Updated: Aug 22
I adore having protocols in a relationship. Those rules and rituals power exchange couples create to serve their relationship provide a sense of belonging and security to me as a submissive.
Protocols have a wide variety. Some are routine (e.g., daily or weekly tasks), some are situational (e.g., opening the door for a dominant), and some are sexual (e.g., having a butt plug inserted before your D-type arrives for play). When kink classes teach about protocols it is almost universally for the dominant to establish and the submissive to follow.
But what if we reverse the script? What if people created protocols for a dominant? Can a dominant have protocols and still be the power holder in the relationship? Can a dominant receive any benefits from having protocols? Of course this can work.
Protocols work for power exchange couples because the dominant or D-type sets up these rules and rituals to benefit the couple. The D-type has the power to create, end or change protocols. The protocols are there to serve the primary needs of the the d-type in a relationship. This can be service which benefits the D-type primarily or only (think requiring a sub to engage in getting a full Brazilian wax) or protocols the D-type sets up to train the submissive (think requiring three journal entries about submissive self care for the week).
If protocols are set up for serving the D-type in the relationship either primarily or secondarily, then protocols for the D-type can fit into this framework. I am thinking of two specific type of dominant protocols: firstly ones that benefit the relationship by helping establish boundaries, and secondly ones which benefit the dominant directly. The dominant can and should retain the control by choosing to accept and engage in protocols and having the power to stop following the protocols as they choose.
D-Type Protocols Type I: Boundaries
All healthy relationships have some boundaries. Even 24/7 Master/slave relationships have to have some boundaries. Without boundaries, we trample all over our partner’s needs and feelings andit is not a healthy relationship.
A lot of us submissives have hard times establishing boundaries. In our need to please and our devotion to a dominant/D-type we will push ourselves well past what we are comfortable with. In some cases this can be okay. In others, it ends with a messy emotional breakdown and in more extreme cases, a need to severe the relationship.
Using protocols for a dominant submissives can ask to establish boundaries. Take one thing many of us let the dominant have complete control over: our time. We will stop what we are doing to text or call a dominant, we spend time preparing our bodies, carrying out exercises and grooming which will please our D-types, spend time planning events and scenes and all at the expense of other commitments.
Much of this sacrafice of our time is done willingly and with great joy. However, some D-types prove poor judges of our time available and our priorities. When there is a mismatch in demand and personal bandwidth, conflicts arise.
One thing I have done in D/s relationships where boundaries around time are an issue is to ask to establish protocols with my D-type. Simple things like agreeing the D-type will text to see if it is a good time to chat before calling or coming over can be very useful. I am one of those subs who will automatically feel a need to text back a D-type within minutes of getting a text. Once a protocol is established that the first text is something like, “Is this a good time to chat?” from the D-type allows both of us to meet a need. Time boundaries on my subby side are met. The D-type can still text anytime and expect a reply within an established time frame. However, that text may be, “I am in a meeting. Will text when free.”
In the above example, the D-type has not given up the power. I can still be expected to quickly reply to any and all texts. However, the agreement that they will begin with a question about availability and that I may provide an alternative time to talk gives me (the sub) a way to set and maintain boundaries around my time.
This practice became increasingly important as I became ill. Prior to becoming disabled, I had boundless energy. All nighters did not do me in the next day. I was happy to hit the gym, work a full day, go to cocktails with colleagues, and then out to listen to a night of music before returning to my hotel to sleep a few hours before jumping on a plane to my next meeting. When I became ill, fatigue hit and was relentless. There are weeks I will sleep 16 hours a day and still getting to take a shower is all I have energy for during the remaining 8 hours. Being able to clarify I am not able to talk/text at a moment helped me maintain boundaries as my abilities and needs changed.
D-Type Protocols Type 2: Service
Service isn’t just a submissive thing. Dominants provide a wide variety of services from topping in kink scenes to mentoring in the community and organizing events or fund raisers. Setting up service protocols fall within this framework of dominance.
Many D-types struggle with some aspect of their lives. This can be everything from regularly addressing their laundry issues, to self care, to working out regularly. Dominants are people just like submissives are. D-types are not necessarily more organized, better at money, or more disciplined than their submissive.
Just as protocols can be set up to help train a submissive or create a habit, the same can be true for a dominant. Protocols for training and self benefits need to be crafted for the individual. Please take the following as just a generalized example.
A dominant may complain regularly of not having their financial affairs in order. Things like logging receipts, making sure investment documents get filed as they arrive in the mail, reviewing credit card statements, and balancing a checkbook do not come easy to everyone. Finances cause a great amount of stress in relationships so even if the submissive isn’t married or living with the dominant, finances can be a source of contention in a relationship.
Establishing protocols which help the dominant establish a habit they desire can be useful. In the above example, a submissive and dominant may agree that on their weekly date, the dominant must let the submissive know if they have logged all the financial information for the week (input checks written, upload photos of receipts to Quickbooks, log mileage for gigs). The couple may even have an established punishment for a dominant who fails to do the protocol (e.g., they must complete the submissive’s weekly meal prep).
The protocol should have the primary goal of serving the needs of the dominant. The dominant and sub enter the protocol agreement upon the dominant’s request. And the dominant maintains the ability to end the protocol at any time. This way, the dominant remains in power but their needs will be better met.
These types of protocols can be especially helpful for a dominant living with a chronic illness. Folks living with mental health conditions and some other specific types of chronic illness can have difficulty with medication management. Incorporating dominant protocols can help a D-type partner with a mental illness.
For example, a protocol may be established that the dominant texts the submissive to confirm they have taken their medication for the day. While the dominant may engage in this protocol to help establish a habit and accountability, the submissive also gets the benefit of knowing their partner is taking care of themselves. If the dominant misses the daily text, it is a instant signal to the submissive to check in and make sure things are okay.
It can feel weird to ask a D-tyoe about creating protocols for the dominant. The protocols need to be structured in a way which maintains the power exchange and the new protocols serve the dominant. The dominant can abandon protocols at any time.
The thing is, in a healthy D/s or other power exchange relationship there is a committment to the dynamic by the partners. A dominant will most likely not be willy-nilly about establishing protocols for themselves or abandoning protocols after they have been set.
While this won’t work for every couple, it is worth considering in many couples. The sub’s role is to protect, cherish and serve their dominant. Sometimes that means having a way to check in to make sure the D-type is taking care of themselves and their things. Sometimes that means helping the D-type learn about their submissives needs. Dominant protocols can help.