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I have been reading a bit about things like contracts, stipulations, and protocol within a BDSM relationship. These seem to be more common in D/s relationships, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t make use of some part of them, no matter what your relationship status. First, I would like to make sure everyone knows what, exactly, the subtle differences are between those three words.
(as simply defined by a Bing search)
- formal agreement: a formal or legally binding agreement, e.g. one for the sale of property, or one setting out terms of employment
- document recording agreement: a document that records a formal or legally binding agreement
- agreement to marry: a formal agreement to marry
- etiquette of formal occasions: the rules or conventions of correct behavior on official or ceremonial occasions
- code of conduct: the rules of correct or appropriate behavior of a group, organization, or profession
- international agreement: a formal agreement between states or nations
- specify something: to specify something such as a condition when making an agreement or an offer
- demand something: to make a specific demand for something, usually as a condition in an agreement
- make formal promise: to promise something formally or legally (not sure why there were no synonyms for this one, but you get the picture)
So, in example, lets say you have a contract that states you must service your SO in some way, 3 times a week. On top of that, you have to do it in the car at least 1 time a week (stipulation), and you must do it while being completely silent (protocol). Yes these are dumb examples, haha, but easy to define.
Now that you have the basics down on the “what” part, you need to see “how” any of this might work for you. The idea of contracts in the BDSM world are generally worked out equally between partners, to each others mutual benefit. These types of contracts should never be used to make you do something you do not want to do, or do something that is dangerous. Some exceptions can be made, for instance, if you are working on your own personal growth in pain tolerance, for example, and details of every possible consequence and outcome that can be thought of must be covered. In that way, a contract might help you push yourself harder than you thought you could, which can be great!
Contracts and the like are not just for those in committed relationships, either. They can be a very useful tool when you are past the “getting to know if the person is safe” stage, and ready for the leap into some play sessions. Something as simple as writing down your limits (soft, hard and in between), and safe words, can be a great start, and it can help take the pressure off, so you can more easily “let go” and not over worry, which can kill a mood fast, as we all know.
How do you know if you’re ready to let go of your control to someone else? Well, some of you get angry at this, but in reality, it is only on paper! It is not carved in stone! (as long as both parties are honest and mature, of course). I’m not saying your heart isn’t in it, or that you don’t love, quite the opposite, actually. Having certain things written down in contract form, respected by and adhered to, by all parties involved, can help you focus on other parts of your relationship and personal growth, because you’ve got the stuff you already know, covered, and your SO knows, too. If our constitution can be amended as times and people change, so can your contract.
It is a good idea to set a certain time aside, say, once a month or so, so the parties involved can get together and review everything. Some more “strict” contracts actually state a certain time to do this, and if not done then, you missed your turn to speak! This is all personal and individual. Others don’t include anything but action and behavior during “play time”, so a person might decide on a whim to have a meeting to change something. I heard a story where a woman filed for divorce, apparently because the couple’s BDSM contract was no longer working for her. Was the entire marriage contract based? Was there no room for re-negotiating? I find myself wondering just what kind of contract they had, that she felt she had to completely end the relationship over it! No contract is worth that, in my opinion!
Hopefully this answers some common questions for those of you that might be new to, or just exploring, the lifestyle we call BDSM. Here is a link to what I think is a great way to start a contract out: