What Does The BDSM Emblem Mean?

Author: Quagmyr ©


The BDSM emblem has no "obvious" symbolism because it was created to be enigmatic. To the vanilla observer who would be put off by BDSM, it is merely an attractive piece of jewelry. Thus, we can wear it freely as a friendly salute, nod, and wink to other BDSMers we should happen to pass on the sidewalks and in the hallways of our daily lives.

To the insider, however, the Emblem is full of meaning.

The three divisions represent the various threesomes of BDSM. First of all, the three divisions of BDSM itself: B&D, D&S, and S&M. Secondly, the three-way creed of BDSM behavior: Safe, Sane, and Consensual. Thirdly, the three divisions of our community: Tops, Bottoms, and Switches.

It is this third symbolism that gives meaning to the holes in each unit. Since BDSM is at the very least a play style and at its greatest a love style, the holes represent the incompleteness of any individual within the BDSM context. However "together" and "whole" individuals may be, there remains a void within them that can only be filled by a complimentary other. BDSM cannot be done alone.

The resemblance to a three-way variation on the Yin-Yang symbol is not accidental. As the curved outline of Yin and Yang represent the hazy border between where one ends and the other begins, so do the curved borders here represent the indistinct divisions between B&D, D&S, and S&M.

The metal and metallic color of the medallion represents the chains or irons of BDSM servitude/ownership. The three inner fields are black, representing a celebration of the controlled dark side of BDSM sexuality.

The curved lines themselves can be seen as a stylized depiction of a lash as it swings, or even an arm in motion to deliver an erotic spanking. The all-embracing circle, of course, represents the overlying unity of it all and the oneness of a community that protects its own.


Here are the two most popular sketches of the Emblem (shown above on the left and right of the Emblem Project sign) which may be downloaded from The Emblem Project. If you'd prefer to have a copy of the file e-mailed to you, please e-mail Quagmyr. Or, if you prefer a different color scheme, please let him know and he will work that up for you as soon as he can. You can also feel free to make your own drawing of it, as others have. In doing so, though, please keep in mind that every feature of the Emblem has a symbolic meaning. They are all spelled out in the official explanation. If you deviate, you are probably eliminating symbolic meaning.

Please note that Quagmyr also sells the BDSM Emblem as jewelry, artwork, and on other products. For more information about jewelry, artwork and products with the Emblem, go here.


Displaying the Emblem
by Quagmyr

There are a few errors that seem to pop up on sites displaying the Emblem--particularly those on which the Emblem is redrawn. For my best explaination, (ie, to let me slide by on work I've already done) I'll just reproduce here an expanded version of some email I've sent to various webmasters in order to clear up areas of confusion.

Notes On Display Of The BDSM Emblem

The BDSM emblem has really caught on--at least as far as online display is concerned--since it was first conceived in a chat area by one group of BDSMers and designed by Yours Truly.

It's since been pointed out me that my description of its symbolism is not complete enough to make for clear guidelines for online display. For that, I apologize. And thus these brief notes.

Please note that I am not trying to impose my design sense on anyone. I see no reason why folks shouldn't play with the form in various ways to best serve the design of their web pages. I do wish to assure, however, that when people choose to diverge from the "standard" representation it is by conscious choice and with specific design intent, and not by error.

Keeping that in mind, here are the four aspects that are most often overlooked in representing the emblem.

  1. The rim and three curved "spokes" of the design are meant to be presented in some metallic color. On the original pins and pendants this area is raised. This color (it may look like iron, gold, silver, copper, bronze, anything metallic) is indicative of the "chains" or "irons" of BDSM servitude/ownership

  2. The three inner fields are black, representing a celebration of the controlled "dark side" of BDSM sexuality.

  3. The three "dots" are not dots but holes. The background of the page should be visible though them. These holes, as described in the original explanation of the symbol, denote the incompleteness of any individual practioner in that BDSM is at the least a playstyle and at most a lovestyle, and cannot be practiced alone. There is always the need for a complimentary other.

  4. The arms curve clockwise. There is no reason for this other than the fact that this is how I envisioned it when I was first designing it. But it's been set, so one clockwise is correct and counterclockwise is backwards.

No doubt other questions will pop up now that I've spelled these points out. I'll answer those as they arise.



The BDSM Emblem is copyright 1995 by Quagmyr@aol.com who maintains the copyright in order to protect the symbol. It is freely available for all educational and non-commercial use within the BDSM community without charge. The explanatory text is copyright 1995, 1997 by Quagmyr@aol.com and used here by permission.



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