So, I’ve never participated in Kink of the Week before. This is partially because I tend to think of myself as not having “a lot” of kinks, and partially because I was always running myself ragged trying to tell every single story that happened in my life. Now that I’ve stepped back from feeling responsible for keeping up with that, I feel able to do more posts like this, so I’m going to give this a go. 🙂
The KOTW topic this week is protocol.
My first D/s dynamic with was with Malignus, and it began two and a half years ago. When we first met, I was very uncertain of whether or not I was actually submissive or if I was just a bottom. A lot of this was my general discomfort with non-spanking BDSM. At the time, I felt very different from the people that I interacted with at Dungeons and munches in Los Angeles. I felt like they saw me as boring, or as “doing it wrong” because the things that I liked and wanted were so incredibly specific, and a lot of it seemed far more casual than what other people did. I began the journey of discovering what submission actually meant to me (a process that I think will always be continuing) and I found that it was something that I identified with strongly. I liked the feeling of trusting someone and sharing control over aspects of my life. I grew into the role very, very well, and was able to identify that this was actually a huge part of what I wanted from my kink. There were things that continued to make me uncomfortable, though. One of these was the idea of protocol.
During one of our original conversations, Malignus mentioned to me that it would be an option for him to “train me” in “high protocol.” He wasn’t pushing this, or anything, just putting it out there as an option. This idea made me tremendously (and irrationally) upset. I’ve always been very put off by the word and idea of “training.” I associate it with breaking down that which is naturally there and replacing it with something else, and this was something which I thought I saw in some D/s relationships and found very threatening. I was scared that being a submissive would make me lose myself. I didn’t want my normal preferences and behaviors to be broken down and replaced with “protocols.” Malignus did his best to reassure me that this wasn’t what he meant at all, but when I was not able to be calmed, we just ignored the topic in general.
I remained uncomfortable if he talked about his other submissives and their ways of practicing protocol, or if I interacted with people who prescribed to a standardized set of protocol. Eventually, I realized that this was because my kink is so, incredibly personal to me and I didn’t want to feel like I had to follow someone else’s set of rules. For a long time, “protocol” remained a dirty word, though, even though I was constantly being assured that no one was going to force me to follow any arbitrary and unnecessary rules, and that “they” couldn’t make me do ANYTHING without my consent.
Eventually, I grew up a bit, got over myself and became more confident in the scene. I got over my “spanko-angst” and began to relate well to people with other kinks. I stopped being so puritanical about “spanko purity” and explored other kinks a bit, discovering a variety of things that did and didn’t work for me. From here, I was able to look back at my original D/s relationship and realize that it was fairly strictly protocoled. It was just our own, personal protocol, and Malignus wasn’t calling it that to keep me from getting freaked out again. 😛
Now that I’m past my dislike of the word, I identify protocol as being something that exists in the space where the rules and rituals of a D/s relationship overlap (I realize that this is similar but different to the article which Jade referred to in the KOTW post). Observe my diagram:
|I made this in approximately 75 seconds, so I hope it doesn’t suck too much.|
Take my D/s dynamic with Paul, for example. There are certain things that are just rules and don’t fall under the heading of Protocol. It’s a rule that I can’t do irresponsible things that put myself in danger, but there isn’t any repetition there, and it isn’t part of the routine of our lives and interactions, really. One could argue that I’m in the routine of thinking before doing stupid things, but it’s not the same.
There are other rules that integrate into the habits of my daily life, and are therefore part of the ritual of our relationship: it’s a rule that I go to bed before 2:00 AM and a rule that I update my blog at least once a week. These things are also fairly procedural, so in my mind, they can be considered part of the protocol of our dynamic.
On the other side of the chart, there are things that are ritualistic or part of our habits that aren’t really rules. These behaviors are still very important to me, because they create stability. For example, I know that after any sort of scene, we’ll cuddle for however long I need to before we try to do anything else. It’s part of the ritual that we’ve created around playing, but it isn’t a rule, per se. I wear my shell necklace every day because it makes me feel close to Paul despite our current distance, and it is a visual symbol of our relationship. Having it there is part of my daily ritual, but it isn’t a protocol, because there’s no enforcement that I do this.
There isn’t any particular reason why the things that fall into the “protocol” space are more important, though. The distinction is purely semantic, but science knows that I love semantics. All three things (rules, protocol and ritual) create a sense of stability and make me feel both secure and loved. Certain aspects become very important to me when we’re apart from each other, especially things that I can do on my own to engage in the dynamic (like working on my blog or going to bed on time) if, for some reason, we can’t be in communication at a particular moment. Others, especially the protocol and ritual that we use within a scene, become very important when we’re together. They’re little things that make me feel very submissive, and it’s a wonderful feeling.
The creation of these practices over time has been very special to me. I still can imagine how distasteful what I thought protocol was meant to be would be. It would make D/s feel very cold and impersonal to simply try to apply a set of “right” or “one size fits all” behaviors to it. When I read about other people’s protocols, especially when looking through the KOTW posts, I sometimes think “That would never work for me,” or “that sounds really detached” or something like that. That’s the beauty of this thing. Other people’s protocols don’t HAVE to work for me. Only mine do. And they do.
Very interesting post. I can relate to your dislike of certain words and labels. I used to bristle if someone assumed I was a sub.
Thanks, Lea! I used to feel the same way before I identified that way, and I still do when someone I don’t know we’ll treats me that way.
Excellent post. I agree with Lea. It annoys me when a Top treats me as their sub.
Thank you, Joey! Few things irk me as much as when someone who isn’t in a dominant position over me (and who I haven’t invited to “off chart boss” me) expects me to follow their protocol. It’s a sure way to get to see me tell someone off!
My kink comes from the starting point of a Spanko and even as a top looked at the term protocol as something “those BDSM types” were into. You make a great point about how protocol can be what is established between two people more than a universal set of rules.
Thanks so much! I find nothing appealing about the idea of universal protocol, but I’m glad to have the practices I do in my life. 🙂
So glad to see you post in KOTW! And very much agree that protocols only work if they come from YOUR relationship, and not some set of “universal” rules. W and I have had that exact conversation, and it is one reason he has never liked them. The few that we have established have grown out of our interactions, not something we found in the “Big Book of BDSM.” 😉
Also, I like your definitions (and cool graphic, even if it did take a whole 75 seconds to make!) much better than the ones in the article I quoted. I have been struggling to figure out what the differences are between rules, protocols and definitions, and you made it easy. 🙂
Thank you, Jade! I’m so excited that you liked my definitions and graphic! I hope to participate in more KOTWs in the future!
I love the way you explain the difference between rules, ritual, and protocol. I remember being afraid I’d lose myself in the beginning, too.
I really like this – “Other people’s protocols don’t HAVE to work for me. Only mine do. And they do.”
Thank you, Sammi!
wheres the spanking debs?
Debs has currently stepped back from the scene and her videos are not available at the moment. Sorry!