The Beauty Of Submitting In a BDSM Relationship Submissive vs. Slave

Author: Lady Moonfyre © 2/06/2000


All articles are used with the permission of the author(s).


In reality you cannot 'explain' it, you have to show it, If you are free and stronger, and more 'you' as a result of your submission to the Dominant who enables that in you, it is totally apparent and
explanation becomes over time a moot point. People outside this lifestyle cannot fathom the speaking of it, simply because it is not within the realm of their experience, but something they see will draw them to their own conclusions.

Submissive /Slave: What is the difference? Is there one really? Is one "more" than the other?

An often debated, much asked question, with as many answers as there types of BDSM lifestyle relationships. Often leading to horrible fights with friends battling because the inference is made that one is better than the other in terms of submission. Really neither is right or wrong, more or less. It's truly an individual discovery on the path to `self' generally determined after a few years experience in the lifestyle. With a few notable exceptions, I have met slaves and submissives both who knew for a fact what they were prior to any involvement in BDSM.

In this article I offer my experience and opinions as to the differences as well as the similarities. Any reference to gender is simply to make the task of writing easier and is not meant to pigeon-
hole the references into gender specific categories. I will use the terms "bottom" and Dominant in this article to try keep the classification general reference to the subject points while discussing the traits of each "title". My natural tendency is to classify all as submissive unless they are declared otherwise.

Dominants should be included in and informed of this defining of roles with their `perspective'; since one handles a slave much differently in and some areas much differently than one handles a
sub. Does that mean that the Dominant caters to the wiles of the bottom? No, only that as the Dominant, it is important to know which the bottom is, so you will not collar a sub and expect slave behaviour and vice versa, it's a matter of knowing your property. As with everything else in this lifestyle once that collar is on, the Dominant is the `bottom's line' and if that line is drawn on
information that a submissive and a slave are identical it could have disastrous results. Sounds clinical, but really it is in many ways, a very clinical terminology applied to the whole lifestyle.
Romanticizing it and dressing it up doesn't change the fact there is a very good reason that there is a separation in definition at all between the two titles.

I have noticed that with the popularity of BDSM growing, especially since chat and message boards blossomed dedicated to the lifestyle, that the definition of slave vs. sub has been haphazardly tossed around and new bottoms call themselves `slave'; new Dominants seek
out a "slave", without even realising there is a difference between the two terms. Not that I feel they are misnaming themselves. Only that without really being aware of the differences, perhaps they do
themselves and their Dominant a disservice and may find their path to self realization doesn't go where they thought it would.

There are many grey areas in the definitions of slave/submissive, many areas where both are defined and act in exactly the same manner, and there are some very clear distinctions that separate a submissive from a slave. Most articles and discussion focus, it seems, on what happens after the collar is already `applied' rather than the method of collaring and acquisition in the first place.

Some arguments put forth the premise that a submissive doesn't submit as fully as a slave. I disagree with this, rather broad statement. I am going to address that here, as I don't feel the type
of relationship has much to do with the type of bottom you are. Granted there are circumstances and relationships defined solely on ownership of slaves, but that is another matter and for the purpose of this article I am not addressing that now, except in passing.

You will find a submissive within a TPE dynamic as readily as you will find a slave there; Total Power Exchange is talking about the dynamic of the power exchange within a relationship, based on the simple fact that both parties agree the Dominant controls everything.

You can also find either in a "bedroom only" relationship where the power exchange is only at certain times with all other parts of the relationship equal. The level of power exchange and hours of it do not determine the title' by which the bottom is called any more than it determines level of submission. A bottom who submits in the bedroom or living room or only on 'Sundays that are odd numbered dates' or any other number of exceptions to when that D/s role is acted on. can be equally as submitting as the bottom who is in a full time 24/7 TPE relationship who never steps out of that dynamic.

The level of "submission" is only determined by the dedication to the role the bottom applies, not the role it self. Therefore, "fully submitting" is a misnomer if only applied to the term "slave"
since it isn't determined by anything besides the dynamic of that particular relationship.

The very basic difference when it's all broken down is how the bottom is acquired by the Dominant. Period. After that everything falls into the realms of each individual relationship and is formed to fit the two involved in the case of Dominant/submissive or the rules are laid out for the slave to follow in the case of Dominant/slave. I'll clarify more on that later in this article.

A slave by strict definition is acquired by the Dominant. Choice on the part of the bottom is not factored in. The Dominant, if they choose to 'collar'; collars a slave using The Dominant's collar. A
slave can be bought, sold, traded, loaned out what ever strikes the Dominant's fancy without prior consultation to the slave If choice is given, the only choice is acceptance of that collar and obedience of the rules to follow. Either way, that slave is owned property and choosing not to accept the collar or obey the rules usually just makes life very unpleasant for the slave. Exercising that choice does not negate the fact that the Dominant acquired them. Willing or unwilling, choice is not a factor. Since slavery entered into unwillingly tends to be outside the realm of this lifestyle and none of the `prettiness' of a chosen lifestyle exist in that realm and since BDSM is highly focussed on SSC - safe, sane, consensual- I will focus more on slavery willingly entered into.

We live in an ever evolving world, the word `slave' has been broadened to encompass choice. In a relationship where the bottom is a slave, the definer for that would be the acceptance of the
Dominant's collar by the bottom, usually earned and strived for on the part of the bottom. Oft times this includes submitting to the Dominant prior to collaring, and offering of service and obedience in an effort to show worthiness of the afore- mentioned collar. As with the collaring of a submissive, a slave doesn't necessarily wear an actual collar, it's the symbolism of it that counts. This collar remains the property of the Dominant, to remove as they see fit for anything from deciding not to own that bottom any longer to a break in the terms of the contract. The collar returns to the possession of the Dominant after release if it ever occurs. The slave owns nothing,
everything is the Dominant's. If a slave is moving on to another Dominant, the first Dominant removes the collar from the slave and hands it to the possession to the new Dominant, the slave never has possession of their own collar. Within the ritual of collaring the Dominant and slave often sign a contract, or at the very least verbally agree to one. This outlines the type of relationship they have decided to participate in , be that TPE or play time only and anything in between. The collaring is not complete until both parties agree and the slave accepts the Dominants collar, agreeing to become that person's property. By "old" standards, this was almost always a
situation of the Dominant having total control, allowing `blanket' consent for the exceptions stated in the contract. Some people fit very well into this role of slave and need that parameter, however
many `slaves' argue this it not so, I surmise then, that they are 'submissives' not 'slaves' by the "letter" of the word.

A submissive on the other hand owns their collar and when in a relationship with a perspective Dominant they deem suitable to submit to, they offer the Dominant their collar. A submissive can
submit to all dominants or only to the one who holds their collar, that is an individual thing. They can be completely controlled in every aspect of their life or only minimally dominated, that is all
very individual. Submissives submit on a decision to bend to the will of their chosen Dominant. Once collared that submission is ongoing within the guidelines of the contract of the collar. In the
offering of the bottom's collar, they also state what they are offering to the Dominant of themselves, and what they require from the Dominant that accepts their collar. If the Dominant accepts their offer, and then set down their own expectations, the submissive has to determine whether this is acceptable to them or not, this is often the only time free negotiations are available to them. After they have determined it is acceptable they are owned by their chosen Dominant. However the collar really remains the submissives property, and quite often the only thing the submissive ever owns, everything else becoming the Dominant's unless otherwise defined by the negotiations prior to collaring. During these negotiations, the guidelines for release are also determined, from how it would be accomplished right to a `no possibility of release' contract. The `power' at this point is truly in the submissives hands, and is the only time it will be, so must be determined carefully how and who is submitted to. The power remains in the hands of the submissive to ask for release at any time , just as the Dominant can determine to release the submissive at any time, most times the reasons for release and the actions upon request of
release, are part of the negotiations. If release is realised, the collar returns to the hands of the submissive, to either wear as a sign of her choice of being submissive or to offer to another

The submissive just as the slave once collared is owned property, and this is where the definitions become grey and similar. Where things move from definition of slave and sub to the definitions of a type of relationship style. There are few differences in the two at this point, though some still do stand out. Some observations and examples of such follow. Obviously there is MUCH crossover as once the collar is one both the slave and the submissive can fit into either category with sometime very minor differences. I attempt to generalize here, a task not easily accomplished and can be hazardous within a lifestyle focused on individuality of relationship.

A submissive tends to serve while always consciously making a choice to submit, many times retaining rights to individual hierarchy over their personal concerns. They tend to assist the Dominant in making decisions, be that through suggestions or being given the freedom to
act and make their own decisions without having the Dominant decide for them. A slave tends to serve out of a need to serve that must be met and over rules their thoughts of taking care of self, they often give up all rights to personal concerns. Some even going so far as being unable to make the decisions needed for personal concerns without a Dominant to decide for them. A submissive can be rather dominating in everyday life after being collared even if they were not that way before the collaring, as they now have a Dominant and the need to submit is filled by that person. If they submit to another it's usually at their Dominant's command and in doing so they are serving their Dominant.

A slave seems to be more likely to retain the submissiveness of their nature on a more general scale, submitting to most Dominant personalities unless otherwise ordered by their Dominants. If they submit to another it is natural and is fulfilling because their Dominant allowed it.A submissive by nature needs to have a voice, a chance to offer their opinion or input before the dominant makes a decision regarding them. Even within the strictest TPE relationships the submissive feels the need to have a voice, realising that voice will be heard, the opinion weighed and then the Dominant will `hand down' their decision which is final. This final decision, if objected to by the submissive can be voiced in a respectful manner, that they wish to be heard on their objections. Obedience is a given, but the submissive does retain the right to expect audience with the Dominant to voice their concerns with the rule and to ask for clarification on said rule. A slave usually does not expect to have that option of having a voice and often times will find it disconcerting and even stressful to be consulted about similar decisions. They expect the Dominant to always be in control and will sometimes take the offer of giving voice a sign of the Dominant not being in control. If the slave feels the need to offer the voice, it is usually after a decision has been made and they may petition to have their voice heard, knowing this petition may or may not be granted by the Dominant. In most Dominant slave relationships, they both feel the decision of the Dominant is binding, some allowing for the decision to be petitioned for change some not.

A submissive generally expects to have some form of control over an aspect of their lives, whether that is a clause in the contract, or blanket permission to make decisions on their own in the matters of that aspect. They generally do not consult the Dominant on that decision, while still informing the Dominant of making the decision and of their activities in that aspect. They tend to balk rather
heavily at heavy handed rules that blunt out their own autonomy. While happily submitting to exactly the same rule if the rule is applied with consultation to the submissive on their input before the rule is created .They tend to exist and function well under standing orders and blanket permissions.

Slaves often wish the Dominant to have control of even the most minor details of their lives, leaving no decisions of any weight upon the shoulders of the slave. Even is this is not a ` desire' of the slave, they, simply by choosing slavery should not expect to have any power of decision making unless the Dominant grants it. Slaves do not expect, nor should they, to have the power to make any decision without The Dominant stating it is ok to do so. Slaves tend to function well receiving new orders on a daily basis regarding tasks and expectations, etc. even if these orders are the same every day A continual reminder that they do not own their life, the Dominant does.

On that same thread, Punishments, discipline, the way rules are handled and applied all vary in relation to a submissive or a slave.its in the nature and manner of application that the largest
differences lie. The same event will be interpreted very differently when seen through a slaves eyes than it is when viewed through a submissives eyes.

A submissive tends to thrive under positive reinforcement, they strive to please their Dominant by accomplishing each task and order to the best of their ability, hoping for reward of a job well done. Punishments for tasks not completed or poorly accomplished tend to not have to be terribly harsh, as the submissive already punishes them selves with the idea of failing their Dominant. They can be a bit fragile to handle in this aspect, feeling that if a punishment was delivered it must be because they are a "bad" submissive, and many can equate this to being unworthy of the collar they placed in their Dominant's control. Many submissive strive for perfection, so they never need to be punished for what they see as failing their Dominant. For those ones who are also masochistic S/M play is often a reward, and is important to their sense of balance. Often a certain
implements or positions become "punishment" only and if used in play is equated with punishment, immediately.

A slave also thrives under positive reinforcement, also strives to please in the same manner as a submissive, in addition they also seem to need punishment on a more severe and for 'less warranted' causes than a submissive. They need the reassurance that their Dominant is aware of their every move and that they are indeed owned. Slaves tend to expect punishment on a physical scale for minor infractions of minor rules, feeling lost if they are not punished. They tend to dwell on the perceived failure then will turn that into proof of the `fact' their Dominant is not paying attention to them if Punishment is not quickly dealt out and suitable to the `crime'. Punishment assures them that the collar they accepted is controlled by a worthy Dominant. Often a slave will see punishment as an acceptable alternative to play, or even as being better than play, and differentiate punishment from play by the words their Dominants use during.

Some have stepped out of this definition and defined their role in relationship further by saying they are not submissives or slaves but rather are Dominated, and in that dynamic as best I understand it, the decision to submit is an ongoing one. Re-determined each and every time submission occurs, sometimes forcefully sometimes not, that again depends on the dynamic of the relationship.

I have left out of this completely the people who are simply masochists looking for S/M relationships, though submissives/slaves oftenare such, it is not necessary for a masochist to be submissive/slave or asubmissive/slave to be masochistic.






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