Difference between Submissive and Slave

Updated on December 6, 2015

Modern sexual practices involve a number of roles for the participating parties. In BDSM (a term that includes bondage & discipline practices and sadomasochist practices), submissive and slave roles are different. We will take a closer look at the differences between the two in the following article.


Picture “A man submissive”

In BDSM, a Submissive is a person who willingly submits to a Dominant. Dominance/submission role-playing features in sex practices, but it can be performed entirely devoid of sex. A couple may play dominant/ submissive roles over a telephone or via an exchange of messages. Submission is about devotion and desire to please the dominant party. The number of partners in a dominance/submission relationship is virtually unlimited. A dominant person may have several submissive persons, who in turn can play the role of dominant persons. BDSM community practices require adherence to the set of rules regarding the behavior of the participants. The roles include safety precautions as far as sexual activities are concerned and mutual consent between parties regarding the content and order of the procedures of the sexual activities.

Gay “slaves” posing during a gay parade

In traditional history, a slave is a person who is owned by another person as a property. Slaves do not have rights of their own. In the modern BDSM subculture, slavery is consensual. That means people who take on the slave role consent to be a property of someone else. A dominant partner for a slave in BDSM is called “a Master.” Slaves willingly admit that they want to be someone else’s property. This is their choice. They often say to the Master: “I want to be a slave because I love you and I want to serve you.” There is a lot of reasoning behind the decision to be a slave and it varies greatly depending on the particular person making the decision. In the BDSM community a master/ slave relationship is considered to be an ultimate type of relationship. There are several kinds of slavery in BDSM and a lot of practices associated with each of them. Various physical activities, such as bondage, corrals, etc. play a significant role in Master/ Slave relationships and accompanied sexual practices.

Comparison chart

Can swap a roleCannot swap a role
Shorter periods of timeLonger periods of time
Partial subordinationComplete subordination

Submissive vs Slave

What is the difference between submissive and slave?

  • During sexual play a submissive person may become a dominant if he and a dominant partner agree on that. A slave, on the other hand, cannot become a master.
  • A submissive role is played for a shorter period of time than a slave role. A person can be a submissive only for the duration of a particular sexual play and then reject a submissive role. On the other hand, a slave role is played for life or until the separation from a Master.
  • Both submissive and slave roles are about willingly submitting to someone else’s will. The difference between the two is that while the role of a submissive implies only partial subordination to a dominant person and rarely stretches out farther than sexual interplay, the role of a slave implies that a person becomes a slave in every aspect of a domestic partnership. For example, a slave cannot make a decision as to what to eat for dinner, what to wear or how to decorate a room. It is as though a slave agrees to not to express any opinion on anything, letting a Master decide.
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