(This post first appeared on The Playroom blog.)
One of the most common questions I get from people not in the lifestyle, or new to the lifestyle, is, “Where do I find others? How do I get started? What do I do?”
First of all, let me start by saying, as I’ve said before, there are no “rules” to BDSM. There are only safety concerns and basic respect for others. The guidelines everyone should follow are: everyone’s a consenting adult, everyone’s having fun or getting what they need out of the play, and no one is being harmed.
That’s really all there is to it. It’s that simple. No BDSM police will take away your riding crop because you aren’t “doing things right.” There is no “one true way” to practice BDSM. In fact, I highly recommend keeping a sense of humor about you, and if you run into someone lacking one and who also takes themselves way too seriously, steer clear of them.
To find others, the best thing to do is to sign yourself up for an account on Fetlife.com. It’s free, and if you’re uncomfortable doing it, get yourself a completely different email address through Gmail and sign up with that. You don’t have to give your real name or place or age or anything. Just don’t post any face pictures of yourself if you don’t want people to know who you are.
Being on Fetlife, you can then search by area to find local Munches (lunches or dinners usually held at restaurants), coffee groups, and other events.
Get out and meet people. Don’t be in a hurry to get into a relationship. In fact, you don’t really “need” to be on the look-out for someone kinky if you’re looking for a relationship. Just get to meet PEOPLE first. If you can’t be friends with someone, then you sure can’t trust them with your life, health, and safety in a BDSM play situation.
Take your time.
You don’t need to be in any hurry to “define” yourself. Remember, there are no tests, no grades, no pass/fail to this. It’s life. It’s YOUR life. And you’re entitled to have fun (as long as you aren’t harming anyone and they consent to playing with you). Don’t worry about some pinhead who has a thousand reasons for why you’re not doing it right. (Again, not talking about safety issues here — that’s a WHOLE different and legitimate conversation.)
We went to a munch recently (it’s a monthly munch we go to) and there were a couple of different people there who’d never been to a munch before and weren’t even sure what their interests were yet, only that they knew they wanted to get more involved in the lifestyle and meet like-minded people. There was also a couple there who’d been married for years and who were now starting to explore their kinky side. There was a couple who were both kinky and both formerly involved in the lifestyle who’d met through a vanilla dating site. (Now that’s kinky! LOL)
When I first started this journey, I swore I was totally dominant, would never submit to anyone, would DAMN sure never play naked in public, etc. etc. etc.
Um, yeah. I’m still dominant in most of my life, except I do submit to Sir, with whom I switch on occasion. Hubby, my slave, has a dominant streak in him that’s starting to come out. I consider myself dominant in all other areas of my life, and if anyone tried to push my buttons, they’d find themselves on the floor in a heartbeat with my foot on their throat.
There are people who probably think we do human pet play (puppy, pony, cat) “wrong” because we mix impact play, discipline, and bondage in with it. There are probably purists who think I should be called a “little” because I call Sir “Daddy” and enjoy stuffed animals (I’m definitely not a little).
What I’m trying to say, even though I’m repeating myself, is that to get started you just…start. Find out what interests you, never forget your basic manners (blindly messaging someone that you’d like to play with them without even taking the time to get to know them first is NOT polite and will get you shut down), and don’t be in a hurry to rush into anything. Most of the spectacular “blow ups” I’ve seen in relationships and with people are because one or both were in a hurry to just jump right in, or to do things “right” without remembering first and foremost…
PEOPLE. ARE. PEOPLE.
Don’t embrace the crazy.
I’ve seen the craziest stuff both online and in real life in the BDSM world, where people do stuff that I would hope in vanilla real life they would never dream of doing. They seem to lose their common sense.
I had a dude message me, despite my Fetlife profile clearly stating right at the top of the about me section that I will NOT play with anyone other than my pack, that he was coming to town and wanted to tie me and Sir up and tickle us.
HUH??? If it’d just been generic copypasta, I would have deleted it. But the idiot took the time to read enough of my profile to not only see i was in a poly triad, but to name us in his message and customize it. Yes, he probably sent similar messages to quite a few other people at the same time, but day-amn.
I told him no, to read people’s profiles before sending them creepy messages, and then blocked him.
Sir basically told him to go screw himself before He blocked him as well. And Hubby blocked him.
I didn’t know this guy from Adam. And he only messaged me, which was even creepier because considering my profile shows I’m not only a Dominant, but married and collared AND owned, it would have been basic manners NOT to send me a message like that. Especially since he obviously took the time to read enough of my profile to see what my situation was.
That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about. If the guy had taken the time to strike up a conversation, and then eventually asked about playing, he would have gotten a polite no thanks. (Had he truly taken the time to be considerate, however, he never would have propositioned me in the first place.)
Usually when I get copypasta from trolls, I simply delete it and block. No harm, no foul. But when someone customizes it and says he’s coming to the area on a trip, yeah, that’s when it gets into creepy land.
So don’t do that. And yes, submissive women can be just as guilty of it, too. I’ve seen women in sub frenzy basically going after Dominants, regardless of whether or not the guy is already in a relationship or not. They assume they can go after him because he’s a Dom.
Um, no. If you went after another woman’s man in real life, you’d likely end up in a cat fight, no? Why do you think it’d be any different in the BDSM world. Yes, I know people who are poly and/or have several play partners. (I am poly, but in a closed pack.) But what newbies often don’t take into consideration is that the people who play with others usually have pre-existing rapport or relationship with them. I do know a couple of service tops who play with others at parties, but they’re in committed relationships. And it’s far too easy for a single female sub who’s new to the lifestyle to equate sexual play/sensual play with “love” and then go off the deep end and then everyone starts hiding their pet bunnies out of an abundance of caution.
Don’t be a bunny boiler.
And I’m not trying to scare newbies. By far, the majority of people I’ve met in the lifestyle are decent, polite, friendly people. But in any demographic, vanilla or kinky, you’re going to have asshats who skew the bell curve right the hell off the chart. We tend to hear more about those in the lifestyle community simply because it’s a smaller demographic and epic derailments garner more attention and word of mouth.
So when you want to get started in the community, keep your eyes open, keep your common sense firmly in place, and just keep your undies on until you make friends with enough people that you can start to find things you’d like to try. Don’t get entangled in sexual or sensual play with people you don’t know well. Ask questions. If you go to events, find out who’s in charge (if it’s a small event) and talk to them, or find staff/volunteers you can talk to. Or ask the organizer or staff to point out people you can and should talk to.
If you’re already in a relationship and want to explore this, communication is key. Don’t automatically assume your partner will in no way want to participate. And if you’re sure of that and think you’re going to get your fix on the down-low, that’s a sure-fire way to blow up your relationship beyond repair because the truth WILL come out.
Start by doing a little role-playing in bed. Give and take. “I’d like to try this tonight, and in exchange I’ll try out ____ that you’ve wanted to try.” (Yes, that’s a simplification, but you get my drift.)
One step at a time.
There is no race to the finish. There is nothing that says you have to jump into this feet-first into the deep end of the pool right now. Take your time. Learn to have the hard conversations. It will feel reeeallly weird at first if you’re not used to talking with your partner like that, but trust me, you cannot have a successful BDSM relationship if you cannot effectively communicate.
And there’s nothing that says you have to do everything at once. You can ask your guy to blindfold you in bed (or ask your girl, if you’re the guy, or whatever your relationship configuration is). You don’t have to ask your wife to buy a strap-on and peg your ass as the first introduction to her finding out you’re kinky.
It’s a journey, a progression of steps, each one building upon the path. There is no “destination.” There shouldn’t be. Getting your hopes up and creating this unrealistic picture in your head of what things “should” be like is a sure-fire path to disaster.
Another key piece: you also need to make sure you are working on YOUR issues along the way. I’ve seen plenty of instances where people jumped into BDSM only to find disappointment because the source of their discontent was within them, not their partner.
I know this person who has bounced from relationship to relationship, each one a disaster after having proclaimed that their new person is “the one.” They refuse to see that the problem is THEM, not the people they choose. (Well, they keep choosing deeply flawed people to start with.) They consistently choose the wrong people to have relationships with, because they refuse to see that what they are looking for is missing within them. Instead, they continue to put their needs upon new partners, and when those partners prove less than perfect (because they blindly ignored warning signs due to seeing that shiny object of the “missing piece” in the other person) yet another relationship blows up and they wonder what happened.
Had they focused on getting to know the other person first, instead of rushing into a relationship with them, they would have seen that it wasn’t meant to be in the long run. And those of us who finally stepped out of that person’s life because of the never-ending self-created drama sadly shake our heads and wonder who the next ex will be in that person’s life.
You have to be willing to work on yourself, on examining yourself honestly, sometimes brutally so. You have to be able to have honest conversations with yourself. If you can’t, you’ll never be able to have those honest conversations with partners.
So take your time, start slow, and don’t be in a hurry when you decide to to take the plunge. Yes, it means holding yourself back sometimes, but in the end, you’ll be a happier person for it with a well-rounded circle of friends and acquaintances with whom you can share your journey.
And you’ll be a happier, more content person as well.
(Tymber Dalton is an author, as well as the web wench and social media sadist for the Tampa Bay Phoenix Club.)