We frequently get e-mails or FetLife messages from people who’ve never been to a BDSM club before, asking what they can expect. We can’t speak for other clubs, only for the Tampa Bay Phoenix Club, so let’s start there.

We can never guarantee how many people will be present on any given night, or what kinds of scenes you’ll see, unless there’s a scheduled demo. We could easily have a night where it starts out slow and then by 11pm we have a lot of people there, or we could have a night where a lot of people show up early, play, and then leave by ten, leaving the room looking kind of empty even though earlier it was packed. There’s never any way to predict the turnout, because even the event listings on FetLife don’t accurately reflect attendance numbers since a lot of people don’t mark themselves as going.

We have members from 18 years old all the way up into their 80s. (Seriously, you’re never too old.) We have people of all body types. We have members of all genders and sexual orientations, and who practice a variety of BDSM dynamics all the way from “fluffy bunny” to hard-core.

And everywhere in between.

What you can expect, however, is that everyone is screened through the USDOJ database of registered sex offenders before they’re allowed to join or be a guest at a play event. We also go through the rules with everyone so they understand basic protocols. We don’t allow alcohol (so no drunks) and we turn people away who appear to be intoxicated, even if they’re a member. (Fortunately, that rarely happens.) We don’t allow drugs. We also don’t allow sex (although some types of sexy play are allowed during scenes).

This means that 99.9% of “problems” are stopped before they can even start. It keeps us out of trouble with the law, and it keeps our members safe. (Let’s be honest–you can almost always have quiet sex at home behind closed doors, but you can’t always spank your submissive without the kids or neighbors hearing, right?)

If you’ve read in romance books where a Dom swoops in and grabs an uncollared female submissive and starts playing with her without her consent? Chances are that author has never set foot in a real BDSM club before. If you go to a bar and a drunk won’t leave you alone, what do you do? You get a bouncer/security. Well, same thing in our establishment. And considering all our members have been told that one of our rules is you do NOT touch people or things that do not belong to you, and you absolutely do NOT interrupt a scene in progress, rest assured the odds are very low that it’s going to happen.

Also, our staff is all volunteers. No one is paid to work or play. There is absolutely NO “pay for play” allowed in our club. We do not allow paid Dom/mes to conduct their services in our club. (They can be members and do their own thing, just not “on the clock,” as it were.) We do not provide people to play with you. Now, sometimes we have volunteers or other members who are happy to demonstrate techniques, and sometimes there are members present who don’t mind playing with others. But if you are expecting to show up out of the blue on any given night without a partner and just play, chances are that will not happen.

We strongly recommend if you’re new to the community that you get out to different events, like the Pinellas Coffee Time group, St. Pete Munch, Clearwater Munch, or any other number of groups out there. That will be the easiest way to network and possibly find someone to play with. Or start coming out to the club on a regular basis, meet people, sit and talk with them. Watch other scenes. The more you get out and meet people, the better your chances to meet someone to play with.

We also have people who show up terrified for their first time. That’s understandable, because we were all new once. Our volunteers understand that it took a lot of courage to finally explore this lifestyle, and we’re always happy to answer questions.

While we certainly are a “dungeon,” the reason we call ourselves a “kinky community center” is because we are more than “just” a dungeon. We have a play side, where the equipment is located, and a social side. Our members have repeatedly told us they enjoy that setup because it allows them to sit and talk and relax while not worrying about accidentally intruding in a scene. And they like not having to worry, when playing, about people getting too close or talking too loudly next to them while they’re in their play headspace. We have people who come out just to see friends they don’t usually get to see in other settings. We have crossdressers that know this is a safe and drunk-free location to be able to relax and not worry about their safety or about being judged. We hold munches and classes and demonstrations. We have a rope group that meets on a regular basis…

You get the picture. We’re not “just” a dungeon. We’re here for the community, and we consider education an important part of what we do.

So…what can you expect when you come to the Phoenix Club for the first time?

You can expect to start a journey where you’ll meet like-minded people who won’t judge you, who will be happy to answer your questions (or point you toward those who can, if they don’t know the answer), and probably meet people who will come to be friends.

Welcome. 🙂