Property of Love
"Nobody owns me
—Belinda Carlisle, "Nobody Owns Me"
One common romantic desire is the wish to be owned by one's lover, to be his or her property. Mutual ownership only goes so far, because at the core it is a kind of power dynamic where the "owner" stands for safety and responsibility, while the owned can relax and feel small in a good way. Often includes Freedom From Choice.
To avoid Unfortunate Implications, a Property Of Love dynamic is often justified in one of several ways:
- A. Simply Romantic: Hoping that its cuteness will avert any hatedom.
- B. Supernatural: The reason Sookie keeps pointing out that she belongs to Bill is that she is his human, not that she is his woman.
- C. BDSM between Consenting Adults: It's not about gender or race or class or anything like that, it's about who happens to be dominant and who happens to be submissive.
- D. Cultural Relativism: The dominance is based on gender or race or similar. However, the story takes place in another time or on another world, and this is empathized in a way that can be taken as a hint that the Values Dissonance is intended or at least the reader's own problem.
Regardless of justification or lack thereof: When this trope is played straight, it is about a heart freely given, without any coercion or big deceit/manipulation. However, in some stories a kidnapping can go from Stockholm Syndrome to genuine mutual love.
Being a Love Trope, the Property of Love trope in itself has no inherent connection at all to tropes such as Sex Slave or Happiness in Slavery. However, these three tropes can overlap in at least two ways. First, as a benevolent consensual BDSM game, playing with the concept of slavery. Second, as the previously mentioned Stockholm Syndrome subversion growing into the real thing.
Also, please note that justification C is most commonly used when BDSM is played for drama, comedy or similar, or when it's some kind of instruction manual. Actual BDSM fiction usually doesn't feature BDSM at all, so if a justification is used at all it's one of the other three. Often the authors prefer a straight unjustified Happiness in Slavery or For the Evulz - often with some Lampshade Hanging. That BDSM stories usually aren't about people doing BDSM is for the same reason as why computer games are very rarely about people who play computer games.
The Inverted Trope, avoiding relationships out of fear of becoming "owned", is largely a Gendered Trope. In old works, it's mostly about men trying to avoid being captured by a woman. In contemporary works the situation is reversed, centering on women striving to be independent from men. Both versions are largely Truth in Television, due to changing social structures: A few decades ago, men typically had most to gain and least to lose from being single, and it remains true to this day.
Note that Bob claiming romantic ownership over Alice (or vice versa) doesn't make her his property in any way. It can be an expression, or it can indicate that he's a Stalker with a Crush or a Jerkass boyfriend.
- The Boys Love Genre Ai no Kusabi features Elite Blondie Iason Mink who forcibly makes defiant gangster Riki his Pet (a Sex Slave) and falls in love with him. Iason wants himself and Riki to be more than Master and Pet but realizes it is the only way they could be together in their Dystopian society. So he wishes and waits for the day Riki, of his own volition, will become this trope and find Happiness in Slavery. He gets his wish in the end via A Match Made in Stockholm but tragedy strikes.
- Secretary is a mixture between drama and Romantic Comedy, revolving around the BDSM version of this trope. The main storyline is about the main character wanting to be truly owned by her boss.
- Inverted in the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany's: When Paul tries to talk Holly Golightly out of going to South America because she belongs to him because they love each other, and she insists that she doesn't, and won't, belong to anyone, and that's part of the reason why she has to leave.
- Exit to Eden ends happily with Elliot submitting to Mistress Lisa.
- Brutally defied in Vanilla Sky: In her heart Juliana truly belongs to David, and they both know it. Yet they pretend to simply be friends who have fun together, and it works just fine... Until it doesn't.
- In The Sound of Music film version, the recap of the song "Seventeen Going on Eighteen" has the clause, "and you belong to him." At least one stage version performed during The Nineties changes the clause to "and you belong with him."
- In Captain Blood, the trope gets inverted for both genders. Blood gets sold as a slave and bought by his eventual love interest. Later she gets taken prisoner and is sold to him in a similar fashion. They both find the experience to be humiliating in a bad way, and a total turnoff to the point of stopping them from admitting their feelings for each other. It is only later, when they are both free, that their love for each other can bloom.
- True Blood has this as one of its basic premises. Sookie have given herself to Bill out of love, without being hypnotized like so many other fangbangers. Also, being his makes her off-limits to other vampires.
- The same pattern of vampire owning human is consistent in the series, and it's often a female vampire owning a male or female human. However, these relationships are rarely as happy as the one between Sookie and Bill. In the second season, one guy belonging to a female vampire is so desperate for her love and blood that he'd do anything for it... including betray her.
- In Gor, this kind of love is based on a very violent and misogynistic culture where males are supposed to have power over females. The author relies heavily on justification D, constantly pointing out that the stories are taking place on the planet Gor and not the planet Earth. (After a while, the descriptions of how the sheep of Gor grazes on the fields of Gor to create the wool of Gor gets more annoying than the actual storyline.)
- In the Slave World novels, most characters are either a Sex Slave or a slave-owning aristocrat. Some of them find their true loves and lives happily ever after, and it's hardly ever in the same group. Actually, it is NEVER within the same group. One of the main storylines is the relationship between Prince Samuel and Lady Isobel. Sure, they are both aristocrats. But for every book it becomes more evident that Isobel isn't bisexual at all, she's a pure lesbian. And as her prince finally marries her and make her the future queen of England, he reveals that he was never attracted to her in the first place. However, he is very fond of her and they can have a lot of fun together sexually since they have the same taste in women.
- In further evidence that not only are tropes not bad, but modern Western assumptions about gender may not even be that accepted in the West: there are literally thousands of separate storylines invoking "justification" D, spread throughout shelf after shelf of the romance/erotic-romance sections of bookstores...and written mostly by women.
- Jean-Claude from the Anita Blake tends to form these sorts of relationships with his humans and were-creatures, including Anita, later in the series. Even when the master/servant relationship isn't sexualised ( for example, between Jean-Claude and Jason), it tends to involve high levels of devotion ( and possibly also Stockholm Syndrome).
- Belinda Carlisle's song "Nobody Owns Me".
- "Sweet Surrender" by Sarah McLachlan.
- For an example from the days when it was considered simply romantic, there's the 1930s jazz standard "Body and Soul": "I'd gladly surrender myself to you, body and soul".
- While the "owning" thing was unproblematic in those days, there still was a bit of trouble about the song when it first came out. Not because of the "owning" thing but because some people thought it was a bit risqué for a woman to sing about surrendering her body to a man.
- Romantic ownership is pervasive in pop music. The phrase "I Belong to You" is the exact title of many different songs by popular artists like Lenny Kravitz, Anastacia, Brian McKnight, Toni Braxton, and Whitney Houston, most of which also mention "you belong to me."
- "You Belong To Me" is a song in its own right.
- Oingo Boingo's song "Not My Slave" plays with this trope and the meaning of the phrase 'you're mine'.
- If you take The Taming of the Shrew at face value rather than trying to read subversion and subtext into it, this is where Kate ends up.
- In Romeo and Juliet, Paris, Juliet's fiancé, regards Juliet this way; when she cries, he says, "Thy face is mine, and thou hast slandered it." Note, however, that this kind of language was commonly considered romantic and sweet at the time, a reference to the unity of husband and wife, and doesn't necessarily justify playing Paris as a Jerkass.
- In Collar 6, a personal slave legally belongs to her mistress (in addition to being her official lover), e.g. Laura and Ginger to Mistress Sixx. This is type C, because it's based on BDSM relationships.
- Charby the Vampirate. Zerlocke spends a human lifetime locked into an extremely abusive relationship because of this.
- Mackenzie, the protagonist of Tales of MU, is DEEPLY submissive, and gives herself to Amaranth (a nymph) in this way as a Type A. The ogres in said work also have a strict chain of people-ownership, romantic and otherwise, which leads to Mackenzie being treated like a simple object because she's too far down the chain of sexual dominance.
- This is the best-case scenario for a "tamed" Pokegirl—they essentially go insane unless they have sex with humans, so freedom isn't much of an option.
- Sweetly played in this original short manhwa, while at the same time subverting the Sex Slave trope hard, with a dash of "don't judge from appearances": A presumably goblin-like mafia boss buys an elf slave girl, only to treat her with such kindness, she eventually feels very comfortable living with him.