3 Things Every Sub Needs to Know about BDSM Contracts

You cannot be a great submissive if you have a bad dominant.

 

A sweet 30-something self-identified submissive woman is sitting on my sofa, sniffling into her third tissue of the session. The conversation has been painful for her every step of the way. It’s taken her two years just to summon the courage to speak the unvarnished truth about the relationship she’s been having, to expose the reality behind the social smiles and pretenses that she usually hides behind. Before that, it took her almost two years to realize she was unhappy, as, little by little, all the little lies she told herself, and all the big lies her Master told her, began to crumble and reveal that the truths beneath them were depressing and maddening and hurtful. Now, five years into a relationship where she was the loyal, faithful, unquestioning submissive, she could barely face the reality that you cannot be a great submissive if you have a bad dominant. That was a truth I was trying gently to bring her to, anyway.

 

BDSM contracts and collarings are only as binding as both parties’ resolve to abide by them.

 

I’ve seen it, I’ve been there, I don’t want the t-shirt. I want all adults, regardless of sex, gender, and relationship dynamics, to be self-empowered enough to understand that every interpersonal adult relationship is transactional. That means that a person gives something in the expectation of getting positive things back. I’m not talking about financial security here. I mean the more intangible yet all-important things, like love, loyalty, honesty, respect, and commitment. Between adult partners that may also include more tangible things, like expecting sex to be a normal part of a marriage or that BDSM will be part of a normal BDSM relationship. It’s all about living up to the promises you made and being true to your words. Or, as in this woman’s case, since her partner passionately swore these things at the time he collared her, that if you say you will be a committed, caring, and consensual Master you actually behave like a committed, caring, and consensual Master.

The reason it took my client four years even to come to terms with the fact that her relationship was filled with lies and problems was that she could not unhinge her thinking from the power dynamic she thought she had agreed to. When she promised to be submissive for life to him, she meant it. She meant it so much that she took it as a sacred duty, rather than as a transaction that was conditioned on both partners living up to their word or at least trying to do the best they could. What she had not faced was that BDSM contracts and collarings are only as binding as both parties’ resolve to abide by them.

Here are three things I wish I could have told her before she first agreed to her contract. It would have spared her years of confusion and grief if she’d known these things going in.

 

3 Things Every Sub Needs to Know about BDSM Contracts

 

I’m making these tips for women but these tips apply to men and agender people as well. If you are the bottom/sub/slave in your relationship, you need to understand how contracts work — and how they do not — for your own protection. Doms need to think about these points too. If your sub partner isn’t abiding by his/her contract commitments, it’s time to renegotiate or rethink the whole relationship.

 

1 A contract is only as good as your partner’s word.

A former client would tell me weekly about all the ways in which her Master had shit on their contract. For example, he brought a third person in without discussing it with her, he barely did BDSM at home with her anymore, if he played he only did it in public where his friends could see him acting all Masterly, he was in denial that he was alcoholic, and — yeeks — he gave her an STI after cheating on her. He only admitted the cheating after her results came back. His apology, she said, sounded more like he was sorry he got caught than sorry for lying about it.

She, on the other hand, was maintaining all her original vows. She did her chores diligently, accepted his limitations on her social life without complaint, squelched her fears, shaved her pussy, sucked his cock, swallowed her tears, and gradually came to feel like a third wheel in her own Master/slave arrangement. She had tried everything to rectify the situation, essentially punishing herself extravagantly by redoubling her submission and trying not to listen to what her head was saying. She went to bed with pain in her heart every night and woke up every day to try all over again to be a better, more perfect slave to him as if that would make him a better Master to her.

 

You can’t have a mutually consensual BDSM contract between two people if only one of them honors that contract.

 

The one thing she never did was hold her Master accountable for destroying their contract in spirit and act. And therein lies the problem: if the PIC (person in charge) doesn’t meet his or her commitments and breaks the contract he or she signed, the contract is BROKEN. Kaput! It’s dead, Jim. It’s an ex-contract.

You can’t have a mutually consensual BDSM contract between two people if only one of them honors that contract. Because BDSM contracts aren’t legally enforceable (see 3 below), they emphatically depend on both partners keeping their word. If one of those partners continually breaks his or her word, they have broken the contract.

It doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the relationship. You can try to renegotiate and update the contract to a new agreement that’s more reality-based. You can hold your partner accountable for their promise to uphold their end of the deal and make him or her work with you on a more satisfying dynamic. You can try couples’ counseling to work through the hard patches.

Or you can pack up and leave because that foundation you thought your relationship was based on was snatched out from under you. If you continue to submit, you are merely dominating yourself. That’s right, functionally speaking, your dominant has emotionally, spiritually and psychologically vacated the premises.

Do you want to live in an empty building with a partner who poops on your heart? No, you do not. You owe it to yourself to face it and deal with it. The sooner you do, the less heartache you’ll feel in the end. Submissives and slaves who do stay in on relationships where the dom/master broke all their commitments are, at heart, punishing themselves. They are forcing themselves to stay in relationships that make them unhappy. Why? That is not BDSM. That is self-hatred and low self-esteem. It never ends well. Bank on that.

 

2 BDSM Contracts are not written in stone.

BDSM contracts are written (or agreed to verbally) according to the feelings of the people at the time they consented to the contract. This applies to subs, especially new ones who still have stars in their eyes and unicorn rainbows shooting out their genitals. But it also applies to hardcore, craggy old dominants. Unlike legal contracts which are binding down to the word and where parties may suffer penalties for not following it to the letter, a BDSM contract is amenable to change. More than that: a BDSM contract demands to evolve as the people who sign it evolve.

This applies to all involved. A newbie may discover that the strict discipline she wanted at the beginning doesn’t suit her personality as much as she fantasized it would. An experienced person may discover that she wants more from the relationship than she originally thought she did. The only thing you can count on in life is change, and your BDSM contract should accommodate those changes by remaining a fluid document.

I recommend that BDSM contracts get reviewed, updated and renegotiated periodically, at intervals that are comfortable for you. You can be pro-active and review them on a set schedule whether you feel you need to or not. If so, use it as a romantic opportunity to refresh your vows to each other. You must review them as soon as there is a serious breach, like your partner cheating on you or something else that breaks your heart. That’s an opportunity to get it back on track before it completely goes off the rails.

If your partner balks and tries to convince you to let it go and that it will never happen again, I still recommend a renegotiation. This shows the dominant that you are pro-active about your own happiness and that there are repercussions for betraying you. You can always return to the original contract if the dom demonstrates through his/her actions that it really was a misunderstanding or one-time event.

On the other hand, if the dom insists you are bound by the original terms while he/she is free to do as he/she pleases, pack your bags. That dom doesn’t understand the difference between consensual BDSM and abuse.

According to the data in Different Loving Too, experienced BDSMers with solid relationships all said that they continually fine-tune their written or verbal contracts with their primary partners until, at some point, they find that final perfect power dynamic that works for them. At that point, they may forego contracts: the BDSM dynamic merges into their lives, making it feel as natural as breathing.

So don’t ever think the way it is today is the way it will always be. It can take years to build perfect harmony in your BDSM relationship. Don’t rush your journey. Don’t be afraid to take detours. Take time to look at the sights along the way. When you finally get where you needed to go, your persistence will be rewarded in profound ways.

 

3 BDSM contracts are not legal documents.

In case you ever wondered (or believed someone who claimed otherwise), BDSM contracts are not legally binding in the United States. You may find a creepy lawyer to sign off on your Master/slave contract but it will still be a worthless document in a court of law. The US has laws against both slavery and against domestic violence. It is a federal crime for citizens to own a human or be owned by one. Similarly, domestic violence laws make it legally impossible to consent to abuse, whether it’s physical punishment or emotional abuse.

BDSM contracts are awesome relationship tools to outline and articulate what each of you consents to do with the other, to set limits and boundaries, or, conversely, to create a list of expectations and responsibilities that both partners can agree to. In rare cases, they might be back-up documents in an existing legal dispute where someone says they never consented and you have their signature saying they did. Judges who grant leeway when they believe the acts were mutually consensual (like, for example, a spanking both parties agreed to) may look at them. Maybe. It depends on the judge and the jurisdiction.

So if a dom ever threatens to bring the Law into your private contract, know now that it’s bullshit. The Law won’t get involved except, potentially, to bring the dominant in on charges.

The genuine power of a Master/slave or other BDSM contract is the power you give it in your heart. If you both believe in it and abide by it, it’s a spiritual, magical document and that’s beautiful. But it is not and can never be legal in the US to own slaves. Anyone who tries to make you believe you are bound by your contract by some higher law is lying.

Finally, I’ve occasionally heard of doms threatening slaves with Community ostracization over breaking a contract. That’s another lie. The Community is keenly interested in protecting submissives from abusive doms. Speak your truth and people will listen.

 

Please never forget that giving up power to someone else doesn’t mean you stop protecting yourself if or when something goes wrong. Your safety and emotional well-being come first.