Many with a taste for male-led relationships are drawn to the idea of property, ownership, possession. It brings to mind the idea of a man in total control, commanding obedience and having the right to do what he wants with his property provided he doesn't annoy the neighbours. It conjures up images of a woman having no choice, no veto power, and no way out. To some of those who want real control and no safety net, it sounds satisfyingly absolute.
Since Taken In Hand is about male-led relationships and real control on the part of the man rather than just play control, it is not surprising that some Taken In Hand folk consider themselves to be in TPE or “absolute power” relationships. Nor should it be surprising that some Taken In Hand folk consider themselves to be in a “master-slave” relationship.
And yet for many, the idea of being a slave is completely abhorrent. We imagine real slaves being mistreated and used by wicked exploiters. Or we imagine an arrogant, odious “master” sitting back and expecting to be waited on hand and foot, and a down-trodden passive doormat woman being treated appallingly and suffering in silence. Or we imagine leather-clad BDSM types role-playing a negotiated scene before returning to “vanilla mode” equality. It need be none of these things.
Take the idea of literal slavery. Despite what some websites say, we (and indeed they) are not really talking about literal slavery, since the real thing is fundamentally non-consensual and not something real slaves passionately want. If you really want with all your heart not to have a choice or a way out, the relationship is, at its core, consensual. It is consensual non-consent, not the same sort of non-consent as when someone kidnaps a person having no desire to be a slave, and forces him into slavery. (Similarly, the “rape” I spoke of in my article When rape is a gift is not really non-consensual.)
Nor does being owned imply much about the owner. Different men have different preferences, limits, predilections, and objectives, and they are not all thoroughly loathsome. Obviously, it wouldn't do to be owned by someone incompatible, so caution and common sense is needed when you seek to be in such a relationship. Not just any man will do.
One thing that grates with some Taken In Hand folk is the idea that being a slave is the ultimate kind of servant. Not all submissive women have the service kink. And not all Taken In Hand women think of themselves as submissive either. The trouble is that many think that submissiveness means passivity, docility, having a “beta” personality, being mindlessly obedient or a people-pleaser. But as Jon Jacobs has written:
Submissive women run the gamut in aggressiveness from almost completely passive to super-aggressive. They can range from mildly resistant and disobedient, especially in the early period of a relationship, to super-resistant. What all submissive women share has nothing to do with levels of resistance or aggressiveness: it is the simple and profound desire to be controlled, protected, and contained—in a word, dominated.
Some say that being a slave is defined by “the degree of submission.” This might be a reasonable idea, but it is often taken to imply a scale of obedience such that being prepared to commit suicide or murder on command is deemed the mark of someone worthy of the name “slave”, whereas those who are not amoral or immoral are deemed not to make the grade.
I recently had a conversation with a D/s woman who clearly liked the idea of thinking of herself as her boyfriend's slave but who had been told that to be a slave means total obedience no matter what. If you are property, she had been told, your owner has the right to dispose of you as he wishes, including lending you out to other men, giving you away, selling you, and indeed killing you or having you kill your child. Realising that she could not in good conscience obey such commands, the woman sadly concluded that she could not be a slave.
Such statements are indeed consistent with the idea that if you own something, you have the right to dispose of it as you wish, provided that whatever you do with it doesn't frighten the horses. But what these statements seem to ignore is the fact that some uses of your property are better than other uses, and not everything you have a right to do is right. Some things you could do with your property would be morally wrong.
If you dislike this talk of morality perhaps you can at least agree with the following statement: not all men would want to lend their woman to other men, kill her, or have her commit murder. Some men would have a strong preference not to do these things. Some men would find the idea of those things quite appalling. If you are going to be a man's property, you had better make jolly sure you and he are compatible and have broadly the same values, limits, predilections and objectives.
The idea that you must obey no matter what or you can't be a slave puts all the responsibility for control on the woman and leads some men to develop the unrealistic expectation of zero resistance and complete obedience no matter what they ask of the woman. But being a slave doesn't give a woman super-human powers of unquestioning obedience any more than it makes her subhuman. Anyone who wants a slave has to be prepared to assert his authority actively if necessary. When a man tells a woman that obedience is the sine qua non condition of a relationship with him, the chances are, he has unrealistic expectations and will deny his own responsibility of control in the relationship. Such men tend to accuse the woman of being dominant, controlling, a shrew, unwomanly, not submissive or not a slave. Such accusations can be terribly wounding to the woman and may be highly destructive.
This view of the “slave” as being someone who obeys her owner without demur is common but it is not the only possible view. If you like the idea of being a “slave” or “property” but could not violate your deepest moral values in the name of obedience, there is another perfectly reasonable view you could take, as I shall explain.
Some take the view that “property does what it's told” but wherever did that idea come from? Property doesn't necessarily submit, serve or obey, does it? Well the dog I had as a child never did anyway! I spent vast amounts of time trying to train her to sit on the floor when told to, and not to move until permitted to, without success. I didn't even attempt to get her to fetch my slippers, retrieve a ball or otherwise serve obligingly like other dogs do. It just wasn't going to happen! No doubt an expert dog trainer would have done better, but I was unable to command her obedience.
Whether property does these things or not depends to a large extent on its owner. If the owner has a commanding presence and knows how to handle his property, he may thereby get the property to obey. But if the owner is mean or doesn't know how to control his property, the property is unlikely to obey, might rebel, and might even run away to find a better owner.
In this more realistic view of an ownership or master-slave relationship, the responsibility for obedience is not all on the woman: it recognizes that the man needs to be able to handle the woman and command her obedience (to make the woman want to obey or feel compelled to obey) if he is to expect obedience.
This view is in some ways more literal than the view that says that to be owned or a slave, you have to obey without question. It is a fact that historically, slaves did not always obey their masters, Biblical exhortations to do so notwithstanding. Read Frederick Douglass! Moreover, in the real world of slavery, a slave might rather die trying to escape than commit murder. That you are not a person without moral values does not prohibit you from being a slave or owned in some sense. As a human being, you are a moral agent in your own right, and you remain responsible for your actions, slave or not.
If you are drawn to the idea of being a slave (or property or owned) but think you do not meet the criteria, you might want to change the criteria you have in mind rather than sadly abandoning your heart's desire.
Or if what draws you is the absoluteness of the idea—the no control, no choice, no safety net and no way out—you might enjoy discovering (by reading Taken In Hand) that not all who consider themselves to be in an absolute, “no safety net” relationship feel any need to call themselves a “slave”. Some don't even claim to be submissive.