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Some Criteria for Consensual D/s Contracts

dedicated fondly to bluseira

Slavery contracts are not legally binding in the United States of America. Amendment XIII of the Constitution of the United States reads in part: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

In at least one instance, seeking a legal foundation for a Master-slave relationship lead to unwelcome consequences:

Pair Arrested For Sex Slave Contract
Police File Prostitution Charges
WLKY NewsChannel 32
February 23, 2002
PIKEVILLE, KY. -- A man and woman who signed a document characterized as a "sex-slave contract" were arrested by Pikeville police Thursday on misdemeanor charges of prostitution and criminal solicitation.  Ike "Sly" England, 31, of Belfry and Amanda Pinion, 22, of Harold claim a notarized five-page document was an Internet form they filled out for fun and filed by mistake at the courthouse.  But Pike County Attorney Howard Keith Hall and Pikeville's police department shrugged off the explanations and issued arrest warrants yesterday.  Pinion was charged with prostitution and England with criminal solicitation.  Both warrants, Class B misdemeanors, were based on the contents of the contract. Assistant County Attorney Roger Varney said that the slave contract itself is void because slavery is illegal.

The only binding elements in a master-slave contract are the sincerity, understanding, and the personal commitment of both parties.

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Slavery or Submission

Many are called, but few are chosen!
Matthew 22:14, KJV

Many people in the BDSM scene use the terms "slave" and "submissive" interchangeably (as they use "master" and "dominant".)

However, for many of us there is an important distinction between being a slave and being a submissive.

  1. In the larger world, "a person held in servitude as the chattel of another" or "one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence."  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  2. In the scene, someone who has freely and completely relinquished all freedom to a specific person or persons in a structured relationship in order to satisfy their need to serve another. Some consider it is fantasy role playing.  Others are quite outspoken in their belief that it is real. (Slave is often written in all lower case.)
  3. In The Leatherman's Handbook, Larry Townsend defines a slave as "a man who's need for total mastery over him leads him to enter into a state of voluntary servitude." In Ask Larry, Mr. Townsend adds "a slave obeys his master, even when he doesn't want to obey" (p. 254) and "a real slave is just that: the complete and unquestioned property of his Master. So long as you maintain that you are a slave, you have no recourse. Your Master's word is law!" (p. 259) [But I need to also point out that Mr. Townsend doesn't believe that the Master doesn't have his own obligations. In Ask Larry, he writes "If you accept a slave and make him subservient to your control, you must assume responsibility for his well-being." (p. 301)]

Submissive (or Sub):
(n.) In the scene, a person that prefers to give up control to a dominant in the course of a scene or in their relationship. The term is often written in all lower case where dominant is often capitalized.

While many submissives fantasize about consensual slavery, few are naturally disposed for it. That doesn't imply a weakness of character.

Slavery as defined here is not something to which to aspire. It is not a choice. It is a vocation -- a calling which provides a psychological or spiritual need.

For the sake of simplicity, this article will use the terms submissive and slave -- as well as master and dominant -- interchangeably.

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No one rushes into the job of mixing the concrete for building the house of marriage.
- African Aphorism

  • Don't enter into a slave contract lightly or without a complete understanding of what it entails. Would you move in with someone you've only known on-line? Would you marry a person after a single date?
  • Start with a trial contract -- temporary contract with a limited scope and time period -- or a series of trial contracts. Over time, graduate to longer and more demanding contracts.
  • D/s is a fantasy and it should be a mutually fulfilling fantasy. The slave must recognize and acknowledge that he or she has needs that need to be meet -- and articulate them as best the slave can.
  • If a slave's needs are unfulfilled in a slave contract -- and the master cannot or will not address the slave's concerns in a reasonable period of time -- then the slave can break the contract -- no matter what it stipulates. (It's in the master's interest to recognize this.)
  • A submissive might fantasize about slavery but that doesn't mean slavery is appropriate for that submissive. That doesn't make the submissive a dilettante.
  • Slave contracts abound on the Internet. But it's advisable to view them as reference material when writing your own instead of adopting one without alteration. Select the elements that are relevant to your situation and discard what doesn't apply.

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It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all of the answers.
- James Thurber

  • Who does this contract involve and what are their roles?
  • When is this contract effective and for how long? (e.g. 1 week, 1 month, 3 month, a year, or longer?)
  • What is the scope of the relationship? Do the same rules and roles apply outside the bedroom as within?
  • Is the D/s complete and total? How much freedom does the submissive have or is the slavery complete and non-negotiable? What exceptions exist? Will there be exceptions for:
    • Family obligations
    • Professional obligations
    • Physical safety
    • Mental health considerations
    • Financial control
    • Legal obligations
    • Moral and religious obligations
  • Who benefits from this contract and how? Is it mutually beneficial for both? Or is it solely for the benefit for the master? If the slave benefits, in what ways? (In reality, a relationship that doesn't benefit both parties will not last long.)
    • What are the master's or dominant's needs and expectations from the submissive or slave? What services is the slave expected to supply? Will the slave be expected follow a program of physical improvement through diet and exercise such as a program of Kegel exercises, yoga, weight-lifting, or aerobics? Through cosmetic surgery? Will the slave be expected to know or learn and special skills or knowledge such as boot blacking or gourmet cooking? How does the master like to be addressed? Are there any special written or spoken conventions that the master expects the slave to follow? Can the master inflict pain or humiliation on the slave for no other reason than it pleases him?
    • What are the submissive's or slave's needs and expectations from master or dominant? (Never assume this goes without saying.) What are his responsibilities to the submissive or slave? Is the master expected to safeguard the well being of the slave? How so? Will the master train the slave? And if so, what will the training entail? If not, how shall the slave know how to please the master? Does the master have any obligation to please the slave? In what way? Does the slave expect the master to play with the slave? How often? What sort of play?
  • What are the limits? May the slave have privacy? May the slave own property? May the slave own stock, an IRA, or 401(k)? If the slave must dispose of all personal property, what is the value of the slave's personal estate before the contract takes effect?
  • Do both parties share finances? Does the master control and own all finances including the slave's income?
  • Will this contract entail sex? How is this sex defined? Does it include "cyber sex?" Does it include "oral sex?" Is the sex exclusive? Will the slave be expected to perform sex with people of the opposite gender or the same gender? Is the master free to have sex outside the relationship? May the slave have sex outside the relationship?
  • Will this relationship be exclusive or are there other partners, spouse, or lovers involved? What are their expectations?
  • When will these roles be in effect? All the time (24/7)? After work? On weekends only?
  • Where will this take place? Is it a long distance relationship? Is it a cyber relationship? Will the master and slave live together? If they plan to move in together, when and where?
  • How private or public is this relationship? Are either or both parties "out?" Do their families know? Will the same protocols be observed in public and in private? (Is it acceptable to "scare the vanillas?") Will the protocols be observed when visiting relatives or attending office parties?
  • Will the relationship involve punishment? Under what situations? What will the punishment entail? Will the punishment be mutually enjoyable? (i.e. Will the "punishment" be play?) Or will the punish serve as a deterrent?
  • When and under what circumstances can the submissive or slave have permission to speak freely? May the slave voice a personal opinion without consulting the master? May the slave disagree with the master either in public or in private? May the slave warn the dominant that the dominant is in error? May the slave disobey the master when it is in the master's best interest? (i.e. If the master orders the slave to do something that the slave is convinced will harm or embarrass the master, must the slave obey the order?)
  • Under what conditions can either party cancel this contract? How may the slave petition for release? What are the expectations for both parties on how to handle the breakup? If the slave has made financial sacrifices, is the master obliged to compensate the slave? How shall they interact with each other after the contract is voided or not renewed?

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Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics

Science fiction author Isaac Asimov didn't know it but he might have created the most concise set of slave rules when he composed the "Three Laws of Robotics." They are:

  1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

It's worth noting that the term "robot" was first used to describe a mechanical automaton in the play R.U.R. by Karel Capek in 1920. It was originally the Czech word for "worker."

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Further Reading on Relationships (Dating and Communication)

More on Finding Partners

More on Meeting Safety

More on Negotiation

More on Contracts