Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Post: Top Tips for New Friends in the Scene.

[This is BDSM inside baseball.  If you're not a BDSMer or wannabe BDSMer, I'll have more of my usual tomorrow.]

[My friend Match_Stick wrote this for our local BDSM munch, and I think it's some solid advice. Text in brackets is my comments.

Also, my excuse for not writing a post this week is that Rowdy and I were in a hovercraft competition!  We had 48 hours to build a working remote-control hovercraft from scratch.  The post image is our results, hovering triumphantly.]

1. Get an email address without your real name in it. You will need it for invite lists and such.

2. Get a FetLife account, and put a picture up. No need for your face to be shown, but put something up. Something other than a shot of your genitals.

[You can use a headless shot of your body to avoid showing your face, but sometimes it's nicer to use a non-human picture that simply reflects one of your interests.   One of my friends is a bird, another one is a famous painting, another is a photo he took.  It gives you more character than the headless shot.  My suggestion is to use that for an avatar and then upload your headless-body shot as a secondary picture if you want to show off your stuff.]

3. Find local events such as munches and classes to go to.

4. Pick a name to be known by in person. If you have a common first name, you may want to use that. If you don’t, or want to be even more careful, pick another name. Remember, people might buy “Buddy” a beer, but no one wants to buy “Lord Domly Pants” a beer.

[There's an important deeper meaning in calling yourself "Buddy" rather than "Lord Domly Pants."  Which is that you're dealing with real people here, not with sexual fantasies.  If all goes well, you'll be able to act out some sexual fantasies with some of them, but you don't want to come off so narrowly focused on your fetishes that you don't treat people like individuals.  You want to project "hi, I'm a nice person" before you project "hi, I want you to lick strawberry Jell-O from between my toes."]

5. Practice introducing yourself. You will be doing it a lot.

[I have made so many friendships--including Match_Stick!--simply by walking up to people and saying "Hi, I'm Holly. I don't think we've met before."  Bluntness is my religion these days and it's paying off.]

6. Go to real life events. Everybody is shy sometimes. Go to events and introduce yourself. A lot.

7. Make friends, before you make play partners. They will help guide you.

[I strongly, strongly, strongly agree with socializing before playing, even if you get the opportunity to play right off the bat.  You'll have a much better first-play experience if you've gotten to know the people who are prancing around naked. Also, certain people who proposition newbies are sketchy, and going to munches is the best way to find out who.  Remember that women who prey on men, and submissives who prey on dominants, do exist.]

8. Don't touch people or stuff without permission. You will notice that people in the scene can be touchy and huggy. They know each other. If you get to know people you can probably get hugs too. If you want. People should not be touching you if you don't want them to.

[BDSM culture is stricter about touch than you're used to.  If someone is touching you without asking, they know, or should, that they're crossing the line.  On your part, remember that even a friendly touch on the arm can turn weird under BDSM social rules; even if it seems goofy, ask first.]

[Also: It's good to make an ally early on--preferably someone you know isn't attracted to you at all--that you know you're safe around and can go to if someone's pushing your boundaries.]

9. Guard your identity. Don’t give out your real name, phone number, or post pictures of your face without a good reason. Get a Google voice number to hand out instead. It also works with texting and you can block calls with Google Voice if you need to.

10. Meet new people in a public place or at a group event. Trade personal identity information later if you feel comfortable, and want to meet them privately.

[Rule 10 requires you to break rule 9, and I agree with this.  It's prudent not to share your personal information with the kinky "public"--everyone at the munch doesn't need to know where you work--but it's rude and creepy not to share it with your play partners.  Personally, I wouldn't go to someone's house alone or let them in mine unless I knew their "real life" identity.  There's some trust involved in this, yeah; but there's some trust involved in getting tied up and beaten.]

11. Learn what a safety call is and use it. At the very least tell a friend where and who you are meeting, and let the person you are meeting know you did this.

12. Read a lot! SM 101, Screw the Roses, Loving Dominant, Ethical Slut, etc.

13. If you are looking for a mentor, look at your peers. If you are a submissive, find an experienced submissive to mentor you.

[I.e., not a dominant!  Lots of dominants are lovely people who will give you great guidance, but they don't know what it's like being a submissive, and there's also a big risk of conflict of interest.  If you don't have an official mentor, at least have a close submissive friend.  Go to them with your "X wants to play with me, are they cool?" and "X wants to do Y with me and I feel Z about it, what do you think?" type questions.]

14. Ask questions. People are happy to help you learn.

15. Practice saying “No, thank you”. Be firm but polite. You may get many offers – much more than what you are used to in vanilla life.

[One big difference from vanilla culture: simply asking is almost never impolite.  Someone saying "would you like me to beat you?", even if it seems a little bit out of the blue, is not being creepy.  It's only creepy if they fail to take the first "no" for a clear and final answer. That's when you need to find your ally or a party host and tell them you need backup.]

16. If you are at an event, please say hi to the hosts. We love to meet new people, and we can introduce you to good people.

17. Ask for what you want, when you are ready. And don’t be afraid to ask for something simple and mild.

[This one is important!  You will see some people playing very "heavy" at play parties.  They are certainly the most eye-catching.  They are not the best at BDSM, or the realest, or anything like that.  "I want to get your drinks tonight" is just as legit a desire as "I want to be your slave."  "I want to spank you a little" is just as real as "I want to suspend you from the ceiling and beat you with a cane."]

18. Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, assume it is.

[A million times yes to this. Every time I've said to myself "aw, you're being unfair, just give them a chance," I've regretted it.  When it comes to your body and your safety, be unfair.]

Copyright 2011-2012 Match Stick, major contributions by kaminaru. Licensed under the Creative Commons Share Alike Attribution License. Please feel free to copy, improve, translate, and share. You don't need to ask permission first.

Feel free to tattoo it on your ass. If you do, please send me a picture!


  1. These seem like good tips in general! I kept finding myself going 'Well, if I de-contextualised this out of the BDSM scene, these are pretty much the rules I operate by in daily life.'

  2. @Pip Hunn: I agree! With reference to #8, I think people outside of BDSM culture should be just as strict about touch as those in it. Some people don't want to be touched, and that's okay. If you're going to touch someone - even in a non-sexual way - be sure they're okay with it. Just yesterday, I overheard some people making fun of a friend for not wanting to be touched. Frankly, that attitude disgusts me. People's bodies aren't there for you to do whatever you please with, even if the average person would accept what you want to do.

    1. As the person who doesn't want to be touched, a thousand times yes. On the other hand, it DOES show me who my real friends are...

    2. And on top of that, ask every time. I don't always want to be touched, and it's very often not a personal thing, but sometimes I really want to be touched or it's okay. That attitude, that I need to accept any touch all the time, really pisses me off.

  3. Also, your hair is awesome.

    1. Haha, thanks. It's natural color (dark blonde) now, but still floofy. :)

    2. Oh, ummm, this is awkward. I was talking about Pip Hunn's neon blue hair. Unless you posted a picture of your hair on here and I forgot about it, I haven't seen your hair recently. But I'm sure it's awesome too! :)

  4. You know, the vast majority of this is really good advice (yay bluntness! that is a good religion for sure). But I have to admit, I wonder a whole lot about the mass-acceptance of closeting in straight-leaning kink spaces (of course there are probably some queer people at your average "default" munch, but I'm comparing that to kink spaces that specifically identify themselves as being for the queer community). You've written a lot about consent and where it can go wrong in the community and how often consent fuckups get shoved under the rug (not necessarily more or less so than out in Vanillaland, but, like, we are SO PROUD of being negotiators, so we are voluntarily taking on a bigger burden of responsibility, right?) you think that those extremely basic social rules in hetero bdsm spaces "use a stage name" "don't post your face" "everything that happens is absolutely completely super secret confidential," etc, add to that problem? I mean, of course, everyone has to make their own choices about how safe it is for them to be "out," but making silencing rules the very first things that so often come up in discussions of how to behave--do you think that sets a troubling tone? in my (personal, obviously limited) experience, in queer kink spaces, while people are admonished to be intelligently polite about sharing, secrecy is just not a thing in the same way, and (also...maybe coincidentally, possibly not coincidentally) consent fuckups appear to be taken more seriously and handled with more sensitivity in those spaces too. Obviously this is all anecdotal, but it makes you think, no?

    1. It'd be nice in a utopian sort of way if we didn't have to hide. But in the meantime we've got jobs, we've got families, we've got kids. Everyone has the right to not be demanded to risk those things, and newbies have the right to know that if they're outed they could be risking those things.

      Does this relate to consent fuckups? Sort of. I don't think the identity thing is a big deal, because most people know who their play partners are and when people are "known" in the scene their identity gets to be pretty much an open secret. I think the bigger deal is the insularity of the scene, the "us vs. the world" mentality that can develop, and the resultant unwillingness to oust (much less call the cops on) someone we see as "one of our own."

    2. I think that one can use a caveat -- be out if you feel okay with it! Don't do anything that feels weird. I use my real name on FL (first name), and have face pictures. I don't care if I'm outed, and I don't feel my safety is compromised. But that's a decision I made after a while.

      However, in other areas (Flickr porn), I don't even include tattoos. Do what you feel is best for yourself!

    3. I, personally, think it was wrong to include #9 as a Rule. This may be a regional-cultural thing-- I'm an SF Bay Area kinkster, we have the freedom to fly our freak flags pretty high-- but about 75% of the kinksters I know introduce themselves by their real first names. (Scene Names tend to indicate a veteran of the sort who's been around since the bad old days, in fact.)

      Personally, my Fetlife profile has my name and face on it, and that's a very deliberate choice. I may face consequences someday-- but as an openly queer fellow coming out into the kink scene, hell if I was going to move into a new closet. They suck.

      If I were writing this, I'd have added a coda about *how* to do that if it's one's wish, and a rule about *respecting* the identity protection of others if they choose to employ it. But just saying "protect your identity," not so much.

    4. Nentuaby - In Massachusetts (where Match_Stick and I live), BDSM is illegal and people have been arrested for it. So people are a little more cautious here.

      Ultimately it's a personal choice, though, even here.

      I think it's good advice for new people, though, because giving your real information right off the bat can ruin your ability to maintain confidentiality if you change your mind later. I think someone should get to know their local situation and get an idea of what risk they're comfortable with first, and decide whether to start using their real identity only afterwards.

    5. Good morning everyone,

      This is Match Stick. You are right to question number nine. I question it myself. I erred on the side of simplicity and caution because this is a document aimed at new people.

      Personally, I feel at the beginning of my experience in the kink community I was way too out of the closet, and have since gone back in considerably. There is nothing like having the unemployment office ask you if you are getting any income from the leather nonprofit you are running. Thankfully there was nothing in the nonprofits name to raise any specific questions.

      I've seen a number of people who are in training to become a teacher have pictures of their face up and then having thought it out more decide to take them down. Given the way the Internet works it is a lot harder to get your data back then to put it out there in the first place, so again I erred on the side of the closet.

      I should probably add an asterisk to this item, that this is something you may wish to change in the future. Also, I should probably note that this document has a pretty strong heterosexual bias overall.

      About being in the closet in general...

      Check out:

      I don't fully agree with him that you can't be a leader from the closet, but he's certainly right that makes it much, much, harder. Also, until our leaders are out we are not going to make substantial progress with the society as a whole. But I'd prefer to have an income that isn't from a large organization before I do that personally. Because staying in the closet is primarily an income decision for me I've decided I need to spend some of that income by donating to causes that support our freedom this year.

      Holly, it sounds like it might be a good idea to write a post about the decision to be in the closet or not.


    I just wrote a piece for the Salacious advice column that's really similar. I'm so glad that conversations like this are happening, and that someone out there new to the scene is reading this.

  6. #18 - Oh, good God, #18. If you meet someone and they twig on your radar as 'off', you are doing yourself absolutely no favors by deciding to ignore that feeling. I speak from unpleasant experience.

  7. I don't think that Rule 10 exactly requires you to break Rule 9; in a social/group setting, other people are sharing their information back. It's not 'I am giving my phone number to some person I've never met' but 'I and these others are getting to know each other'.

    Also, the next pet I own is going to be named Lord Domly Pants.

  8. I'm still really nervous about being in any way related to the "scene", primarily because of my job--I teach. And somehow, "professor who is kinky when she's not at work" seems to translate into many people's minds as "filthy whore who totally talks about sex in class."

    I blame the old Virginal Teacher stereotype.

    1. Lately I've been hanging out with a guy who is out in the kink scene (uses real name in person, face pics on Fetlife, etc.) while working as a high school teacher. On the other hand, he does live in Oakland and kink around in SF, and the stigma is much less here. I'd say that if you meet people in person at kinky events, and someone wants to destroy your reputation, there's kind of a mutually assured destruction thing going on; they can't say they saw you somewhere without admitting they were there. Just some thoughts.

    2. The mutual assured destruction does not work if one person has to lose a lot more by being outed.

  9. Nice hovercraft, but is it full of eels?

  10. This is interesting, because my local community is so unhealthy. While they SAY it's okay not to play, there is a ton of pressure to play or watch, and if you're unwilling to play in public or with strangers, basically nobody will talk to you. I've been harassed at events and by "pillars of the community" and the response is to ostracise the person complaining about harassment. I'd really like to get more involved so I can learn things, but frankly the dynamic is really scary. Any advice?

    1. My advice is to get to know the good people in the scene and see if you can organize your own, invite-only parties consisting only of the people you know are cool. Don't be afraid to be extremely unfair and meaniepants when you're making your guest list, and make it clear that pulling any boundary-pushing bullshit will get people taken off that guest list.

      This requires you or one of the other good people to have access to a venue, but if you do (even if it means just inviting five or six people for a very small party in someone's apartment), careful guest list management can create a safe little subscene.

    2. Other advice: see if your local community is the only local community. If you're in a larger city or a college/hippie town, it may not be. There's a couple different scenes in Boston with only a little bit of crossover, and some are friendlier than others. (To anyone this makes sense to: I hang with the CSG and BTNG crowds mostly, but they do have some really bad apples; I believe MOB is a lot more carefully policed. There's also this whole other club scene, and probably a couple other parallel kink universes, that I know nothing at all about.)

      In particular, if you're a woman, gay man, and/or trans* person, there may be a parallel scene that's open to you but not to (or is very selective/watchful about) cis het men, and that's often a safer space.

  11. A tap on the shoulder to get someone's attention at a munch still better be OK because otherwise I'm breaking that rule whenever I need to :P The other option is generally going to be screaming in their ear "EXCUSE ME IS IT OK IF I TAP YOU ON THE SHOULDER TO GET YOUR ATTENTION BECAUSE IT IS RATHER LOUD IN HERE WITH ALL THESE CONVERSATIONS GOING ON AND I WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW THAT WE'RE TRYING TO GET BY YOU TO GO TO THE BATHROOM."

  12. I hope this is okay, but I have a newbie BDSM question. I had been sort of familiar with the whole idea, but I didn't really understand how broad a spectrum it is until I started reading this wonderful blog a few months ago.

    So, hypothetically, if someone's kink were to be restrained manually while struggling (like, struggling for real! Don't just let this hypothetical person go as soon as she starts to wiggle!), and that person was finding that her vanilla partners haven't been able to understand just how much she likes that... would this be "too vanilla"? Or something similar to that? My kinks are light stuff, so I feel like I'm in some kind of limbo between vanilla-land and BDSM.

    For the first time, your posts on the subject are making me think I might not be laughed out of a play party. If you have a minute, I'm curious what you think about this. Thanks.

    1. Match Stick here... I should really get a blogspot account or something at some point.

      Struggling and wrestling matches are common and fun part of play parties. Your link would be well understood and welcome, and not considered "too vanilla."

    2. At the play parties I go to, even the Serious Hardcore Mr. Kinkypants players often play around in really "light" ways. They might hold their sub down and tickle them, for example. Or let a newbie try out the lowest setting on the violet wand they brought. I've done little OTK hand spanking "scenes" at play parties, and that was no big deal. It will depend on the vibe where you live and play, but where I am people really embrace the "your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay" thing, and are very understanding and accommodating people.

  13. Match stick here, again.

    I wanted to address the question of closet culture making it harder to build a consent culture. I think it does, but I don't think it is in the top three issues that we are facing. I think misogyny, domism, and the urge not to make waves far outweigh it.

  14. There's one other tip I'd add for newbies particularly women under 25(?), and that is, don't proclaim in your FL profile that you are brand new to all this. All you'll do is attract a stream of creepy men with cock-shots for their profile pic. Claim a few months' experience on the scene and it'll help filter some of the crap. In person at a munch or whatever, it's fine to discuss how long you've been around, how you discovered your kink/the scene etc if you're comfortable doing so because you can use you gut in deciding who to talk to. Some of the folks I met at my first munch have developed into firm friends, and I am so glad I made the effort to go and introduce myself to people.

    I also definitely second tip #13 of choosing mentors from the leaning you identify with (dom/sub/switch/fetishist etc).

  15. Thanks for this advice. As a newbie interested in kink but so far not brave enough to dip my toe into the local scene, I hope at some point to have the courage to follow it. :)

    (It doesn't help that I live in a big city, so the 'local scene' is huge, scary and intimidating. I need to find something small to start off with, I think.)

    1. If your city is that big, there may be multiple local scenes. I know that's true of D.C., so you can find the group that suits you.

  16. The only caveat I would suggest is the following: for #18, be introspective about it. If someone's BEHAVING in a creepy way (being super-forward, insistent, not respecting boundaries) then by all means cut them out of your business. But be wary of doing things like judging on appearance. I'm genderqueer, sometimes read as male, and fat, and I'm fortunate that this combination (overweight, read as male) happens to make me "cuddly", not "creepy". But my primary kink community is a college town, and every August we get an influx of new people (and lose some older ones). This leads to a certain number of involved, respected community members who fall into the "older larger nerdy men" demographic getting unnecessary shit, and it slows down the process of welcoming newbies because they're put off by some of our traditionally "uncool" or "unsexy" community members.

    So basically, protect yourself, but be aware that sometimes when people are coded "creepy", it has more to do with whether or not they meet standards of attractiveness and less to do what they've actually done.

    1. Lord Domly Pants' BaneFebruary 16, 2012 at 7:40 AM

      Wow, so don't be a dick? That is really sad, that someone would equate "I don't find you attractive" with "You are creepy". But y'know, go ahead and don't inflict yourself on anyone you think is creepy just because they are gender queer or plump, yeesh.