Planning your first (or second, or hundredth) game night? Here's a quick guide to making friends, building confidence and having a fabulous time.
Know the rules
Find out more about the event you want to attend. Is there a dress code? Do the doors close at a certain time? Is it a couples-only event? Our definition of a couple is not usually hetero-normative. Many parties have a "buddy" system where you have to arrive and leave with the same person. This helps to empower people and reduce the number of problems at the event.
If there's a dress code, make sure you're dressed accordingly, but that you feel comfortable in whatever you choose. Often, there's a minimum of "all black" (button-down shirt, slacks and dress shoes for men, the same or a black dress for women). If you're new to the business, I'd recommend wearing comfortable (but stylish) shoes, as you'll probably be spending a lot of time on your feet over the course of the evening. There's often a checkroom on site, but check each event to make sure.
Take note of payment and booking options. Do you have to book in advance? Don't wait until the last minute. Parties often sell out, and you don't want to miss your chance. What's more, if you buy your ticket in advance, you'll be much more motivated if you chicken out at the last minute. If it's a first-come, first-served event, make sure you have the right payment method on you. Some parties only accept cash, others only credit cards. Be prepared.
Be aware of specific protocol that may be required, such as the use of formalities for "Tops" (Madame, Maîtresse, Monsieur, etc.). Most parties don't have such requirements, but it's good to know in advance.
While BDSM is certainly sexual in nature, some parties don't allow penetrative sex. Check the rules so you can prepare yourself mentally.
Many of the rules at a play session are the same you'd expect at any party, some are more specific to BDSM. Here's a short list of common rules:
- Ask once and only once. Don't be heavy.
- Make sure the game is safe, sane, and consensual. Read my article about it if you don't know what it means.
- Don't make assumptions. People's gender, sexual orientation and availability/desire to play are at the top of the list.
- Don't take photos or videos, even selfies. There is often a designated photographer, and the host will ask if you want to appear in the photos.
- Clean up after yourself.
- Don't interrupt (verbally or physically) people playing together.
- Look but don't touch. Many of us are exhibitionists and like to wear very sexy outfits. This is not an invitation to touch! The same applies to other people's toys.
- Get to know "safewords" (more on this later).
- Hard drugs are banned.
Use common sense. If you think it might upset someone, directly or indirectly, don't do it.
Preparing for the big night
If you're new to the BDSM scene, you may not have a big bag of toys, but you can still pack a few things just in case. I always recommend packing condoms (internal and/or external), disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, a toothbrush and a change of shoes.
If you have toys you want to show off, I recommend bringing just a small bag. I really should listen to my own advice: I always bring too much stuff! But then again, I usually have a sub with me who carries it all. Don't forget your cleaning products if necessary.
Most of us are really open to discussion with both Dominants and submissives. Don't hesitate to reach out to other people to start a conversation. In fact, as I mentioned in my article on munchesI highly recommend chatting with a variety of people: Dommes/Doms, submissives, masochists, "pets", sissies, and all the rest. In general, we're all pretty open-minded, and we're here for the same reason you are: to chat and make new connections. Don't limit yourselves! We all have a lot to learn from each other, and you may find that your new BFF isn't the person you had in mind when you arrived.
When you introduce yourself, you don't necessarily have to say, "Hi, my name is Steve and I'm submissive," and then throw yourself at your interviewer's feet. In fact, that's a big turn-off. "Hello, my name is Steve and this is my first time at this party" is much more natural and will usually elicit a big smile and a "welcome, Steve! "
Ask questions, especially open-ended ones (those that require an answer other than "yes" or "no"). Here are some ideas for introductory questions:
- What initially drew you to the BDSM scene?
- What activities are you enjoying most at the moment?
- What's your favorite BDSM-inspired movie/book scene?
- I really like your outfit/your shoes/your riding crop/your whip. Where did you find it? Is there a story behind it?
Generally speaking, we avoid "vanilla" subjects such as our work. Many people who attend BDSM events haven't come out and prefer to keep that kind of information private. Other topics to avoid are politics and religion, which is true of just about any event that isn't organized to talk specifically about these things!
Mum's the word. If you see someone you know outside the BDSM scene, don't use their real name unless they agree. The same applies if you meet someone at a party and bump into them on the street later. What happens at the party, stays at the party.
Most important of all: be yourself! We want to get to know the real you, not a facade of who you think we want to meet. We tend to be a bit geeky (we're passionate about BDSM!), so don't feel uncomfortable. People who've been around for a while also tend to have a highly developed sixth sense, so if you're pretending to be something or someone you're not, we can smell it a mile away. Being honest about what you want is the best way to find it.
Dungeon hosts and supervisors
Introduce yourself to the host as soon as you arrive, but don't hang around too long. Don't forget that there are lots of people to welcome, and people are likely to introduce themselves to each other. Say hello, thank him or her for organizing the event, then go and chat with the other people around you.
Dungeon supervisors are there to make sure that everyone plays well and that things run as smoothly as possible. They often wear a badge or other identifying mark. You can contact them if you have specific questions or if something doesn't seem right. Is someone bothering you? Talk to a supervisor. Seen something you thought wasn't safe, sane and consensual? Talk to a supervisor.
There's usually a universal safeword for the party. A safeword is what we use to immediately stop a scene. If you use it, your playing partner must immediately stop all play. The most common safeword at parties is RED, but check the rules.
Also be kind to the people at the door. They're very busy and do their best. Be patient, say please and thank you, and tip if they're nice. The same goes for the people behind the bar.
A drink or two can help you relax, but don't let it inhibit your judgment. Don't drink excessively, especially if you plan to play later. If you want to drink, play early and drink later.
You are in a shared space
If you intend to play, there's often a designated play area with equipment. Sometimes, the equipment you want to use is occupied and you'll have to wait your turn. Be polite, be patient and chat with the people around you while you wait.
Clean up after yourself! When I start using a piece of equipment, I assume it hasn't been cleaned to my standards, so I clean it quickly. After using a piece of equipment, take a few minutes to clean up, ESPECIALLY if there have been bodily fluids. The same goes for the bathroom. If a few drops of urine escape, clean up after yourself. The dungeon supervisors are busy making sure everyone has a good time and aren't there to clean up your mess.
And if you're using host- or event-provided toys, be sure to clean them properly after use. If you don't know how to properly clean the equipment you've used, ask a dungeon supervisor.
Leave your expectations at home
Don't assume that just because you're a bottom or submissive, someone will want to play with you. The same applies if you're a top or Dominant. If you arrive with a play partner, great! But maybe once you're there, one of you isn't in the mood. Be respectful of this, both for yourself and for the other person. Playing in public is completely different from playing in private. We're all human, and one day we might be super excited about the chance to show off our fantastic flogging skills, but once we're there, we might not feel the same way.
Nobody owes you anything. I don't care if you're the best Domina (or sub) on the planet. Again, don't be creepy, don't ask more than once, and no means no. If you nag others, you'll quickly be blacklisted from future events.
If you're lucky and find someone to play with, make sure you negotiate before the scene. If you like humiliation games, let the other person know and ask if there are any limits you can't cross. If you like impact play, what are the objects you can use and those you can't? When I do pick-up play at parties, I often use a scale of 1 to 10 with my partners to check. Don't forget that safety words aren't reserved for pain and can be used at any time when you're not 100% in what's going on.
You always have the right to change your mind, even in the middle of a scene. That's what your safety words are for.
Similarly, if you're someone who needs aftercare, even after a short scene, let your partner know. As a Domme, I like to spend a few minutes with my partner at my feet, discussing whatever comes to mind. It's a way of connecting and slowly coming back to reality. Offer the other person a glass of water (whether you're a Dominant or a submissive).
Subdrop and Domme drop are real. If you're feeling a bit blue after the game, it's perfectly normal. After all those hormones, the brain tends to crash. I've talked about this in another article and I invite you to read it to be better prepared.
One of the great pleasures of attending events is admiring the skills of those around you. Often, there are shows or demonstrations at the beginning of the evening to set the mood. This can be a particularly good time to learn a new practice or skill.
You'll probably see many different types of play that fit into the BDSM range. Remember that BDSM is an acronym for six words: bondage and discipline, Domination and submission, sadism and masochism.
While it's fun to look at others, try not to stare so long as to make them uncomfortable. You'll probably see some beautiful and "strange" things, but don't let them make you gape.
You may be shocked by some of the things you see, but know that what we do is consensual for the parties involved. You may not like the idea of being dragged around on a leash and chasing a ball, but people who love pet play love it. Maybe needle play seems really extreme to you. You have the right to look away. If seeing someone in a cage being insulted offends your sensibilities, go to another room where it doesn't happen.
Part of what makes the holidays so wonderful is that there's a diversity of practices. It's one of the only safe places where we can come together and have these kinds of experiences. Keep an open mind and don't be rude or make snide comments. You never know, maybe in a few months, what you see will actually be what you start fantasizing about! My favorite kinks (and limits) have certainly changed over the years, and that's true for everyone I know in the business.
You'll make mistakes
The goal is to learn from these mistakes. BDSM events, especially events with a lot of protocol, involve a lot of rules and things that experienced players take for granted. If you goof up, take a breath and apologize if necessary. We've all been in your shoes at one time or another. Use the situation as a learning experience and don't beat yourself up.
Take a deep breath and enjoy! Events are a fabulous way to get to know people in the community, and even find a long-term playing partner if you're really lucky. Either way, it's a great opportunity to learn and grow.
Have fun, stay safe, and keep it kinky!