When I was asked to do this class I realized that I had not yet written it out. This is going to be a hybrid of several talks I have done over the years at my submissives munch downriver. So very often new submissives enter the community with all of the wide-eyed wonder of Alice in wonderland and explore our community in much the same way. In truth dominants are no different they have many new expectations and a brave new world to explore.The expectations if both are based in the fantasies created by erotic fiction and porn. It almost never measures up to the reality. In fact the reality of the BDSM community that we are not all the pretty people, that it is not all sex, s&m and good times can be disappointing to some. The fact that BDSM relationships are in fact relationships that require clear communication of BOTH your wants needs, and desires can be startling.
In fact they require deeper connections and deeper communication than the vanilla world. New submissives often expect to be swept away, overwhelmed, and consumed by their Master. To have no limits, for their new master to simply know them better than they know themselves, and to not have their wants or needs to matter because the Master simply fulfills them in some magical way. New dominants expect to simply be able to take and demand…to just be themselves and fill their needs, wants, and desires without compromise. They can become power hungry and some ways and forget at times that Master must master himself first and foremost. This is not Wonderland.
Both can develop a type of frenzy that causes them to think with the little head and not the big one. The desire to play, to own or be owned can be overwhelming and a driving force. It causes people to forget themselves, their manners, and safety. To agree to things that they would never agree to in the vanilla word because this is a different world. It causes both sides of the slash to check common sense with the coat check girl.
This discussion is going to focus on two main points, which are safety and protocol, but you will find that in many ways it will veer into personal responsibility and general common sense etiquette. Some of the points I want to be certain to cover are munches, play parties, negotiation, play, safewords, and kinky dating.
A recent conversation with a not so long ago new to the community dominant reminded me of the kid in a candy store mentality that can occur and some of the immediate misconceptions. The biggest concern of the new submissive is that everyone will think she is up for grabs and will be overwhelmed. Many new dominants do think that every submissive is up for grabs and will bend to their will. Both will quickly find themselves wrong. One will be happy about it. Over and over when I suggest to new people that they go to a munch they ask what that is and what is expected of them.
A munch is a very low protocol event. It is one where people gather in a vanilla place, in vanilla attire, with mostly vanilla conversations. Yes people discuss kinky things, the upcoming events and what they did last weekend but most discussion revolves around the more mundane.
Some things to consider…
You are responsible for your introduction to the community.
This means YOU and only you can make yourself feel truly welcome at any event. You cannot depend on others to welcome you with open arms unless you greet them with them.
If you go into any event (lifestyle or vanilla) barely saying a word, sitting off by yourself, not smiling what is your result going to be? It will be to feel outcast and not welcomed.
A few months ago MasterGrizly were attending the Last Friday Munch. Has anyone attended this one? It is held in Utica in a large Bigby Coffee house in a semi private room that is reserved each last Friday for us. It often has new people in attendance. This particular munch has several new people in attendance. The first set of new people arrived separately but at the same time. They were two women who did not know each other. Each in their own time introduced themselves to the event host who in turn introduced them to others. They both went and got their coffee, and joined the crowd. Both smiled even if shyly and chatted in a friendly way with others. They sat with other people and gave off a warm vibe.
The third showed up about twenty minutes later. Our host introduced himself, introduced the gentleman to a couple people (myself included) and then excused himself.
I was commiserating with a friend about her roommate issues but I watched the room. He left and got coffee. The room was filled with about twenty people. Some sitting at small tables, some walking about and chatting. The new guy sat down at an empty table separate from all the others.
Rookie Mistake 1: When you separate yourself from the crowd half to 2/3 of the room will not approach you. You have announced that you are uncomfortable and people feel overwhelming you, depending on how you are projecting to the room (especially as a man) they may also find you mildly creepy or disconcerting. As I reminded my friend she chose this roommate I watched no less than four people approach the new man. Each talk with him briefly, he didn’t appear to make eye contact and had little to say. My Master sat with him briefly and after a minute or two the little table fell silent.
Rookie Mistake 2: When people approach to talk with you answer with more than yes or no because people will not spend their social time trying to drag it out of you.
After a while I was tasked to find out who was going to dinner and where they preferred. I spoke with the gentleman briefly inviting him along. He said no. I asked what he thought of the munch and he said something like crowded. I had a task to finish and report back about.
He left soon after and that was the first time he got up from his table all night.
The other two newbies both came along to dinner.
A few days later the man posted on a group about how cliquesh the group was. How no one talked to him in more than passing. How he sat by himself most of the night. The other newbies posted about what a lovely time they had on the same thread.
By my count he spoke to no less than seven people. He was approached by at least five(counting myself) who attempted to have a conversation with him. There were about twenty in the room that night. I would say its a pretty decent number of people approaching him.
I can honestly say I have seen nearly the identical occurrence many times over and even at play parties.
It seems to put an unfair responsibility on newbies to actually socialize, to have to approach people but the fact is as you can see from my example the only reason he didn’t interact more was he didn’t seize an opportunity.
I think munches are very newbie friendly. Especially in this area. But the truth is you have to be receptive to what people are saying or doing. Just like any given situation people will only reach out so much..”
I will tell you time and again we hear how wonderful munches are. How people felt welcome and included. How they made new friends and connections.
So to review…
- go in smiling
- join the group itself (physically sit with them)
- join the conversation
- give full answers and ask real questions. What I mean is don’t just say yes or no.
- let people know that you are new: if there are hosts or greeters, they may be able to introduce you to some friendly faces
- don’t worry about staying for the duration of the event
Some specific protocol about attending a munch it is a low protocol event and no one is expected (or encouraged) to kneel or bow. You will not be able to identify most people’s “labels” just by looking at them. For this reason, I will emphasize the low protocol portion.
Just because the erotic books suggest that all submissives run around BDSM events saying Sir or Maam as a matter of protocol does not make it true. Many dominants prefer not to be addressed as such by someone who is not in service to them. Many submissives feel it is giving undo respect. Still others like myself view it as a sign of general respect and do say Sir and Maam. This is something that you must be comfortable with and anyone who demands that you call them Sir is what I like to call wrong. It is for you to decide. I personally call everyone Sir or Maam until asked to do otherwise. It is how I was raised and it is what expected of me by my Master.
Dominants, back to the erotica of the visual kind, especially at a munch submissives are not going to be kneeling naked waiting for the newest domly one to beck or call and treating a stranger as if she were your submissive will only earn you scorn from them.
No matter what labels you choose walking into your first munch should be a wonderful experience. It can be a little overwhelming to the socially awkward or shy. I encourage you to contact the munch organizers and say hello beforehand. All the event hosts that I know are happy to answer such messages. They will encourage you to introduce yourself to them when you arrive so they can introduce you to others. Another suggestion is introducing yourself on their board if they have one on fetlife. Or you can’t post in Michigan BDSM and say you are attending.
Most munches are held in restaurants, bars, and coffeehouses and are in generally safe neighborhoods. However that does not mean you should not consider your own safety first. No one and I mean no one is responsible for your safety except yourself. So use common sense. While the event organizer will likely be happy to help and many will walk people to their cars or send someone else as an example. Please do not depend on that. If it is in an area you are unfamiliar with do a practice drive before or be certain you are familiar with the directions. Nothing makes an already new experience more stressful than getting lost.
Wear something you are comfortable with and do not attempt to fit a role. If you are comfortable in your clothing, you can focus on the experience. It also makes it easier to pay attention to your environment. Be comfortable, be you, but don’t look like a shlub.
Don’t accept candy from strangers, except maybe Fetvest. It is just like your mom told you when people offer things it may be too good to be true. Yes 95% of people are excellent people that will be essentially harmless (until there is consent) but you don’t know that. So buy your beverage and keep an eye on it.
Use the brains you were given and evaluate every situation as it occurs with them and not your clit or dick. I have a friend who went to her first munch, met someone, played with them and ended up with a permanent scar when he crossed a line. She told me the whole time she knew she was making a mistake but so badly wanted to play. This is a classic example of the frenzy I discussed earlier.
When leaving the munch use the same basic common sense you use whenever walking to your car at night. Pay attention to your environment.
Play Parties are another thing that often get people wound up with visions of orgies dancing in their heads. Play parties are events where people can go to socialize and participate in BDSM play. The vast majority do not allow sex or penetration. This is due to state legalities and not being party poopers. There are also rules about nudity, those held in public locations cannot have nipples showing on ladies and underwear is required for everyone.
It is entirely natural to feel a little overwhelmed the first time you attend a play party. There will be a great deal to cause some type of sensory overload with loud music, semi naked bodies, and interesting things to watch and hear.
It is perfectly acceptable to be nervous and even a little put-off by some of the things you might see. As long as you state it politely and without judgment, no one will think poorly of you for saying “I’d rather stay here by the bar than go watch a scene” or” watching this is making me a little uncomfortable, I’m going to go back to the bar.” While operating Detroitspace at a Christmas party a woman and her heavy bottom requested permission to do a staple gun scene. MasterGrizly knowing them approved the scene. She used a heavy industrial staple gun to attach Christmas lights to his body. This was not a bloody scene but rather an incidental amount of blood as the staples were removed. Still it was overwhelming for some new people and they move to the social area and away from it.
All events have rules in some way shape or form. You go to a tennis match and there will be rules for both the players and the audience. Just like a tennis match most play parties have referees and these are commonly known as dungeon monitors or DMs.
Some of the more common rules for play spaces are…
- Do not make assumptions. Negotiate all scenes. Do not assume that the presence of someone at this party means they are available.
- Never touch anyone, their equipment, or belongings without permission.
- Privacy and discretion are to be respected. All information about party activities, attendees, etc. is to be considered confidential. Do not bring cameras or other recording devices. What you see here. What you do here. What you hear here. Stays here after you leave here.
- Treat everyone with equal respect — Doms, Subs, Switches, and Staff alike.
- Play sober. While some events allow alcohol playing after drinking to excess is unsafe for everyone. DMs will stop you.
- Smoking will be allowed in established smoking areas only.
- Please be prepared with something to cover your more daring clothing — or lack thereof — when you go outside the party space.
- No genital or anal penetration, oral sex or exchange of bodily fluids.
- Solicitation for sexual services is not allowed. No pay for play.
- Please agree on safe words for scenes. “Red” will be a default safe word. A safe word is a word used to stop all play.
- Respect scenes. Limit conversation and screaming in the play area. Don’t crowd the playing areas. Do not involve yourself in a scene without an invitation THIS INCLUDES ROPE AND AFTERCARE. The moment someone approaches the piece of equipment to the moment they leave the equipment it is the scene. Do not engage them. Do not interrupt. Many rope scenes are not done on a piece of equipment but in a chair or a table on the outskirts of the social area or play area. This is still a scene and you should not interrupt.
- Respect the play space. Clean up after scenes. Your mother does not work here.
- Limit play to the play space. Do not engage in play outside the play space.
- Dungeon Monitors have the final word on everything including the right to stop an unsafe or abusive scene. Check with the DM before engaging in any play you may find extreme or unusual (waxing, cupping, flash paper, etc.), piercing, or bloodspots.
One of the things I was asked to emphasize in this class is safety and for that reason, I am going to hammer home the importance of not interrupting scenes. Not only is it damaging to headspace but it can be potentially harmful to the bottom in the scene.
Let’s ignore the headspace aspect for a moment and consider the skills involved. I have no idea your skills but let’s assume for a moment you are carefully cutting up carrots, lost in the process and thinking about work the next day and someone comes up and starts talking to you. Have you ever jumped and cut the next slice to thick? Or been startled and maybe nicked yourself? This is equally true in BDSM. If someone is focusing on hitting the correct place, sliding a very sharp knife down the body, using fire, or throwing a single tail any one of those things done wrong can cause harm. Interrupting people while they do those things has the potential to cause harm.
Yes there is a headspace created some will describe it as Dom space or subspace. It can be euphoric and wonderful and it can be other things. Have you never had sex with someone and it was so good you felt lost in your own world and your phone rings and jars you back to earth? Same thing here except it is also playing with the duality of pleasure and pain.
I would ask why someone felt their question, comment was so important they needed to interrupt and why anyone would feel it acceptable to insert themselves into someone’s interactions. Except I know at times it is an insatiable curiosity and lack of awareness of what the interruption may cause.
To further expand on the safety concern is being hit by flying equipment or hitting others. If you are sitting or walking close enough to a scene where a whip is involved (or really any implement) that you get hit its on you. It truly is. In the dungeons we have managed and attended there is something like a 10 ft square area that should not be invaded. If you invade it and get hit that is on you. If you as a top cannot create such a space then you should not be playing with implements that go outside of whatever safe space you can create.
In the majority of play events there is not an emphasis on a single protocol. If there is, often-they are specialized events announce that they are high protocol, gorean, or something else. The rules will be posted at the event and likely to some degree in their announcements.
At all other events follow vanilla manners and in general this will make you safe and respected. Manners go a long way.
Say please and thank you as appropriate.
Do not touch what is not yours in any way. This means people and things.
Do not assume familiarity. This is a tricky one for new people. I am a hugger as an example and if I have met you at least once before (and sometimes it doesn’t take that) I will hug you. But that doesn’t mean you should assume its ok to hug me. We know people who are our friends for years who still ask permission to hug me. My best friend will come by and goose me but it does not make it open season on my tush. Another example is the use of names and nicknames with people. Do not go up to a submissive and call them “slut” or any other “nickname”. I do not care if they are wearing a dress with the word slut written all over it and it is stamped on their forehead. Introduce yourself first and get an introduction in return.
Submissives, in a desire to be pleasing to dominants you may decide to go the road of calling them Sir or Maam. I will not discourage that. I will however blatantly discourage calling them simply Master or Mistress. It is considered presumptive. However calling my Sir, MasterGrizly is not being overly familiar. It is also not calling him Master. It is not submitting to him. It is choosing to address him as he introduces himself. I personally view it no differently than someone calling me liltala.
Some protocols that are often utilized but not universal are…
When meeting a couple do not where one is clearly the submissive and the other the dominant. Introduce yourself to the dominant first and allow him to introduce you to the submissive.
A collar generally is a symbol of a relationship. It often means the submissive or slave is not available. Exceptions exist when n doubt ask.
At a play party pick up play or casual play may work for you. Meeting someone and deciding to do a scene in a public place where others can intervene if you feel the need can be fun. That said do not allow you to be gagged and be certain to negotiate clearly what is and is not acceptable. Just because the rules say penetration is out does not mean this stranger will accept that fact. Make it clear. Dominants public play can be a very good thing for you as well. It helps you build a reputation as a safe player. It allows you to play with new people without concern of next day regrets. I do not at any other time advocate pick up or casual play except at public play events. If there is someone you are interested in playing with ask. Talk to the DMs and see if they are familiar with them.
Remember the friend I mentioned who did pick up play at a munch and now has a scar? I count her as a lucky person because it could have been worse. Still we only hear about the cars that blow up and not the ones who drive every day without issue. Yes, some people do casual play and never get hurt. I personally am not comfortable with that risk benefit analysis
I will point blank make this statement DO NOT TALK TO SOMEONE ONLINE WHO IS A COMPLETE STRANGER TO YOU AND MEET THEM TO PLAY THE SAME NIGHT. To put this in real terms would you go into a bar meet someone, say hi and then suggest they tie you up and beat you with various implements? No? Then what gives the impression it is safe to go on collarme or fetlife and do the same? It’s not safe.
What do I encourage? A little bit of kink dating.
- Talk for a while online or on the phone first. See a picture if possible. Get to know them a bit.
- Meet in public, like a coffee shop, restaurant or a Munch.
- Arrive separately and early if possible so that you are first inside. This advice is often given to submissives to prevent a predator from seeing the type of car they drive and discourage someone from following them.
- Let someone know where you’re going, and arrange to check in with them or have them call you. I don’t advocate safe calls in general as they create a false sense of security. When the police in Detroit don’t arrive for 90 minutes for a gun shot wound what makes you think “she missed my call and is on a date” will have a better reception? Yet there is no harm in letting someone know where you are going. A fun exercise is to see how the other person reacts to you having a “safe call” and if a dominant suggests it means you don’t trust them then tell the truth “You are right. I don’t trust you yet.”
- Often people tell new submissives to ask for the dominants drivers’ license info and call a friend with it. I will be blunt. Fuck that noise. I am not going to show you my driver’s license with my home address on it to stalk me or steal my id. I would never ask a dominant to do that. I would discourage any dominant from doing that
- Don’t drink alcohol. It dulls your reflexes and is a mind altering substance. If you cannot meet them and meet with them sober you need to reevaluate.
- Don’t assume you are with someone safe and also don’t assume they are an axe murderer. Both ends of the spectrum carry their own danger. One you are too relaxed and the other too hyper vigilant. Treat them as you would treat anyone else with the correct amount of caution to keep yourself safe.
- Don’t plan to invite this person back to your home, hotel room, or any place where you will be out of the public eye. Seriously play time and sex will still be there when you get to know them better.
- Don’t ignore first impressions. The gut feeling or something told me feeling has saved many people’s lives.
After you have met and gotten to know each other in person and there is chemistry the next you will want to do is play…ok maybe sex. The first thing I will say is this is where negotiations, limits and safe words come in.
A friend of mine came and presented at the submissives munch with a discussion on negotiation and this part is heavily borrowed from her. She suggests people write up a page for negotiation much in the same fashion as you write a list for the market or to go to the doctor.
This is where you list what you’re into. List kinks and themes that you like in your play. It’s a good place to talk about things you have experienced in the past and enjoy.
Likes which need specific negotiations I have a few kinks that need to be discussed in more detail before I just give people a free pass to do them. As an example suspension of any type, needle and fire play are very much on my specific negotiations list. Some may call these soft limits.
Things I would like to try. This section is terrific for new people but also experienced ones. If you meet someone that does something you have never done before then list it here. The BDSM checklist can be very useful here. Fill out and learn a great deal about these terms by googling them. It will help you to not agree to things you do not understand. It will also be a neat benchmark to growth. Fill one out as you just begin and do it again in a year and see how much has changed.
EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE HARD LIMITS! This should include everything from very general moral limits (I don’t do animals) to types of play you dislike (blood play, scat, etc.) to personal triggers. Everyone has a past and we all have things that bother us or set us off. Even if you think your limit is weird or “should” be harmless, list it. Someone I know likes to say “everything is off the table unless it is on the table.” This means if we didn’t discuss it then don’t frickin do it. Dominants you have limits as well. There are things you are willing and unwilling to do. Since you are directing the action in the scene you may not feel it needed to verbalize all of them during negotiations but you should still be fully aware of them. You may not need to say you so not like humiliation play but you need to be aware of that. To recognize when someone says that’s their main kink that it becomes a no go for you.
What your safeword is and what it means to you. In public play settings most of the time the safe word is red and people utilize the traffic light system. Red means stop, yellow means slow, and green is gogogo.However in relationships people may choose a different word or have a different meaning. I will use “red” as a hard stop with anyone but MasterGrizly but we are currently at the point together that my “red” means he checks on me, problem solves and moves on. More on those in a minute…
This is really really important. Your partner should be aware of all health conditions and how they might affect play and what to do if there is a problem. List everything, even if you don’t think it will be a problem. Better to be safe than sorry. This goes for both sides of the slash…I want to know if the person tying me up and playing with me may have an asthma attack from over exertion and leave me vulnerable.
Your partner needs to know if you have particular phobias, triggers or general areas of anxiety. If you have panic attacks, they need to know. You don’t need to go into details necessarily, but let people know some basics.
I know this can be a hot button issue for some folks but it should always be discussed. Everyone has different needs for aftercare. of time. Tops don’t be afraid to ask for aftercare, too. You put energy into a scene too and have a right to some TLC. For many this means cuddles, reassuring words, a blanket, a drink and some food. For others it may be a pat on the ass and a cigarette. Aftercare is what you need or do not need immediately following a scene.
Ok at the outset I am not saying safewords are the be all and end all of safety. Given my druthers I would not use one in my current or future relationships. MasterGrizly happens to find them a good communication tool. I do too in the end but that is only when they are used as one.
- Use your safeword as the communication tool it is intended to be and not a measurement of your submission, slavelyness, or anything else. It is intended to communicate that there is an issue.
- If you agree to a safeword and refuse to utilize it and are harmed as a direct result of that do not blame the dominant. In all things we are responsible for our actions. Yes, MasterGrizly pays close attention to my reactions both physical and mental. However if I am feeling dizzy and nauseous and do not safeword my throwing up on the cross is not his fault. Its mine. I chose to ignore my body and paid the price.
- If you agreed to a safeword and choose to not use it because it may spoil the fun. You are doing more damage than saying “red”.
- If you agreed to utilize a safeword and do not use it for any of the above reasons that communicates to me the dominant cannot be trusted as a play partner. You have at the outset agreed to do something and then do not do it. You have chosen to not communicate with them and changed the experience.
- If you agree to use a safeword and do not you risk harming a dominant or top’s reputation in the public community. No one will remember that you were a dumbass who refused to safeword. They will say “Bob played with a girl until she puked all over the cross. He isn’t a safe player.” That’s harmful to him.
- If you agree to use a safeword and refuse to use it and are harmed in some way the dominant could not predict you will cause them to question their skills, create guilt, and in general piss them off. That is probably not the desired outcome you are seeking.
- If you cannot verbalize a safeword for any reason during play then don’t agree to one. Utilize a safe signal or have a spotter. You can also utilize the drop signal that is to hold something like keys, a ball, a hanky and drop it when there is an issue. Do not agree to something you know that you cannot do. EXAMPLE – Sir
- If you are someone who is generally unwilling to use your safeword because you insist on measuring your submission by it or feel guilt over it then communicate that prior to play. And then choose to utilize another communication method such as plain words, a spotter, a signal
Ok so we have covered negotiating what will happen, limits, safe words and talked a bit about safe calls.
I normally advocated public play for your first experience. As a standard it is safer for both the dominant and the submissive. It is safer for the submissive in the its highly unlikely that she will be raped, taken past her limits etc. The dominant finds it useful because it is one protection against next day regrets of the submissive. I know it is a fear of dominants that the submissive will change their mind and say they were assaulted or that their limits were violated or hell they were violated. It is unfortunate that just like false rape reports in the vanilla world these types of false reports exist here.
That said not everyone has a play party near them once a month much less the multiple times per month we have in Michigan.
If you are going to play in private for the first time I highly recommend the following.
- Have that safe call. Once again do not use it as a crutch but someone knowing where you are and when you will return is good. This is good for both sides of the slash. Seriously dominants can be hurt as well.
- Do not allow yourself to be bound or gagged. It is a lot easier to violate limits when the victim is fully immobilized.
- Be prepared for any issues. This means have a small first aid kit in your car and comfortable clothes such as jeans, tennis shoes and a hoodie.
- Don’t depend on this person for aftercare fully. Have a friend available to you for emotional or physical comfort as needed.
Not everyone needs to attend public functions or chooses to play publically. This class discusses some of the ways to navigate the public community including munches, play parties, and overall safety in play. I hope it aided in giving you a little insight into wonderland.