Well I do not think I have ever had as many comments on a post as on my post about the precise meaning of the terms, Slave and Sub! And it was no surprise that views were varied and also totally conflicting. There were some very wise and well thought through comments for which I am grateful. Many commenters agreed the issue was confusing. Now given after honesty, good communication is the most important thing in a relationship, and given in a BDSM relationship, communication is even more important than in a vanilla one – what a problem we have if we do not even agree on what the words mean that we bandy about. (And as a writer who loves precise word meanings, this is a nightmare!)
All that follows is in the context of the BDSM world. I have formed a view on Sub and Slave with which some of you will agree and some not.
I reject the proposition that there is a spectrum with slave at one end and sub at the other. I think ‘Slave’ indicates a person in the context of a relationship. So someone cannot be a slave if they are not in a relationship. They could be a wannabe-slave but not a slave. Being a slave indicates a RELATIONSHIP where there are no safe-words or limits and the slave has given up all rights and influence over what happens.
I am working on the basis that ‘Sub’ is short for ‘Submissive’. I propose that ‘Submissive’ describes an attribute of a person, not a relationship context. Someone who is not in a relationship can be a submissive. So a ‘sub’ is someone who gets some fulfilment from being dominated. And there is a spectrum of submissiveness. At one end are those who I have always referred to as ‘true submissives’ and what I have meant by that is ‘true submissives’ need to be dominated to be truly content in life. Almost all of them find this out about themselves before puberty. In their perfect fantasy world they would be in a slave relationship. And many, like bitch-boy, are. Some however are content that they are simply the passive partner during sex and would be petrified at the thought of becoming a slave. So I have a problem with the term, ‘My sub’, when it infers some sort of ownership. For accuracy it surely needs to be ‘my sub husband’, or ‘my sub boyfriend’, or ‘my sub fuck-buddy’. It is an attribute of the person, not a descriptor of the relationship.
There is a spectrum for Submissiveness and there is also a spectrum for Slavery. I have mentioned before that the most influential element of where on this spectrum a slave might be, comes from whether the Mistress enjoys the vanilla company of their slave. I enjoy the vanilla company of bitch-boy enormously. He is very, very intelligent and wise and witty and an expert on food and wine and science and nature and such like. A good number of times each week, I will inform him that I will be using him for his vanilla company – and we will go out for an expensive meal, or watch a great film or TV program, or we are travelling to a new and interesting country as tourists. However there are Mistresses, (I know from experience) who always prefer to be using and abusing their slave than experiencing their vanilla company. These slaves have a tougher time than bitch-boy. (You may find that hard to believe!) They are further up the slave spectrum than bitch-boy.
A slave will normally be a submissive, like bitch-boy, but not always. For example, a frequent scenario one reads about and I have no doubt happens, is as follows: A high earning husband has an affair and is caught by the wife. The wife does not want to lose her expensive lifestyle. Through blackmail, she turns her husband into a slave (usually cuckolded) and despises him. He is right up the far end of the slave spectrum – she does not enjoy his vanilla company!
So a slave may or may not be a sub. A sub may or may not be in a relationship as a slave. This leaves a ridiculous problem considering how long the BDSM world has existed. (at least since the Marquis de Sade – 1740 to 1814). There is NO all encompassing word for someone who is in a relationship with a dominant that encompasses both slaves and subs. My acquiescer?? My submitter?? My yielder?? My forfeiter?? None of these work. What a ridiculous state of affairs we are in!
And it is no good arguing that this is why we must use the term ‘sub’, or why we must use the term ‘slave’ because whichever camp you are in, 50% of the BDSM community will misunderstand you when you do use your favoured term!
So to continue onto a rant now I have momentum, we come to ‘Safe, Sane and Consensual’. So commonly used as the strict rules by which we must all comply in the BDSM world. Well, ‘Safe’ and ‘Sane’ I think just about works. BUT CONSENSUAL!!! As I have written many times, true submissives are only at peace and content when things are happening to them they truly do not want to happen to them. It is only then they feel truly dominated. So they must NOT CONSENT to what is happening in order to be at peace. We then are moved to the phrases – ‘Non-consensual consent’, or, ‘Consenting to not consent’. We are forced to use phrases which are oxymorons! We have no single word for the partner of a dominant AND no single word for ‘Non-consensual consent’. And these two conditions are probably the most fundamental in the BDSM world and we have no word for either!
Finally I will rant about the term, ‘Power Exchange’. I truly do not know what this means. I have not exchanged anything with bitch-boy. I have all the power, he has none. No exchange has taken place. What is ‘Power Exchange’ supposed to mean?????
We are a community which needs excellent communication and yet we have a paucity of useful accurate terms. Hmmmmmmm.
Rant over, for now.