What Is Bdsm? A Newb Guide For Beginners And The Curious - Part 3: Submissive and Slave: Is there really a difference?

What is BDSM?  A Newb Guide for Beginners and the Curious - Part 3: Submissive and Slave:  Is there really a difference?
By EP User: SunniL

Disclaimer & Preface:
This is Adult Only Content.

Be respectful, do not reprint or publish any information contained within this entry without my permission.

Submissive and Slave:  Is there really a difference?

Yes there is.  There is also the term ‘bottom’.  This is still a submissive.  Someone feel free to explain it if you wish.  I am going strictly with the terms submissive and slave here for this particular explanation.

I have given you a lot of information.  However, I did not exactly explain the difference between a submissive and a slave.

Let us go to that place I have left undefined:  The difference between submissive and slave.

In terms of BDSM, I have already defined a submissive as:
Submissive, often seen as: sub, pet, slave, toy, submissive, slave, bottom: The person giving up the control.

It was a general description, nothing more.  Now let’s break it down.

A submissive generally is someone who surrenders power to another, either part or full-time, voluntarily.  She/he usually has rules, structure and a defined period of time she/he is in ‘submissive character’.  In a SSC relationship, the submissive holds the right to use a safe word/signal.

For a submissive, there is a fair amount of negotiating done to determine what the appropriate limits of submission and control should be to incorporate into their play.  For those that this type of power exchange is a lifestyle or 24/7, the extent of Dominance and submission practiced can be quite extensive.

A slave is a separate specific category of a submissive.  She/he does not usually hold the right to use a safe word/signal.  Hard limits are not adhered to other than what her/his Master has agreed to adhere.  That line can be blurry here due to a slave typically does not hold the right to refuse service to their Master.

A slave is on a deeper and more complex level of committed submission than a submissive takes it to.  The intensity is at its highest level within a Master/slave relationship.

A Master/slave (M/s) relationship is usually 24/7.  Not always.  The M/s relationships where the slave does not live with the Master and they go about their daily business as such usually but not always have protocols in place on how to act, dress, perform certain tasks, etc.

The implication of the word slave is misplaced, misunderstood, and/or misconstrued for many of the inexperienced, curious, or vanilla people.

Within the BDSM SSC foundation, it is clear.  A slave submits to her/his Master even when they do not want to.

This does not have to be sexually or even in a sadomasochistic venue.  But let’s stick to the sexually orientated Master/slave BDSM venue, the one that requires a Dominant and a submissive taken to a more intense level.

There is the consensual slavery and non-consensual slavery aspects that we could get into, but as I have said before and shall say again:  Due to legality and the connotations that surround non-consensual slavery, I will keep my mouth shut.  You know where I stand on TPE’s so you probably can guess my stance on non-consensual slavery.  And since I have little knowledge of non-sexual consenting slavery relationships, I will leave this are alone as well.

Back to where I was…
The once upon a time definition for submissive and slave are still in practice today:
“A submissive renews the choice to submit every time a demand is levied upon him/her.  A slave makes a one-time choice to submit, up front, and thereafter it is incumbent upon him/her to obey.”

I believe this came from an old Usenet newsgroup.  I don’t remember where I pulled it from, but I did paste it into an old journal entry after I became internet savvy.  I apologize to the author, Steven Davis, for plagiarizing him.  (Hey, at least I managed to paste the author’s name!)

A submissive power exchange is about choice.
  • The choice to submit
  • The choice to decide how much control to release
  • The choice to surrender
  • The choice to walk away
  • The choice to renegotiate
  • The choice to say how much
  • The choice to say how far
  • The choice to say no.

A slave is not afforded the above choices - Unless his/her Master allows it.

In some Master/slave relationships, the slave also deals with the inherent fact that they can be traded, shared, used, and the list goes on.

Seriously think of slavery in terms of being owned, without choices, rights, or a voice to say no.  A little bit extreme?  That is the point I am making.

Slavery is the extreme within the submissive category.  She/he has given the ultimate authority and consent to their Master.  A slave makes one conscious choice: To go from submissive to slave.

Ya, ya, ya - argue with me here.  If you have done any decent research and reading you already know that there is something written somewhere: 
“A submissive does not just decide to be a slave; she/he either is or is not.”
And this one: 
“Once a slave, always a slave.”

I disagree on so many levels…  You pick your battle on that one.  I’ll bring the popcorn.

Now taking all of this into play, realize that the one right a consensual slave has is to revoke his/her consent thereby nullifying their relationship with his/her Master.  Also, understand that the contract negotiated for terms of service are many times broad and generalized.

Ah, are you seeing the bigger picture now?  Maybe seeing why I was as blind and naïve as I was to safe words/signals, his stepping on my hard limits and why I ended up submitting even when I did not want to?

You are also most likely understanding why I have chosen to defend his actions even though I did not agree with them and it brought me to revoking his rights and ultimately divorcing him.

Being that I did live in a TPE for several years, I never really understood the complete impact of this difference between submissive and slave.  The information highway had not exploded for me yet or for many others.  Information was hard to get your hands on if you did not know where to look or your local library carried nothing on it.

Today, I do.  If you read this by me:
What is BDSM? A Newb Guide for Beginners and the Curious - Part 2: BDSM Contracts, Other Agreements & TPE's: EP Link on my evolution of the beginning to the end of my experience with a TPE you have most likely gone to the linear equal of the South Pole or the North Pole, depending on how you interpreted what I wrote.

Before you make that judgment call that I was weak for getting out or the judgment of Joseph was on his way to killing me, STOP and then remember:  I made the conscious choice to continue it every year until I felt it in the pit of my stomach it had ran its course.

Yes, our negotiations were volatile and harsh.  But he was on a path to keep me up to speed with him.  As I became more aware of what he wanted and what I wanted, he became more aware of how much ‘more’ he could push my limits and me.


Am I defending what he did to me in the end?
It is a complicated answer of Yes and No.

Yes, in the manner that as a submissive for some odd reason, even now, that it is over, I will defend Joseph up to a point.  That was part of my promise to him, to protect him.  Even though the contracts, agreements and marriage certificate have been burned, it does not change how I felt within our marriage.  It does not make the love, devotion and deep unending affection go away, it just changes.  Not all submissives feel this way.  I do.

You have to understand that at the start I made a lifetime commitment to him.  I did not intend to go back on it - ever.  The negotiations every year were more of a way to expand where we would take it next or back off.  I had already handed over my submission and consent to him.  I was his property and I accepted it happily.  I never actually thought of myself as a slave, yet as I read through my journals, I now know that was how he ‘saw’ me.

See?  I can rationally explain it to myself.  You decide for yourself how rational I was or am today about it all.

I can take what I know about our relationship, then process and know he sincerely felt he could go where he went.  For whatever reason he had floating in his head, the hard limits he really wanted to step on did not apply as long as he could make it all better afterwards as he had always done.

For the most part, he was usually careful about ‘how’ he stepped on them.  In “What is BDSM? A Newb Guide for Beginners and the Curious - Part 2”, I gave you the evolution of how it fell apart.  I however did not give you the moments that were far more satisfying, enjoyable and special to me I have ever experienced.


It makes one ask the question though: 
Does one bad act define the relationship as a whole?  No, it does not.  Some of you are much stronger than I was and can forgive things such as a husband straying, a Dominant losing control or the shattering of trust.

Now you have 'my' defined description between submissive and slave and probably a little bit better insight as to why I hold myself fully accountable for every action, reaction and consequence within my life.

So when the next person dares to tell me she/he wants to be a slave and has no knowledge of what they are talking about - I may explode!

I made this group as of 03/28/11: 
I Am A Submissive Not A Slave Please Learn The Difference
EP Link
What Is Bdsm? A Newb Guide For Beginners And The Curious - Part 4: Links & Reading Material
EP Link
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SunniL SunniL
46-50, F
3 Responses May 3, 2011

I think a lot of people on here, both men and women will benefit from the insight and knowledge you provide. You really are an invaluable resource.

I pulled it from my blog :P I am thinking that as a group, it might get more 'exposure' to the ones that really need to read some of this information. And just have no idea where to start.

I never tire of reading your writing, ever. Long may it continue.