A Reverse Pyramid Look at Rules in BDSM Relationships

I think it’s common for Dominants/Masters who haven’t had a lot of experience with relationships to go into a new coupling issuing rules the way a parking inspector issues tickets. Way too many, way too quickly, and about all the wrong things.

It’s understandable where this comes from. We quickly discover that Dominance/submission is a kind of symbiotic circle of energy. They want an environment where they can express their submissiveness, and successfully creating and sustaining that environment feeds your dominance. You want an environment where you can express your dominance, and successfully creating and sustaining that environment feeds their submissiveness. And around and around it goes, in a blissful circle of kinky energy.

So, a new Dominant comes in and realises that they need to touch that submissiveness in some way to keep the fire stoked. Rules seem like an obvious answer. “If I restrict what underwear he’s allowed to wear, have him check in with me at certain times, impose an exercise regime, etc etc etc, then he will feel more submissive and that’s what we both want”.

It seems logical, and in a way there’s some truth in it. Rules in BDSM relationships will touch the submissiveness. But, rules for rules sake are a bit like being hungry and eating a chocolate bar. Once the glucose spike is over, what happens then?

They may at first seem to be giving more discipline and structure to the submissive, but arbitrary and capricious rules are unlikely to lead to long term happiness or longevity in any relationship.

RITUALS, PROTOCOL AND RULES IN BDSM RELATIONSHIPS

The way the words “rules”, “protocol” and “rituals” are used differs from person to person. I’m using the term “rules” in this article, but a protocol is really just a set of rules that controls the interaction between the Dominant and submissive.

I tend to use “protocol” when I’m talking more about boundaries of behaviour within certain situations. In that way we can talk about “high protocol” and “low protocol” and the protocol we have when we’re at a club or the protocol we have when we are with family, or the protocol we have when the house collar goes on.

But, it’s really not incorrect to talk about rules as protocol.

Many people also see ritual as rules for behaviour that is repeated regularly, but I see them as something different, and I’ve written about them separately in How Ritual in BDSM Brings Us Closer To Our Authentic Self. For me, rituals might start out as protocol, but they develop into something that’s largely self-driven. They’re about the submissive (or the Dominant) doing certain things in certain ways because it has meaning to that person. It’s a kind of meditation that we infuse into our daily lives.

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MAKING CLEAR WHAT IS EXPECTED

I’m certainly not saying there is not a place in Dominant/submissive relationships for rules. Of course there is. What I am saying is that if a new Dominant goes riding into a relationship with all guns blazing, creating all kinds of rules about what His submissive must do to make Sir happy or boost his fragile ego, He’s going to fast run into problems.

In a Dominant/submissive relationship (and I’m using the word relationship here in the same way that a vanilla person would — two people sharing love and companionship and forging a future together), other than the extremely important business of showering your partner with lots of love, it’s my experience that one of the most important things a Dominant can do is to have and communicate clear and consistent expectations of what is expected.

I think it’s the foundation stone of a healthy D/s relationship. To be happy, your submissive must feel comfortable that they know what is expected of them. It allows for a whole positive circle of energy as you acknowledge that what they are doing is the right thing, and perhaps reward that, and let them know that you are pleased with them. You are creating an environment where your partner is able to feel safe and cared for, and where they can release some of their worries and concerns, knowing that you are looking after things.

Rules are obviously a part of that, but it should be easy and natural for a Dominant to make what they want known without having to continually lay down rules. The rules that are required will grow organically, as and when they are needed.

Most of the time, the need for a rule is going to come from some kind of issue that is recurring and needs to be corrected. You may have tried other tools unsuccessfully and have reached the point where some kind of formalising of your requirements is required.

TURNING THE RULES ON THEIR HEAD

While the inexperienced Dominant might create a book full of rules about how their submissive should serve them and please them, this isn’t going to sound nearly as sexy, but I propose a different structure.

In a healthy relationship, I think that the hierarchy looks more like:

  1. (most) Rules that help your submissive be the best version of themselves that they can be
  2. (some) Rules that benefit the relationship
  3. (few) Rules that fluff up the ego of the Dominant

Hopefully, most of your rules are going to be about him, and helping him to be bigger, stronger and better than he might be on his own. It’s not about molding him into what you think he should be, it’s about an understanding of what he wants, and it might be D/s related goals, but often it is about wider life goals.

When we were saying earlier that you need to touch that submissiveness in some way to keep the fire stoked, this is a perfect opportunity to do so in a way that is empowering and positive. And, one of the goals your submissive is likely to have is that he will want to feel that submission to you. He will want rituals and protocol and reminders of his role and your role and the strength of the relationship. So, building in this area in healthy ways negates the need for arbitrary ego-fluffing rules. Things can be more goal-focused and purposeful if approached in the right way.

And there will, no doubt, be rules born out of the need to keep the relationship stable and growing. Some of these may be reactionary, and grow out of the need to solve problems along the way. But, rules that benefit the relationship can also be strategic and anticipate the direction that the two of you envision for your future.

Approach rules in BDSM relationships with a clear head. If you’re in a Dominant/submissive relationship you’re bound to need some to provide structure. Don’t think of them as a fast-track to creating the appearance of dominance. They’re a powerful tool that can not only empower your submissive, but power-up your relationship.

FURTHER READING

• Fetlife – Rituals, Rules and Contracts
• Dom Coaching – How to be a Dom: Orders and Rules
• B.E.S.T. slave Training Guide – Setting Goals for a slave
128 Basic slave Rules
25 Key slave Rules
• Laura Antoniou (Idaho BDSM) – Establishing a Protocol
• |X|C|BDSM| – Rules, Protocols, Orders and Assignments
• On a Magic Carpet Ride – Protocol and Behaviour Within D/s Relationships

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