This is the first in a series of posts about contracts and negotiations between a Dominant and submissive.
At the beginning of a D/s relationship, many people feel the need to lay out the exact expectations from each partner. Often known as a contract, this is a formal agreement about the roles each will fulfill. It is important to note that these contracts are NOT legally binding, but within the relationship the expectation is that both parties will honor the conditions. This type of contract can protect you, or it can be used against you. It’s up to you to make sure the contract you negotiate protects you.
The formality of a contract may not be necessary in your situation, but many people prefer to have a written document to specify what happens in any gray areas that may come up. Our goal with these posts is to help you be aware of the pitfalls that can arise from a contract and how you can keep yourself out of what can become a dangerous or abusive situation.
Many of you are married or in long-term relationships already, so while it might seem these posts don’t apply to you, they can be adapted to fit many situations. Take a good look, and see if there are areas in your life that can benefit from solid negotiating skills, whether it’s professional or personal.
Remember, it’s up to you to look out for you.
Let’s start at the beginning, negotiating the contract or priveleges. The following is adapted from several sources, including forum discussions on the topic.
Rules for Negotiations
1. As an adult, you are responsible for your own safety. Do not give up your rights as a human, or your sensibilities as an adult and put yourself in danger. Mental and physical abuse are not part BDSM or any healthy relationship. Never.
2. If you are new, or about to begin with someone new, set very short goals for your first encounters. You can escalate your relationship later. Start small. Build from there. If meeting outside of a public venue, follow every established rule for safe first encounters.
3. Define your safe words. Use them if you need to. Know where the door is and know that you can use it, too. Never put yourself into a situation where you have no experience with someone and can not access the door if you choose to leave.
4. Familiarize yourself with the lingo of BDSM, kink, and fetish and discuss your interpretation of words and phrases. The same thing can mean different things to different people. These can be the gray areas that crop up after the contract.
5. Define your limits for your partner as well as your experience allows you to do it. Then stick by your limits until the next negotiation about them.
6. You are equal to the other person in this negotiation, whether you consider yourself Top, bottom, Master, slave, Dominant, submissive, switch or any other label you can find. After the negotiations, the equality arrangement may be different. But until an agreement is reached, you have just as many rights as the other person.
7. Go with your gut. If something feels wrong, it probably is wrong for you. Address that issue up front. And remember rule number 3. Always know where the door is if you need it.
8. You may be negotiating in good faith, but you have to be aware that the other person might not be doing the same thing, either through inexperience or bad intentions. Be wary of coercion like, “if you are a real submissive, you will….”, or “I can only be with a real Dominant who does….”. These are negotiations and there should be give and take. If someone is throwing roadblocks to your negotiations or issuing you ultimatums, you should recognize them as problems and consider why you are still there.
9. If the other person presents a make or break issue that does not suit you but they will not budge on, consider the deal is already broken and move on. If they concede it grudgingly, and mutter under their breath that you “will do it eventually…”, beware. When you are involved in a BDSM negotiation, hard limits are to be respected. A later negotiation may change the hard limits, but without a new negotiation, established limits have to be respected.
10. BDSM Negotiation is about finding your personal happiness and fulfillment. It is about establishing trust and opening up within your relationship. Keep those goals in mind as you negotiate with your partner. Keep your eye on the prize. Good partners will always work towards each other’s mutual happiness. They will not be looking to take things at someone else’s expense.
In the coming weeks, we will explore these and other issues further. If you have experience or insight, please comment or join the discussion forum.