that stands for "Smart-Ass Masochist". A SAM is the sort of person who will be very obnoxious and bratty for the specific purpose of being nastily punished. They can be people who like to continually test their dominant, or people who want to make absolutely sure they get attention, or just plain bratty people. Sometimes it is entertaining, sometimes it is annoying, I suppose it depends on your tastes and what you’re willing to put up with. Unlike CHUDWAH, SAM can sometimes be used affectionately, as unlike CHUDWAHs, a lot of SAMs are quite likeable people, and unlike CHUDWAHS they are for the most part humorous on purpose.


BRAT- A BRAT is often a milder version of a SAM (see above) with similar traits, a SUBMISSIVE or BOTTOM (see above) who enjoys being bratty, basically. It is, as I said, milder, and has a certain childlike connotation that SAM does not. BRAT is often used affectionately as well.


TOY WHORE- Someone who is addicted to collecting well-made TOYS (see below) and gadgets, and will go without supper for a month to save up for, say, a beautifully made SIGNALWHIP (see below). This term is also more affectionate than pejorative.


TOP’S DISEASE- In their marvelous book which every home should have, "Screw The Roses, Send Me The Thorns", Philip Miller and Molly Devon give a definition for this that sums it up rather nicely: "A state of self-delusion wherein the top believes his own fantasy of dominant superiority. This dementia is characterized by the fallacy that his feces lacks the usual malodourous quality". Usually the sufferer gets over it once it is pointed out to them- it is often just caused by having a rough day or a rough emotional period in one’s life, and the sufferer will usually acknowledge this gracefully when that is the case. TRUE MASTERs (see below) have a severe chronic case of it and are immune to the good humor and tactful hints that usually relieve more occasional sufferers’ symptoms.


YKINOK-ISM- Considered a very nasty accusation to make and a nasty accusation to receive. The acronym YKINOK stands for "Your Kink Is Not Ok", and saying it is understood to be a quite serious accusation, i.e., if someone says "My kink is to kidnap German Shepherds from animal shelters, beat them until they bleed and then have them for dinner, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti", -that- is the sort of situation where you would be utterly justified in saying, "Hey disgusting loathsome pile of addle-pated vermin rot! Your Kink Is Not OK!". In other words, it amounts to being a moral condemnation. If someone perceives you to be doing this kind of moral condemning way too often, or persisting in making angry/alarmist/preachy comments about something which may be a questionable, but -not- unquestionably repugnant practice, s/he might accuse you of committing YKINOKism. An accusation of YKINOK-ISM can best be defined as implying that someone is acting like a self-righteous dork and being overly-judgmental of someone else’s kink or kinks, merely because they don’t share and/or understand and/or like them. These expressions have their roots in the more positive YKIOK (Your Kink Is OK) and its fraternal twin YKIOK,IJNMK (Your Kink Is OK, It’s Just Not My Kink).


STAND AND MODEL- The favorite style of s/m play of fashion victims who frequent dance clubs. Many of them are prone to being a bit shocked at the notion that they would "actually DO that stuff".


CHDW (usually written and pronounced as CHUDWAH)- An acronym that stands for "Clueless Hetero Dominant Wannabe". See "a DOMINANT is NOT", above. He is blissfully unaware of the nuances and elegances of dominance and the emotional responsibility involved.He just thinks that it would be really cool to like, order chicks to give him blow jobs. The net is full of these guys. Many of the stories you see in alt.sex.stories that are "wiitwd"-themed, and many of the "XXX Japanese Schoolgirl Rape" type websites are actually aimed towards this guy and not your average LEATHERFOLK (see above). Typical CHUDWAH personal ad: "On your knees slut, I am a True Master and I own lots of bondage equipment".


TRUE MASTER (also REAL MASTER)- These are usually heterosexual males, although females have been known to fall prey to this particular syndrome as well. A person who uses the adjectives "True" or "Real" to describe their leather style as opposed to that of anyone who dares to disagree with them is often a TRUE MASTER. They simply cannot stand to be questioned on -anything-, as indeed why should they be, since they are never wrong. Obviously the term connotes a certain arrogant cluelessness. A TRUE MASTER is not always a CHUDWAH, but you will often find a CHUDWAH buried underneath one without digging especially far. The irony of it is of course that they themselves will often call themselves TRUE MASTERS or REAL MASTERS, blissfully unaware of how much this irritates/amuses others. A TRUE MASTER will sometimes be said to have a severe case of TOP’S DISEASE (see above).


TRUE SUB/TRUE SLAVE (also REAL SUB/REAL SLAVE)- The TRUE MASTER’s ideal partner. A SUBMISSIVE who asks no questions and always takes the TRUE MASTER’s word as gospel, even when the TRUE MASTER suggests investing their life savings in swampland in the Florida Everglades. The TRUE SUB is something of a passive being, as you will have guessed, except when faced with questioning or a different leather style themselves, in which situations they are every bit as arrogant and annoying as their TRUE MASTER. Like the TRUE MASTER, they are frequently prone to telling their counterparts that they aren’t doing the real thing. They are also blissfully unaware of the derogatory connotations of calling themselves such.


ONE TRUE WAY-ER- Someone who knows the one true way to do "wiitwd" and also knows that others do not, unless they practice "wiitwd" -exactly- the way they do. They often want to tell you all about it for hours. Although there is some overlap with TRUE MASTER/TRUE SUB, generally ONE TRUE WAY-ERs are not considered as clueless with regard to actual practice so much as they are considered terribly narrow-minded.


DO-ME SUB (also DO-ME QUEEN)- A SUBMISSIVE or BOTTOM who is in it strictly to get nifty things done to them and doesn’t see any point in giving much back to the TOP or DOMINANT who put so much energy and thought into giving them a good experience.


TOPPING FROM THE BOTTOM- When a SUBMISSIVE or BOTTOM is really the one calling the shots. Not suprisingly, these people are often DO-ME QUEENs (see above) as well. They have very specific ideas about how they wish to be dominated and get quite cranky when someone doesn’t "dominate me the way I want you to". People who make a habit of this are also sometimes called PUSHY BOTTOMS. As with the HNG, these are usually male, although females have been known to do this as well.


MACHO SUB/SLAVE- One who is so proud of how much s/he can endure that s/he refuses to signal the TOP/DOMINANT (see above) that s/he is in some sort of difficulty or has passed a LIMIT (see above) that s/he can’t handle. I will confess to having occasionally had problems in this direction.


THE MUNDANES- A pop group whose members always wear Buddy Holly glasses and dress like Mr. Rogers. Well, that would actually be pretty cool, but unfortunately it’s something considerably less charming. It is a term occasionally seen by itself, more often seen as part of the phrase "FREAKING THE MUNDANES", which means deliberately attempting to scare/freak out/befuddle the non-kinked among us. A derogatory term for the most part, although you will see it used neutrally on occasion. Those who use the phrase in a derogatory manner are usually also pretty arrogant people, as you might have guessed, whose enjoyment is mostly predicated on being "different" and "kinky" and telling everybody and their dog all about how nifty they are- I personally find this behavior pretty adolescent, but to each his own. It goes without saying that you won’t see the term used here.


HNG- An acronym that stands for "Horny Net Geek". This is not specific to the leather community per se, but one encounters them often on leather-related irc discussion channels. This should be self-evident to anyone who’s ever spent any time on IRC. If you have not encountered one personally, basically they are the people who bug people for sex or TOPPING in a relentless manner. Usually male, although females have been encountered. I regret to say that in my lowly beginner days I had some symptoms of this disease myself, due mostly to rank newbie desperation, but I have since grown out of it. A genuine HNG never really does, they just keep on thinking that they’ll get lucky eventually. Many HNGs are also CHUDWAHs (see above) but HNGs come in all flavors.



Still with me? Go get some coffee if you like.

We’ve a ways to go yet, but at least we’re through the basics.




FETISHWEAR- A term that covers any costume one might wear specifically for the purpose of PLAY (see above). Fetishwear can include but is not limited to, merrywidows, garters, stocking, crotchless underwear, impossibly high-heeled boots, anyway, you get the idea. It can be as ornate as a custom-made corset or as simple as a see-through bra. Fetishwear can obviously be made of a variety of materials- PVC (for those unfamiliar with this material, it is that vinyl stuff that looks like patent leather), LATEX, and RUBBER deserve special mention, as there are many who -strongly- FETISHIZE these materials (see FETISHIST and FETISH, above).


TOYS- The things we use to PLAY with. It’s really as simple as that. Anything can be a toy. It does not have to be a lovely hand-crafted FLOGGER (see below). If you have a good imagination then you will see that in fact many hardware and do-it-yourself stores are chock full of good toys. Toys are usually kept in a TOYBAG (or if you are really industrious, a TOY CABINET you have built for the purpose) when not in use, along with various first aid items, ointments, cleaning materials, and other nifty stuff that comes in handy at playtime.






SPANKING HORSE (also SPANKING BENCH)- This is a bit like a sawhorse, usually padded and upholstered with leather, and with some kind of crosspiece added for leg-stability. Often there are hooks added as well so that the victim can be bound or hooked to it.


X-FRAME (also St. Andrews Cross)- Pretty much what it sounds like. It is a large piece of furniture that is x-shaped, sometimes with a wooden base, sometimes just nailed or otherwise fastened to a wall. The SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM can then be stood up against it and bound to it through the conveniently placed eyebolts in the appropriate places.


SLING- Also pretty much what it sounds like. A sling is something like a hammock suspended from a base made for the purpose or simply from the ceiling, with additional eyebolts and riggings which can be used to bind the SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM into various intriguing positions. The only slings I have ever seen personally have been made of leather, although I am sure slings of other materials exist.



COLLARS- Yes, like the kind you put on dogs, only......not. Frequently the ones humans use are fancier and often they have a lock on the back. They sometimes have what are known as D-RINGS attached to them for the hooking up of LEASHES and other things. Many people, I subaltern among them, have one which is considered a WORKING COLLAR (for informal situations) and a prettier, fancier DRESS COLLAR, which is used for more formal occasions. When someone is referred to as COLLARED, that means they are OWNED by their DOMINANT (e.g., subaltern is collared to He Who Must Be Obeyed). Sometimes this is marked by a formal ceremony, sometimes not (see SUBMISSIVE above). Collars are tricky things- many consider them a formal symbol, many do not. In any event you cannot figure out which ones the SUBMISSIVES are just by playing "spot the collar", as many DOMINANTS wear COLLARS just because they like them.


CUFFS- I’m afraid that I will have to crush another stereotype here. Boy am I (not) sorry. The types of cuffs most often used are leather bracelets worn on the ankles and wrists, with the aforementioned useful D-RINGS on them so that they can be hooked or chained together. Sometimes they are padded, other times they are merely strips of leather. Metal handcuffs are -not-, repeat -not- commonly used, as needless to say they have no give in them, and when a SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM pulls on them the results are painful (and this is not the good variety pain). Persons like myself who have fairly sensitive skin find that they chafe rather unpleasantly also. SUSPENSION CUFFS are another type of cuff used- they are specially designed to reduce strain on the wrist that might occur as a result of activities involving (surprise) SUSPENSION, as in the aforementioned SLING, for example.


BLINDFOLDS- Are blindfolds. Padded ones, or simpler black leather ones can be purchased, or you can simply use a plain old handkerchief.


HOODS- These babies slip over the head. They often restrict hearing or vision.


GAGS- Are gags. Again, you can purchase special made ones, including the classic BALL-GAGS (a ball with a strap that goes around the head), which if you ever wanted to see a SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM -drool- at the sight of you (and all over his/her chin) are the gags for you. There are lots and lots of kinds of gags, too many to list here. As with many other toys, you’ve got many perfectly good gags lying around your house. A He Who Must Be Obeyed fave is to slowly remove subaltern’s underwear with a knife and stuff it into her mouth. As the Church Lady would say, "How Conveeeeenient". It’s also extraordinarily sexy.


DILDOS- In case you’re one of the few who -isn’t - aware that a dildo is an artificial cock, let me take this opportunity to make you aware of it now. These can come in all kinds of shapes, colors and sizes. Tom Waits fans, were you tempted to fill that in with "One size fits all, skip the middleman!"? It’s ok if you were, I was too, but of course with dildoes one size does not fit all, and one shape does not fit all, and apparently one color does not suit all, as I have seen them in some remarkably strange colors, including clear light blue gel. Like toothpaste. Some are hollow for the purpose of making ICE-DILDOS, which among other things make quite unique popsicles. A STRAP-ON is a dildo that well, straps on, usually with a leather harness. There are also two-headed ones for, oh hell, you can figure that out by yourselves I verily believe.


BUTT PLUGS- High on the subaltern "not fave" list. It is exactly what it sounds like. For "Extra Evil" (TM) you can lube one up with one of those icy-burning muscle rubs. A PUSSY PLUG is the specifically female variant thereof.


VIBRATORS- We all know what these are, right? These obviously come in various sizes, shapes, and colors as well. A VIBRATING EGG is a type of remote-controlled vibrator that can be used for various dastardly purposes.



NIPPLE CLAMPS (also CLIPS)- There are various types of devices specifically made for this purpose. One commonly used variety are ALLIGATOR CLAMPS- the clamp itself clamps right on to the nipple and squeezes, with a screw to adjust the pressure- there are two clamps, one for each nipple (natch) on either side of a chain, to which small weights may be added for Extra Evil (TM). BUTTERFLY CLAMPS, also called CLOVER CLAMPS, also consist of one of these clamps on either end of a chain- the victim’s nipple slips into them, and they become tighter or looser depending on the chain’s tension. These were, interestingly, originally used by Japanese sailmakers for working on large, unwieldy sails. Obviously the weights trick works nicely with these too. Common clothespins are also frequently used for this purpose, as are those "dragon tooth" style hairclips.


BREAST BAR- Quite unpleasant. Basically a device that consists of two pieces of wood and a couple screws. The breasts are squeezed in between, and then the screws are tightened.


COCK CAGE- Any restraint that goes around the penis, most often one that gets tighter as the male gets more aroused. One commonly used variety is the GATES OF HELL, a cock cage which consists of consecutively smaller and smaller rings, with a strap that buckles around the balls.


VAMPIRE GLOVES- A pair of gloves, most often lightweight leather driving gloves, that have metal prickly things on the inside. These can range from metal snaps to (nasty) tacks. A variant is CLAWS, gloves that have long talons attached to them (CLAWS can also come by themselves, with some kind of finger attachment).


NEURAL WHEEL (also WARTENBURG WHEEL)- For a long time I thought this was called a Nero Wheel. It is a metal handle with a free-spinning pinwheel with saw-like "teeth" attached, and it can be used gently or more firmly, depending I suppose on whether you actually do want the SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM to feel as if "Nero Wheel" is an appropriate name.


TENS UNIT- An electrical device. One attaches electrodes to the SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM, and well, gives them shocks. These can be quite fancy or astoundingly simple- they all have knobs to control the levels of the shock being received. Those "muscle relaxing and exercise" type machines from the 50s and 60s are often not much more than tens units. This is another toy that people should take extra care in learning how to use, as (I hope) most people do not wish to incorporate heart attacks into their scenes.


VIOLET WAND- Another electrical toy, but it is hand-held and usually comes with a couple different types of bulbs, and it generates static electricity rather than shocks, and is therefore considered to be somewhat safer than a TENS UNIT. The name comes from the fact that the light sparks inside the bulbs are a bright violet color. These are quite nifty IMHO, and would be absolutely ideal if you were doing say, a mad-scientist ROLEPLAY (see below).



FLOGGER, CAT-O’NINE-TAILS- A catchall term that includes any multi-thonged whip (a whip with more than one "tail" on it, if that helps to picture it). Actually, a cat is technically a braided whip and the others floggers, but few make this distinction. These can obviously vary in materials, length, sensation produced &c. A soft suede or deerskin flogger, for example, is considerably more pleasant than one made from harness leather.


BUGGY WHIP (also DRESSAGE WHIP)- This looks rather like a CROP (see below) with a string on the end. This thing produces a sensation which is not unlike a paper cut writ large.


SINGLETAIL- The two whips listed below, SIGNAL WHIP and BULLWHIP, are examples of SINGLETAIL whips. Usually when someone is talking about a SINGLETAIL, a SIGNAL WHIP is what they are referring to. SINGLETAIL whips take much practice to use properly. Persons not yet competent enough to use the SINGLETAIL (or the FLOGGER) will often make the mistake of WRAPPING, which is a term for miscalculating your throw so that the tip of the whip actually lands in a place you did not aim at. The skill of WRAPPING intentionally is often the sign of someone who -really- knows what they are doing. Most WRAPPING is not done intentionally, however. Nasty bruises on a SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM’s hips are one sign that someone hasn’t quite mastered their whip yet.


SIGNAL WHIP- These are really really nasty buggers that produce a very sharp sting. If you must use one, please learn how to do so accurately so that you don’t accidentally cut your SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM’s eyeball (or your own, for that matter) in half. This would not be pleasant for either of you. A BLACK SNAKE is a type of SIGNAL WHIP. Apropos of BLACK SNAKEs, have you ever heard a Robyn Hitchcock song called "Black Snake Diamond Role"? I’m not going to say what -I- think, because you probably already know. Verrrrrry interesting.


BULLWHIP- Real Big Whips, the kind lion-tamers are always pictured as having in hand. Although bullwhips are what most people see in their mind’s eye when they picture S/M being done, precious few people actually use them because they take so much time, training, and skill to use properly, not to mention the amount of space required to swing them in. They are really good for messing with the average SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM’s head, however, as they make a really loud and intimidating crack.


CROPS- Riding crops. The flap at the end is usually what is used. The shaft of the crop is used less often. It is exceedingly painful and stings like a m-----f-----.


CANES- No, not what you think. These are not your grandpa’s walking stick, but rather long, thin rods with straight (as opposed to the curved one on grandpa’s) handles. The most common materials used to make canes are nylon and fiberglass, and the more expensive rattan. As with the SIGNAL WHIP, these take some time to learn how to use, but it is well worth it as it will drastically lessen the chances of doing damage you didn’t -intend- to cause.


PADDLES- Self-explanatory. These are usually made of wood or leather. Some look like smaller oars, some like something you could use for a pickup game of ping-pong. A STUDDED PADDLE is one with holes carved into it.


STING and THUD- These are not actually types of hitting things, but words that describe what they do. An example of a TOY (see above) that most would call a STING TOY (or be referred to as STING-Y) is a BUGGY WHIP (see above). An example of a THUD TOY (or something which is THUDDY) would be a PADDLE (see above). Most people have marked preferences for one type of sensation vs. the other. A TOP or DOMINANT (see above) who prefers to -inflict- STING is called a STING TOP, one who prefers to inflict THUD is commonly called A THUDDER. Though I suppose you could call them a THUD TOP as well, I have never actually heard anyone say that.





EDGEPLAY- Not a specific type of PLAY (see above), per se, this term is more of a descriptive one. It is also a mind-blowingly subjective one. Your extreme EDGEPLAY may be my idea of a fun Saturday night, and vice versa. Very generally speaking, EDGEPLAY is said to be those activities which involve a larger risk of damage, physical and/or emotional, than others, such as BREATH-CONTROL PLAY (see below). It is also used to describe play which pushes the participants’ personal LIMITS (see above). EDGY is the commonly used adjective to describe both of these.


SENSUAL PLAY (also SENSUAL TOPPING)- A style of physical play which is focused on creating sensory overload with sensations other than pain.


HEADGAMES (also known as MINDFUCK) - PLAY whose focus is primarily mental/psychological, such as some kinds of ROLEPLAY (see below).


ROLEPLAY- A type of SCENE (see above) where the participants adopt specific roles and/or play out specific types of scenarios. Schoolgirl/schoolboy and teacher is a very common ROLEPLAY. KIDNAP SCENES and INTERROGATION SCENES are also common types of roleplay. PONYPLAY (see below) is a type so common with a subculture of devotees so devoted that it warrants a separate definition.


PONYPLAY- Giddyap, horsie! Literally, the SUBMISSIVE or BOTTOM is the horsie and the DOMINANT/TOP is the trainer. There are PONY CARTS, human-sized bits and bridles, dildo-ish things with horsehair on the end that simulate a horse’s tail when inserted properly, saddles, and too many other items to list here, all for the purpose of this particular roleplay, which many find extremely absorbing. There are also PONY RACES, organized events where the trained PONY GIRL or PONY BOY gets to show off just how good that training is.


AGEPLAY- A type of ROLEPLAY where the participants play at being different ages than they actually are. This usually takes the form of child/parent or child/non-related authority figure (teacher, governess, &c.). A few SUBMISSIVES who like this type of play refer to accessing the necessary mindset as getting into KIDSPACE or CHILDSPACE, or a CHILD HEADSPACE.


RESISTANCE PLAY- "No! No! No! Yes!". This is a style of play in which the participants have agreed to consent to non-consent. I realize that sounds like doubletalk, but it’s really not. Basically the participants have agreed that for the purposes of this SCENE (see above), the SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM will be -forced- and the DOMINANT/TOP will use force, and that words like "No" or "Stop" will effectively be ignored. This is the only type of play for which I personally feel that some kind of SAFEWORD (see above) or signal is absolutely necessary, because the nature of this play is such that it is impossible to use the type of communication that would normally stop or slow down a SCENE.


CBT- This is an acronym for COCK AND BALL TORTURE, which term you will also see from time to time, although the acronym is considerably more common as it saves your hands and wrists a bit of unnecessary work. I think this is pretty self-explanatory. I did want to include it because the acronym is so common and for a long time I was actually rather puzzled by it. VANILLA persons, novice hetero DOMINANTS/TOPS, and novice female SUBMISSIVES of all persuasions, may have all found this term similarly mysterious at one time, although I suspect that there isn’t a male SUBMISSIVE or BOTTOM in the world who can’t tell you what it means.


BREATH-CONTROL PLAY- Hoo boy! This one is quite hotly and nastily controversial, with much back and forth as to the level of danger and possibility of real medical consequences. Basically it is any form of PLAY (see above) that involves restricting the flow of oxygen. This could involve choking (mild or heavy), drowning, tying a noose around the neck, or merely holding a hand over the SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM’s mouth. Do I really have to tell you how careful to be when doing this, -if- you decide to play in any of these ways? I surely hope not. There are several safety FAQs concerning BREATH-CONTROL practices available on the web, which we have links to, that should better enable you to play relatively safely, should you decide to play this way at all. Many people do not feel the risk is acceptable, but we feel that consenting adults should decide this for themselves, hence the links provided to aid in making up your mind with regard to how these practices might fit into your personal definition of "acceptable risk".


KNIFEPLAY- Fun with knives. A subaltern favorite. The knife can be held up to the neck as a scare tactic, traced around the nipple, around the *ahem* other delicate areas- there are oh so many things that can be done with knives. A technique called WHITELINING entails "scratching" a white line which later reddens, but doesn’t actually cause bleeding. This is quite lovely IMHO but again, careful, careful- it requires a delicate touch.


WAXPLAY- Fun with hot wax. Another subaltern favorite. This involves dripping candle wax onto various parts of the SUBMISSIVE or BOTTOM. Not only can you create interesting sensations, you can also create interesting designs with the wax and have great fun generally maneuvering the candles with style and finesse. The use of ICE as well as wax in WAXPLAY can produce amazing sensations and is such a popular combination, in fact, that there is a specific name for this combination, FIRE AND ICE. Since there is some risk involved with this, please take the time to learn something about this before you do it- preferably from watching/asking questions of someone who is good at it. We also have a link to a very good tips and information page written by a chap called Ironwood.



You have now reached the end of subaltern’s breathtakingly fascinating Terminology Index. I hope you’ve found it interesting and hopefully even useful. Thanks are due to all those who have furthered my understanding and education along the way (I had no idea how much vocabulary I’d picked up in a year); to He Who Must Be Obeyed for general inspiration, support, education and love; to Jasper the amazing PowerMacintosh, on whom this was typed; and finally to coffee and cigarettes, for keeping me going. A special acknowledgement is due to the authors of "Screw The Roses, Send Me The Thorns" (Philip Miller & Molly Devon) for some of the technical information and the quoted definition of "Top’s Disease" above, and just for having written it.