What's the difference between a protocol and a ritual? Even experienced people in the lifestyle can get tripped up on this one, but there are a few basic differences that will allow you to rapidly tell the two apart.
- Is an action that is repeated the same way each time, usually at some designated time and place.
- Is done repeatedly over time, usually for a purpose
- Can be formal or informal, public or private
Some examples of common rituals are greeting rituals where the submissive meets the dominant at the door and kneels, a short dedication or ritual said while lighting a candle, asking permission to enter the dominant's bed, preparing coffee each morning for the dominant or sending a "good night" email each day before bedtime.
Rituals are given by the dominant, and are usually intended to invoke a certain feeling or mindset. If done with intention, rituals can be calming and centering, even in the face of an otherwise difficult day. Rituals strengthen and serve as a reminder of the bond between submissive and dominant by encouraging a sense of mindfulness in everyday things. One of the most commonly assigned, a coming-home ritual, can be a good way to help transition from a busy workday into the submissive role.
- Is a behavior or set of behaviors assigned to a particular place, for a certain period of time, or during certain situations
- Does not necessarily occur on a regular basis
- Can often be assigned in degrees such as "high," "medium," or "low" protocol, depending on the setting
Some examples of common protocols can be restrictions on speaking or hugging friends at a play party, being required to walk a step behind a dominant at an event, being forbidden from looking dominants in the eye at meetings, or being required to speak in the third person or sit in a certain posture at a formal "high protocol" dinner.
While rituals tend to be completed day after day, protocols are assigned once in a while, for particular situations or social interactions. For instance, a dominant who says, "Every Tuesday you will wash and fold all of my laundry neatly, hang the shirts, and while on your knees, put the pants in my bottom drawer," is assigning a ritual. If the dominant says, "This Tuesday you will go to the play party but for the entire evening, you may not speak unless spoken to or raise your eyes to any other D-type," then a protocol is being required.
Rituals and protocols can add richness, structure and even a little fun to a D/s relationship. Knowing the difference between the two can help the submissive better understand the desires and intentions of the dominant, and to be more pleasing when performing them.