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Some are very formal and will detail exactly what is expected and can run for multiple pages. Others are as brief as a single paragraph. Either way, one is derived by negotiation on the part of both parties. BDSM couples consider the contract to hold equal moral authority to a marriage commitment. As such, constructing a proper contract is very much like writing a pre-nuptial agreement.
General outline Edit
The petition acts in the same manner as a cover letter for a résumé. In a petition a submissive will make their plea to the dominant and may outline why they are seeking to be in service to the dominant. Generally not used with a relationship that existed prior to the contract, however, for a submissive who is in search of a dominant, this feature helps to show professionalism and attention to detail. The petition should go into detail of your request, why you wish to be in service, your goals, and why you've chosen this dominant specifically.
Names and Roles of PartiesEdit
Generally the opening portion of the contract states the names of the parties, and spells out what roles they play. Many reflect a degree of affected legalese (e.g., "herein referred to as Master"), though it is in no way required. Couples who are concerned about the existence of a "paper trail" may consider omitting the names, or taking a pseudonym.
Term of ServiceEdit
The contract should define the period of service. Generally, beginning couples start with a one to three month contract. This allows for a couple to explore the confines of the relationship without an onerous lifetime commitment.
Rules, Duties, and GoalsEdit
Each party should specify the rules and duties that are expected to be enforced during the contract period. This is also where the level of protocol is spelled out. The more detail agreed to ahead of time, the less likely misunderstandings will appear later.
Each party lists the BDSM activities that they will and will not agree to. Many use some form of a BDSM checklist that is included in, or attached to the contract. This establishes what limits each party requires.
This section dictates who can terminate the agreement, and under what circumstances. Many contracts state that the dominant may breach the contract at will, while the submissive can only terminate the contract under circumstances that are dictated within the contract (which may include non-consensual abuse or neglect, or repeated violations of limits). If there is a safeword that the submissive can use to end the contract, it is included here.
Signature of all PartiesEdit
The act of signing the contract formalizes the existence of the relationship. Additionally, some contracts may include the signatures of one or two witnesses.
BDSM Contracts and the Law Edit
BDSM contracts are not legally binding. In areas of the world where BDSM activities are illegal, contracts brought to light can be used to prosecute those involved in the BDSM lifestyle. For example, in many countries consent is not a defense to assault, and a BDSM contract may not protect a dominant from being charged with criminal activity.
Contracts can, however, be used to show that the relationship was voluntary and may help in convincing a prosecutor (and if that fails, a jury), that a conviction is not warranted. In this case the contract has equal legal weight to a waiver.
Contracts can also help show which activities were agreed to and which were not. A contract that specifically states that a dominant may not disfigure the submissive, would allow a jury to differentiate between the acts which have been consented to and the disfigurement which has not, and impose sanctions accordingly.
Please refer to the Glossary of BDSM.