The Many Spectrums in BDSM

I wanted to take a closer look at the labels applied within BDSM – Dom/sub, Top/bottom, Master/slave, etc. To see where the distinctions lie. Of course I quickly found that there were no clear distinctions; while there did appear to be some core concepts that the majority of people agreed on, most of the finer details were subject to individual definition. Rather than having set definitions, there were rather various spectrums that an individual can lie on – one may choose a label to market themselves (e.g. someone looking for a Dom would describe themselves as a sub), but beyond that the labels themselves would describe very little of that individual, as there’s so many different spectrums they can lie on.

A post I found extremely useful in the explanation of this was written by Cowhideman from FetLife, replying to a discussion about how to label yourself within the BDSM community (and whether such labelling was necessary at all). In his post he outlined several spectrums an individual can lay on, including:

DOMINANT-SWITCH-SUBMISSIVE

TOP-SWITCH/VERSATILE-BOTTOM

SADIST-NEITHER/VERSATILE-MASOCHIST

MONOGAMOUS-OPEN-POLYGAMOUS

PAIN INTENSITY SPECTRUM

HIGH PROTOCOL-LOW PROTOCOL-NO PROTOCOL

THEATRICALITY SPECTRUM (how themed you want play to be, for example you may want a scene in a Victorian setting)

HOW PUBLIC/OPEN

So there’s just so many different options there. Say someone identifies as a sub – you got a vague idea of where they lie on one spectrum (and still only vague, after all, HOW submissive are they?), but you have no clue where they stand on any of the others. Are they masochistic? Not all subs are. If they are masochistic, do they want intense pain? Not necessarily. Just because they’re a sub, do they want 24/7 domination? You can’t know until you ask.

So looking at that, it seems that labels really are, well, pretty much useless outside of advertising yourself for potential partners, and even then you’re going to need to do a lot more work to find out which of those partners are compatible with you. This raises the question on why so much emphasis is placed on finding an appropriate label, and why some roles are sometimes looked down on (for example, people who identify as bottoms rather than subs may be looked down by some subs in a very ‘this is the one twue way’ fashion).

As someone just starting to explore BDSM this is important to me, as I felt very confused on not being able to find a precise label for myself – am I a bottom, or a submissive? After looking into it, if I chose a label for myself it would be ‘bottom,’ or perhaps skipping over all that and just identifying myself as a ‘kinkster.’ But what use are these labels really? To someone who didn’t know me, they wouldn’t garner much information from either of those words, so it seems silly to stress over them.

If you’d like to see Cowhideman’s post, follow this link, although his reply was the most informative the entire thread is worth reading – https://fetlife.com/groups/347/group_posts/841222. I’d also like to thank him for allowing me to use the information in his post for my blog.

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About buhocurioso

I'm someone with little experience with sex or BDSM, however I would like to explore these areas and try to overcome any negative feelings I have towards them. I want to be comfortable with my own skin and also understand what different aspects in these areas mean to others.

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