“I’m a sub, I’m a slave.” “I’d love to be your sub bottom boy.” “Make me a slave.”
I see this kind of stuff a lot. Misunderstood labels are used recklessly in the Internet Age. It’s an era when people spend a lot of time on apps with one hand busy in their lap while typing dirty things and using any word that turns them on at the moment. An era when a lot of people into power exchange have never met anyone in person in the scene and know nothing about the definitions. An era of confusion about basic fetish terms.

In the fetish scene words like sub and slave have specific meanings, and if you don’t know the meanings you will struggle to find what you’re really looking for and you will definitely annoy others by giving them false impressions. You might do something like call yourself a “sub bottom boy,” which is three different roles, and though it IS possible to be different submissive roles at different times with different people most men describe themselves as only one of these. And, in any event, you can’t be three different types of submissive for the same person. So read on to learn what you are if you have a submissive side.

Bottom–this is a very generic term that applies to both vanilla and kink and which in day-to-day internet talk is assumed to mean “the who one gets fucked” but which has broader meaning in the kink world. Bottom most generally means the receptive one in an act, the one who has something done to them: they get tied up, spanked, fisted, etc. You can be a bottom in something and a top in another and go from the first act to the second without hesitation. There is not necessarily domination or “power exchange” in the overall relationship, only at the moment of the act. It more or less just describes position, though many men might describe themselves as a bottom because they are always the bottom in various activities.

Boy–a term that has been overused to the breaking point all over the gay world, in power exchange boy means the junior partner in a relationship, with the senior partner being the Daddy (don’t even get started with THAT term). Typically, the boy is younger and assumed to be sexually a bottom but neither are required. The relationship is one of mild power transfer from boy to Daddy. Maybe Daddy owns the house and always decides on which restaurant to go to, maybe how the boy dresses. Kink may or may not happen but if it does it is usually assumed (perhaps unfairly) to be of the 50 Shades of Grey/fur-lined handcuffs variety. This is the lightest form of a power exchange, Dominant/submissive relationship. A Daddy/boy relationship is otherwise a “normal” relationship as in you might come across such a pair on a cruise or shopping for Christmas decorations at Costco and they would seem typical and very un-kinky.

Pup–pups are pretty new to the fetish scene, 20 years or less, and usually seem to be a variation of boys–only with pup masks and a pup name. They are frequently younger but I’ve seen men of various ages with dog tags, including ones who look very, very vanilla. Like boys, pups are usually (though not always) part of mild power exchange relationships.

Sub–short for submissive, this is a more extreme form of power exchange and almost certainly does involve fetishes. It can still be a “normal” relationship outside the bedroom, where the Dominant and the submissive interact like any other couple, but sexually there is definite control given to one party. How extreme the kink and power exchange are varies but they will be more of a central focus in the relationship than with Daddy’s/boys, especially during sex, often THE focus. A sub might be versatile in some ways during sex–ordered to fuck the Dom, for example, or someone else–but the Dom controls the scene and will be a Top most or all of the time. Subs probably make up the largest group in the fetish world.

Slave–this is the hardest role to define (and to fill), with the most flexibility. It’s also the most overused and misused. Strictly and theoretically speaking, a slave is property with no rights. Power exchange from slave to Master is total, certainly during sex and maybe the rest of the time, too. In real life this is hard to pull off, and, of course, as with everyone even a slave gives consent and discusses limits before doing anything. But slave is a lower, more submissive position than sub. A slave never controls anything and does not get to enjoy everything that is done to them if the Master wishes, unlike a sub. Some Masters will, in fact, revel in making a slave unhappy (such Masters also being Sadists, people who enjoy the actual suffering of others). A sub might have to put up with a little bit of unpleasantness for the amusement of their Dom but their pleasure still counts. The slave gets no such consideration. Only the Master counts–at least in theory.

In practice, real, full slavery is rare and difficult. Some people go so far as to have slave contracts signed before a person really does hand over most, if not all, of their life (and even their money) to a Master but these are rare and ultimately the slave still retains the right to leave if they want. These are not the days of the Roman Empire.
In practice, for most people slave is really a version of sub and probably should just be called a sub. This is where it becomes difficult to define a slave. If a slave has a job and friends and goes to a bar and stands next to their Master and speaks like everyone else are, they a slave? In my opinion that’s a sub but people out there with just such an arrangement will use the word slave.

Ultimately slave in its simplest form means “really submissive,” sexually and often non-sexually. A good slave is focused on Masters and other Men and does not think of self-amusement. A good slave will do whatever he is told including non-sexual things. A good slave will not expect sexual gratification in return for what they do. A good slave does not view Masters as sex toys there to please them–ever. And a good slave does not give orders like “make me a slave” or “tie me up, punish me and fuck me.” That’s giving orders and controlling the scene. If you have that mindset you are not a real slave.


Written by Brian Goss

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