Collars in BDSM

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Collars can be found in a vast array of shapes and sizes, or even represented by completely non-collar items (necklaces, bracelets or rings, piercings, tattoos, etc.).   As such, they can be easy to recognize and very hard to mistake for anything else or might be very discrete or delicate pieces that can be incredibly subtle or have only an emotional significance to those directly involved.

Symbolic

The collar is a physical symbol of ownership and denotes the role of the submissive within the D/s (or Dominance and submission) lifestyle.  However, the circumstances under which a collar is used can be quite varied, such as for short instances for the purposes of a scene, as the accompanying sub to their Dom attending a fetish event, to show relationship exclusivity, or the permanence of a couples bond. In long-term relationship, especially in M/s lifestyles, a collar is as the engagement or wedding ring is within “vanilla” relationships.  Some, such as myself, take it just as if not more seriously than a ring, because of the formal and structured nature of the D/s or M/s relationship.

just one example of a typical BDSM collar
just one example of a typical BDSM collar

Collars may also be accompanied by contracts, each addressing the commitment and responsibilities in accordance with each progressive phase of the relationship.  A new collar therefore may denote progression or promotion, much the way certain martial arts use belts, or the military use services stripes and insignia’s of rank or office.  Similarly one might view collars as similar to martial arts “belts” in that it formally states and shows both the level of achievement as well as expectations demanded.  So the collar may also signify the level of serious, intent, or progress – with different collars denoting the levels in the relationship.

Even with this said, its important to bear in mind that the concept of the collar is symbolic, and often very much up to the Dominant and submissive that use them.   It is wise not to make too many assumptions if you see someone wearing an item that is a collar.  Especially where there’s the risk of accidentally “outing” of someone in public or mixed company, which would be very inconsiderate, awkward at the very least.

Examples of Typical Collars

As mentioned earlier, not all Dominants use all collars, or will sometimes combine as they see fit to create their own purposes instead.  Far from an exhaustive list, some of the below types of collars one can usually find include:

  • Basic/Standard Collars – These represent perhaps the majority of collars found in D/s relationships, and include sub-types such as collars of Protection, Trial/Consideration, Training, and Permanent/Formal.
  • Branding – Some Dominants enjoy seeing their brand upon their slaves flesh. Even more permanent than a tattoo in the sense of the commitment scarification/branding requires and a definitive declaration of ownership over the submissive as the owners property. Designs include the Kef (typically used by those of Gorean style)
  • Dress Collars – Intended for more sophisticated public use or special occasions, usually highly polished or finely engraved. They may be made of finer metals, detailed with semi-precious or precious stones. This is not a collar with much in the way of bondage hardware and usually much more delicate in nature than a standard or house collar.
  • House Collars – these are multi-functional multi-purpose – often worn in private (in the house) or worn outside to D/s or fetish parties or events. Usually made of leather or of more common durable metals (i.e. stainless steel) and may lock or otherwise be otherwise secured. Will often possess one or more rings to secure a lead (such as leather or chain), or used as an anchor point with other restraints.
  • Piercing – a variety of piercings may also act as a collar, particularly those of the ring design and applied to areas such as the clitoris, nipples, penis, etc. These piercings may have fine chains linking together, but are in no way meant to be any sort of anchor point.  They are, however, effectively symbolic of ownership.
  • Posture Collars – Posture collars hold your head in a particular angle to present a straighter and higher posture of the neck and head. Typically meant as a restraint or bondage collars, and are often suitable for BDSM sessions versus a house collar.
  • Protection Collar – indicates the submissive is under the protection of another Dominant, usually one well established and respected in the community. See next section for more detail.
  • Public Collars – these can be very simple to highly ornate, often substituting for the house collar when submissive goes into public. The degree to which the collar may be obvious depends on the negotiated comfort levels of the couple. More subtle examples might include velvet chokers, finer leather collars without rings or lock (although a lock may be worn hidden in back behind hair, or in front as a “charm”), or other necklaces found to be significant to the couple.
  • Scene or Play Collars – Collars that might be similar to House or training collars, however used for short durations such as dungeon play parties, scenes, kink events, etc. The purpose of which is to declare a sort of conditional ownership or D/s dynamic while worn. This might be especially important for those that switch to indicate and get into the mindset of their mode at the time.
  • Self-Collared – most common for submissive that are recently removed from prior ownership or between relationships and evaluating their next stem. A submissive that self-collar is similar to Protection collars
  • Tattoos – Similar to Branding, an owner may enjoy seeing his mark on the slaves body through ink and flesh. Such a permanent mark upon the submissive/slave that provides a very clear sense of constant ownership, inescapable, permanent. Types of collaring/ownership tattoos include designs such as a collar around the neck, barcode or number, arm band or bracelet, and the Kef symbol (typically used by those of Gorean style), among others..
  • Trial Collar – indicates a period within a trial relationship or consideration for longer-term contracts or commitment. See next section for more detail.
  • Training Collar – indicates a steady relationship between Dominant and submissive that includes mental and physical training. See next section for more detail.
  • Permanent Collar – collars that are usually permanently or semi-permanently affixed to indicate a bond lifetime commitment to one another. Often viewed within the D/s community as the ultimate end-goal from a collaring perspective.  See next section for more detail.

 

A Closer look at the primary collars

Collar of Protection

Usually reserved for subs or slaves without an actual owner, where another Dominant has taken temporary custody to shield them – the submissive is under the protection of that Dominant.  A collar of this type is most often due to a recently failed or abusive relationship with significant emotional or physical hurt, when an otherwise unattached submissive maybe being stalked or harassed by another, or just needs to feel comfortable knowing that someone that will protect them if ever needed.

Wearing a protection collar gives the submissive time to heal with the security of knowing they are safe. The submissive is therefore unapproachable for play or relationships without the knowledge of the protecting Dominant. Usually it is a Dominant of high standing in the community that will provide protection, as well established reputation and a respected circle of peers often keeps most trouble-makers at bay.

There is no time limit on a collar of protection; it is there for as long as it is needed.

Scene Collar  (play)

A collar of this type is used for temporary occasions, such as while the Dominant and submissive attend fetish events, at get-togethers or one another’s homes, or are within a scene together.  For the time it is worn, the roles are established and observed.

The purpose of “short-term” collar has two main typical uses.  The first is assisting the submissive in being mindful of the role and facilitating entry into sub-space. When placed around the neck, it signals a change in habit and form from the outside and everyday world, and brings the submissives mind to the present moment. It is part of the uniform that helps the submissive adopt the appropriate change in behavior.

The second typical purpose of this type of collar is to serve as a signal to others that this submissive is under a Dominants protection, and ward her from unwanted attention or casual pick-up play from other Dominants.  This can be crucial in newer or forming relationships where the Dominant and submissive are trying to establish a foundation of interaction and connection, as distraction or interruption from predatory behavior can create undesirable setbacks and emotions in the early development of a relationship.

Trial/Consideration Collar (initial dating period)

A trial collar of is often the initial step in a potential new relationship between a Dominant and submissive.  When offered to a potential new submissive, it essentially announces what is a mutual evaluative and adjustment period between Dominant and submissive as a couple.  Other terms for this type of collar is a probationary collar, collar of consideration, or candidates collar (usually where the submissive has applied to membership of a Leather household).

Normally the Dominant will offer this collar after a couple of months of discussion and get-together’s, where the submissive is just learning about D/s; alternatively the collar can be offered after a few months of discussion, play parties, and fetish events, where its more about reaching an understanding of the Dominant’s way of life and developing a deeper sense of mutual needs, wants, and limits. The collar is typically worn for an agreed fixed period, say around 6 months, and then the situation will be reviewed.  At that point, further continuation can be negotiated (say another 6-months), moving to the next progression in the relationship, or both parties can decide to go separate ways.

The trial collar also serves as an indication to other Dominants that this submissive is basically “off limits” when they attend events and play parties together, and it signifies the start of a committed relationship.  As the name suggests, it is not a lifelong commitment, but one that should be respected by others while they are actively in that collared state.  Should the relationship not work out, there is not be any blame attached to either party if at some stage one or other decides to withdraw from the situation. This is especially true if it’s through the realization that the D/s lifestyle is not really suited for them.  This is why it’s a period of trial – to explore, experience, and evaluate knowing up front it may not be right for those involved.

Regardless of the possible impermanence, this kind of collar is not offered or accepted lightly, as it denotes more than just a passing or casual interest. Both parties should be putting their best foot forward, and to their best to understand the underlying meaning behind this commitment.  The rule always comes back to communication – if you are not sure, then ask.  A Dominant should never refuse answering a question by a submissive that is attempting to seek understanding, clarification, and meaning.  If the submissive cannot be sure what is involved, or what it means, then you can always say No – and this is the time to do it.

Training Collars (significant other)

I primarily recognize the training collar for two primary purposes – that of training without intention or goal of a relationship (skill), and training of both skill and interpersonal compatibility in a relationship (partnering).

Skill

A training collar can also be used where a Dominant can give a training collar to a particular submissive in order to train and mentor her in correct behavior and protocols while searching for a Dominant with whom she will pursue a serious D/s relationship. This relationship is not one of emotional attachment but rather that of Mentor and student. The mentoring Dominant will often train the submissive in the necessary skills in service, experience typical non-sexual modes of play, and help develop a greater sense of physical and mental awareness. In addition the mentoring Dominant may also help in the search for the submissives next potential partner by providing advice and guidance in the selection process. The submissive is often treated as if owned by the mentoring Dominant until such times as she is released to another. Again, as with protection collars, it is usually a Dominant of high standing and respect that becomes a Mentor.

Partnering

A training collar may be offered by the Dominant once the probationary period concludes successfully. Usually, there will have been many discussions about likes, dislikes, needs and desires, discoveries about personalities and characteristics, sexual and other physical compatibility, relationship and life goals, etc.  The underlying driver is a recognition that there is real potential for this relationship to go deeper, and therefore requires more committed than before.  While the period of Training can extend beyond a year, a training collar is almost equivalent to an engagement ring and often involves the same emotions, feelings and responsibilities.

It certainly signifies to others in the community that this relationship is now on a more serious level, and has the potential to be an enduring long-term commitment. The Dominant may now move into other areas of training and discipline and can often demand higher standards and test the submissives growth and sense of limitations than before in a more deep and meaningful way.

The submissive, on accepting a training collar, should have a sound appreciation of what is required of her.  She should be more aware of her own behavior, her emotional intelligence, and mindfulness in reflecting and showing the training she is receiving. The collar is a symbol of the devotion and commitment the submissive has for the Dominant.

Similarly, the Dominant should be more than capable in describing his additional responsibilities to the submissive as well as what is expected of her.  He should be more aware of himself as his consequences as they impact the couple – from how both tend to interact or behave to the increasing demands of the relationship.  The collar is also a symbol of the devotion and commitment the Dominant has towards the submissive.

Because of the level of commitment involved, it is not unusual for there to be internal conflicts in the minds of both Dominant and submissive. The Dominant now has the added responsibility of this particular submissive, which may well curtail exploration of other submissives or outside activities, unless it is agreed by both beforehand that the Dominant may have others involved. Similarly, some submissives struggle with the concept of devoted ownership in submission, and the commitment to one person as their top priority. She is no longer available for other potential Dominants and casual free play or social whimsy, which can lead to a sense of loss of freedom.

Subconsciously, both may wind up testing the relationship’s strength as they face greater responsibility, risk, and as a result, insecurity. Doubts previously silent are brought to the foreground, raising their voice and demanding unwarranted and unjustifiable attention. These forces must be faced, acknowledged, and worked through as any couple would if the relationship is to develop and grow towards the next logical progression.  Like any relationship, honesty and trust are paramount, both within the individuals and towards one another.

As the foundation, now is the time to perfect the ability to trust, to be honest, to communicate respectfully, and to realize that every belief and feeling, expressed or not, is a choice that determines how you will act.  Be judicious in where you entertain doubts or fears, when you ignore the consequences of decision and action, and into which bucket of emotion or time you invest yourself.  Where you do not put your mind can often be as, if not more, important than where you do put it.   Choose wisely.

Permanent Collars

This collar which is often recognized as the slaves collar, is the ultimate step in a D/s relationship. A permanent or formal collar is a recognition of the bond between the Dominant and submissive, and bears the same level of commitment and deep feelings as a wedding ring. It shows devotion, mutual respect, and expresses the fact that the couple share the ideals and desires to build a relationship to last a lifetime.

In offering this collar, the Dominant shows commitment to care for the submissive, and be responsible for her. Acceptance of this collar by the submissive is an offering of her complete submission to the Dominant, she gives the whole girl to him, heart, mind body and soul, and trusts Him to with her life.  Little can signify the depth of trust, respect and commitment – elements that are crucial to a successful D/s relationship.

A formal collar is often given at a ceremony or ritual, often held in private but can also in the presence of friends and community members.  Like a vanilla wedding or pagan hand-fasting, it is a deeply personal moment which is highly emotional for both Dominant and submissive alike.  As such, the ritual that recognizes the bond should be well thought, acknowledge the growth and development of the individuals and the relationship, and the journey yet ahead that needs to focus on the trust and faith in one another already established.

It is a choice, as was the first moment of submission, to trust and to believe – not blindly, but through the experiences built together.

Rolled steel Turian Collar
example of a “Turian” collar

 

Timing

When a collar is offered depends on the purpose of the collar, which we’ll get to in a moment.  Suffice to say that a collar is often offered for a very specific purpose, and should never be done frivolously and without appreciation for the consequences of the offer and acceptance of the collar.

A Dominant may choose to offer their collar to a submissive, whereupon she then has the choice of accepting it or declining it.  The reason for the Dominant to offer a collar like this is normally a declaration of sincere interest to pursue something lasting (although not always, which we’ll get to later).  Like many people that are putting themselves out on a bit of an emotional ledge, it’s a precarious moment, and so the offer is typically not one taken lightly.  As such, some Dominants will only offer when they are quite certain that the answer will be a breathlessly excited and highly anticipated acceptance.  Admittedly, there is little as joyous as a giddy submissive surprised and eagerly awaiting the Dominants commitment to her ownership.

Another option is where the Dominant chooses to have the submissive beg for a collar. In this case the tables are turned slightly and it is up to the submissive to get down on her knees and make a plea for ownership. Personally, I find this to be a real turn on – because the Master has taken the first step in the acknowledgment and training of the submissive, but it is the submissive that is acknowledging their desire, which in itself is part of the training (accepting desires, voicing them, etc.).  I like the idea of a sub or slave begging for the commitment of a full collar. I see it consisting of something romantic – my slave being at her most romantic and seductive, having created the environment and mood, with all her skills and training at her disposal is essentially proving herself.. and then begging or a little weeping as she pours out her heart and soul as she begs to be His.

These two examples, of course, are just that – examples.  They might play out when moving to a formal or permanent collar, but would be inappropriate if the submissive is under a Dominant strictly for service training, or for protective purposes.   Context and Intent, therefore, is everything when considering the appropriate time and attitudes around the collar.

Regardless of how the collaring is decided upon, the collar itself can actually be a physical collar of various soft materials, or it can be any other symbol the dominant chooses (Ring, Bracelet, Piercing, etc.).  Similarly, just because a submissive is not wearing a collar may not mean they are not owned, and under no circumstances should any Dominate make the assumption that someone without wearing their collar is to be treated without the utmost respect – you can never go wrong by defaulting to showing others respect as it only earns you greater esteem.

 

Collaring Rituals

In the D/s orientation of the lifestyle, the collar is often the most persistent symbol of commitment. The declaration of ownership and responsibility. The closest comparison would be that the D/s collar is a wedding band and the collaring ritual is the D/s wedding.  This may be done in private, include only closest and most trusted of friends or family, or can be a large ceremony with many witnesses – and everything in between.

I have written several collaring rituals, each completely unique to the couple and their needs.  What transpires in a collaring ritual is individual preference, but speaking generally, statements are made by both parties as a declaration of their understanding of their relationship and the commitment they are making to each other with certain symbolic gestures to help cement the moment in the mind.   In many cases it is also cause for there to be a new contract drawn and signed at the ritual, to recognize the advancement of the relationship, duties, expectations, etc.

If a submissive needs to be released, there is also usually a release or “uncollaring” ritual.   Ideally this is done with compassion and fosters the ability to recognize the good (what was learned, what was enjoyed) as much as the decision to pursue different paths.  As such, part of a release ritual or ceremony should acknowledge that the nature of the relationship changes, returning power back to the submissive, and burning or shredding their main collar.  This helps both Dominant and submissive acknowledge that this act is decisive and creates a point of demarcation between past and future.

 

Reflection & Discussion

Collaring is a serious affair for the D/s couple, regardless of gender or orientation, and should not be entered into without appropriate soul-searching and extensive discussion by the parties.  Now we come to the heart of it – this will impact both of your lives, you need to be aware of that impact and help one another through the changes associated with that impact.

Soul-searching is always required by both in order to help determine the individuals understanding of what is motivating them.  Why do they want to give or receive a collar, what does the collar mean to them and what associations do they have with it, how do they view the collar in terms of recognition of role, responsibility, and intent or goal?  If you do not soul-search, you will never know your own heart or mind.  Personally, I have submissives or potential slaves write an assignment on this point, which facilitates the next step…

Discussion is also required by both to understand the view of the other as best as one can.  Take the time to LISTEN to the other – Listen actively and focus on understanding the others meaning and emotions first and foremost.  Give each other the time to express themselves without interruption, volunteering your views, or counterpoints. Set aside your fear of speaking up, and express yourself as clearly and respectfully as you can – Be Brave. If you cannot discuss openly and patiently, you will neither know the other nor come to see yourself within the other through their eyes…

 

Closing

Lastly, I recognize that  every Dominant has their own style, and what has been described (distilled down from my own practices and my research) may not be for everyone.  What I would say, however, is that whatever your style, you should have a Reason for it.  Don’t be different just because its too hard, too much work, too whatever – ensure you have a good reason for why your practice is your own.   Its not about justifying it to anyone, its about ensuring your own practices are well thought out because you will be impacting someone else.  That impact will be significant, and it is only right and proper to do the due diligence and show responsibility in creating that impact in their lives.  Be a Responsible Dominant in your training and actions towards your submissive.

 

 

-Sir Vice
Copyright 2014 Limits Unleashed

 

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