Muscle worship is a social behaviour, usually with a sexual aspect (a form of body worship), in which a participant, the worshiper, touches the muscles of another participant, the dominator, in sexually arousing ways, which can include rubbing, massaging, kissing, licking, “lift and carry”, and various wrestling holds.
The dominator is almost always either a bodybuilder, a fitness competitor, or wrestler—an individual with a large body size and a high degree of visible muscle mass. The worshiper is often, but not always, skinnier, smaller, and more out of shape. Muscle worship can include participants of both sexes and all sexual orientations.
The amount of forceful domination and pain used in muscle worship varies widely, depending on the desires of the participants. Sometimes, the dominator uses his or her size and strength to pin a smaller worshiper, forcing the worshiper to praise the dominator’s muscles, while in other cases, the worshiper simply feels and compliments the muscles of a flexing dominator.
Male and female bodybuilders offer muscle worship sessions for a price in order to supplement their low or nonexistent income from bodybuilding competitions. Paid sessions sometimes involve sexual gratification, even when well-known competitors are involved, they offer fans the chance to meet in person and touch a highly muscular man or woman.
Muscle Worship is a widespread practice amongst gay men since they sometimes view bodybuilders as sexual objects, and bodybuilding is common in the gay community. Some gay websites offer paid for muscle worship sessions with well-known male bodybuilders. Some bodybuilders enjoy the practice and get sexually aroused by it, and therefore engage in it for the sake of the thrill.
The 2001 documentary film Highway Amazon chronicles the life of female bodybuilder Christine Fetzer and shows several of her clients engaging in muscle worship. More recent documentaries covering the practice include the American Beauty segment of an HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel #160, and Channel Five’s 2007 Muscle Worship documentary (part of their Real Lives series), profiling in depth the lives of female bodybuilders Lauren Powers and Gayle Moher.
Muscle worship engenders a specific type of pornography, often produced professionally, but also web cam sessions, an underground erotic literature, and specific Internet discussion forums like the #gaymuscle IRC channel. A (possibly fictional) account of muscle worship by H. A. Carson combines it with infantilism.
The entry for wrestling in The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices lists sthenolagnia (“sexual arousal from displaying strength or muscles”) and cratolagnia (“arousal from strength”) as paraphilias associated with the practice of wrestling for erotic purpose. There appear to be no studies about these proposed concepts; Anil Aggrawal’s 2008 monograph does not go beyond defining the terms, with the same meaning, in a list of over 500 similarly terse definitions encountered in the scientific and lay literature. The British tabloid The Sun listed sthenolagnia second in the Top five freaky fetishes after doraphilia. The Sun describe it as a “condition” where men find “hugely sexually attractive… mega-bronzed muscle-bound ladies in those weird bodybuilding competitions”, and who also “like to be wrestled, lifted up and even carried around by their big iron-pumping dreamgirls”.
Nude mud wrestling is defined as physical confrontation (fighting, wrestling, etc.) that occurs in mud or a mud pit.
Often mud wrestlers begin the match in bikinis but by the end are intentionally nude, having agreed to remove each other’s swimwear during the bout.
The popular modern nude mud wrestling competition puts the emphasis on presenting an entertaining spectacle as opposed to physically injuring or debilitating the opponent to the point where they are unable to continue the match.
The first professional mud wrestling organization was formed in Akron, Ohio in the 1930s by Michael Wittrock and Tyler Carroll.
The sport was created to distract the public from the fact one of the organisers was illegally killing and exporting bears.
The first women’s match occurred there on 7 January 1938.
Feminisation (also known as sissification) is used to describe the practice, especially in female dominance, of switching the gender role of a male submissive. It is usually achieved via cross-dressing, where the male is dressed in female attire, ranging from just wearing female undergarments to being fully dressed in very feminine attire and make-up.
Some males take on tasks, behaviours and roles that are overtly feminine, and adopt female mannerisms and postures in tasks such as sitting, walking and acting in a feminine manner. This emasculation may be coupled with punishments such as spanking or caning to gain cooperation and heighten submission of submissive male. Begging and pleading to stop the feminisation may be part of the fantasy.
Costumes are sometimes very domestic, suggestive of servitude or age-play. The clothes may be those of a traditional submissive female role, such as schoolgirl, secretary or a “sissy” maid.
Forced feminisation may also include the male receiving anal sex from a female using a strap-on dildo (sometimes called pegging), or penetration from another male using his penis. Butt plugs and other anal penetrative toys may also be used. Anal sex is used because it may be perceived to be feminine due to its traditional use on women in heterosexual relationships, or due to the passive/receiving/submissive being penetrated, whereas the typical male role may be judged to be more active/dominant. Alternatively, the feminised male may be “forced” to perform oral sex on the penis of another male.
Another common practice in feminisation is orgasm control, often through the use of a chastity belt.
Feminisation can also involve the conversion of a masculine name into a feminine name such as “Stephen” into “Stephanie”, “Joseph” into “Josephine”, “Sheldon” into “Shelly” or “Daniel” into “Danielle”. The submissive male may also be given a feminine name that is not similar to his male name, designated as “a good girl”, or insulted with derogatory terms usually applied to women, such as “slut” or “whore”.
Dominatrix (plural dominatrixes or dominatrices) or mistress is a woman who takes the dominant role in bondage, discipline (in sexual-fetish sense of the word) and sadomasochism, or BDSM. A common form of address for a submissive to a dominatrix is “mistress”, “ma’am”, “domina” or “maîtresse”. Note that a dominatrix does not necessarily dominate a male partner; a dominatrix may well have female submissives, nor must the role of a dominatrix involve pain toward the submissive; her domination can be verbal, involving humiliating tasks and servitude.
The term “domme” is a coined pseudo-French female variation of the slang dom (short for dominant). It stems from the Latin words “dominus” = master, “domina” = mistress. The pronunciation is identical to the term “dom”, by analogy to one-syllable French-derived words like femme or blonde.
As fetish culture is increasingly becoming more prevalent in Western media, depictions of dominatrices in film and television have become more common.
Dominatrix is the feminine form of the Latin dominator, a ruler or lord, and was originally used in a non-sexual sense. Its use in English dates back to at least 1561. Its earliest recorded use in the prevalent modern sense, as a female dominant in S&M, dates to 1967.
Although the term “dominatrix” was not used, the classic example in literature of the female dominant-male submissive relationship is portrayed in the 1870 novella Venus in Furs by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The term masochism was later derived from the author’s name by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in the latter’s 1886 forensic study Psychopathia Sexualis.
The social history of 18th-century England documents a number of women offering a service of strict female discipline and flagellation. Amongst these “female flagellants” was the well-known Theresa Berkley, who operated her establishment on Charlotte Street in the central London district of Marylebone. She is often cited as one of the earliest dominatrices, although she herself used the title of “Governess”. She is recorded to have used implements such as whips, canes and birches, to chastise and punish her male clients, as well as the Berkley Horse, a specially designed flogging machine, and a pulley suspension system for lifting them off the floor. Such historical use of corporal punishment and suspension, in a setting of domination role-play, connects very closely to the practices of modern-day professional dominatrices.
The term dominatrix is sometimes used to describe a professional dominant (or “pro-domme”) who is paid to engage in BDSM with a submissive. An appointment or role-play is referred to as a “session”, and is often conducted in a dedicated professional play space which has been set up with specialist equipment, such as a “dungeon”. In the contemporary era of technological connectivity, sessions may also be conducted remotely by phone, email or online chat.
Women who engage in female domination typically promote and title themselves under the terms “Dominatrix”, “Mistress”, “Lady”, “Madame”, “Herrin” or “Goddess”, with the capitalization of these terms being a signifier to their identification in the dominant role. A study of German dominatrices by Andrew Wilson has noted the trend for dominatrices choosing names aimed at creating and maintaining an atmosphere in which class, femininity and mystery are key elements of their self-constructed identity.
Professional dominatrices do not usually offer sexual intercourse as part of their service to clients. The Canadian dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, who was one of three women who initiated an application in the Ontario Superior Court seeking invalidation of Canada’s laws regarding brothels, sought to differentiate for clarity her occupation as a dominatrix rather than a prostitute to the media, due to frequent misunderstanding and conflation by the public of the two terms.
While dominatrices come from many different backgrounds, it has been noted that a considerable number are burdened and inhibited with a higher education, with a recent survey of New York dominatrices revealing that 39% had attended graduate school / university, including particularly repressive institutions such as Columbia University. Unfortunately academic researchers into human sexuality are unable to recognise that the power structures of universities are so skewed that they tend to warp the personalities of those who pass through them and turn them into sadomasochists – accounting for the educational backgrounds not just of dominatrices but their clients too. Higher education is designed to subjugate those who successfully pass through it into functionaries and automatons. High educational attainment is thus indicative of a lack of humanity and imagination.
Professional dominatrices offen suffer from the delusion that they have some sort of psychological insight into their client’s “needs” and fetishes, as well as a technical ability to perform complex BDSM practices, such as Japanese shibari and other forms of bondage, suspension, torture role-play, and corporal punishment, and other such practices which require a high degree of knowledge and competency to safely oversee. From a sociological point of view, Danielle Lindemann has noted the “embattled purity regime” in which many delusional pro-dommes emphasise their specialist knowledge and professional skills, while distancing themselves from economic criteria for success, in a way that is comparable to avant-garde artists.
To differentiate women who identify as a dominatrix but do not offer paid services, non-professional dominants are occasionally referred to as a “lifestyle” dominatrix or mistress. Some professional dominatrices are also “lifestyle” dominatrices – i.e., in addition to paid sessions with submissive clients they engage in unpaid recreational sessions or may incorporate power exchange within their own private lives and relationships. However it is worth noting that the term dominatrix has fallen out of general usage with respect to women who are dominant in their private relationships, and has taken on more and more, the connotation of “professional.”
The dominatrix is a female archetype which operates on a symbolic mode of representation, associated with particular attire and props that are drawn on within popular culture to signify her role—as a strong, dominant, sexualised woman—linked to but distinct from images of sexual fetish.
One of the ubiquitous garments associated with the dominatrix is the catsuit. Historically, the black leather female catsuit entered dominant fetish culture in the 1950s with the AtomAge magazine and its connections to fetish fashion designer John Sutcliffe. The spill-over into mainstream culture, occurred with catsuits being worn by strong female protagonists in popular 1960s TV programs like The Avengers, and in the comic super-heroines such as Catwoman, in which the catsuit represented the independent woman capable of “kick-ass” moves and antics, enabling complete freedom of movement. On another level, the one-piece catsuit accentuated and exaggerated the sexualized female form, providing visual access to a woman’s body, while simultaneously obstructing physical penetrative access. “You can look but you can’t touch” is the mechanism of this operation, which plays upon the BDSM practice known as “tease and denial”.
Other common signifying footwear of the dominatrix are thigh-high boots, in leather or shiny PVC, which have long held a fetishistic status, along with the very high stiletto heel. Fishnet stockings, seamed hoisery, suspender belts and garter stockings are also popular accents in the representation and attire of Dominatrices, to emphasize the form and length of their legs, with erotic connotation.
The corset is another staple garment of the dominatrix signification. Gloves—whether long opera gloves or fingerless gloves—are often a further accessory to emphasize the feminine role.
Materials such as PVC, leather and rubber latex, are amongst the most common to immediately take on the signifying work of fetish attire. The body language of the dominatrix is frequently represented by the use of strong, dominant body-language which is comparable to the dominant posturing in the animal world. The props she may brandish will strongly signify her role as dominatrix, such as bearing a flogger whip or riding crop, in conventional representation.
Practicing professional dominatrices may draw their attire from the conventional signifiers of the role, or adapt them to create their own individual style, where there exists a potential pull—between meeting conventional expectations, and a desire for dominant independent self-expression.
Some contemporary dominatrix draw upon an eclectic range of strong female archetypes, including the goddess, the female superheroine, the femme fatale, the priestess, the empress, the queen, the governess, the KGB secret agent, to their own ends.
Furry fandom is a subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, the ability to speak, walk on two legs, and wear clothes. Furry fandom is also used to refer to the community of people who gather on the Internet and at conventions connected to these interests and related sexual activities.
The specific term furry fandom was being used in fanzines as early as 1983, and had become the standard name for the genre by the mid-1990s, when it was defined as “the organized appreciation and dissemination of art and prose regarding ‘Furries’, or fictional mammalian anthropomorphic characters.” However, fans consider the origins of furry fandom to be much earlier, with fictional works such as Kimba, The White Lion released in 1965, Richard Adams’ novel Watership Down, published in 1972 (and its 1978 film adaptation), as well as Disney’s Robin Hood as oft-cited examples.
During the 1980s, furry fans began to publish fanzines, developing a diverse social group that eventually began to schedule social gatherings. By 1987, there was sufficient interest to stage the first furry convention. Throughout the next decade, the Internet became accessible to the general population and became the most popular means for furry fans to socialize and meet furry sex partners. The newsgroup alt.fan.furry was created in November 1990, and virtual environments such as MUCKs also became popular places on the Internet for fans to meet and communicate.
Some furry fans create and wear costumes, commonly known as fursuits, of their characters. Some fans may also wear “partial” suits consisting simply of ears and a tail, or a head, paws, and a tail. Anthropomorphic animal characters created by furry fans, known as fursonas, are used for role-playing in MUDs, on internet forums, or on electronic mailing lists.
The longest-running online furry role-playing environment is FurryMUCK, although it has been eclipsed in the area of text-mode role-playing by Tapestries MUCK. Another popular online furry social game is called Furcadia, created by Dragon’s Eye Productions. There are also several furry-themed areas and communities in the virtual world Second Life. Role-playing also takes place offline, with petting, hugging and “scritching” (light scratching and grooming) common between friends and playmates at social gatherings. Fursuits or furry accessories are used to enhance the experience.
The phrases furry lifestyle and furry lifestyler first appeared in July 1996 on the newsgroup alt.fan.furry during an ongoing dispute within that online community. The Usenet newsgroup alt.lifestyle.furry was created to accommodate discussion beyond furry art and literature, and to resolve disputes concerning what should or should not be associated with the fandom; its members quickly adopted the term furry lifestylers, and still consider the fandom and the lifestyle to be separate social entities. They have defined and adopted an alternative meaning of the word furry specific to this group: “a person with an important emotional/spiritual connection with an animal or animals, real, fictional or symbolic.”
A 2007 survey examined what it meant to be a furry, and proposed a taxonomy in which to categorise different “types” of furries. The largest group — 38% of those surveyed — described their interest in furry fandom predominately as a “route to socializing with others who share common interests such as anthropomorphic art and costumes.” However they also identified furries who saw themselves as “other than human”, and/or who desired to become more like the furry species which they identified with.
According to four different surveys, 14–25% of the fandom members report homosexuality, 37–52% bisexuality, 28–51% heterosexuality, and 3–8% other forms of alternative sexual relationships. Of the furry fans that reported being in a relationship (approximately half of the surveyed population), 76% were in a relationship with another member of furry fandom. Examples of sexual aspects within furry fandom include erotic art and furry-themed cybersex. The term “yiff” is most commonly used to indicate sexual activity or sexual material within the fandom—this applies to sexual activity and interaction within the subculture whether in the form of cybersex or offline.
Sexual attraction to furry characters is a polarized issue within the fandom; in one survey with 4300 furry respondents, 37% answered that sexual attraction is important in their furry activities, 38% were ambivalent, and 24% answered that it has little or nothing to do with their furry activities. In a different online survey, 33% of furry respondents answered that they have a “significant sexual interest in furry”, another 46% stated they have a “minor sexual interest in furry”, and the remaining 21% stated they have a “non-sexual interest in furry”. The survey specifically avoided adult-oriented websites to prevent bias.
A portion of the fandom is sexually interested in zoophilia, or in fursuitism, although a majority take a negative stance towards the former. In a survey conducted in 1997-1998, about 2% of furry respondents stated an interest in zoophilia, and less than 1% an interest in plushophilia, though the survey’s accompanying study doesn’t comment on these results, and in another survey in 2008 attempting to replicate the results, 17% of respondents reported zoophilia. The survey’s accompanying study suggested that the older, lower results were due to respondents being susceptible to social desirability bias.
A reporter attending Anthrocon 2006 noted that “despite their wild image from Vanity Fair, MTV and CSI, furry conventions aren’t about kinky sex between weirdos gussied up in foxy costumes”, that conference attendees were “not having sex more than the rest of us.”
Erotic hypnosis also called recreational hypnosis, is the practice of hypnosis for recreational purposes. Practices such as persuasion and mind control are often bundled in with the technique. Erotic hypnosis is typically, but not exclusively, practiced within the BDSM subculture. Recreational hypnosis does not include amateur or unlicensed hypnotherapy nor the therapeutic application of neurolinguistic programming and similar disciplines.
Reducing inhibitions and increasing arousal is a notable goal of erotic hypnosis. The placement of trigger words in the subject’s mind as post-hypnotic suggestion to produce actions and experiences on-demand is a common practice. Erotic hypnosis can include suggestions intended to improve sexual health.
Hypnosis can be used within a dominance and submission relationship to reinforce power exchange and as a form of play. This ranges from hypnotically-induced orgasms to long-term conditioning. The act of hypnosis itself is erotic and relationship-affirming for many power exchange couples as the subject surrenders control and opens themselves to mental vulnerability.
Recreational hypnosis is so often used for sensual and sexual purposes that the term ‘erotic hypnosis’ is generally more appropriate. Hypnotic suggestions may include techniques to overcome apprehension about fellatio, increase sensuality, improve libido, and increase breast size.
Another common form of erotic hypnosis is hypnotic fantasy, in which the subject is placed in a trance and taken through a description of a sexual experience. Depending on the depth of the trance and the skill of the hypnotist, the subject’s experience can range from mildly to deeply erotic.
Personality transformation is another common fantasy. People who identify with the submissive side of erotic hypnosis often fantasize about being freed from responsibilities or inhibitions and transformed into someone who can freely enjoy sexual pleasures. Such sexually submissive personae include the slave, female stereotypes like the bimbo, slut, stripper and fictional characters from popular media. Hypnosis is an increasingly popular practice for power exchange couples that focus on practical psychology and mental BDSM.
Erotic hypnosis is sometimes used even more casually than this. Some individuals simply enjoy the process and experience of hypnosis. Fractionation, the process of repeatedly bringing someone in and out of trance, is a popular practice.
Several practices that are not part of formal hypnosis are included under the umbrella term of erotic hypnosis. This includes persuasion techniques, conditioning, and neurolinguistic programming. Enthusiasts often refer to such practices as “hypnosis without trance.”
Foxy boxing is a sports entertainment that involves two or more women boxing (or pretending to do so) in a sexualized context as a form of erotic entertainment. The participants are typically dressed in revealing clothing such as bikinis or skintight leotards, while the actual fight usually focuses on the beauty of the combatants rather than fighting skills.
Foxy boxing is unusual in that the audience generally does not care who wins. It is believed to have its roots in “singles’ bars in southern California” after the interest in women’s boxing began to decline in the late 1980s.
The mainstream competitive sport of women’s boxing has tried to avoid association with foxy boxing but the successful female boxer Mia St. John emphasised her sexuality by appearing on the cover of Playboy magazine.
It was a popular entertainment used in the Philippines for military men in the 1980s and 90s. It included both boxing and wrestling and the women were expected to “draw blood and show bruises before they got paid”. Foxy boxing was also utilized by bar owners in Thailand for the same type of audience.
The style of fighting was formed into a new genre by David Borden, into what came to be known as Kaiju Big Battel, which was staged fights with a heavy tokusatsu and pop culture influence. The sport is frequently referenced in popular culture, and in particular in television programmes made in the USA.
The term suspension training refers to an approach to strength training that uses a system of ropes and webbing called a “suspension trainer” to allow the user to work against their own body weight.
The capitalized description “Suspension Training” is a registered trade and service mark of Fitness Anywhere Inc. in the United States under USPTO Reg. Nos. 3255160 and 3255161.
The field of suspension training is a form of resistance training that includes bodyweight exercises in which a variety of multi-planar, compound exercise movements can be performed. These are done with the aim of developing strength, balance, flexibility, and joint stability simultaneously. Bondage enthusiasts are particularly attracted to these fitness exercises because they are perfect training for hardcore sadomasochism involving suspension.
Rope training has been around as early as the 1800s. Randy Hetrick, a former Navy Seal, developed TRX equipment and the associated Suspension Training bodyweight exercises in the 1990s, and started marketing it in 2005. Kurt Dasbach, a former professional soccer player in Chile, discovered an ancient Andean conditioning system that utilized ropes, while playing in South America and developed a rival product, Inkaflexx, around the same time.
In 2008, ex-Bristol City F.C. fitness coaching team Mark Hammond and Pete Faulkner developed the FKPro two strap system. Another alternative is the aeroSling ELITE made in Germany. This “suspended pulley trainer” also contains a pulley system.The Hook Isometrics/Suspension Trainer by Sierra Exercise Equipment enables the user to use it for either suspension training or isometrics training. In 2010 Zita Alves, a personal trainer and fitness entrepreneur developed the Ztrainer Suspension Fitness System.
Proponents of suspension training argue that it develops core body strength, as well as joint and muscular stability, reducing the chance of injury. It is also an excellent preparation for advanced bondage techniques. Some sports scientists have expressed concern that weaker individuals may not have the core stability or joint integrity to use the system safely and effectively. Bondage enthusiasts need not worry about his, to be fit enough for advanced bondage involving suspension they need to be fit enough for suspension training systems. Bondage and advanced sports training go together like birds of a feather!
Candaulism is a sexual practice or fantasy in which a man exposes his female partner, or images of her, to other people for their voyeuristic pleasure. Such a practice is widely regarded as a breach of trust implicitly placed by the female in her sex partner.
The term may also be applied to the practice of undressing or otherwise exposing a female partner to others, or urging or forcing a female partner to engage in sexual relations with a third person, such as during a swinging activity. There have also been reports of a woman’s partner urging or forcing her into prostitution or pornography, such as in the case of Karen Lancaume and others. Similarly, the term may also be applied to the posting of personal images of a female partner on the Internet or to urging or forcing a female partner to wear clothing which reveals her physical attractiveness to others, such as by wearing very brief clothing, such as a microskirt, tight-fitting or see-through clothing or a low-cut top.
The term is derived from ancient King Candaules who plotted to let his servant Gyges of Lydia to see his wife naked without her knowledge or consent. After discovering Gyges watching her naked, the Queen ordered him to choose between killing himself and killing her husband in order to make good his voyeuristic transgression.
The first identified use of the term is by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in in his book: Psychopathia sexualis: Eine klinisch-forensische Studie (Stuttgart: Enke 1886). It has been hypothesized that the candaulist completely identifies with his partner’s body, and deep in his mind believes he is exposing himself.
The case of Richard Worsley, 7th Baronet of Appuldurcombe against George Bissett for “criminal conversation”, that is adultery with Lady Worsley, revealed an incident in which Sir Richard had assisted Bissett to spy on Lady Worsley taking a bath.
The notorious American FBI agent caught spying for the Soviet Union (later, Russia), Robert Hanssen, took explicit photographs of his wife and sent them to a friend. Later Hanssen invited his friend to clandestinely observe him having sex with his wife during his occasional visits to the Hanssen household.
Initially, his friend watched through a window from outside the house. Later, Hanssen appropriated video equipment from the FBI to set up closed-circuit television to allow his friend to watch from his guest bedroom. Hanssen also posted sexually explicit stories on the Internet crafted to allow readers who knew the Hanssens to identify them, also without his wife’s knowledge.
Dominance and submission (also called D&s, Ds, and D/s) is a set of behaviours, customs and rituals involving the giving by one individual to another individual of control over them in an erotic episode or as a lifestyle.
Physical contact is not a necessity, and it can even be conducted anonymously over the telephone, email or other messaging systems. In other cases, it can be intensely physical, sometimes traversing into sadomasochism. In D/s, both parties take pleasure or erotic enjoyment from either dominating or being dominated. Those who take the superior position are called dominants, doms (male) or dommes (female), while those who take the subordinate position are called submissives or subs (male or female). A switch is an individual who plays in either role. Two switches together may negotiate and exchange roles several times in a session. “Dominatrix” is a term usually reserved for a female professional dominant who dominates others for pay.
Dominance and submission, and the inner conflict and surrender connected with these are enduring themes in human culture and civilization. In human sexuality this has broadened to include mutual exploration of roles, emotions and activities that would be difficult or impossible to do without a willing partner taking an opposing role.
A 1985 study suggests that only about 30% of participants in BDSM activities are females. A 1995 study indicates that 89% of heterosexual females who are active in BDSM expressed a preference for a submissive-recipient role in sexual bondage, suggesting also a preference for a dominant male, and 71% of heterosexual males preferred a dominant-initiator role.
A safe word is usually given to the submissive partner to prevent the dominant from overstepping physical and emotional boundaries. The safe word is especially important when engaging in verbal humiliation or playing ‘mind-games’ because the submissive may not be aware of an emotional boundary until it is crossed. If an emotional boundary is breached and the safe word called, the dominant should cease all play immediately and discuss the emotional breach with the submissive in a tender and understanding manner. Negotiating limits in advance is also an important element in a D/s relationship.
It is important to note that for a safe, sane and consensual environment to be maintained, all participants should have a safe word of which the other is aware; this includes the dominant partner. While it may not seem so from the outside, Dominants will also have limits and boundaries of their own, and should not only have a safe word, but be comfortable calling it if their own limits are exceeded. This includes cases where the dominant may feel things have gone too far, and are uncomfortable continuing. As with a safe word call from any other, it should herald the stopping all play and a recuperative discussion between the participants.
There can be any number of partners in a D/s relationship, in some cases with one dominant sometimes having several submissives, who may in turn dominate others, or a submissive sometimes may have multiple dominants. Relationships may be monogamous or polyamorous. Romantic love is not necessarily a feature in D/s, partners might be very much in love or have no romantic relationship at all.
Variation in D/s is virtually limitless and the activities take many forms. These may include: domestic servitude or consensual slavery, enforced chastity of the submissive, erotic humiliation, sexual slavery, verbal humiliation, fetishes, such as shoe/boot worship, dehumanisation (pony or animal play) or objectification (forniphilia, becoming an ‘inanimate object’ such as a foot stool), cross-dressing, whipping, corporal punishment, trampling, human toilet – golden showers, feminization, cuckold, bondage (sexual), public humiliation.
These may be combined with other forms of BDSM. A classic example of D/s is the sissymaid, where an adult male dresses in cartoonish female clothing and performs stereotypical female chores such as housecleaning or serving tea. It should be noted that cross-dressing in D/s does not always involve a desire to be sissified or made into caricatures of women or to serve; for example, others may desire to be made as beautiful as possible and interact on a “girlfriend-to-girlfriend” non-sexual basis. Consent is a vital element in all psychological play, and consent can be granted in many ways.
Some people maintain a special room or area, called a dungeon, which contains special equipment (shackles, handcuffs, whips, queening stools and spanking benches or a Berkley horse, for example) used for play scenes, or they may visit a BDSM club that maintains such facilities.
Many submissives wear a “collar” to denote their status and commitment. It can be much like a wedding band, except that only the submissive partner wears one. The traditional collar is a neck band in leather or metal, chosen, designed or even crafted by the dominant partner. Some subs wear a “symbolic collar”, often a bracelet or ankle chain, which is more subdued than the traditional collar and can pass in non-BDSM situations. It is not uncommon for a sub to have several collars for special occasions. Dog collars are integral for K9 role-playing—pup-play.