Slave vs. submissive


Just go to any BDSM party and bring up the topic, slave vs. submissive (or bottom), and you will start the gazillionth debate on this topic. Join any Internet BDSM posting group and doubtless you will have your e-mail box chock full of mail whenever this topic is brought up. Since there are no hard and fast definitions of submissive and slave, much of what has been written falls into the “opinion” category. And in order to keep confusion to a minimum, I will use submissive as equivalent to “bottom.” (Could this be yet another article?!)

So why am I adding yet another opinion to the piles of verbiage that have already been compiled on this topic? I attempt, in Kink Weekly, to simplify much of what has heretofore been presented in an overly complicated way. And I think there is room for a more succinct view in the “slave vs. submissive” debate.

I think we can safely say that slave is not a higher version of submissive. There is no food chain or hierarchy here, no matter what you might have read. But they are not equivalent. So, then, what is the difference? I believe it is the mindset. And the most concise explanation I have found that illustrates the differences in mindset between the two is contained in the following two lines:

“Submissives need to be told what to do.
Slaves need to do what they are told “

These sixteen words can never replace the volumes already written on this subject; the topic is far too complex for such a simple resolution. But it does have a lot to recommend it from a philosophical standpoint. Let’s take a look at these two lines and see what revelations it holds within it.

The first line, “submissives need to be told what to do” implies that submissives need direction from the Dom/Domme. This fits right into our concept of “training”; the submissive is molded by the Dominant to please the Dominant. They might even need a lot of training – reward and punishment — simply to learn to obey. This is because the sub’s prime directive is not necessarily to obey; it is to please. If they can do that without obeying that is fine with most submissives. Remember, ‘bratty subs’ are still subs, after all!

The second line, “slaves need to do what they are told,” shows that the slave needs to obey – he/she is simply wired that way. That is their prime directive. There is no implication that they need to be molded in any way. They simply have an overwhelming need to obey. A “bratty slave” seems somewhat of an oxymoron and our two-line definition supports this view.

Many say the mindset for a sub and a slave are quite different. And this definition implies this view. But any time you try to distill the wisdom of many down to a couple of lines, you run the risk of oversimplifying. And I am taking that risk here. Still, I think that these two lines do illustrate the mental differences between submissive and slave in a uniquely perceptive way.

In the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which I am sure some of you have seen, the sub vs. slave debate is illustrated quite clearly. While Christian wanted a “slave” – he even offered Anastasia a “slave contract” – she was at most a submissive and likely not ready to be a “slave.”

The moral of this story is that a Dom/Domme should have a feel for whether a candidate is submissive or slave material. Because if he/she doesn’t, even a helicopter and a billion dollars won’t make someone into something they are not.

Next week we will be giving you BDSM play techniques for “Wax Play.” Enough theory (although you should know some), it is time for PLAY!!!

Do you agree with my definition of submissives versus slaves? Let me know what you think in the comments section.

After a ten year run as head writer for the legendary, and an equally long run as the host of the hit internet show “Baadmaster’s Dungeon,” we are pleased to welcome the one and only Baadmaster to KinkWeekly. His thoughts about all things BDSM will now appear regularly on these pages. From the mental aspects of D/s to the nuts and bolts of S&M play, Baadmaster will cover every facet of this ever expanding lifestyle.


  1. This makes sense to me… although I feel like sometimes I am more like how you describe a sub, and sometimes like a slave. Every once in a while (ocassionally) I feel like neither and I just want to do my own thing. Is that normal?

    • I would advise to not look at it in terms of normal or not normal-what is normal to kink anyways? Everyone’s specific preferences and orientations are so very individualized and personal not to mention constantly evolving. I think it’s important to narrow down what it is you seek and have a clear understanding of yourself. You may have a great Master/slave power exchange with one person but if you were partnered with another, you would be just as happy in a more flexible Dominant/submissive role. It fluctuates depending on your partner as well.

      The thought of wanting to “do your own thing” is common. I think for me this comes with slowly handing over my submission in bits and pieces (a concept I learned from birdy-a local submissive/teacher here in LA). It’s not realistic to be able to completely hand over every bit of yourself and your submission all at once-there is a learning curve for both you and a partner. As the relationship/dynamic progresses, so too does the depth of your submission. Anyways, this is a whole other article idea right here lol

    • AnnieBear states, “…although I feel like sometimes I am more like how you describe a sub, and sometimes like a slave. Every once in a while (occasionally) I feel like neither and I just want to do my own thing. Is that normal?…”

      The answer in a nutshell — YES, it is normal!

      We all have many components within us. This too I will discuss in future articles.

    • Correction: I meant to quote Amelia.

  2. Baadmaster, do you think that there is also a time-based component to the difference between a submissive and a slave. As in, a slave is more likely to feel comfortable in the slave role 24/7, whereas a submissive might only be in the headspace sometimes, such as during BDSM play? I am also interested to hear your thoughts about other s-types like baby-girls (or boys!) and how they differ.

  3. I am presented with the same “sub vs. slave” question frequently. The difference I offer is that a sub has negotiated away some of her/his ‘freedom’; a slave has agreed to hand them all over.

    I find it easiest to describe it in the following analogy; a Dom and a submissive have negotiated that the sub is to make brownies for her/his Dom every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Therefore, the Dom has a right to expect brownies at 4 p.m. every Tuesday, but not necessarily at 7 p.m. on Wednesday… the sub must make sure they have the ability and the means to get brownies made for her / his Dom for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and may be free to do as they wish at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

    Conversely, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday the Master may tell his / her slave that they want brownies right away. Since the slave has agreed to hand over their liberties, they will stop what they are doing and make the brownies. In theory, the slave has already negotiated away their freedom to do something different than what is desired by the Master. This is where the 24/7 term regarding slaves is founded from.

    Sir Lockdown
    MAsT Naples

  4. Steve Schnobrich says:

    I can agree there is a vast amount of information on this subject. @ BAADMASTER I believe your 2 line definition is a simple view to a complex situation. I am a submissive male however I am not owned at this time. I approach things today as a bottom until I can be owned by someone. The reason is my bdsm activity is negotiated between each play partner . In my submissive role I see myself submitting to one persons pleasure through contract but I have my freedom to pursue life outside of bdsm. Someday I can see myself with the possibility of a slave but only with the development of a strong level of trust and respect with my dominant.

  5. mearl dunlap says:

    Wow I’m impressed

  6. Thank you for recommending this article, it has been very informative and answered most of my questions .

    • kinkweekly says:

      Hey Madalyn,

      Really happy it helped clarify all of the different “titles” for you. It can get a bit confusing, but eventually you will figure out what works best for you!

  7. Ultimately, slave vs. submissive could simply be an exercise in labeling. But if labeling helps to clarify emotional and practical questions, then it has merit. Clearly, there is no defined difference between sub and slave — it is not as clear cut as, say, Republican and Democrat. It is more likely a continuum — and this continuum might have a time component as Dexx suggests. Or maybe something as simple as mood — or even the moon — can impact that continuum! I have a live-in slave, but surely there are times when she is more sub than slave. (Just look at my kitchen!)

    I will discuss in future articles “The Myth Of 24/7.” Is 24/7 even possible in this wired world of cross-responsibilities? Thus, it might be that a slave must of necessity slip into sub mode — or even semi-vanilla mode — in any long term relationship. Outside responsibilities — kids, jobs, etc. — can shape where a sub or slave is in this continuum at any given time.

    Sir Lockdown states, “a Dom and a submissive have negotiated that the sub is to make brownies for her/his Dom every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Therefore, the Dom has a right to expect brownies at 4 p.m. every Tuesday…”

    This is a typical Master/slave situation. But what if the sub must work late that day? Nothing in our lifestyle can be simply black and white. There has to be wiggle room. The slave likely has sub components within his/her makeup and vice-versa.

    These are fascinating questions which I will explore in future articles. And with dialogues with my readers.

    But, alas, It is Saturday night. Off to the dungeon!!!!

  8. I find the simple two line definition to be well thought out. I have found a potential dom/master but have concerns over what limits I can put on the exchange before commuting to being his sub/slave. It gives me a clear cut way to ask him

  9. Keith M. Anderson says:

    I concur with the dual definition, but Amelia asking about “normal” brings to the statement, “Everyone has their own definition of what “normal” is.”, which I believe every day interaction and observation proves. My deceased wife was my slave, yet she was also a pain slut when she felt the need to be. Consequently, the St. Andrew’s cross or the spanking bench could see some heavy use when she felt the need to be a brat and “act out” some devious bent in her imagination, just to be the recipient of the punishment she craved at the time. It wasn’t that she didn’t know better, it wasn’t that I didn’t push her limits in other ways, some verging on wicked, she simply wanted to feel the lashes to reassert her sense of security in her life of daily subservience to my will, so she did something bratty, without overstepping a line and actually disobeying. And, I believe it was also her way of seeking some adventure, rather than an effort to top from the bottom being her intention, even if I poured on extra punishment because I perceived it as bottom topping in some instances. So if everyone has a unique definition of normal, I’m sure each of us has some twist of a unique definition to the differences between subs and slaves, although the sixteen words of the two lines are a great guideline in general.

  10. Wow!!! Never heard it put that way!!! Makes total sense what a wonerful post!! Thank you!!!

  11. A slave is submissive but a submissive is not necessarily a slave. I have been a 24 7 slave for 6 years before that I was a part-time sub for three years.

  12. I just had my first pro domme experience. Interestingly half way through she remarked that i was the first submissive she’d ever played with. She’d always only had slaves. Even more interesting, (and with me giggling all the way through), she seemed to enjoy the change of pace. There’s no real message i guess other than variety is fun for everyone. 🙂 heirarchy’s be damned. I don’t think i’ll ever be a true slave. It’s more fun being a bit bratty and mischievous.

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