Last week I wrote about assumptions and manners for behaving well around collars in kinky community. This week I add some ideas for using collars in your own relationships. It remains a great truth that there is no One True Way to do it, and the best set of rules and rituals around collaring is the one that works best for you and your partner. So the following are not prescriptions but inspirations: ideas for you to take or leave or adapt for your own purposes, and questions for you to answer in whichever way you prefer.
Who Owns the Collar?
One popular tradition is that the collar is and remains the property of the dominant partner. The symbolism here is powerful: the collar is not given to the submissive partner as a gift that they then own, but put around their throat as a symbol that they themselves are owned. The dominant retains property rights over the collar, and sometimes over the submissive as well.
An alternative tradition, most popular among people who consider slavery their vocation, is for the submissive partner to have a collar that they own and that symbolizes their capacity for submission or service. When they enter into a relationship with a dominant partner they can offer up their collar to be placed around their throat as a sign that their service has been engaged but the collar—and the capacity for service—remain intrinsically theirs.
When is the Collar Worn?
For some of us it’s important that the literal, physical collar be worn 24/7, or whenever the collared partner is awake and out of bed, or whenever they leave the house. For others the collar is to be worn only for special occasions; for dates or for parties or only in the house.
We also vary in how much symbolic importance we place on having the collar physically in place. For some folks “being collared” means a relationship that begins when the collar is granted to and accepted by the submissive partner, and that persists until and unless the collar is formally returned. All the rules and meanings of being collared remain in force regardless of whether or not the collar is being worn. For others, the meaning is more closely tied to the object. The submissive partner is collared when they are literally, physically collared, and there is a different way of relating that comes into force when and only when the collar is on. And, of course, some take a hybrid approach, with a some level of “collared” relationship that persists whether the collar is worn or not, and an extra degree of protocol or power exchange for when the collar is in place.
Putting it On and Taking it Off
Think about what ritual and what rules you might want to create around when putting on removing of the collar. This is a wonderful opportunity for symbolism, for meditation, and for reminders and reinforcements of your power relationship.
A brief ritual to be performed whenever the submissive partner puts on the collar—like kneeling, holding the collar up in front of their eyes and reciting “I wear this collar in obedience to my dominant”—can be a way for them to focus their intent and keep the wearing of the collar meaningful.
Many of us like to make it a rule that the collared partner is not allowed to remove the collar without permission, so that it symbolizes the control that they have surrendered to the one whose collar they wear. I myself prefer to turn that rule inside out. My collared partners are free to remove a collar I’ve put on them whenever they wish, and doing so signifies a need to take a break or temporarily focus on something besides submission, but they are required to get my permission to put the collar back on. If I think that they’ve removed the collar lightly or impulsively, there will be a conversation or a consequence before I permit them to wear it again. The message is that submission to me is a privilege rather than a requirement.
Does the Collar Lock?
For some of us, having a collar lock into place is essential to the symbolism. It also creates the opportunity for the dominant partner to have their own symbol of the relationship to wear or carry with them: the key.
As a practical concern, however, there may be unexpected situations (medical emergencies, surprise family visits, metal detectors, etc.) when the collar needs to be removed and the dominant partner may not be present. Many of us choose to leave a key with the collared partner, along with strict orders that it be used only in such emergencies.
Rules While Wearing the Collar
There are, of course, infinite different rules that different folks have associated with the wearing of a collar. Here are a few ideas to feed your imagination.
Rules of Deportment
A hugely popular category of collar rules have to do with how the collared partner speaks, stands, sits, dresses and generally comports themselves while collared. This kind of rule can both serve to have them behave in ways that are pleasing to the one who has collared them, and as visible reminders to both partners of the presence and reality of their power relationship.
- You will always be naked while wearing this collar.
- While wearing this collar, you may not meet my eyes.
- When we walk together while you are collared, you will walk half a pace behind me on my right side.
- When wearing this collar, you will refer to me as “Owner” and to yourself as “your pet.”
- While wearing this collar, you will always open doors for me and pull out my chair when I want to sit.
Rules of Intention
Other rules are more abstract, guiding the collared partner’s focus and attention.
- While wearing this collar you will always be focused on pleasing me. If you can’t answer the question “How is what I’m doing right now serving my dominant?” you need to stop and ask me right away.
- When collared, your role is to be a sex toy. You need to be available, receptive and seductive.
- This collar means discipline. If you have it on, I expect you to be sharp, focused and efficient in the execution of my orders.
Rules for the Dominant Partner
Don’t neglect the possibility having the dominant partner also assume explicit responsibilities related to having their partner in collar. These are often guarantees of attention, protection or respect for boundaries that make the submissive partner’s collared role safe for them to fully inhabit.
- When you are in collar, I will always keep you within eyesight.
- While you are collared to me, you will be my primary partner.
Some of us enjoy different kinds of dynamics with our partners at different times. We may love having our submissive partner sometimes be a robot doll—taking absolutely no initiative, speaking only to answer direct questions, doing exactly what it is told to do and then waiting motionless until given another order to execute—but certainly not want them to be like that all the time.
Some of us use multiple collars as a way of clearly signalling different “modes” in our power relationships. The submissive partner might have a dog collar for when they are in the role of a mischievous puppy, a posture collar for when they are expected to be a rigidly formal servant, and a discreet necklace to wear as a default when they aren’t under any particular protocol.
Everything ends. While it may not be the most fun part of detailing your expectations around collaring, it is worth thinking about how you will want to handle the end of a collared relationship.
Having a way that the collared partner can return the collar, or reclaim it for themselves if the collar belongs to them, without disobeying can make a time of friction, change or ending less difficult than it otherwise might have been. An official process for return or reclamation of the collar allows for the relationship to end or change while still honoring what it had been, rather than having to break the rules. Some of us even include things like a cooling off period (where the collared partner may step out of the collared relationship and still have some period of time wherein they can return to it if they change their mind), or an agreement that the partners will try couple’s counseling before exiting the collared relationship.
That kind of official process for ending a collared relationship can very appropriately apply to the dominant partner as well. Many of us promise not to revoke a collar on a whim, and agreeing to follow a certain process before doing so can give our collared partners security in their status. Even if we’re unhappy with them or things are rocky, so long as we haven’t initiated the process they know that we aren’t considering uncollaring them.
If the collar is the property of the dominant partner, there’s a question of what to do with the collar itself after it has been revoked or returned. Many of us choose, even if the collar has been our property, to gift it to our submissive partner at the end of the relationship, especially if the relationship is ending well. It can then become a memento of what we shared. Others have a collar that they very strongly identify as their collar to offer and take back, and that they will keep and put around the throat of the next person who enters their service. And yet others prefer to keep the collars from ended relationships as mementos ourselves, but not use them with future partners. It’s an excellent idea to share an agreement about which of those choices we’re going to make before the relationship is ending. Someone who is thinking of a collar as a symbol of this particular relationship might be deeply hurt to later see it adorning the neck of another.
Some of us also make plans around the ultimate relationship ender: death. If a collared partner is not allowed to remove the collar without their dominant’s permission, and their dominant dies, they are left in an awful position of having to decide how long to keep that collar in place and to do something that likely feels disobedient and disrespectful during a time of mourning. A set of rules for what to do if the dominant partner is gone can provide at least some small comfort.