So you're new to the scene, or somewhat experienced but new to town, and you're looking for someone to play with. Maybe you've read what you can online, or you've memorized The Story of O and Ann Rice's "Beauty" novels, and you're ready to live out your fantasies. The catch of course is that it takes (at least) two to make those dreams come true. So how do you find people to play with?
Unfortunately, there is only so much we, as moderators of this group, can do to make this Fetlife group a safe space. The most important thing is for each individual person to learn how to play safely and responsibly. With that goal in mind, we offer the following guidelines on how to play safely (and have fun!) when you're new to the scene. This isn't meant to be BDSM 101. Rather, it's just our version of a guide on how to meet people to play with.
1. Meet New People in Public
The safety aspect of this is a no-brainer: don't have your first meeting at someone's home. Just don't. Maybe you'll get lucky and have a great time... but you'd have a great time with that person anyway if you took a little longer to get to know them. BDSM can be a very intense experience, and it only gets better as you get to know the people you're playing with. It's not only safer to get to now the people you're playing with, but it leads to much more intimate and powerful experiences.
2. Set Up a Safe-Call
If you've gotten to know someone in person, or met them at an event or a party, and you're interested in playing in private - arrange to call a friend at a certain time. Don't worry about insulting the person you're playing with - this is standard etiquette and nearly everyone does it. If your play-date objects, s/he's probably not a good person to play with. Make sure your friend knows exactly where you're going to be, and who you will be with. Arrange a harmless-sounding code word or phrase that means "I need help". AND REMEMBER TO MAKE YOUR CALL! How embarrassed will you be if you forget to call because the pizza you're having for lunch is just so amazing. Finally, keep arranging safe calls for the second and third times you play with someone. Keep doing it until you're really really sure you feel safe.
3. Play in Public
I probably should have put this point first, but I know that not everyone new to BDSM is open to playing in front of strangers. What we do is very intimate, after all. Parties, though, are a great way to play with someone new in a safe space. All AIS-TNG parties (as well as AIS main group and NLA-sponsored ones) have people called Dungeon Monitors whose only job is to make sure everyone is playing in a safe and consensual way. Parties are also a good place to see how other people play, to get ideas on what looks like fun, what limits other people play by, and techniques.
4. Ask for References
Any ethical player should be willing to give you the contact info of people s/he's played with before. Follow up on the references. Again... this is standard practice in the scene. Don't be embarrassed to ask. In fact, not asking could be sending a signal that you're not seriously interested, or are maybe not a good person to play with yourself. Most of the people I play with know me socially - we go to munches, or parties or have friends in common, so they already know me well by reputation, and I, them. Which leads to the logical next step for point #5:
5. Ask Around
One of the best things about being in a real-time group (meaning that you come to events and get to know people in Real Life) is that you're part of a community. We look after each other and, frankly, we gossip. A bit. Trust me, though, if someone is abusive or dangerous... we're going to talk about it. And we're much more likely to talk about it in person than online. Plus, there is a lot of incentive for people in the Real Time group to play ethically since your good reputation depends on it. The flip side of this is that you can learn who is really good to play with. Who wields an expert flogger? Which bottom loves to be tied up?
Of course, there is always the potential for harmful, false or malicious gossip. It's a debate we've had before, and will have again. The simple truth, though, is that people like to talk. And the best way to hear that talk is be there in person.
6. Take Your Time
My first party, and first kink event, was all of a couple years ago. I can clearly remember that amazing feeling of excitement and liberation that came of getting over my fears, of breaking taboos, of seeing my fantasies made real. I wanted to do everything (and, er, everyone) all at once. It's a phenomenon I've seen repeatedly since, as others have found their kink and couldn't wait to do and see and try everything. I was fortunate in having excellent guides and mentors, but the same holds true regardless: take the time to learn what you're doing. Be bold, try new things, ask new people to play with you... but do it deliberately.
7. These Guidelines Apply to Tops/Dominants, Too
Just because you're the one wielding the flogger doesn't mean you can't be hurt, too. You may not be in so much physical danger, but your reputation could very well be at stake. If your play-date claims s/he was assaulted it's just your word against theirs. Do get to know the people you play with.
Remember: kink, fetish, BDSM - call it what you will, it can be a hell of a lot of fun. Done right, it's the distilled essence of sex, power, energy, hotness, love... The trick is just finding the right person to do it with.
© Dread Pirate Brian
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