And the collared girls go, doop de-doop de-doop…

I am going to collar a girl I love. 

I haven’t a lot to say about that. First, in general, when writing about anyone on this blog I apply a five-year rule, so that nothing gets on this blog before five years have passed. This is mainly for confidentiality, so that even if someone works out my secret identity as a policy advice guy for governments, they won’t be able to tell which woman any particular story concerns. 

And second, I give false names and make sure key details are misleading. So if someone is a lab technician, for example, I’ll say here that she’s a chemist. If she’s short I might say she’s tall, or not mention it. Mentions of hair colour is usually incorrect, but not reliably so.

So what I’m about to say feels very strange to me. I’m going to collar the beautiful and clever Zoe, who blogs here. Never think the simple truth is simple: it took a real internal fight to make myself give that correct information. Out loud. 

The only other thing to say is that she’s somewhat nervous. But my pledge to my readers, especially one of them, is that I’ll go slow, gentle, and only fierce when I’m sure the mood wants to be fierce. 

And giving a collar may present itself as a kind of ownership, but that’s largely rhetoric, to help intensify the emotional intimacy between the collar-giver and the collar-wearer. The fact that we consciously know it’s rhetorical doesn’t prevent that rhetoric from having its desired emotional and erotic effect. 

What a collar definitely is, is a symbol of love: both giving and accepting the collar are huge and powerful statements and admissions of love. 



What giving a collar means to me

I’m going to collar a girl in a few weeks’ time.


Er, in a manly, dommy, voice, of course. Ahem.

There are a few minor issues that have to be dealt with first, like her giving me enthusiastic consent. Which is half-given, but I consider that it’s still subject to conditions at present. But once those trifling formalities are over, she shall be given and wear my collar. 

So what does that collar mean, when I give it to this very specific person? 

Commitment and love

A standard slave collar. Note that the designer provided rings for three leashes! The Bible says you can’t serve two Masters. Obviously,  three’s all right though

The first thing it means is that I love her and I trust, to the state of knowledge, that she loves me. And I commit to her. I’m no longer looking. And whether she likes it or not, I consider it my duty, as a dom with a collared sub, to look after her, and to work to achieve her safety and happiness. She affirms the equivalent. We are a dominant and a submissive, and each of us is focussed on the other.

This is simple enough, and it’s the reciprocal aspect of a collar, the part that means roughly the same to the dominant and the submissive. 


The second thing it means is that she’s my submissive. But that status, “my collared submissive”, can mean a range of things, on a continuum. 

At one end of that scale it would mean she would address me as Master, and have to obey any command I give her, concerning any aspect of her life. I would have an absolute right to discipline her, for my pleasure or because she has displeased me. (The three things that I’m most likely to punish memorably for are self-destructive behaviour, which can include inaction, disobedience and disrespect other than playful cheekiness.

In that version of submission, she is my property. An owned girl. 

At the other end of the continuum, it means she retains her own decision-making, independent of me for most of her life, but she is submissive to me in and around the bedroom. Her submission is sexual, and not anything else. 

The rhetoric of lovers

These two styles aren’t in practice so different. There are some practical differences, but in reality the major difference is the intensity of the rhetoric.

All lovers use rhetoric when they speak to each other. Two people, having just fucked, may look each other in the eye and swear that they will love the other forever, till the day they die.

There are some tacky slave collars out there. This one could actually be worse than jazz…

In reality they may part within the year, because one of them eats mandarins in bed and the other wants to listen to jazz on the radio when they wake up in the morning.

Jazz would be a deal-breaker for me, by the way. I’d never swear undying love to someone who listened to jazz in the bedroom. Once I discovered that horrible jazz thing, it’d be a one-off, a one-night stand. Um, all right, this might be a digression. 

But the fact that they parted doesn’t mean they were insincere when they swore undying love. And if you understood the rhetoric, it doesn’t even make what they said untrue. They were looking for words to express how enchanted and wonderful they felt, and they used those words.

The literal meaning of their words wasn’t the point; the meaning was the emotion they expressed.

Bdsm lovers’ rhetoric

So I might say to a submissive, “I own you; you are my property, to do with as I choose.” And she might say, “Oh god yes, I am yours, Master.” Then we sign a contract to that effect.

But if she feels bad in the relationship, and she no longer loves and respects me, she doesn’t really transgress that agreement if she leaves.

I could take her to Court, showing the contract in which she agreed that she was my property and my slave. “Look!” I’d say, “it’s signed in blood!” And the Court would laugh its fool ass off at me. A bdsm slave contract is worth the the paper it’s written on, in reality. Less, actually, because that sheet of paper’s got words scribbled all over it. 

So in a sense, the rhetoric of ownership, of a collared submissive, really means: “I feel this passionate urge to be your dominant, to take and enjoy your submission, and I feel it very intensely. And I want to go on feeling it intensely, with you.”

It’s emotionally real. It’s never practically or legally real; a submissive cannot really give up direction and control over her life, except voluntarily while she wants to.

Love, again

The day collar. Something that can be worn in public, with some discretion. I’ll be looking for something on these lines…

So to me, the collar mainly represents loving commitment between a dominant and submissive. Beyond that it means a subtly moving bdsm commitment, with boundaries that extend and recede from day to day and moment to moment, under which the submissive commits to a presumption towards submission when the dominant evokes the bdsm or D/s part of the relationship. 

That means, if I say, “girl, take your clothes off and kneel”, I expect to get obedience.

But if I said, “you will tell your mother about us, so she understands that you are my submissive, and that if she has any requests of you she must direct them through me,” I expect to get, at least, discussion. Or a flat, “fuck off”. 

So I see the gift and acceptance of the collar not as an end-point but at a stage in a process. A declaration of love and commitment, and presumption towards submission when I flash out my dominant side: those are good starting points.  

The collar is the outward sign of the commitment that allows us to find the right level of bdsm for us, and work our ways to the sweet level that best suits us both. 

What it means, to wear a bdsm collar

What does a bdsm collar mean? Generally, the best idea is to ask the person wearing it, and the person who gave it. They can tell you what that collar means. But only that one.

I met her once. In fact, I’ve had the honor, though not the pleasure, of having been turned down by her. Bother. Very nice person, though, and every bit as pretty as the photo suggests. At the time neither of us had any idea how iconic this photo was going to become.

Their meaning won’t be the same as someone else’s. For example, if I see a woman wearing a collar in the local supermarket, I can’t guess what it means. She might be proclaiming that she’s a wild spirit and a bit arty, or she might be a Goth, buying bread, milks and eggs on her way to sack Rome.

She might be involved in bdsm, and wearing it for bdsm reasons. Even then, I can’t know what it means. She might be wearing it to express her membership of the world of bdsm. No one collared her: she bought it and put it on herself.

It doesn’t even mean she’s submissive, necessarily. Plenty of women switches and doms also wear collars for that reason.

(Guys are much, much less likely to wear a collar in public. So I’m writing “she” and “women” for this part.)

It might mean she’s submissive, and the collar helps her to feel submissive, and there’s a small sexual charge from expressing this part of her sexuality out in the open. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she has a master/mistress or a dom.

Again, she’s just quietly expressing her identity, to those who are able to read it.   

And then we have bdsm collars as most people think of them. A couple decided that they fit together well as dominant and submissive, and the dominant offers the submissive a collar. He or she accepts it, and so he or she become a “collared sub”.

Generally, if you make one image in a post black and white, you’re obliged to make the others black and white too. But I like the “just been paddled” blush on her bottom too much to fade it completely.

Even then, their understanding of what it means will be different from another dominant and submissive’s understanding.

It may mean something like, “I am my Master’s/Mistress’s property, in the same way that s/he owns his/her table and chair. My sole purpose, in every moment and aspect of my life, is to obey and please my Owner.”

Or it may mean something like: “I love it when s/he ties me up and spanks me when we’re fucking.”

I looked up “what bdsm collars mean”, and found a hell of a lot of wild claims, generalisations and pure fantasy on this topic.

The only generalisation that I think is true is that it represents some sort of bond and commitment between the couple. Accepting and wearing a collar has powerful emotional significance.

But the reality is: you ascribe the meaning to a bdsm collar. When a collar is given and accepted between a dominant-and-submissive couple, there are no terms and conditions that automatically come with it. You set those for yourself, in negotiation with the person offering or considering accepting the collar, of course.


I’ll write about what collars mean to me. 

Collars in bdsm: where did they come from?

There were what we’d recognise as bdsm clubs in the Victorian and Edwardian period. They called themselves things like “Miss Primm’s Society of Flagellants”, rather than bdsm clubs, but if we went back a hundred off years in time and visited one, we’d recognise most of what we saw. We’d know our way around.

Now take a couple from that Victorian or Edwardian bdsm club and bring them to a modern bdsm club. They’d also know most of what they see. They’d see dungeon gear, they’d see a school desk with a birch or a cane handy, and they’d know what those things are about. 

But there are also things that would puzzle them.

For example, some of them would be looking for women wearing nosegays (a small bunch of flowers) pinned to the breast of their shirt. Because that was how women in the early Victorian period signalled that they’d be very pleased to birch a naughty boy and teach him to behave.

But bdsm has fashions, and that fashion has gone.

Similarly, other people would be looking at the women and men wearing leather collars round their necks, and wondering what on earth that was about. Because in Victorian times, collars were not part of bdsm.

Historical slave collars

Maybe one reason for that lack of interest in slave collars is that the Victorians were closer to real slavery than most of us now are. So they had an idea of what slavery was like, when it’s impersonal and non-consensual.

Actual slave collars existed but they were usually made out of wood, iron or cord, and they weren’t everyday wear for slaves. Nor were they romantic, or intended as decoration. They were hard things to eroticise, and it doesn’t seem to have occurred to any Victorians to even try. 

Slave collars were for attaching together groups of slaves when they were made to walk from African villages to slaver ports, from which they would be taken to countries that had large-scale slavery, particularly Arabia and the United States.

These collars weren’t the stuff of erotic fantasies: more like brutal nightmares.

Slave collars in pre-Victorian, Victorian and Edwardian bdsm literature

Put simply: there weren’t any.

You can read bdsm erotica from the Victorian and Edwardian period, and you certainly had characters who were willing submissive partners in sexual slavery, because for them it was the best and hottest sex ever. But they don’t wear collars.

If their master, mistress or trainer wants them to feel powerless, they might be made to wear something super-feminine, that exposed more leg or bust than they were comfortable with and presented them sexually.

The image on the left isn’t  Victorian. It’s 1950s. But it shows humiliation by feminisation.

I can’t give an example of a girl being humiliated in this way. It’s a theme in written Victorian and Edwardian porn, but from the descriptions it sounds to a modern reader that the girl’s just wearing a summer dress. A little, flappy summer dress. Nothing, to us; deeply humiliating, to a Victorian lady.

And I should write about why looking feminine was considered to be humiliating in itself, but – the hell with it – not today.

But you’ll look in vain for any reference to collars for those who choose to obey. Collars just weren’t a thing yet. 

Slave collars in Story of O

O is collared, in the 1975 film of Story of O

The earliest reference to collars I’ve been able to find is in Histoire d’O, published in 1954. The submissive women at Roissy wear collars and sometimes blindfolds, and… well, that’s about it. 

So the inventor of collars as a bdsm symbol is probably Anne Desclos, who wrote The Sory of O under the name “Pauline Reage”. 

 One of the interesting things about Descos/Reage is that when she wrote Story of O, she had no bdsm experience and knew very little about bdsm, except that her then boyfriend admired Sade. I’m no fan of the book, and I think that lack of experience and inside knowledge helps explain why the book is so oddly sexless, unsensual (most of the time*) and disembodied.

But it also explains why Declos should have invented bdsm symbols from scratch, since she had nothing much to go on except her imagination.

  • The exception to my “unsensuous” comment is the bit at the beginning where O has to lower her stockings and panties and lift her skirt, so her bare bottom and thighs are directly against the leather of the car she’s in. That be a good sensual detail.

John Norman’s Gor books

But the person whose work brought collars into a central place in bdsm is John Norman. He gives collars enormous significance and power, which isn’t really present in Story of O.

There are all sort of thing wrong with Norman, mainly that he was a terrible writer, comically bad, and also his dodgy sexual politics. He thought women just naturally liked, or at least needed, to be slaves, so consent wasn’t really an issue. Male submissives don’t exist.

But the importance of collars, and collaring ceremonies. I have to give Norman credit for that, because it’s almost entirely his doing.


Now collars are so popular that they’ve moved into mainstream fashion. When a Goth girl wears a choker collar, she doesn’t mean she’s a submissive, just that she likes the style. Usually: you just can’t tell.

If you want to find out, you’ll have to talk to her. Conversation is still quite a bit clearer than clothing signs, signals and symbols. Which is fortunate, for us wordy types: ie you.

(If you do do talk to her, “Hey! Is that a slave collar?” probably shouldn’t be your opening line. It may lead to a loud clash of symbols.) 

Bdsm culture

You can laugh. But we’ll all be wearing these in 2117

Bdsm culture isn’t fixed. We affect mainstream culture, and mainstream culture affects bdsm culture.

We use different symbols from the Edwardians, only 100 years ago.

In 100 years time, I have no idea what bdsm will look like.

But bdsm definitely will have a visual style, partly based on the old, and partly on new things we can’t begin to guess.




There’s a Wicked Wednesday episode of the Adventures of Maddie coming up. But after that, I want to write about collaring ceremonies.