First thing in the morning you send your Sir a text as soon as you wake up knowing you will receive a text back with a familiar response.
After you play you assume your agreed upon position until ordered to stand and then you both sit together, your head in his lap. Then after a while you quietly talk about the scene.
Upon returning home to your Mistress you set your things aside in a designated area. You then strip down and assume a position until she tells you to stand. You exchange mantras with one another, the Mistress places your collar around your neck, you enjoy a tight hug, and then go about your evening.
At dinner you ask your Sir permission to eat and later that week at a vanilla dinner party you, instead, make a clear comment about how delicious the food looks and he replies that it certainly does. This is the way you maintain asking permission while amongst non-kinky friends and family.
At a public event (kink or vanilla) from across a large crowded room you look to your Sir and he holds up one finger. This means he needs a drink refill. So without talking or having to come over to you or even pause his conversation – he has given a command. You prepare a drink and deliver it. (the person he’s speaking to is very impressed by the way!)
At night, right before you both get into bed, you get on your knees in front of your Sir and say a mantra that speaks to your submission to him. He replies with a mantra that peaks to his leadership and protection of you in the relationship.
The things I’ve listed above are just a few, and simple, examples of various protocols and rituals that partners in power exchange dynamics use in day to day life.
Protocol: A formalized set of rules controlling the interaction between D-types and s-types.
Ritual: The way in which a protocol is carried out.
Other people may define the difference in various ways, but for the purpose of this article I will treat them as a pair that go hand in hand.
So why do D/s partners utilize protocols and rituals? There are many reasons. At the surface they are used to train the s-type in how the D-type would like to be served. They may create expectations surrounding behavior, punishment, and service. They may be things that make life easier for the D-type, or reinforce the actions of the s-type. They certainly reinforce the power exchange. They help transition head space. In my opinion, however, there is an underlying reason and byproduct for all protocols and rituals. It is, again my opinion, the most important element of all. Connection. Protocols and rituals reinforce the power dynamic and the connection shared between partners.
Think about how many people come home from work only to greet their partner with “I’m home!” right before they plop on the couch to zone out on tv. They go about their day without communicating with one another because they get so busy with work. Going to sleep they watch tv until their eyes are like bricks and so they simply roll over and start snoring. Now go back and think about the protocols I listed at the top. These are examples of so many ideas that keep you both connected to one another every day and perhaps multiple times a day. They allow us to push away the outside world for a moment and be present with one another. Even if it’s a task that has been assigned when not together – who do you think the s-type is thinking of when they perform the task? Not the report that’s due tomorrow, it’s their D-type. Many people have protocols without labeling them as such. A vanilla couple that always go to the market together, one picks the meat for the week, the other is in charge of produce. They don’t call that protocol but that’s what it’s become. They can count on their weekly Sunday market trip and how they will go about it.
I have always loved protocol for this reason. It’s just between you and your partner, a silent understanding. Connection.
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.