Participants usually derive pleasure from this, even though many of the practices—such as inflicting pain or humiliation or being restrained — would be unpleasant under other circumstances.
Explicit sexual activity, such as sexual penetration, may occur within a session, but is not essential.
Sometimes the female-specific terms "mistress", "domme" or "dominatrix" are used to describe a dominant woman, instead of the gender-neutral term "dom".
Whether it is a public "playspace"—ranging from a party at an established community dungeon to a hosted play "zone" at a nightclub or social event—the parameters of allowance can vary.
There are distinct subcultures under this umbrella term.
Terminology for roles varies widely among the subcultures.
For the medical condition in which pain/humiliation is required for sexual arousal and causes distress or impairment, see Sexual masochism disorder.
BDSM is a variety of often erotic practices or roleplaying involving bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadomasochism, and other related interpersonal dynamics.