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Property of Love

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Nobody owns me
I don't wanna be anybody's fool
No one can make me do
What I don't want to do
No, no, nobody owns me
Nobody but you
Belinda Carlisle, "Nobody Owns Me"

One common romantic desire is the wish to be owned by one's lover, to be their 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. This trope often includes Freedom from Choice.

A Property of Love dynamic is often justified in one of several ways:

  1. Simply Romantic: No real explanation is given. The writer hopes that its cuteness will avert any Hatedom.
  2. Supernatural: The reason Alice keeps pointing out that she belongs to Bob is that she is his HUMAN, not that she is his WOMAN. See also Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal.
  3. 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. note 
  4. 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 emphasized in a way that hints that the Values Dissonance is intended—the reader may be troubled, but the characters themselves are fine with it.
  5. A variation on the standard I Will Wait for You, where the person being waited for hasn't even met the person who's waiting, and might not even exist. (For example, Alice is keeping herself "pure" for a hypothetical future husband, or being told that she must do that, with the belief that anything less would be "cheating" on him before she's even met him.)

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. That means someone merely claiming romantic ownership over someone else doesn't imply this trope in any way. It can be an expression, or it can indicate that they're a Stalker with a Crush or a Fetishized Abuser. However, in some stories kidnapping or coercion 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 certainly overlap. See also Entitled to Have You, Power Dynamics Kink, and Marital Rape License.

The Inverted Trope is the avoidance of relationships out of fear of becoming "owned". 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.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In The Ancient Magus' Bride, Chise consensually puts herself up for auction in the hopes of getting a better life and is bought by Elias for the purpose of having both a student, experiment, and a bride.
  • The Boys' Love Genre Ai no Kusabi features Elite Blondy Iason Mink who forcibly makes defiant gangster Riki his Pet 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.
  • In Guilty Crown, Shu and Inori have a fair bit of this dynamic going on in their romance arc, but it doesn't go as far as Inori being willing to leave her Organization and its leader (who liberated her from the lab she was created in) when he asked her to. At first, it isn't clear how much of this was an act she was instructed to put up to keep Shu and his powers available to her boss, but it becomes a genuine sentiment as the show progresses. Note that for Inori, being "his" also means always staying on his side and continuing to support him—which he needs quite badly.
  • High School D×D: The idea of "owning" your lovers is played with in regards to devil Kings and their servants.
    • Many male high-class Devils use their Evil Pieces to reincarnate women to become their servants as a means to form a harem. The protagonist, Issei Hyoudou, is shown to aspire to create a harem by forming his own peerage and it is the initial reason why his master, Rias Gremory, was able to convince him to accept his reincarnation.
    • After falling in love with Issei, Rias is shown to be possessive of him and often flaunts her status as Issei's master to get other girls (especially her best friend; Akeno) to stop flirting with him, although they refuse to listen.
  • Hybrid × Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia: Applies to Yurishia and Hayuru.
    • In the light novel and the anime adaptation, Yurishia acts the part of a Proper Lady while she's in public because it's what's expected of her due to her upbringing. But her first Climax Hybrid session with Kizuna reveals she's secretly into S&M and a sexual submissive. The light novel further explains that what she wants most is for Kizuna "bully" her into being both his sex slave and his pet. She gets her wish by volume 10 and during the volume 13 epilogue chapter.
    • Hayuru is similar, albeit to a greater extent. She's part of Ataraxia's disciplinary committee and frowns upon public displays of affection between men and women because she believes it's improper. Which makes her the most difficult Heart Gear for Kizuna to bond with, because she's initially opposed to doing Climax Hybrid at all. When she finally relents, the Love Room shows she has a hidden fetish for cosplaying as catgirls, complete with meowing and making cat paw gestures. She grows more accustomed to it by volume 8 and competes with Yurishia to become Kizuna's pet.
  • Rosario + Vampire: An anime-exclusive character called Ijuuin Kotaro has the ability to magically charm any female. He successfully charms Moka, Kurumu, Yukari, and Mizore, and for a whole episode they become his obedient slaves, completely in love with him. Moka and Mizore even affectionately call him 'Master' while under the spell.
  • Parodied in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid when Tohru declared herself to be Kobayashi's loyal sex slave at Comiket (to Kobayashi's exasperation). She doesn't actually qualify since Kobayashi's feelings for her are (occasional Les Yay aside) platonic.
  • Justified in I'm a Behemoth, an S-Ranked Monster, but Mistaken for a Cat, I Live as an Elf Girl's Pet as the male main character was reincarnated into an infant "Behemoth", that looks and instinctively acts like a housecat, and owes his life to the female MC, the elf Aria. He's perfectly content to be her "pet," which allows him to serve and protect her, for life, without any issues. His compensation comes in the form that she happily lets him ogle her as she changes and orders him to share the bath with her.
  • Maken-ki!: Almost any girl who falls for Love Espada will happily submit to her within minutes of the seduction and consent to join her harem of Sex Slaves. Such as the unnamed waitress in the 70.5 omake chapter and Kyouki (chapter 76), who was an intern member of Tenbi's disciplinary committee before she was seduced by Espada.
  • The Testament of Sister New Devil:
    • According to the laws of the Demon Realm, Basara's cousin Mio is considered to be his personal property and Sex Slave. While she vehemently objects in the beginning, she gradually develops genuine feelings for him and consents by Vol.7. Mio has even offered herself to him several times, entirely of her own volition.
    • In the light novels, his aunt Chisato's innermost desire is to be sexually dominated by by him. Basara finally takes her virginity in Vol.7 but doesn't succeed in fully subjugating her until he completes their master/servant contract in Vol.8note . This results in Chisato being becoming completely submissive to him, since he conditioned her body to respond to his touch alone.
  • In Hensuki: Are You Willing to Fall in Love with a Pervert, as Long as She's a Cutie?, Sayuki Tokihara is a masochist who wants main character Keiki to treat her like his pet.
  • In Being Able to Edit Skills in Another World, I Gained OP Waifus, all the waifus are perfectly happy to be Nagi's slaves because (a) he treats them like people, (b) he takes care of them, (c) he makes sure they live in comfort and relative luxury and (d) when they were on their own, their lives sucked.

    Comic Books 
  • Beautifully parodied in Wonder Woman #600, where Diana and Power Girl have a seemingly very uncharacteristic conversation about how Karen needs to understand and accept that "you belong to him", before The Reveal that they're talking about her cat.
  • In Runaways, Karolina gives herself willingly to Xavin because she just faced a painful rejection from her longtime crush and Xavin promises to love her no matter what. She becomes less sanguine about this arrangement later on, as Xavin takes increasing liberties with their relationship (like impersonating Nico to make Karolina more sexually receptive), and nearly breaks the whole thing off after Xavin lets slip that Skrulls consider wives to be property.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Averted in Hobbit fanfic The Toymaker and the Widow, as Bofur makes it perfectly clear that his love interest is nobody's property. Also played straight with Dwarven marriage custom, according to which a widow is still considered the property of her deceased husband, and thus cannot remarry.
  • Maleficent fics are full of this; Diaval's relationship with Maleficent is something like indentured servitude, and as both of them are the most frequently shipped pair, this trope ensues. Your servant, Mistress uses the BDSM justification. As Diaval voluntarily "gave" himself to Maleficent in the movie, the Maleficent fandom is one of the places where, more often than not, BDSM fanfic is actually about people doing consensual BDSM. Some other fics intentionally avert it by having his servitude to her end at some point during the plot of the movie where he saves her life, and then there are those where he chooses to switch his status from servant to Property of Love when Maleficent offers to set him free.
  • In Nukume Dori, Subaru now takes great pride of the inverse pentagram marks on his hands; the symbols that marks him as the Sakurazukamori's prey now are a brand that ties him to Seishirou forever. And as much as Seishirou says he owns Subaru, Subaru agrees in a way that implies he himself owns Seishirou as well.
  • At least suggested in Lost in Camelot; as part of Bo "staking her claim" on Morgana after suggesting that Morgause may be interested in Morgana herself (at this point neither is aware that Morgause is Morgana's sister), Bo states that Morgana is hers and Morgana breathlessly agrees.
  • In Beautiful Disaster, Rin and Haru mutually feel this way. In this case, it's less about the perceived toxicity of their relationship than the familial circumstances outside it that threaten to separate them.
    "Gods, we are so fucked up," she whispered, watching him nod reluctantly with agreement, unable to find the gentle words he needed to soothe and reassure.
  • In the ElfQuest fic Name Quest, Nightfall considers Recognition:
    Then...there's Recognition...where the knowledge is taken from you — not taken away, just given to some other person without your consent...and, at the same time, you learn — the same way — what his soul-name is.
    That's...that's a little scary!...Unless...
    Unless...yeah...I wouldn't mind...unless it were Redmark...I guess I wouldn't mind Redmark...finding out my soul-name...if I could know his in return.
    If he can find it out. ...I won't tell him...that would ruin it...that would be just a...just a phony shadow...of the Real Thing. Recognition...yeah...Recognition wouldn't be all that scary...if it's with Redmark.
  • The Harry Potter fanfic The Power of Seven uses this trope in particular to explore Harry's dynamic with Demelza, as she soon finds herself blatantly fantasizing about how she would let Harry do anything to her if he would make her 'his' while Harry is drawn to her absolute devotion to him.
  • Somewhat deconstructed in Spellbound. The fae use magic to make humans their willing and obedient servants, sometimes including brides who are basically tortured sex slaves. On the other hand, Adrien and Felix, who are half-fae, try to embrace their human sides, and when reflecting on his relationship with Marinette, Adrien contrasts their mutual claim on each other with fae ideas about ownership. On the other other hand, when affected by mind-control akumas, Adrien's human side tends to basically shut down, leaving his more magic-resistant fae side in control, and it's much more inclined to treat Ladybug as property.

  • 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 and he to her 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.
    Holly: People don't belong to people.
  • 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.
  • Exit to Eden ends happily with Elliot submitting to Mistress Lisa.
  • The Penalty: When Rose decides on Defecting for Love and going through a Face–Heel Turn, she doesn't simply tell Blizzard the criminal mastermind that she loves him. Nope. She calls him "Master!"
  • 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.
  • 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 '90s changes the clause to "and you belong with him."
  • 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • I Dream of Jeannie: Major Nelson is Jeannie's master, and thus Jeannie is happily "his" property. It's justified as she's a genie and at the start Nelson tries to free her. Although she stays as Major Nelson's genie, she very much has the freedom to do as she pleases. Many of Jeannie's actions are in pursuit of her Series Goal; as she is in love with Major Nelson, her goal is to be Nelson's wife.
  • True Blood has this as one of its basic premises. Sookie has 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 betraying her.
  • In Doctor Who, it's revealed that the TARDIS views the Doctor as this. She points out it's mutual, as she's his sentient starship/time machine (that he boosted from a Gallifreyan museum), but he hadn't thought about it in quite that way before:
    The TARDIS: Then you stole me. And I stole you.
    The Doctor: I borrowed you.
    The TARDIS: "Borrowing" implies the eventual intention to return the thing that was taken. What makes you think I would ever give you back?
  • On Game of Thrones, many Wildlings/Free Folk take this view. Sex without marriage is often completely unstigmatised, and casual sex is often accepted, but romantic commitment means you are that person's and that person is yours. Southerner Jon Snow didn't completely embrace this mindset, and despite having sincere feelings for Ygritte, he led her on instead of making it clear he wasn't fully hers and wouldn't truly accept her being his. On another side of things, Gilly decided she was Sam's after he rescued her and her baby, and due to him seeing her as her own person from the beginning, this caused conflict, especially after they started to fall in love with one another. Mainly, he wanted her and the baby to go somewhere safe, and she was hurt and confused, leading to frustration and anger, by his perceived tossing aside of her.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series suggests that this is how Vulcan marriages are for the wife, as shown when T'Pring invokes the ritual challenge at her wedding to Spock.
    T'Pau: Thee are prepared to become the property of the victor?
    T'Pring: I am prepared.

  • In A Brother's Price, men are technically the property of their birth family, and later the property of their wives. While this doesn't come up much in the narrative — men are never treated like property — it is played for drama, as Jerin is aware that if his sisters committed a crime and were punished for it, he would be part of the property that would be taken away from them. Also, Jerin's grandmothers abducted his grandfather, who was a prince, from a castle under siege, and were able to legally marry him and have his ancestry handwaved as he was considered war loot. The marriage, apparently, was a very happy one, so this is a straight example.
  • In Quo Vadis, Caous Petronius owns a beautiful slave girl who has been in love with him for a long time without him noticing. He eventually comes to reciprocate, and when he's about to commit suicide at Nero's order, he frees her and gives her a large inheritance. She decides to join him in death instead.
  • 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 graze on the fields of Gor to create the wool of Gor gets more annoying than the actual storyline.
  • 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).
  • Played with a lot in The Red Vixen Adventures, Alinadar wants this kind of relationship in large part because she spent most of her life as a slave, and she developed a serious crush on her second mistress The Red Vixen, who unfortunately was straight, but who thought she could set her up with Sallivera. However, Salli didn't like the idea and avoided getting serious with Ali until she got her head together and could handle a slightly more equal relationship.
  • The romance series Lords Of The Underworld has a mutual example in Gwen and Sabin. The former proudly describes herself as "his favorite weapon", and later implies note  that he has her name tattooed on him in several places.
  • The Princess Diaries mentions this trope several times, such as in the fifth book, when Mia explains why she's so excited about prom:
    I want everyone to look at us dancing and know once and for all that I am the property of Michael Moscovitz. Even though I know that's sexist and no one can ever be the property of another human being. Except... except I so want to be Michael's property!
  • Journey to Chaos: During the third book, Mana Mutation Menace, to mitigate the effects of a supernatural Slave Collar while researching a permanent solution, Ataidar's Royal Ordercraft Security and Compliance team invokes this trope. Annala would much rather be Eric's (her boyfriend) slave than Nulso's (a creepy older man who happens to be her mother's archenemy). Because Order's respect for free will extends to choosing whom to surrender it to, the ROSCT perform a ritual that switches her ownership from Nulso to Eric. Order allows it because Nulso forced the collar on her. Following this, they say that the "owner" in this couple still not does legally "own" the other and so Power Perversion Potential is still illegal.
  • In The Irregular at Magic High School, Miyuki happily admits that every part of her, body and soul, belong to Tatsuya note . Her family's fixation on hierarchy and Arranged Marriages may have something to do with this perspective; in her world, few spouses can treat each other as equals, even if they want to.
  • Caliphate subverts this: When Hamilton is introduced to Petra, he privately monologues how he can almost understand the Caliphate's appeal when he could claim such a beauty for himself. He quickly berates himself for having such thoughts about a poor woman that has been brought up in a violent and abusive environment and at the end of the book, he proposes to her in marriage, promising to respect her and treat her like a person.
  • Maoyu: The story kicks off when the Demon Queen proposes to The Hero that they join forces to end the war between humans and demons with as little bloodshed as possible. Their agreement amounts to, in the Demon Queen's words "I will belong to you, you will belong to me", and for all intents, this is pretty much a marriage in all but name. While the Hero is a bit reluctant at first, the Demon Queen's love and concern for him, along with her proving that her desire for peace is genuine, eventually win him over.

  • Belinda Carlisle's song "Nobody Owns Me".
  • "Sweet Surrender" by Sarah McLachlan. The singer has decisively left some unpleasant past behind ("the life I've left behind me is a cold room"), and is taken in by lover who will "strip away the ugliness that surrounds me." The singer is clearly submitting to her lover: "I only hope that I won't disappoint you/When I'm down here on my knees."
  • 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 risque 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'.
  • "Las de Las Intuicion (Pure Intuition)" by Shakira.
  • "All For You" by Little Boots.
  • In the sense of religious love, the Rend Collective song "More Than Conquerors" describes Jesus as 'our conqueror'.
  • Solarstone's "Slave" and "The Last Defeat(Part 2)".
  • Joe Medlin's "I Kneel At Your Throne" is heavily suggestive of this, with phrasing such as "with my heart in my hand/I am at your command" and "all this love, I confess/will be yours to possess".
  • Sinitta's "So Macho":
    I'm tired of taking the lead
    I want a man who will dominate me
    Someone who will love and protect me
    And take care of my every need
  • The stalker in Evanescence's "Snow White Queen" tells their victim, "You belong to me."
  • Bettye Swann's "Make Me Yours":
    You already captured my heart and my soul
    Now I want you to take full control

  • In Romeo and Juliet, Paris, Juliet's fiance, 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.
  • If you take The Taming of the Shrew at face value rather than trying to read subtext into it, this is where Kate ends up. She gives an earnest and unequivocal speech at the end in which she says that wives should obey their husbands and submit to their will.
  • "All of You" from Cole Porter's Silk Stockings:
    I'd love to gain complete control of you
    And handle even the heart and soul of you

    Video Games 
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • Darth Malgus obtained a Twi'lek slave named Eleena Daru. She had no more status in the Empire than as a Sex Slave, and the favored property of Malgus, and Malgus would beat her up if he got angry (being a Sith — he was frequently angry), but came to love him and he loved her as much as a Sith is capable of, even to the point of considering each other husband and wife, and fighting side by side during the attack on Courscant's Jedi Temple. However, when Eleena was injured, and another Sith pointed out that she could be used as a weakness against him, Malgus murdered his "wife" in her sickbed without much consideration.
    • The Male Sith Warrior can directly parallel this with their companion Vette, who is his female Twi'lek slave. In the beginning, you could keep Vette's shock collar attached and still "romance" her, but critics pointed out the luggage rack of problems involved in raping a slave that breaks the game's Teen rating. A patch was pushed to make it so you have to remove her slave collar before playing the romance arc, but it still does not change the fact Vette has no legal standing in the empire other than being the Male Sith Warrior's prized property.
  • The trope influences the Arc Words of Rule of Rose: "Eternal/True love/I am yours". They're the promise that Jennifer and Wendy made as children. Unfortunately, Wendy took the promise literally where Jennifer did not, so... Though terrified by Wendy's brutality, Jennifer eventually realizes that it was not the promise that was poisonous, but Wendy's interpretation of it. Jennifer's character arc consequently ends with her regaining faith in the concept of love.
  • Flavor D in Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus. Some of the mudokon slaves working in Soulstorm Brewery are addicted to Soulstorm Brew. The glukkons deliberately got them addicted to it and feed their habit in exchange for enslaving them.

    Visual Novels 
  • This trope, played for romance, is basically the point behind Kissed by the Baddest Bidder, which begins with the protagonist finding herself auctioned off to the highest bidder at a secret Black Market auction. Exactly how the result plays out depends on which of the guys ends up taking charge of her, but it's always ultimately depicted as romantic when she decides that she's okay with the man she's in love with calling her his property.
  • Under the Moon: The good endings of the love/hate paths see the heroine accept the controlling behavior of her Fetishized Abuser (whoever he may be) and find Happiness in Slavery. The bad endings in the love/hate paths often involve somebody dying.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • 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 short manhwa plays around with this trope. A presumably goblin-like mafia boss buys an elf slave girl and treats her with kindness. She eventually feels very comfortable living with him.

    Western Animation 
  • Pearl of Steven Universe was Born into Slavery with the rest of her Fantastic Caste System, who are all made to be personal servants to elite Gems. While she largely appreciates her freedom post-rebellion, it's implied she had a lot of trouble breaking the mindset around Rose Quartz specifically, and for some time was very self-sacrificial and reverent to the Crystal Gem leader while simultaneously head-over-heels in love with her. The narrative presents this as unhealthy, and it's suggested that Rose found it awkward as well. But it also makes sense that it would be a hard habit to break, since Rose did own Pearl before the rebellion back when she was under her true identity: Pink Diamond.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, the suit that Miraculous wielders wear after transforming reflect their subconscious. This is why Chat Noir, who grew up more or less unloved, has a suit with a bell on it. On some level, he wishes he were a collared kitten with a loving home.
    Ladybug: (affectionately) My kitty.