Types Of Relationships In BDSM

Author: Raven Shadowborne © Oct. 15, 1999

Within BDSM, there are many different types of relationships. Each one is important to those who live them. As well, each one is defined by the people involved. This often makes things difficult for people who are new to the lifestyle. Here are my definitions of the different types of relationships found in BDSM. None of them are better than any other, in my opinion. I give this information simply to show how varied things are and to aid those who are just learning in having at least a general idea of what can be found.

Bedroom D/s: These are the relationships in which the power exchange takes place only during a set time frame. It usually coincides with sex or b/d & s/m play. There is no power exchange outside of these scenes. Often, this is used as a way to spice up an existing relationship by including b/d and s/m play. Some times, this kind of relationship can grow into another type. It is, in my opinion, a part of BDSM because a power exchange does take place, no matter how briefly. For many, this type of relationship is the first step into BDSM and can be an ideal way for newbies to start out. Often, this is a love based relationship or play partner arrangement.

D/s: (Domination/submision) Be it a live in 24/7 relationship or a long distance one, a d/s relationship is one where the power exchange exists outside the bedroom or pre-arranged scenes. The power exchange encompasses more than just sexual acts. Such a relationship may or may not include love. It may or may not include limits on play activities, which were imposed by the submissive. For me, the deciding factor that makes a relationship a d/s one is the answer to the question "Who has final say in the majority of daily life?". If the answer is "The dominant" " my master" or such, that shows a power exchange outside of the bedroom and therefor a d/s relationship. In these relationships the focus is not on just play, but also on the mental aspects of the power exchange and service by the submissive. The power exchange is not always obvious, but each person involved knows their place whether play has occured recently or not. In this kind of relationship, one finds rules of behavior, expectations, and tasks put on the submissive. The majority of mainstream BDSM relationships fall into this category.

M/s (Master/slave): This is a rare type of relationship. One that is often misunderstood and ostracised. Nevertheless, it is a valid and very real type of BDSM relationship. In such a relationship there is a total giving of power from the slave to the dominant. It is, in fact, a total power exchange (TPE). Like the d/s relationship, the power exchange is present outside of sexual encounters. Unlike the d/s relationship, the slave can not and does not set any limits on the dominant and usually does not have a safeword. As in the d/s relationship you will find rules of behavior, expectations and tasks placed on the slave. Unlike some d/s relationships, these rules can cover a lot more area, such as tone of voice, body movements, sleeping and eating habits, poise and more. The main focus in such a relationship is the service of the slave, not sexual gratification. For those involved in such relationships, it is the service of the slave that is the most satisfying and is a driving force behind the relationship. Those involved in an M/s relationship, do so because they need to serve or be served. The slave wants to relinquish all control to the dominant and is happiest when he/she finds the right dominant for them to which they can fully submit. However, this does not mean a slave is incapable of caring for themselves or a doormat, quite the opposite in fact. A slave, like a submissive, must be capable and reliable. Many slaves have extensive responsiblities that they must take care of on a daily basis, and those who can't care for themselves or think for themselves, would not suceed as a slave or submissive. The M/s relationship seems to be more of a mental one than the d/s relationship. The mindsets of those involved are different. In a d/s relationship many submissives think they can just leave if they had to. In an m/s relationship, most slaves would not consider doing so even in the event of their life being endangered. A slave gives blanket consent to the dominant upon taking the collar. Whereas, many d/s relationships seem to require repeated consent from the submissive. An m/s relationship need not have love, and is usually not based on love.

There is a fourth type of relationship. I have yet to see anyone name it or clearly define it, but it does exist. I will give a general description of such a relationship here. It comes between a d/s relationship and an m/s one. It is a relationship that has traits of both types. It focuses more on service and mental aspects than a standard d/s relationship, yet still has a bit more focus on the physical aspects than the m/s relationship. In such a relationship, the submissive exhibits and is happiest with quite a few attributes of the m/s relationship. For example, blanket consent, no safe words, and no limits. SUch a relationship can grow into an m/s one or revert to a d/s one, depending on what the participants want. 

Each of these types have variances within them from the mildest occasional hand spankers, to the extreme edge players. Or from the mildest power exchange of a weekend encounter, to the day to day living of complete submission in an absolute m/s relationship. And, everything in between! But, they all have one thing in common. Consent is the common denominator. Those involved consented to the relationship as it is.

Because of the many variances it is a good idea to have at least a general inkling of the different relationships out there. Armed with such information, it becomes easier to avoid finding onself in a relationship that they either can't handle or just are not happy in. It is extremely important that prospective partners discuss what they want in a relationship and honestly evaluate if their desired relationships match.

BDSM is NOT a competition. There is no magic level that makes one a "real" or "Not real". To view it as such is to set yourself up for disaster. No relationship is easy and a BDSM on has challenges all it's own. To make those challenges worse by placing yourself into a relationship you can not handle, is not a very smart idea. Be honest to yourself and others about what you want in a relationship and what you can handle. But, do not rule out growth and change as time goes on. A relationship can indeed grow into one of the other types over time. So keep that in mind, but do not strive to be something you are not because of a false belief that only those live a certain way are "real" BDSM. The main point behind BDSM is for those involved to be satisfied and happy overall with their relationship's dynamics. Not to see who can reach TPE first. 



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