To start, I must explain that both dominant and submissive are qualities. They are characteristics to describe an individual. It is akin to calling someone tall or short. It is nothing more than a trait about that person which describes them; in this instance his or her personality. Hence, when we call someone dominant we are saying that person exhibits the characteristics of domination.
Within the lifestyle, we call all individuals who are male "Doms" and females are "Dommes". As you can guess, to achieve this title one only need to have the qualities or characteristics of being dominant. Nothing further is required.
Since much of our personality is natural and ingrained in us, we see that domination is not something that is acquired. Much in the same way that submission is natural, domination is a trait that one is born with. While some do seem to have both characteristics within them, hence being switches, most will lean heavily one way or another. This is an important point to remember as we clarify these points.
The other day I wrote a post talking about domination and how it equals mastery (post here). For one to dominate, he or she must master domination. There is a skill set required to excel in this area. Therefore, we find that while being a dominant is derived from an inherent quality, true domination is a result of acquiring this particular skill set. An individual spend years learning this art in an effort to better control himself and those he interacts with.
Getting back to the main topic, I will say that all masters are dominants. They have the quality of domination while also having studied and researched the subject itself. This individual exhibits control over himself to a great degree while also having the ability to transfer this upon another. Of course, a Master is not the only one who does this. A dominant can also be equally adept at the subject of domination. So, what is the difference?
To answer this question, I feel it is imperative to consider the other side of the equation: the bottom. My belief is that whether one is a dom or a master is solely determined by the individual that person is topping (controlling for the newer people). Since the skill set of the individual is the same, the only thing that differentiates is the person being controlled.
On the submissive side, one will either be identified as a sub or slave. Just as we witnessed with the dominant, submissiveness is a quality or trait that is within a person naturally. There is no effort or learning required to fulfill this criteria. One simple desires to give up control in some aspect of her life, if not all her life.
Anyone with this characteristic is identified as a submissive (sub for short). However, there is a class of submissive that is called "slave". This is a person who opts for a TPE (total power exchange) structure. This individual is ceding control over her life totally. No aspect is off limits. A sub, on the other hand, retains the ability to pick and choose the areas where submission is present. Like with the domination side of things, submissives, over time, will gain a particular skill set which helps them fulfill their roles. Both a sub and slave can have advanced skills. What separates the two is whether TPE is present or not.
Now that we clarified that point, I think you can easily see the rest of the scenario. A master can only own a slave. He cannot own a submissive. The two terms, master and slave, go together. One cannot be present without the other. If one identifies as a slave, then the dominant she is with is called a "Master". However, if she is a sub, meaning she retains control over a particular area(s) of her life, then he is a "Dom".
In closing, notice how the dominant is the same. His makeup or abilities do not affect how he is termed. It is only by focusing upon what the bottom is that we can assert what the top is. People incorrectly establish a hierarchy believing that a master is higher than a dom. As you see, the title is not based upon him but, rather, the one he is control of. Hence, it is possible for one to be a dom in one relationship and a master in the next one. In other words, beyond the identification of the submissive, a dom and master are the same.
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