Submissives all around will identify with one or more of these terms: discipline, obedience, structure, and rules. I'm a submissive that needs structure. With structure can come rules, and that's how my submission best functions in my dynamic with KnyghtMare. I serve him by actively following the rules that govern the structure of my day.

In D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationships, rules are often used to provide structure and establish boundaries within the power exchange dynamic. These rules serve as a guide for submissives to follow, which allows us to focus on our submission and the expectations of our Dominant partner. It's worth noting that while I’ll be talking about how rules and structure work for D/s relationships, not all power exchange relationships involve formal rules or protocols, and not all Dominants will require the same things from their submissives.

Open and honest communication is crucial in any power exchange dynamic to ensure that both partners are on the same page and feel heard. During the negotiation phase of any D/s relationship, make sure you talk about what rules you may be expected to follow and what behaviors you will need to adopt or unlearn.

Discuss and find a compromise for things you are uncomfortable with so that when rules are established, you know what to expect and have the tools to make sure you can comply. Speak up if you or your Dominant are uncomfortable with a particular rule or structure. There’s nothing wrong with adding or removing rules as you go, so don’t be afraid to start with one or two rules, and then when the dynamic needs a push forward, you or your Dominant can suggest adding more rules or structure.

Common Rules in D/s Relationships

Rules are the backbone of a D/s relationship. They provide the correct way to do things within the dynamic. Some submissives have a lot of rules, and others have very few. This is often decided by how flexible the structure will be. It is not necessarily better or worse to have a lot or a few rules. The only thing that matters is if you follow them correctly.

While the specific rules and protocols in any power exchange relationship will depend on the individuals involved, there are some common categories of rules that I’ve encountered during my years of participating in the BDSM community. These are a few examples:

Obedience: Many Dominants require their submissives to obey them without question. This could include following commands or directives given by the Dominant or simply deferring to the Dominant's judgment in certain situations. This one tends to be the most prevalent of the relationships with very few rules and a more flexible structure.

Respect: Dominants may require their submissives to always show them a high level of respect. This could include using specific titles or honorifics such as Sir or Master when addressing them. They may also require you to show deference and deferential behavior in other ways, such as downcast eyes, bows, and curtseys, or language changes, such as removing slang terms from your vocabulary. Politeness, courtesy, and a humble attitude are also in this category.

Communication: Some Dominants may require you to communicate with them regularly about your thoughts, feelings, and desires. You may also be expected to share fears, fantasies and open up about things that make you feel vulnerable. This could include daily check-ins or regular journaling assignments. Relationships may establish a weekly meeting or methods of communication when there is a serious or challenging issue to discuss.

Dress code: Many Dominants will require their submissives to dress in a particular way, either in private or in public. This could include wearing specific clothing items or accessories and adhering to a particular style of dress or grooming. My first rule from KnyghtMare, when we decided to explore BDSM, was that I had to shave my armpits, legs, and privates every other day. This was not only to show obedience to his preference but to make me more exposed to his gaze. Not being allowed panties or other undergarments is also common. Other dress code rules include wearing a collar or other material symbol of the relationship commitment.

Punishments and consequences: When a submissive breaks a rule or fails to follow a protocol, some Dominants will require them to accept punishment or consequence. This could include physical punishment such as spanking or caning, or non-physical consequences such as writing lines or being denied certain privileges. Not all D/s dynamics have punishments as part of their structure, and punishment should be negotiated at the start of the relationship.

While there are probably hundreds of examples of rules that exist in D/s relationships if you search for them online, it’s important that you decide what will work best for you and what will help the relationship grow.

Why Rules are Important in D/s Relationships

Deciding to establish rules in a relationship should never be done on a whim. Rules have a purpose in a dynamic to form a structure within which the people function well. Rules are not just for the submissive. Just as submissives are expected to obey the established rules, a Dominant is responsible for upholding the expectation of the required behavior.

Here are some reasons why rules are important in D/s relationships:

  1. Clarify Expectations: Rules help establish clear expectations for behavior and actions within the relationship. They provide a framework for how the submissive partner should behave in specific situations, which can help prevent misunderstandings and confusion.
  2. Establish Boundaries: Rules help establish boundaries that ensure both partners feel safe and comfortable within the relationship.
  3. Encourage Communication: When both partners agree on the rules, it encourages communication and negotiation between them. This can help build trust and create a sense of partnership in the relationship.
  4. Foster Discipline: Rules can help the submissive partner stay focused on their submission and maintain a certain level of discipline. By following the rules, they can demonstrate their commitment to the relationship and their Dominant partner.
  5. Provide a Sense of Security: Rules can provide a sense of security for both partners. The submissive partner knows what is expected of them, and the Dominant partner can feel confident that their needs and desires will be respected.

It's important to note that both partners should discuss and agree upon rules. They should also be reviewed and updated periodically to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of both partners. Ultimately, rules in a D/s relationship aim to create a safe and consensual environment where both partners can explore their desires and needs.

What is structure?

Structure is an organized framework for your routine. It can be decided upon for exactness, or you can have a more flexible structure that allows you some freedom for decision-making. For example, if your Dominant decided there would be structure to how you were to prepare for bed, they may set up rules that tell you when to go to bed, how to prepare and groom yourself, what to wear, and how to get into bed.

The structure of this routine is important to defining your submission and the value of your service. A structure can also be more flexible to let you decide how to go about the routine. If your owner only gives you a bedtime, then it is assumed that you will set up a routine leading up to bedtime so that you aren't going from eating dinner straight to bed. A structure and routine that works well will also prevent you from failing to follow the rule as given and being in bed on time.

Here’s how structure helps strengthen your dynamic:

It establishes clear expectations. The Dominant should clearly communicate their expectations for behavior and actions within the relationship. This may include rules around communication, obedience, protocol, or other dynamic aspects. By setting clear expectations, the Dominant can help the submissive understand what is expected of them.

Relationship structure can make room to create rituals. Rituals can be used to mark significant events or moments within the dynamic. For example, a submissive may be required to kneel and ask for permission to speak, or to perform a specific task as a daily ritual. These rituals help establish a sense of routine and structure within the relationship.

Structure encourages the use of protocol. Protocol refers to a set of rules or guidelines for behavior within a specific context. For example, a Dominant may establish a protocol for how the submissive should behave in public, or when they are in a specific physical space. Protocol can help create structure and routine by establishing clear guidelines for behavior in different situations.

A structured D/s dynamic is consistent. It is important for the Dominant to be consistent in their expectations and enforcement of rules and protocols. This consistency helps create a sense of stability and routine within the dynamic.

The structure can be flexible! While structure and routine are important, it is also important for the Dominant to be flexible and open to negotiation. The needs and desires of both partners may change over time, and the Dominant should be willing to adjust the rules and routines accordingly.

Is structure present in every relationship? Sure, on some level, there is structure in every relationship, vanilla or otherwise. In a D/s context, the structure may be more pronounced. Bedroom submissives tend to have less structure than 24/7 submissives and slaves, likely have more.

As I mentioned earlier, consistency is crucial when it comes to enforcing rules and protocols. The Dominant should be consistent in their expectations and consequences to help create a sense of stability and routine within the dynamic. The ultimate purpose of rules and structure in power exchange relationships is to create a safe and consensual environment where both partners can explore their desires and needs. It's important to keep this in mind when creating and enforcing rules and routines and to make sure that they are serving the needs of both partners.

While rules and routines are important, they should also be flexible and evolve over time. As the needs and desires of both partners change, the rules and structure should be adjusted accordingly. Both partners should be open to adapting and evolving the dynamic as necessary. Overall, rules and structure can be valuable tools in power exchange relationships, but they should always be established with communication, consistency, and consent in mind.