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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").

This article is about consensual adult sadomasochistic activity.

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.

RACK may be seen as focusing primarily upon awareness and informed consent, rather than accepted safe practices. The consent and compliance for a sadomasochistic situation can be granted only by people who can judge the potential results.

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.

The precise definition of roles and self-identification is a common subject of debate within the community.

"BDSM" is an umbrella term for certain kinds of erotic behavior between consenting adults.

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