In my opinion there are no hard and fast definitions of submissive and slave, much of what has been written falls into the “opinion” category. And in order to keep confusion to a minimum, I will use submissive as equivalent to “bottom.” And I think there is room for a more succinct view in the “slave vs. submissive” debate.
I think we can safely say that slave is not a higher version of submissive. There is no food chain or hierarchy here, no matter what you might have read. But they are not equivalent. So, then, what is the difference? I believe it is the mindset. And the most concise explanation I have found that illustrates the differences in mindset between the two is contained in the following two lines:
“Submissives need to be told what to do. Slaves need to do what they are told “
The first line, “submissives need to be told what to do” implies that submissives need direction from the Dom. This fits right into the concept of “training”; the submissive is molded by the Dominant to please the Dominant. They might even need a lot of training – reward and punishment — simply to learn to obey. This is because the sub’s prime directive is not necessarily to obey; it is to please. If they can do that without obeying that is fine with most submissives.Even ‘bratty subs’ are still subs, after all!
The second line, “slaves need to do what they are told,” shows that the slave needs to obey he is simply wired that way. That is their prime directive. There is no implication that they need to be molded in any way. They simply have an overwhelming need to obey. A “bratty slave” seems somewhat of an oxymoron and our two-line definition supports this view.
Many say the mindset for a sub and a slave are quite different. And this definition implies this view. But any time you try to distill the wisdom of many down to a couple of lines, you run the risk of oversimplifying. And I am taking that risk here. Still, I think that these two lines do illustrate the mental differences between submissive and slave in a uniquely perceptive way.