O&P website and blog,
are where most of my new writing on M/s appears. The IE website will stay
online indefinitely to host the IE Essays and lili's writings.
Five point scale of bottoms
This is a scale of how much authority over the "bottom" is acquired
by the "top". It is an attempt to describe a system of terms
which will be useful in discussing the
various phenomena associated with SM, D/s and M/s.
In itself, this ordering is not intended as a value
judgement. However, many people implicitly place higher value on more
intense activities and so something similar to this list is lurking in the
subconscious of many BDSM subcultures. This gives rise to two widespread
causes of antagonism: people looking up the scale with a "even if
you're a submissive (or slave), you're no better than us masochists
(or submissives)" agenda; and people looking
down with a "stop pretending you're really a submissive (or slave),
you're just a
masochist (or a submissive)" attitude. It is not unusual for the
resulting arguments to hinge on the word "genuine", as one group
is not the genuine article according to the definition of the other.
My opinion is that most SM vs D/s vs M/s arguments are caused by the belief
that everyone should call themselves whatever they like, and that common
definitions are inappropriate. My belief is that meaningful communication is
impossible without commonly held definitions.
- 1. Fetish bottom: "I worship your boots and want to serve
- Fetish bottoms differ from other types of fetishist in that the
object they eroticise is associated with a top. They are almost
invariably male, and in the pure form have little need to interact
with the top or to submit their will in real life encounters.
- 2. Masochist: "I want you to use the needles tonight."
- Masochists take things a step further and grant the top authority to
subject them to pain or humiliation, or perhaps to physical
control such as bondage. However, the dynamic of these
scenes is still one of equality, and it is clear that everything is
done for mutual gratification.
- 3. Roleplay submissive: "Can I be the Girl-Caught-Shoplifting
- This involves assuming roles for a temporary scene (from a few hours
up to a few days) which would normally be associated with inequality
and with one person
having power or authority over the other: for example, a store
detective blackmailing a shoplifter into obeying him. However, it is
understood that the goal of the scene is direct mutual satisfaction
for both top and bottom (eg, that the "shoplifter's"
desire to be held down, "ravished" and sworn at is
- 4. Servant: "What can I do for you now, Sir?"
- This can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from a long term
relationship involving roleplay submission. However, the essential
feature of a servant
or service orientated submissive / bottom is their desire to do
things purely for their top's benefit (literally, to serve.) Hence, a
derive great satisfaction from doing housework at the top's home.
Nevertheless, this kind of service is voluntary and is an example of
"ongoing voluntary submission". The bottom constantly
chooses to stay and to serve, even if that choice is just implicit
in their continued presence and obedience.
- 5. Slave: "You have the authority to decide things for me,
- A slave differs from other types of bottom in that they have no
(enforceable) rights with respect to the top. In particular, they
cannot remove themselves from the relationship, and cannot
themselves chose to impose restrictions on what is done to them.
This lack of rights in the face of the top's acknowledged authority
over them constitutes ownership.
The difference between a servant and a slave can be summarised
by: "Ownership rather than obedience is the defining quality of
slavery; obedience rather than ownership is the defining quality of
There are two further subdivisions:
- 5a External Enslavement - in which slavery is enforced by external
forces, such as threats to hunt slaves down and retake possession of
them if they run away. This approach has limited plausibility in a
modern society, at least for any length of time.
- 5b Internal Enslavement - in which slavery is acheived by forging an
emotional bond which the slave cannot extricate themselves from.
This approach is ultimately dependent on the validity of the Internal
Enslavement Hypothesis (in short, that submissives with such a
great need to be owned exist, and that a Master can create a
psychological environment in which that need comes to the fore.)
The above scale is an expanded form of
William Henkin's Five Basic
There is also a widely quoted and finer grained scale by Diane Vera
originally published in "The Lesbian S/M Safety Manual" (edited by
Pat Califia, 1988) and on the web as
Nine Levels of Submission.
Last updated 14 February 2001.