Let’s talk about the “D” in BDSM, shall we?
BDSM, as you may know, stands for Bondage/discipline, Dominance/submission, Sadism & Masochism. The “dominance/submission” part is where we’ll focus today, particularly on cementing that kind of relationship (commonly referred to as a D/s relationship) with some form of ownership. Before we dive into all the fun ownership stuff, let’s talk terms - because they are kind of important.
A “Dominant” is someone who takes on the role of a superior and often “controls” the other participant during BDSM play. A Dom/me can be called many things; Alpha, Sir, Daddy, Mistress, Domina, Goddess, etc. When it comes to ownership, the words “Master” or “Owner” are commonly used.
A “submissive” is someone who willingly gives up control during BDSM play to their Dominant partner. A sub can be referred to as a slut, slave, bottom, little girl, etc. When it comes to ownership, the words “slave” or “property” are commonly used.
A “switch” is someone who feels comfortable in both Dominant and submissive roles and may switch between the two depending on their partner(s) or the situation.
Ownership will look different for every couple. It’s an inherently personal thing. Ownership, in BDSM terms, pertains to the relationship between a Dominant and a submissive - and as we know, that relationship will vary from couple to couple.
When talking about being “owned”, most commonly, this is a relationship that is associated with that of an Owner (the Dominant) and slave (the submissive), but this isn’t always the case. Being “owned” doesn’t mean you have to take on the outlook of a slave. It can mean what you want it to mean - that’s something you and your partner can decide together.
As with everything else in a D/s relationship, the definition and terms of ownership are communicated about and negotiated. Some come to this agreement quickly and others take time to talk about it and decide how they feel and what they want. There should never be any “rush” involved. If your Dominant is pressuring you to commit to them in a way you aren’t comfortable with, they may be showing some of the signs of a toxic Dominant.
Some people desire a 24/7 D/s dynamic where the “ownership” spills out into everyday life (for example, the Dominant choosing the submissive’s clothing, hairstyle, jewelry, etc) and some may want ownership to strictly include playtime. In fact, it can even be some variation of the two. Really, ownership is unique to each D/s couple who chooses to define their relationship in this way.
What does it really mean to be owned?
Again, totally subjective - everyone views ownership differently. On a most basic level, ownership is about belonging to/with someone. The terms of this and how this looks for you and your Dominant are entirely up to you to decide.
The submissive over at Submissive Guide explains it like this: “For me, it said he was serious about being my Dom and that he wanted me to belong to him. Maybe, a bit like the first romantic gift a boyfriend buys, only, different in so many ways. The moment was very special to me since it was the collar he had made just for me and that he wanted just me.”
Meanwhile, for me, ownership was a conversation. It was an acknowledgment of the fact that the submissive part of me belongs to my Dom. What that means for us will evolve and grow as we do - but mostly, it means that there won’t be other Dominants that I submit to because I’m already “owned” by (and committed to) a Dom.
Do you have to be collared to be owned?
No, you don’t. “Being collared” is the act of choosing (or being given) a collar by your Dominant. Collars, in the BDSM world, can signify a lot about your D/s relationship, but most commonly, they mean commitment. Collars are a definite sign of ownership and submission, but not all partners enjoy collar play and some prefer more simple and understated ways of cementing ownership. This can be something ‘legitimate’ like a BDSM contract signed by both parties or it can be something simpler like a conversation (or multiple) wherein it’s decided that the submissive is owned by their Dominant.
If you are interested in collars being the defining factor in your ownership, there’s a whole article dedicated to collars and their meanings (and how to choose one) here.
How is ownership different than submission?
Ownership and submission can go hand in hand, but not always. Not all submissives care to be “owned” by a Dominant. The main difference is that ownership cements the commitment between a Dominant and submissive. Other D/s relationships (sans the ownership) may have commitment terms (such as monogamy, etc) - but ownership in itself is a distinct thing that takes some negotiating.
The reasons why a D/s partnership can involve terms of ownership can range from wanting to celebrate your connection to just finding the commitment and dedication to each other really erotic and enticing.
To a submissive, ownership can be about security.
To be owned by your Dom/me is to have security. It’s to know that the terms of your submission are iron-clad and that your Dom is your Dom until you have some kind of agreement that determines otherwise. It’s much like courtship or marriage in that when you decide to be owned by someone, you’re essentially taking a vow to be theirs.
To a Dominant, ownership can be about celebration.
Ownership, or having a submissive submit to you in this kind of intense way, can be an incredible thing. And what do we do with incredible things? We celebrate them. There can be such a strong bond between a Dom/me and their submissive, and to cement that ownership link between the two of you can be something very much worth celebrating.
To a submissive, ownership can be about obedience.
Ownership, or giving yourself to your Dom/me in this way, can be the ultimate act of obedience. It can mean giving up other play partners and focusing solely on your Dom/me. It can mean that your Dom/me is given things from you (submission, gifts, etc) that no one else does. This can feel like an amazing way to obey and submit to your Dom/me if you’re ready to take that next step.
To a Dominant, ownership can be about pride.
Owning a submissive (particularly the submissive that you desire) can be such a prideful thing. This beautiful, obedient, (in your eyes) perfect submissive has decided to give you the most precious thing someone could give - their obedience and loyalty. Being gifted someone’s submission can be a huge point of pride, especially when it comes to acts of ownership.
To a submissive, ownership can be about enhancing the connection you already have.
There’s a lot to be said about any kind of D/s relationship, as they can all be quite intensive given the emotions and high arousal levels that come from D/s play. However, there is something quite specific to be said about deciding that someone owns you. This isn’t something that’s often done lightly, and it can be a form of “taking your relationship to the next level.”
I read a few words during research for this article that really stuck with me, even for days after seeing it.
“No one — and I mean no one, not a soul, not you, not anyone — is wholly independent. Total independence is a fantasy. We all rely on each other for tons of aspects of our lives.”
That same post on Medium goes on to state…
“No one — and I mean no one — is wholly dependent. Total dependence is a fantasy. We all rely on ourselves for tons of aspects of our lives.”
This idea is one that tugs at my heart because, in both of those sentences, I see my relationship with my Dom. I am not wholly independent of him. I need him, in many ways - some of which I don’t even entirely understand yet since we are relatively new to the D/s thing. And yet, I’m not entirely dependent on him either. If he left, I’d be devastated, but I am a whole person who is capable of picking herself up and moving forward.
The goal, in any healthy relationship, is a balance between needing them and being able to care for yourself. In D/s relationships, this balance is critical not only to your own welfare but to the success of your partnership.
As a Dom/me, you need to be independent and removed-enough from the situation to be able to keep a cool and level head during intense sessions. However, you need to depend on your submissive enough to let them in, to care for them, to get to that magical place where you interact with them in a way no one else does.
As a submissive, you need to be dependent on your Dom/me to allow yourself to relinquish control to them, but you need to be independent enough to know that you have the power to leave any conversation, play space, or relationship that makes you feel bad.
As I said, a delicate balance. Why do I bring this up? Because I think mastering and maintaining this balance is an ongoing thing that needs to be kept in mind, especially when talking about intensive things like ownership.
Cementing ownership to/of someone can be an intimate thing and, as explained above, it can also be an intricately personal thing. Ownership can come in the form of mere words, actions, or more materialistic things like collars or gifts. There’s also the fascinating world of BDSM contracts. Let’s dive into some of the most common BDSM ownership options.
Collars are the thing that is most commonly associated with ownership. Being collared, as it’s called, can mean so many different things. It can be a simple accessory or prop that you use during playtime or it can be a symbol of something deeper (like ownership). They can be worn all the time (beautiful collars like this) or they can be specifically used for play (more practical collars like this). Some collars are even kind of symbolic of a wedding band. The kind of collar you (and your Dominant) choose should represent whatever you want it to represent and it should be a style that you are happy with.
When it comes to ownership, there are even different types of collars (and different colors) that are like the different stages of being owned by your Dom/me. For example, there’s a collar of consideration (when you haven’t quite committed to each other but the Dom is considering taking on the submissive) and then there are training collars that are used once the consideration process is complete and you decide to move things to the next level.
Having “the talk” with your lover about ownership can also be an intimate and exciting experience. It can be one simple talk or it can be a negotiation, it really depends on your dynamic and circumstance. However, one thing is for sure - when you have this talk, start off with what “ownership” means for each of you - just so you’re on the same page.
Are you nervous to talk about this with your lover? Go slowly. If you’re a bit nervous, that’s okay - but nerves can also let us know that we’re not entirely “ready” to make this kind of commitment.
BDSM contracts aren’t as “intense” as they sound. Again, highly personalizable, contracts can be formal and some can be simple.
In a BDSM contract, certain key things are outlined:
The obvious things you would hope to be discussed in a BDSM contract are obviously highlighted above (and you can read more about BDSM contracts here) - and while this big list seems daunting, these are really the same things you would talk about if you had a simple talk about ownership.
For those who like ink and are definitely 100% sure about the commitment to their partner, tattoos are an option. There is one particular ownership tattoo for submissives that I’ve seen a lot, it’s it’s a simple circle that says “owned by a master” (see here). Some people choose to get names written on them (like this) and others prefer something a bit more simplistic and subtle, like this cute one. Some individuals are even open to being branded by their Dom.
If you like this idea but aren’t wanting to get something permanent like a tattoo, you can try either temporary tattoos or writing your lover’s name on you (which, I can say from experience, is super hot).
Rings or Other Jewelry
Of course, jewelry had to make an appearance, right? Ownership, commitment, marriage...it all kind of ties together - or it can, at least. If you’re someone who finds the idea of a day-collar appealing, you may also be interested in ownership jewelry. Yes, this can be a collar, but it can also be something else. It can be a simple band to wear around your finger or it can be a statement piece like a collar. It can be a necklace, too.
Deciding if ownership is right for your D/s dynamic can mean lots of conversations and lots of thinking about what you both want. It’s not a decision to be rushed into or one that should be taken lightly. Of course, if you commit to an ownership deal and change your mind, that’s very much allowed and you have every right to do so - but like marriage or moving in together, things get a little trickier to sort out if you’re committed to an ownership arrangement already.
Some things to remember about a healthy D/s dynamic before talking about ownership:
Writing these articles is always so interesting to me because I get to explore the technical side of things while also bearing in mind (and oftentimes sharing) some of my personal experiences with the things I’m researching.
Ownership, to me, is an intricate thing that shouldn’t be taken lightly - but it also shouldn’t be stressed. Deciding if you want to take this (or any other significant step) in a relationship is a big deal while at the same time something that should happen naturally.
I’m not saying becoming someone’s owned “property” should be natural or effortless or easy - but it can’t be forced, either. Ultimately, this conversation will take some time and communication from both people to determine the best way to move forward in the relationship.