For many kinksters, especially newcomers, the idea of living together 24/7 with your dominant or submissive is the ideal dream. There are many different BDSM relationship types out there. Each of those have their own advantages and challenges, but none of them is as over-romanticised as a 24/7 total power exchange. That’s why often when we start engaging in a living together arrangement with our BDSM partners we get disappointed pretty quickly on how reality has its ways of sneaking into the BDSM dynamic.

It’s just very, very hard to keep up a high D/S protocol all day long, through all ups and downs of life and in any sort of situation. So that’s why very often there are different types of protocols, depending on where and with whom you are together.

Vanilla Protocol

If you are coming from a “play partner relationship” where you would only meet each other to engage in BDSM play then actually going out together and meeting friends and family will be a totally new experience.

You are used to having your dynamic, you are used to having your rules in how you talk to each other, how you interact with each other and probably a lot of those are highly inappropriate when you are in the grocery store or the fancy restaurant down the street. Probably your Mom and Dad would not be too amused if you sink down on your knees and offer your dominant a glass of wine with two hands after kissing it and longingly staring into his eyes until he or she graciously accepts the tankard from your hands.

Now, that might seem funny but actually as a submissive it can be a very strange, very insecure situation when you are with your dominant and you cannot express your submission and your servitude in the ways that you are used to. So often I see dominants saying, “oh that’s ok just call me by my first name and we’ll just pretend to be a vanilla couple”. But that’s really, really hard. So, I’ve found that it’s easier to find a vanilla protocol that will still establish the power exchange in a way that is still comforting for the submissive, respectful towards the Dominant but barely noticeable to the outside world.

Here’s a few things that you could consider:

Addressing the Dominant

In most countries addressing a dominant as “Madam” or “Sir” or “Master” or “Mistress” in a public setting would raise eyebrows. So it’s a good idea to find another term that the submissive can use to keep up some level of protocol within vanilla surroundings.

In our case we use the equivalent of ‘Honey’ that I will end any question and that I will regularly inject in normal conversation so that I don’t have to use the first name and at the same time I am expressing my respect and acknowledging the power difference throughout vanilla engagements.

Eating & Drinking

Very often it is part of protocol that a submissive asks his or her dominant for permission before eating or drinking. Again, that is something that would not be acceptable and might even raise questions of abuse with vanilla people. Whilst that’s a fun discussion to have you really don’t want to have it at the company Christmas dinner.

Typically D/s couples soften this rule in vanilla settings to the submissive waiting with eating until the dominant starts to do so. We’ve found that raising small children makes it very difficult to eat at the same time. That’s why we’ve established a different level of protocol in our home where I wait for my husband to give me an inconspicuous sign that I may start eating. In our case it’s as subtle as the blinking of an eye.

The interesting thing is that I always feel very submissive in those situations. I’m sitting there waiting, I’m looking at him and maybe raising my eyebrows slightly to indicate the question and I wait until he acknowledges it. Nobody else ever noticed even people within the BDSM scene were surprised when we told them because it is so very subtle.

Higher Protocol

The really higher protocol that you are used to and that you set whatever that may be, you will probably find is only applicable in those situations where the two of you are alone, or are in a BDSM scene at a party with other kinksters.

As soon as we are alone or with other kinksters I stop using the nickname I mentioned before and it’s right back to “Sir” and “Master”. I offer drinks with two hands as soon as my Dominant enters the bedroom I’m on my knees. These switches in protocol are important to us to acknowledge the depth of our relationship and reaffirm that total power exchange and that 24/7 relationship.

Dropping Protocol – the Concept of 23/7

When you live together, sometimes the need arises to be equals, even in a total power exchange dynamic. The concept of a 23/7 rather than a 24/7 acknowledges that any relationships needs moments of equality to make the inequality work.

Check out Equality in Total Power Exchange Dynamics for more.

24/7 Total Power Exchange for Real Takes Some Practice

Life has to go on and making the BDSM lifestyle work around your vanilla life is amazingly enriching for both those lives. Making that work is not all that difficult if you keep in mind that life isn’t perfect, you’re not perfect, your partner isn’t perfect and you make room for the imperfection.

Get comfortable with different levels of protocol. Find different ways to express your dominance and your submission and honour the equality that’s underlying the power exchange in a D/s relationship. Take the awkward moments with a smile and learn to laugh about life getting in the way of BDSM protocol. You’ll have much more fun that way 🙂

Enjoy getting to know each other better and I’d love to hear what forms of protocol you developed in your relationships in non-BDSM environments.

Sonja is a co-founder of boldpleasures. She's on a mission to free people to revel in their true sensuality by removing the stigma surrounding kink. Sonja writes about first steps, ditching the shame and how to combine kink and 'normal' family life. She's a mother of two and happily married.

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