Contracts and Negotiations 101: The Devil in the Details

Nemo / Pixabay

Nemo / Pixabay

Everyone got their study hats on? Good.

Last week we talked about what a BDSM, or relationship, contract actually is, and some of what it is not. This week, I thought we should hit on some of the terms that sometimes can be defined in different ways, because that’s where a contract can become the key to a fantastic relationship, or a nightmare on earth.

Imagine, if you think of the word ‘discipline’ to mean ‘a denial of priveleges after one partner fails to do something both agreed upon’, but the other person thinks of ‘discipline’ to mean ‘beating the fuck out of the other person when they say something I don’t like’, the simple lack of clarity could have serious consequences. So it’s absolutely vital that both of you completely understand how you will use each term.

The devil really IS in the details. Hiding there, ready to ambush your ass because you didn’t pay enough attention to a simple little detail.

How do you know what needs to be defined?

This is where you’ll have to do a little research. *Raises brow* I know you did not just groan. This isn’t the same boring research you were forced to do in high school for term papers and shit. This kind can actually be fun. And it certainly isn’t meaningless crap about some dude who lived in the 17th century. No, this research can save your life, make things vastly more enjoyable, and save time stuck figuring it out when you could be doing whatever it is you’re talking about. So, we ready?

Before you start the ‘search’ part of the research, make a list of terms you’ve seen used when people discuss BDSM relationships, and write down what you think each means.

Rather than make an exhaustive list of all the possible words and terms and their meanings here, I’m providing links to various sites that define BDSM terms. It would be impossible to include everything in such a list, so this is where the ‘search’ part comes in. Check each link for the definitions on your list, and make note of any differences in meanings or gray areas.

BDSM glossary
BDSM terms
Perverted Vocabulary

While you’re looking up the terms you’ve heard of, look a little further on these sites and read about the terms you aren’t familiar with. Add any that interest you to your list.

Got the Definitions. Now what?

First, compare the definitions on the different sites. Some might have alternatives, or entirely different meanings than what you understood the word to mean. Make notes and settle on one meaning for each of the terms on your list, and any you added as you were looking them up.


Now that you have the meanings of some things that might come up in your contract, make a copy of your list to share with your partner. This can become an addendum to the contract to clarify exactly what the contract intends with each term. It’s also a good reference to keep handy to clear up misunderstandings on the spot.

If possible, ask your partner to do the same exercise. You can compare lists and definitions with each other to gain a better understanding of both your knowledge and expectations.

Next week…

we’ll start talking about the various sections of contracts and examine wording from real contracts.

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  • Note:

    I usually refer to males as the more dominant and females as the more submissive. The intention is NOT to say that ALL relationships should fit that pattern. My relationship experience is with male dominant, female submissive arrangements and that is the only sort of relationship I have firsthand knowledge about.