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The terms "top" and "bottom" are also used: the top is the instigator of an action while the bottom is the receiver of the action.
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.
Top and dominant are widely used for those partner(s) in the relationship or activity who are, respectively, the physically active or controlling participants.
Bottom and submissive are widely used for those partner(s) in the relationship or activity who are, respectively, the physically receptive or controlled participants.
For other scenes, particularly in established relationships, a safeword may be agreed to signify a warning ("this is getting too intense") rather than explicit withdrawal of consent; and a few choose not to use a safeword at all.
There are distinct subcultures under this umbrella term.
Terminology for roles varies widely among the subcultures.
Despite the bottom performing the action and the top receiving they have not necessarily switched roles.
The abbreviations "sub" and "dom" are frequently used instead of "submissive" and "dominant".