Attending your first play party

So here you are, about to attend your first play party (aka BDSM party). Now what do you do? This is a big step but it doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating. If you know some basic etiquette rules and use common sense and you’ll be fine. So what do you need to know? Well, first you need to know that not all venues have the same rules, places vary. Here we have captured some common rules across venues. As always, check with your local venue for any variations. Keep reading……

The basics…

-Know the rules and regulations of the playspace you attend. Find out what type of play is allowed and what isn’t. Generally speaking, more extreme forms of play (like fire play) require direct permission from the venue. There may be rules that regulate blood play or golden (urine) play. Some types of play are forbidden outright. Learn the rules and follow them.

Most venues prohibit photography, but will have staff photographers. Usually at the door you will be asked if you want photos or not, then assigned a color wrist band based on your answer. If you are not asked this question, assume there is no photographer for the evening. You must respect other’s privacy in the play area, even cell phones are forbidden in some areas. It may be an inconvenience to go out of the play space each time you need to use the phone, but it is for everyone’s comfort.

-Ask if the club is sex positive or allows sexual activity – some venues are bound by local laws and allowing sex might be against those laws. Disclose any STDs to your partner (many people in the scene are tested regularly), and practice safe sex. Condoms are usually available at the venue, but dental dams should be brought with you if you intend to do oral on a female partner with whom you are not fluid bonded.

-Learn the alcohol policy as well. Most venues are BYOB, but there should be a caution. Even if you don’t drink, alcohol might break down inhibitions of other players. A good rule of thumb is never to play with someone for the first time if they’ve been drinking. If you do play with someone who has been drinking, be aware of how it affects pain tolerance and blood flow, then adjust your expectations accordingly.

-Be prepared to give your real name and ID to the event hosts.. If you are not comfortable with this, talk to the event planners beforehand. This is for the safety of everyone involved. Refusing to give names and IDs is a red flag for party hosts, so you may be denied entry if you refuse. The names are never given out or shared, they are merely there in case an incident happens.

-This is not your home. Playspace must be cognizant of their own liability issues, and will stop your play if they consider it too rough. Do not say, “but we do this at home” or “we do this at the other playspace” – respect the boundaries of the playspace. A common one is whips – they are very often banned because of the amount of space it takes to wield one safely in an area with a lot of people. Remember, the staff is not there to be your babysitter, but to make sure everyone is safe and cared for.

– REPORT CONSENT VIOLATIONS IMMEDIATELY. Do not wait, do not think about it, report it to the staff immediately. Though very rare, they must be dealt with at the time they happen. This can be anything from someone touching you without asking to not respecting your safeword. Again, I cannot stress how rare these are but they should always be reported.

-BE CLEAN. No one will want to play with you if you are dirty or your toys look like they aren’t maintained. Wash, brush your teeth, and sanitize your toys before you go. In addition, anytime you use a space in the playspace, sanitize it for the next party. Supplies are on hand for you to do that, so you don’t have bring your own.

-Know the dress code. Some parties are come as you are. Other events require strict fetish dress codes. Wear what makes you feel comfortable. Well appointed black clothing and being well-groomed works for a first time appearance at a party. Ask if and when nudity is appropriate.

-Meet the staff and event hosts. Ask for a tour to find out what the playspace offers, like what goes on in different rooms and what the equipment is used for. Most staff and event hosts are happy to answer questions and show you around. (If they aren’t, take it as a red flag and try a different venue). Most playspaces have introductory nights geared to new people.

-Find out directions to the venue and sort out transportation issues. In urban areas cabs and busses are plentiful, in rural areas not so much. Learn where available parking is in the neighborhood. If you’re worried about safety in the neighborhood, try to meetup with friends and stick with a group. Make sure you know the building you’re looking for, playspaces are usually nondescript (A huge neon sign that says “Torture Dungeon” may attract some attention…). Cover up that fetish outfit as you enter and exit the venue or carry a change of clothes. Don’t be the source of unwanted attention that can potentially harm a playspace. Hide that flogger in a toybag. If you have to travel to a venue, find out about hotels or restaurants that may be open in the middle of the night, in case you need to eat or get some sleep.

-Be ready for a culture shock. You can see some amazing things at a play party, rope suspensions or electricity coursing over someone’s body, or being close to a single tail whip as it cracks like thunder. For some people it feels like you’ve arrived home. For other people it will overwhelm them. Take a deep breath and relax. If you feel overwhelmed step into the social area. If you feel really uncomfortable, there is no shame in leaving.Take care of your emotional well-being. Don’t pressure yourself to play or try out everything. Go slow as you enter this new world.

-Look after your physical health. Being kinky is hard work. You’re doing emotionally draining, physical things in the middle of the night. Carry snacks and stay hydrated. Make sure you’re well rested. Take any medications you need. Be aware of anything that could affect your physical state (Lingering colds, aches and pains, diabetes, hard work week). Think about grabbing a nap before you attend. Have a quick “cool down” at the end of the evening as you transition back into the non-kink world.

-Always remember you’re making a first impression. People will pay attention to how you act. Remember your manners. Clean up after yourself and use blankets/ chucks if you do play. Don’t share your bodily fluids with everyone by being messy. Keep equipment tidy and the floor space clear. Treat people with respect, don’t gawk or make rude comments. No matter how you identify don’t touch anyone or their gear without consent. See that hot sub chained over in the corner? Well she’s a person first, a person due your full respect. That six-foot tall Goddess? She hasn’t consented to be your domme. Don’t get huffy if the guy with the floggers declines a scene. When you enter a play party you aren’t entitled to anything, and basic social graces don’t get checked at the door.

-Use common sense and keep yourself safe. Like I said earlier, it’s easy to become overwhelmed at your first play party. Remember to be prudent and trust your instincts. Don’t submit to play you’re not comfortable with or let yourself be compromised. Tops, don’t fall for the pressure to act when you aren’t ready. No one is ever obligated to scene at a party. Put your personal safety first and your desires second. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. No is an emphatic, complete sentence. Always retain the power of saying no. Also respect the power of someone else saying no.

-Say yes. There are some very cool things at play parties. If you feel secure and consent is established, don’t be afraid to participate at your personal comfort level.

-Don’t judge. Someone else’s kink might be your hard-line, and that is OK. However, never comment on the play, or say things like “I would never do that.” A playspace is a safe space, and free from judgement on the types of kinks and people involved. You might be surprised, in a few months, you might be doing just that kink.

-Ask questions, learn and network. Making early connections can forge the bonds that lead to future mentors, friends and partners.

-Enjoy the moment. Don’t forget to have fun.

This isn’t by any means a complete list that touches every issue. But some of these tips will help as you attend your first party. Stay kinky.

(Photo Credit: Beki Takes Pictures via Compfight cc)

MrBLK is a blogger, writer, bondage rigger, dominant and certified geek. I've been an event promoter, dungeon monitor and founded the B'more Munch, one of the longest running meetups in the Baltimore area. I draw on disparate experiences as a caregiver, martial artist and fitness trainer to craft scenes that are innovative and fun. When not crafting diabolical plans, I relax by reading comics or swinging kettlebells.

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