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In BDSM, Master/slave or M/s is a relationship in which one individual serves another in an authority-exchange structured relationship. Unlike Dominant/submissive structures found in BDSM in which love is often the core value, service and obedience are often the core values in Master/slave structures. The participants may be of any gender or sexual orientation. The relationship uses the term "slave" because of the association of the term with ownership rights of a master to their slave's body, as property or chattel. While male "masters" will usually be referred to as "Master," whether or not female Masters are referred to as "Master" or "Mistress" may depend upon whether they identify as following the "Leather" or BDSM path.:27-30
The Master/slave (or owner/property) relationship is entered into on a consensual basis, without the legal force of historical or modern non-consensual slavery, that is forbidden by the laws of most countries.
Outside the BDSM community, the relationship of Master/slave is sometimes regarded as a form of consensual sexual slavery. In BDSM, a slave is a specific type of submissive. The Master/slave relationship refers to the relationship between the individuals involved, and does not necessarily require any specific acts, sexual or otherwise, though sexual activity is usually an aspect of the relationship. The sexual aspect could be conventional, and not necessarily BDSM. A slave could also be a masochist or bottom, but this is not always the case.
Some practitioners feel the difference between submissive and slave is the degree of submission. However, many who are involved in Master/slave relationships see the difference as being conceptual. For example, some slaves may not have a naturally submissive personality, but choose to surrender their will and volition to another.
Symbols and rituals
Various forms of symbolism are sometimes used to affirm the owner/slave relationship. These include the wearing the owner's collar, being registered in a slave register, adopting (sometimes legally changing to) a name chosen by the owner, or engaging in a public declaration or ritualized ceremony of some type.
Some people draw up a slave contract that defines the relationship in explicit detail. These contracts may also deal with domestic arrangements (such as cleanliness, home duties) and interpersonal relationship matters (such as issues of deference, language, etc.), besides the sexual arrangements. Typically, they would provide that the Master has the exclusive authority in all matters relating to the body and behavior of the slave, including underwear and other clothing, social relations outside of the arrangement, etc. Although such contracts are not enforceable in the ways legal contracts are, they can be useful for defining in written form the limits of the arrangement between the signatories, and for documenting the consensuality of the relationships they define between them.
In some traditional rituals, after signing a slave contract, the commitment to the relationship is celebrated by a collaring ceremony, which can be simple or elaborate, often witnessed by invited friends. The slave then wears a collar to publicly declare the slave's subjugation and the Master's ownership. Such a collar may be a piece of neckwear, or may be a bracelet or other piece of jewelery that symbolizes slave status. Such a collar is generally not removed except for practical reasons such as medical or security requirements, unless or until the relationship is dissolved; however, a slave is sometimes permitted to wear a more subdued (or less obtrusive) one outside of the home — for example during work or in social situations with people who may otherwise feel uncomfortable.
Slave training is a BDSM activity usually involving a consensual power exchange between two people taking on the roles of a Master or Mistress and a slave. The objective is to change the slave's behavior in a manner that is pleasing to the Master or Mistress, for example to train the slave to follow a set of rules or commands that the Master or Mistress has provided.
Slave training can be a learning process both for the slave (or submissive) and for the Master or Mistress (or Dominant). Training is usually defined in clear steps or lesson plans before it begins. The Master or Mistress teaches the slave how to speak, act and think in a way that is pleasing the Master or Mistress. The slave, in return, derives pleasure from being able to please and serve the Master or Mistress. The slave may also be rewarded tangibly, such as with food, a bed, etc. Some Masters adopt a holistic approach to the maintenance and long-term development of their slave by using such models as Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Depending on the relationship, one or more lesson plans may also involve some forms of aversion training. This could include use of spanking, physical restraints, or clamping to encourage compliance, and to provide the slave with a specific reason to comply. If the trainee is also a masochist, the aversion to physical pain may be lacking, in which case psychological or emotional discomfort may be employed to create the unpleasant result that punishment requires.
- Christina Abernathy (2007). Erotic Slavehood: A Miss Abernathy Omnibus. Greenery Press. ISBN 1-890159-71-9.
- Jack Rinella (2005). Becoming a slave. Rinella Editorial Services. ISBN 0-940267-20-9.
- Jack Rinella (2002). The Compleat Slave: Creating and Living an Erotic Dominant/Submissive Lifestyle. Daedelus publishing Co. ISBN 1-881943-13-5.