The 9 Levels of Submission
Within the S/M subculture, different people use the words “submissive and slave” to mean many different things. When a submissive says “I want to be your slave,” sometimes they mean only that they want to be tied up and whipped. Many professional dominants routinely refer to their (usually not very genuinely submissive clients) as “slaves.” At the other extreme, there are people who want to be full-time personal servants, and who truly want to exist solely for the use, pleasure and convenience of the Goddess or Domina. And there are many shades in between these two extremes.
1. THE OUTRIGHT NON-SUBMISSIVE MASOCHIST or KINKY SENSUALIST
Not into servitude, humiliation or giving up control; just pain and/or spiced-up sensuality, on the masochist’s own terms and for the masochist’s own direct pleasure (i.e. turned on solely/mainly by one’s own bodily sensations rather than by being “used” to gratify one’s partner’s sadism). Commonly referred to as a “do-me sub”, one who comes with a list of what he wants, but offers nothing in return.
2. PSEUDO-SUBMISSIVE NON-SLAVE
Not into even playing”slave,”but into other “submissive” role-playing, e.g. schoolteacher scenes, infantilism, “forced” transvestism. Usually into humiliation, but NOT into servitude, even in play. Dictates the scene to a large degree. Also a version of the “do-me”, it’s all about what he wants.
3. PSEUDO-SUBMISSIVE PLAY SLAVE
Likes to play at being a slave; likes to feel subservient; may in some cases like to feel one is being “used” to gratify partner’s sadism; may even really serve the dominant in some ways, but only on the “slave’s” own terms. Dictates the scene to a large degree; often fetishistic (e.g. foot worshipers). A step above the “do-me”, because the Dominant is actually getting some satisfaction or form of service out of the agreement.
4. TRUE SUBMISSIVE NON-SLAVE
Really gives up control (only temporarily and within agreed-upon limits), but gets her/his main satisfaction from aspects of submission other than serving or being used by the dominant. Usually turned on by suspense, vulnerability, and/or giving up responsibility. Doesn’t dictate the scene except in very general terms, but still seek mainly her/his own direct/pleasure (rather than getting one’s pleasure mainly from pleasing the dominant).
5. TRUE SUBMISSIVE PLAY SLAVE
Really gives up control (though only temporarily; only during brief “scenes” and within limits) and gets main satisfaction from serving/being used by dominant-but only for FUN purposes, usually erotic. May/may not be into pain. If so, is turned on by pain indirectly, i.e. enjoys being the object of one’s partner’s sadism, on which the submissive places very few requirements or restrictions.
6. UNCOMMITTED SHORT-TERM BUT MORE THAN PLAY SEMI-SLAVE
Really gives up control (usually within limits); wants to serve and be used by the dominant; wants to provide practical/non erotic as well as fun/erotic services; but only when the “slave” is in the mood. May even act as a full-time slave for, say, several days at a time, but is free to quit at any time (or at the end of the agreed upon several days). May or may not have long-term relationship with one’s Domina, but, either way, the “slave” has the final say over when he will serve.
7. PART-TIME CONSENSUAL-BUT REAL SLAVE
Has an ongoing commitment to an owner/slave relationship and regards oneself as the dominant’s property at all times. Wants to obey and please his Domina in all aspects of life-practical/non erotic and fun/erotic. Devotes most of time to other commitments (e.g. job) but the Domina has first pick of the slave’s free time.
8. FULL-TIME LIVE IN CONSENSUAL SLAVE
Within no more than a few broad limits/requirements, the slave regards himself as existing solely for his Domina’s pleasure/well being. Slave in turn expects to be regarded as a prized possession. Not much different from the situation of the vanilla traditional housewife, except that within the S/M world, the slave’s position is more likely to be fully consensual, especially when the slave is male. Within the S/M world, a full time “slave” arrangement is entered into with an explicit awareness of the magnitude carefully, with more awareness of the magnitude of power that is being given up, and hence is usually entered into much more carefully, with more awareness of the possible dangers, and with much clearer and more specific agreements than usually precede the traditional marriage.
9. CONSENSUAL TOTAL SLAVE WITH NO LIMITS
A common fantasy ideal of many, and without total commitment can be difficult to maintain. It does however, exist in real life, usually between long-term or married couples who live in a Female Led Relationship (FLR). (Some may say it only exists in authoritarian religious cults and other situations where the “consent” is induced by brainwashing and/or social or economic pressures, and hence isn’t fully consensual). A few S/M purists will insist that you aren’t really a slave unless you’re willing to do absolutely anything for your Domina, with no limits at all.
The above isn’t intended as a rigid classification. It’s origination comes from writings by Diane Vera and published in Lesbian S/M Safety Manual, edited by Pat Califia, from Alyson Press (still in print). ClubFEM Southeast Florida has edited portions of it to remove mention of female submissives and tailor it more towards the thoughts, as well as the actual lives of members of our private club.