S & M (Semantics And Meanings): Slave

I think of myself as My Lady’s submissive, or simply her boy, rather than her slave. In a lot of ways, I must admit, the level of control she exercises over me approaches what might seem appropriate for a slave: I have to sleep in a leather collar with a little metal tag that has the equivalent of “Dilo Keith’s” on one side and “BT 005” (because I’m apparently the fifth “boytoy” she’s taken in hand over the years) on the other, I’m not to eat chocolate or masturbate to orgasm without her permission, I can only wear underwear of certain colours, and there’s a limit on how much alcohol I’m allowed to drink late at night when I’m home alone. These rules aren’t terribly onerous, but I’m well aware that she could choose to tighten them up or add new ones at any time. She’s already hinting, for example, that there’s going to be some kind of mandatory exercise regimen in my life pretty soon.

On the other hand, I have outside commitments that preclude throwing myself at My Lady’s feet and declaring that she’s welcome to tattoo me, brand me, relocate me, lock me in her basement forever, give me to a friend, sell me to an interested party, send me off to join the Foreign Legion, or make me go cartwheeling down Main Street without any clothes on. At this stage of my life, I think I’d have to feel something close to that level of devotion to someone before being prepared to describe myself as her slave. Whether I would be brave enough to offer myself as a slave to My Lady if the outside commitments magically melted away is an interesting question, and whether My Lady would consider accepting the offer is another.

However, the line between submissive and slave will inevitably be fuzzy and subjective in societies that have dispensed with a legally binding form of slavery. Most of us probably have a sense that slaves are more deeply committed than submissives, metaphorically buried up to the neck in servitude rather than merely up to the waist, but I’m not aware of any specific, widely accepted criteria for distinguishing one kind of “s-type” from the other. Classifications, including the one by Diane Vera posted on this site, can be helpful in distinguishing among different kinds and degrees of submission but don’t provide an authoritative answer to the question of what level of surrender a person has to reach in order to qualify as a slave. This leaves us subservient men and women free to consult our own feelings, and of course the feelings of those who command us, and simply decide how best to describe ourselves.

If you are intensely devoted to another person, if you feel deliciously owned and controlled, you might prefer to call yourself either a slave or a highly dedicated submissive. If you have a more casual relationship with a dominant, you might call yourself either a submissive or a slave who serves on specific, limited terms – historically, after all, slaves were sometimes quite independent of their owners. Either way, you might also identify as a servant, boy, girl, slut, bitch, pet or plaything, or as something else entirely. Regardless of who ends up with what label, we can still learn – and take vicarious pleasure – from each other’s experiences.

Do you identify yourself, or identify someone who follows your instructions, as a slave or submissive? If so, how did you decide which word to use?

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