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Sub or Slave – When Do You Cross The Line

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The great debate over what makes a slave and what makes a sub is in many senses like trying to find the meaning of life!  The Mistress, Master, personal, societal, and philosophical views all have slightly different boundaries.  I imagine that this will always remain one of the great unresolved debates… even long after we have all left the planet.

There’s always been a great debate about the definition of what makes slave and what makes a sub.  Whilst in a strict or community sense there are some very definite boundaries, on a personal level, even for those within the BDSM community there are often a wide range of different definitions of makes a sub a sub and where the boundary is crossed into becoming a slave, based on where individual limits are defined.  Just to make things even more interesting, there is also a view shared by many outside the BDSM scene, or those who have only watched 50 Shades of Grey who interchangeably see a sub and a slave as much the same thing  and will in the course of a single sentence refer to both as being the same thing!slave on a leash

We would be a very rich if we were paid a pound for every time we were was asked this question.  For every argument put forward, there will be an equal and opposite view, passionately defended as almost a life depended on it.  This is not a definitive blog on the subject but an opportunity to explore the range of views about the point at which a sub becomes a slave.

There is a multitude of definitions, from a quick look at Google particularly around the topic of what makes a sub, which does not on many levels help the debate:

  • Long, long ago, the first mention of the word submissive appeared in the late 14th century which derived from from Old French submitter meaning “to let down, put down, lower, reduce, yield” – it describes an element of behaviour that you would expect to see in a sub, but did not define any boundaries!
  • The medical definitiondid not help much either – tendencies to yield to the will or authority of others – again it describes behaviour, but didn’t define the boundaries between submissiveness and slavehood.
  • However Wikipedia outlined from a psychological perspective  a softly defined edge to the boundary assumed by a submissive where, some people prefer or are willing to adopt a submissive role in sexual activities or personal matters (different from their normal personality type). The level and type of submission can vary from person to person, and from one context to another; and also is dependent on the other partner being willing to assume control in those situations.

This wasn’t exactly in many respects the BDSM view shared by many, although it does reflect the fluidity of how boundaries of a sub could change depending on your personal boundaries.

The BDSM view was captured quite well by Steven Davis ( newsgroup on Usenet) who defined the boundaries as:


Thinking about the last definition, there are views that a true slave is one that submits completely to their Dominant giving up every element of control on a physical and even financial level and whose happiness from a spiritual level is achieved by obeying their Dominant, often beyond the point that they feel comfortable, whereas often a sub will agree their boundaries with their Master or Mistress.

high heels and whip

Both slave and sub however, often have similar needs in terms of their desire to be controlled, to serve and to submit and both to a greater or lesser degree are prepared to surrender all or part of their control to a Dominant.  For some the debate gets even deeper where they describe being a slave within a session but a submissive out of it. I’m sure this might be a point of further debate, but it is just an observation from all the clients that I have worked with.

For those of you that have lived in both a conventional relationship and have also lived as a slave, controlled by a Dominant, it is really interesting to see that there are boundaries that are crossed in the relationship with a Dominant that would never even be considered or entertained in a vanilla relationship such as anal sex, fisting, oral sex and severe corporal punishment.  What is outrageous to the hetrosexual/vanilla community would be viewed as normal within the BDSM community.

Whilst there may be various definitions of what makes a sub and sub and a slave a slave and the boundaries may be debated fiercely, what really matters is that on a personal level you are comfortable with what boundaries you set with your Dominant; your version of slavery may be another persons sub. It really doesn’t matter at the individual level as long as the boundaries are understood and you work within them.  Trying to aspire to a level slavery from a sub’s perspective that goes way beyond your personal level of acceptance will often not bring any sense of pleasure or satisfaction to anyone involved.

You are the master (not literally!) to shape and mould your own boundaries rather than some idealistic view of what the strict definitions may assume to be in absolutist terms.  It’s a long but exciting journey full of the unknown with often constantly changing boundaries at the personal level where you can constantly explore the depths and limits and deepest depths of your desires and kinks………

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