I love protocols. I have found safety and security in protocol for years. It helps me get into submissive head space. It can create anticipation. It is a way for me to know that I am doing what pleases my D-type.
I hadn’t thought about how critical protocols can be in a long term relationship until I started reading Mating in Captivity by Ester Perel. First, I will plug this book. Perel offers amazing observations and insights about eroticism and long term relationships. I would say it is now one of the few books I would recommend to anybody looking for a long term relationship. I just picked up the book after a friend recommended it and was blown away. Plug over.
Perel suggests (and I think she is right) that eroticism in a relationship requires a certain level of uncertainty and unknowing. The ability to find your partner sexy and erotic dies when you feel you “know everything” about them and there is too much emotional intimacy. This is counter to most therapists who suggest that erotic and sexual intimacy requires comfort and deep emotional intimacy.
Think about it in terms of your relationships. When was the time you were having the hottest sex with your partner(s)? What makes your partner sexy and enticing to you? It is a balance between complete uncertainty and complete intimacy. It is a little like the Ally Wong joke when she says she “really likes sex when she is going to survive but not quite sure she is going to survive it.” That is a sentiment I know many kinky folks can agree with.
Leaving Sex to Chance
Part of making sex exciting, making it passionate, is leaving things to chance. Planning out every detail, every action in a scene makes it predictable. If I know we will start with a five minute blow job, then a few minutes of light flogging, followed by heavy flogging, then a little caning and I know I will be called a “dirty little slut,” then he will blow a load on my ass, well by time three of four, I’m bored.
Leaving everything open ended can be too scary and too dangerous. If I don’t know the person, if we have no safe word, if we have not discussed limits, and I am just grabbed in a club and something starts, I am too frighten and worried about protecting life and limb to make this sexy for me.
Protocols allow a nice middle ground. Not all protocols allow for this, of course, but some protocols increase both safety and eroticism in a relationship.
Protocols can allow the submissive to understand what is expected of them. If I know my Sir wants me groomed in a given manner, if he wants me to wear a specific type of clothing or color, if he wants me to kneel before him in a specific fashion, there is comfort in this. When these protocols are established, they are set for multiple reasons. The D-type has some specific preferences that they want to make sure the sub meets. Some protocols are set for the S-types needs. The sub may have protocols that encourage good behavior such as marking off what they did at the gym that day before any play begins. Sometimes is requiring the S-type set the energy of the play space because they are energetically sensitive. All these protocols help the partners feel secure.
Effective Use of Protocol
Protocols also can help create anticipation and desire. Plenty of people in D/s relationships have protocols that set up a play scene but do not dictate what will happen. For instance, an s-type may be asked to set out the toy bag before a scene but the D-type does not specify which toys to set up for that specific scene. As you lay out the whips, paddles, floggers and more there is hope, anticipation, or dread about the use of each implement. The protocol is observed but there is no certainty to what will happen.
The s-type can use protocols to create anticipation and uncertainty as well. Protocols are standard routines, rules and preparations. If an s-type occasionally breaks one of these or alters on of these, the D-type knows that they do not completely know and do not have complete control over their s-type. Sure, breaking some protocols may end up in punishments, but sometimes a s-type wants that.
I am not talking about breaking protocols that lead to disrespect or distrust between partners. If you have a rule that you don’t drink in public and it was set because you had been drinking in public and then disrespecting and mouthing off, breaking such a rule is not okay. This can lead to distrust and hurt between partners.
What I am talking about is breaking the smaller protocols that can be changed up without showing too much disrespect. For example, if you as an s-type are required to have on black panties every time you plan to play and you show up with some silver lame` disco panties and bra on, it breaks protocol. However, if you know your D-type will enjoy said outfit, even if he scolds or punishes you for breaking protocol, it is a way to introduce small levels of uncertainty and keep things sexy. And really, if you know your D-type is smiling and thinking, “Damn! Her ass looks amazing in those disco pants!” as he is spanking you for not wearing black panties, it is really a win-win.
Some protocols can be overly burdensome. I am familiar with the 128 groups and the other groups on Fetlife and kink sites with a ton of rules and protocols. I have to say, this seems completely unnecessary and onerous. If you have to consult your rule chart to see if your s-type has broken a rule, 1) the defeats the primary purpose of protocols, 2) you have eliminated originality and creativity, and 3) who the hell has that much time!
Protocols should serve a purpose. They must be flexible. They should be evaluated for usefulness. They are a good way to foster both safety and eroticism.
If you haven’t used protocols, I would encourage trying a few. Introduce just one or two. See how they work. Decide if you and your partner will keep them for now.
If you are unsure about how to create protocols, I would suggest you check out SugarButch.com and writing by Sinclair Sexsmith and rife. They are planning on introducing the online course “The Protocol Game” in January. For those of you interested, I would definitely recommend their work. These two are smart about protocol and relationship and their classes are quite accessible to all levels of kinksters.