Protocol Continued …

Invisible Protocols

Invisible protocols are protocols that occur in a method that is stealthy and difficult to detect when compared to a typical vanilla environment. Usually invisible protocols are used to practice power exchange in areas where stealth is required, or as an enhanced communication technique that allows complex information and concepts to be transferred quickly.

These protocols and rituals see frequent use with couples that have children, those practicing D/s in public and not wanting to alert others or force them to see something non-consensual, or when wishing to enjoy a well trained slave.


An honorific title is a word or expression with connotations conveying esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person. Honorifics are one of the most common types of protocols used in BDSM. An honorific is often a title such as “Sir”, “Mistress” or whatever title the Dominant prefers to assign within the power exchange dynamic, and while the honorific may convey a specific idea, no honorific chosen necessarily specifically indicates a specialized list of qualifications. Typically an honorific will be used while in scene or during times when invisible protocols are not necessary for 24/7 dynamics, and will be used to start or end a passage of speech, or both start and end a passage of speech. An honorific is most often chosen by the Dominant deciding what sort of status role they find most suiting to them. Some honorifics are given as earned titles from issuing institutions.

Good manners are made up of pretty sacrifices.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Common Honorifics

Honorifics are often perceived as being masculine or feminine but are frequently adopted in a gender bending fashion as well.

  • Service/Pro Top/Bottom
  • Alpha slave/Kajira
  • Daddy/Mommy/Caregiver
  • Mentor
  • Sir/Sire/Miss
  • Dom/Domme/Dominant
  • Handler
  • Owner
  • Master/Mistress
  • House/Pack Master/Mistress/Lord/Lady/Madame
  • Master/Mistress Trainer
  • Grand Master/Goddess

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” – Emily Post


A ritual is a solemn ceremony that exists within a power exchange dynamic consisting of a series of actions performed (usually by the submissive) according to a prescribed order set by the Dominant. Unlike a protocol, a ritual has a specific physical action associated with it as well as a triggering mechanism, where as a protocol can simply be a directive to govern behavior.

Some Typical Types of Rituals

Rituals can cover any topic the Dominant so desires, however typical rituals might involve things such as:

  •  Greetings
  •  Opening Doors
  •  Linguistic Conventions
  •  Object Presentation
  •  Drink Service
  •  A Mantra
  •  Collaring or Leashing

and anything else of importance to a particular Dominant.


A mantra is a ritualized, solemn and formulaic utterance. Most times mantras are used as positive affirmations that are triggered at specific times of day or under certain specific conditions. Mantras are often used to help reinforce conditioning and can be also be a mild form of hypnosis. A mantra may have other specific physical actions associated with it aside from just speech to help reinforce the mantra.

Linguistic Conventions

Various Linguistic conventions often synonymous with D/s.

Some people in the D/s world capitalize words and names that refer to Dominants, and do not capitalize those that refer to submissives, hence the capitalization of D/s; others do not. This practice was popularized on internet chatrooms, to make it easier to identify the orientation of the writer or the person being written about and has spread to many other forms of text based communication.

Also, some submissives avoid personal pronouns, instead referring to themselves as “this slave” or “Master Bob’s girl/boy”. This is sometimes considered an expression of modesty or objectification, but it is an entirely optional method of depersonalizing a submissive. It is speculated that this practice may have roots in the military, where new recruits are required to refer to themselves as “this recruit” rather than “I” or “me”. Further some may have speech restriction protocols such as the inability to say the word “no” to the Master (yet still having other venues to express dissatisfaction without challenging the Master) they serve or being required to kneel and request permission to speak with hand signal.

Best Practices: Developing Protocol:

To develop some starter protocols as a Dominants, consider what things you value and what small niceties might make your life easier and more enjoyable. Then discuss them with your partner and negotiate the terms of these protocols. When creating rituals and protocols, ensure they have the following criteria:

A ritual or protocol should be…

  • able to be consistently maintained with little or preferably no Dominant maintenance.
  • noticed by the dominant when the protocol is not followed.
  • practical or it will not see regular use.
  • assist with facilitating and enriching the submissive headspace and D/s relationship rather than detracting from them.
  • avoid boredom and preferably guard against it.
  • be reasonably safe as well as within negotiated limits.
  • a statement of what to do rather than what not to do.
  • revisited early on and annually/as needed to ensure it is relevant and serving the intended purpose.

With that information you will be able to create your own rewarding protocols with your partner, provided you know what it is that you want and like, and if you don’t, it’s important to get to know yourself if you intend on directing your submissive in how to please you.

There is no policy like politeness; and a good manner is the best thing in the world either to get a good name, or to supply the want of it.” – Edward Bulwer-Lytton

With that information you will be able to create your own rewarding protocols with your partner, provided you know what it is that you want and like, and if you don’t, it’s important to get to know yourself if you intend on directing your submissive in how to please you.

Other People’s Protocols

Sometimes when developing your own protocols it can be useful to have a basis for comparison, take a look at some of these sources and note how very different they are in writing style, purpose and application.

Every action in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those present.” – George Washington

Protocol Schema

Once you start to have some ideas about what is important to you, begin organizing your thoughts into a Schema.

A protocol schema is a systematic way of describing the set of rules which constitute a protocol. The schema is divided into four sections:

  • Classes – the groups of people who interact according to the protocol. This section should specify the relation between each class and any hierarchy within it. For example, that waiters serve customers in a restaurant, but that customers are served according to gender and then in decreasing order of age.
  • Dress and symbols – any restrictions or requirements relating to clothing, and any symbols such as collars.
  • Speech rules – rules relating to silence, forms of address, speaking only when spoken to, or ways of referring to oneself or others.
  • Deportment – rules governing how the individual walks, stands, kneels, or otherwise acts physically, in ways not covered by the previous sections.

Within D/s, it is common that more emphasis will be placed on the submissive when writing out a protocol.

Introduction of Protocol

When introducing protocols, consider discussing them as well as the concerns and challenges that may arise with your submissive as they will have certain insights you will not, and require their feedback as they integrate protocols.

Introduce 1-3 at a time until the submissive has canonized them through conditioning and then add more of your protocols so as not to overburden your submissive with too many drastic changes at once such as by handing them a huge manual of protocols to be responsible for all at once. When trying out a new protocol, use it on a trial basis, reassess and alter the new protocol as necessary so that it will best serve the relationship. When the process is refined, agreed upon and trained, dedicate it to the protocols that are considered expectations of the Dominant.

Consider having them keep a log of when a protocol is first taught and when it is learned sufficiently to be set as an expectation so that the log may be referred to if there is a protocol breach. Keep your schema private from them at this time until such a time as it is no longer necessary.

If the slave finds that a protocol is not corrected when failed, the slave will often begin to have the relationship structure degrade in their mind which is poisonous to a relationship based on structure and power exchange. If this becomes common the structure can fail. If the Master finds they aren’t upset enough to mention and appropriately deal with a protocol when the expectation isn’t met, or worse, that it isn’t noticed at all when the expectation isn’t followed through on, it is best to consider downgrading the protocol to a stated preference rather than an expectation that must be met as is implied by using the term protocol.

If thou are a master, be sometimes blind; if a servant, be sometimes deaf.” – Thomas Fuller

High Protocol

The phrase “High Protocol” is frequently used in D/s and M/s, but has no universal meaning. High Protocol is often used during formal dinners in the Leather M/s community and at various other Leather events and is often marked by being very restrictive and akin to military protocol. Most high protocols for submissives do share some common features, including:

  • Elaborate restrictions on speech (eg silence; speaking only when spoken to; requesting permission to speak; or specific forms of address such as “Sir, yes, sir!”)
  • Deferential behaviour (eg not turning back to the dominant; keeping head below theirs; kneeling when otherwise unoccupied; requesting permission to leave the room.)
  • Immediate response to commands, and concentration on the Dominant and their requirements and desires.
  • Serving or waiting without drawing unnecessary attention to the submissive.

The fictional protocol in force at Roissy in the “Story of O” is a classic example of a detailed high protocol.High Protocol in front of people who are not members of the dominant’s immediate household may also have some of the features of a performance. High Protocol in front of vanilla persons may be considered a consent violation and might cause a disturbance.

“A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.” – Oscar Wilde

Protocol Levels

Protocol may also come in other levels and be sorted as needed by the Dominant, typically into groups such as high, medium, low and no protocol. An example of levels of protocol is The Estate Protocols of House Tanos.

Low protocol:
Used in vanilla and informal situations.

  •  A continuous reminder of service and its responsibilities
  •  Permitted casual behavior, yet with specific boundaries.
  •  Recognition of station, orders, demands and requests in an invisible and unobtrusive fashion.
  •  Behavior which reflects my intentions and desired interaction on a personal and professional level
  •  Awareness of accountability, despite the temptations offered by casual behaviour and independence.

Medium protocol:
For most public BDSM scene environments, and during play scenes.

  •  Prioritize decisions in the appropriate context
  •  The time and place for degrees of casual behaviour
  •  Consistent ground rules of action and responsibility
  •  Awareness and anticipation of my needs, wants, and desires- and those of other respected Dominants in my company as a priority
  •  Focus on BDSM priorities, no matter how long or strenuous the time spent in Middle Protocol

High protocol:
Normally used for short periods or during longer punishments.

  •  Complete attention and focus, no matter what the distractions.
  •  Absolute and instantaneous obedience, without delay, hesitation or question.
  •  Decision-making and priorities are NOT part of High Protocol; the servants wants, needs and desires are suspended.
  •  All extraneous movement, speech, and thought are unacceptable. If First Protocol is in effect, concentration is demanded.

Awareness that every move, answer and behavior is being carefully scrutinized and judged.

“Courtesy is cheap to provide and it pays great dividends.” – Truett Cathy

The Myths of High Protocol

by Master Bard

I am often asked, “What exactly is high protocol?” A strict dictionary definition would be, “a code prescribing strict adherence to a pre-determined etiquette.” In the BDSM context, protocols are the rules of behavior for Masters and slaves. What we generally call “low protocol” is a relaxed, mostly informal relationship with few rules and prescribed patterns of behavior. Obviously, a “medium protocol” D/s relationship is one with more rules than a “low protocol” one; but these rules are far from all pervasive. Finally, “high protocol” is a relationship where many, if not most, activities are conducted ceremonially and tied to a detailed set of rules.

“Manners are the shadows of virtues; the momentary display of those qualities which our fellow creatures love and respect. If we strive to become, then, what we strive to appear, manners may often be rendered useful guides to the performance of our duties.” – Sydney Smith

The most widespread myth about high protocol is that it is somehow higher on the BDSM food chain than lower protocol relationships. Many lifestylers (especially beginners) mistakenly think that high protocol is something to aspire to; they assume that they embody what one should think of as a “true” Master/slave relationship. Although nothing could be further from the truth, there seems to be a tendency to romanticize high protocol. So, why do so many people talk about high-protocol unions as though they are something to aim for in D/s relationships?

Much of the appeal of BDSM is built upon images of slaves serving in what seems to be high-protocol settings. Kneeling provocatively at the Master’s feet at all times; always serving Mistress’s drink in a prescribed manor; performing the perfect greeting ritual every time the Master returns home are all images of “high protocol” that are sensual, transcendent and very appealing. The fact that very few of us have neither the time nor the energy – nor the need – to go to these lengths on a 24/7 basis does not diminish the lure of this idealization. Furthermore, these descriptions reinforce the “BDSM Urban Myths Exposed” that unless you are a high-protocol Master or slave, you are somehow not a “real Master or slave.” This misconception is quite widespread. And if I do nothing other than dispel this notion here, I have done my job.

In my experience, I have found that high protocol functions best when it is for a short period of time – for example, within a BDSM scene. Or, for just a weekend. This can be a lot of fun. In the context of a 24/7 relationship, however, I believe it works only for a select few Doms/Dommes and subs. Those rare successful high-protocol couples are those where both partners crave it. It cannot simply be imposed on the slave; that is far too taxing. The slave cannot simply demand it; that requires far too much topping from the bottom. High protocol must be wanted, needed and truly desired by both partners. This is especially true in our world of jobs, kids and a gazillion other demands on our time and attention. From the Master’s (and slave’s) point of view, high protocol is a lot of work. So unless high protocol is a primal BDSM need for both of them, the workload will be crushing. Over time, what was initially fun will become hard, and oft-times unrewarding, work. The best protocol is one where both Master/Mistress and sub are most naturally comfortable. There is obviously some wiggle room here – but not a huge amount. Any level of protocol is fine– if it works for you!

Rituals and Protocols

by Achilles

Ahhhh, the excitement and adventure of a new BDSM relationship. I remember it well. A clean slate and so much to do to fill it up. Gotta teach her how to serve Me coffee and how to go through doors properly. How to follow at My shoulder and how to tidy up My toy bag after a scene. Kneeling properly, that’s REALLY important, because I like it done just ‘so’ and nobody does it right at first. How to ask Me questions and how to address My friends (sub or Dom, differently of course) at events. How to rub My feet and how to greet Me at the door. How to… how to… ummm, geee. There’s a lot to teach. A lot of rituals, protocols, ceremonies and such that I like in My relationship. How did all of that ever get figured out?

Oh right, it has taken 7 years… so far. It wasn’t like this on day, week, month or even year number 1.

These and other things, which fall into the blanket terms of protocols, traditions and rituals are elements of D/s which I enjoy sharing with My girl in our relationship. Each has a purpose and each has been honed through years of practice, trial, error and rehearsal.

Teaching her to kneel took about 2 hours of practice in a small room and was then documented precisely for later verification and review. Keeping it up is an ongoing process requiring that I check her each time she kneels and correct her if she is in error. Sometimes she has to go back to her records of the proper steps and practice on her own for a while.

The why of it tends to be something you either get or don’t. It would take an entire entry to explain My views on that and probably belongs in the forums for discussion instead of here in My Blog. If you like this sort of thing you get it. If you don’t, don’t let it bother you. Go read the Tea Master story ’cause you’re going to find the rest of this posting pretty boring. Really… it’s a good story.

…for those of you who have chosen to continue reading, “How do such rituals develop?”

They develop over time and they develop by you wanting them to happen. I mean you have REALLY got to want it. Rituals and protocols are a pain in the ass.

The oldest ones that My girl and I share were inherited from previous relationships. They were already habits she had and I chose to continue. How did I choose? It proved to be fairly automatic in that I only paid attention to those protocols that I enjoyed. Others were allowed to deteriorate simply by being ignored. If I didn’t remind her to avert her eyes when she greeted Me it would soon be forgotten. If I kept reinforcing her about walking behind Me and on My left she would maintain that habit.

This is the first part of why protocols are a pain. You have to keep on top of them all the time. If I don’t remind her to do as I wish she will eventually stop doing it. If You lose interest in a protocol it is going to stop happening because there is nobody to make it happen but You.

Then there are the newer protocols that have developed over our years together. Her inability to enter or exit My car without permission and, often, assistance. I open all doors for her. Kneeling as I prefer it done. Serving Me coffee or other beverages. There are dozens of others that weave in and out of our relationship. How did I know I wanted them? How did I decide how I wanted them to work? How did they develop into the smooth processes which flow so naturally between us?

The answer to all of these questions is time.

Protocols take time to fully develop and to become a natural part of the relationship. Let Me present an example of one thing that some people question. I open all doors for My girl.

Shouldn’t she open all the doors you might wonder? Shouldn’t she serve Me by easing My way and holding the door before Me? Perhaps adding a bow or curtsey as I pass? Think of it another way. My girl passes through no doorway without being admitted by her Master. Very Dom’ly? Very TPE and all of that now? Actually I simply believe a lady should have doors held for her and this is My girl so I’m going to treat her how I damn well please. <winks> Besides I usually make her carry everything so her hands are often full.

Now comes the development of the logistics of passing through doors together in an elegant manner. I call this the ballet of our door protocol and it really is quite intricate. It may seem like it would be simple.

1.      Master opens door
2.     girl passes through
3.      Master follows
4.     Door closes

It is never that easy. Which way does the door open? Towards or away? Left or rightwards? What if somebody is coming through from the other side? What if there are two doors (the classic airlock design) to be navigated in close succession? What if My hands are full? What if someone else holds the door for us?

This is where time becomes important along with a willingness to let the protocol evolve. Over the years we have developed (but not formally documented) many movements in the library of the door opening protocol. It literally has become a dance with many movements which seem to happen without thought but which have been worked out over time.

This is another part of the pain that is Protocols. Working on them, improving them AND remembering that they are YOUR protocols and YOU can change them as YOU wish. Letting them evolve and improve can be hard if you forget that they are YOUR rules. As they develop over time a lot of communication is required with your partner to clarify what You want and how You want it. Modifying a protocol doesn’t mean it was wrong. It means it can be improved.

Some folks will wonder at investing so much effort in something as simple as passing through a doorway together. What does it matter who opens the door or how they move through it together? Let Me repeat something I wrote here in an earlier paragraph: They develop over time and they develop by you wanting them to happen.

Protocols are a very personal part of a relationship and we will each develop our own. Not everybody can work with a readymade set of protocols from some website or series of books (with apologies and respects to My Dear Friend Kilted One) and when you develop your own way of doing things with a partner they have to be important to You. Why else would You put all this thought and energy into them?

Some protocols will not survive the test of time and energy. I have introduced protocols into our relationship and then let them slide because they simply did not hold as much interest for Me as I had thought. When I stopped paying attention to what she was doing My girl soon let those items slip and they simply faded from our traditions. One example was that she was allowed to touch any of My toys except My single tail whips. I thought this created a special aura around the whips of their being untouchable. Somehow special and above all other items in My collection of implements.

It was a pain to monitor, logistically annoying to keep up and she already couldn’t think any more highly of whips so it was also redundant. My girl probably thought I simply forgot about that one. <smiles>

You may have heard at some time that one of the characteristics of a Dominant is consistency. Protocols are one of the reasons why this is so important. I have to remember all the protocols and keep My eye on My girl when she is doing each to make sure it is being followed. If I tell her 3 different ways to kneel she is never going to be able to do it as I wish. If I consistently tell her one way I want it done then she can learn to please Me effectively in her performance of that ritual.

We all look for something different in D/s. We each have our own way of doing things including teaching, learning and improvement of both ourselves and our relationships. These are some ideas from My journey down this complex road. I hope they will always work for My girl and I. If not, I may need to make some changes. It will evolve.

“There is no policy like politeness; and a good manner is the best thing in the world”

Sources & Inspirations:

  • Master Bard
  • Submissive Guide
  • Achilles
  • Mistress Zeneka
  • BDSMwiki