What is a slave? Is it me?

Originally published on 13 November, 2013.

For many years when I was first exploring life as a submissive, I was always quick to tell people, “I’m submissive but not a slave.” In fact, that was my tagline online for a long time. I thought slaves were mindless, weak-willed creatures who didn’t have original thoughts. Doormats. And I wasn’t about to become one of them.

Then I began to meet slaves who were powerful, thoughtful people. I learned from them that slave did not equal doormat. That slaves could be powerful, empowered, intelligent people. And I began to meet masters who desired powerful, intelligent slaves. I learned from them that to become enslaved was to become empowered and free. And so began my new path.

At first, learning to be a slave was hard. There is so much bad information out there and I was reading all of it. I thought that being a slave would mean that life would be filled with joyful service, doing fun and sexy things for a master whose every thought revolved around me. I thought it meant playtime everyday, and tons of great sex. I imagined long talks and romantic dinners, serving drinks on my knees and lots of ‘good girls’ throughout the day. I thought it would mean fun tasks and sexy outfits and OTK spankings on the sofa. I pictured us sitting in the living room every night with me at his feet, head on his knee, and his hand running through my hair while watching House together. It was romantic and lovely and sexy.

Of course, reality is so very much different. It’s hard to be naked and kneeling, and getting regular spankings on the sofa with a teenager in the house. Obedience doesn’t just mean doing the things you want to do, it often means doing the things you really hate. Sometimes it means doing things at 3am when you have to get up at 5am whether you want to or not, and last minute change in plans just because he wants something different. Transparency means sharing everything that matters, not just what you want to share, and sometimes it’s really, really hard. Serving doesn’t mean you get to serve in ways you want, it means serving in ways the owner wants, and sometimes it means stopping what you are doing to serve, whether you like it or not. It also means sometimes he wants to serve himself.

And so the first year of our relationship, I struggled to learn how to let go of my own wants, my own ideals, and follow along the path Sir set me to follow. Discovering how to be transparent meant dealing with emotions I had spent many years stuffing away in silence. Oftentimes, I was an emotional wreck. He wanted transparency and so I gave it to him in spades. It took me about a year or so to learn how to moderate and filter my emotions. To be patient, because no matter what, he wasn’t responding on the spot. To learn to express my emotions while still maintaining a level of respect and remembering my place.

Learning to be obedient meant learning to stop using the words ‘no’ and ‘I can’t’, which was really hard for me. To be able to stop whatever I was in the middle of doing and say, ‘yes, Sir,’ without giving that frustrated deep sigh of exasperation. And learning to serve with grace and joy, even when it was a task I really hated or it interrupted something else I was doing. It also meant being present in the moment, and not thinking about all the things I had yet to get done or wanted to do. Learning it wasn’t about my wants, but about his wants in that moment.

I learned all those things and was mostly successful at them. I was getting really good at putting ego aside, learning to be graceful and joyful in service, learning to say, ‘yes, Sir,’ and mean it. Life was moving along smoothly in its own routine of getting up early for work, taking turns in the shower or showering together, preparing coffee and lunches, helping Sir dress, dressing myself, and shuffling both of us out the door. Coming home at the end of a long workday and decompressing together with a glass of wine or a beer on the porch, then cooking dinner and eating together at the table. Having a few spontaneous play sessions here and there during the week, and really good sex several times a week. The occasional [fellatio] at 3am, or while helping Sir dry after his shower in the morning, or on the sofa while he was watching football. Wednesday coffee was a fairly regular social activity, as were monthly play parties that ended in delicious marks that lasted for days. I had this ‘box’ that Sir had created for me, with rules and protocols and expectations, and my box was mostly intact. Sir policed the fences now and again to remind me of my boundaries and his expectations, and I was safe and secure in our life together.

Then on a cold morning in December, I was awakened by a noise that would change the course of our lives and our dynamic together.

Sir was basically dead. No heartbeat, not breathing. I called 911, unlocked the front door, grabbed a robe, dragged Sir to the floor, and began CPR. For 8 minutes I did compressions while waiting for the ambulance. You don’t realize how long 8 minutes is until you have to do something like that.

I was lost. Sitting in the quiet room of the hospital with 2 people I didn’t know, didn’t even know why they were there with me, waiting, waiting, waiting to find out if Sir was dead or alive. Waiting for someone to come along and tell me what to do, who to call, what to say.

Being enslaved is not about the things you do. It’s not some romantic notion of hearts and flowers and bowing and kneeling. Being enslaved is not a fluttery feeling of lust or romance, and it’s not a badge you put on when you wake up each morning that professes to the world “I.Am.Slave.”

Anyone can claim the title of ‘slave’. In the BDSM world, each person has the luxury of defining the term ‘slave’ in whatever way they choose, because we can’t for one moment have anything that appears to be ‘one true way’ in BDSM. We have created a system of flowery, romantic ideas of slavery.

Being a slave is actually pretty easy when you define it as giving someone control of your daily life. You go through the motions of executing tasks, serving as desired, being transparent when necessary, obeying when called to. The reality is that most people who have a submissive or service leaning can learn to be a slave. Really, it doesn’t take much beyond the decision to allow someone else to control your life.

But being a slave isn’t the same thing as being enslaved.

Being enslaved isn’t about obedience, transparency, and service, although it includes those things. Being enslaved is about synergy. It is about 2 people coming together to create a greater whole than they were apart. Working in tandem, interdependent, symbiotic. Each necessary for the balanced, centered life of the other.

Becoming enslaved ultimately means that each partner functions less successfully, less completely, without the other. Some see enslavement as codependent, and it certainly can be when it’s unhealthy. But I see enslaving and being enslaved as interdependent. One cannot operate successfully within the dynamic without the other. Each is dependent upon the other’s contributions to the relationship to be successful. A yin and yang of M/s.

It’s not something that just happens because you’ve decided to call yourself a slave. It is internal. It develops over time, as one internalizes the ideals of slavery. As one separates from ego and becomes present in each moment of service. As one’s mind and heart move from thinking about ‘I’ to thinking about ‘Master’. It is, in a sense, a brainwashing, a conditioning. It becomes a reason for being.

Being enslaved means that I think about him in everything that I do, even while at work. Being enslaved means that even when I am in a position to make a decision on my own, I make that decision based on what I believe he would desire. Being enslaved means I serve him in all of my actions, even those actions that are done away from him, like work and family interactions. My every waking moment is executed with him in mind.

But there’s a catch to being enslaved.

An enslaved person, when faced with the absence of their master, will quite possibly lose their way. And once the way is lost, the enslaved only knows that finding the way again is paramount to everything else.

We have had in the last 10 months some level of role reversal, an absence of the Master. While Sir was unable to effectively participate in his care, I was his voice. I made medical decisions for him based on what I knew to be his desires and wishes. Because he has suffered both physical and neurological injuries, I have had to continue to care for him and to make decisions for him.

Some think that means we are no longer Master and slave. And while I think in some ways they may have a point, I still have to disagree with them. Because even through the most difficult of times, I have continued to focus my actions on serving him. When I take his blood pressure and dispense his medications, I am serving him. When I ask questions and challenge doctors, I am serving him. When I assist him with the physical tasks he cannot do on his own, I am serving him. When I tell him ‘no’ because what he wants isn’t medically allowed, I am serving him. When I make decisions because he isn’t fully able to make them himself, I am serving him. Even in the absence of his active mastery, I serve him.

Sir’s neuro-psych evaluation a couple weeks ago did not release him to work or drive or manage his meds. However, it did determine that his verbal memory and his problem solving are back where they were before. He still has recovering to do. But as he has reached a point in his recovery where he is able to again make decisions and handle life, we struggle to find our roles again.

For 10 months, there has not been SM play. There has not been a whole lot of sex. There has not been a Master taking control of his slave. There has been a slave who has continued to serve in the only way she knows how. A slave who has soldiered onward, doing what needed to be done to keep our home intact, to keep our family safe and cared for, and to help Sir recover.

And sometimes this slave has faltered. Finding that place within that allows me to serve in the absence of my Master has been difficult at times, and sometimes has been almost impossible. There have been tears. Lots and lots of tears. There has been anger, and even some resentment when it seemed that things would never return to some semblance of balance. There have been times when the snark in my voice disgusted me, but I couldn’t stop it because I was so overwhelmed. There have been times when a part of me just wanted to give up, because it seemed the burden was too much. There have been times when I was on the edge of breaking, shattering into millions of tiny pieces.

For Sir, there have been times of depression. There have been times of giving up, accepting that this is all there is. There has been anger and resentment at what has happened to him. And insecurity in his ability to master again. There have been times when it was difficult for him to think about mastering or topping me when I have had to assume so much control in the relationship. There has been frustration at a lack of abilities, and debilitating fear at this being all there is.

And yet, we both struggle onward, together. One, a Master trying to find his way back. The other, a slave trying to find the way.

Editor’s Note: azbeachgirl’s Sir passed away October 26th, 2014. -Erica

One Response to What is a slave? Is it me?

  1. Meep says:

    Thank you for writing this. My husband and I were just getting into a good place with our relationship roles and starting to explore some play, (ropes make me happy), when he had what we call the “not a stroke” due to some really lacking medical care. I had to take over in many ways and lost the support I relied on. Reading this has both given me new perspective and validated my frustrations.
    He is better overall now, but we are not back to where we were yet.

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