Relationships: by Tanonymous
SM Relationships: A Good Slave Contract
My personal definition of a "good" slave contract is not the only one in the world or even necessarily the best one for you. It does include a few criteria that I have seen in every working, happy, healthy, functional, long term BDSM relationship I have personally lived with or known of. They're pretty simple and basic, and they tend to apply to relationships outside of BDSM as well in my experience.
Which is something we occasionally forget as a group; many of the basic needs and expectations in a vanilla romantic relationship will still be present in even the most extreme BDSM relationship. We're different, but not entirely immune.
Here are my observations for what makes a "good" slave contract and a practical basis for a working, long term BDSM relationship:
1. Realism and honesty - both parties are experienced enough to know that they can actually live with these things they have contracted to on a day to day basis, or at least honest enough to admit to each other that they are exploring their limits. There is no wishful but unrealistic fantasy in the contract that one or both of them is likely to fail to live up to on a practical level. In other words, when these promises are made, they are made on the basis of good self knowledge and complete self honesty.
Note that what is unrealistic for Novice Submissive X may be barely adequate maintenance for Experienced Slave Y aka "Old Leatherbutt", who really does want the severe daily whippings outlined in the slave contract. However, Dominant Sadist A may be delightedly capable of administering these whippings, while Owner B may well burn out on the same steady diet.
The "good" slave contract takes into account the needs, desires and limitations of both partners.
2. Compatibility of desires - both partners are genuinely happy with the conditions as set forth; one is not attempting a total, core level change of his or her psyche just to please the other, unless that is specifically what he or she desires and chooses to aim for in submission.
In other words, fetishists and masochists don't always make for good long term partners if some critical element of desire is absent from the other partner and the motions are gone through just to please.
Promising to do something in a slave contract that you really, truly have no interest in doing makes for potential obstacles ahead. Which can be worked through with time and patience, but it can be a rough road.
3. Solid experiential basis - Many working sets of rules and slave contracts I know of in relationships were consolidated after the fact and not before.
In other words, the partners got together, put together through trial and error the rules and conditions that worked for them, and only then wrote them up as a formal contract.
The main exception to this rule I have personally observed is where an experienced dominant (or sometimes an experienced submissive) has a working slave contract that sie has lived with successfully in the past with other partners, and it is adapted to the new relationship.
A set of slave rules or a contract that is used as the core trust basis of a relationship tends not to work as well in my experience if it is more of a list of New Year's resolutions of what you want to have in the relationship rather than a practical model of what already works for you. New Year's resolutions can get broken and laughed off. Core level trust can't. Know the difference.
4. Openness for re-negotiation - Some couples I know read their contract over on a yearly, twice yearly or even monthly basis, and renegotiate what is and isn't working. Sometimes changes are made, sometimes they aren't; but a contract that does not take into consideration the changing needs and circumstances of two growing people is more likely to break than to flex and survive.
Sample circumstances in which a contract might need to change: illness or accident leading to disability, the birth of a child, gaining or losing a job or income, uncovering or working through emotional traumas, a change in living circumstances, etc.
Ignoring these things and trying to live by rules that have been severely impacted by lifestyle changes is less likely to work than a simple renegotiation - or in the case of a TPE, unilateral decision to change the conditions of the relationship according to the new circumstances as necessary.
A corollary to being open for re-negotiation is input from both partners. In the case of a TPE, the submissive partner does not have any decision making power per se over the new circumstances of the relationship, but a responsible dominant will be taking input from the slave in any case by hir assessment and judgement.
These criteria for a working slave contract aren't so very different from the expectations in a completely vanilla marriage - honesty, realism, compatibility, listening to your partner and being willing to negotiate.
One of the unwritten and damaging myths in our community (along with the existence of a One True Manual Of Proper Slave Positions) is that since we are so different from the vanillas, we can throw out all the old rules and expectations entirely.
Certai nly we can modify them to suit our needs as BDSMr's, but when we discard the most basic principles of human relationships and claim that there are no rules at all that apply to us, we do so at our own peril.