Just what the heck is protocol anyway?

I have been accused of being an ‘old-school high protocol Dom’ a few times in my life.

I’m not sure that the statement is entirely accurate, but I suspect that there may be two reasons why this is being applied to me.

1) No one really knows what ‘protocol’ means anymore
2) Anyone who expresses any sort of structure as a part of the BDSM relationship seems to be getting classified this way lately.

So, let’s begin by addressing the first part of this.

What the heck is ‘protocol’ anyway?

It’s a three syllable word that basically means ‘rules.’

People think that because I use contracts and limits lists that I’m a ‘high protocol’ Dom.  And while there is no definitively correct answer for what ‘high protocol’ means, I tend to think of the emphasis on the ‘high’ in that phrase as indicating an emphasis on enforcement.

I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen the label of ‘low protocol’ or even ‘ordinary protocol’ applied to anyone.  It seems that within the context of the BDSM world, the two words are inextricably linked.  If you practice ‘protocol’ at all, you are automatically a practitioner of ‘high protocol.’

I’m fairly certain that I actually do NOT fit that definition.

Yes, I set rules.  In some of the contracts that I’ve held in the past, these rules can be rather strict, and failure to follow them can be met with some pretty significant consequences, but whereas I exerted a singular level of control in my earlier days, I haven’t the time or inclination to attempt such things anymore.  I don’t think I’ve necessarily grown softer – because when I decide to correct something, I can still be pretty rough, but my need to be in absolute control has waned as I’ve picked partners that are more capable and have a greater internal strength themselves.

This is not to say that I don’t invoke protocol in-scene, or even just in that nebulous ‘in the bedroom’ space.  Often I will bark commands in the midst of sex or play, and I fully expect them to be adhered to.

Bondage with ropes or straps is incredibly effective, sexy as hell, and sometimes exactly what I want or need, but sometimes I don’t have ropes with me, or I just don’t want to go through the time and effort to tie them properly – and I’m enough of a safety nut that I’d never half-ass that job.  So, I might give instruction like, “do not move except when I move you,” or “leave your arms in this position,” or even, “you can fight me on this, but if you do, I’ll hurt you.”

And you know what? The words in those cases can be even more effective than physical restraints and even sexier in the proper context.

Does this make me a ‘high protocol’ Dom?  I don’t think so.

When I used to require my submissive to walk three paces behind me, not to make eye contact, and to speak only to or through me.. that was ‘high protocol.’

And to be honest, while there is some pleasure to be derived in the novelty of it, and while it certainly does appeal to the control freak in me to have complete control over another person’s words and actions if not her thoughts, it’s exhausting to be so much in control for more than a short span of time.

Hell, I find it difficult to remain in control of just my own self from time to time.  To have to be in control of someone else, to monitor her every action and to punish or reward them as appropriate.  It’s just not something that I have time for anymore.

Protocol has its place.  It’s a wonderful thing when used properly, but it’s often misunderstood to mean something far greater than it needs to be.  You can claim to be introducing ‘protocol’ into your relationship by doing something as what I’ve described above.  Give your sub a rule to follow, and then follow up and make sure that she understands and obeys.

Isn’t that what D/s is all about anyway?

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