BDSM titles for dominants and submissives explained

BDSM titles for dominants and submissives explained


When you are new to BDSM, it’s easy to get confused with the terminology used in the BDSM community. What is the difference between a Dominant and a Master? Is a slave the same as a masochist? Finally, what is the meaning of various words you may hear during a scene? In this article, we will explore the meaning of different BDSM titles to help you feel more confident in a world of BDSM. 

What are BDSM titles?

BDSM titles are the names for roles, kinks, or items specific to the BDSM lifestyle. Unfortunately, BDSM labels are often misused and misinterpreted. It is often the case for BDSM roles. For example, someone may call an individual a Master instead of a Dominant without understanding the difference between the two terms. Another mistake is interpreting roles as being indicative of a hierarchy. While a slave can be considered more submissive than a submissive, each role has some specific characteristics so it’s better to view them as separate entities.

Also, there are some rules regarding capitalization of BDSM titles. For instance, different BDSM names for Dominants are often capitalized and submissive titles are never capitalized. This is meant to highlight the essence of their roles. Some people in the BDSM community take it very seriously, while for others it is not a big deal. 

Let’s take a look at the most common sub and dom names and discuss how they differ from each other. 

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Titles for Dominants in BDSM

The names Dominant, Master/Mistress, Sadist, and Top are used to describe those who are in control in BDSM. 


Dominant is often shortened to Dom (masculine) or Domme (feminine). This title is a general term that describes a person who takes an active and controlling role in BDSM practices. Doms can take the dominant role in a scene, interaction, or relationship as a whole. They are often referred to as Sir or Miss by their submissives. 


Master (masculine) and Mistress (feminine) titles are more specific - they identify a person who is always dominant and has a need and inclination to control someone to a greater extent than a Dominant. The role of a Dominant always stays with them and they never take the submissive role in a scene. A Master is always a Dominant, but not every Dominant is a Master. The complementary opposite role for Master is a slave. 


This name is often used for exaggeration and it makes many submissives feel uncomfortable. A sadist is someone who enjoys causing physical pain to other people. Actual sadists are rare and not every Dominant who enjoys causing pain in a scene can be called a Sadist. It’s worth mentioning that both submissives and Dominants can be masochists or sadists.


The final term for people in dominating positions is Top. It is usually used to describe the dominant in BDSM interactions where there is no power exchange. For instance, a rope bondage rigger who is tying up subs as a job can be called a Top. Top is one of gender-neutral Dom names and can be used both for male and female Doms. 

Names for a submissive in BDSM

People often use degrading sub names in D/s relationships. You can come up with creative submissive names on your own or use one of the common names for subs. Let's take a look at the most widely used terms for submissives that you should know:


This is a general label for a person who is controlled in BDSM. A submissive wants and enjoys being controlled either during scenes or in relationships as a whole. It is both a term and a role, so a person can self-identify as a submissive or choose to submit.


A slave is the most intense of all submissive titles. Slaves not only want to be dominated but feel like they have a fundamental need to be owned and totally controlled. They are submissives who want to be dominated not only during BDSM scenes but also in Master/slave relationships and everyday life. 


A masochist is the opposite of a Sadist. It is a person who enjoys feeling physical pain and finds it sexually arousing. Masochists are often people who like receiving pain from a person they have a connection with. They usually don’t enjoy the general feeling of pain on its own. 

Pain Slut

A pain slut is similar to a masochist, but pain sluts don’t necessarily find the pain to be sexually arousing or necessary for satisfying sex. They can take pain for their Dominant/Master in the act of submission or just want to push their boundaries in enduring pain. 


Being the opposite from the Top, the role of the bottom may suit people who want to be tied up but don’t want to be involved in any further BDSM activities. Also, bottoms can allow other Dominants or Masters to tie them up without engaging them in any further actions in a scene.

Other BDSM labels and terms

There are some other words that you will see and hear many times when talking about BDSM, so it’s better to learn them before you dive deeper into the lifestyle: 

  • Fetish - a practice or activity that is sexually arousing and makes sex more satisfying, for instance, bondage. 
  • Kink - this term is very similar to a fetish. It does not necessarily have to be connected to sex but it should be some activity that is very enjoyable. You can find many examples of kinks online. 
  • Vanilla - in BDSM, this means normal (non-kinky) sex. It can also refer to people who are not into BDSM. 
  • Play - the act of engaging in an activity related to BDSM. 
  • Scene - a BDSM activity that involves intense interaction and power exchange lasting from a few minutes to several days, usually taking one or two hours.

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