The text book definition of a submissive is a person that takes the passive, receiving, or obedient role; one who relinquishes control for a large percentage of his or her day-to-day life to a top, or who submits within a formal set of rules and rituals.
A submissive explores the new world of surrendering power to another. It is not surprising that people engaged in D/s often spend a lot 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 implemented may be quite extensive.
When trying to define roles, the word of slave enters into the picture. 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 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.
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. A submissive renews the choice to submit every time a demand is levied upon her. A slave makes a one-time choice to submit, up front, and thereafter it is obligatory upon her to obey.
At the heart of #submission is the choice to submit and the option to say No. The submissive decides how much authority she will cede to another, how much control she will bow to, and what aspects of her life she will surrender to the #Dominant's command. Submissive power exchange is about choice: about the option to decide how one feels about a command and what one is going to do about it. At any point that the sub is not comfortable with this arrangement, it is within her rights to say "No, I'm not going to do that", and this becomes a signal to the couple that they need to renegotiate something. It does not completely derail the power dynamic between them.
A submissive that is controlled in large tracts of her life, her #sexuality, work, dress, social habits, etc., may fall into a space of obedience where orders in those arenas are never mulled over. This is not counter to the definition I gave above but a special subset thereof: even for such a closely-controlled submissive, there remains some area of her life or aspect of her person where she retains autonomy, or where it is her option to decide if she wishes to submit in the moment. In short, a submissive chooses to submit and has the option in some area or another to say no to a dominant command.
How, then, does #consensual #slavery differ from submission? First and foremost, slavery hinges upon a commitment to obedience. The slave does not revisit issues such as "Should I submit?" or "How do I feel about that? Will I say yes or no?" When a Dominant order is issued, whether or not the slave agrees with it, she is obedient in the same manner that a soldier is who has enlisted in the Army. Secondly, in consensual slavery, a person gives themselves over to the control of another as completely as is humanly possible.
This means not only a high degree of #obedience, but that there is actually a chattel property context to the relationship. I’m not talking about a legal relationship, of course, but to a mutual understanding of ownership and property status that arises between the parties. While both slaves and submissives are often fondly referred to as property, in the sense of consensual slavery the slave becomes literally (by mutual agreement) the property of the #Owner. It is not unheard of for slaves to be sold by an Owner and to go willingly to their new #Master or Mistress.
A slave commits to obey. A no becomes a deal breaker in a way it can never be for a submissive. Thirdly, a slave cannot say No without completely rescinding the very basis of the Master / slave agreement. A No from a slave is a terminal deal-breaker in a way that it is not for a submissive. One analogy I offer is this: a submissive is like an employee in the workplace, who can protest directives and hope to resolve conflict with management (the Dominant). A slave, on the other hand, is like a soldier who, if she disobeys orders, has put herself in a position of mutiny with much more dire consequences to her relationship to the military (the Owner) than if she were a civilian disputing a less-controlling authority. The military cannot function if command authority is questioned, and neither can a Master / slave relationship.
Earlier I said, "The submissive decides how much authority she will cede to another, how much control she will bow to, and what aspects of her life she will surrender to the Dominant's command.". Slavery differs in this regard: these decisions are not made by the slave, but by the Owner for the slave, after the general commitment to obedience is in place.
If a Dominant is asking you to do things that are against the law or your own moral values, then he or she is not a true Dominant and you should really think if you want to continue that relationship.
Communication, Respect, Honor, Trust, Honesty, and Consistency need to play a predominant role in your daily life. As you continue your journey, you'll find these words are, or should be, entwined into everything you do or encounter. Without these words and adherence to what they represent, a true Dominant / submissive relationship will be doomed to an early failure. Four of these terms, Honor, Respect, Communication and Trust also form the basic building blocks or foundation of any Dominant / submissive (D/s) or Master/slave (M/s) relationship.
As a submissive or slave, you may not find yourself in control of many situations, but the one situation you are always in control of is how much you learn about this Lifestyle before venturing into it, and how much you continue to learn to improve yourself and your abilities to please your Master or Dominant. There are many avenues open to you to explore your submissiveness and to seek more knowledge of the BDSM lifestyle. Reading articles, books, and internet sites can often prepare you for many of the things you have not discovered, as well as lead you to different thoughts about the Lifestyle.
Remember, all Dominants will push your limits and push the boundaries, but never take you so far over the edge that it will scar you physically or mentally. True Dominants know how and when to push the limits of their sub / slave, but also know when the sub / slave needs a softer touch. That is one of the marks of a true and caring Dom.
The main thing is to remember what being a submissive is about. That it is one of the greatest gifts you can give another person, a Dominant. It is allowing yourself to feel freedom by being taken in hand. It is about knowing, understanding, caring, and feeling things you cannot feel if you do not submit your entire self to that Dominant. It is essentially being allowed to fly, to blossom and grow, to know true freedom by being consensually enslaved.