Friday, March 9, 2012

Frisky Friday - Submissives vs. Slaves

In my BDSM romances, all my heroes are Doms with submissives, not Masters with slaves.  Jim, my hero in my WIP "A Dom's Dilemma," comes closest to being a master with a slave when he insists Kelly assume a slave role prior to a really harsh punishment.  But other than that one time, he's really pretty lenient as far as Doms go, and he gives her a lot more leeway than most Doms would.  That said, I've been reading several books lately that deal with Master/slave relationships.  Only the slaves in these books are victims of human trafficking, which has significantly wounded them both mentally and physically.

The first book I want to talk about is Slave (Finding Anna) by Sherri Hayes.  I found Sherri's book during my Six Sentence Sunday trolling and bought it almost immediately after reading her six sentences.  Sherri is planning an entire series, which is good since the first book left me in serious limbo.  It didn't have "The End" or even "End of Part I" the way Fifty Shades did, so I  immediately went searching for more information (and to see if another book might be available) and found the blog site she has created for her Finding Anna series. She also has a Facebook page where she provides regular progress updates.  Below are Sherri's Six Sentences and a blurb for Slave from Goodreads:

"Get dressed and come to the living room, please."

And then he was gone. I was more confused than ever. He wanted me to get dressed  and come to the living room?

Then I got it. He was getting rid of me!

     Stephan has lived the lifestyle of a Dominant for five years. After several rebellious teenage years, it gave him the stability and control he had been seeking after his parent’s death.
     As president of a not-for-profit foundation, he knows what his future holds and what he wants out of life. All that changes when a simple lunch with his college friend and Mentor, Darren, leads him to buying a slave.

     Thrust into a situation he never thought he’d be in, Stephan can’t walk away. He is compelled to help this girl in the only way he knows how. 
     Brianna knows only one thing, she is a slave. She has nothing. She is nothing. 
     Can Stephan help Brianna realize that she is much more than just a Slave?

Sherri has come out, along with a lot of other authors, against the Today segment on "Fifty Shades of Grey."  It is Dr. Drew Pinske in particular that has drawn everyone's ire.  He said, "Erotic Novels: are they fantasy or just plain violent?"  He said this in addition to his statement admitting he hadn't even read the books.  Since I didn't see this segment on the Today show, I am reticent to give my point of view, but I will say from what I have read on this topic that there is great cause for concern, especially considering the recent brouhaha over Paypal's newest restrictions.  If you aren't aware of either of these issues and want to know more, please visit Dr. Logan Levkoff's post on the Huffington Post and Andrew Shaffer's article also on the Huffington Post regarding Paypal.

Human trafficking is a real and present danger, even though many people aren't aware it still exists.  It is also a serious topic and one that Sherri deals with in a very realistic, yet sensitive, way.  Another author who has taken on this challenge is Cherise Sinclair in her "Masters of the Shadowlands" series.  The latest "To Command and Collar" goes much more deeply into the the damage incurred when a woman is abducted and forced into slavery against her will.  It is a lot grittier than her other books, and Raoul (whose enjoyment with whipping surprised me after his brief aftercare scene with Gabrielle in Make Me, Sir) is much more a Master than a Dom in my opinion, so the ending of this book left me a little unsettled.

The following is the blurb on Amazon for "To Command and Collar"

     Determined to find the human traffickers preying on Shadowlands’ submissives, Master Raoul gets himself invited to a small slave auction. Once informed, the FBI orders him to reject the limited choices so the slavers will invite him to the big auction. To Raoul’s shock, one of the slaves is the kidnapped friend of a Shadowlands sub. She has a scarred body...and an unbroken spirit. He can’t leave her behind. Ruining the FBI’s carefully laid plans, he buys her.
     Kimberly’s freedom has come at a devastating price: the other women are still slaves. An FBI raid is their only hope for rescue. Desperate to help the Feds locate the big auction, she agrees to pose as Master Raoul’s slave. Wearing a collar again is terrifying, but under the powerful dominant’s care, Kim starts to heal and then to blossom. This is what she’s been drawn to—and fled from—her entire life.
     She escaped the slavers who captured her body—can she escape the master who’s captured her heart?

Although Kimberly's spirit wasn't broken anywhere to the extent that Brianna's was in Slave, she was far from being the young, carefree spirited young woman she had been before she was captured.

However, the difference between women who were captured and forced into slavery against their will and those who willingly submit to a master out of devotion is comparable to the difference between "hate and disgust" and "desire and need."  So, when you consider willing submission only, I've always viewed the dissimilarities between slaves and submissives to be a matter of degree in regards to the power exchange between them.  Masters and slaves have Total Power Exchanges, while Doms and submissives seem more like part-timers to me.  Dominants and submissives have safewords, where participants of TPE usually do not.  They have limits, where once again participants in TPE don't.  Part of my confusion stems from the fact that Masters and Slaves are also referred to as Dominants and Submissives, while to me they are not the same at all.  So, is it merely a matter of degree, or do the differences between slaves and submissives reach a far deeper level?  I'd be interested in any thoughts or opinions you might have.

In the meantime, if books about BDSM slaves in captivity interest you, check out the list on Goodreads BDSM Slave/Captive Stories.  Have a safe, sane and consenual Friday


  1. One of my books deals very heavily with non-con sex slavery, though in a sci-fi setting, and I have written about it extensively pseudonymously as well. Slavery does not exist legally in this country and hasn't since the mid-nineteenth century. If a Dom and sub want to call that sub "slave" they can, but it has no legal teeth. It's an agreement between two parties based on integrity, nothing else. The difference between the appellation "slave" and "sub", therefore, is pure semantics and preferences. An author can make it mean whatever they want within the context of their book, but there is no legal slavery, and there are laws against human trafficking that make the BDSM use of the term more fantastical than real, even with TPE. If someone is truly a "slave" (due to human trafficking), then maybe the appellation "victim" is more appropriate than anything else.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Trish. I suspect very little white slavery exists even illegally in the United States, if any actually exists at all, outside of fiction. I'm not saying it couldn't, but most of the non-fiction stories I've read about human trafficking have taken place overseas. I also knew that the Master/slave terminology in BDSM has no legal teeth behind it even if a contract is involved, but I believed it to be more than mere semantics. Looks like that's not really the case.

      In other words, I thought the protocol of Master/slave was far more formal than most Doms and Subs usually adhered to. But from what you've just said, the terms are really a matter of preference over structure. A couple could follow high protocol (where the submissive kneels naked at her Dom's feet, eyes cast down, silent unless spoken to directly) and still refer to themselves as a Dom with a sub. However, I suspect they only follow high protocol in certain times and places (like when in the privacy of their bedroom or the playroom). My understanding, and I could be wrong since I have no personal experience in BDSM Master/slave relationships (we don't even have a playroom), is that couples who engage in TPE are more apt to follow high protocol as often as they possibly can. But, perhaps the terms they use to refer to themselves are not as important as their lifestyle. I like to learn something new every day, and I think I just learned something new today. Thanks again for your visit. I can always count on you to provide any needed insight.

  2. Sub versus slave is an often (hotly) debated topic in BDSM discussions (for example, I think I saw two threads on the topic just the other day on and there is no "community consensus" as to universal definitions.

    The simplest answer I've ever seen on the difference is something someone posted that was told to them some time ago (and alas, I cannot find the quote in order to repeat it verbatim) but it was something like this: A submissive chooses who and when to obey. A slave choose who to obey.

    Obviously this applies only to consensual relationships formed in free societies; as noted, the slave still chooses who, and can at any time choose to make the answer to "who?" "no one", and remove themselves from the relationship. But there is no part time about it, as you surmised; whether it's high or low protocol, there is still obedience, there is no, "I don't feel like serving you today, can we play tomorrow?"

    You will still get submissives who say that they submit 24/7, and yet are not slaves. This is where an additional point that is often brought up can help clarify - a slave is an owned person, a submissive is a person who chooses to submit. And while any such ownership contract would not have legal teeth, as Patricia Green pointed out, I would suggest that people can be as much if not more bound by their word, their honor, or even just the intensity of their needs, than by a legal contract.

    Either way, I tend to make a distinction between "slaves-by-choice" and actual slaves (such as trafficking victims) who made no such choice.

    1. Eslynne, thanks so much for your comment. I like the definition that a submissive chooses who and when to obey, while a slave only chooses who. That's sort of what I thought, but I'll take a look at to see what they're saying. I suspected there was no "community consensus" on the definitions, and I definitely agree there is a huge distinction between slaves-by-choice and trafficking victims. I really appreciate your addition to the conversation.


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