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For the homonymous punishment device, see switch (rod). For the sexual use of the word, see switch (sex)

In BDSM, a switch is someone who participates in SM activities as both a top and a bottom, or possibly in D/s activities as both a Dom and a sub. A switch will be the top on some occasions and the bottom on other occasions, not necessarily with the same partner. Switching within a scene or even during a session is very rare.

Switches are quite common; a German study of 143 people into BDSM found that 24% of people in this group switched. There is nothing new about switching; it is mentioned by the Marquis de Sade.

There is an ongoing survey focused on the UK scene onFetBook.

A switch may be in a relationship with someone of the same primary BDSM orientation (two dominants, say), so switching provides each partner with an opportunity to realise his or her unsatisfied BDSM needs with others. When switching with the same partner, the reason my be based on mood, desire or the scene being played.

A person's preferences can change during his or her life. This is notable with Old Guard SM where it is common to believe that "the best (or only) Doms were formerly subs," with a ritualised progress from masochist to sadist inevitably involving being a switch in between. The opposite happens also, however, especially with Doms or Dommes becoming subs.

A person who engages in self-bondage can be viewed as taking both roles simultaneously.

The attitude toward switches can vary depending upon group or Community. In some, switching is more frequent and accepted, in others people can have problems with switches, possibly because they fear that which is not easily labelled or identified, or they see switches as too 'weak' to commit to a role.

A category of persons who share "switch" characteristics but do not identify themselves as "switch" are also known as omniviant

Attitudes to switches within the BDSM community

It is difficult to define exactly who is a switch; there are many heated debates about switches on the BDSM forums. However, it is agreed that a switch is someone who can be either a top or bottom (not necessarily to the same person), one who can both dominate and submit. Common myths about switches:

  • Switches are usually bi: No, switches can be gay, straight or bi. This myth may have originated from men enjoying or imagining their submissive/slave female topping another submissive female.
  • Switches tend to be confused and have just not found the right person yet: No, most switches have been on the BDSM scene for some time, have experienced both dom and sub, and are usually very certain of what they want.
  • Switches can't be 'real' submissives or 'real' dominants: No, some switches can be fully effective both as dominants and submissives.

People often shy away from admitting they like to switch because they fear derision.

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