Bdsm

How to Make a BDSM Contract

Published: OCTOBER 3, 2023
Whether you’re brand new to BDSM or ready to put the terms of your power exchange in ink, we'll show you how - and provide a handy template you can download and use.

In any romantic relationship, it’s nice to know exactly what’s expected of you. This is especially true if you’re in a D/s relationship, when your physical and emotional wellbeing could be on the line if safe, consensual boundaries aren’t put in place before you dim the lights.

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The specifics of BDSM play should always be discussed openly in advance, with equal input from all parties (yes - even you, submissives!) When you’re in the negotiation phase of exploring your limits, desires, and beyond, many find it helpful to put it in writing using a BDSM contract. This can be as simple as a couple lines in a shared iPhone note, or as formal as the product from the conference room scene in "Fifty Shades of Grey." The scope of each BDSM contract will be determined by personal preference, and what you need to get the most out of the power dynamic in your relationship.

Read: Is a BDSM Contract Worth It?

Download Our BDSM Contract Template

But where to start? How about here! We've put together a customizable, downloadable template to help you outline the parameters for your ideal D/s relationship. Remember that the power to cultivate your erotic pleasure is entirely your own. Use this template to its fullest, or simply use it as a thought starter when facilitating a conversation around boundaries and desires with your play partner.

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What do you need to know about BDSM contracts?

BDSM contracts are a real tool that’s been used by the kink community for decades (although they didn't get mainstream attention until the release of "Fifty Shades of Grey.") While you certainly don’t need to don business formal attire and sit across from each other in a glass-paneled conference room when you have the chat, keep in mind that the most successful BDSM contracts will result from more formal conversations than your day-to-day pillow talk. If you’re just casually relaying what you like and dislike in bed, you’re not really touching on the nitty gritty of what can make a D/s partnership so arousing. So don’t be afraid to initiate the conversation in a way that might feel structured to you.

“Having a contract is useful for beginners and long-time practitioners alike,” Alana Ogilvie, MS, LMFT tells Kinkly. “Contracts can lay out expectations for scenes, the relationship between the people involved and can help all parties understand one another’s limits and boundaries. Of the utmost importance in the kink community are the tenets of ‘safe, sane, consensual’ and a contract can help ensure that play continues to abide by these principles.”

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Whether you’re experimenting with bondage or looking to delve into Total Power Exchange (TPE), you can expect a contract to clarify your intentions, which Ogilvie asserts will “result in more communication and lessened conflict.” When in doubt, remember to let the submissive lead the conversation. While this contract will become an equal tool for both partners, the submissive should be empowered to take on a primary or active role in its contents to ensure their boundaries are crystal clear.

Essentials To Include When Writing a BDSM Contract

While you may choose to pare back on some of the addendums in our template, you’ll want to make sure the following eight elements are included in your agreement:

  1. The duration of the contract. It’s important to understand that any party is within their rights to terminate the contract whenever they feel it’s appropriate. However, you’ll want to define a start and end date for your agreement - it’ll be helpful for setting expectations, as well as planning and fostering a well-defined commitment between partners. Plus, it gives everyone involved a firm date upon which they can bring renegotiation points to the table.

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  • What you’ll call each other during a scene. You’ll want to immediately identify who is involved, what role they’ll assume for the duration of the contract, and how each party will be addressed. The possibilities are yours to explore when it comes to designating titles: Master and pet, Daddy and princess, and beyond.

  • Physical and emotional implications that might be relevant to play. Adding a health declaration to your contract allows both parties to disclose whether they have any physical conditions or emotional hold-ups that might alter a scene. While this might seem like a mood killer, it’s imperative you’re on the same page about STDs should bodily fluids be exchanged; allergies if you’re planning to break out the whipped cream and chocolate sauce; or emotional triggers if any parties are working through a past trauma or are under duress.

  • Expectations that go beyond the sexual. It’s easy to envision a master/sub relationship that consists of regular oral service and spanking, but a contract can also be handy in determining how your relationship unfolds outside of the bedroom. Will the submissive be wearing a bracelet or charm to signify their ownership as they go about their regularly scheduled programming? Will they be expected to strip down as soon as they enter the home? Or, after the scene has concluded, will the Dominant and submissive return to being equals? These are questions to answer together when filling out “roles and expectations” in your contract.

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  • Hard and soft limits, for all parties. Stating your “hard limits,” or your non-negotiables, upfront is a safe way to ensure no one’s lines are crossed once things get heated. This goes for the Dominant as well, even though it seems more likely that they would blur boundaries before the submissive. Everyone deserves to be heard equitably when outlining where they’d like to explore, and what they’d like to stay away from entirely.

  • Safewords. Having a pre-agreed upon word, phrase, or signal that stops or slows play is integral to set clear boundaries and ensure comfort levels are mutually respected during play. While many Dominants and submissives rely on the stoplight system (“red” to stop, “yellow” to proceed with caution), your safewords can be any word or signal that feels right to you and your play partner(s)

  • Agreed upon violations (and subsequently, punishments). The weighting of every individual infraction is entirely up to your unique situations. For some couples, forgetting to call the Dominant by their proper term of address may result in a verbal warning; for others, it may warrant impact play. Use your contract to understand how important your rules are to each other, and allocate punishments accordingly. It’s worth noting that not all BDSM practitioners get off on the idea of punishment, so if this doesn’t feel natural to you, there’s no need to include it in your contract. (Get some ideas in 10 BDSM Punishments That Segue Perfectly Into Sex.)

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  • Aftercare, aftercare, aftercare. From cuddling, to offering water or snacks, to engaging in gentle conversation, the importance of aligning on aftercare needs can’t be understated. Spelling this out in your contract is a great way to make sure everyone’s desires are heard.

  • Read: The Importance of Aftercare

    BDSM Contract Dos and Don'ts

    There’s no right or wrong way to color in your contract, but if you have questions, apprehensions, or concerns, here are some guidelines that may shape your perspective:

    • DON’T overly restrict yourself or your partner. Outlining the specifics of your sex life with a ballpoint pen is enough to turn anyone into a miniature lawyer, but don’t make the mistake of getting so in the weeds with your contract that you lose the fun. While including all of the things you wouldn’t do is paramount, some couples find they have more creativity by leaving all of the things they would do up for interpretation. You don’t want to create an overwhelming situation where your contract needs to be tweaked down to the letter if a rule is changed, added, or taken away. Instead, focus on the broader scope of your dynamic, and the overall principles you feel are important to your unique roles.

    • DON’T consider the contract binding. Remember: Contracts are meant to be renegotiated. “Circumstances change, needs change, and as you change as people, so too should your contract!” Ogilvie says.

    • DON’T feel counted out if you practice polyamory. While Kinkly’s template includes space for one Dominant and one submissive, we encourage you to make it your own by adding additional parties if that’s a part of your relationship dynamic.

    • DO set the tone for negotiations. Ogilvie recommends leading with clarity and conciseness when approaching the idea of creating a contract with your partner. “You don’t have to say, ‘We need to sit down and hash this out now,’ but ensuring that everyone is the headspace to start negotiating the terms of said contract will ensure it is an accurate reflection of what you both want.” Might we recommend even slipping into something silky and lighting a candle before you dig in?

    • DO think about looping in an accountability partner. While keeping the details of the contract between the co-signers is essential to maintaining trust going forward, letting a third party "accountability partner" know about your decisions can play an important role in keeping the everyone safe. Be it a therapist, a mentor, or a trusted friend, sharing the details of your agreement with someone who can help keep the dominant responsible for their actions can make the play space feel error-proof.

    • DO keep it fun. Ultimately, enjoying yourself and enjoying your partner(s) is the bread and butter of an erotic power exchange - so don’t forget to have a little fun. “If contracting isn’t something you do at the beginning of a scene or as part of formalizing a relationship, consider making it a date,” Ogilvie suggests. “Make dinner, open a nice bottle of wine (if you so choose) and go over what you would want or not want to include in your own contract. Just because you are creating a formal document does not mean the act of creating it has to be stuffy and formal also.”

    I’ve filled out my BDSM contract - now what?

    First of all: Kudos. You’ve taken an important step towards a gratifying D/s relationship that’s also safe, sane and consensual. Once you’ve crossed the I’s and dotted the T’s, save your contract somewhere that every party involved has access to, in case it needs to be referred to again. This can be on a shared drive, or printed out and stowed in the bedside table. Keep in mind that your contract isn’t legally binding - it’s flexible and subject to change, just like your relationship. Store it somewhere safe, but where it can always be pulled up and edited again.

    Going forward, you don’t need to whip out your contract every time you’re about to jump into bed. However, if a term of your agreement is violated or broken, particularly one that compromises your trust, remember: You can always revisit the core tenants of your relationship, including what led you to write a contract in the first place.

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    Elizabeth Kirkhorn

    Elizabeth Kirkhorn is a writer and essayist living in Manhattan. She is a graduate of The New School's MFA in Writing and currently lends her voice to a Creative Strategy Role at Dotdash Meredith, where she focuses on health & wellness brands. Elizabeth's writing spans a wide range of kinks and curiosities, and can be found on O.school, MysteryVibe, Byrdie, and beyond. Elizabeth's personal passions include creating fetish content that's friendly and accessible to all...

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