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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: directedverse, BDSM verse, D/s AU
Related: BDSM, Alternate Universe
See Also: Knotting, Alpha/Beta/Omega, Dominance Hierarchy
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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BDSM AU is a type of alternate universe setting in fanfiction where D/s relationships are the norm, and sexual identity is understood in terms of BDSM power dynamics (e.g., top, sub) rather than sexual object choice (e.g. gay, straight). These stories normalize the BDSM desires of the characters and usually portray a 24/7-style relationship between the pairing. Not to be confused with slavefic, these stories are nearly always about fully consensual and societally supported kinky lifestyles.

The current popularity of BDSM AUs was inspired by two Stargate Atlantis stories written in 2006 — Coming Home by Xanthe and Helen's responsefic, Take Clothes Off As Directed.

In both stories, bisexuality is the norm and sexuality is classified according to dynamic; to illustrate how normalized BDSM sexuality is, Coming Home has Radek Zelenka come out as the only "monosexual" and "non-dynamic" character in the story (i.e. a vanilla heterosexual).[1] Xanthe's story is also the origin of pairing the terms "top" and "sub" (in ordinary English usage, "top" goes with "bottom" and "sub" goes with "dom").[citation needed] In the modern iteration of the trope, however, this aspect is often dropped or sexuality is never explicitly discussed.

Xanthe's universe is a very utopian society and Helen's reinterpretation is very cynical, so BDSM AUs can be found anywhere on the continuum between these two points.


Every BDSM AU is slightly different based on the author's own ideas and preferences, but there are a few main variations to the original trope that have become popular in their own right.

Soulmate/Soulbond: There is a slight distinction between a soulmate variation of the AU (where fate ties a dom/sub to their "perfect" match) and a soulbond one (where characters choose who to make a deep, permanent, connection with). Regardless of how the match is made, the AU tends to work about the same way. Xanthe's Coming Home featured a soulbond trope where married couples may choose to become permanently "life-bonded," a trope not included in Helen's remix, but one that has appeared in other works.

Biological BDSM: In this AU, BDSM dynamics function in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of Alpha/Beta/Omega, with characters typically "presenting" as a dom, sub, or switch (or neutral) in their teen years. Dominants usually have a "dominant register" or similar allowing them to give irresistible commands to submissives. All characters, but especially submissives, also need to spend time in domspace/subspace regularly or risk becoming sick. It is not known where this idea originated, but it may have come from writers combining the BDSM AU with A/B/O universes.

Trope Conventions

There are several elements that are common across most, if not all, BDSM AUs, but are treated very differently depending on the author's personal preferences and worldbuilding. Many of these elements are also a part of real-life BDSM, but their roles in the real world are not reflected in the AU.

Collars: Collars are a symbol of ownership that can be given varying levels of importance. In some AUs, they are a standard trophy of a one-night stand, while in others they may be as important as a marriage proposal; in a more dystopian setting, submissives may be required by law to wear one.

Contracts: A contract between partners is a list of their likes, dislikes, limits, etc, and is designed to help all parties stay safe and cared for within a scene or 24/7 dynamic. Like collars, contracts are given varying levels of importance. They are usually legally binding, and may be an everyday document shared with all partners, or a deeply personal and serious agreement.

Discipline: Traditionally, fics like Coming Home and Take Clothes Off as Directed made corporal punishment and similar forms of discipline a routine--often public--aspect of everyday life, including the workspace. In some works, however, it may be a private matter, if the issue comes up at all.

Clinics: Often, biological versions of the trope will include a system of government-run clinics staffed by professional doms and subs, but in place for the purposes of staving off sickness/withdrawal.

Some conventions of BDSM AUs also seem to have taken root in Omegaverse fics as well, for example the idea of an "omega drop" first being seen in a work which fused the AUs,[2] and in recent years being used in pure Omegaverse stories.

Non-Western Fandoms

BDSM AU-themed yaoi manga Zettai, Fukujuu Meirei (絶対、服従命令) by Tsushiko (つし子) was published in Japan in 2020.[3]

Antinomie, a Boku no Hero Academia doujinshi trilogy by Hokoushayou Shingou/Cai, was published in 2019, and was later referenced as the inspiration for some fics hosted on AO3.[4][5] It is a biological BDSM AU that originated the idea of a dominant's "glare." A glare is when a dominant projects their "presence and intensity" toward a sub, and will cause the irresistible urge to kneel. The work also established the idea of "defense," a protective and perhaps feral state a dominant enters when their submissive is threatened. Additionally, in this AU, collars are canonized as symbolizing a serious relationship.

Example Fanworks

Some stories explicitly set in Xanthe's 'verse:
Some stories that credit inspiration to this story:

Several stories added a soulbond/soulmate element:

Stories which added a biological element:

other stories, without clear inspiration and in other fandoms, soulbond examples, formatting


  1. ^ John Sheppard's response: "Mono *and* non-dynamic? Man, you're pervy!" John laughed. "Where the hell do you go to *meet* people, Radek?"[1]
  2. ^ I Usually Don't Fall When I Try to Stand by LaraTeigh combines BDSM and Omegaverse.[2]
  3. ^
  4. ^ Collar Bound by jasmineflower69 names Antinomie as an inspiration in the beginning notes.[3]
  5. ^ Luffy-Abiding by arakicanaria is the only non-BNHA fic to reference Antinomie.[4]