Definitions – so what is a BDSM Slave?

standing stoneArticle revised – 31 January 2013:

 

I have stopped taking answers to the first poll on this definition today (145 people voted), but you can see the results below – they show:

  • 72% thought the definition was accurate and appropriate
  • 26% thought it required further work
  • 3% thought it inaccurate or inappropriate

No-one has commented said why they think the original definition (see below) needed further work. I’d really welcome people’s views. But here is a go at a revised definition anyway:

“A BDSM slave is a person who has given informed consent to continuing voluntary submission, without limit, to another. The person owning the slave has all the rights of ownership whilst that consent exists”

I realise that this definition is controversial because many say that BDSM slavery is different to continuing voluntary submission and that, through internal enslavement, a state is reached where a person is so in thrall to another that not only do limits not exist, but the person’s ability to leave their state of slavery is lost too. But I am putting it forward as a discussion point and, I guess it is closer to my idea of consensual BDSM slavery too – please tell me what you think by using the poll immediately below – and by commenting if you can. Thank you.

Original post

I started a thread on “Informed consent“, to discuss this. It got a little distracted by discussion of whether trying to define anything was at all useful, but hey ho!

At the start of the debate, this was the definition I proposed:

“A person who has freely consented to defer to the will of another, without limit, within a relationship that is intended to last as long as free consent exists between the persons’ involved.”

Kuntzler slave sale
Kuntzler slave sale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This differed from my view of submission principally in that it’s my belief that a slave gives submission without limits.

By the end of the thread, my views had been changed and the definition I am happy with for now is as follows:

“.A BDSM slave is a person who has given informed consent to being owned by another. The slave is only such whilst owned and the person owning the slave is entitled to all the rights of ownership whilst that consent exists.

I don’t think this is bottomed out yet. But, I think I now understand why a lot of the Ownership and Possession (O&P) manifesto seems so very appropriate for this kind of relationship.

Have you any further thoughts – please do comment if you do! I promise not to hide anything (except spam)

Helpful Links

The following links may be helpful if you are thinking of responding to this thread:

Feel free to add your own citations too.

Marcus Aurelius and a basis for dominant and submissive living

standing stoneMy first (pre – curvy_bottom) D/s (maybe M/s) relationship ended more than twenty years ago, and happened  many years PI (pre-internet), so it thrived despite almost no external support.We were both undoubtedly kinky people but the lifestyle side of was definitely the most important part. In constructing the regime by which we lived I found huge help in the musings of a Roman Emperor and StoicMarcus Aurelius.

Below, I’ve put some of his thoughts accompanied by my take on them. I do this because they really worked for us and to encourage debate about the development of dominant and submissive natures in D/s, M/s and O&P relationships, and in creating the framework that controls interactions between partners in these types of relationships. Please, all, do add your thoughts to this:

Marcus Aurelius: “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment”.

For the submissive there’s obvious meaning; you can learn to take what’s dished out. But, at a more pervasive level, this is a reminder to both partners that they can control their feelings toward others attitudes and react logically and calmly. This is especially important for the dominant.

Marcus Aurelius: “Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there”.

The strength of a power exchange relationship comes from the inner strength of both parties. Selfish encouragement of your own specific nature is a human trait that can flourish in D/s – each partner’s interests are opposite to the other’s and few compromises need be made.

Marcus Aurelius: “Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised”.

So much of a power exchange relationship is about duty – you need to feel good about it yourself and not expect reward or praise. Understand the intrinsic beauty of what you do for another.

Bust of Marcus Aurelius
Bust of Marcus Aurelius (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marcus Aurelius: “By a tranquil mind I mean nothing else than a mind well ordered”.

For both dominant and submissive knowing exactly where you stand and precisely what your duties and responsibilities are frees you both to be creative, mischievous and fun. Like a train – staying on the railway track keeps the passengers safe to do whatever they want on the journey. It’s not for nothing we say relationships and people go “off the rails”.

Marcus Aurelius “Nothing happens to any thing which that thing is not made by nature to bear”.

A useful maxim when limits are tested. This is not carte blanche for doms. Rather, for the submissive the question should be: does my nature truly preclude me from complying with this new requirement? For the dominant it is “Is it in her nature? Will I harm her by insisting?”

Marcus Aurelius: “Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect”.

For both dominant and submissive this is an injunction to transparency and truth and a warning not to play mind game to get what you want. A useful reminder for those who top from the bottom. And for dominants? Well, I love mind games, but, you can easily trap yourself into using, tricks, falsehoods, aggression, etc in ways that should be shaming.

Marcus Aurelius: “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy”. Also, “The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane”.

I don’t think a D/s or similar relationship can exist completely independently of the wider world: It will have public dimensions. Yes one must not frighten the horses, scare the children nor lose uncomprehending vanilla friends but, you must have the strength to make sure the true nature of your relationship is not compromised when out in the world. At the same time, whilst not acquiescing to the views of ‘the majority” don’t flaunt yourself to the point of being unacceptable in polite society.

Marcus Aurelius: “Remember this-that there is a proper dignity and proportion to be observed in the performance of every act of life”. And, “You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last”.

For both dominants and submissives this is nothing less than Baden-Powell’s maxim: “do your best”. But it also in finding satisfaction in yourself from doing everything well. It implies zero tolerance of sloppy pursuit of goals.

Marcus Aurelius: “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it”.

Anger is always inappropriate in a TPE relationship. It is also always inevitable. D/s couples can formalise responsibilities for decision-making and dispute resolution. We should use the rules we make and never respond til anger has left us. Passion – now that’s a different thing.

037 Marcus Aurelius
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marcus Aurelius “A man does not sin by commission only, but often by omission”.

It’s alright having rules and rituals, but what about the spaces between them – a relationship can be ruined by failure to see a need and meet it.

Money, money, money…

acedc11cbeb3a2a0b4e3bca15378bec4A subject that gets discussed from time to time on BDSM forums is control of a submissive’s finances. Money is very important to most people and controlling access to it is an incredibly touchy subject for most. It isn’t part of my current dynamic with the gorgeous curvy_bottom but it was important in my first long-term D/s relationship, which took place in the days before electronic banking and the internet. But, in that once-upon-a-time,  taking control of her money made me fully aware of my responsibilities as a master and confirmed my girl’s need to be more and more submissive.

I knew her as a student for two years, and then for a year or so after she started training as a lawyer.

We never lost touch, but I spent a period of years working abroad, during which she found several someones and nearly settled down with a chap who was less man than mouse – something with which, curiously, they both seemed content.

Thank goodness (well, from my point of view), that failed. And, some six months later, things were back roughly where they’d started – except I now had a highly successful and deeply bouncy junior corporate lawyer crowding out my one-bedroom flat in Clapham.

In the first few months we had huge fun turning our lives into a beautiful mass of M/s rituals – something we both deeply desired… and soon she wanted me to start to subtly effect her behaviour at work too (not in a way that affected her career, she was a highly professional professional – and deeply ambitious too). We found ways.

But she wasn’t as content as I hoped I hoped I could make her. In fact, she was deeply unsettled and nowhere near happy. It took a while to establish why – basically, thrusting (pardon the unfeminine notion) corporate lawyers earn a lot more than middle-ranking marketing people. She hated it… But she was also damn sure it was her money!

Her money – under my control

The solution – which took a while to get to – came from me and was this: Her salary was paid into a building society account to which she was the only signatory, but I locked away the passbook. Monthly she transferred funds to deal with her living expenses, share of mortgage, holiday, etc, etc, to my account, plus an amount to be used to clothe her, groom her, buy knick-nacks and sundries, etc.

Money - Black and White Money
Money – Black and White Money (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

From then on she only ever had emergency taxi-fare in her purse and a small amount for daily living. Anything she bought she explained to me and presented a receipt. Meanwhile the surplus in her BS account grew and grew (years later, when the divorce happened – it was an annoyingly large amount).

The only rule was that any money of hers in my account had to be used for her benefit (which usually actually meant it benefited both of us).

Her whole attitude changed. She was spectacularly happy that she had given over control of her purse and felt secure that her money would remain hers. And, this prompted the biggest change in me: I realised once and for all that the choice this woman had made was not to have choice in her life. Finally I had the courage, if not the experience, nor yet the patience, to be a master.

Definitions: submission in BDSM

acedc11cbeb3a2a0b4e3bca15378bec4“submission in BDSM is present when one individual, within agreed limits and having given informed consent, defers to the will of another”.

I get involved in debates on forums like Informed Consent where people often talk around terms like dominance and submission. Some even say “Xxxxx can mean whatever you want it to mean!”: This is a red rag to me. I like people to make themselves clear. Saying you can use a word to represent your particular definition of it and not explain this to your readers encourages misunderstanding. It’s a pet peeve too that it seems to me that many of the people who say “you can use a word to mean what you want it to mean” are also those that say “Oh, I don’t use labels – you can’t label me” when they go on to use a label that everyone should understand but insist it has their own special meaning.

People are different and there are probably as many ways of running a BDSM relationship or dynamic as there are people in them. And its wrong to say anyone’s way of doing it is any less valid than anyone else’s. But, you can’t explain what is true and real for you unless you use terms that others clearly understand.

Submission in BDSM

What is it?

I recently took part in two threads on Informed Consent that discussed this, very helpfully. They are here:

  • Is submission real (1)
  • Is submission real (2)

I suggested that the debate should use Wikipedia’s definitions of submission to ensure a common understanding of the term.

From that document, these seem most relevant:

  • Submission is the acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the power of one’s superior or superiors.
  • Sexual submission, the practice of deferring to the will of another in a sexual context.

From those debates and a bit of solitary thinking, I’ve come to this definition:

“submission in BDSM is present when one individual, within agreed limits and having given informed consent, defers to the will of another”.

It seems to me, that if, within agreed limits, a submissive does as required,then submission exists, at that point, regardless of the submissive’s motivation (i.e. whether s/he is pleased to be doing as required or not). If s/he does not, then submission does not exist.

Do you agree that this definition is useful, right or appropriate?

The need for informed consent

Informed consent is fundamental to this definition and this (taken from Wikipedia – but edited for brevity), helps explain what that means:

Free Prior and Informed Consent
(Photo credit: PinkMoose)

“Informed consent is a phrase that indicates that the consent a person gives meets certain minimum standards. Informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action. In order to give informed consent, the individual concerned must have adequate reasoning faculties and be in possession of all relevant facts at the time consent is given.”

It assumes no fraud – ie that both parties have been truthful to each other. The Informed Consent BDSM website also recently discussed this topic and it’s usefulness in explaining how we live to the wider world. For interest, these are the links:

Who uses safewords? Results

standing stoneThree day’s ago I put up a one question PollDaddy  poll on safewords. I closed the poll at 9:15 am on Thursday 9 August 2012.

These are the results. 320 people responded, of whom  11 said they weren’t BDSM people, so they didn’t answer the question. Of the rest, there were 161 submissives, 105 dominants and 43 switches. As with the other surveys I’ve done there always seems to be more interest among submissives, and dominants seem to take more of an interest as the completion deadline looms.

The results, surprisingly (at least to me) show that a clear majority of those that responded do not use safewords, especially if they are in relationships.

The question asked was: “Please tick the answer that most resembles you and your attitude to safewords”

The chart below shows the answers given by all respondents. Most came from the UK, where I promoted the survey on Informed Consent and Fetlife Up to a fifth may have come from other countries, mostly the USA, with maybe a quarter of the non UK responders coming from other European countries.

Dominants

Two-thirds of dominants said they were more likely not to use a safeword.

Dominants Actual %
Mostly use safeword 36 34%
Mostly don’t use safeword 69 66%
Total 105

Submissives

Submissive respondents agreed with dominants, in the same proportions.

Submissives Actual %
Mostly use safeword 54 34%
Mostly don’t use safeword 107 66%
Total 161

Switches

Three out of four switches said they were more likely to use a safeword than not.

Switches Actual %
Mostly use safeword 32 74%
Mostly don’t use safeword 11 26%
 Total 43  

People in relationships

People in relationships said they were the least likely to use a safeword of any group (only a quarter said they did).

In relationships Actual %
Mostly use safeword 46 24%
Mostly don’t use safeword 147 76%
Total 193  

People interested in scenes and play

Two thirds said they used safewords

Play and scenes Actual %
Mostly use safeword 76 66%
Mostly don’t use safeword 40 34%
Total 116