Is Protocol Necessary?


This post is the second in a series of posts regarding protocol. Put together, they are really, really long. If you have the reading attention span of a gnat on methamphetamines, then the TL;DR version is this: Protocol exists in nearly every BDSM/Kink partnership, whether occasional play partners to full-fledged TPE relationships. It’s not a question of whether to protocol but whether to add degrees of protocol. There’s also a discussion on why protocol != High-Protocol. If you intend to read all of them in one sitting once published, get some water to hydrate and a snack or two — you’ll need both. Feel free to leave us some comments!

~ angi, g, and mynx.

Is Protocol Necessary?

If you speak to those who have been members of the community online, offline, or both, you will run into a diverse group when it comes to whether protocol is necessary. It may also become clear that most BDSM/kink relationships implement varying degrees of protocol. This is where the discussion turns into not whether protocol is necessary, but rather how far people prefer to go in implementing it.

Even if your D/s involvement is in the bedroom only, you will likely use some form of protocol. This could be as simple as one person takes the paddling and the other does not, and it is always like this with no exceptions. If you’re doing the paddling and your partner has to count the swats, then this is protocol. It is established that one of you is using the paddle and the other is enduring being hit with it while having to maintain a count. If you add on punishment for failing to keep count correctly, well… you’ve just added another protocol to the situation.

Protocol is not confined to play. If your partner requires you meet them at the door in a certain manner when they arrive, this is protocol. A good example of this is the 50s-style homemaker who was expected to have a meal ready when their spouse came in from work, and in some cases a drink. Furthermore, if the expectations were not met, punishments may have been established. It is important to note that punishment does not always come in the form of the corporal.

It’s very easy to keep adding protocol to established or forming rules within the dynamic. Once you start adding punishment for failures, this could be considered moving toward high protocol. Dominants and submissives who expect others to adhere to using generic titles for everyone and/or those who insist on using uppercase and lowercase pronouns as a means to denote whether one is addressing a dominant or a submissive tend to be the ones singled out as “High Protocol”. However, this is largely an online thing. Similar is indicated offline by expecting all submissives to be trained in a certain manner, to behave in a certain way, and for dominants to address one another in a certain way as well.

To an outsider, and to an extent, the three authors of this piece, the expectation that everyone be ‘trained properly’ as decided by either an individual or group, is absurd. Even more absurd is the vitriol that often is directed to those on the outside for not adhering to what some call a ‘standard’. This comes to the reasons for engaging in formal protocol and the pros and cons for doing so.

Next in the series: To Formalise Protocol or No

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