As the owner for the FetLife group The MALL (Munch And Local Links) Directory, I have seen literally 1000s more groups of all types crop up in the past few years. One thing I have seen is just how much more accessible the lifestyle/scene is becoming all the time, regardless of location. It’s easier than ever to participate and to be involved – if one wants to be.
For meeting someone new, I often recommend munches as a wise first step. To me, the willingness to meet at a munch (or even in conjunction with one, perhaps at the beginning or end) says a lot. It is important to me to see a prospective partner in a social context like a munch. How do they handle a group? the wait staff? other community members? Do they immediately expect me to behave “in role” on a first meeting?
It’s one thing to say “I don’t play publicly.” It’s quite another to say, “I don’t meet publicly.”
If an individual isn’t actively involved in the local community, it’s not necessarily concerning; if a person isn’t aware or is unwilling to do so, that is more troubling to me. (Not a full relationship stop necessarily, but definitely something I would want to understand better.)
However, whether or not a partner wants to play publicly is completely individual choice, and reflects (to me) on a more personal set of preferences, most of which are not based on safety concerns. I have played in public (and depending on my partner and circumstances, I likely will again).
Especially with the wildfire networking that FetLife provides, many more groups are forming and growing. Don’t assume that because you looked before, there isn’t a local community. They can often be hidden in plain sight (especially with acronyms, etc) Keep in mind the “personality” of a group will change over time, as attendance, participation and leadership change. If you attended once and found it too “this” or not enough of “that”, I recommend going again – but with an open mind.