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What is the Difference Between a Slave and a Submissive?

You've heard the terms submissive and slave used a lot in reference to dominance and submission, or D/s, and it appears that they are often used interchangeably. But are they interchangeable? Yes and No.

Technically they are not interchangeable in the truest sense of the definition, however, there are many different interpretations throught the BDSM community as to exactly what defines each and how they differ from each other.

Dominance and Submission

Dominance and Submission, or D/s, is a subset of BDSM that refers to a relationship in which on individual, known as the submissive, gives another individual (known as the dominant) control over their them. This is known as consensual power exchange. If the dominant is a woman, she is typically referred to as Mistress. If the dominant is male, he is usually referred to as Master.

In this relationship, as in any relationship, trust and communication is vital. Before entering into a D/s relationship, both parties need to sit down and discuss their individual beliefs regarding dominance and submission, as well as any rules, such as a safeword, and limits and boundaries each bring to the relationship. This is what is known in the D/s world as negotiation. It is within this set of rules developed during negotation that the determination is made as to whether the relationship inovles a total power exchange (TPE), which is what many feel is the requirement for being considered a slave (as opposed to a submissive).

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The Submissive

As mentioned above, a submissive is one who agrees to give a dominant control over them. The extent of control is a matter of individual preference and is something that is determined during negotiations at the beginning of each new D/s relationship. Some D/s participants believe that D/s play is for the bedroom only- separate from their daily lives. Others believe it is a lifestyle; that it defines who they are in every area of their lives, including their daily routines.

A person is considered to be a submissive based on their desire to give control to another, whether or not they are in a current relationship. Many feel that to be a slave, the individual must be in a D/s relationship because the very definition of slave infers a loss of free will and implies that the individual is "owned." Though not all dominants collar their submissives, many people in the BDSM community feel that once a submissive has been collared, he is considered a slave.

The Slave

In many D/s relationships, the dominant places a collar on the submissive as a sign of committment and ownership. Often times this ritual, where the dominant places a collar around the submissive's neck, is performed with great fanfare in what is known as a collaring ceremony that in many ways resembles a marriage ceremony. Much like the wedding band, the collar is considered to be a symbol of ultimate respect. The submissive who proudly wears the collar then becomes referred to as a collared submissive. It is at this point that many believe a submissive becomes a slave.

Most commonly, the difference between a submissive and a slave is determined by how much control the submissive places in the hands of the dominant. If the submissive allows the dominant to have full control over them in all aspects of their lives, a process known as total power exchange or TPE, it becomes more of a Mistress/slave relationship than simply a Dominant/submissive relationship. The extent of control relinquished determines the dintinction.