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The Slave and Submissive Quandary: How Do Subs Differ from Slaves in the BDSM Community?


I’ve read a great deal from novices who think they understand the difference between the two versions of BDSM submissive behavior (submissive and slave), but flounder in their explanations. The reason for the floundering is because these terms are so difficult to pin down; it’s nearly impossible to make a clear distinction. That is, we can’t differentiate fully between these two forms of submission because there is significant crossover between them.

This crossover blurs the lines, and a surprising number of people incorrectly interchange the submissive behaviours of each form, as well as forget there is a third “type”, one that is a crossover hybrid. The commonly referenced bifurcation between what many newbies believe are polar extremes is really a set of three areas, not two.

My goal here is to help novices of BDSM relationships get a clearer grasp on the two “extremes” that share significant similarities and the third area, the blurring–let’s call this person a “slub”…nah…sounds insulting. We can just go with s-type 3 for now.

Remember that both a submissive and a slave ensure they are obedient, trusting and loving when they are with their respective Dominant. These are the keys to D/s and M/s relationships. Without obedience there is no relationship. Without trust, the relationship stalls. Without love, nothing exists at all. Without communication, there is no relationship. The way each of these is displayed and negotiated within the D/s, M/s or hybrid DM/ss dynamic varies tremendously between dynamics.

The Mainstays

To make it as simple as possible, here is the basic parameters of each “extreme” term:

A submissive:

  • Is subservient to a point. A sub can refuse to do something without punishment.
  • Is a partner then a possession.
  • Does as told in order to serve (service in numerous ways with a smile is the main role).
  • Takes punishment through brute force, which is used to corrected improper behaviours.
  • Is taught and guided but lives a life outside of the relationship, unless it is a 24/7 relationship. Whether or not the submissive and Dominant are in a vanilla relationship as well effects the way this plays out.
  • Gets hard and soft limits.
  • Has the option to say no and stop.
  • Is allowed to negotiate terms.
  • They are submissives, not subordinates.

A slave:

  • Is subservient, but many things are done which would be considered debasement if it were a submissive being told to do it. In this sense, brute force is a normal feature of this type of relationship.
  • A slave doesn’t have the same rights to limits as a submissive. slaves have consented to enduring anything their Master/Mistress does. The only limits are those of the Master or Mistress.
  • A slave gives themselves over 100% or as much as humanly possible.
  • Are considered property.
  • “No” ends up being the deal breaker, what ends the relationship.

The Third Version

It bears repeating that there are many variations of subjugation. The third version is the subset of submissives who wish to give up nearly all control, bordering on slave status. The negotiated parameters of the dynamic could be anything. One example might be that the hybrid does not overflow into public life. While many Masters and Mistresses may allow their slaves to hold jobs as a means of supporting their D-type, it can often end up being the only “freedom” they have that is essentially their own space…if negotiated that way. This third type, the s-type 3, is not easy to pin down at all, but I find that at least 50% of the dynamics I witness, read about and/or discuss with other D-types and s-types, are hybrids of D/s and M/s and often a D/s-type submissive is called “slave”. It’s this point that I think confuses new people the most. The blurring can be very grey at times.

I don’t believe it’s possible to be a “pure sub” or “pure submissive”. I know some s-types believe they are, and they have the right to label themselves any way they and their D-type wish. But we simply don’t operate that way as humans. We always need some level of autonomy and captivity, freedom. Our lifestyle is predicated on consent. So no s-type is ever “purely” any form of an s-type. Our dynamics must be egalitarian to some degree to properly function as beneficial to all parties involved.

To be honest, there are no set criteria for who is a submissive and who is a slave. The above are guidelines to differentiate between the two. As I noted earlier, there’s a great deal of crossover. There are subgroups and individual variants. I consider Pet a submissive; a defiant “no” is not a deal breaker for our D/s relationship; rather, it is an indication of the need for punishment then perhaps a renegotiation.

The best advice is for couples to find their niche, their balance, their equilibrium in these relationships. In general, BDSM relationships are wonderful (D/s are even better, but I am biased too!), but they are often maligned by those who don’t understand them; thus, it’s imperative you find your own way of doing things that strengthens your bond and not worry if you’re a “real” sub or “slave.”

Perhaps the best way to put it succinctly is the way kinkweekly.com does:

“Submissives need to be told what to do.

Slaves need to do what they are told.”

Thus, the main difference is mindset. How a submissive see’s themselves: Are you a submissive, a slave, or somewhere in between? That ends up being the clearest indication of what the submissive is. My guess is you’ll find your space is in the in-between.

The best book I’ve read so far that distinguishes the M/s relationship from the D/s dynamic is Shannon Reilly’s Separating Fact from Fiction: The Life of a Consensual Slave in the 21st Century. I recommend to everyone.

 

Miss Ruby

Miss Ruby

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