“Will I be ‘safe’ if I come to an event at ____?”

“I don’t have a collar. Will someone grab me and start playing with me?”

These are questions I’ve heard too many times to count. (Thank you, poorly researched romance books by vanilla writers, and clips at BDSM porn sites.) You can fill in the blank for any event or venue, whether at a club/public setting or a private home.

1) Any event that’s being run at a BDSM club, or, for example, at some other commercial facility (bar, hotel, etc.) chances are, yes, you WILL be “safe.” If someone tries to do something to you that you don’t want done, and they aren’t taking NO for an answer, yell RED at the top of your lungs. It’ll probably be like one of those movies where you hear the record screech, the room goes silent, and everyone looks your way while the offender starts backing away from you. If it’s an event being held at someone’s house, if they’re a rational human being, they don’t want the liability of someone violating consent and they WILL handle the problem. (If the owner of the house is the culprit, find someone you trust, ANYONE, and tell them, and get yourself out of there ASAP.) But…

2) Chances are, the worst that might happen is someone doesn’t take a hint when you tell them NO and they keep annoying you, not much worse than any drunk at any “vanilla” bar, so you immediately go find a staff member, DM, security, whoever is in “charge” and you tell them, and THEY will take care of it. Unless…

3) You do something utterly nonsensical like you set up a first-time meeting/playdate in a hotel room or home or some other private place instead of taking things SLOWLY and meeting them several times in public FIRST and carefully vetting them amongst others in the community.

Are there predators who try to pressure newbies to play? Yes.

Are there idiots who encroach on scenes and try to get themselves invited into group scenes because they see a group of people playing and don’t understand they’re already friends and pre-negotiated? Yes.

Are there people who will get creepy/stalky in a public play space and don’t seem to take the first NO as a final and absolute answer? Yes.

The staff, DMs, security, etc. WANT to keep people safe. You will hear complaints about ANY venue or event from people that a DM stepped in. Why? It’s their JOB. Yes, some are admittedly a little more strict than others, and sometimes scenes might get interrupted when they shouldn’t be, but try to remember they’re trying to err on the side of caution and safety and liability. They do have good intentions and aren’t just trying to be dicks.

So what is YOUR job as an attendee at an event if you are made to feel uncomfortable because someone won’t leave you alone?

Go FIND a staffer IMMEDIATELY and TELL THEM. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching staff directly, ask a friend to go with you, if you have someone there with you.

You are NOT in some violation of ettiquette if you speak up and take steps to protect yourself. You have a responsibility to protect yourself THEN.

You will NOT be dragged into a scene kicking and screaming (unless you want to be and pre-negotiate it LOL). Not if you yell RED repeatedly at the top of your lungs.

HOWEVER (and this is NOT blaming the victim) people aren’t mind readers. DMs are usually focused on the play area and trying to keep people from encroaching into ongoing scenes. They might not notice you standing in a dark corner with some guy talking to you, especially if they have no reason to notice you. In a club, there are likely dozens of other people standing around and talking in dark corners.

Unless you step away from the person making you uncomfortable and go TELL the staff you’re uncomfortable. Believe me, people who run events WANT to keep their events safe.

Submissive does NOT equal doormat, victim, or any other word like that.

LIKEWISE, if you’re a submissive wanting to play, don’t get pissy if that Dom/me who you’ve watched play with fifteen other people that night tells you no. Be an adult about it if they tell you no. They don’t owe you an explanation for their no any more than you owe someone an explanation for yours.

I know there are the fortunately infrequent times where something goes sideways at a private event. If the host is the asshat, all you can do is call attention to what’s going on by yelling RED and getting yourself into a safe place ASAP. Your safety is far more important than any perceived protocol infractions. (This is why it’s so important to meet people in public, at events like munches and coffee times, before going to private events.)

Are the majority of private events safe? I’m sure they are. The ones I’ve attended have been. Are the majority of public events safe? Yes.

BUT, just like the fire department can’t come put out a fire at your house if you don’t call them and report it, the people running an event cannot keep you safe if you don’t let them know you feel unsafe.

THAT all said… Can “bad” stuff happen? Unfortunately, yes, it can. Fortunately, it happens rarely. You can help take steps to keep yourself safe by:

  • Meeting people in public, or at public events like munches, coffee times, classes, etc.
  • Talking to staff if you’re new, and asking them to point you toward “safe” people to talk to.
  • Using the buddy system. Make friends before the event with other attendees, or bring friends with you to events. Predators like to isolate their victims from the herd for simplicity. Sometimes it’s far easier to say NO or RED when you have a wingwo/man who has your back.
  • LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. If you are sensing red flags, say NO or RED. Don’t let someone’s “community standing” pressure you into doing something you’ll regret later. If they really ARE a “community leader,” then they’ll have no problem accepting your no.
  • DO NOT RUSH. The world likely won’t end tomorrow, meaning if you don’t play that night, mabye you can play at the next event. Use the time until the next event to connect with people and get to know them better. Don’t let subfrenzy dictate that you play now, and “pay” later with regret (or worse).

(Tymber Dalton is an author and the web wench and social media sadist for the Tampa Bay Phoenix Club.)