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Top Hat and Tails: The Basics of Formal Protocol

Author: Norische

Filed in: protocol

Protocol - a series of rules and behaviors that are deemed appropriate and expected for certain circumstances.

Formal Protocol - a rigorous series of structured behaviors that are used to focus attention and direct
actions in a specific manner. This form of protocol is normally reserved for formal or structured occasions;
it is also frequently used in obedience training.

First and foremost one must understand why formal protocol is used before one may understand exactly what
it is. A Master/Mistress will enact formal protocol when they desire a heightened level of focus, attention,
and/or discipline from a slave/sub.

Focus, while under formal protocol a slave/sub must focus on everything they do, say, even think. They must
focus on how they stand, what position to be in, how they talk, how they hold themselves, and how they react.
They must focus on every movement, every word, and every thought going through their mind. It is one way of
having absolute control of a person\'s entire being.

Attention, the slave/sub must pay absolute attention to the Master/Mistress at all times. They must not allow
themselves to get distracted or preoccupied at any time. Some Masters/Mistresses refuse to speak to their
slave/sub when they are under formal protocol, and use hand gestures to indicate what they wish their
slave/sub to do or what position they want them to take, therefore they must pay constant attention to the
Master/Mistress so that they do not miss a gesture or over look an instruction.

Discipline, a slave/sub must be very disciplined to be able to maintain formal protocol successfully. They
must be patient, well trained and attentive in order to obtain this level of concentration. This level of
protocol is not normally introduced into a BDSM relationship until the slave/sub has had quite a bit of experience.

When you enact formal protocol take into consideration how much experience and training a slave/sub has had.
Do not put someone new to the lifestyle under full formal protocol; it is setting them up for failure. Full
formal protocol involves, voice training, speech training, position training and obedience training. While
there are several versions of formal protocol, none is more correct than any other. Each style of formal
protocol is appropriate for the individuals involved. A Master/Mistress may adjust any regiment of formal
protocol to fit a specific slave/sub or circumstance. Heath issues, safety issues, and public or private
venue may be taken into consideration when formal protocol is enacted.

Normally a Master/Mistress will have more than one version of formal protocol.

1. Full Formal Protocol - this is the most restrictive form of protocol, an absolute set of directives
with no margin of leeway. Speech, position, action, attention and focus are all under very specific guidelines.
This form of protocol is normally restricted to private use or BDSM functions.

2. Modified Formal Protocol - this is a personalized form of protocol that is specifically designed for
an individual. For example my slave has had a total knee replacement and cannot kneel, therefore this position
is not included in the modified regime of formal protocol that I have trained her in. These modifications may
include positions, speech allowances, even behavior modification; the most important thing to remember about
modified formal protocol is that it is individualized to the Master/Mistress and the slave/sub.

3. Relaxed Formal Protocol - this is a form of formal protocol that is still formal in all respects
except it is normally adjusted for location. Specifically it is formal protocol that has certain negotiated
adjustments to give some amount of leeway when an individual is in a public situation, or when they are at
home, or when the Master/Mistress is preoccupied. When you have your slave/sub under formal protocol you must
be just as attentive to them as they are to you, since their actions are modified they cannot come out and
state "May I go to the restroom, Ma\'am?" and they can\'t gesture or draw attention to themselves; therefore
you must keep a close eye on your slave/sub just incase they require your attention. When under relaxed
formal protocol the slave/sub has the right to make his or her presence known, either by position, or voice,
and alert the Master/Mistress to their needs, or request permission to speak. This is also the form of formal
protocol in which a slave/sub may answer the question of a Dominant (not their Master/Mistress) in brief,
specifically structured answers without being reprimanded; under full formal protocol speech is restricted to
their Master or Mistress only.

One thing I must stress, no matter how strict a Master/Mistress is, or how well disciplined a slave/sub is
there is always exceptions to every rule. In emergency situations, formal protocol is dropped immediately. The
slave must never fear to protect the Master/Mistress, him or herself, or another.

Now that you are familiar what formal protocol is, why it is used and the different modified versions, let
me give you some examples of behaviors that are normally expected within the realm of formal protocol.


1. Slave must speak in muted volume, and keep his or her voice at a respectable even tone. Some
Masters/Mistresses desire to have the slave speak no louder than a whisper; others expect them to speak crisp
clear tones, at a standard level (military style); each individual has their own preference in this area,
again none is more or less correct than any other preference.

2. Slave must guard against showing emotion in his or her voice.

3. Laughter is not permitted; some Masters/Mistresses feel that this would show disrespect to the
form of protocol that they are enacting.


1. Slave is prohibited to speak.
1. Normally a slave/sub is prohibited to speak. (Except of course to the Master/Mistress)
2. When prohibited to speak the slave must not gesture, this would include nodding when asked a
question, or smiling a greeting, or pointing to something or someone when asked a question. (Except of
course to the Master/Mistress). One thing that is quite common amongst Dominants, if they know that someone
is under formal protocol and they are familiar with the individual then they love to see if they can get the
slave/sub to break protocol in some manner.
3. If speech is prohibited then the slave is also prohibited to acknowledge other individuals, their
entire world must consist only of their Master/Mistress and themselves. In other words if you come up to
someone and want to shake their hand and they simply stand there staring at the floor, chances are they are
under formal protocol.

2. Slave is permitted to speak.
1. If speech is permitted, slave is restricted to answering with simple, and direct answers, for
example… "Sir, Yes Sir." Or "Sir, No Sir." Each individual has a different manner in which they prefer
their slave to speak as well as the title or formality they wish the slave/sub to use. Many individuals
prefer the formal military style as above; others prefer their slave to use their title such as "Master,
Yes, Master".
2. If a slave is permitted to speak, he or she may be restricted to speak only when spoken too.
3. Some slaves are restricted to third person speech; this is actually quite common with most forms
of protocol. Again this is a form of discipline, most individuals will request a drink by simply saying,
"May I have a drink please?". Under third person speech such a question would be expressed in a different
manner entirely…for example…
1. "Sir, Do you wish your slave to have a drink, Sir?"
2. "Sir, May your slave have a drink?"
3. "Sir, with permission, may this creature get itself a drink, Sir?"
4. "Master? Please pardon this intrusion, would Master be so gracious as to allow this worthless
creature to get itself a drink, thank you for being so generous, Master."

4. Slave must remember to show respect at all times; especially under formal protocol one must
remember that he or she is a representative of his or her Master or Mistress.


There are a wide variety of positions that are used in formal protocol; each school of training has a
unique series of positions that they train their slaves to present. Within each school of training the
positions may be adapted to suit the individual. There are some general standards that are maintained
throughout all schools.

1. Arms are never allowed to be crosses over the body unless the Master/Mistress instructs otherwise.
Arms crossed or closed over the body are considered closing oneself off or a sign of defiance.
2. Hands should be kept open, a closed hand or fist is a sign of defiance, and an open hand is a sign
of surrender or openness.
3. Never tilt your head to where you are looking down at another individual, this is a sign of arrogance,
not of humility.
4. The slave\'s head must be turned toward the Master/Mistress when speaking or listening, this shows that
he or she is paying attention.
5. The back is always kept straight but not stiff, slouching or poor posture is a sign that one is bored,
or that one has low self-esteem.
6. If one is smiling or laughing they must maintain eye contact, for the slave to have his or her eyes
lowered and be smiling may be viewed as mockery or some inside joke at Master/Mistresses expense.
7. If you begin a position with eyes cast down then they should remain down during the entire position,
to alternate between eye contact and eyes cast down shows carelessness and lack of forethought.
8. Fidgeting is a sign of nervousness and fear, this is not the air one wishes to present during formal
protocol, therefore keep unnecessary movement to a minimum.

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a series of positions to retain as formal protocol is that some
positions are painful if maintained for longer periods of time. One does not wish to do injury to the slave/sub
or restrict them from being useful later on. It is normal in some positions for the slave to get stiff when
holding the position, so monitor the amount of time that a slave may maintain each position without any extended

The positions I use vary according to individual, however I have chosen a standard regiment of positions that
I have found work for my purposes.

Attention - Feet are together, toes pointing forward. Hands are at the sides, cupped (cup hands so thumbs rest
along the first joint of the forefinger with palms facing the legs), arms should be straight alongside the body
with wrists straight with the body. Body is erect with hips level, chest lifted, shoulders are square and even.
Legs are straight, but knees are not locked. Eyes straight forward.

Rest - Feet should be approximately shoulder length apart; legs should be kept straight but not stiff. Hands
should be behind the body, with right hand holding on to left wrist, left hand may be relaxed but not closed.
Eyes should be forward and level, head straight, chest out, shoulders relaxed but not slumped.

Present Rest


Kneel Up

Kneel Down

Kneel Rest

Sit Up

Kneel Over





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