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Such explicit sexual interaction is, for legal reasons, seen only rarely in public play spaces, and it is sometimes specifically banned by the rules of a party or playspace.Whether it is a public "playspace"—ranging from a party at an established community dungeon to a hosted play "zone" at a nightclub or social event—the parameters of allowance can vary.This article is about consensual adult sadomasochistic activity.For the medical condition involving non-consensual ideation or behaviour, see Sexual sadism disorder.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").
For their consent, they must have relevant information (extent to which the scene will go, potential risks, if a safeword will be used, what that is, and so on) at hand and the necessary mental capacity to judge.
There are distinct subcultures under this umbrella term.
Terminology for roles varies widely among the subcultures.
Failure to honor a safeword is considered serious misconduct and could even change the sexual consent situation into a crime, depending on the relevant law, since the bottom or top has explicitly revoked his or her consent to any actions that follow the use of the safeword (see Legal status).
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.
The precise definition of roles and self-identification is a common subject of debate within the community.