View From The Top: Polka Dots, Packing, and Protocol

Sarah and I settled into a routine that became all-consuming, our lives twining around each other like vines, our desires hot and ignited, a shared vision of our future beginning to unblur. She worked full time, I worked from home on writing and traveled frequently to teach. We spent hours every week chatting on our computers, emailing, talking, and checking in about our dynamic.

On a particular Thursday, about halfway through her work day, Sarah texted me. “What should I wear tonight, Daddy?”

I saw it about half an hour later, when I took a break to get a snack, a thrill shooting through me at her request — which was one of our protocols — and her use of that word. I leisurely perused her half of our small Brooklyn closet as I ate leftover pizza, keeping greasy fingers away from her clothes. Not that dress, not that one… Finally, I replied: “The white one with the black polka dots.”

She texted back immediately. “Ooh I love that dress! I’ll be home after work to change. Can’t wait.”

I tried to concentrate on work — a review of a dildo and harness that Sarah and I had now used three times — but my mind kept slipping to her, to the white dress with the black polka dots, to our evening. Thursdays were our date nights, another one of our protocols — she held them for me, and wouldn’t make plans with anyone else unless it was a special occasion.

Usually, protocol is a set of rules or a procedure that dictates how something gets done. In a dominance/submissive context, like the one Sarah and I operated in, the dominant usually sets protocol based on their own pleasure, on reinforcing the authority exchange dynamic, on personal growth intentions for one or both parties, or on enhancing the crackling erotic desire in the relationship. Whenever Sarah and I made protocol, we agreed on it together; I wanted protocols that were easy and sexy and made us feel strong, and if she didn’t want to do them, there was no point. Though most of our protocols concentrated on her, I had some too, mostly focused around appreciating her and making sure to notice when she did things for me and for us. All the protocols were negotiable, of course, but they were also a scaffolding structure to lean into, holding our care and devotion to each other up to let the light shine through.

Setting up protocols for particular, specifically selected areas was a way to take the top/bottom dynamics in our sex life and start moving them into 24/7 dominance and submission. It was highly negotiated, mutually consensual, and, for me, extremely hot.

The protocol to pick out her date night outfit came right on the heels of creating date night itself: I requested she wear the particularly short violet skirt, and the next week she asked me what I’d like to see her in. After a few weeks she brought it up in our weekly check-in about D/s and suggested it become more formal.

“You’d like that?” I asked her.

She nodded, lifting her feet from the floor up into my lap as we sat at our heavy wooden kitchen table. I massaged them gently and trailed my fingers over her ankles and calves as we talked. “I love knowing what you like to see me wear,” she said. “I like to dress up, and doing it for myself is fun, but knowing that you appreciate something all the more because I wore it just for you is even better.”

So it became protocol: I chose her outfit for date night.

That night, our date was a kink class at the LGBT Center in Manhattan, so we planned to go into the city together after work. At 5:05 pm, she texted again: “On the way home! Eta 25 minutes.” That was another protocol — she let me know when she was coming home, primarily so that I could be at a good place to stop working when she walked in. Rituals of coming back together (and separating) are important to me, so I built in as much consciousness and intention as possible.

I replied to the three most pressing emails and closed down my computer, tidying up my work space and washing the dishes I’d left in the sink. I was already wearing my nice jeans, the dark ones with red stitching across the back pockets, but I changed shirts, into a white T-shirt and a crisp white button-down with a black and grey striped tie. It wasn’t going to be too matchy-matchy because our genders were so different, and I knew she loved it when my outfit complimented hers.

“I’m home!” I heard Sarah call from the front door as I knotted my tie. I heard her low work heels click on the hardwood as she came toward the bedroom. “Daddy?”

“In here,” I called back, adjusting the knot against my throat. Sarah appeared in the doorway just as I finished. She looked me up and down as she bent gently at her waist, one hand on the door frame, and pulled her panties — cream colored today, silky and smooth, with delicate lace around the edges and a small bow in the back  — down from underneath her office skirt, and tossed them to me. She was no longer allowed to wear underwear in the apartment — a new protocol we were trying. We hoped it would remind me that I had access to her at any given moment and encourage me to be more spontaneous with initiating sex, something she said she wanted more of, and that it would remind her she could tease me, leaving her legs open or unzipping my fly when I packed and sitting on my lap without even getting undressed, something she loved doing.

I ran the thin fabric of her panties between the pad of my thumb and first two fingers. They smelled faintly of her. “Thank you,” I said, tempted to bring them to my lips and feel the softness of the silk there, too.

Sarah bounced toward me and threw her arms around my neck. “You’re going to match my dress!”

I nodded. “You like it?”

“Yes!” We kissed, and I gave her time to change while I confirmed the class started at 7:30 pm, then headed into the kitchen and prepared a small dinner salad with black beans, corn, and salsa. I wondered if I’d have energy to play after the class. I wondered if it would inspire more play. I wondered if Sarah would like it. I wondered if she would relax, this time, at a public class about kink. I wondered if I’d learn anything new. It was a class on leaving marks — using pain and leaving bruises, sure, but also Sharpie markers, or shaving, or a wedding ring, or other ways to mark someone else’s body. She proudly showed off bruises from our occasional intense sensation scenes, taking photos the next day in the bathroom or on her lunch break at work, letting me see them as they healed, and I was hoping the class would give us more ideas.

Sarah emerged into the kitchen wearing a black headband, cherry earrings, and her tight polka dot dress, looking every bit like a pin-up model. The salad was in two small bowls on the kitchen table, nothing fancy, but enough to get us over to the class. We’d probably go out afterwards, and we often ended up at a diner; even though it meant we wouldn’t get home until late, Sarah liked the socializing. I would have rather played with our newly inspired skills.

I was always the one who wanted more. I wanted more sex, more protocol, more play, more ways to show her off, more intimacy, more of her time. I devoured literature about D/s relationships — fantasies and memoirs, theory and mistakes. And while I expressed lots of interest in doing more, I let her drive the pace. When she started to ask me for more — more control, more restriction — I gladly brainstormed ideas for areas of her life she could try to give over.

She loved the fantasy of our authority exchange. “I want to feel owned,” she said in one of our weekly check-ins. “I want to be yours.”

“You are mine,” I replied, feeling that thrill of longing, that urge to pounce on her, and the pang that nobody owns anyone else, that everything is temporary. Regardless of the ways that authority exchange alleviates the stress of “anything could happen,” anything could still happen at any given moment. And relationships always inevitably end, because life always inevitably ends.

The class on leaving marks was inspired, going in depth into all sorts of edgy play that we hadn’t tried — scarification through burning, cutting, cell popping, techniques for getting deeper bruises to show up, ways to cover up bruises and encourage their healing. Despite her outfit, Sarah kept her long coat on the entire class, hiding with me in the back, but she did raise her hand to ask a question. I hoped that eventually she would grow more comfortable with acknowledging kink in public, so I squeezed her other hand, gently encouraging her without pushing.

We found a few friends afterward and headed over to the diner, Sarah’s eyes lighting up with extrovert energy. When the waiter poised to take our orders, I started to order for Sarah. She always got the same thing, a Greek salad. “I’ll have the chicken sandwich, with a salad. And she’ll have a salad — ow!”

She kicked me under the table with her pointy four-inch heel. “I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “Please, go ahead.”

Ordering for her wasn’t a protocol, yet, though I did it about half the time. Clearly, this was not one of those times. Sarah ordered the tofu buffalo wings.

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Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is “the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queer women” (AfterEllen), who “is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places” (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Sinclair identifies as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor and an introvert. Follow their writings at Sugarbutch Chronicles.

Sinclair has written 43 articles for us.


  1. “All the protocols were negotiable, of course, but they were also a scaffolding structure to lean into, holding our care and devotion to each other up to let the light shine through.”

    :heart eyes emoji:

    really really loved this one!

  2. As I read this coincidentally wearing a white skirt with big black polka dots…Now the rest of my day will be spent thinking about butch daddies (my heart! /swoon) and the communication and consent that leads to protocols and d/s hotness. ?

  3. I got misty-eyed and nearly doubled over at the same time. Thanks Sinclair!

    Now, if I kicked my Dom under the table I’d get a “look” and be like, “Aw shit I’m in for it” in such a way that I wouldn’t be able to stop grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

  4. I have so many mixed feelings about this (personal mixed feelings about my own inner turmoil and discomfort concerning these relationship dynamics).

    But it was a cute piece. Protocols are not something I’ve ever heard used in the context of these relationships.

    • I really appreciate that you expressed your own ambivalence about this kind of dynamic without putting down anyone else. <3

  5. Thank you so much for this! I relate very strongly to the Sarah character, and I loved the last bit.

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