Unasked Questions: Contracts

In previous entries in this series, I’ve talked about scenes and limits. In this entry, I’m going to be talking about contracts:  what they mean in the BDSM sense, where they are best used, why I feel that they are necessary, when I feel that they are necessary, and probably give some examples from my own life.

Contracts occupy one of what I would consider to be the three main pillars of a BDSM arrangement.  The others would be limits and safewords.  Limits I’ve talked about previously, but safewords I have yet to touch upon.  That will be a separate topic, and as it is something that I feel strongly about, probably more of a rant than instructional, but I will try to hold back some of my stronger feelings for the blog.

In any case, today I am here to talk about contracts.

Whenever I have taken on a new sub for more than just a single scene, I have asked for a contract.  These are not in any way legally binding, and there is often a great deal of redundant or otherwise not-terribly-useful information contained within them, but I find that it provides two very important things:  accountability and transparency.  These are two things that I think are extremely important, nay, vital, to the success of any relationship, especially when that is both kinky and poly.

The contract is only between the submissive and me, so in some ways the poly aspect of my relationships is a separate problem but it is entirely dependent on the two virtues I extol above, so it is appropriate to mention it here as well.  It is a formal, if not legally binding, document that spells out exactly what terms are expected from the perspective of both the Dominant and submissive.  It serves as yet another opportunity to negotiate and put forward your own desires and fears.

This is a good example of a template for a contract  but of course, every contract is between two people and as such must be customized for their needs.  In order to be very useful, a contract has to specify the following things:

  the contracted parties:  In each contract that I have used to date this means the submissive and me, but there is no reason that this could not include more than just two parties

 the contract duration:  How long will these expectations be in place for?  Sometimes, in the contracts of others that I have seen, this part is omitted – the supposition being that the contract is ‘never-ending’.  While I do not have any deeply held philosophical reasons for preferring to extend or reissue a contract after the expiration of the current one, that has always been my choice.   I think there is a powerful psychological aspect of ‘contract’ that is missing if you omit duration, even if that duration is something like 500 years or something slightly more nebulous like the death of one of the parties..

  the roles of each party:  This is where things like how the slave is expected to serve the Master are defined.  This is where one would spell out the behaviors that are expected or required, along with what the submissive can expect from the Dominant, be this protection, care, training, whatever.

 any options for severability:  This is where you detail under what conditions the contract becomes void.  The contracts that I have used typically state that the Dominant can close the contract at any time without reason and that the submissive can veto specific actions if they violate certain criteria (such as pushing a hard limit or breaking the law) but that they have no recourse for completely ending the contract.  Of course, since such contracts are not legally binding, either party can walk away at any time.

 any special considerations:  This will often be either a list of hard limits or a link to a document containing those limits.  It may also call out any other things that the submissive or Dominant decide require special attention.  The contract document will provide tangible reminders to both parties of their promises to each other for the duration of the contract, so this makes sense as a place to specifically call out anything that might ever need reminding about or that the parties want to make explicit.

I’ve held contracts for as short as a month and as long as 18 months.  They make for a very intense relationship though, and I’m not certain that they can be held for longer than that, though I’m beginning to change my opinion on that — at least, I’ve become hopeful that I can, despite never really wanting that in the past.

A contract is a pledge, by both the Master and the slave, to adhere to the roles that you have defined for the duration, terms, and circumstances contracted for.  It might be to formalize training of a newbie, it might be to add extra kink to an already established relationship, tipping it over into the realm of true TPE, or it might just be something fun to do with someone new to you for a month or two.

In any case, if you are seeking a TPE type of relationship, I think the contract is a vital element of that arrangement.  This may be personal preference and nothing more than how I was brought into this culture, but I find that the formalism that you gain from a contract is essential in maintaining the proper frame of mind to assume your role and KEEP it.  This is not to mean that I believe a contract will give you the ability to never slip or to never be bad at your role, but it provides rules for you both to follow and it gives you something tangible that you can look at and say, “Yes, this is what I want, this is what I signed up for, and this is what I must give to get that.”

Let me know if you have questions, I’m happy to answer.

This was meant to educate, I hope you find it useful.

This was not a rant, but I am still Rant.

Rant off.

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