BDSM Etiquette Protocols and Guidelines

Because Daddy Didn’t Raise No Fool.

Practicing BDSM is a delicate matter that requires a ton of skill and a bunch of mutual respect. And although mainstream media would have many people believing that BDSM games are all about pleasing the dominant while punishing the subordinate, that’s most certainly not the case at all. In fact, good BDSM is designed to be pleasurable to both parties involved, regardless of what techniques are used and what sex toys are in play.

Many years ago, I had a nightmarish experience with an overzealous partner who had no clue about the basic dos and don’ts of BDSM. Awkward and annoying, that partner made me feel more like an underpaid babysitter than a master. It wasn’t pretty, and it definitely wasn’t a good example of what this type of sex play is. I walked away shattered and tattered, unable to enjoy slave games for quite a while after that. Afraid I would run into another horrible routine, I started getting serious about learning and teaching etiquette. After all, it’s not fair that I should go without the kind of sex I prefer just because too few people know how to do it right.

In a well-balanced and mutually respectful BDSM relationship, the master and submissive/slave have a bond. That bond is often enhanced through specific rituals and protocols that reinforce the status of each person involved. If no etiquette is agreed upon and used, the lines defining roles can get blurred and the entire experience can become a frustrating exercise in futility. I learned all this the hard way, but you don’t have to.

Of course, you could read an entire book on the subject to find out everything you need to know. There are plenty of resources out there, which is precisely why I get so irritated with an uneducated partner. This is a right and a privilege but it’s also a responsibility. And as with the legal system, ignorance is no defense in the bedroom. So when time is of the essence, a concise set of guidelines can do wonders where a lengthy collection of literature has failed. Either way, it’s your duty to learn what BDSM is (and isn’t) while finding out what the most commonly accepted behaviors and techniques are. Not only will that make you far less annoying to me and every single future partner you’ll ever have, but it will also make each BDSM experience a rich and satisfying one.

What Is BDSM?

BDSM is an acronym which stands for “bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism.” As an extremely popular and well-rounded set of sexually explorative activities, BDSM typically involves a wide variety of practices, rituals and roleplaying games that include safe and satisfying things like simple bondage or restriction, discipline, dominance and submission, sadomasochism and any other type of exchange that blurs the lines between the interpersonal relationships of the people involved. Given its surprisingly wide range of tools, toys and practices, inclusion in the world’s BDSM subculture is primarily dependent upon self-identification. As a result, there is no set of steadfast rules that must be followed by those who dabble in it.

What Is BDSM Etiquette?

If there are no rules, then why is there a need for etiquette when practicing BDSM? Well for one, the word “etiquette” literally means “the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group,” so using good etiquette during BDSM is favorable for several now obvious reasons. And while you and/or your partner can freely experiment during playtime, it’s still important lay out some ground rules ahead of time. Usually, there are just a few basic guidelines which govern the roles of the dominant and submissive parties involved and define the BDSM community as a whole.

Common Submissive/Slave Obligations

The basic job of the submissive/slave is to be always attentive to the dominant/master. The slave’s behavior should reflect a sense of admiration and respect for the dominant’s needs and wants at all times. Put simply, your job as the submissive party is to service your master in whatever way he or she deems most pleasing.

Furthermore, the list of things you can do to make sure a master is happy is never-ending. It can be anything from lighting a cigarette or making a meal to performing as furniture or being openly humiliated. As long as the sub makes all appropriate arrangements and ensures the master’s life is easy, etiquette is usually demoted to second place importance. However, it’s vital to put the dominant’s needs before your own when acting as a slave.

Some subs make the mistake of thinking that their ability to endure intense pain is a pledge of allegiance. And while there is much to be said about pain arousal, thoroughly pleasing your master requires more than standing up for a righteous beating. Be submissive even in the quiet moments when you’re not getting what you crave. Always remember that BDSM is anchored on a series of permitted power exchanges as well as mind/body experimentation and acceptance.

It should be demonstrated as your joyful privilege to serve your master with humility and devotion. Your ability to attend to your dominant’s needs and wants is the standard by which others will judge you AND your master. A thoughtless misstep here can be catastrophic, but attentiveness can please your master and impress those around you. In other words, be proud to wear your slave collar and wear it exactly as your dom has instructed.

Remember that slave/master BDSM games are not limited by the four walls of your bedroom, meaning certain etiquette must be kept while out in public. Moreover, always keep your obligations in check and priorities in order at all times while the game is in session. Each master will obviously have different standards, but the most commonly accepted order of obligations for the average sub is as follows:

  • God
  • Biological Family
  • Education
  • Career/Professional Goals
  • Dominant/Master
  • Household
  • BDSM Community
  • Extracurricular Activities

A well-behaved and grateful submissive also has a short list of responsibilities since they’re acting as someone playing the role of a slave in a legitimate BDSM encounter. To that end, the following are the 5 most commonly accepted expectations for modern-day subs:

  1. The submissive is responsible for identifying and incorporating an heir of gracefulness in their style, presentation, servitude and movement.
  2. The submissive is expected to have and use grammar and vocabulary that is commensurate with that of a respectable and learned individual, as it both pleases and dignifies the master.
  3. The submissive is charged with learning and using a pleasing vocal tone at all times, especially when addressing the sir.
  4. The submissive will learn to enunciate words properly and speak clearly, but only when given permission.
  5. The submissive is to remain sensitive to his or her personal appearance as it pleases the master.

Typically, if those standards are met, any sir will feel respected and regarded as the crucial service provider they are. After all, this exchange in power is designed to teach you something about yourself while also helping you improve various aspects of your personality. So, lay back, let BDSM do its job, and you just do yours as a sub. You’re already too argumentative for my taste. See? There’s always room for improvement.

Common Dominant/Master/Sir Responsibilities

The master is responsible for their slave’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing as it pertains to the context of the chosen and agreed upon BDSM lifestyle/activity. Often referred to as “sir,” the master is charged with making sure the submissive is subjected to only things that are for the highest good. Depending on the sub, that could include any number of things from restriction and discipline to slavery and humiliation. However, it’s the master’s primary job to get to know what his/her sub truly needs.

An effective sir/master is responsible for always behaving with respect to the submissive. In essence, the master will also be a servant to the sub. This is typically performed through a careful consideration of the slave’s desires and requirements while also helping them follow their own nature. In fact, the best sirs in the world view themselves as teachers of the next wave of masters. To comport oneself wit dignity is most important; watching your sub develop, mature, learn and grow in the BDSM lifestyle should be your primary objective. Furthermore, a good master will always seek to build a reputation and environment that’s full of grace and elegance.

Whimsically speaking, but all joking aside, the following are generally regarded as The 10 Commandments of Responsible Siring:

  1. Thou Shalt Be Lawful – Remember that you have no legal right to order your sub around until you’ve both agreed upon a contract, either verbally or written in cum. Finesse and subtlety are the best ways to show and assert dominance long before definitions are established. Also, the sensitivity and attentiveness you show your sub in the real world will likely be reciprocated by you in the bedroom.
  2. Thou Shalt Be Discreet – As proud as you may be to have that obedient sub at your beckoned call, nobody wants or needs to hear about what you two have going on. If you play your cards right, you should have ample opportunities to show how amazing of a master you are (and plenty of chances to make a fool out of yourself too). Remain discreet and let the games speak for themselves.
  3. Thou Shalt Be Open-Minded – While the top is generally considered the teacher of the sub, it’s important to keep an open mind and an open ear to what your slave is saying and doing. Be willing to learn from other sirs who may have a completely different perspective or skillset than you. Try new approaches and always execute your experimentations with patience and understanding. Keep in mind that everyone has their own personal style.
  4. Thou Shalt Be Knowledgeable – As a sir, you are responsible for finding out all the necessary information about the people you play with. Things like their sexual experience, sexual orientation, boundaries, inhibitions, BDSM fantasies, likes, dislikes and health status are all essential bits of data that can make or break playtime. This is especially true if you plan to use any kind of sex toy or kink equipment.
  5. Thou Shalt Be Communicative – Never take for granted that your sub instinctively knows what you want; and as a master, never assume that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the ground rules. Lead your pack or perverts with good communication skills to get rid of any uncertainties or apprehensions before playtime begins, and if someone doesn’t know something, take the time to explain it no matter ready to start you are.
  6. Thou Shalt Be Honest – It’s ok to admit when you’re wrong or don’t know something, and a good dominant knows that. Inexperience is nothing to be embarrassed about, but screwing up a good BDSM game because you lied about your expertise is shameful and potentially dangerous. Only take your sub to places you’re very familiar with – a priority that should take precedence over your pride, good sir.
  7. Thou Shalt Be  Sensitive – There is an extremely thin line between being a sensitive, empathetic sir and a self-righteous, insensitive turd with an overbearing and ineffective BDSM method. Your environment should seamless and symbiotic synthesis of everyone’s needs and wants. So while it may seem like your sub’s purpose in life is solely to serve you, never forget that it’s a two-way street. Break the trust between yourself and your sub one time and it will be hell getting it back.
  8. Thou Shalt Be Realistic – Keep in mind that power and control are the keys to good domination. Intensity of stimulation is only a secondary part of the puzzle, so take a realistic look at your approach from time to time. Does it match the sub you’re working on? Your favorite porno movie may be inspirational, but don’t try to recreate that scripted stuff at home down to the most minute detail. Be realistic and nobody gets their feelings hurt.
  9. Thou Shalt Be Truly Dominant – True subs are looking for someone who can take over their mind and body, not just overcome their physical senses with brute force. Real people are involved in BDSM, so those images and fantasies you’ve made up in your head won’t be present. Make your sub fall in love with you by forcing them to give their mind, body and soul to you fully and without question. Follow up on your orders and reward or punish appropriately (and in a timely manner).
  10. Thou Shalt Be Healthy – Properly executed BDSM is all about being in top physical and emotional health. The amount of sleep you get, your dietary habits and your lifestyle choices will play a big role in how playtime goes down and in how much pleasure you and/or your sub derive from it. As the dominant party, you have a responsibility to your sub and it requires that you always be in control of yourself and on top of the scene. So if you’re not feeling it or are running low on energy, refer to commandment number 6.

Usually, if those standards are kept, any sub will feel appreciated and respected as the important service provider that they are. After all, this scripted power struggle is designed to teach everyone something about themselves (including you, sir). So just chill and let the games begin while you handle your business like the boss you are. Save that skepticism for the bedroom, big guy. There’s always room for improvement, remember?

BDSM Core Values and Expectations

BDSM games are one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling sexual activites you and/or your partner can ever do. Made to be a safe and controlled execution of fantasy, submission is supposed to be treated as a gift. Use it appropriately and everything will work out just fine. Mishandle your sub or sir’s trust and you’ll be starting back at the bottom where all the other insubordinate losers hang out, having boring missionary-style sex while you watch Jeopardy on your cellphone. To make sure none of that happens, all tops and bottoms need to mind these 5 basic rules of conduct (commonly known by the acronym “DRESS”):

  • D:edication 

Always be ready and willing to providing the best possible service and experience no matter whether you’re acting as the submissive or the dominant one. For the submissive, this involves following requests carefully, mind instructions to the letter and giving faithful obedience at all times. For the dominant, this involves being open, honest and respectful to your sub’s wants, needs and development.

  • R:espect 

Mutual respect is of the upmost importance, especially when it comes to playing BDSM games with a partner (and especially if that partner is relatively new to the BDSM community). Showing them and yourself appropriate amounts of dignity and respect can go a long way towards making dominance play more mainstream. Avoid passive-aggressive behaviors, be honest and communicative, understand boundaries, and keep your expectations seated in reality to avoid unnecessary confrontation.

  • E:ffort 

A little effort makes a big impact in BDSM. Whether serving as the dominant or the submissive, making efforts in the right areas makes things work out best for everyone. In fact, a lack of effort can cause a sub or dom to become aggravated or impatient in the middle of an otherwise satisfying experience, making it virtually impossible for anyone to stay in character or reap the benefits of the careful preparations thereof.

  • S:afety

They say safety should always come first and that’s very true, especially where bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism are in play. Because so many rituals and tools are used in the average session, it’s important to say educated on the latest safety protocols involving sex toys, harnesses, restraints and furniture. It’s also vital that you come up with a safe word or signal just in case things become too intense.

  • S:incerity 

By nature, a BDSM relationship is destined to be an extremely potent one. As such, both subs and doms are expected to remain civil and sincere at all times when dealing with the other. Fake dedication and care can usually be sensed from a mile away, making it very difficult to establish trust or nourish the relationship. Always be sincere with one another for best results.

“DRESS” is just an oversimplified acronym serving as the primary guideline for what should be considered the norm in modern-day BDSM games. If you approach these activities “dressed for success” you and/or your partner will most likely have a safe, secure and satisfying experience. If you have a “wardrobe malfunction,” however, it’s hard telling how things will turn out for either one of you.

A Final Word on BDSM Etiquette

Although I like to think of myself as a professional BDSM practitioner – having served as both a master and a slave several times at this point in my life – I still understand that certain levels of open-mindedness and respect are required from everyone for the experience to be truly educational and satisfying. As always, a good teacher knows that he/she has plenty left to learn. If you feel yourself crossing over the dark side, either stop practicing BDSM altogether or speak with your partner about creative ways to incorporate your maturing fantasies.

Whether you’re on top or on bottom, have normal sexual appetites, or possess outrageous desires, practicing proper etiquette is an extremely important part of keeping BDSM and it’s supporting community an accepted beacon in modern-day society. Your commitment to excellence is appreciated, especially considering how it normalizes the pastime while also encouraging others to join the BDSM community (or at least take it seriously). As proud representatives of the world’s most intense form of sexual expression, you must carry the torch with dignity and grace from here on out by adhering to the rules of etiquette presented here today. All imitators will be swiftly kicked out of the Cool Kid’s Club upon discovery and, keep in mind, resistance is futile.