Note: This piece is presented using a Master and female sub but applies regardless of the gender of either party.
Collars will always be a volatile debate, and quite rightly too as they are serious things. It can be paralleled to the courting/engaged/wedding scenario of regular relationships but is not the BDSM version of it.
Submission is seen as the easiest thing in the world to offer to a Master, yet maintaining that submission is one of the hardest things to do. There are times when a sub wants to say "no" or "you are wrong" or just stand her ground and it feels hard to keep her place. A sub can petition if she believes the Master is wrong, can put her case and know it will be listened to, but at the end of it his word stands. In the early stages of the submission it is generally accepted that a sub can question things she is unsure about and seek re-assurance if required. Gradually, as submission deepens, the need for questions fades away
A sub wears her collar with pride and rightly so. It was achieved through due process - the Master and sub would have talked together and "courted" as the power exchange found its level. Then, when the sub felt she was able to do so, she offers her submission. During the next period, the submission, both will come to see whether, in the sub's case, she can maintain her submission, and, in the Master's case, if the submission offered is satisfactory to his needs. When the Master feels certain of that then he offers the collar. In accepting the collar she is accepting that she is owned by him, mind, body, heart and soul. It is fair to mention here that, like some long term committed relationships never result in a marriage, some total submissions are achieved without the collaring.
The collar is a symbol of the power exchange and the commitment to the relationship. It doesn't remove the equal status of the partners. A sub is not a lesser person just because she is submissive. How much she is allowed to have her say or her opinion is something that would have been discussed and agreed on both sides prior to the collaring. It is part of the drawing of the line of the power exchange "to here but no further!".
An important aspect of total submission is both partners' belief that the sub is owned. If the sub holds it in her mind that she can walk away from the relationship if ever, and whenever, she doesn't like the way things are, then she is still holding the power and is not fully submitted. Some people might ask "what if he turns out to be a nutter or the relationship isn't what the sub had expected?". This is the reason why there needs to be a decent amount of time between the processes of getting to know, submitting and collaring. If there are doubts then the sub should not offer her submission but continue the "getting to know" process until the doubts are resolved one way or another. When it is right, it is right - simple as that. There are no doubts.
Nor is there a "sub mode", something that is switched on and off to suit the occasion. She is owned and therefore always his sub. This doesn't mean that she is tied and beaten for 24 hours a day 7 days a week. To the world at large they may appear as any other couple but the line has been drawn and the sub will not cross it. She respects him always and his word is law to her. The power exchange is accepted on both sides and the sub knows her place.
This is not making up rules or laying down laws for others, it is just how it is. In the above paragraph I used the phrase "if the submission offered is satisfactory to his needs" and that can be as free, or austere, as he needs it. It is "each to their own" but built upon the common base of the rules of Total Power Exchange.
Sufficient time needs to be spent on learning each others abilities and needs before submission is offered and again before the collar is given and accepted. The amount of time can vary for each process since it depends on how open a person is able to be about their needs, how honest, and how quickly trust builds. One thing is certain though, neither can learn enough about their potential partner by just chatting online or on the phone for a few months then meet up for the first time and plonk a collar on the subs neck. If this happens then it is probably just role play, which in itself is ok, but if one person is playing and the other believes it is a serious commitment the relationship will fall apart.
A sub in total submission has such a pride in her position. Her ability to serve another totally without it damaging her self-esteem or self-worth. It presents a personal challenge that she meets head on, and the collar, whether as a material object or as a concept, symbolises this achievement. It's hardly a surprise then, when someone in a chatroom finds a sub and then the next day she is "wearing" his collar and calling him Master, and he is saying he has the best sub in the world, that those who are truly collared want to run them through with a blunt instrument. It waters everything down, it tries to level it, it makes it some sort of kinky game in the eyes of others who then assume that even the most submitted r/l sub is a role-player like the rest of them.