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Slave or sub?

It is one of the most asked and hotly debated questions in BDSM. Countless theories, explanations and criteria have been offered. It seems like everyone has their own definitions and expectations. In fact, it is, perhaps, the most subjective question in the lifestyle, often coming down to mere semantics. Submissive and slave: what's the difference?

I'm not remotely naive enough to think that I am going to be the one to finally answer that question, once and for all. But I am going to try to offer some perspective for anyone who is genuinely confused.

Before we really get into it, it bares mentioning that the style of slavery in the BDSM lifestyle is different from what was widely practiced in ancient cultures or in the pre-Civil War Americas. Those types of slavery are violations of civil rights, crimes against humanity and illegal in most of the modern world. BDSM practitioners choose to become slaves, through risk aware consensual kink (RACK), whereas Africans were forced into slavery. If you can't see the difference, then this may not be the best website for you.

Now that we have that out of the way, lets discuss slavery vs. submission. Some phrases and concepts you'll run into are things like, submissives choose to submit (or not) every time they engage with their Dominant, while slaves choose to submit once and forever. "No," ceases to be a part of their vocabulary as they have given up the overwhelming majority of their free will after one lengthy and involved set of negotiations. Subs can renegotiate at anytime, even moment to moment. You may also hear that subs choose to serve, while slaves need to serve. The implication being that subs simply get off on being dominated, while a slave has a deep psychological need to be controlled. Many people claim that safe words are often another distinction, insisting that subs have them, while slaves do not. It's widely accepted that all slaves are submissive, but not all submissives are slaves. A less solid definition would be that submission is like slavery-light. A sub might only submit to his/her/their Dominant in the bedroom, while conducting the rest of their relationship as any vanilla couple would. Meanwhile, a slave often allows complete and total control over their life. You "have" a sub, but you "own" a slave.

Practitioners will contend all of the above at different times and on different grounds. But the one thing that I have noticed to make the most difference isn't the submissive or slave, but rather the Dom/Domme or Master/Mistress. Their expectations will define the relationship in critical ways--certainly to a less experienced partner.

To put that more simply, if you're new to the lifestyle and considering submitting to someone, it's probably best to look for someone seeking a sub, no matter how they identify. Slavery, usually, is very involved and potentially overwhelming to someone who's enjoyed free will their entire adult life. If you find a Dominant who is seeking a sub, chances are they'll be more open to deeper negotiations and taking it slow. As you become more accustomed to submitting, you can relinquish more control until you find your comfort zone. Being totally independent one day and suddenly being told what to wear, eat, say and do the next isn't something you want to toy with until you've got a good many beatings under your belt.

Pun intended.

I have a sub. When I come home, she greets me at the door on her knees. She asks if I need anything and brings me drinks and fetches items. She wears a collar (a discrete day collar while at work and a much more traditional leather one at home or at play friendly events). She refers to me as "Sir." She cleans my apartment, keeps a journal at my insistence and stops speaking if I tell her to. She lets me tie her up and do unspeakable things to her.

She also comes and goes as she pleases (mostly), picks out her own clothes, calls me an asshole from time to time, giggles when I embarrass myself, stops speaking to me when I piss her off and pushes me for regular date nights.

She's a sub. A rather dedicated one, but a sub, with rights and free will. She may even, one day, become my addition to my adorable little fuck slut.

If she were my slave, a good portion of the second descriptive paragraph might not be there and it would be in both of our best interests that I become far more self-disciplined than I am, lest I risk hurting her for real.

So, that's my take on it. I suggest that subs are the ones with Dominants who know when to back off. Slaves are the ones with Dominants who have enough focus and strength to entirely control them without concern.

And, of course, victims of sexual abuse are the ones with Dominants that can't consistently do either.

Ultimately though, it comes down to one real answer. They are whatever they say they are and the rest of us should respect that no matter how they behave or live.


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