ropecoilI am on the DM staff at the Tampa Bay Phoenix Club. After helping DM at a large fetish event that I have attended multiple times in the past as a guest, I realized that there are a LOT of people out there who consider themselves fetishists, but who are totally clueless (or worse, who are resentful) of basic dungeon and playspace protocols, etiquette, and rules that people who frequent dungeons and BDSM play events pretty much take for granted.

Hence this quick article. And yes, I realize that MOST people, even the ones who aren’t involved in real-life BDSM, ARE respectful and follow the rules. But sometimes there are problems, and this addresses the most common ones DMs tend to see.

What you have to remember is that in the world of real-life BDSM, there are a WIDE variety of protocols from loose and practically vanilla, all the way up to high-protocol. Just because you do things one way, or don’t understand how someone else does their own thing, do NOT assume you can just go up and start talking to someone. And don’t get your feelings hurt if a high-protocol sub turns their back on you and doesn’t talk to you. They might not be allowed to talk to you. Some people do this in REAL LIFE, ALL the time, not just one weekend a year.

And when you mix large numbers of the general public with real-life BDSM practitioners in a playspace at a large event–especially if drinking is allowed–sometimes there are conflicts. DMs are not perfect, but we do our best. There are things you can do to help us so that everyone has a good time.

This is by no means a complete list of the most basic things everyone attending a dungeon or fetish event needs to remember, but it is a list of the most common issues I personally have witnessed, either as a DM, as a Top or bottom, or as a spectator.

Have a PHOTO ID with your date of birth on it. Just because you obviously look older than the minimum age of the event, the event staff STILL might be required by their insurance to physically verify a person’s identity/date of birth before allowing them entry. If you forgot your ID, please do not ask the staff to make an exception, and don’t get mad at the staff because YOU forgot your ID. (And if you drove there, you don’t have your driver’s license on you…why?) Passport, official state ID, driver’s license, military ID (with DOB on it)–usually any of those are acceptable (but VERIFY THAT with the event/venue BEFORE you go if you aren’t sure).

This one is particularly for participants who try to pester someone for play: NO (or red) means NO. An absence of a yes is AUTOMATICALLY a NO. PERIOD. FULL STOP. If you are told NO one time, STOP ASKING. PERIOD. (This applies to Tops and bottoms, and all genders.) No one owes you an explanation of why they said NO. No is a complete sentence requiring NO justification.

READ the list of rules BEFORE you enter a playspace, or as soon as you enter, it if they aren’t posted outside. Do NOT assume that just because you know the rules for one playspace that the rules are the same for THAT particular playspace, or even the same rules from year to year in the same event playspace. (In the case of some events, especially if there’s a change in venue.)

DMs are NOT trying to be assholes. We have to balance enforcing the rules we are required to enforce (whether we agree with them or not) with safety issues and with crowd control. An activity that we might permit in a private playspace might be forbidden by that particular venue’s rules, insurance requirements, or local laws. PLEASE have patience with us and don’t spring stuff on us at the last minute. Try to get to an event early and talk to us so we can try to help facilitate your scene if you have special requirements. Remember, we ARE usually members of the BDSM community. We play. We GET it. But sometimes we have to make certain rulings you might not like. We might not like making them, either. But frequently, problems come up where people assume the rules for a particular venue or event are the same as for another venue (like nudity or orgasm play). You can save yourself problems by knowing the event’s rules first. (PLEASE read the rules!)

LISTEN to the DMs when they try to tell you to watch out where you are walking. You might have been focused on one scene in front of you, but failed to notice the knife play scene behind you that you almost stepped into/bumped.

Don’t argue with a DM when they direct traffic. When they ask you to move, LISTEN to them. You might get pissed off over it, but what you might not understand is that a Top told us their bottom is close to panicking because people kept bumping into them and they need space, or that someone else got too close and bumped into them five minutes earlier while the Top was using a knife and nearly made them injure their bottom, or _____. So PLEASE, don’t get pissed off just because you can’t get close enough to watch a particular scene. The people scening aren’t there for you, they’re there for THEMSELVES. Just like when YOU scene, the DMs will do their best to protect YOUR scene so you can play uninterrupted. And if you aren’t into BDSM and are just a voyeur, that’s great, but remember the people sceneing are there for THEMSELVES, not for you. If you want to watch, you need to be respectful of the rules and of protocols.

DO NOT encroach upon people playing. Unless they are paid entertainers (and chances are, they are NOT) they are there for THEMSELVES, NOT for your entertainment. This means don’t go up to them and talk to them or ask them questions or sit there a foot away and stare or stand so close you’re in their way. If you think you’re far enough away but can still reach out and touch them (do NOT do that), YOU ARE TOO CLOSE. Sometimes it’s difficult to not encroach upon a scene when a playspace is packed. Even more reason for you not to get too close to someone.

If you get hit by an implement–especially after being warned by a DM to pay attention–it is YOUR fault for getting too close to a scene.

If a DM sees you close to a scene, we might ask you if you know the people in the scene and have been invited to be that close. If you have/do, great, please tell us that, but don’t be upset at us for asking. We might not know you know them, and we might have been worried that you were actually encroaching on their scene. Or if you’re getting ready to scene and actually have a couple of friends who are going to be spotters for you, either tell us, or have one of them tell us, so we know not to interrupt you. INVITED extra eyes are always welcomed when it comes to keeping a scene from being encroached upon, and we appreciate you doing that.

Sometimes, a venue is just packed, and there’s not much we can do about it. Please exercise caution when moving around people who are scening. Try to time your movements to avoid the Top in a scene, or wait until they move so they can see you until you move past them. (DMs can always tell the lifestylers from the non-lifestylers in a large public event, because we can see the lifestylers standing there and almost swaying in time with the Top’s movements while awaiting their chance to duck around them and not interfere with the scene.)

DMs/security cannot be everywhere at once. We do our best, but if you have a situation and can’t catch someone’s eye, yell for us if you have to. Sometimes, we’re trying to DM several scenes at once as well as be traffic cops. Think of the last time you were the only parent taking care of a large group of sugared-up preschoolers at the zoo because you were the only parent dumb enough not to bail at the last minute. THAT is sort of what we’re dealing with, only at an adult level. And, unfortunately, alcohol is frequently a factor, depending on the event and venue. Our attention is usually pulled multiple directions.

DMs are not mind-readers. We don’t know you’re waiting for a particular piece of equipment unless you tell us. Communication–please use it.

Don’t show up at an event and assume DMs will hook you up with someone to play with. A lot of people attend a play event either with a partner or friend, or go there to meet up with partners or friends they’ve pre-negotiated with. A play event is usually not a pay-for-play event. Sometimes you can pick up play at an event, but if you get pissy because people won’t play with you, it’s nearly guaranteed you won’t find a play partner that night. (In the case of local venues, attend coffee times and munches and get to know people and network ahead of time.)

Yes, you will probably hate at least some of the music. I’m sorry, but that’s a fact of life. It is literally impossible to please 100% of the people in a playspace with the music. In some venues (but not all by any means) they will let you bring in your playlist on a device to play when you scene. ASK THEM ahead of time and don’t get upset if they say no. The worst they can say is no.

It’s also impossible to get the temperature in a playspace perfect for everyone. If you get cold easily, bring a sweater or a fleece throw or something. If you get hot easily, dress in layers you can remove. A/C units don’t cool a room immediately, so it might start out frigid because the A/C was cranked down ahead of time, and then be so hot it’s barely tolerable by the time the room is packed, finishing up frigid again as people filter out throughout the evening.

The DMs are NOT your maid, and you are an adult. PLEASE WIPE DOWN THE PLAY EQUIPMENT after you use it. Yes, even if all you did was climb up on it and try it out by sitting on it. Get in the habit of ALWAYS wiping down play equipment after you use it. Frankly, you might want to wipe it down before you use it as well, because if it’s a very busy crowd, there’s a good chance a DM didn’t see if it was wiped down or not, much less didn’t have a chance to go wipe it down.

If there are a lot of people there, and play equipment space is at a premium, please pack up and move your stuff asap (or have a friend do it for you if you need to care for your bottom) and don’t keep the equipment tied up. Don’t stake out a piece of equipment by piling your stuff there and then disappearing. You might come back to find a DM has moved your stuff because no one could find you and someone else wanted to play on it. (It’s especially rude to stake it out and THEN go smoke/go to the bathroom and come back.) Be ready to scene when the piece of equipment you want is ready. Get all the other stuff out of the way first.

Don’t assume there’s not a line for a particular piece of equipment. Talk to a DM and ask.

If it is NOT yours, DO NOT pick it up or touch it. This includes toys, implements, AND people. This means do NOT touch or pick up implements if they do not belong to you, even if you’ve previously attended events where “loaner” toys were provided. (Ask FIRST.) This means don’t reach out and touch someone’s outfit. This also means do NOT do “friendly” or “innocent” touches of someone’s arm, etc. ASSUME that you CANNOT TOUCH THEM until you verify that you can.

Let me repeat that last point: If you did not bring an implement or a person or a toy to an event yourself, DO NOT TOUCH IT without asking first.

VERIFY if full nudity is allowed (including revealing women’s nipples) BEFORE you strip. Some events, if held where liquor is sold, cannot by law allow full nudity, meaning women’s nipples must be covered by tape or pasties at the minimum, and women’s and men’s genitalia must be covered. (In some locales, ass crack isn’t allowed to be exposed, either.) PLAN accordingly. Men–have a jock, g-string, or bikini bottom. Women–have pasties or tape/adhesive bandages for nipples, and g-string or bikini bottoms on hand. No, DMs cannot make a special exception for you. This also means you can’t pull panties aside to do orgasm play on men or women. And don’t get pissed off if a DM comes over to you after you’ve started playing and tells you to tape those nipples or pull up the panties. YOU are responsible for knowing the rules BEFORE you play, and again, we cannot be everywhere at once.

For the record, for people who don’t know, some private events/venues can allow full nudity if the local laws allow it, usually meaning that alcohol cannot be served/sold on the premises. PLEASE do NOT try to circumvent this rule by sneaking alcohol in. If you are caught, you will be thrown out. Worse, it means that you are possibly endangering everyone else’s fun if there’s an undercover cop present who could get the whole event shut down and arrest people. So PLEASE know the rules and OBEY them so everyone can have fun. If full nudity isn’t allowed, PLEASE respect that rule as well and again, remember that it’s not personal, it’s not the DMs trying to hamper your fun, it’s a rule that has to be enforced across the board. If you don’t like it, stay home and play naked, or get a hotel room, but if everyone else has to follow the rules, you are not a special snowflake.

Do NOT break out a long whip and expect to use it. (Sometimes, even short whips aren’t allowed.) Also, don’t constantly crack a shorter whip. It’s like a gunshot, and can damage hearing as well as yank other people out of their headspace. (Some places do NOT allow whips to be cracked.) If you can’t effectively use a whip without cracking it on every single throw, then you need to keep it in your bag during the event and practice more later when you get home. The entire playspace did not consent to be your guinea pigs.

DO NOT walk through an A-frame/suspension frame if someone is using it! (Yes, this actually happened at an event I was DMing at. I had to sit another DM in a chair right next to the ongoing scene to force people to walk around the A-frame.)

DO NOT sit on play equipment. It doesn’t matter if someone’s not using it, it’s rude, and when you’re asked to vacate it, please don’t argue with the DM. Standard etiquette is that if someone’s on it, people will assume you’re using it as part of a scene, so people won’t know it’s not in use. If you have a problem standing and seating space is limited, ask a DM if there are any chairs available. If you have mobility issues, I strongly recommend getting one of those chair canes. (Yes, I’ve seen plenty of people use them at fetish events.) Remember, the playspace is there for people playing. Spectators are welcome, but unless there is adequate space, chances are there will not be enough seating. (I suggest comfy shoes as well.)

If the event requires a wrist band or event badge, have it handy where it can easily be seen by DM staff so they aren’t constantly bugging you to see it. Please do not get pissy with the staff when they ask you for it, because we are simply trying to insure that everyone there is supposed to be there.

DO NOT TAKE YOUR CELL PHONE OUT, unless it’s been explicitly stated that’s allowed. ASSUME your cell phone IS NOT ALLOWED TO BE OUT. NOT even to check the time, NOT even to check a text. Most cell phones now have cameras on them. And don’t get pissy with the DM when they ask you to put your cell phone away.

If you want to take a picture, talk to the DMs BEFORE YOU SCENE. Some spaces will allow a DM to take the picture for you, or directly supervise the picture-taking, so they can insure no one else is in the picture. Do NOT assume that just because you were able to take a picture before at that same venue that you will be again. And be prepared to turn off your flash. Different nights and crowds and circumstances can change the rules. What’s allowed on a night when there are only twenty-five people there might not be allowed on a night when there are sixty or more packed into the same space. Also, at fetish events where there is a separate play space, do NOT assume that just because you could take pictures on the vendor floor that you can take pictures in the dungeon. (Usually, you cannot.)

TALK to the DM/event staff early enough in the evening if you are doing a scene that will likely draw a crowd so that they can best help you accomplish it. They might want to reposition equipment so that your scene doesn’t impede on other people’s scenes or create a traffic choke point in the space. Remember, the DM staff WANTS you to have fun, but they also have to try to balance that against the rules, the number of people present, the limitations of the space, safety logistics, etc.

Extension cords are a trip hazard, and in some cases, it’s prohibited to string them along a floor. (You really don’t want someone stumbling over your extension cord and jerking your violet wand out of your hand, do you?) If you are doing something that requires an electrical outlet, get to the venue early, scope it out, and talk to DMs about your requirements so they can best assist you in being able to set up.

Do NOT move equipment without asking permission from a DM first. Many times, they will be happy to move stuff around if the circumstances allow it, but sometimes it can’t be done because of other scenes they know are coming up or the crowd, etc. (Again, get there early and communicate.)

NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING about a venue, event, rules, etc. ASK THE DMs/STAFF. Always review the rules before you play and get everything clarified, especially if you haven’t been to a venue for a while, because rules might have changed.

What YOU see about an event and what the DM/security staff sees are two different things. Please be patient and courteous with the staff, because they do their best to keep incidents from happening and they might be quietly dealing with something going on that you aren’t even aware of. (And if the staff is good, lucky, or both, you never will know what happened, because they prevented it from escalating and/or impacting the event or other people.)

Remember that due to noise levels, you need to have a lot of patience, especially when communicating with DMs. You might be mishearing each other, or something might come off sounding “wrong” when it wasn’t meant that way at all. Again, that goes back to patience.

NEVER hesitate to scream RED about something if you can’t get the other person to listen to you and leave you alone, even if you aren’t in a “scene” with them. It will alert others nearby that you need assistance, and it might be the one thing to finally break through the idiot’s head and tell them that, “Hey, wait, this person is saying no and I’m not listening.” (Alcohol doesn’t just create blinders, sometimes it deafens people, too.)

Just because you don’t like a rule doesn’t mean you can ignore it, break it, or bitch at the DMs about it. Try asking WHY the rule is in place before you go aggro over it. Sometimes, the DMs might not like the rule either, especially if it’s a public event being held somewhere like a hotel or in a bar, but it might be an insurance, legal, or venue requirement they have to stick to. So if you WANT the event to continue, FOLLOW the RULES! Don’t be the selfish asshole that gets a whole event shut down just because you want to finger your submissive when the rules CLEARLY state NO penetration of ANY kind. Wait and do that in your hotel room or at home. If you non-consensually end everyone else’s fun just because you wanted to break a rule you didn’t like, I guarantee you you’ll find yourself unwelcomed at most future events.

Do not wait until ten minutes before an event’s scheduled end time to start playing. EARLY in the evening, find out what the “last call” time for scenes is and plan accordingly. If you start a scene around “last call,” take into account your set-up, break-down, and aftercare time requirements. If you are scening close to last call, be aware that DMs will probably come in and give you a heads-up time check before closing time so you have time to wrap up your scene before the house lights are flipped on.

If you break a rule, it’s YOUR fault for breaking it because YOU didn’t review the rules ahead of time. Trust me, DMs do NOT like having to interrupt people. We don’t. If we had our druthers, we’d stand there all night making sure traffic flows smoothly through the space and everyone has a fun time and never have to bring rules to anyone’s attention. We do NOT like having to enforce rules because someone’s breaking them, but we WILL enforce them. So please, help us do our job by familiarizing yourself with the event’s rules when you first get there.

DMs will always side with safety. You might have performed that exact thing one hundred times, but if the DM has never seen you do it before and doesn’t think it’s safe, they’ll call it. Again, if in doubt, bring it to a DM’s attention BEFORE you scene. “Hey, just to let you know, I’m doing a predicament scene, but here’s my safety factors even though it doesn’t look ‘safe’…” And you know what? A lot of times, as long as it’s not a rule violation, and the DM understands you know what you’re doing, they might allow it.

NEVER interrupt someone else’s scene. Don’t do it. If you think someone’s breaking a rule, bring it to the attention of the DM staff and let them deal with it. If you think there’s a safety problem, TELL THE DM STAFF. The ONLY time it might be acceptable to intervene is if outside help is requested by the Top or bottom in the scene, and those times are rare and usually have to deal with either an equipment malfunction or a medical issue. You might see a scene going on that looks horrible, but the DMs might have been fully briefed ahead of time and okayed it. By you interfering, you could very well be breaking the rules AND interrupting someone else’s completely consensual fun.

NEVER walk away from a bound bottom, whether it’s cuffs clipped to equipment or suspension or a rope-bound bottom on the floor. This means if you need to walk away, ask someone to stand there and watch them. And don’t get pissy when a DM tells you this. If you are not within a couple of steps of your bottom, you are too far away. It doesn’t matter if you’re watching them, it only takes a second for someone to faint and have a problem, and if you’re twenty feet away, you can’t catch them.

Check out the construction of a piece of play equipment before you play. Give it a test wiggle to make sure it’s sturdy. If you find a problem, please bring it to the attention of the DMs immediately. If something breaks while you’re playing, PLEASE tell us immediately.

Be VERY careful when using a St. Andrew’s Cross if your bottom gets tired/shaky. Depending on the way it’s constructed, it can sometimes be possible for a bottom to slump and their neck get wedged into the “V” and then choke themselves out. Jam a towel or blanket or something into the “V” to provide padding and help prevent that from happening if it’s a very narrow “V” construction.

You are not the first, twenty-first, or even the one hundred and first guy to “joke” with a female DM about spanking/flogging/etc. her. So excuse us if we don’t find that joke funny. Absolutely do NOT “jokingly” slap our ass or grab us. That’s one of the fastest ways for your evening to end and get you evicted from the venue. (And yes, the converse applies.) And not just the DMs. It is NEVER okay to put hands on someone, “jokingly” or not, without their permission. PERIOD. What might be acceptable contact among vanilla acquaintances in a normal environment is NOT acceptable within a dungeon playspace unless you have permission to touch that person. I’ve seen countless misunderstandings arise in the dungeon from someone who isn’t involved in BDSM doing something they wouldn’t normally think twice about in a vanilla setting and offending someone, usually involving touching, even innocent touching. So don’t do it, please.


Again, I’m not just a DM, I am also involved in BDSM. I “get it” from your point of view, believe me. Most DMs are experienced players, frequently at an advanced level and they usually have several years of experience. Please help us help you have fun by knowing the rules, following the rules, and being patient and courteous.

And if you don’t know–ASK. It’s as simple as that. It’s part of our JOB as a DM to answer your questions about rules, or about what you’re seeing in a scene. Don’t feel bashful or intimidated or “stupid” because you don’t know something. Please, ASK us. If we don’t know the answer, you know what? We’ll find someone who does know the answer, or who can find the answer for you. We were new once, too. We remember what it was like being tentative and nervous and not knowing basic etiquette and rules and stuff. We are always willing to try to give people second chances for honest mistakes and honest misunderstandings.

But when you’ve been told the rules/etiquette/protocols and you willfully choose to ignore them? That’s on you.

Again, I know that the MAJORITY of people attending events are fantastic and already know all of this. Believe me, the DMs at events thank you for being in the majority of people who follow the rules while having fun. It’s greatly appreciated.