‘Work, I’m told, done with no selfish interest, purifies the mind. Apparently, you sink your separate self and become one with the universal self. On the other hand, senseless labor is an insult and a bore and should be scrupulously avoided.’
–Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins
Maude says this to Harold in the novelization of the screenplay of the film.
Though the film has exactly nothing to do with D/s or BDSM this quote nicely illustrates the difference between consensual service-oriented submission and having to do something for any other reason.
Service-oriented submissives live to serve. Literally. It’s as unselfish as an interest as can be—we want to be valued and possibly praised—but it’s more about making life easier for the person we think the most of.
When I feel submissive towards a certain person I have an urge to serve that person and the service itself is the reward. The person could just say, ‘Thank you,’ and I’d be over the moon.
Now, it has to be something I’m going to excel at, as I want to please my Dominant—I want her to be proud of my having done a good job—and if she’s set me doing something that requires complex maths, well, we’re all going to be disappointed.
This is true for most subs, I think. If a Dominant (be it Master/Mistress/Dom/Domme, etc) commands their sub (whatever their title) to do something they actually despise and are no good at… I suppose the Dominant gets something from it if they’re sadistic. And then perhaps if the sub is masochistic they get something from it in a backroads sort of way because they’ll fail and be punished, but that’s part of their dynamic.
Outside of the ‘the point is to fail so you can be punished because everyone loves that bit best’ sorts of relationships, both sides of the slash want the other side to be happy and successful. To that end the Dominant assigns achievable tasks the sub enjoys and the sub does these tasks to the best of their ability in order to please their Dominant. Everyone wins.
On the other hand, doing the exact sorts of things I want to do for my Dominant for anyone else would be the senseless labour mentioned in the quote. It’s not the washing up I enjoy. It’s making a particular person’s life easier by doing that person’s washing up. But others see it as: ‘You enjoy doing chores? Come to my house!’ No, your chores are the work of a Siberian labour camp, my friend. They do not uplift the spirit.
A woman in my local BDSM group who is married to a vanilla guy mentioned that she liked running errands for the group because it was like performing service but that we mustn’t tell her husband what ‘service’ was or he might think she’ll enjoy doing more work around the house.
No, dear. I only enjoy doing chores for a specific person. Preferably someone who looks hot as hell holding a leather flogger.