BDSM is a variety of often erotic practices or roleplaying involving bondage , discipline , dominance and submission , sadomasochism , and other related interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practising BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture is usually dependent upon self-identification and shared experience. 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. Activities and relationships within a BDSM context are often characterized by the participants taking on complementary, but unequal roles; thus, the idea of informed consent of both the partners is essential. The terms "submissive" and "dominant" are often used to distinguish these roles: the dominant partner "dom" takes psychological control over the submissive "sub".