To some extent, the decision of whether to call yourself a Master, a Dominant, a Top. a Daddy, or just “the Boss”, is a very subjective one, especially if one title rolls off the tongue a little better, or just feels like you. Same applies to submissive, slave, bottom, babygirl, etc. As I keep saying, there are NO RULES, nor is there a governing body who will call you out if they think you have selected the wrong title for you. If you want to be called "Goddess Grand Highness Of All She Surveys" - you can - provided you can deal with the sniggers!
However, there are some broadly general understandings of the differences – you might find it useful to have this in your mind, so long as you’re ready to deal with the inevitable exceptions.
The following, as always, is simply my view, at a very high level without plumbing into the depths of meaning in relationships – you are very welcome to disagree or to offer further insight by posting a comment below this post.
Let’s start with the Dominant types. What’s the difference between a Top, a Master, a Dominant, a Sadist and a Daddy, for example?
To begin with, these can be different people – OR they can all be one and the same person – in different scenarios. Here is an example. Master Bertie is a Master because he has a slave, Kat, over whom he has complete 24/7 control in every aspect of Kat’s life – hence mastery of Kat. But Bertie also has a submissive, Jenny, whom he dominates regularly, within pre-agreed boundaries (eg in the bedroom only, or on weekends only). Bertie is not Jenny’s Master, he is Jenny’s Dominant. Except when Jenny is needing to express her “little” or babygirl side – at those times Bertie is very happy to be Jenny’s Daddy, a nurturing caring role where he indulges her “little” behaviour, and enjoys being her Daddy, buying her candy, and giving her pats on the head when she's good........ When Bertie goes out to BDSM clubs, he sometimes engages in a play arrangement with someone else for a little while at the club – he might agree to give someone a spanking. In that mode, Bertie is a Top, because he is not owning, mastering, dominating or daddying the play partner. There is no power exchange. He has simply negotiated some spanking play with the other person, and has agreed on exactly what will be delivered – he is a Top for the duration of the spanking play session. And if the play involves erotic pain, he might also be a Sadist.
Bertie, incidentally, is also married to one of these people – can you guess which one?
What else could Bertie be? What other roles might he sometimes take? Perhaps Bertie is also a masochist. You don’t have to be submissive to be a masochist. He might simply enjoy the feeling of being flogged, and could engage another Top to deliver that flogging. You CAN be both submissive and masochistic, but the 2 do not necessarily go hand in hand.
Let’s switch over to talk about the s-types for a minute – that’s the slaves, submissives, baby girls, pets, toys etc.
Here’s a question for you……Is a slave also a submissive? My experience is that slaves are often far less submissive than submissives, who tend to be more willing to be obedient and subservient to almost anyone. Submissives are pretty easy to recognise, especially in BDSM circles, but often also in the vanilla world. Their submission can be given to many, or to just one chosen Dominant, and is usually negotiated within the limits and boundaries of the submissive. Submissives often retain certain parts of their lives over which their Dominant has no control, but may influence – eg careers. In fact there may actually be a far greater part of a submissives life that is not controlled by the Dominant than the bits that are! It can be a casual or a committed long-term relationship. This is often abbreviated to D/s for Dominant/submissive.
On the other hand, I have found that slaves seem to be quite dominant in most of their lives, and with most people. But they choose, of their own free will, to give over control to their Master and to no-body else. The slave hopefully chooses a Master or Mistress who is capable of handling the responsibility of that level of ownership, who will ensure that the slave is cared for, and that their needs are met – especially that they are provided with an environment in which they are permitted to serve and to experience their slavery. The Master may not want to control every part of the slave’s life (eg careers), but this is a decision for the Master to make, whereas in the D/s dynamic it’s the submissive who decides how much control the Dominant has. Given the deeper and more intensive nature of a Master/slave relationship, I can only envisage this working in a 24/7 dynamic, although not necessarily living under the same roof. This is often abbreviated to M/s for Master/slave.
For me, a bottom is the corresponding play partner to a Top. A temporary dynamic for the duration of the agreed play session, and afterwards they go back to being friends, acquaintances, or whatever they were before (maybe Dominant and submissive....) There is a “play” mode in place, not a “power” mode.
Here’s a story I found in another forum which illustrates some of the differences (although I don’t 100% agree with all of this – my notes are included)
A Top, a Dom and a Master are all sitting poolside on a warm, summer day. Also nearby are a bottom, a submissive and a slave.
The Top says to the bottom, “Get me a can of coke”. The bottom looks at him and says “Dude, where are your manners?”…..the Top adds, “….please?”. The bottom, satisfied, smiles, gets up (getting a slap on the arse from the Top as she does so), goes to the cooler, grabs the first two sodas she finds, and gives him one of them, and keeps the other for herself.
(MsV note: In my world, this attitude would only get me laughed at, but then I would never be so rude as to give orders to someone who was not mine to order about….)
The Dom says to the sub, “Get me a can of coke”. The sub runs off to the cooler, and knowing that when he says “coke”, he means it as a generic term to mean “any cola flavoured drink”. The sub digs around and finds his favourite, pours it into a glass adding some ice to keep it cool. She notices it’s also almost noon, so she quickly makes him a sandwich as well. His comfort is the foremost thing in her mind, and she has been trained to think proactively.
(MsV note: In my world, if this was my submissive, she would be punished for the delay in delivering the requested can of coke. However, it would have been OK for the submissive to have asked me first “It’s almost noon, would you like a sandwich with your coke?”)
The Master says to the slave, “Get me a can of coke”. The slave bows and runs off to the cooler and pulls out a can of Coca-Cola, unopened, and quickly returns to him. The slave is unconcerned as to why he asked for Coke specifically, or why a can and not a bottle. As far as she knows, that can is going to be lobbed into the pool for her to fetch like a dog, going to be shaken up and sprayed on her, shoved into some orifice, or might actually get drunk by somebody…….she doesn’t know, nor does she care – her only concern was following the instruction to get a can of coke, returning it as quickly as possible, and nothing else, as this is what would please her Master.
(MsV note: yes…..this! <fans self.....this is what makes me hot> but I digress...)
So, to sum up…………..
You can be a Dominant and also a bottom.
You can be a submissive and also a Top.
A baby girl can be a Top, she can also be a submissive or a slave. Or maybe when she is being a little she is a Dominant Sadist Bitch……we all know little girls like that, don’t we?
And you can be a Switch……..you can switch with different people, being dominant with one and submissive to the other. Or you can switch with just one person, who is probably also gonna be a switch!
It all depends on the nature of your relationship with others, and on how you feel inside, and on what your motivations and needs are. It also depends on what mode you are in at that time – for example if you’re in “play” mode, you may identify differently than when you are in “power” mode.
There are also no fixed hierarchies. No grand plan to move from one role to another as you learn and grow. No promotion scheme.
When you meet someone interesting, I suggest that you don’t take their identified role or title on face value without some discussion about what it means to them. It’s actually a really good way to begin a dialogue, and can lead to a clearer understanding of that person’s real needs and feelings, far better than just reading labels.
To conclude, a reminder that there are NO RULES. There is no universally accepted definition of anything. Some of the commonly used terms had definitely shifted in meaning over the years, and of course many terms we use to define ourselves are actually quite recent inventions of the internet. Did you know that the term BDSM was only invented about 15 years ago?