Alright. Apparently I’ve reached the point in the past eight years of being in the scene where people have approached me for advice. In the humble words of an older leather man, I’m not Yoda. I’m *just* another kinky deviant.
Therefore anything that I say should, like anything else in the scene, be left open to interpretation. Now I’m no expert on anything and frankly I don’t think I’ll ever be. Enough said.
Here’s a few pointers, guidelines, that I’ve come up with over the course of the past few years. People use that term a lot ‘years’ as if though it were grounds for merit and achievement. Wrong. A person can spend decades trying to accumulate experience and never get close to that point. It’s not for them to decide but for everyone else.
Straight to the nines, quick and easy – the day is still young after all. Real talk? Real talk. Sometimes I’m somber in my writing, graceful; sometimes I’m not, that’s just who I am as a writer. I tend to be pretty fast paced. I’m a city dweller after all. Fast, fast, fast, like the part of New York that never left.
Say you’re new and you’ve *just* entered the scene. Welcome aboard. You’re about to enter a big world full of complex personalities and the most simplistic of human endeavors, the pleasures of the body and flesh. However, before you go swan-diving into this vast lake of hedonism (and other unknown bodily fluids), try to remember a few tips.
Tip#1: Know the Risks
In the leather and lace clad world of actual fetish, there’s a fine line between fantasy, reality, and expectations. Perhaps in a more idealistic world, there’s no such thing as risk and one can freely pursue the course of BDSM with complete disregard. In reality, which is where we are, the basis of BDSM involves a significant amount of risk that can cause harm and injury, trauma, and long-term damage.
Anything that involves challenging your own personal safety or that of others is considered edge play. Edge play being the general go-to term for risky activity. BDSM is considered, in accordance to most vanilla circles, edge play.
In order to approach the activity of BDSM, one must have an absolute understanding of what such activities involve. There is no middle ground. Even the most basic impact activity, rope knot, can potentially cause permanent injury to you and others. Learn to identify the risks and learn how to avoid them.
I tend to categorize risk in two separate forms: technical risk and avoidable risk. Technical risks being the core method of an activity (ie. throwing a flogger, tying rope, etc) and avoidable risk (ie. identifying red flags, personal boundaries, etc).
Know the basics of kink activity. Even as a bottom, knowing is as much a part of your own personal responsibility as it is your partner. Know the areas to avoid in impact play, the issue of blood circulation in restraint, and when to tap out. Don’t ever be ashamed of tapping out – there’s no logical reason behind going too far, pushing too hard, and causing harm to anyone.
Repeat after me: Safety, not pleasure, is my number one priority.
At this point there might be a collective groan. But Yellow, what about the awesome orgasms and the melt-a-hole-in-the-floor pleasures I keep hearing or jerking off about? But nothing. All that is a secondary. Even the best experiences can turn into a completely shitty one if there is a disregard towards the safety of those involved in a scene.
Those horror stories you read about on the news? About people winding up in the hospital because they took a risk and caused harm to themselves or others, even winding up in potential death? Those often tend to be the results of callous behavior towards the issue of safety.
In reality, there is an ugly little thing called Murphy’s Law. What can go wrong will go wrong. No matter how familiar you might become with any one course of activity, say 99.9% of the time, there will always be a single 0.1% chance of potential disaster. Learn how to avoid them **at all costs**. Don’t fuck around with technical risks. Don’t try to be innovate until you’re absolutely certain that such a risk can be kept minimum. Don’t allow yourself to become a risk in that process.
On the other side of the fence, the uglier side of reality, lies avoidable risk. One of the major downsides towards being involved in the scene is the existence of predators. I’m not talking about people who invisibly stalk, kill, and flay their victims before take their spinal columns as trophies in tropical rain forests. Those people *might* exist but let’s not go there.
Predators come in many different forms. They might prey upon a newcomer’s trust and gullibility, masking their ineptitude with sweet words and a lack for honesty. They might pin the blame of their irresponsibility on their victims and hide behind some type of ‘reputation’ as if it were an impenetrable wall. They might even not realize their own behavior and justify, blindly, their rationality in their behavior.
Predators love newcomers.
You could male or female. You could be a new Top or bottom. Often times predators can and will likely approach in the form of a more experienced individual. They might initially win your trust and respect, only to turn it around without warning and leave you shattered. The existence of predators is as much a reality as it is the risk of technical harm.
One can find a vast multitude of content involving the avoidance, the prevention of, and the reduction of predatory behavior both online and offline. However, as important a topic as that may be, let’s not get too sidetracked.
Just as readily as a person can learn to identify technical risks, one can also learn to realize avoidable risks. An arrangement that sounds too good to be true probably is. How well do you know this person? How comfortable are you around them? Does this person have a solid ‘reputation’ in their community? Are those sources of information biased towards or against them?
You must learn to draw your own conclusions. Several common red flags may include the dissuasion of a safety net (ie. having a friend check in, etc), isolating another person from others, and tangible personality changes such as acting as a different person in front of others. Be wary and cautious. This is as much a real danger to you as any. Do not **ever** be afraid to keep your own reservations on others.
Avoidable risks are not tied towards predators alone. Certain risks can be avoided altogether – playing while under alcoholic and/or drug influence, facilitating scenes while tired or stressed; these are all further risks involving BDSM play. Don’t give in to peer pressure and most importantly don’t ever be expected to do something you’re not comfortable with.
Likewise some risks are blatantly obviously, clear as day, good as gold.
Rope around the neck if not tied safely and securely? Fact.
Throwing a flogger around the soft tissue areas such as the kidneys? Fact.
Breath required for survival? Fact..
Sky is blue? Debatable; open to interpretation
Sky is a purple haze of atomic particles and decibles, purple and green, under the influence of some serious hallucinogenics? I don’t want to know.
Tip #2 Educate yourself
Knowledge is power. That might have been a quote by Socrates, Plato, or some other philosopher. I don’t know who but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that in order to grow as a person, you will need to take the time to familiarize and educate yourself in the matters of kink.
This will be the part that separates a person from a weekend warrior to a full-on deviant. The time and dedication you place into your own understanding of the scene will be a long-term commitment. A lot of what you might first see unfolding at a first play party or otherwise is the accumulation of years, even decades, of constant education and practice. These things do not form overnight or over the course of a single weekend.
Experience is always a product of that education – the length of practice, interaction, and development will be an initially slow and monotonous process. It won’t be easy.
Now depending on how you choose to identify in terms of your kink orientation, whether as a Top or bottom, a Master or slave, education is both a personal responsibility to both yourself and to the people you interact with. There exists a stereotype at times towards bottoms that their interaction is minimal. In reality, that statement is entirely wrong – knowing how your partner does things, for example tying rope, can make the biggest difference in terms of avoiding risks. Besides you never know when you might have to throw a whip sometimes.
Attend workshops. Most major cities and even smaller communities will provide a large network of resources to further educate your understanding of the lifestyle. A lot of these events will be hosted by experienced veterans – men and women (and everyone else between) that have spent years and decades to perfect their craft. Pay attention. Imagine this as a college program or class. Ask questions. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice.
Repeat after me again: Safety, not pleasure, is my number one priority.
As I mentioned before, there is no middle ground. In order to achieve that goal you have set in terms of your journey in the BDSM world, you must always approach with a desire for learning. Reflect on your lessons. Take the time to assess and analyze what you are capable of doing and where your boundaries lie. This will not only help you gather further experience but it will ultimately help shape your own identity as a person.
Become as intimately familiar as you are with your understanding as you would your own partners. Don’t ever be stubborn about that understanding. Part of our survival as a species is our ability to adapt to any situation. This requires a willingness to question, challenge, and even change our approach to various circumstances.
Practice, practice, practice. Learn to practice all the time. Say, for example, you happen to express interest in a new hobby such as skydiving. One can easily study every minute detail of how to open a parachute. In the thousand-to-one ratio, there will always be the remote possibility that things can and likely will go wrong. This is called Murphy’s Law.
Bruce Lee once famously said: “*I do not fear the man who has practiced a thousand kicks but I fear the man who has practiced the same kick a thousand times.*” The same applies for any pursuit in life. Besides Bruce Lee kicked a lot of ass. Bruce Lee was fucking cool. Be like Bruce Lee. Practice as much as you can and learn to kick ass that way (literally and figuratively).
Practice day and night. Practice throwing a flogger or knowing how to position yourself during a beating. Practice constantly, over and over again, until you become sick and tired of it. Practice even if you literally vomit at the thought. Clean up the vomit. If symptoms persist, see a doctor. If not, keep practicing.
Remember how I mentioned that knowing is half the battle? Practice is the better half in my opinion. Keep drilling the activity into your head until it is as close to perfection as you are capable. Practice repeatedly until the most basic tie, impact technique, becomes ingrained inside your head. See television differently when someone gets tied up or whipped. That part of you that harshly judges them? That’s a side-effect of constant practice and knowing. Reality vs fantasy.
The five-minute reverse shibari hog-tie suspension? The Korean double single-tail anal-plug candlewax special? All those fancy tricks and gimmicks you see in the most experienced of players comes from weeks, months, and even years of constant practice and familiarity. The end product becomes a huge part of their journey and many take pride in the culmination of the work, whether in a glazed look in themselves or in others.
Tip#4: Be Vocal
When I say be vocal, I don’t mean be disruptive. You can be as loud as you’d like in terms of participating in a scene, in the bedroom, or at a munch. Well, not quite, because even in a scene one can be disruptive which on a separate note is just plain rude. I meant be vocal in terms of your communication. Mind you, this is easier said than done – the truth of the matter is that sometimes, people such as myself, find it quite difficult to express themselves especially when surrounded by peers. Peer pressure tends to be a very real concept in a room full of scantily clad individuals.
Learn to communicate. The very essence of human interaction stems from our ability to communicate with one another. Learn to express, without fear of scrutiny, the extent of your thoughts and opinions. Be attentive in communication with your friends, your partners. The world itself can be a very large place filled with a variety of different people. No one person will ever be alike in terms of thought and opinion.
Be vocal, in the sense that you learn to ask questions, be honest with your thoughts, and furthermore in regards to your self-identity. Learn to be stubborn to a degree – don’t get arrogant, which is wholly different – and become familiarized with what **you** want to explore and discover in the course of your journey. Express that need without fail. In knowing what you want, what you are capable of and where your boundaries lie; there is a massive wealth of personal power found in self-understanding.
Often times people will describe their experiences as a journey. It might come across as some new-age hippie-pagan shit that sounds fancy, but in reality it really is. Their time and their dedication has shaped them into who they are as a person. Many regular players will have a grasp of what they wish to fulfill in the course of their involvement in the BDSM world.
Be vocal about who you are and what your needs may be. Learn to draw the lines. Learn when to call things off. Learn when to take a rain check and learn when to politely decline. Learn to handle rejection. Learn how to accept positive and negative feedback. Learn to be open to criticism and when to apologize. These are all things that apply not only to the BDSM scene but also to everyday living. Interpret that how you will.
Tip #5 Know yourself
One of the most understated issues regarding the BDSM crowd is the facet and illusion of a set standard. The truth is there is none. There is no standard as there is no spoon. You alone possess the ability to shape the mold that is your journey and venture into this lifestyle.
Sometimes a certain activity may not be realistic or it might hold some dramatically different outcome compared towards one’s expectations. It might seem hot as hell to be choked to the point of unconsciousness during sex. It might seem hot as hell to flash random strangers in a public park. The reality is not so forgiving.
Repeat after me, once again: Safety, not pleasure, is my number one priority.
On the other hand, assholes tend to exist in communities, large ones, small ones – still an asshole at the end of the day. Sometimes people might tell you that you’re too young/old/skinny/fat. They might tell you that based on their experience (ie. being an arrogant asshole, etc) that you just aren’t good enough or you can’t feasibly do whichever it is you’re interested in.
As I said before, you alone possess the ability to shape the mold that is your journey. By having first entered and undertaken the first steps into this lifestyle, you have made the decision to begin your pursuit of this hedonistic adventure. Nobody has the right to draw your limits for you. No matter what dynamic you possess, at the end of the day that impulse of decision, that matter of choice is your alone to make. You decide when to enter and leave at your own free will.
Going back to what I mentioned as well, peer pressure is a very real thing. It is a terrible and often subtle thing that happens during large gatherings, especially among people we happen to know. My advice is never to give in to peer pressure. This isn’t high school. This is adulthood. Don’t ever be convinced that you’re *required* to do anything outside of your boundaries. Learn to respect yourself first before you learn to respect others.
It is one thing to become satisfied in the fulfillment and gratification of your peers. It is a wholly separate issue towards finding that same reward for yourself. Part of the beauty of the BDSM lifestyle is finding the ability to reach a medium between two people; the pleasure of that discovery is euphoric, in flesh and spirit, and highly addictive.
Here in British Columbia the lottery company has a simple yet applicable motto: “Know your limits, play within it.”
It goes without saying that part of the education process is knowing yourself. Know where your boundaries and limits lie. In time, perhaps you are free to gradually challenge them, and I hope you take as much caution as you would initially.
Learn to accept your mistakes. Even the most trained and seasoned individual has and probably will make mistakes. Human beings aren’t perfect and neither are you. People tend to fuck up from time to time. I’ve fucked up when I first started as well. Learn from those mistakes. Accept them. Don’t ever dismiss mistakes because, in my opinion, they provide some of the most important lessons you will ever come across in this journey.
Most of all learn to be forgiving to oneself – the worst critic you will face isn’t the collective opinion of the community, only from yourself. As much as you mustn’t let others define who you are, you must not let your guilt and regrets limit your growth as a person.
Tip#6: Be Respectful
Respect is earned and not given.
A person with a strong ‘reputation’ counts for jack if they come across as a massive unrepentant asshole. Don’t ever be selfish in your behavior because when you first enter, you’re given the same luxury as everyone else: a chance.
Initially as a newcomer, you will find yourself surrounded entirely by strangers. Their treatment of you, I personally believe, comes from their own individual background and experience. Some might treat you with wariness, uncertain as to your expectations, cautious about your intentions. Others may be more welcoming, hospitable, and quick to gain your trust. Occasionally there’s a few individuals, the holier-than-thou types, pompous and seemingly formidable in stature that won’t bother to dignify you. Fuck those people (not literally) – they’re not worth your time.
Understand the following: this community has a long history. A lot of our knowledge and understanding towards its activities stems from the experiences of our predecessors, the previous generation. Over the course of recent years, there has been a progressive build up towards gradual tolerance regarding this lifestyle. In the years prior to the internet, prior to freedom of sexuality, there has been as much if not more stigma towards this one practice than our siblings in the alternative/queer communities.
Likewise upon entering, you will notice groups of individuals that act as friends, even with strong terms of camaraderie. Perhaps they may openly chastise, tease, and ridicule one another. Perhaps they might freely grope and touch, drag one another off to the dungeon floor by the hair, albeit with seeming disregard. Do not be mistaken – these relationships were slowly, gradually developed.
The very foundations of civilization comes from the gathering of likeminded individuals. Every event and every workshop comes from the labor of love. People take their time and effort to volunteer for set-up and teardown of these events. The organizations behind these parties have to find venues, contracts, and draw funds to provide a safe space for everyone. Most of the time they struggle financially and beyond that, many of these organizers have their own issues to worry about – family, finance, paying the bills, finishing education, and the same material and mundane concerns that we experience.
In time you will find yourself in familiar company. How you choose to interact with others in this community is dependent on your own personality. Some people you might eventually call your friends. Some of them you might avoid in deliberation. Sometimes you make friends that will watch your back when the lights come on and the music stops. Other times you’ll make friends that you get together over the weekends for Netflix and chill, suddenly spanking/fucking/perverting one another.
Understand that in time you will find a place in this community. You are no longer alone in the thought of your perversions. Your experiences will be shared between your closest companions and likewise you may be drawn to the warmth of their friendship and good company. The very basis of such relationships comes from mutual trust and respect.
The following may seem a bit biased. Imagine attending a sex party with strangers. Some may be undressed as it were, others already engaged in sex. Most of the time there will be an awkwardness, the vulnerability of open intimacy, the kind that polite society tends to frown upon. Gradually you are noticed if not straight off the bat. Don’t rush into it. Take your time. Relationships are the product of mutual understanding, compassion, and honest communication.
Act with honor. In other words, don’t be an asshole. Don’t be *that* guy or *that* girl. Be considerate to others and most of all be polite. Keep whatever judgments you have to yourself. Not into that fetish? Bothered by that scene? Step away. Don’t be Atlas – the world does not balance itself on your shoulders, it’s composed of the people around you.
Don’t overstep another person’s boundaries and seem invasive to their privacy. People who attend these parties and events find themselves often drawn by the most basic of human measures: connectivity. Don’t ruin someone’s experience by making them unwelcome. That’s just plain rude.
Most importantly learn to be yourself and to impress no one. It is important that you don’t compare yourself – especially as a newcomer – to the prowess of an experienced player. Everyone gets there in time and obviously they all started out somewhere. Your behavior and your attitude towards others will ultimately shape the atmosphere you find yourself within. Integrity, not your looks, not your prowess in the dungeon or the bedroom, is how you will be measured by.
Tip#7: Have fun
Still with me so far? Good. You can return to your ordinary programming whichever that may be afterwards.
Despite all those guidelines and the length and bulk of this writing, in closing, I will tell you a brief story. Don’t worry, it’s brief.
There’s a newcomer who walked in for the first time. See him. He’s young. He has no idea what he’s gotten himself into and there’s older people all around him that seem to know what he’s doing. He’s never seen people talk with bare breasts, outside of the bedroom, like it were nothing. He’s shy. He’s worried that his pants make his ass look big.
That was me. I was nervous. I made mistakes when I was younger. I fucked up from time to time. I made friends. I made enemies. I played with a lot of people and I’ve slept with a few. At the end of the day, that was my journey, and for a lot of other individuals – that’s also the same case.
Most of all, I had fun. I can’t state this enough. The fetish community is a place for personal growth and a lot of fun especially when at its best. Herein you’ll not find a class of individuals more shameless, more open about themselves than you would at a church confession. This is a place of identity and of individuality. It is a place for community and for dirty perversions.
A year from now, here’s hoping, maybe you’ll look back. The good and the bad, the highlights and the downsides. You might take a long hiatus. You might become part of a large household. Hell, you might even start an actual family. But don’t ever be embarrassed about a time when you first started – it seems daunting yet if there’s anything to add to that, any journey that is worthwhile is worth the course.
In honor, integrity, and respect; welcome aboard, you dirty perverts.