What’s in a (BDSM) symbol?

When Master and I entered into D/s we’d been BDSM in the bedroom for decades – two to be exact, as long as we’ve been together. We were BDSM before we knew what it was. With the vocabulary I have now, I can see bondage, sensation deprivation, humiliation, voyeurism, and few other kinks in there. We didn’t know that any of it could possibly fall into BDSM at all, in fact we were shocked to find out others didn’t keep a blindfold in their to-go bag, or scarves permanently tied to their bedposts. Clearly, they were the weird ones. Ha!

But that was just sex, just kink. It comes and goes, waxes and wanes; with life, stress, time and obligations. Entering into D/s, however, was different. It changed our life. Our relationship grew, our closeness deepened, our trust magnified. We liked ourselves more. We even liked each other more. Each of us changed on a fundamental level.

It wasn’t long into this journey that Master asked me to get the minnie tattoo. It was the symbol of that change, of the journey and growth we were making. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation started, but I do remember his excitement. He even shared images with me! This was a really big deal for someone who doesn’t like tattoos in general.

When we first started discussing it, I -channeling my very A type personality- wanted the precise BDSM symbol, the triskelion, inside it. My plan was to put it in the center of minnie’s head.

BDSM Triskelion

The meaning of the symbol is easily found on the web, though there are some variations and change over time. It is based off ancient three-legged symbols that spiral out, and originate from more than one culture across the world. Greece and Ireland are some of the oldest, but it can be found with some similarities across other continents. There are those who also claim it is based off ‘The Story of O.’

Just as it doesn’t have a single origin point, it also doesn’t have a single reappropriation. The triskelion is used by everything from The seal of the Tau Gamma Sigma sorority, to various tech and video game enthusiasts, to the US Department of Transportation. Its use is not unique to the BDSM community. Some, I think, appreciate this. They want to wear the symbol, and not be outed. Others want the symbol to be distinctive, unique, and highly specific so it can’t be confused with other symbols. Just check out The Emblem Project for one such example.

Why a Triskelion?
The three spokes in the Triskelion are said to have quite a few layers of meaning.


  • Safe, Sane, Consensual (The BDSM creed.)
  • Top, Bottom, Switch (The three roles.)
  • Heterosexual, Homosexual, Bisexual
  • Bondage and Discipline (BD), Domination and Submission (DS), Sadism and Masochism (SM)

There is also other symbolism appropriated to its intricacies. The curving lines are said to be like a whip, or curved lashes of a spanking. The metalic color is meant to represent the chains of ownership. The three holes symbolize the incompleteness of the individual. The circle is meant to show the encompassing community.

When I look at the meaning of the three, I am instantly brought to my three selves; submissive, little, and vanilla. I also see a movement in the spiral that represents the growth and journey.

To accentuate those things, I quickly moved away from what The Emblem Project said was a ‘true’ BDSM symbol, to something that built off growth.

Instead it is something closer to these triskelions going into my tattoo.

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