Levels of Submission

About a year ago, I had opened my blog up to questions from readers. A friend of mine, Deiter, sent me the 9 Levels of Submission and asked where I felt I fell on the spectrum. Here was my answer at the time:

I am somewhere between number 4 and number 5, the “true submissive non-slave” and the “true submissive play slave.” I fail to classify myself fully as either one because there are times when I fall into one category and times that I fall into the other. Some times I get off on just being submissive but sometimes it is the act of pleasing the dominant partner that gets me off. It depends on my mood, and on my partner.

However, I thought it would be interesting to reexamine how I define my submission now that it’s had time to grow and evolve, and now that I’ve found myself in a 24/7 D/s relationship, which is something that I never thought I’d be able to say. A year ago, I put myself between level 4 and level 5. Level 4 is defied as such:

Really gives up control (only temporarily and within agreed-upon limits), but gets her/his main satisfaction from aspects of submission other than serving or being used by the dominant. Usually turned on by suspense, vulnerability, and/or giving up responsbility. Doesn’t dictate the scene except in very general terms, but still seek mainly her/his own direct/pleasure (rather than getting one’s pleasure mainly from pleasing the dominant).

Level 5 is this:

Really gives up control (though only temporarily; only during brief “scenes” and within limits) and gets main satisfaction from serving/being used by dominant-but only for FUN purposes, usually erotic. May/may not be into pain. If so, is turned on by pain indirectly, i.e. enjoys being the object of one’s partner’s sadism, on which the submissive places very few requirements or restrictions.

However, Master and I were talking about where I would place myself at this moment. Initially, I had put myself between levels 7 and 8:

Has an ongoing commitment to an owner/slave relationship and regards oneself as the dominant’s property at all times. Wants to obey and please dom(me) in all aspects of life-practical/non erotic and fun/erotic. Devotes most of time to other commitments (e.g. job) but Dom(me) has first pick of the slave’s free time.

Within no more than a few broad limits/requirements, the slave regards herself/himself as existing solely for the Dom(me)’s pleasure/well being. Slave in turn expects to be regarded as a prized possession. Not much different from the situation of the traditional housewife, except that within the S/M world the slave’s position is more likely to be fully consensual, especially of the slave is male. Within the S/M world, a full time “slave” arrangement is entered into with an explicit awareness of the magnitude carefully, with more awareness of the magnitude of power that is being given up, and hence is usually entered into much more carefully, with more awareness of the possible dangers, and with much clearer and more specific agreements than usually precede the traditional marriage.

Master disagreed, feeling that our relationship fell more solidly into level 8. But I still feel like we’re in between the two. While I feel that the intent of our relationship is to fully be at a level 8, I think that our relationship ebbs and flows in it’s dynamic. We’re really a very normal couple underneath all this BDSM stuff, and most of the time, people wouldn’t even know we were a D/s couple. However, there are rules and protocol that override all aspects of our relationship that hint to the dynamic that is always in place. Even still, there are times when we slip out of our roles and are just two people in love. He’s not “scary Master” and I’m not “helpless, obedient sub” at all times, and it’s unrealistic to expect us to be.

Therefore, while a level 8 would be the ideal standard for our relationship, I still think that we vacillate between the two. I also don’t necessarily think that I would classify myself as a level 7 or 8 if I was in a relationship with a different Dom. These levels work for our relationship, but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t find myself at a lower level of submission if I was to enter into a relationship with someone else. Dynamics change with each partner and each relationship.

Interesting how much can change in a year, no?
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  1. Adriana
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Interesting post. Reflection can be so intriguing. I'd never come across that list before, either.

  2. Epiphora
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    Even still, there are times when we slip out of our roles and are just two people in love. He's not "scary Master" and I'm not "helpless, obedient sub" at all times, and it's unrealistic to expect us to be.

    I really, really like that. Sometimes I feel like subs act as though this never happens, and I find it very difficult to believe.

  3. Sexy Sixty
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Understanding that I am totally ignorant on this subject and only very recently beginning to understand the depth and intensity of Internet connections, I ask this question: How can you be an 8 when you don't even live close to one another?

    Please understand Britni that this questions comes from my personal interest in exploring my own sexuality. It has more possibly to do with how we define and maintain long distance, online relationships than with the specifics of your placement on this continuum. But I have a hard time understanding how you can fulfill the obligations of a full time slave when you are not even physically together.

  4. Britni TheVadgeWig
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Sexy Sixty, well, we can't really be when we're apart. But we try. I have tasks to complete every day for Him. I receive other tasks throughout the day. There's protocol and ritual that overrides much of our relationship. Our "sex," if you will, takes place via Skype, and He still directs and dictates how it will go. I sometimes ask Him what I will eat or what I will wear or if I will be plugged or not when I go out. I can't exactly do things physically FOR Him, as we're not in the same viscinity, yet almost everything I do throughout my day is FOR Him, as ordered by Him. I have a bedtime. I cannot masturbate without Him or His permission. Etc, etc. It's more about the mindset and how much you are mentally devoted and have given yourself to someone. The mental aspect of control is much, much greater than the physical aspect of it in BDSM.

    However, this month, we spent almost half of it together, in which we can act out a full 8 level relationship, but even then, we slip in and out of roles throughout the day.

  5. moresexchocolateandredlipstick
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this post, I find it really interesting how we are different in different relationships yet ostensibly we are still the same person.

    Do you think that if your relationship with Master were to end (god forbid!) then you would actively seek out a relationship like the one you have now, or do you think you would be more likely to go back to a 4/5?

    —Amy xxxx

  6. Britni TheVadgeWig
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Amy, I think I would seek one out similar to what I have now, or at least one with some level of D/s that goes outside of the bedroom. I feel like it's a part of me and I can't imagine having a relationship without it now.

  7. Jess
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Very interesting. I was just reading your archives a few days ago and came across that post. I was surprised at where you had ranked yourself, because it seemed much less intense than what you share about your current situation. Do you think that if you and your Master lived together, you would be able to maintain the level of submission or you would end up cutting back on it?

  8. Topaz
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for reposting the levels, I'll take a look when I have some more time. For now, I think the biggest difference between 7 and 8 is the line "Devotes most of time to other commitments" – your job seems very important to you, and level 8 seems to relegate all other things in favour of the master. i.e. if the master asks you to give up your job, or take time away from it regardless of what crucial activities you may be dealing with at work, you would do it willingly. What do you think about that distinction?

  9. alana
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Even though you guys are in a certain type of mentality when you guys are apart, it would be interesting to see how this would change if you guys lived together. I’m not trying to minimize your relationship or anything, but I’m just curious as to how things would be when you have the opportunity to be pissed the fuck off at each other over the stupidest shit (and I think being mad at someone you don’t live with is far different then when you’re mad at someone you do).

  10. Britni TheVadgeWig
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Topaz, the thing is, that work comes first. Master knows this. It's unspoken. Will there be times that I want to be doing what *I* want to do, and He will take it away from me? Of course. But that's part of being a submissive.

    Alana, I agree. So far, from our experience spending an extended period of time together (10 days isn't really "extended," but it is for us, and gives us time to be a little normal), as I stated earlier, we slip in and out of the roles. We spend time in separate rooms doing separate things on separate computers. The dynamic will always ebb and flow. During times of higher stress/busy times, it may wane. During emotionally needy times on one or both of our parts, it may tighten back up. But it will definitely be different than it is now.

  11. CarrieAnn
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink


    Nothing bothers me more than the words real and true used in a BDSM context. The nine levels of submission are one of my hugest pet peeves.

    Why do we still think this is "okay" when we would pounce on anyone who used the words "real" or "true" when speaking to a trans person? I mean, really! If I said "well, you're not a real woman" to a trans person I'd get my head chewed off and spit out by the entire sex positive community.

    I love introspection.

    I hate these sorts of labels.

    Er. End rant. lol.

    I DO love the introspective aspect of the post, Brit!

    Carrie Ann

  12. champagneandbenzedrine
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I couldn't help it, I just fixated on this:

    "Not much different from the situation of the traditional housewife, except that within the S/M world the slave's position is more likely to be fully consensual"

    Is being a traditional housewife somehow not consensual? ;-)

  13. Dangerous Lilly
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    It is amazing the difference one year can make, and finding a person you love this deeply. I know that, prior to R, my submissive tendencies and willingness to do activities I didn't already like were pretty nill. But once in the depth of it with him I found myself more than willing to to whatever it took to please him. I ended up moving from "I'll do it for him" to "I want to do it for him, and I know I'll like it".

    Unlike you though I'm not so sure I will ever seek out a similar relationship.

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