I see a lot of posts around of new folks asking for tips on all sorts of things like how to meet a play partner (or a dominant, a submissive, an owner…etc), how to start talking to people, how to dress…etc. And while I hold no leather title, am not an internationally recognized kink educator, and haven’t written any best-selling books I have been told by people that I’m good with new people (whatever that means). For what it’s worth, I remember what it feels like to be new to a community that I’ve wanted to be a part of but yet feels intimidating and kind of foreign to me. With that said, I offer to those interested what I have found to be helpful being a new member of the kink community:

  • Be yourself. No matter what role in kink you ultimately identify with, I’ve found that the best way to find the people, the community, or the experience you’re looking for is to be yourself and present your desires, your fantasies, your limitations, your fears, your triggers…etc as authentically as you’re comfortable presenting it. This is both for your own safety and so that whoever you’re trying to get to know can get to know who you are. Now, this is not to say you should lay out your business to everyone you come across. That puts you at risk, and it can turn people away. What I am saying is if someone (especially a perspective play partner) asks you what you’re into, what your limits are, and related questions tell that person the truth and don’t be afraid that someone will think you’re weird, or not a hardcore enough player. We’re here to have fun and to feel right in our own skin. What we’re into and what makes us comfortable is what we’re into and whats makes us comfortable.
  • You’re a part of the kink community if you say you are.

There is no official person stamping us, or giving us a certificate deeming us “worthy” of being a part of this community. Some of us like giving pain; some of us like receiving pain; some of us like to serve; some of us like receiving service; some of us love sex; some of us don’t place great importance on sex. Bottom line: If I’m into doing kinky things, being around kinky people, and claiming that I’m kinky then I’m kinky. Do not be limited by other people’s experiences, other people’s expectations, and other people’s ideas of how a kinkster should be. This a pretty big community. There’s room for all of us if we want to be a part of it.

  • We evolve and change as people over time. Know that what you like and don’t like may too.

-It is important for to have some idea of what I’m into, what I’m not into, what I’m curious about, and what my absolute hard limits (things you under no circumstances will do) are. Knowing these things help facilitate discussions about play, and it also helps keep me safe. But over time, as we learn more, see more, and experience more these limits may change. I bottomed exclusively for about about seven years and had no desire at allto top anyone. Then all of a sudden I started discovering things I liked to do from the top, and now I identify as a switch who likes to do a number of things. Some of the things that were hard limits or me five years ago are no longer my hard limits. Some of the things I liked a lot a few years ago I’m no longer into. People change and things happen. These evolutions can change what we’re into. I’ve learned that while it’s helpful to know what station fits me, I ought not let my station limit my experience.

  • There is more than one way to meet people.

-A lot of people I know are intimidated by play parties in a dungeon. I myself am intimidated by large events with lots of people, especially if they’re held at loud clubs. Know what you’re comfortable and uncomfortable with and know that there are many ways and many types of venues and events where you can meet people. If you are more into the bar scene, there are leather bars around like the Powerhouse or the Eagle where you can meet people like you over drinks. If you like to dance, go to a kink-friendly club like Bondage a Go Go; if you are more comfortable with public sex that leads to kink you can go to a sex club like the Power Exchange; if you like a comfy, more chill environment where you can have more in-depth conversations that may or may not lead to play check a munch (a meeting of kinksters often over food that takes place at a restaurant or a coffee shop). While BDSM is a great way to test your comfort zone, know that there are always options.

  • Be polite. I hear a lot of people saying that they’re worried about not knowing what the right way to behave at an event is. Basic politeness goes a long way.

-First of all, when entering a new venue, if this venue has house rules make sure to read and be familiar with them. The house rules are around to protect the venue, the staff, the volunteers, and the event attendees. If you have questions or concerns about the rules politely bring them up to an event volunteer, event host, or playspace owner. Odds are there’s a good reason why the rules are in place.

-Don’t touch people or things that aren’t yours without asking. This applies to peoples toys, bags, clothing, collars…etc. If I meet someone who I’m interested in either as a friend or something more, I try to remember to ask if you can hug them, shake their hand, or touch them otherwise because they may have a way of greeting they’re not comfortable with with people they’ve just met that I don’t know. They may also be in a relationship with someone with whom they have rules about what can be done and what can not. Who knows? The person you’re talking to may be following more relaxed protocols, or may follow no protocols at all. I’ve found that when in doubt, being respectful to someone, their things, and the way they live is always a good way to go. If you’re really not sure what to do, you can always ask an event host or volunteer for pointers.

  • Just because a person is a dominant doesn’t mean they’re everyone’s dominant. Just because someone is a submissive doesn’t mean they’re everyone’s submissive.

-If you identify as a dominant, you like to be served, and you see someone who appears to be a submissive serving someone else it does notautomatically mean that submissive gets to serve you too because they are not your submissive. In the same way, just because someone identifies as a dominant and likes to be served doesn’t mean they’re your dominant who you get to kneel in front of and just throw your will at. If you are service oriented and you really feel the desire to perform a service for some ask them if they would like you to do it. Who knows? They may say yes. Respecting people’s relationship preferences, personal boundaries, and personal space is always a good way to go.

  • If you’re interested in, or curious about learning something new, go to a class or a munch.

-Those of us who live in the Bay Area are lucky in that there a number of venues all over that host classes or munches on all sorts of different ways of play. If you’re interested in learning more about a particular type of play, find out if there’s a class or a munch on that topic coming up at location convenient to you and go to it. Classes and munches are the best places to start learning and talking about something because they’re not as intimidating…and maybe distracting as a party can be, and they’re filled with people who are into or curious about the same thing. Odds are if you go to a class or munch looking for pointers or tips on this thing you’re learning there are people in these classes and munches that are more than willing to help you.

  • There is no wrong way to be who you identify.

-Just because you’re a submissive doesn’t mean you have to be into, or comfortable with what other submissives are into or comfortable with. The same applies to those who are dominant. I have learned that no matter what I identify as, someone is bound to think I’m doing it wrong, and the only people who need to be into how I identify and how I express that is me, and the people I’m with. No one else gets to tell me if I’m doing my role right or not. There is a submissive out there for all kinds of dominants, and a dominant out there for all kinds of submissives.

  • When you’re negotiating play, talk about what you need, and listen to what other people need.

-Negotiation is the period before we start playing where we talk about how we’re doing on that day- physically and emotionally, whether we’re physically doing okay, what limitations we may have, and what can or cannot be done. When negotiating, be honest. It’s helpful to the process and the play that will eventually happen if I’m honest during negotiation about what’s going on with me, how I’m feeling, and what I want and don’t want to do. A good play partner will be more than willing to hold space for that conversation to happen. In the same way, regardless of station, it is also important and helpful for me to listen to someone else talk about how they’re feeling, what’s going on with them, and what can and can’t be done. A good negotiation session puts everyone on the same page as far as what people are working with. It also helps develop feelings of trust and care that are vital to a fun, hot, and safe. If you feel that during negotiation a person isn’t respecting what you need, and/or aren’t receptive to requests or suggestions don’t be afraid to speak up or even walk away. Remember, when it’s all said and done we’re all equals as human beings.

  • Volunteer.

-Let’s face it. Going to classes or parties can be expensive. A play party around here typically costs about $20-30 to get into. One way one can cut into that expense is to volunteer. Most parties have a number of volunteer spots available. People can sign up to help do stuff for a period of time (usually an hour or an hour and a half) and exchange they can get free admission. For those who are going to their first play event and may not be able to shell out $20 for an experience they may or may not enjoy, volunteering and getting in for free is a good way to go. Additionally, volunteering also helps you meet people. If you’re doing a setup shift for example, you’re probably going to be on shift with at least three other people. Well, if you don’t meet anyone else for the rest of your first time out, you’ve at least met the people you did setup with.

  • Talk to other new people.

More than anything, I remember the most awkward feeling that came with being new to an experience is feeling like I’m the only person feeling the way I do. Over time, I came to realize as I’m feeling awkward, uncertain, or nervous about going to a kink event for the first time there are others who share those same feelings. If there’s is a munch or a coffee event geared toward new people, consider going to them. Like I said, a munch is a more low pressure environment that’s better suited for meeting people and having conversations with people. If you want to be able to talk to people who have similar concerns as you may have, a munch may be a good way to go.