Common Myths About BDSM Slaves and Slavery
Raven Shadowborne © June 2005
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Myths are created for many different reasons. Some reasons are:
Myths about bdsm are just as prevalent. The most common reason for a myth to form about bdsm is a lack of experience or knowledge on a specific topic. Rather than learning more before educating others, some people pass along myths as facts. Some people will assume they know more than they do and either deliberately or inadvertently create a myth to fit or expand their knowledge or to appear more knowledgeable than they truly are. Others create myths to deter people from engaging in a bdsm activity that they find objectionable.
Many myths exist about slaves. These myths are created due to fear, lack of knowledge or understanding, or mere complacency. In some cases these myths are a deliberate choice to not learn the truth about slaves or to undermine the value of slaves or created out of simple laziness and refusal to learn more about slaves. People pass these myths along to others as factual information and perpetuate the cycle of intolerance and ignorance that surrounds slaves and slavery. This creates more myths, misunderstandings and miscommunications as time goes on.
The most common myths about slaves, in master/slave based bdsm relationships, which I have heard, are included in this article and followed by the truth (as I understand it) behind each myth. These truths are based on my experiences as a slave, and on many discussions I have held with other slaves in order to learn more.
Myth 1a: Slaves are, and should be, doormats and do not express themselves openly.
Truth: Doormat is a term often used to deride slaves. It means that a slave lets himself or herself be walked on and they have no thoughts or opinions of their own. Also, it can mean that if the slave does have opinions/thoughts of their own, they won’t express them. The doormat slave generally does not give feedback to their owner. Some prefers slaves like this.
For the majority of slaves, this is not true. Slaves have just as many thoughts and opinions as other people do. Many owners take pride in having a slave who has well thought out opinions and who is capable of thinking for them selves. They can provide the owner with much needed input that the owner can use to make informed decisions for both the slave and the relationship. Also, slaves who can think for them selves are more capable of handling responsibilities the owner gives them without needing constant supervision and they provide intelligent and challenging conversations to the owner.
Many master / slave relationships have rules that govern how and when a slave can tell their owner of their thoughts, feelings and opinions. Despite the variations in this area, every relationship requires such input from the slave. Owners often value a slave who thinks for themselves and find such a slave to be more pleasing.
Myth 1b: All slaves blindly obey anyone, including their owner.
Truth: Obedience is a requirement for a slave and is pleasing to an owner. However it is not true that a slave will obey anyone that comes along. Slaves must obey the rules and expectations of their owner to the best of their abilities. Sometimes this means submitting to and obeying another, but such is always done by order of the owner and not every owner will share their slave this way.
Myth 1C: All slaves are the same and have no sense of self and self worth.
Truth: This myth is one that is often used to put down slaves. They are called robots, “Stepford slaves” or cookie cutter slaves. Despite the many similarities between slaves, once you get beyond these surface similarities differences become apparent. Slaves are human beings and as such there are just as many variations in personality, interests, behaviors, etc. in a group of slaves as there are in other group. On top of these human variations, slaves vary in bdsm areas as well. For example: The desire to please others is a similarity between slaves. However, the intensity, reason behind it, and expression of this desire differs from one slave to another. The same can be said for most, if not all, of the personality traits found in slaves. It is these variations that make each slave different. They also make which relationship type and owner that works for them, different. If slaves were all the same, there would be no need for compatibility discussions or any of the other things that should be done before a commitment is made. Any slave would do for any owner if we were all the same. It is these very differences that make a slave right for one owner and wrong for another, and make growth possible.
Being a slave does not erase individuality. Instead, it enhances it. Often slaves who are unowned must hide or exert a lot of control over their submissive and service based nature. Society does not approve of people who are submissive or people who are happiest when they serve another before themselves. The very nature of a master / slave relationship allows a slave the freedom to express every part of their personality and hide nothing. It encourages the slave to grow as both an individual and a slave. Every slave is different; with different likes, dislikes, wants, needs etc. A slave must have a good working knowledge of who they are and what their wants, needs, expectations etc. are. It is impossible for a person who does not know who and what they are to give those things over to the control of another because you cannot give away what you do not have or know. A slave and their owner use this self-awareness to help the slave grow and to make changes in the slave’s behavior and mental state. Often these changes are discussed before the slave submits by the prospective owner telling the slave their expectations of the slave (including behaviors they want and those they do not want). This allows the slave to decide if this is how they want to be, the relationship they want to be in, and gives them a chance to consent. These changes are beneficial to the slave, helping them to be more of the person they want to be and to be more pleasing to their owner. Master / slave relationships require the same kinds of compatibility as vanilla relationships with the addition of bdsm compatibility. In order to achieve this, the slaves must know themselves well and have a strong belief in themselves.
Myth 2: Slaves are actually abuse victims who take any and every thing their owner dishes out.
Truth: It is true that abuse exists. It is also true that abuse exists in bdsm. Further it is true that many slaves have been abuse victims at some point in their lives. It is NOT true however, that all slaves in master / slave relationships are current victims of abuse. There are many differences between an abusive relationship and an m/s one. As well as differences between a slave and a victim of abuse. The most important difference between a victim and a slave is CONSENT. In an abusive relationship, the victim is not informed beforehand that their partner is going to abuse them. They do not discuss what kinds of abuse will be used or anything else along those lines. Therefore the victim gives no consent to the actions of the abuser. For slaves there are discussions of what will be expected, what kinds (if any) of b/d or s/m activities might or will take place, what the rules will be, how the owner will enforce these rules and so much more. All of these discussions are designed to give the slave the information they need to make an informed choice to consent or not consent. These discussions are also intended to prevent abuse through consent, determining compatibility, determining goals, and informing each participant of any issues that could affect the relationship and more. The whole point is to learn if a relationship between those specific people will be a healthy and fulfilling one for them.
Myth 2A: A slave has no say in what her limitations are.
It is true that once a collar is accepted a slave is then expected to accept whatever the owner chooses to do. However, this is directly impacted by the numerous discussions before the collar and the continued communication that takes place after the collar. In a dominant/submissive relationship, the submissive is allowed (and expected) to set limits on what the dominant can or can’t do. This is not true for most slaves. However, it is expected for the slave to inform their owner of any condition or situation that affects how they will receive and respond to the owner’s actions. But the final decision of what actions to take or not to take is up to the owner.
A slave should be sure they fully understand and can accept what the owner will (or might) do, and what the owner is capable of BEFORE a collar is placed. The owner sets any limits, so it is imperative that a slave submit to an owner whose limits closely (or exactly) match their own. In this way, the owner’s limits extend to the slave and the slave does not have to set the limits themselves (yes it is a tiny distinction, but an important one).
There is a great significance built upon the foundation of trust. The slave needs to have that assurance that the owner has been honest in his/her discussion of his nature.
Some m/s relationships use contracts to spell out what is expected by each person, what is or is not accepted and more. These contracts often include guidelines for the slave to follow if they want release or if the owner starts to do unsafe things. Some areas can be compromised on, if the owner is willing to do so. (Some owners are not willing to compromise.) Things like clothing choices, toy preferences, types of play that need to be worked up to/introduced slowly and similar things can be compromised on. Other things such as sexual preferences, monogamy, polygamy and anything else that is a true NEED for the person, should not be compromised on as doing so usually leads to a bad ending.
Myth 3: Slaves cannot take care of themselves and want an owner because they believe having one will solve all of their problems and the owner will take care of everything for them.
Truth: Unfortunately I cannot say that this is completely false because there are people out there who are exactly this way. I can say that this is most commonly seen in people who are very new to bdsm, with little or no experience, and have emotional or psychological issues that make it difficult for them to care for themselves. This is not restricted to just bdsm relationships either. It is also known in purely vanilla relationships as the Knight In Shining Armor Syndrome. It is also true that people who are like this are the minority, not the majority. The truth of the matter is, this just does not work and is untrue for the vast majority of slaves.
Slaves must be capable people. First and foremost they must be able to take care of themselves. A person cannot take care of someone else unless they can care for themselves first. Many slaves have a lot of responsibilities. Some are required to do budgets, take care of the house, and/or assist their owners with a small business. Some have less complicated responsibilities, but regardless of what the specific responsibilities are the basic fact remains the same. The slave is expected and required to fulfill those responsibilities to their owner’s satisfaction. In some cases, slaves are required to take classes and learn how to do something their owner wants them to do. The slave’s goal is to please their owner. To be able to meet that goal, a slave has to be able to take care of himself or herself to ensure they will be able to take care of their owner and their responsibilities.
An m/s relationship does make some things easier. For example, the division of power is very clear, resulting in fewer power struggles (with a preference that there are none at all). This is easier than a vanilla relationship where power struggles are more frequent over such things as “Whose money is it?” “who takes out the trash?” and other subjects that are clouded by the expectation of full equality.
Having an owner does fix some things such as the desire to serve. An owner gives the slave someone to serve, thus satisfying this need and “fixing” any confusion or need to suppress it. However, other issues such as low self-esteem, depression and similar issues cannot be fixed by an m/s relationship and in many cases an m/s relationship will worsen those issues. Being owned is not a solution to life’s problems and issues. It is a relationship and thus adds issues of its own to whatever issues already exist in a person’s life.
Myth 4: Slaves are stupid and incapable of identifying their own wants/needs.
Truth: It cannot be said that all slaves have a superior intellect, nor can it be said (truthfully) that all slaves are stupid. Logically speaking since both kinds of human intelligence exist, the same variations are found in slaves. However, less intelligent slaves have been rare in my experiences. I have seen slaves pretending to be stupid due to some mistaken belief that it makes them a better slave. This is not true. Often, these are people who are new to bdsm and master/slave with little experience. Slaves must be intelligent because they are often relied upon to handle many of life’s day-to-day aspects and to do so without constant supervision and directions. This requires problem-solving skills and extensive knowledge of how their owner prefers things to be. Slaves also need strong observation skills so they can learn what pleases their owner without them having to explain every tiny detail. Slaves are expected to learn quickly and to put their knowledge into practice on a consistent basis. Intelligence is required for these things and more.
A slave’s intelligence coupled with their strengths, individuality and self-reliance direct effects their ability to identify their own wants and needs and to separate them properly. Speaking on an basic level, people only need those things that sustain life (food, clothing, shelter and intellectual stimulation), and everything else is a want.
A slave must be able to tell the difference between things they truly need and things they want. This can be very hard to do, but with practice can be done. Someone with little intelligence, minimal self-awareness, and a lack of mental or emotional strength has a very hard time differentiating between the two. A slave who sees everything as an urgent need quickly frustrates their owner. This puts the slave’s focus on them selves over their owner and m/s will not work that way. Slaves are expected to inform their owner when a need arises and many also like to be aware of a slave’s wants as well. Most owners want to meet their slave’s needs because they know that needs must be met in order to kept he slave at their best. Many will try to meet a slave’s wants as well, often as a reward or because they love the slave or any other number of reasons. Owners are not mind readers, so it is up to the slave to be able to recognize wants vs. needs and inform their owner.
Myth 5: Slaves are mentally and emotionally weak.
Truth: Weak human beings exist, so I am sure there are weak slaves somewhere. (Weak is being used here to mean mental/emotional weakness, not physical strength) However, such weakness is the exception rather than the norm for slaves. Slaves are strong individuals and have to be so for many reasons:
All of these things take courage, strength and commitment to accomplish. A weak person would not be successful with this over time. Slaves do have weaknesses or bad habits, they have moments of fears, confusions, doubts etc., and they get tired, as all people do. Slaves have these moments because they are people not because they are slaves. It is very common for others to blame slavery as the cause for those moments or times in a person’s life, when the true culprit is life itself and the fact that we’re human beings. The inner strength of a slave shows best during these times because it is that inner strength that makes it possible for them to continue being a slave during those down times.
Myth 6: Slaves are all the same and have no (or are not allowed any) interests outside of their owner.
Truth: Every slave has interests outside of one’s owner’s interests (such as hobbies, studies, friends etc.). Again, this is because slaves are people, not just slaves, so they have the same variety of interests as any group of people does. Most experienced owners encourage their slaves to continue with their interests and hobbies. For the owner, these things were most likely part of the attraction they have for that particular slave. Most owners want their slaves to be all of who they are and to enjoy their lives and they know that to do these things, the slave must have interests and such outside of slavery and bdsm so the owner encourages those interests and activities. If however, a slave’s interests or hobbies (and even friends) are detrimental to the slave, the owner might choose to make the slave stop or at the very least cut back on them. It is also not uncommon for a slave and their owner to learn more about any hobby or interest that they do not have in common so as to grow closer together. Also, people sometimes just need a break (especially during periods of stress) and a hobby can provide stress relief and the very break the person needs. Experienced owners know this as well and allow (even encourage) their slave to take such breaks.
Myth 7: Slaves accept that any owner is better than no owner.
Truth: I have touched upon this in the answers to other myths, however I felt it needed to be spoken of directly. Unfortunately there are slaves out there who feel this way, but they are not the majority. For a person who is a service-based slave, the need to serve can be very hard to satisfy without an owner. This need can overwhelm common sense and cause the slave to do things they would not normally do, including submit to an owner they would not normally submit to. This seems to be directly impacted by the self-esteem of the slave. Those with lower self-esteem are the ones who fall prey to this “no owner mania” faster than those with a solid belief in themselves. This myth does happen, but it is by no means a majority upon slaves.
Most slaves, due to the very nature of a master/slave relationship, work very hard to have a solid self-esteem, clear understandings of themselves, their needs/wants/desires etc., and a clear idea of what they need or want in a relationship. They are aware of their limitations and their areas of excellence. Because of this, they are unwilling to just settle for just any owner. They realize that this relationship is indeed a relationship. They realize that a collar does not guarantee compatibility, and are willing to work towards finding the right person for them.
Myth 8: Slaves never question their owner.
This touches upon blind obedience, and the slave’s requirement of informing their owner of their thoughts, opinions, feelings and anything else that impacts upon the relationship or a task given them. However, the prevalence of this myth makes it important to me to separate it out clearly. Slaves are human beings; human beings question the motives, knowledge etc. of other human beings. There are some slaves in the lifestyle that do not question their owners at all, however they are far from the majority. A good owner knows that there is information they do not have and they rely upon the slave to impart that knowledge when needed. They also rely upon the slave to speak up if an order given, or action decided upon, would be harmful to the owner, the slave and /or the relationship. A good example of this is: the couple goes out and the owner drinks alcohol. He/she is too inebriated to drive. The slave then has a responsibility to speak up and stop the owner from driving while drunk.
Some may consider this a no-brainer situation, but it does occur and is one that clearly shows the slave’s responsibility to speak up and question their owner’s decision. In a relationship where the participants took the time to truly get to know one another, it is hoped that situations where such is required would be rare. But in reality, everyone, even a dominant, is capable of a bad decision. We are human and make mistakes. It becomes important for our partners to speak up when they have questions.
Further, the ability to question an owner is required to prevent misunderstandings on the part of the slave. If the owner assigns a task that the slave truly feels they can not complete adequately, or do not fully understand then most usually have the right to speak up, ask questions, clarify the order given etc. This is done to assist the slave in completing tasks in the manner most pleasing to their owner. Many master / slave relationships have rules that govern how and when a slave can tell their owner of their thoughts, feelings and opinions. Despite the variations in this area, every relationship requires such input from the slave.
These are the most common myths about slaves and slavery that I have seen or heard in my experiences so far. As one can see, these myths are often based on misunderstanding and/or a lack of knowledge or experience. These myths can cause a lot of harm if people believe them and then base their behavior in their relationships on them. These myths have often been used to insult, belittle or otherwise hurt a slave (even to the point of causing mental/emotional harm). Most often I have seen this done by people who are not slaves yet are somehow insecure or otherwise bothered by slaves, so they denigrate them. A master/slave relationship, when entered into with full knowledge before hand, can be a very healthy and happy relationship for those involved.