by Aramock Nanuck
Long-term dominants are frequently asked to advise on or explain collaring, the ceremony and the significance of this activity in the BDSM community. As with most things in this lifestyle, there are extremes and varying degrees of importance placed upon this act and, in particular, the difference between one on one and poly situations.
Rituals Define Relationships
Unlike casual players in the lifestyle, those who live to the fullest this lifestyle find it deep and spiritual. Ritual forms around the “collaring ceremony,” which lends credence to its importance. Many individuals have participated in numerous events, and each has had a real meaning. There are those who couple this activity with munches to allow for a community to share the experience. From a lifestyle perspective in all cases, the Dominant commits to protecting, nurturing and perhaps most important, control their partner in a considerate and respectful manner. While romantic emotions often evolve within these relationships, they usually are not the first intent. However, emotional bonding is essential if any relationship is to flourish.
A collar is the physical representation of one's submission to another, and the offering of a collar denotes a commitment by the dominant to those they are entering a relationship. The issuing or acceptance of collars has a very emotional, social, and near-spiritual overtone because it is a manifestation of the bonding. Individuals draw many similarities between collars and wedding rings and associated ceremonies in the vanilla world. But significant differences do exist, particularly if it is in a non-monogamous relationship.
Picking the Right Collar
Picking an appropriate collar is almost as important as the event. Selecting an appropriate collar is the sole duty of the dominant. The submissive should have NO say in this, as it is the physical representation of their surrendering decision-making to their dominant. It must be representative of the relationship and something which a submissive will wear with pride. In many cases, providing collars is based on type and purposes.
There are “play” or “training” collars that are very suitable for activities within the “dungeon” or in casual settings. A leather or pet collar is good for these purposes and provides a means to express the roles. However, these may not always be appropriate in a public setting. There may be a social stigma against such public displays. A more symbolic collar is more appropriate in these cases, such as a velveteen choker with an icon or fetish symbol denoting the submissive as such, or even a jewelry type with a locking clasp. It is typical to order these specifically for the submissive from one of the fetish jewelry sites, and the first time the submissive sees it is at the collaring ceremony.
Essentially in offering a collar, a dominant is making a statement of being prepared, eager, and desiring to be responsible for the care, nurturing training, and development of a submissive for a long-term relationship. The concept of a “play collar” is like a weekend marriage, which makes it justified to fuck, but no real commitment beyond that. Many people living this life are against this as it is an antithesis to everything adherents hold dear.
One of the other major differences with collaring to marriage is that collar is a series of progressive steps rather than an absolute like marriage. Many submissives enter into the lifestyle uncertain of themselves, their interest or long-term desires. So collaring follows many patterns associated with that. Essentially there are steps of progression as with most professional relationships.
As many live a poly lifestyle, these rituals can include two or more dominants during the ceremony. The concept of "only being able to serve one master" results in only one ever taking the vows with the submissive. Coupling ceremonies to issuing the contract with which the parties are committing and should clearly be a major part of the ceremony even to announcing aloud the intent and terms of the commitment. The activities around finalizing a contract are very much like the vows before placing the ring on the betrothed’s finger. As with all ceremonies, they have far more meaning if done in the presence of witnesses who can attest to the commitment made and done with complete free volition on the part of all parties.
The ceremony can be led by a third party, typically another dominant from the fetish community. The ritual begins with the call of those present to attend and bear witness to the event. The leader then asks if the submissive freely and their own volition without duress enter into this relationship. The leader then asks if the dominant accepts the gift of submission from the supplicant. At this point, reading aloud the terms and major details of the commitment occurs, and the parties are asked again if they accept the terms before the witnesses present. This where ceremony and ritual physically add significance here as a part of the celebration.
Often, the submissive is adorned with a simple cloth or sheer outfit, so while not totally nude, they hide nothing from their dominant or the audience. By agreement beforehand, they can disrobe or remain clothed.
The submissive is asked to kneel before the audience, and they are dominant. The recipient is then asked to supplicate themselves before their dominant, usually by assuming the position of the slaver’s kiss. The recipient is then instructed to kiss the feet of their dominant.
The convenor then hands the dominant a ritualistic whip; the dominant then strikes be buttocks of the submissive three times. “Your punishment serves notice of your service and represents the commitment I make to your development” is stated by the dominant.
The dominant then takes the submissive by the shoulders and assists them to the nadu. The submissive then states, “All I am is yours, all I desire is to serve, and seek is your protection.”
The dominant takes then the collar and reveals it high above his head to the audience stating, “This collar denotes my commitment to you, and signifies my ownership and acceptance of your gift of service.” The dominant places it on the neck of the submissive and states, “My property declared for all to realize.”
Those entering a poly situation are now formally introduced to their slave-siblings and the rest of the household.
Experience, Roles, and Effect
The emotional effect is powerful if somewhat campy, but it usually helps cement the bond with a submissive, and they are dominant. Many dominants usually have a feast afterward and then begin an evening of fetish events with their submissive. This party atmosphere is akin to the reception of a wedding.
Each person finds their individual ways of doing this, but this ritual is important if they wish to add meaning to the event.
The past 40+ years are living this reality, and we discover that over a 1/3 of the submissives discover for themselves that they are not able or willing to make the transition into true “slavery.” Usually unsure of themselves, the submissive’s intent is to find a safe and sane way to explore this existence and realize their potential. Submitting to the collar, they surrender only a part of themselves to their dominance for this discovery.
The novice is uncertain while wishing to explore and have the guidance of a dominant in the form of a mentor, sage or guide into the lifestyle. They seek to find themselves and their nature. A simple ceremony essentially formalizes the commitment to learn as the dominant helps the novice to discover their true nature.
The submissive realizes their active “vanilla” life conflicts, and they are not ready to surrender. They may well be married or have family, college, or work commitments, making it impractical to be more permanent. The dominant also accepts and may offer terms that allow for the commitment to occur.
Adherents those people who are aware of the lifestyle understand their roles and responsibilities. Some limits or restrictions prevent people from the 24x7 interaction in many cases. Again work, or family conditions prevail. The adherent, though, expects that all interactions about the lifestyle are done within the confines of their commitment to each other and governed by its association.
Unlike a marriage, they are not forsaking all others but only engage others in the activities under the clear definition of their relationship. Suppose a married person decides to enter a relationship with someone in BDSM, knowing full well that the dominant party has the final say over all matters regarding their relationship. Having married slaves typically requires permitting the submissive continued sexual relations with their partner, but certain prohibited acts are exclusively the dominant right. Some dominants only allow submissives have sex with their spouses if they first ask permission.
A person can say a lot here, but a sincere slave lives and is a constant part of the dominant’s household. The commitment to care and nurture the slave is the dominant responsibility, and all aspects of their lives are controlled by the dominant.
Protocol and Living the Life
Submissives must wear their collars at all times in their dominant's presence unless told to remove them, and in many cases wear them in public. The casual observer or vanilla passer-by will not know the significance. Still, all those in the lifestyle full are aware of the symbols and the meanings associated with such items. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is even more important with novices. A novice chooses a dominant for their “protection” first and foremost. The collar warns others not to interfere with the submissive as to do so is one of the most significant breaches of protocol in our lifestyle. A collar allows a novice to attend munches or public events without the constant fending off of unwanted attention.
Many people may treat collaring as informal; those who savour the lifestyle are of a different mind. The ceremony should be formal and have a significant ritual or pomp to lend meaning to the tradition. Many fellows reason it should be an event to be remembered and cherished by the submissive and have an emotional or near-spiritual value to it. They typically invite other friends and associates in the fetish community to participate. It is important to plan a fetish event and social around it, as this, after all, borrows from the concepts of a vanilla wedding.
Others take a different approach as is their right to decide such things for themselves.