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The resulting consent and understanding is occasionally summarized in a written "contract", which is an agreement of what can and cannot take place.Use of the agreed safeword (or occasionally a "safe symbol" such as dropping a ball or ringing a bell, especially when speech is restricted) is seen by some as an explicit withdrawal of consent.This article is about consensual adult sadomasochistic activity.For the medical condition involving non-consensual ideation or behaviour, see Sexual sadism disorder.
The two sets of terms are subtly different: for example, someone may choose to act as bottom to another person, for example, by being whipped, purely recreationally, without any implication of being psychologically dominated by them, or a submissive may be ordered to massage their dominant partner.
BDSM is now used as a catch-all phrase covering a wide range of activities, forms of interpersonal relationships, and distinct subcultures.
BDSM communities generally welcome anyone with a non-normative streak who identifies with the community; this may include cross-dressers, body modification enthusiasts, animal roleplayers, rubber fetishists, and others.
Sometimes the female-specific terms "mistress", "domme" or "dominatrix" are used to describe a dominant woman, instead of the gender-neutral term "dom".
Individuals who can change between top/dominant and bottom/submissive roles—whether from relationship to relationship or within a given relationship—are known as switches.Some have a policy of panties/nipple sticker for women (underwear for men) and some allow full nudity with explicit sexual interaction allowed.