Collars and Traditions
Everything you wanted to know about collars and then some.
Includes: A special concern about the dilution old traditions.
Collars, collars everywhere...
but what are they and why do we use them?
Recently we had a firestorm of activity on our bulletin board concerning collars. It's a subject often asked about and one that seems to generate many different responses from the community. I'm not going to claim to have all the answers on this topic or try to write a document to use as a standard for the D/s, BDSM lifestyle. However, I will try to share what we've learned in our own experiences during our journey into the realm of dominance and submission.
A collar is extremely significant in our lifestyle, no matter in what group you find yourself. It not only identifies the person wearing it as a member of the lifestyle, it indicates they are submissive and belong to someone. From this point we start to find a lot of gray areas in today's use of the collar. I'll try to expand on some types, common factors and the major differences as this moves along.
The Collar of Ownership
The most common type of collar is the collar of ownership. It signifies a relationship has formed between the submissive and dominant and the exclusive rights to the submissive belongs to the owner of the collar she/he is wearing. The symbolism of a collar is steeped in tradition and is the outward symbol of the commitment made by the dominant and submissive. It marks her/him as the property of another, much the same way a wedding ring does for our vanilla counterparts. The collar ALWAYS remains the property of the dominant and if the relationship fails, the collar is returned to the owner1. Accepting or giving a collar is not something to be taken lightly in this lifestyle. It denotes a deep commitment between the submissive and dominant, and from the moment the collar is locked in place, the dominant is viewed as the submissive's master or mistress.
The style of this type of collar is as individual as the people who use it. Often it is leather with metal adornment and usually locks in place, making it impossible for anyone but the submissive's owner to remove it2,3. It commonly has at least one ring to allow a leash to be attached when needed. Some couples prefer not to use the standard style and opt for something a bit more fashionable. One of the options is a silver or gold ring that forms a solid circle once it is joined by a skilled metal smith or jeweler. The only way it can be removed is to cut the metal. (Note that caution must be used if choosing this style. Allow for weight gain or swelling and keep a careful watch it does not become tight. It should move freely and have enough space to easily fit the fingers of one hand between the collar and the throat. It's also important to keep a tool that can cut the collar quickly if needed.)
Most couples have more than one collar in their wardrobe of lifestyle trappings. It is often not possible for the submissive to wear his/her collar in public so an alternative is needed. It can be a piece of jewelry, such as a necklace or anklet, or it may take the form of one of the decorative collars we see so frequently in fashion trends. What it looks like is unimportant as long as it has symbolic significance to the couple involved.
Novice submissives often wear a plain leather collar, with one or more rings, during their training period. This collar does not indicate ownership or any special bond between the submissive and the trainer4. It isn't worn outside the "classroom", so to speak. The purpose of this collar is to allow the submissive to feel some of the control that she/he will surrender and to experience a taste of the emotions evoked when a power exchange takes place. Many of the typical disciplines and activities of the lifestyle involve using a collar for sending signals to the submissive when he/she is doing something incorrectly or to gain their attention. A slight jerk on a leash attached to a collar helps center the submissive or signals them of the dominant's expectations, much the way a collar is used to train a dog in obedience skills. In short, this kind of collar is a working tool and nothing more.
Training collars are typically unattractive and rather sturdy. They're going to be used to train, not be a fashion statement. Sometimes the training collar is kept by the submissive and later used for typical lifestyle activities when she/he is in a relationship with a dominant.
Many D/s couples have a variety of collars suited for special situations. If the couple enjoys the "puppy girl/boy" scene, they may own a common dog collar and leash for those times the submissive is in role as a human puppy for her Master's pleasure. Another type of collar might be a heavy duty bondage collar used when the dominant wants to demonstrate his/her total control by using the collar as a connecting point for locking cuffs, restraints, chains or any number of useful toys, to the submissive's collar. Wide, restricting collars with posture bar attachments are used to correct a submissive's posture and poise as well as providing their own unique control that can be enjoyed by the dominant and submissive. Check one of the online catalogs for a view of these types of collars. ( The Stockroom is an excellent place to start. ) As you can see there are almost limitless uses for variety of collars you can find if you do some shopping.
Other Collars and Different Views
A couple of new issues have sprung up as a result of the ongoing threads about collars and what is and what is not valid as far as collars go. The primary debate stems from the use of a collar known now as the "collar of consideration."
Let me say first that there are many different styles and views in this lifestyle today. Many years ago there were only two standards on which to base any formal lifestyle activities: The Oriental Society and the European Council. Things were pretty black and white then. These "old houses" maintained the traditions that had been handed down for generations and carefully guarded the purity of the guidelines for their beliefs and behaviors. These two groups varied considerably in methods and philosophy and we've discussed those differences in a couple of the articles posted in the Castle Realm Library.
Our affiliation has been with the Society and it is their style and standards we tend to follow in our own relationship. While we may have some basic knowledge of the European methods (the Old Guard seems to have traditions most resembling this group5), we do not know or pretend to know all of their rituals and traditions. All we can say is this: In our intermingling with other groups and in our own circles, there is no mention of a "collar of consideration" anywhere. The only reference we've seen comes from one article written by Mistress Steel. (We thank her for sharing it with us by publishing it.)
Now, does this mean there is no basis in truth or fact for the collar of consideration? No, it doesn't. I'm sure there are literally thousands of different ideas practiced by some of the "houses" in both of the old groups and it is well within the realm of believability that this collar existed and still exists today in certain groups. I can site an example of this in something we've added to the Library, "The Ceremony of the Roses." This beautiful ritual was part of the group of houses in which we have roots, but isn't part of the entire Oriental Society's teachings. Each group has their own special traditions and ceremonies that have their own unique origin but still adhere to the standards of the Society as a whole.
Ultimately each one of us has to decide what we want to incorporate into our own relationships and lifestyle. I'm safe in saying that very few people reading this will ever be associated with one of the old groups anyway. Most are going to be living their lifestyle on an individual and personal basis. If the idea of a "collar of consideration" appeals to you, then you should embrace it as part of your own special way to express your dominance and submission. I personally enjoyed reading about the idea and thought it seemed to be a beautiful idea that could serve some couples quite nicely. Where or when it began is should not hinder your use of it in your own relationship.
are another phenomena that we've seen become an accepted standard to the online D/s community. Their validity is only as meaningful as the people involved so we see some pretty wide variations in the behavior and expectations of those using them. To some, they are as significant as one made of leather and steel and lovingly placed around the neck of the devoted submissive by a responsible dominant. To others, they're as disposable as toilet paper and mean little but a means of getting attention and some sure-score cybersex. Again, it's up to you to use it or abuse it.
What's Right For Me?
You should ask yourself these questions about any idea or practice you are considering: Will it benefit me, my partner and our relationship? Does it feel "right" to us? Do we want/need this a part of our own traditions and beliefs? Does it make us happy and enrich our lives together as a D/s couple? Does it adhere to the Safe, Sane and Consensual credo? If you can answer yes to those questions, and it harms no one else in doing so, then by all means include it as part of your unique style. You do not need to justify your choices to anyone else nor do you need to prove it is part of some ancient tradition for it to have meaning. Do it because YOU enjoy it. The heck with what anyone else thinks.
Collars: What They are and What They Mean
Collaring is the term commonly used by those in the D/s community to describe the commencement of a relationship between a Dominant and a submissive. It carries the same type of weight that a marriage ring does in it's final stage and denotes the same depth of commitment. In recent times (since the advent of the Internet) we have seen a bastardizing of this ritual into something casual and transient. This attack on long standing traditions should be actively fought by educating those entering the lifestyle.
Each of the collars is generally presented during some type of formal ceremony. Often the 'Collar of Consideration' and the 'Training Collar' may be presented privately or during a small gathering of close friends. The actions of collaring are considered quite serious and most often great care is taken to make the moments memorable for both people. Many Dominants and submissives exchange vows or poems they have created during such ceremonial occasions.
For any Dominant to court a collared submissive is considered an extreme breach of protocol and it should be noted that such action could have a serious negative impact on that Dominant's reputation. The traditions of our community should be given the same honor, dignity and respect of any other. Those that actively diminish or devalue what is precious to us should be aware that such diminishment identifies you as being EXTERNAL to our community or a parasite upon it. If you are one that mocks our traditions, then it would be best if you return to your world where honor is non-existent, honesty impossible to find and trust is just something left by rich relatives who pass away.
Collar of consideration
The first collar offered is called the 'Collar of Consideration'. This Collar is traditionally given at the very beginning of a potential relationship. This collar is worn for an agreed upon time. At the end of this time one of 3 things happens.
1) The time period is extended if both wish it.
2) Move on to the next step
3) The couple separate to look for someone more suitable to their tastes and needs
The Dominant by offering this collar to the submissive is expressing an interest in pursuing a potential furthering of a relationship with that submissive beyond the range of a casual acquaintance or even the relationship between a Top and bottom. This collar is offered seriously and with intent. The submissive in accepting this collar from the Dominant is equally serious in their understanding that their relationship has moved into a different stage. The existence of the Collar of Consideration indicates to other Dominants and submissives that the Dominant and submissive involved are forming a potentially serious relationship, and to openly signify to other Dominants that this submissive is 'off-limits' for the duration of the 'consideration' period.
It is understood that new relationships are fragile and vulnerable to both parties involved. Adhering to the presence of collars, and their underlying meanings, shows respect for new relationships. The 'Collar of Consideration' does not indicate a lifelong commitment between the Dominant and submissive but might be better considered to be similar to a pre-engagement ring.
Should either Dominant or submissive decide after a period of time that the relationship or connection is not to their desire then either may politely withdraw from the offer or the acceptance with "NO FAULT" to either side. It is important that this collar be removed in the presence of both parties. Do not get mad and take it off to have the Dominant see it this way. If extensive attempts have been made to do so unsuccessfully then and ONLY then should the submissive remove the collar.
Collar of Protection
Noted with the initials of the protecting Dominant and a small p to denote the protection. What this means is that the submissive is under that Dominants protection because of a failed or abusive relationship of another Dominant or the stalking of someone. The submissive is unapproachable by another Dominant without the protecting Dominants knowledge. This is to insure that the submissive is protected from what they are in fear of. This is also to protect them in a time of healing.
The Training Collar represents the second collar exchanged between a Dominant and a submissive. The 'Training' collar is offered by the Dominant after they have engaged in a period of time where they have held extensive conversations with the submissive and explored characteristics, traits, interests, desires and lifestyles to see if slave sub is worthy of Masters time. They will generally have engaged in many of the vanilla aspects of the relationship .
. At this point the actions of the submissive are reflected upon the Dominant and the submissive should become acutely aware that behaving in a manner becoming to the Dominant trainer is a reflection of their personal devotion and commitment to that Dominant.
This collar can also be given by a Dominant to Mentor and train a submissive that they themselves will not give a Formal collar to. The submissive petitions the Dominant Mentor to train them while they are searching for the Dominant that they will serve the rest of their lives with. The submissive should be treated as if collared by the Dominant for life, until they are released to their formal Dominant. Usually if this type of training has taken place, the Dominant Mentor will assist the submissive in searching out and accepting the formal Dominant that they will serve.
The Formal Collar (frequently called the Slave Collar) is the representation of the final stage of commitment between the Dominant and submissive. This collar is offered after the Dominant and submissive have progressed through the 'Collar of Consideration' and the 'Training Collar'. If you are a new Dominant or submissive, recognize that the Internet is a tool which augments and gives you access into a real world. If you wish to remain cyber that is your free choice but try to respect the world that you mimic.
The Formal Collar
is offered by the Dominant with the intent to formalize the bond and attachment between themselves and their submissive. It is a recognition of commitment, deep emotional feelings, devotion, mutual respect and consideration. It expresses a belief that the Dominant and submissive share similar ideals and a genuine and growing desire to share each other's lives. Its weight within the community is equivocal to the wedding ring. The acceptance of this collar by the submissive is an open, voluntary offering of their complete submission to the Dominant from that day forward.
At this stage in the collaring process often the Dominant and submissive feel the same deep love that any vanilla couple might feel coupled to the trust, respect and commitment so crucial in the D/s lifestyle. Author Unknown
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