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Master is a term used to describe or address the dominant partner in a relationship or scene. Because it is an honorific of the dominant, it is common for "master" to be written with a capital letter.



The term "master" can be used gender-independent but is mostly used only in reference to males. There is not otherwise a male equivalent. The female equivalent is Mistress or possibly Dominatrix.

Casual Usage

Some people in a relationship, or just within a scene, enjoy the psychological impact of calling their dominant partner master or having their submissive partner call them master. Such usage is not by itself an indication that they are a master any more than calling a partner 'honey' indicates that they are made of honey.

This usage of the word Master as an honorific - when neither consider themselves to be owned nor owner - is a common source of confusion when trying to use or understand BDSM terminology, given that the more accepted usage requires no certification or formal training. Most especially, a Dom might be called Master by his sub in a D/s relationship.


Typically, Master is used to describe the dominant partner, or owner, in a Master/Slave relationship. A master might have little specific expertise although to successfully maintain a Master/slave relationship takes abilities and skills beyond or apart from normal relationship skills.

The master has usually been given the right to exercise authority over the slave in some sense, within a relationship that may extend to a full time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Although the master is understood to have a great deal of authority over the slave, this can not extend to legal rights and thus there must always be an implicit, if not explicit, element of consent involved.

A Master might be a sadist but is unlikely to be a masochist.

Head of Household

Master may also be used in its everyday sense as the male head of a household in some styles of D/s and M/s.


Not often used within the meaning of BDSM but sometimes found in this context to mean someone who knows a lot about a subject, such as ropework or whips (as in "he is a famous whip master.")

Historically, a master craftsman (sometimes called only master) was a member of a guild. In the European guild system, only master craftsmen were allowed to actually be members of the guild. An aspiring master would have to pass through the career chain from apprentice to journeyman before he could be elected to become a master craftsman. He would often have to produce a sum of money and a masterpiece before he could actually join the guild. Becoming a master was often very hard.

The usage of master in S&M parallels this usage in some ways, as early practitioners used to go through an 'apprentice' stage, often having to be submissive or masochistic as part of the process. However, master in historical SM and Leather derived from 'Master/slave' rather than apprentive / journeyman / master.

Personal Experiences

See Master (BDSM) - Personal Experiences

See Also

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