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A slave is a submissive person who gives up their power to a dominant individual, known as a master or mistress, in a BDSM total power exchange relationship. This is by far the most loaded and triggering term in the common BDSM vernacular. Before throwing the word around, educating yourself so you have an understanding of historical and present trauma around slavery, from the trans-Atlantic slave trade to human trafficking, would be wise.
A slave becomes viewed as their Dominant’s property, both by the Dominant and the wider BDSM community. Any property they once owned, from cars to clothes, usually becomes their dominant’s property. Where it differs from slavery, as it is referred to in a wider context, is that the sub has willingly abdicated their freedom, which is a key difference, the importance of which can not be overstated.
Slaves are responsible for meeting all their dominant partner’s needs and wants. They attend to their sexual needs, prepare their meals, keep their houses clean, and provide emotional support and company.
Slaves are often totally subservient to their dominant partners. They must ask permission before they do anything and be available for whatever the Dominant requests. They must complete daily chores and work hard for their Dominant’s approval. Slaves are often subject to punishment if they deviate from their duties. They may also receive rewards for good work, such as completing all their chores for the day or maintaining good behavior for an extended period.
As with all relationships, relationships between slaves and their dominants vary. Some relationships allow for more negotiating than others, for example. Some slaves enter into slave contracts. These contracts clearly state what the expectations of both parties are, to clarify the terms of their relationship. These contracts aren't usually legally binding. However, the BDSM community frowns on slaves, masters, or mistresses who break these contracts without good reason. Many slaves also wear a collar their Dominant gives them which clearly shows they are their dominant’s property.
A slave is sometimes called a 24/7 slave. This title emphasizes the fact that for more people, being a slave is a total lifestyle choice. It also differentiates slaves from other submissives, who may be subservient for scenes, but have more control in their lives.
Remember the difference between the term slave, in a BDSM context, and the more common use of the word slave. In BDSM, slaves give their full consent before entering into their total power exchange relationship. This makes them different from enslaved and trafficked people.
The decision to become a slave is not one that anyone should take lightly. A Dominant controls many or all aspects of their slave’s lives, from the clothes they wear (if they wear any clothes at all) to when they eat, sleep, and toilet. Slaves also must decide if they could live without the things they enjoy and accept any terms that their Dominant sets, without hesitation or arguments. They must also decide whether they could surrender things they’ve worked hard for, such as a career or material possessions. Slaves often lose ownership of their possessions and must give up work if their dominant instructs them to.
Before committing to living as a slave, take some time to think about whether giving up complete control of your life to another is what you want. If not, you may want to consider simply role-playing as a submissive. This activity involves temporary submission rather than a total power exchange. Some people are ill-suited to becoming slaves. People who are quick-tempered or moody may struggle with the demands of slave life. Dominants do not usually want doormats though. Simply being agreeable may not make you an ideal candidate for being a slave either.
While becoming a slave requires a lot of personal sacrifices, many slaves find their lifestyle choice rewarding, even enjoying reclaiming the words slave and Master from the historic context.
They take pleasure from making their Dominant happy and feel purpose meeting their needs. They also appreciate having all their needs met, without having to worry about balancing budgets and other matters. Being a slave can be a good choice for people with a lot of self-discipline and a strong nurturing streak.
It’s important for slaves to find dominants they trust completely. A good dominant will care for their slave and make sure they never neglect their needs or compromise their wellbeing. While they may punish their slave, they will also reward and praise them. The tasks they give their slave encourage them to grow as a person, perhaps through honing skills or pushing past inhibitions. A good dominant will also negotiate the right terms for their slave, considering their personality and any past trauma.
As with all BDSM relationships, slaves are consenting partners. They consent to enter into a slave-master/mistress relationship and consent to stay in one. If they do not feel the relationship works for them at any time, they can walk away from it.
Because of the history of slavery and the continued enslavement of people, Slave and Master are controversial terms within and outside of the BDSM community. Recognizing that the connotations of these terms can be triggering and acerbate historical trauma is an important step in being inclusive.
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