Editor’s note: This definition explores “switch” in the context of BDSM – the term is also used in the LGBTQ+ community for a person who both tops and bottoms.
A switch is a person involved in BDSM play who may play either a Dominant or submissive, rather than committing to a single role. A switch can lead a submissive partner through a BDSM scene or take a more submissive role and receive pleasure, pain or both from a Dominant partner.
If playing with another switch, they may take on both these roles at different points within a scene. A switch may like being Dominant or submissive equally or have some preference for one of these roles. However, they should always feel comfortable being Dominant and submissive.
A switch differs from a traditional Dominant or submissive, who maintains their role through different scenes or as a lifestyle choice. Switches may switch roles because they feel more Dominant or more submissive at various times. They may simply want to experience a wider range of sensations and activities. Their sexual partner may also influence the role they take. A switch’s versatile nature makes sure they can always meet their partner’s needs, no matter what their partner’s BDSM orientation is. Switches can have sexual interactions or relationships with dominants, submissives and other switches. Switches can also adapt their approach to make a scene successful.
While switches can satisfy all kinds of sexual partners, they are also turned on by both BDSM roles. Switches enjoy taking control sexually, perhaps by tying their partner up or assuming a more dominant sexual position. However, they may also love feeling vulnerable and having a partner taking the lead, spanking them, tying them up or ordering them around.
As with all BDSM activity, what a switch does during scenes is just one part of their identity. Switches may also switch roles in other parts of their life. For example, they may enjoy being Dominant and consensually bossing a submissive around, but be just as willing to receive orders.