In service submission, acts and spoken words can be fit into five main categories:
a standing order
We’ll start with a courtesy. A courtesy is really just being a good host or showing a display of good manners as well as possibly being observant and sensitive. For instance, I have a Domme friend who I know drinks Coca Cola, so if she is coming to visit me, I will most likely ensure there are a few cans of Coke in the house. For another Domme friend, I know how she likes her tea made, the bag barely dragged through the water, so if I have her over for tea, and I’m making her tea, I’m going to remember and make it exactly as she likes. Neither of these Dommes have a dynamic with me, and usually when they visit my home, it is as a friend, but as a good host, and as someone who does derive pleasure from giving others exactly what they want, it is important for me to remember these little details. This is sort of the most basic form of service, and does not involve a dynamic. A courtesy can be shown to anyone, regardless of title, archetype, or station in life. A courtesy does not require any involvement of the other party, it is usually self initiated.
A command is a direction, usually issued by a Dominant, but not always, that should be carried out, within a short time period, and/or specified time frame. A command may or may not rely upon a dynamic between the two individuals. As an example, when volunteering at an event once, a Dom friend turned to me and asked me to perform a task. I did not have a dynamic with this individual, he was not my “supervisor” at this volunteer event, but because of the respect I have for him, I carried out the task. A command need not be as harsh as it sounds - there is no reason why “please” and “thank you” can’t be involved when issuing a command. A command can also be refused, if you are not in a dynamic with the individual, and you are under no obligation to the person. If you are in a dynamic, and you do refuse a command, you do so at your own peril. I would caution refusing a command if you are being considered by someone, usually a Dominant, or you are being observed as a potential service submissive at an event. I have also been issued commands by Dominant friends for my own good. For example, I have had Dominant friends say something like “I’m playing the Mistress card…” or “Mistress says…” usually followed by something like “...please ensure you practice self care.” or “...please go to bed at a reasonable time.” These are things a friend might say, but because they have enacted their title, it carries a little more weight - at least with me. I could still refuse it, there is no dynamic bond to lean on, but because I respect them, I’m more likely to carry out these commands.
A standing order can be found in terminology from government, to the military, to even our day to day banking. It is an instruction to be carried out, either daily or enacted at a certain time, until instructed to act differently. Standing orders should be viewed as the way it is or should be. For instance, a Dominant may say, “I want the kettle water boiling every day the moment I walk in the door”, or “Dinner will be served at 5:00 PM every day”. These orders may be written into a contract, they may be in a manual, or they may be issued once, and understood that is how it will be. Standing orders usually involve a dynamic, and they are generally practical actions undertaken by the submissive. Standing orders can be quite simple as “There will always be a bowl of peanut M&M’s by the door when I arrive” or they can be quite complex as “There will always be a bowl of peanut M&M’s by the door, sorted by colour in a pie wedge shape, chilled, having sat out no more than 10 minutes, when I arrive.” A standing order is repetitive in nature, and spans over an unknown amount of time.
Now a rule is a little bit of a command, a little bit of a standing order, even be a bit of a ritual. A rule is usually between two individuals who have a dynamic - I have not seen a rule standing between two individuals who do not have a dynamic - and involves an order that is enacted usually for the benefit of the other partner. As an example, I have had dynamics where I have a bedtime - this is a rule. This is a little bit like a standing order, but it is for my benefit. Rules can usually be created on the spot, whereas a standing order is usually laid out before a dynamic begins. A rule can be for the benefit of either individual really, but typically used for the benefit of the person serving. A rule might be “At this event, when you are not serving, you will sit as is comfortable at my feet”. Rules, like standing orders, can be repetitive in nature, and span over an unknown amount of time, or they can be like commands, for a fixed amount of time, but rules are again, typically repetitive.
Rituals are very personal, and typically only involve those who are involved in a dynamic. They are actions which have meaning, usually meaning for both, and touch on the connection between the individuals, recall a special memory, time, perhaps place. The ritual has benefit for both involved, sometimes physically, or perhaps emotionally. An example could be “Every evening, after dinner, you will pour me a glass of brandy, kneel down beside my armchair with the brandy raised before you, and present the glass using the palms of your hands, with your head lowered”. Rituals differ from standing orders as there is usually deep intent behind the ritual, whereas standing orders are more practical.
As time passes, it may be that commands, standing orders, and rules are either forgotten, disobeyed, or broken. If it is done unintentionally, there could be a multitude of reasons - the individual is not in a good headspace with his/her full awareness, he/she was distracted when the command/standing order/rule was enacted or given. If commands, standing orders, or rules are broken or disobeyed intentionally, it is usually done for attention seeking purposes. Rituals are rarely disobeyed or forgotten - but it can happen that rituals lose meaning over time, or the individuals in the dynamic find the ritual too difficult to enact on a daily basis. Rituals should occasionally be reviewed to ensure both parties still agree to and find merit in these tools. It may be a ritual is no longer possible because circumstances change - health, age, other obligations. For instance, kneeling may be impossible or very difficult as we age, or due to illness or impaired health, constant standing may become difficult. Standing orders are usually dictated by the Dominant, and while it may be that an s-type benefits from this type of instruction, it is usually decreed for the Dominant’s benefit. Rules are usually to the benefit of the s-type, laid down by the Dominant, and usually carry consequences for disobedience. Commands are immediate, can be issued for any purpose, and usually carry immediate reprisal for disobedience.
Whatever your relationship may be, or your current state of attachment, you may run into one of more of these types of structure. Finding how these tools can be used to enhance or define your dynamic is part of the joy of travelling down such a path, and hopefully now you have a clearer idea of what these components might be able to bring to your life.
EDIT: Thank you to @MsLead for the suggestions <3