Setting Aside Harshness
It is time to set aside the harshness described in the article "Slavery's Reality". Let’s accept that the absolutes portrayed there rarely occur. Being totally honest in fact only an individual with no hope, no sense of self-worth or desire for any part of a normal life would ever submit to such harshness. Furthermore, no Dominant except for the most demanding and unrelenting would ever subject another human being to such an existence.
There is an extreme difference between the role of a "real" slave versus a "lifestyle" slave and that of a submissive. A lifestyle slave may actually attempt to live such an experience for a specific amount of time, a few days, a couple of weeks, or even a month or so (usually college students wanting a complete change). Those classified as submissive would never experience any of those extremes. The measure of the activities is then governed totally by an agreement which is both decide and provide.
In almost all cases this becomes the norm for a relationship where people explore specific aspects of their immersion into the lifestyle. Nothing is ever permanent, nothing is ever without out hope or escape, and it is a mechanism to realize a deep-seated craving. The experimenting with aspects of this allows individuals to act out their kink, their secret desires safely and sanely which is both protective and nurturing.
The onus is on the Dominant
The awesome responsibility of the dominant then is to encourage this exploration and find a means by which the individual can experience these things. But time becomes the aspect of limitation, rights and privileges reduced to those which the submissive or masochist can feel safe to endure.
Agreements Safeguard and Prescribe
The agreement defines the limits and extents of activities, removes specific actions or degrees of severity from the relationship and provides clear terms of engagement and duration. The illusion of harshness and stripping away of freedoms becomes, in essence, a ritual indulged in by adults who have its safe-words, its safeguards and allows one to act out their fantasies. But again all of these are or should be described clearly in any agreement.