A Slave is Not A Submissive

By Deborah Teramis Christian

A submissive explores the piquant terrain of the surrendering of power. It is not surprising that folks engaged in D/s often spend a fair amount of energy determining what are the appropriate bounds of submission and control to incorporate into their play. For those for whom this kind of power exchange is a lifestyle expression, the scope of dominance and submission excercised may be quite extensive.

Into this mix then often comes the tricky word of “slave” – a concept which never fails to muddy the water, especially in discussions on the internet or among kinksters with limited D/s experience. While some people insist that the word “slave”, like the word “submissive”, can mean to the individual anything they want it to mean, it is nevertheless a fact of the established and more experienced leather community that slavery in an M/s sense of the word has specific connotations, and that slavery differs from submission in significant ways. I want to explore those differences here and illustrate why I believe that a submissive and a slave are two entirely different creatures, as unlike as apples and oranges.

Definitions

To start this conversation I will offer a definition of submissive and slave first put forth by Steven Davis on the old alt.sex.bondage newsgroup on Usenet in 1995, paraphrased here with permission. (Also, when speaking of D/s which is a gender-neutral endeavor, I tend to use the gender neutral pronouns of sie and hir in my discussion. I write for an audience that spans many orientations and I find it helps avoid the pattern of thinking of D/s as happening in any one set of gender configurations). That said:

A submissive renews the choice to submit every time a demand is levied upon hir. A slave makes a one-time choice to submit, up front, and thereafter it is incumbent upon hir to obey.

I am fond of this definition because it describes not only my personal experience of submission and slavery, but with some minimal qualification also applies to every submissive or slave relationship I have known of. To elaborate, then…. Continue reading