Protocols: A Variety of Views front cover

Front cover for Protocols: A Variety of Views

Edited by L.C. Morgynn
Published in 2008 by The Nazca Plains Corporation

I really wanted to like this book for a couple of reasons. First, there are few good books about Master/slave dynamics and I hoped this work would turn out to be the exception.  Secondly, I know at least one of the contributors personally and have met several of the others, so being able to write a thoroughly glowing review might save me from moments of social awkwardness.  That said, as a reviewer, I am committed to the truth. From my standpoint, heaping praise upon a book that isn’t very good will inevitably be far more awkward than acknowledging the truth.

For those of you not familiar with Master/slave (M/s) relationships, allow me to explain my understanding of protocols.  In general, protocols are guidelines that define how slaves in the relationship are expected to behave. They can take many forms and vary from person to person and relationship to relationship. For example, in some relationships, the master expects the slave to walk a few steps behind the master in public. For other masters, the expectation is that the slave will walk next to or even in front of the master.

Protocols benefit both masters and slaves.  For masters, protocols allow them an opportunity to guide their slave and communicate which behaviors they expect their slaves to follow. For slaves, protocols serve as a constant reminder of the relationship, absolves them from having to guess about what to do to please their master, and allows them to focus their energies and attention to the master’s needs and desires.

As I mentioned, how masters implement protocols in their relationships varies from person to person.  For some masters the slave is always expected to follow the protocol regardless of the situation, while others may only expect one set of protocols in the privacy of their home and another in the company of non-kinky friends and relatives. For example, the slave may be expected to always ask permission to go to the bathroom at home, but asking for said permission while in the company of master’s 90 year-old Baptist grandmother might make master less than thrilled. Similarly, protocols can change over time as the needs and abilities of all parties to the relationship change.

Just as there are differences in which protocols slaves are expected to follow, there are differences in how these things are communicated. Some masters communicate all of their protocol expectations verbally. Others have created handbook that explicitly state these expectations in whatever detail the master chooses.

As began reading this book, I expected the book to address different ideas of how to implement protocols, different notions of what protocols others use in their relationships, and so on.  The topic of protocols is certainly a rich one and deserving of much discussion.  Given that virtually every M/s relationship has its own set of protocols, one would reasonably expect a variety of different opinions on the type and variety of protocols that various masters use. Unfortunately, while the title promises “a variety of views” about protocols there is not any significant debate or points of disagreement between the various authors.  Most of the essays follow the same format: the author defines protocols using a dictionary or similar source, relates how that definition applies to Master/slave relationships, and describes how they have instituted protocols in their lives.

As I read, I was reminded that I often lament that BDSM-related books include unnecessary padding.  However in this case, I noticed that the essays in this particular book are far too brief and are annoyingly repetitive. Yet strangely, following the essays about protocols are essays about other topics and book reviews. While these essays are enjoyable to read, they don’t really directly relate to the book’s topic and give all of the appearance of padding.  What we are left with is a mess.

This would have been a much better book if a single author (or perhaps the editor) had defined what protocols are and left the other writers to use that as a framework to either build upon or react against. Alternately, the editor could have asked the writers to write about a single aspect of protocols. Either approach would have resulted in a much more cohesive and informative work, because what we are left with feels like a wasted opportunity.

While this book was generally a disappointment, it did serve to make me think about protocols in my own relationship, and I still plan to read other books in this seemingly ubiquitous series with the hope that they are better than this one.