Collars: Who, What and Why

Collars in historical times were put on slaves as to identify who owned them. To collar someone at the neck meant that you hold that person in ultimate control. Today’s purpose in the BDSM lifestyle community collars carry many different meanings depending on the individual, but generally speaking the significance of the collar is the same – a person has control over another. One very important distinction from our historical counterpart rests in the consensual nature of the collar. In today’s times, the submissive or slave has the choice of whether or not to submit. A collar of ownership is one of the most common reasons why we have a collar in the BDSM community. But collars can mean so many different things though. Not every collar in the community is a collar of ownership. There are so many different meanings, different ways in which the collaring happens, and different levels to it for some.

A collar has meaning to those who are involved in the relationship. It can be just like a wedding ring for some, a power exchange to others, or it may be something taken lightly and tossed away at impulse.

Collaring may be taken lightly, but in my experience after a while it loses something for the people involved. It does not have the meaning or significance and thus feels empty. I could discuss the online “collar,” but it is my preference always to keep two feet firmly planted in real life, hence this article will not address the “online collars.”

A collar symbolizing the ownership arrangement, usually comes out a deeply rooted commitment between Dominant and submissive. And hopefully the people going into the relationship will be ready to honor and respect the symbol. A Dominant should offer their collar seriously. The submissive that accepts the collar from a Dominant should also be equally serious about its significance. Usually it is not a decision made quickly and tossed aside in a week. But a collar’s significance really depends on what the meaning of a collar is to you.

Different Meanings of a Collar

For a Top/bottom it could mean a piece of equipment used in the scene. It is merely is used as a toy. It usually symbolizes nothing beyond the power exchange of a “scene.”

For a Dominant/submissive the collar could mean a commitment to each other in the form of a power exchange. It could symbolize a commitment to the power exchange and can end when either wishes to conclude it.

For a Master/slave it could signify the slave being owned. The slave has relinquished her right to choose as long as the Master or slave wishes to remain in it. For a Master/slave in an absolute relationship it means that the slave has relinquished her right to choose until her Master releases her.

Stages of Collaring

Some Dominants have stages to collaring a submissive. It can start off with a Collar of Consideration. It is basically the getting to know each other stage. It could be considered equivalent to the “courting” or “dating” stage in the vanilla world. This is a period of time where the Dominant and submissive should talk and explore needs, wants and desires in a D/s relationship (not only BDSM but vanilla wants, needs and life goals as well). It is an expression of interest in pursuing a D/s relationship with each other beyond casual play or interactions. It also gives the signal to other dominants that the submissive is “off-limits” because she is pursuing a power dynamic with someone.

The next stage might be the Training Collar. It allows the parties to see how things will work between them on a more permanent basis. Some basic goals for the foundation of the relationship are being worked on during this time. The training collar is usually plain, but sturdy to show a sense of awareness to this learning period. A training collar also could symbolize a relationship where the Dominant is “training” the submissive on a specific task or in an area of service. In other instances, a submissive maybe trained by Dominants who do not “own” them. (which could be a whole other article for me).

Formal or Slave Collar represents the final stage of commitment. It can express the belief of a desire to share in each others lives in a power exchange. Perhaps for the rest of their lives much like how a wedding ring or some other sign or symbol of their union. The actual collar is usually a collar that can be worn all the time and a symbol of that commitment.

Material Form of a Collar

In its material form, it may take many shapes. It may be a simple leather dog collar, chain, steel, a necklace, a ring, a bracelet, an anklet, or some other body decoration. It can take the physical form of a brand, a tattoo, or body piercings. Most collars seem to be designed to feel strong and secure in the relationship negotiated or formed. A collar may not have any physical form at all; instead it could be just a word that denotes the commitment itself. Regardless, collars are powerful reminders of the type of relationship between dominant/submissive.

How one gets a Collar

How one attains a collar also widely differs. Some people have to beg for their collar, while others have to work for or earn that privilege. Some submissives are collared without being asked or having to beg. In almost every situation a collar should be discussed and/or negotiated. Whether a collar is negotiated for a long-term relationship, or whether there is an agreement or understanding for a more casual arrangement. Discussions about each other’s views regarding “the collaring philosophy” becomes just as important as it determines the direction of the relationship. This process should be understood and mutually sought before offering and accepting a collar. It’s sometimes difficult to separate fantasy from reality when it comes to collaring – but consider the improbability of making a marriage last if you have just met the person and ran to the local courthouse.

Feelings and meaning associated with the Collar

Many times Dominant gives the collar with pride. The Dominant might view the collar as a symbol of ownership or surrender of the submissive or slave. It can become a symbol of their union, agreement, and their dedication to a common goal. Submissive often wear it in devotion. Submissives can feel strength and security in the collar – thus in their power exchange. It can evoke in a slave the profound depth of service to their Owner. It can evoke feelings of their calling into slavery. And serve as a reminder of place and status in the power exchange. For others it might feel just as a toy – such as a flogger or something else used in a scene. And alternately a collar might feel like protection and love for others. It can be freeing to have that collar around ones neck because it means that you are not denying your authentic self.

Final Thoughts

The collar has certain practicality reasons to be worn, but the majority of people within the lifestyle see the collar as a representation of the bond between a Dominant and submissive. A power exchange does not require or need a collar or marking of ownership. They are symbolic, meaningful and useful at times but they are not necessary to the power exchange. The only thing is needed is a clear, honest commitment to the power dynamic.

© within Reality: danae 2004 – all rights reserved