An Alternative Relationship Terms Primer
“Is [ENCLOSED] mostly men sending kinky gifts to their mistresses?”
The simple answer is . . . sometimes. But the more robust answer is, the diversity of Enclosed customers is wonderfully broad. The majority of our customers are straight men sending gifts to their wives or girlfriends, but as we’ve learned from our customers, there are many other manifestations of love. From the polyamorous to the kinksters, swingers to downright vanillas, many groups have embraced [ENCLOSED]’s message of sex-positive luxury lingerie gifting.
We don’t claim to be experts on all the types of relationships we mention here. But we do celebrate love, romance and sex amongst consenting adults. Sexuality is part of the human experience and it’s our hope to create an environment that is non-judgmental, balanced, and open-minded. Therefore, in an effort to start a sex-positive conversation with and better serve our customers, we’ve boned-up(!) on the overlapping worlds of swing, poly and kink. Here’s our starting point; a work-in-progress primer.
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Sex-Positive Relationship Terms & Definitions
To start any clear conversation, it’s helpful to clarify the terms.
24/7 – An agreement whereby there is consensual power exchange full time; 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Abundant Love – The concept that love is not finite therefore it is possible to love more than one person at the same time. As defined by polyamorous author, Franklin Veaux.
Alternative Sexuality – An umbrella term for non-traditional sexual orientation, non-monogamy, gender and sexual expression such as kink or BDSM.
BDSM – An abbreviation containing within it three unique acronyms: B&D which stands for Bondage & Discipline, D/s which stands for Dominance & submission, and S&M or Sadism and Masochism. Together, BDSM represents a full spectrum of sexual activities and relationship models. As explained by Stefani Goerlich, LMSW.
Bi-Curious – A man or woman who is interested in trying same-sex activities.
Bipoly – Refers to a person who is polyamorous and bisexual
Bisexual – Interested in both sexes. The terms “versatile” and “AC/DC” are also used in this same way.
Casual Sex – Sexual activity that takes places outside a romantic relationship and implies an absence of commitment, emotional attachment, or familiarity between sexual partners (i.e. The one-night stand).
CBT – Refers to cock and ball torture.
Closed Swinging – This is where partners swap, but have sexual intercourse in separate rooms.
Compersion – The opposite of jealousy. The act of having a good feeling when one’s partner enjoys sex/ desire with another partner. The term was coined by Kerista Commune.
Consensual Nonmonogamy – An umbrella term for polyamory, open relationships, swinging and other consensual non-monogamous relationships. See ethical nonmonogamy.
Cuckolding – This term can be used several different ways. Historically it referred to the husband of a wife who cheats, and often carried some fairly racist connotations. Now it can indicate a husband whose wife plays without him then comes home to tell him about it. It can also mean a husband who wants to or is forced to watch his wife play with others- sometimes while being told how much better the other man is at pleasing his wife than he is.
Daddy Dom/Mommy Dom – A Dominant whose dominance comes out through paternal/maternal expressions. Sometimes referred to as a “Gentle Dom/me.”
Discipline – These are disciplinary actions which arouse the sexual desires by controlling the behavior. Often involving rules, restrictions (of behavior or movement), and other limitations imposed by one partner on another; it can also include consequences up to and including physical punishment when these are not followed. As explained by Stefani Goerlich, LMSW.
Dominant – A person who exercises control and authority over their partner. Contrast with submissive.
DP – Stands for double penetration.
Edge Play – Any practice which challenges the limits or boundaries (emotionally, physically, and/or psychologically) of one or more of the participants. Can also refer to sexual activity involving actual sharp edges such as blades or sharp objects. From The Submissive Guide.
Ellis – A code name used to identify other swingers. Ellis stands for L.S. or Lifestyle. Thus, “Are you a friend of Ellis?” can be used to identify a member of the lifestyle without compromising confidentiality.
Enthusiastic Consent – All parties involved don’t just say yes to consent but say, “hell yes” i.e. with enthusiasm.
Ethical- Polyamory or Ethical Non-Monogamy – A form of non-monogamy in which every person involved understands and has agreed to non-monogamy. As explained by Sex Educator, Angel Kalafatis.
Figging – Placing a piece of raw, peeled ginger into someone’s anus and/or vagina. This creates a warm, burning sensation that some people find erotic and/ or painful. Also called gingering.
Generous – One code used to indicate when someone is willing to exchange money for sex.
Hanky Code – A traditional form of signaling what your sexual preferences and interests are, typically used among gay men. See the meaning of all the different color codes here.
Hard Swap or full swap – A situation in which two or more couples are free to enjoy nearly all types of sexual activities with other couples, including penetrative sex. From (a source we love), Kinkly.
Hard Swing – A swing party where sexual interaction is assumed and expected.
Impact Play – Refers to hitting or spanking a partner’s body, either with the hand or with an implement such as wooden spoon, crop, or flogger.
Kink – A broad umbrella term for people with a fetish or fetishes that are perceived as abnormal to the public. Dr. Liz Powell, a kink-friendly sex therapist says, “Kink is used as a larger term to indicate anything that is not sort of run of the mill interaction,” This can include a huge range of practices from biting, bondage, BDSM, spanking, cuckolding. The kink communities have some overlap with, but are not synonymous with, polyamory.
Little Girl/Boy – A submissive whose expression takes the form of childlike tropes such as pastel colors, toys, and role playing a younger persona. This practice is entirely distinct from and has nothing to do with the sexualization of children. It focuses on submission through embracing innocence.
Love outside the box – Refers to sex positivism and polyamory or “relationships that go beyond the norm in some way, in gender, number, expression, or style.” By Dawn Davidson, of Love Outside The Box.
Masochist – Someone who derives sexual pleasure out of receiving pain, intense sensation, or emotional humiliation. Note, not all dominants identify as sadists, and not all submissive identify as masochists.
Mistress – Typically known as an extramarital lover (female), but also defined as a woman in a position of authority or control. A female Dominant may be referred to as “Mistress” by her submissive.
Monogamish – A term coined by Dan Savage to mean “not totally monogamous relationship”. Monogamish relationships assume that parties have mutual consent as opposed to non-consent which would be infidelity.
Monogamy – The state or practice of having only one sexual partner at a time.
Moresomes – A sexual encounter with more than three people.
New Paradigm Relating – “A way of loving, or a set of parameters for doing relationships” where “Love is treated as a free gift rather than as a claim.” From Vonn New’s article “New Paradigm Relationships.” Does not inherently correlate with polyamory but there is overlap.
New Relationship Energy or NRE – The passionate spark or excited state of mind that one feels from a new relationship typically involving sexual feelings and excitement. Usually lasts a few weeks to a few months after entering into the relationship.
Nonconsensual Non-Monogamy – In simple terms, cheating or adultery.
Omnisexual – To address hostility to people who self-identify as bisexual, the term omnisexual has started to become popular as a synonym for bisexual but without the negative connotations of the word. From More Than Two.
One Penis Policy – Whereby the man is allowed to have many sexual female partners, but the women may not have sex with other men.
One Vagina Policy – The One Penis Policy in reverse. Whereby the woman is allowed to have many sexual male partners, but the man may not have sex with other women.
Open Relationship or Open Marriage – An agreement that each partner can have sex with other people, under various conditions and with specific limitations. According to sex therapist, Jessa Zimmerman.
Open Swinging – This kind of swinging allows partners to swap and have sexual intercourse in the same room, or bed.
Orgasm Control – A technique where you build yourself (or your partner) up to the point of orgasm without climaxing, then you stop. Sometimes also called ‘edging’ but not the same as ‘edge play’ (see definition above). From The ABCs of Kink.
Orgasm Denial – A form of Discipline and Dominance in which the receiving partner is not allowed to climax during sexual activity. This restriction may last for one encounter, be time limited (no orgasms for one week) or in some cases be a permanent relationship rule.
Orgy – A party which involves unrestrained indulgence, especially in sexual activity.
Party Clothes/ Party Clothing – Clothing intended to be worn during events such as swing parties, public dungeons, or some private poly meet-ups. This often includes robes, lingerie, or other clothing that is likely conducive to sex and erotic engagements. (And yes, we think [ENCLOSED] clandestine ultra-sexy offerings, as well as more modest lingerie and accessories, would be perfect for such a fête.)
Polyamory – Engaging in emotionally intimate relationships among multiple people that can also be sexual and/or romantic partners. Also called an open relationship or a non-monogamous relationship.
Polyandry – One woman married to multiple husbands.
Polycule – A romantic network made up of a polyamorous person’s lovers and partners. It can include several or many people. The term is a portmanteau of “polyamory” and “molecule”.
Polyfidelity – A polyamorous relationship where only in-group sex is allowed unless the group approves other additions. The term was coined by Kerista Commune, whose adherents are also considered to author the term “compersion”.
Polygamy – One (typically heterosexual) man is married to multiple wives.
RACK – Stands for “risk aware consensual kink. While not eliminating all risks, the persons involved decide how to address and manage the risks involved.
Sadist – Someone who consensually derives sexual pleasure out of inflicting intense physical sensation, up to and including pain and/or psychological or emotional distress on their partner.
Safe Word – A prearranged word serving as an unambiguous signal to end an activity, such as between a dominant and submissive sexual couple.
Sex Positive – A movement and mindset focusing on promoting and embracing sexuality, rather than shame, and avoiding ethical or moral judgments around sexuality. The terms and concept of sex-positive are generally attributed to Wilhelm Reich who also coined the phrase “the sexual revolution.”
Soft Swap – Soft swapping can range from having sex in the same room with other people, to fondling and for some couples, even oral sex with one or more people outside the couple. Once there is penetration beyond the partner, it’s considered a “full swap”. From Life On The Swing Set.
Soft Swing – Couples who only have intercourse with their own partner, but do so in the presence of others. Can also be two couples who agree to watch each other during sexual activities.
Submissive – Person who derives satisfaction by giving up control of certain aspects of their lives, behavior or bodies to a Dominant partner. From Rekink.
Sugar Baby – A person, typically younger, who enters into an agreement with a Sugar Daddy/Mama to be financial supported in exchange for sexual and emotional affection.
Sugar Daddy / Mama – A well-to-do, usually older, person who supports or spends lavishly on a typically younger mistress, girlfriend, or boyfriend.
Swingers / Swinging / “The Lifestyle” – A form of open relationship where a committed couple engages in consensual sex with other couples, singles, or groups. The swinger community often refers to itself as “The Lifestyle.”
Switch – Someone who switches between Dominant and submissive roles.
Throuples – Couples who invite a third party into their relationship.
Threesome – Three people in a sexual encounter.
Triad – Three people in an ongoing relationship of emotional and sexual involvement. Not the same as a threesome.
Unicorn – A single, generally bi-sexual female that participates in the lifestyle. Referred to as “unicorns” because they are so rare.
Sincere thanks to Stefani Goerlich, LMSW, of Bound Together Counseling, for reviewing this piece and giving valuable input. Bound Together Counseling offers client-centered, empowerment focused, affirming and inclusive counseling services from a sex-positive, feminist perspective.
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Sex Positive Comments Most Welcome . . .
Don’t be shy – we encourage you to join the conversation and provide advice or ask questions in the comments below. There is more than one interpretation of many of these terms. Tell us what works for you. What definitions do you use?
You are welcome comment under an alias name or provide your full name and links to resources and information you think might be helpful to this ongoing discussion.
This is an awesome intro without being overly academic.
This is a great starting point! I would just like to add a couple of comments.
Most people who are bisexual today do not define their bisexuality according to the sexual binary, as some people assume from the “bi” in bisexual. Rather, they prefer to define it as attracted to there own and other genders.
There are two other seemingly similar terms, pansexual and omnisexual.
A pansexual person is attracted to people regardless of their gender.
Whereas an omnisexual person is someone attracted to all genders.
While hostility towards the word bisexual may have pushed these terms into popular use, they have now taken on their own identity separate from bisexuality.
From the outside, they may function similarly, but the internal process is different for those that use the various terms.
There is a lot more to the history of these terms, but the most important thing is to respect the words and wishes of whoever you are speaking with and not assume or out people’s identities.
I’m a long-time time customer of Enclosed (love it!) And would love to see more light BDSM toys, clothing and discussion. Thank you.
“Masochist – Someone who derives sexual pleasure out of receiving pain, intense sensation, or emotional humiliation. Note, not all dominants identify as sadists, and not all submissive identify as masochists.”
I think it’s worth including that many masochists just get ‘regular pleasure’ or to paraphrase a former sub of mine, they do it for the rush (endorphin/adrenaline/oxytocin/etc.) and it doesn’t turn them on.
Rewording suggestion: Someone who derives pleasure or a release from receiving pain, intense sensation, or emotional humiliation. Note, not all dominants identify as sadists, and not all submissive identify as masochists.”
ML, thank you. Super-helpful and insightful.
Really helpful breakdown and great explanation of love in all its forms.