looking for the poetry that used to be on this page? it's moved.
NOTE: The following was revised and published by the author as
Etiquette for Submissives," in Gloria's book,
COME HITHER on p. 257.
This basic primer on public etiquette for sexual submissives
was first composed in 1997. I was inspired to write it by
letters from submissives who wanted advice on codes of behavior
at club events and when addressing dominants they didn't know
very well. So I set out to provide some basic guidelines on the
common practices and rituals you'll see among SM couples in
public play spaces.
Since then, I have received a fair number of email pointing
out that different couples do it differently. For example, one
submissive woman wrote to say that her dominant is courtly
towards her and holds doors open for her-- even though
conventional etiquette would dictate that the sub do such things
in service to a dominant.
For the record, then, I acknowledge right up front that
this etiquette guide isn't a bible but a primer. Naturally, each
dominant sets his or her own rules. Following the etiquette
suggested on this page doesn't make anyone more or less of an
SMer. This guide simply describes general codes of behavior
which most Scene people would agree are acceptable, and possibly
quite desirable. It is not an authoritative protocol. It is a
helping tool for those submissives who need basic information on
how to behave in public Scene settings.
Meanwhile, in response to the constructive criticisms that
people have offered, I just revised the guidelines, adding some
new tips and deleting old ones that sounded too absolute. I've
expanded it a bit as well, to put it in a larger context.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that I am not a stickler for
rules except the ones I set myself. Indeed, I am not even
dogmatic about my own rules: they change according to the needs
and capabilities of my partners and the SM dynamic that evolves
I hope that this guide helps you in your journey and I
encourage you to follow the beat of your own drum. Modify these
rules to suit your own style of play or invent your own. Have
fun with your SM. And, of course, play safe.
Theory of Submissive
The basic principle of submissive service in a public setting
can be summed up in one word:
Your behavior should reflect your attentiveness to the
dominant's needs and desires at all times. Your role is to serve
needs and desires. Is your dominant about to light up a
cigarette? Is your dominant's coffee cup empty or has the coffee
grown cold? Does he or she need a chair to sit on? Does your
dominant have special needs (physical challenges, dietary
restrictions)? It is your job to ensure that the dominant's
comforts are served by making any and all appropriate
arrangements to make the dominant's life easy.
Similarly, it is your joyful task to demonstrate, through your
attitude and demeanor, that the dominant's needs
come first. Your ability to devotedly serve your dominant is a
standard by which others will judge you AND your dominant. Not
only will your attentiveness please your dominant but it will
impress those you meet both with your dominant's power and your
submissiveness. In other words, you will be a submissive who a
dominant is proud to own and
one who others will believe is worth ownership.
Some submissives mistake their ability to take a heavy beating
as the proof of their devotion. Certainly, it can
be a highly erotic type of service to endure heavy pain for
your dominant, but what about all those moments when your
dominant isn't "doing" you? Are you as good a slave to her (or
him) during the quiet moments as you are when your
dominant is giving you what you crave?
The following guidelines will help you to
convey to your dominant and others that your wish to serve is
Rules of Public SM
- Call a dominant by the title of her or his choice
(e.g., Mistress, Ma'am, Master, Sir, etc.) If you don't
know what his or her preference is, ASK.
- Don't lunge at a dominant, stand too close to him or her, or
thrust your hand out in greeting. Wait politely until the
dominant greets you or initiates a handshake.
- You don't need to act like a mouse but it is respectful to
periodically lower your eyes in deference to the dominant.
- The only person who has the right to give you orders is
someone to whom you have consensually surrendered control. If
such a person gives an order, an appropriate response would be,
"Yes, Sir" or "Yes, Ma'am."
- When an order is given, do your best to comply
- If the order pushes a limit, either use your safe word (if
you have one), or tell the dominant that you are having a problem
and need to talk to him or her.
- If a dominant wanna-be tries to order you around, an
appropriate response would be, "I have not consented to
- Anyone who tries to pressures you into service or tells you
it is expected of all submissives should be avoided.
- Basic rule of thumb: if someone is rude to you, you are under
no obligation to be polite to them, even if he or she is a
dominant. Clearly he or she is not a good one.
- Open doors for the dominant and wait until
she (or he) passes through before following.
- Have a lighter or matches handy so you can light a dominant's
cigarette or cigar.
- If the dominant does smoke, discreetly empty the ashtray
every so often.
- Offer to fetch a drink for the dominant.
- Keep an eye on the dominant's beverage glass and offer to get
a refill whenever it is empty.
- Offer to carry the dominant's coat, equipment bag, or other
- When standing beside your dominant, make sure to stand just
his or her elbow, so that the dominant is slightly in front of
(Note: some dominants may require that you kneel in attendance.)
- Do not assume you may take a chair beside your dominant
or he has already discussed this with you. Wait until your
you where to sit. If the dominant gives you no instruction,
ask where she or he would like you to be.
- Avoid starting requests with phrases such as
"I want" or "I need."
Instead, ask for the privilege by starting with: "May I please"
"Mistress/Master, may I have permission to...".
- If you are in a club or at a party, never bolt away from your
dominant's side or give the impression that you would rather be
anyplace else but next to your dominant. If something exciting
is going on which you are dying to watch,
or if you see people you know, ask permission to go.
- No matter how attractive another dominant may be, when you
are in the company of your dominant, control yourself and do not
flirt or otherwise express untoward interest in someone else.
Even if you are not
yet collared or formally owned, if you wish to become
owned, you will significantly reduce your chances by acting
- Always remember to say "thank you" for every privilege your
grants you. For example, if you've received permission to do
do not charge off like an animal just released from a cage. It
others the impression that you couldn't wait to leave your
- Do not argue in public with your dominant. If you are
genuinely upset about something which cannot wait until you get
home, ask your dominant for permission to discuss it privately
and out of earshot of the crowd.
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