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What’s the deal with BDSM contracts?

Mar 18, 2024

I’ve heard that some BDSM relationships have written contracts.

How legitimate are they?

Are they necessary?

Fifty Shades of Grey very much popularized the idea of a written contract.

Written contracts are not unheard of in BDSM.

You know, Mollena Lee Williams-Haas and her partner Georg, they have a written contract.

There are some people who still do written contracts.

Written contracts are more common in people who do higher protocol DS-focused kinds of relationships and connections and they are more common among folks who are kind of like older guard, older school in terms of their approach to BDSM.

Written contracts are not necessary.

The idea of a written contract is it is a way to clearly lay out what the commitments are within this relationship.

Ideally, written contracts involve what both people are committing to.

So, what is it that the top or dominant is committing to do in terms of how they show up for the bottom or submissive?

What is the submissive or the bottom committing to do in terms of how they are handing portions of their power and autonomy to their dominant?

Ideally contracts are also renegotiable at any time.

Part of consent is it’s freely given, easily withdrawn, informed.

There’s a lot of components and so you want to make sure that if we are talking about a contract, that it’s one where everybody gets a say in negotiating it.

It’s not just handed to one person from the other and if it’s not working, there’s a way to renegotiate it and reevaluate it.

I do not see contracts frequently in the BDSM world. Like again, do they exist?

Yes.

Do they happen?

Sure, sometimes.

The percentage of relationships that I know of in the kink world who have a contract is definitely less than 20 percent, probably less than 10 percent.

So, it is not super needed.

In terms of how legitimate they are, I mean legitimacy in this kind of contract is the same as legitimacy in any relational commitment.

If I tell you that I’m going to meet you at the restaurant at 6:00 but I’m a flaky person and I just never show the things that I say I’m going to do, then the commitment I’m making has very little legitimacy.

If I’m someone who says I will meet you at the restaurant at 6:00 and that means I get there by 5:45 to make sure that I am not late and that I honor that commitment, it has a lot of legitimacy.

Is a BDSM contract enforceable in the court of law?

Absolutely fucking not.

No.

Is it something where someone would say, “Well, you agreed to this. So now you can’t say that this was not OK”?

No, that is not how it works.

Again, anything related to consent must be able to be revoked at any time.

So, I think when it comes to contracts, I think that there’s this kind of romanticization of it particularly by people who aren’t super involved in the scene.

That doesn’t necessarily match the lived realities of people who are more actively involved in the BDSM community.

I’ve never had a written contract and I’ve been doing kink stuff on and off since I was like 20, 21.

So like 20 years I’ve been doing kink stuff and I’ve never had a written contract.

There was someone with whom there was talk of us having a contract but it was not the best situation, so I ended things before the contract got formally written.

But yeah, it’s not super common.

If it’s something that does it for you, great, cool, and it’s not magic.

Like it’s not – you can’t actually sign away your freedom and autonomy.

It’s just an agreement you’re making in a relationship.

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