I’m a slave but not submissive

If you want to see sparks fly in an online forum, just mention how you are a slave, but not submissive. Not possible, you’ll hear from many. Do you submit to your Master? Of course you do, so you must be submissive.

To talk about this I think we first have to separate out personality traits, which are much wider than a relationship dynamic. How you relate to the world, and whether you see yourself as a person who is somewhat “dominant” or “submissive” in your daily life, is not the same as the role you choose to enact in your sexual life or in your relationship.

You may see yourself as not particularly aggressive, or as someone who likes to please people or who often puts other’s needs before your own. And, perhaps for that reason people would categorise you as having a somewhat submissive personality. That does not mean that you will be drawn to a Master/slave dynamic in order to submit.

Certainly. in an M/s dynamic there will be an element of submission involved. You will submit in numerous ways to your Master. But, that isn’t necessarily your motivation for entering an M/s relationship, and I think that’s where the communication breaks down in forums and misunderstandings occur.


You will have your own unique set of motivations and your own unique relationship dynamic, so I will talk in absolutes here but please apply the term “in many cases” to what I say.

A Dominant/submissive dynamic provides an environment that allows the sub to please their Dom. Commonly, there is the freedom to make choices, and by choosing options that are pleasing to the Dom there is a payoff. The sub knows he/she is being pleasing and the Dom is satisfied in knowing that the sub made that choice. The internal motivation of the sub is to please his/her Dom, and the sub often exercises strength and self-control in enduring hardship to do this.

Quite often this is referred to as a “service orientation”.

A Master/slave dynamic tends to provide an environment that allows the slave to feel that they are being made to please their Master. It’s often an environment where choices are deliberately limited and freedom is restricted. A slave doesn’t want to be given choices and the accompanying freedom to make them, they want clear instructions, and for choices to be restrained, with word, observation and perhaps physical restraint. Certainly, they might aim to be pleasing, but what motivates the slave is the desire to give up choices, not to exercise them in order to please.

While subs often talk about “service”, slaves more commonly talk about “obedience”.

On the surface, these two dynamics can sometimes look the same, but the underlying motivation (and subsequent dynamic) are very different. In D/s, the s is motivated to please when given the choice. In M/s, the s will please because they feel they are obligated to or that there will be consequences if they don’t, and that lack of freedom to choose is exactly what they want.

Of course, it follows that Doms and Masters are motivated by different desires too. One enjoys their sub making choices to please them, the other enjoys the control that taking choices away from the slave gives them.


People, and relationships, are a blend of characteristics. I’ve just looked at the motivations driving power exchange and pushed them to two extreme ends, service orientation and obedience orientation, and labeled dynamics accordingly.

Of course that’s not quite how it works in the real world. Both of those orientations are spectrums rather than absolutes. Many people are very service oriented in their lives and want to help others, and that includes those who identify as slaves. It’s certainly possible to be submissive AND a slave.

But, I think we can draw a distinction between traits within ourselves that we bring to a relationship, and what it is that actually draws us to a relationship.

The difference between M/s and D/s is often discussed as some kind of stepping stone level of quality of power exchange. M/s is seen as the “larger” exchange, D/s is seen as a kind of M/s-lite, or something less.

But I think if we look at the characteristics of the dynamics, and the participants, it is not about the quantity of power exchanged but about what is actually being exchanged. In the case of D/s it is choices, and making the choices that are pleasing. In the case of M/s it is freedom, in exchange for control.

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