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Frequently Asked Questions about Internal Enslavement

What is Internal Enslavement?
  Internal Enslavement ("IE") is a collection of ideas about how to take ownership of a slave, in a consensual context (ie where the submissive to be enslaved consents at the start of the process.)

Is this like BDSM?
  IE has grown out of the Master/slave subculture, which is part of the Dominance and submission aspect of BDSM by definition. However, there are a lot of differences between a relationship that is pursuing Enslavement, and most BDSM relationships or scenes: in particular, the master has to shoulder a lot more responsibility than a Top does in a BDSM scene lasting an hour or two.

How new is all this?
  Many people in the M/s subculture have been intuitively using the ideas of IE for years. We make no claim that all of IE is an original discovery: all we're doing is describing it and trying to put it on firm theoretical foundations.

How much of this applies to male submissives?
  This website concentrated on relationships involving female submissives and slaves due to the limits of our experience. Most of the material on this website was written between 2000 and 2003, and after that time many people, of all orientations, subsequently described their M/s relationships in terms of IE, on the open IE web boards we set up on The Slave Register.

How are you defining "slave" then?
  One of the key concepts of IE is the literal slave: this is just the everyday definition of "slave" that everyone grows up with, and it doesn't include the roleplay slaves you sometimes meet elsewhere in BDSM. For example, this is from the definition of "slave" in the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary: "One who is the property of, and entirely subject to another person, whether by capture, purchase or birth; a servant completely divested of freedom and personal rights." When we say "slave", we mean literal slave, defined in this way.

Can't people just decide for themselves what they are?
  No one is stopping people in other types of relationship calling themselves anything they like. However, if they're not literal slaves then we do not see how they can reasonably claim to be such (rather than making perfectly accurate statements that they like to be treated as a slave, to serve as a slave, to roleplay life as a slave or whatever other aspect of the idea of slavery they enjoy.)

But how can you claim that literal slavery is possible?
  The Enslavement Hypothesis is that there are submissives who have an overwhelming need to be owned by a dominant. Given the right environment, the submissive can be coaxed out from behind the protective walls she has built during her life and made to expose all of her Self to her master. Among other things this requires that he creates an environment which is emotionally safe and in which her underlying character will be accepted, probably for the first time in her life. During this process, the bond between the submissive and her master becomes sufficiently strong that she can no longer break it herself, and she has then been enslaved.

So it's all done by the submissive?
  Not at all: the process of enslavement involves a huge amount of work by the master and an ongoing effort to hold her in slavery. To do this, he needs to achieve a deep understanding of her emotions (including her emotional history) and her view of what is happening in the relationship. Armed with this information, he is able to maintain an environment she cannot get herself out of (partly because he continually adjusts it so that he remains in control.) This is sometimes called Psychological or Emotional Bondage.

Emotional bondage? Is that like emotional blackmail?
  Definitely not. Some dominants try to use forms of emotional blackmail to obtain the obedience of submissives and to persuade them to stay in the relationship. This involves playing on the submissive's self doubts, guilt and fears (especially the fear of being alone.) These dominants use this kind of ploy: "If you were a true submisssive you would do it"; "I wonder why I waste my time with you when you do this"; and worst of all "Do you want to keep my collar or not?" By presenting the relationship as a confrontation, they force the submissive into a defensive position which guards her Self. All of these push the submissive into maintaining and even heightening her protective walls so she can keep the dominant out.

So how does the master get this deep understanding of the slave?
  By observation and more importantly by getting the slave to talk about her internal process and then listening. Since it's essential for the master to tear down the protective walls the slave has built during her lifetime, it's not sufficient to instruct her to report everything important and then just wait: he has to "go in" and examine what is actually going on inside her head in response to the environment he is creating.

That sounds almost like counselling?
  Yes, they both have a lot in common (infact, one of the role pairs of IE is Counsellor / client.) It's important that the master doesn't coach the slave into giving the kinds of answers he wants when he is examining her thoughts and feelings - a technique shared with counselling. For example, if the slave is having difficulty accepting one of her master's decisions, then it's essential that she be made to disclose this, so that he can resolve her feelings and then work on whatever is preventing her internal acceptance of his decision (in addition to just her external obedience to it.)

Doesn't that involve the slave being disrespectful, even rude?
  It often involves "disrespectful" comments and even outbursts in the short term, but buys the master genuine (rather than just superficial) respect in the long term. Every disobedient thought and rebellious feeling is another portion of the slave that he does not truly own. IE is a method for taking ownership of the whole slave over time.

You mentioned role pairs?
  A useful way of thinking about an Enslavement relationship is in terms of roles: these are different ways of interacting, which nevertheless, all share the fundamental reality of master and slave: the three we talk about are Master/servant, Teacher/student and Counsellor/client. The different roles reflect different degrees of formality and explicit discipline: for example, a client is being asked to describe her feelings freely, but a student is being taught the best way to perform a task, and a servant aims to serve perfectly and without detailed supervision.

What about safewords?
  The "safeword" is an ambiguous concept - they're sometimes signals rather than words and they are used to mean everything from a veto like "Stop - I want to go home" to the mere passing of information like "I'm being physically harmed by what's happening". Leaving aside the various dangers associated with relying on them for information, a safeword which is a veto is contrary to the kind of literal slavery that IE aims for.

Don't people need timeouts in any long term relationship?
  Some do, some don't. The submissives described by the Enslavement Hypothesis need to be under their master's authority all the time, but this isn't to say that they should be following detailed commands and living under continuous direct supervision all the time: in a relationship which nurtures the slave and promotes her growth as a valuable piece of property, it is necessary that she have times to express her creativity, to spend time with family and friends and even just to rest. These needs are not incompatible with her overwhelming need to be owned.

Why is it called Internal Enslavement?
  When a submissive is internally enslaved, she has internalised her slavery. Furthermore, the process of enslavement takes place within, even if her external, physical environment contributes to it. For this reason we make a distinction between Internal Enslavement and the External "Slave Training" schemes you often read about - approaches which concentrate on the form of slavery (speaking respectfully, assumming numbered "slave positions", acting in a "slavelike" manner) rather than on ownership which is the substance of slavery.

Isn't this dangerous? Isn't this like brainwashing?
  IE leaves a submissive very vulnerable to her master, and for this reason, submissives need to be extremely cautious when pursuing this kind of relationship. We feel that publicising these ideas will help submissives who need slavery (by helping them to see through time wasting dominants, emotional blackmailers etc) and that almost no abusive dominants will have the patience and the empathy to apply Internal Enslavement in a convincing way for any length of time.

This is immoral. Slavery is evil!
  Making someone a slave without their consent, abusively denying their needs and preventing them from growing as an individual is both evil and fundamentally contradictory to the IE approach. IE is based on consensual non-consent.

Isn't consensual non-consent a contradiction in terms?
  Not really, since it means giving legally valid consent to start the process of enslavement, in the knowledge that the process will remove the ability to withdraw consent in the future. Outside of military recruitment, Western societies tend not to acknowledge the possibility of handing over your personal freedoms to someone else, but this is ethically what we're talking about.

It all sounds wonderful, but is it really for me?
  It may well not be for you. We notice a lot of people attracted to the honesty of M/s relationships, who don't really need a relationship based on ownership. Our advice is that if you just want it rather than actually needing it, then look for something else. There is also a tendency for some people to see becoming a master or a slave as admission to the elite of BDSM, and pursue it as a status symbol, rather than because it is right for them. Again, if you think this might apply to you, then we urge caution.

Ok, I want to live in a relationship like this. How do I start?
  A good first step is to read the rest of the Internal Enslavement website. (in particular, the Glossary) The Enslavement web board on The Slave Register hosts discussions about IE.

Published 25 August 2000.

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