What’s the difference between Top/Bottom, Dominant/Submissive, and Master-Mistress/Slave?

difference slave submissive

What’s the difference between Top/Bottom, Dominant/Submissive, and Master-Mistress/Slave?

CJs Here

Depending on how you look at this question, it is actually three seperate questions, or it’s essentially all the same question.  Allow Me to explain…  

Top/Bottom, Dominant/Submissive, and Master-Mistress/Slave are all essentially referring to "titles" used in a dominant submissive, BDSM, or power exchange relationship.  The "titles" of Top, Dominant, Master, Mistress are all essentially referring to the dominant role within that relationship, while the "titles" submissive, bottom or slave refer to the one in the submissive role.  Quite often, especially in the world of the online BDSM world, you’ll find these titles frequently interchanged.

Now to be a bit more specific. While it may seem a bit confusing, remember while a "Dominant submissive relationship" frequently contains aspects of BDSM or BDSM type activities, it does not have to.  Essentially, perfect strangers could actually meet and engage in BDSM activities at a "Play place", then after a brief "play session" part, never seeing each other again.  On the other hand, a Dominant submissive relationship is generally considered an ongoing and "committed" relationship.  Within the context of that relationship, both the one in the dominant role (Dominant/Master) and the one(s) in the submissive role (submissive/slave) have a commitment to the other(s) in the relationship. 

In a pure BDSM context, such as when only meeting at a club or dungeon for the purposes of a BDSM scene or play, the one in the "dominant role" is referred to as the "TOP".  The one(s) in the "subordinate role" is referred to as the "bottom".  Part of the confusion here is in the words dominant and submissive.  Yes, the one in the dominant role is "dominating", and the one in the subordinate role is "submitting", hence the association of the words dominant and submissive. 

Are you thoroughly confused yet?  No, well there’s more…

Again, understand, with the advent of the internet especially with all of the "role play sites" that about, the difference between a Master and a Dominant has actually become quite blurred.  However, if you trace it back to what I’ll call the "Old School" method of thinking, the title of "Master" is actually an honorary title bestowed upon a Dominant by His peers in recognition of His experience and stature within His BDSM Community (yes, there is also an additional title of "Grand Master).  The title of Master is not generally transferable, it is a title bestowed by a community and only valid within that commuity.  Again, part of the confusion comes in when for a example a girl says, "He is my Master"…  in that context, the girl is referring to the fact that the Dominant is "her" Master, she is subject to His direction or guidance.  A good page to read on this subject and it explains it a bit better is:  http://www.asubmissivesjourney.com/master.html

Yes, I know, don’t overlook those of Gorean beliefs.  Within the Gorean Lifestyle (based on the works of John Norman) essentially all "Free Males" are referred to as Master.

There is a lot of controversey, depending on who you talk to as to the difference between a submissive and a slave.  Ask a dozen people, you’ll end up with about twenty different answers.  If you boil all those answers down, I think you’ll find the one common denominator will relate to the level of commitment and trust within the relationship.  While in My humble opinion, I would think (or hope) that every girl would eventually want to evolve in to being a slave to her Dominant, it generally isn’t something that happens overnight and it is something that requires a lot of Communication, Trust, Respect and Honor/Honesty.

If you’re thinking about (or already in) a power exchange (D/s, M/s, TiH, BDSM, etc) relationship, don’t get hung up on titles, and if you use them, make sure you and yours have discussed what they mean to YOU!  Remember, ever power exchange relationship can be (and usually is) quite unique and different.

I hope this opinion has helped to answer the question.  The question is actually a good one, one that can generate a lot of discussion.  I’ll look forward to others commenting or expanding on this answer.



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This is a generalization of my personal view, which is that each individual interaction is subjective to individual personality and relative to each relationship. Some people overlap into more than one “label” so to speak and that’s ok if it works for them that’s just great!

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