Slave or sub?

I am confused. I use the terms ‘my slave’ and ‘my sub’ interchangeably. To me they mean the same thing. However I think I have noticed that in the wonderful BDSM community, some people apply different definitions to ‘a sub’ and ‘a slave’.

Can anyone enlighten me as to the difference? I would be grateful.

18 thoughts on “Slave or sub?

  1. From how I understand it Mistress Scarlet a slave is someone who has given up control totally. I for example am 100% a sub and am submissive to my Girlfried/Mistress. On times we will have periods where She takes control 100% but technically I could stop if I really wanted/ needed to. ( ps I’ve not yet used a safe word in five years). Of course BB is also 100% sub and he is Your sub. But I think Your relationship is such that he is now your slave. You control every aspect of his life without question, he has given over all control to You and will never again be a free man. This is my understanding anyway Mistress. I hope it helps.

  2. i am not the only one who is confused…..

    For me, a submissive, is someone who you can play with,… A playmate, someone with wishes , desires, chooses, and so on.

    A slave is a Thing, Say go and (IT) must go, say Stop, and (IT) must stop. (IT) have a mouth, but not to protest.

    My opinion, and with the above in mind, i am a submissive. A sissyABy

  3. I think it’s the age old a slave has no rights and is therefore subject to what his mistress wants where as a sub is more one who has a safe word and serves within defined parameters. For me I am a sub(missive) who is a slave – much like bitch boy I imagine.

  4. basicly both subs and slaves give their submission freely….it can never be taken by a Dominant…the difference is that a sub has certain rights which are negociated between the Dominant and the sub…i guess You could say its like a contract between the two of them….things like hard limits….sexual release rights…severity of disipline..other play partners…cuckholding …or…any other aspect of their relationship…i don’t know if You would say they are equals….One is still Dominant and the other submissive…but there are guidlines that are followed and respected in their D/s relationship….a slave on the other hand has absolutly no rights what so ever other than those alowed by the Dominant…if any are allowed….the Dominant has complete power and control over the slave…the slave is the Dominants property completely owned…and the slave obeys without question…its a much harder and dificult life for a slave as opposed to a sub

  5. I believe “slave” is often used to denote some kind of real or imagined ownership, while “sub” is just short for submissive and doesn’t imply that the sub is in a relationship. That said, people use words differently, and “slave” and “sub” are often interchangeable. If you call someone “my sub” the additional “my” obviously implies a relationship, although maybe slightly less serious or committing than when you say “my slave”. And to add to the confusion, someone might label themself as an “unowned slave”, implying (?) that they would like to be “owned” or to be in a (more) committing relation.
    To me as a sub, the word “slave” is something I tend to use with caution. Calling myself (or being called) someone’s slave for the first time is a bit like when vanilla people say “I love you” for the first time: It’s a point of no return, and it has the potentional to take the relationship to a whole new level.

  6. There’s not exactly a bdsm dictionary out there (unless there is can’t be arsed checking)…

    I see slave as a subcategory of submissive. Usually with a deep desire to be owned and used, their pleasure is deeply tied into their owners. I guess it’s a sub to the soul thing.

    In my many adventures I’ve certainly come across (snigger) many ‘subs’ but find ‘slave stock’ a lot harder to find. Which is annoying as that’s the type that really does it for me.

  7. While my wife and I enjoy BDSM, we’re nowhere near the lifestyle level that you are, Ms. Scarlet. That being said, here is my point of view: Sub to me implies general submission, usually with sexual undertones. Slave tends to denote a more severe form of submission, both in the bedroom and out, and tends to have a more….permanence to it. My wife happens to use both terms when describing myself. I think the general, more “vanilla” population would be willing to use the term sub. “My partner is my sub sometimes, he/she likes to be handcuffed during sex”. You probably wouldn’t see “How to Make Your Husband a Slave: Chastity! Humiliating Outfits! Financial Dominance!” in a Cosmo article. Just my opinion of course.

  8. This has been a real point between my Mistress and me. All of the other women I’ve been with in a D/s sense have called me their ‘slave’, and that’s how I’m accustomed to thinking. But her experiences were VERY different. And it seems that there is a pretty large group of people who agree with her view of it.

    To explain, to her a sub or submissive is a person who chooses to relinquish power willingly and has, in varying degrees, a say in what that means. It was important to her, for example, that we establish a written contract to define limits and such. She won’t ever transgress my “hard” limits as her sub, but she intends to push my “soft” limits all the time.

    The difference there between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’, to be clear, is that hard limits are things that must NEVER be done under any circumstances (e.g., blood, mutilation, children, animals, etc.) whereas the soft limits are things that I’m uncomfortable with but expect to grow into as she desires with warning ahead of time from her to prepare myself.

    In contrast, a slave is a very starkly different thing in her eyes: a slave is not a person. A slave has no rights, no choices, no say in anything. The decision to enter into slavery may be voluntary, but that’s the last choice the person ever makes because that transition irrevocably strips personhood away entirely. All that’s left is property, a thing, an object, a virtual non-entity.

    We’re still in the process of experimenting, finding what works for us, because my fantasies and what turn me on exceed what I can actually handle, body, mind, and soul. Complicating the issue is the fact that she and I genuinely love each other, so there’s a tenderness and affection on her side that she finds hard to reconcile with treating me like she would a true slave.

    I don’t know if that helps, but it’s at least what my Mistress and I are working out together.

  9. sub – would be the wider category in my opinion, someone who submits to people because they like pain, being tied up, etc. etc.

    slave – a specific kind of submissive whose purpose is service, in the form of chores etc.

    In your case, you can use them interchangeably, as your submissive is generally fulfilling a service role.

  10. From my experience, a sub is someone who has entered into a mutually beneficial relationship with a Dominant. They have talked about what the other needs and wants. Limits are discussed and agreed upon.

    Whereas a slave is someone who has submitted to a Dominant and understands that above discussion is not happening. They will do as they are told. And there are no limits.

    And there are shades of grey for both of these loose definitions. YMMV :)

    I hope this helps?

  11. To my knowledge, a submissive is someone who can negotiate with their dominant, or may only act as a bottom under specific circumstances (a scene, during sex, etc). A slave is someone who gives up more of their life, which may involve a lack of limits, an emphasis on daily protocol (what they dress as daily, what they eat, who has the final say in all matters BDSM and vanilla), or any form of constant service.

    Personally, I don’t think it matters what you or anyone else calls their subs/slaves. BDSM involves spectrums in relationships from bottoms only during sex to complete 24/7 control and literally everything in between. Where would a “submissive” end and a “slave” begin? If I had to choose, based on your writings, bitch-boy sounds like fits a more “traditional” definition of a slave.

    But you’re the dominant! Call him whatever feels more appropriate for the moment, as long as you’re both fulfilled.


  12. People just seem to put their own meanings onto the words willy-nilly to be honest, sometimes it’s about consent or not, whether limits are OK, whether safewords are allowed etc. I think it’s generally accepted that slaves are a subset of submissives, but that seems to be as far as agreement goes on the matter.

    Think it would be safe to say that BB is your slave though (and by extension, your sub), so your usage would be fine either way.

  13. Dear Mistress Scarlet,
    If this slave may be allowed to give it’s humble opinion.
    The most clear and precise difference between the two for me is that a slave is made to do things even if the slave does not want to and is not given the choice to say no.
    A sub is only submissive when it agrees to do what is requested of it.
    Now by adding the word ‘my’ before each term (especially by You Mistress Scarlet) each can take on a whole new meaning, as it implies that their is ownership, and from personal experience there would be no choice for a sub to say no anyway!
    Guess i would have to label myself a ‘sub’ unless during that exact moment of serving my Mistress, then i am her slave during such time. bb is a true slave 24/7 to my interpretation, because even during Your non-serving time, bb is still locked up and there is nothing bb is permitted to do without running it by You first, i presume.
    Sadly for this sub, and i am sure many others out there, we have too much freedom (that i call ‘free doom’) to deem ourselves worthy enough to be labelled as a ‘slave’.

    Lots of unhappy ‘subs’ out there thinking and wishing to be called ‘slaves’ by amazing powerful Females like Yourself and my Mistress, who ‘get it’, unlike most rent-a-dommes out there, but sadly the ratio is heavily one sided. This may sound like a contradiction from an earlier post i made referring to about being careful what a sub can wish for when referring to when it truly knows it is serving without choice as a slave, but i am learning now that there is something worse than performing any humiliating, degrading or painful task and that is remembering what all of that feels like but not knowing if one’s submissive soul will be satisfied deep down by ever experiencing those feelings/sub space highs authentically again. Like You say, it is a paradox and for many of us we are on the wrong side.

    Is it worse for the contentment of my submissive soul now i have experienced first hand what it is like serving You and Governess Rebecca alongside my Mistress?

    Would i still be afraid to discover i am going to serve again as before?

    Yes and yes.

    i hope bb and all is well with You Mistress Scarlet.


  14. “A submissive is someone who negotiates; a slave does not
    A submissive has limits; a slave has given up all limits except those which his/her owner sets for them.
    A submissive obeys and serves by choosing to do so each time and retains her will. A slave initially makes a choice to obey his/her master/mistress at all times and then submits to the will of his/her master at all times.
    A submissive accepts submission, while a slave accepts obedience.
    A submissive has retained some rights within the context of the D/s relationship, whereas a slave has given up all rights and becomes, in effect, property.
    A submissive is owned, but a slave is possessed.
    A slave is not allowed to sit on furniture or wear clothes, and always kneels at his/her owner’s feet.
    A submissive has a safe-word to end play, while a slave has consented to no-consent.
    A slave must be a submissive, but a submissive is not necessarily a slave.
    Being a submissive is just a step on the way to the “ultimate” state of submission, which is being a slave.
    A slave is more submissive than a “mere” submissive. Submissives are just playing; slaves live the lifestyle.
    A submissive has more self-respect than a slave. Slaves are crazy, because who in their right mind would want to be a slave?”

  15. Mistress Scarlett,

    I was surprised too when I was conversing with a prospective Domme and she asked me the same question. I had served previous Mistresses who seem to use the term interchangeably.

    The best definition I can come up with is this:

    Submissive: Someone who can be submissive to another, but has negotiation rights when submitting to a new Domme or when going “into scene”.

    Slave: Basically, lives the lifestyle 24/7, TPE, has no negotiation rights, fully at the mercy to his/her Domme/Dom.

    These are nutshell definitions, but as you are already aware, everyone seems to nuance their definitions to their own opinion, so I don’t think you’ll find any two people to agree on this.

    I am in agreement with you, I feel these two words are interchangeable within any Domme/sub relationships.

    Love your blog!

    subbie duane

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