First thing's first: This system is not meant to co-opt deaf culture in any way, nor is it a replacement for American Sign Language. It’s an alternative for a Dominant who needs to communicate their wishes to a submissive when verbal commands may be difficult to hear. I've found there's a surprising number of situations when non-verbal commands come in handy. The most common is in dungeons or at kink parties, where loud music or noise is a problem. They can also be useful when the submissive is hard of hearing or has earplugs in.

This is an alternate system of communication I initially developed with my subs during play in loud public play spaces. I'm old, enjoy high protocol D/s, and can't hear well. I also love using sensory deprivation, like earplugs and headphones, on my submissives. In addition to being practical in loud environments, this system also enforces the discipline I instill in my submissives through memorization, service and structure. It’s perfect for those into service oriented protocol because it is so regimented. Lastly, it offers a fair system for developing punishments for a sub who can’t recall one of the commands. You can use it in quiet environments too just to keep your submissive on their toes.

Safety First, Always

There are only six things to remember, making this an easy system to incorporate into your D/s play. To initiate the hand commands, the Dominant needs to get the attention of their submissive by waving, making eye contact, or snapping fingers. Once the sub is alerted, the Dominant uses one of six hand signals - either a fist or holding up between one and five fingers.

All D/s play must be consensual. Details should be negotiated before play begins. Participants have a safeword they can use at any time. This simple hand signal system incorporates nonverbal safewords. They’re “safe signals,” if you will, otherwise called somatic safewords. A somatic safeword is a physical action that replaces a verbal safeword. Some people use two taps on the arm, a closed fist raised high, or "jazz hands."

Another option is to have the submissive hold an object and when they release it, that signals the safeword. The object should be something loud or otherwise noticeable when dropped like a bouncy ball or a set of keys. Incorporating safe signals during this type of play (or any other time when verbal communication is impaired) is important. It’s a good way to say no, check in with the Dominant, renegotiate the scene, or just get a timeout.

The 6 Hand Signals

The following explains each Dominant hand signal and what it means. Most commands correspond to a number and letter of the alphabet that relates to the action commanded.

  • Fist: When the Dominant raises their fist in the air, it means, “Stop what you’re doing immediately, come to my side, and assume your submissive position.” That position preference changes from person to person. I prefer my submissive sitting on the ground, hands behind their back, with their eyes looking down.

  • One finger up: One finger corresponds to the first letter of the alphabet, “A,” which stands for “Attend.” After you get your submissive’s attention and hold up one finger signaling they need to attend to someone, point to an individual that needs their sexual or non-sexual needs met. Make sure if sexual attention is requested it has been negotiated and consented to ahead of time. Example: Someone is packing a bag of BDSM gear at a party. The Top sees this and wants their bottom to assist. So they hold one finger up and point at the person in need of assistance.

  • Two fingers up: Two fingers corresponds to the second letter of the alphabet, “B,” which stands for “Be on your hands and knees.” The submissive is to respond by getting in a hands and knees kneeling position. They are to raise their ass in the air presenting it for your pleasure or punishment. Example: The submissive goofs up and needs to be spanked in punishment. The Top shows them two fingers representing the second command: “Be on your hands and knees and present your ass for punishment.”

  • Three fingers up: Three fingers up is the third letter of the alphabet, “C,” which stands for “cock or cunt.” After giving this non-verbal command, point to an individual the sub has negotiated with and consented to giving oral servitude. Consent can be revoked at any time by the sub raising their fist or giving whatever somatic safeword you established together. Example: The Dominant sees the sub’s girlfriend across the room. They both pre-negotiated and consented to oral sex. The Dominant holds up three fingers to the sub and points at their girlfriend, who the sub must now serve orally.

  • Four fingers up: Four fingers is the fourth letter of the alphabet, “D,” which stands for “Drink.” After giving this signal point to an individual. The submissive is to go to them, find out what beverage they want, how they take it, and then go get it for them. Example: The Dominant puts four fingers up and points to a person they’d been talking with. The submissive immediately asks what kind of beverage they would like and how they would like it prepared. “How do I want my coffee? In my fucking hand, black, and strong.”

  • Five fingers up: Five fingers corresponds to the fifth letter of the alphabet, “E,” which stands for “extreme pleasure.” When the submissive sees the five finger command that means extreme pleasure for them. They are to respond by laying on their back, no matter where they are (assuming you're at a kink event and/or in an area where play is allowed). Once in the position, they are to start to masturbating. The goal here is for the sub to get themselves off and let their exhibitionist skills shine. They are to masturbate until orgasm.

This easy-to-learn system has a number of mnemonics to help with memorization. All you need to do is remember, “one finger corresponds to the first letter of the alphabet which means "attend," and so on. This is an important cheat for the Dominant partner to remember. It’s not necessary to fill your submissive in on this memory trick, however. You both may enjoy the punishments and "funishments" that follow their mistakes. Ultimately, the best way for someone memorize this is to commit it to muscle memory by repeatedly practicing the commands.

Hand signals are a novel, sexy way to play and a great way to increase your communication skills, too. This system is certainly handy at kinky events. You can use it at home too for some fun, high protocol interaction.