Some M/s relationships have protocols, others do not. Some think protocols make their relationship different and unique, others mean that they are too complex and make their relationships inflexible and rigid. In this essay I will discuss the origin of protocols in the M/s community, their usage and applicability, and some ways of how they can be developed and structured. I will also try to convey some of the benefits and rewards that M/s relationships using protocols experience.
Note that this document is written using certain deferential capitalization and spelling not uncommon in the M/s lifestyle. Furthermore, I use “Master/He” to refer to the dominant person or persons, and “slave/she” to the submissive person or persons in the relationship. This is for matters of convenience only.
The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a protocol to be “a code prescribing strict adherence to correct etiquette and precedence (as in diplomatic exchange and in the military services)”. In other words, a protocol is a set of rules and conventions to be followed in interaction and communication between, for example, peers, superiors, and subordinates. It might specify anything from how the slave should perform certain tasks or actions, how she should speak at home or in public, to how she should dress and behave at formal tea service. Potentially, it could contain anything and everything the Master wants.
Most people seem to agree with that the usage of protocols in the scene dates back to the “Old Guard”. Gay World War II veterans returning back home formed groups that applied a structure similar to the one that they had been exposed to during the war. Each group had their own set of secret rules that members had to strictly follow. In many cases, the rules were developed into formal protocols sometimes also including rituals such as newcomer initiations and slave collarings. These rules and protocols, whether simple or complex, created a secret code among the initiated that over time developed a strong group feeling and unity between the members. The protocols gave them a simple way of distinguishing themselves from others, thereby establishing a clear separation between “we” and “them”.
The features of the military mindset from the Old Guard stayed and got incorporated into the scene in general. Today, without being Old Guard, many M/s practitioners use protocols in their relationships. Often these protocols are relationship specific and have been developed over time among the people involved.
So why are protocols used in these relationships? There are as many answers to this question as there are people using them. However, the most common reasons appear to be that the protocol:
creates a clear distinction between the Master and the slave
provides a good foundation for the relationship
through its rules clarifies for the slave how to serve and behave in different situations
strengthens the bond between Master and slave by distinguishing them and their unique relationship from others
Most protocols are directed towards the slave. They often regulate the slave’s behavior, communication, and interaction in one way or the other. Protocols can be very simple or very detailed. They can prescribe the specific way in which certain tasks have to be performed. The slave might have to use specific honorifics and figures of speech for addressing her Master. Each individual task or action might have its own rules. Clearly, the more specialized the rules are, the more difficult they become to learn as well as to enforce. When the number of rules increases (and often it does if one tries to provide rules for every possible situation) the protocol becomes cumbersome and almost impossible to keep track of. The slave will have difficulty learning and separating the numerous rules for all the different situations. And yes, it also becomes increasingly more difficult for the Master to reinforce and correct all mistakes.
Many practitioners agree that protocols should be simple and to the point. They should enforce a certain general behavior and obedience from which can be extrapolated and applied to many types of situations. The rules provide a foundation for the M/s relationship and enforce a certain dynamics between the Owner and the property. Simplicity, generality and broad applicability go a long way.
Let us take a look at some of the typical components of a protocol. Obviously, each Master has his ways of having things done, and this exposé is slightly biased towards our own views.
The slave lives to please and serve her Owner under any circumstance and at any time. This implies that the slave should always focus on her Master – his safety, needs, and desires. she should put him first in any situation as long as that does not put the slave into any danger. The slave should never show any sign of anger or frustration, crankiness or any disruptive behaviors, emotions or thoughts. she should never show any disagreement with an order or wish from her Owner. All orders should be promptly complied to and diligently executed.
Many Masters are concerned about their slave’s general appearance and therefore include requirements thereof in the protocol. For example, the slave might have to comply with certain hygiene requirements and only be allowed to wear certain approved clothing. General eating or weight restrictions are also common.
In general, the slave is always expected to speak and express herself in a respectful manner, whether she is talking to her Master or anyone else. Often a slave is required to use proper honorifics in the presence of her Master and other people involved in the scene. The slave might be required to refer to her Master as “Master”, “Sir”, “my Master” or “my Owner”, and herself in third person such as “slave”, “this slave”, “Your property” or simply “she/he/it”. It is also common that the slave has to ask her Master’s permission before beginning any activity. For example, instead of the slave saying “I am going to the restroom” she would be required to express this basic need as a request and use proper honorifics – “Sir, would it please Master if slave went to the restroom to take care of herself, Sir?”
When entering into the awareness of her Master a slave might be required to announce her presence by a simple curtsy or present. This present serves to acknowledge the slave’s status and readiness to provide any services her Master may require. Depending on the situation or the location the slave might present either kneeling or standing.
For an Owner, it is practical in public situations to always know where your slave is. Having the slave on one preassigned side simplifies fetching, carrying, or any other type of attending service she provides. It also minimizes bumping into each other while walking or just standing around.
As pointed out above, there are many variations to protocols. Every Master has his own way of doing things. Some Masters use different protocols depending on the context. A protocol can be location or situation dependent, i.e. depending on where the slave is or who the slave is interacting with, different rules may apply. In public places some of the more formal rules may be changed. Speech patterns using “Sir” or “Master” might be less restrictive in public in order to not draw attention from the surrounding. Similarly, the present might be performed in a different way in public situations. For example, a full kneeling present could be substituted by a subtle head bow accompanied by lowering of the eyes. With some thought and ingenuity it is possible to still maintain a certain protocol even in public. Clearly, it will be less formal (unless you want to get the attention of by passers – or shock them!) but still a protocol is in place enforcing proper M/s dynamics.
A protocol provides a good way to set a minimum standard for a slave’s behavior, communication, and interaction. Start your protocol from a few simple rules. It is hard to construct a complete or full-blown protocol right away. You and your slave will need time to accommodate new rules and structures, so the simpler the better. Over time modifications and more details can be added. Using an existing protocol developed by someone else for inspiration is helpful.
Make sure that rules and specific positions or tasks are thoroughly understood. Practice them together, make adjustments, and correct mistakes when they occur. This is often referred to as “protocol training” or just “training”. In the early stages, before the slave is proficient with the protocol, it might be very tiresome to correct each and every error. But if this is not done, the protocol will never be properly learned.
Initially, it is important to review the protocol on a regular basis together. Like anything else in an M/s relationship, if your slave is not doing something the way you want it or to your liking, you have to change it. After a while, the slave will start correcting herself and taking great pride in staying in protocol and following the rules. Keep in mind that a protocol is never static. It will evolve and change over time as you and your household becomes more comfortable with it.
Besides knowing how the slave will behave and perform in different situations, the protocol can be an important spiritual part of the M/s relationship. For many it is something that becomes very personal and intimate, sometimes providing a strong symbol for the household.
A protocol is not developed overnight. It takes time and hands-on experience to build and put into effect. Although the real results might not become apparent until after long time use, it is a well spent effort. You and your household will have something unique.