More About Protocol


Protocol in the Leather BDSM community has been defined simply as etiquette. However it is more than that.  It is the rules, ritualized behaviors, actions and attitudes that govern interactions in a leather relationship and within the broader leather community.

The premise of Gay leather and BDSM protocol is simple: it’s A rank-based system.  It is primarily relationship-based but influences behavior and interaction between people in community, public and social situations.  Within an individual relationship those involved may discuss, come to agreement and implement how they will conduct their personal protocol.  Also, you may see that Leathermen within the same social circle or club will agree on a particular protocol and it is possible that people in the broader leather community practice the same protocol to the point that it becomes a generally accepted protocol as well.  Individuals may opt out of certain protocols, except in situations where protocol is required for particular events or places. Leather bars, for example, sometimes enforce a dress code, which is a popular form of leather protocol.

The intention or objective of leather protocol is to emphasize hierarchy. The SIR and His boy both have protocols to follow, but T/their protocols are different.  The boy’s protocol tends to be more active than his SIR’s.  An example might be when a SIR walks into a room, He enjoys the sight of His boy standing up for Him, but the boy is  the one who has the actual fun and honor of standing up for his SIR.  The SIR’s role is passive in comparison to His boy’s.

To an outsider or someone new to the Leather community protocol can appear quite degrading for the submissive.  However, through education and insight into the Leather community one will begin to understand that when the Dominant and submissive have great respect for one another protocol takes on an entirely new and different meaning.  Furthermore, it will become clear that the rules and behaviors which appear from the outside to be dull and demeaning to the boy can actually be fun and a great honor for the boy to put into practice, especially if he likes/loves/respects the person he is in service to.

In developing protocols within a relationship the SIR and His boy may start by observing those practiced by other Leathermen.  Also T/they may consider the rituals of other institutions, organizations or churches.  T/they may evaluate “proper” societal etiquette, previous personal experiences of observing protocols, or may even develop and institute new rituals for T/their relationship.

The SIR and his boy may try out T/their version of protocol in private first to see and evaluate whether in actual practice it really works for T/them.  Then T/they can adjust or choose to eliminate those actions that just did not fit.  Over time the rules may undergo changes, refinement and growth, and new protocols may be implemented to further enhance the dynamic and intimacy within the D/s relationship.

Below are a few commonly observed protocols:


At leather events, the mentor and the apprentice will dress appropriately.

The boy may simply wear the traditional leatherboy  outfit of a white tee-shirt, jeans, and black leather boots – a traditional leatherboy outfit.


The submissive stands when his Dominant enters the room.  Also his SIR may instruct the boy to stand anytime a Dominant enters the room.  This is a sign of respect.

When standing in a formal manner, the boy assumes a military “parade rest” position: the feet are parted to shoulder-width, and the hands are crossed behind the back.  Some SIRS may have the boy bow his head looking at the floor rather than at his SIR or any other Dominants in the room.


The submissive normally walks half a pace behind his SIR, and to the SIR’s right.

According to leather tradition the superior takes the position of honor, on the right.


The SIR may ask His boy to fetch, carry or prepare something. Also, the boy may request to do so even when he was not asked.

Most submissives love service, so every opportunity to serve should be extended to the boy.

When the SIR is standing, the boy bows his head when offering a drink. When the SIR  is sitting, the boy goes down on one knee to offer the drink, which he holds with his right hand while resting the drink on his left palm.


In some D/s relationships the SIR opens doors for his boy.  In others, the submissive opens doors for his Dominant.


While eating, while in vanilla space, and while in places where it would be inconvenient to do otherwise, the apprentice sits on a chair. Otherwise, he sits on the floor.  In Master/slave arrangements it is common for the slave to even eat while sitting on the floor.


In talking about the SIR to others, the boy will refer to Him as “my SIR,”  “my Dominant,” or “Mr. [Last Name].” The SIR will refer to the submissive by his first name; as “my boy,” or “my submissive”; or, in formal situations, by his last name.


Regular protocol is dropped when it would cause unnecessary discomfort, when it would cause hardship for the submissive or SIR, or when it conflicts with the higher duties of the SIR or boy.

In real life, there will be times when you have to drop protocol because following it would unnecessarily hurt someone. And in real life, a SIR is not simply a Dominant, and a boy is not simply a submissive. Both of T/them have more complex roles, both in relation to one another and in relation to T/their wider communities.

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