Differing dynamics: S/m, M/s and D/s

BelasariusThe data below comes from the BDSM Safewords survey but isn’t about safewords – instead it looks at the shape of dynamics of people in different types of BDSM relationships – Sadists/masochists (S/m), Masters( mistresses/slaves (M/s) and Dominants/submissives (D/s).

I asked people about their attitudes to various things BDSM people like to do. The chart below shows broad differences in approach to BDSM people in each of the above groups. What I did was take the score for “essential to me” (see Background, below) and subtract from it the score for “I don’t do this”.

Here is how the top nine areas of interest/interaction differed for each group;

Dominant/ submissive Master/ Slave Sadist/ Masochist
1 Control Control Pain
2 Sex Sex Bondage
3 Bondage Service Sex
4 Exhibitionism Ritual Control
5 Ritual Pain Fetish
6 Service Bondage Exhibitionism
7 Pain Fetish Humiliation
8 Fetish Humiliation Service
9 Humiliation Exhibitionism Ritual

I’ve colour coded the responses. Red represents what I consider the more “physical” aspects of BDSM and blue the more “mental” aspects: I recognise that, like almost everything we do, this is open to wide interpretation – it’s just to try to show some “at a glance” differences more easily. I coloured sex green because I think it’s a sort of relationship fundamental that doesn’t fit easily into either group.

What’s clear is probably not rocket science: The S/m people who responded are more into physical aspects of BDSM than other groups, whilst M/s people prefer “blue” choices and D/s people fall somewhere between.

The chart below looks at this data again, this time ranking it from the most popular to the least popular choices made by D/s people (the biggest group).

D:s, M:s and S:m - how dynamics differ

This chart bases the rankings on the scores for people in each group who said each area was essential to them and then subtracts the scores for those who said they  didn’t do it. So we can see that, for example, not only do service and ritual come well down on sadists/masochists lists of priorities, but they actively dislike them. Control is important for both M/s and D/s people but is, by a long chalk the key characteristic (with service No. 2 – but a fair way back) for M/s people.


The 532 people who responded included 98 S/m people , 89 M/s people and 345 D/s people.

The question asked them to look at each of these things:

  • Pain
  • Bondage
  • Humiliation
  • Exhibitionism
  • Fetish
  • Sex
  • Ritual
  • Service
  • Control

And then asked them to rank each of these as follows:

  • Essential to me
  • Important to me
  • Neither important or unimportant
  • I dislike this
  • I don’t do this

To make the data in this article as stark as possible I only used the “Essential to me” and “I don’t do this” scores.

Results from BDSM styles and relationships survey.

The following, from a post on Informed Consent relating to my BDSM styles and relationships survey, relates to the above. At the time,  331 people had taken part. This is some of what the  104 people who identified as either sadist/masochist or master/slave said about their BDSM styles and relationships.

There’s an interesting demographic difference ( bear in mind these are small samples): 49% of S/m types are in full time work compared with 60% of M/s types. 33% of S/m people are not in work or full time education, whilst this is true of 18% of M/s people.

When it comes to sexuality, 61% of S/mers identified as heterosexual. 73% of M/s people did.

38% of S/m people said they switch. 7% of M/sers do.

Now, Sex. 36% of S/mers said this was essential to them. 64% of M/sers agree.

Next, Pain: 55% of S/mers say it is essential. 23% of M/sers agree. 33% of M/sers say pain is neither important or unimportant.

54% of M/s types say their BDSM relationship is their only one. 33% of S/mers say this. 33% of S/mers are not in a relationship compared with 16% of M/s respondents.

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