How can I VET POTENTIAL PLAY PARTNERS?
“Entering the world of kink and BDSM can be an exhilarating and deeply fulfilling
journey for many individuals. However, ensuring that you engage with the right
play partners is crucial to a positive and enjoyable experience.”
Entering the world of kink and BDSM can be an exhilarating and deeply fulfilling journey for many individuals. These communities can provide a space for people to explore their desires and fetishes while prioritizing safety, consent, and respect. However, as someone who might be new to these communities, ensuring that you engage with the right play partners is crucial to a positive and enjoyable experience.
In some ways you might might find yourself at an unfair advantage when first entering the scene and that really has nothing to do directly with you. However, it is very important to recognize the following:
- You are the newcomer. When you look to meet people you are the “new & shiny” which can be exciting but can also be overwhelming as it might lead to you being targeted by people who look to take advantage of newcomers.
- You don’t know anything. The problem for a lot of people who are new is that they only know what they know… which is often next to nothing. And this isn’t your fault… after all, you’re brand new to the community. The but reality is that you likely don’t know what questions to ask. You may not know how to go about vetting people for safety, or even know enough people to actually ask.
- As a result, you tend to openly trust in others. We don’t want to say that all people are inherently bad, or have bad intentions, but the reality is that being a newcomer, having limited knowledge of how things work and what questions you should ask, and having a limited circle of others to support you does put you at a disadvantage of having to somewhat naively trust in others and that it will all work out for you.
Now we’re not trying to scare you off, but we do want to work to provide you more information that might help you stay safe as you begin to navigate your journey into the scene. So let’s talk about some things you should know and where you can start.
Find a Mentor
One of the first steps that you could take would be to start meeting people at educational events, or social events (non-sexual) and look for someone who does have some experience in the scene who might be willing to serve as a mentor to you.
If you are a dominant, then look for another dominant who might be willing to mentor you.
If you are a submissive, try to find another submissive who has at least a year’s experience in the scene. As a submissive, we’d strongly encourage that you do not choose a dominant or a potential partner to be your mentor.
Your mentor should not be interested in playing with you, or building a romantic or sexual relationship with you. Instead, the goal of your mentor should be to help provide you with information, to answer questions, to provide possible guidance to you, and to help you meet others in the community.
FIRST, Remember IT’s Not a Race
Entering the kink and BDSM communities can be very exciting for a lot of people. There’s excitement over getting to explore new interests that may have been things we’ve longed for. Perhaps there’s excitement over certain aspects that have been considered taboo. Or maybe it’s just raw excitement from exploring our sexuality. We get it… the possibility of doing all of the things is super exciting.
One thing that we often see in newcomers to the community is that this excitement can be intoxicating, and lead newcomers into a state that is called “frenzy” within the community. Frenzy being that newcomers move so fast to get started exploring that they might not take the necessary time to learn to be safe, to know which questions to ask, and to make sure that they are not mislead into situations that they don’t desire.
The easiest way to counter a state of frenzy is simply to remind yourself that your introduction to all of this isn’t a sprint, and that you have time to:
- Learn more about the community
- Learn more about consent
- Learn more about ways you can be safer and have better experiences as you do begin to explore
Know that we’re not trying to scare people away, or to discourage newcomers from being excited about the possibilities and exploration. But we also do want to make sure that they are setup to have a better introduction to kink and BDSM, so that they might continue their journey for years or a lifetime.
Consent, Consent, Consent
Consent is the cornerstone of everything that we do, and should be the number one thing that everyone who enters this community should fully understand. Consent is non-negotiable in kink and BDSM. If you are not discussing consent, or being asked to provide your consent, or being told what to do without having provided your consent for those actions it should serve as a red flag. Consent must be freely given, revocable at any time for any reason, informed, enthusiastic, and for specific actions or activities.
So one of the first things that should be discussed and understood in detail with any potential play partner is how they understand the concept of consent, how they go about ensuring that they have affirmative consent, what are things that they do to ensure that consent is an ongoing discussion. Additionally, it is worth asking potential play partners if they have every violated someone’s consent (even inadvertently) and if so how did they handle that situation with the others involved.
Before moving forward, you should know that you should always be asked to provide explicit consent for each activity, and know that you have a right to withdraw consent at any point, and for any reason, during the play.
Learn to Vet, and Then Vet Some More
No matter how we much we try to mitigate the risk of encounters with unsafe people, there are certain aspects of the kink and bdsm communities that do have inherent risks (which we talk about in Let’s Talk Kink.) So learning how to vet people within the community is an important tool that we can teach and learn. Is vetting perfect? No, but it is better than given others that we may not really know our blind trust. So let’s talk about how we get started.
Experience and Skill Level
Consider the experience and skill level of potential play partners. If you are new to BDSM, it may be advisable to seek out partners who have more experience and can guide you safely through your exploration. Experienced partners should also be cautious about playing with beginners and ensure that they are educated about safety practices.
However, be aware that just because someone might be experienced, or are an educator, or an event organizer is not a guarantee of their own safety. Unfortunately, there are some members who may use these positions of power, or that power imbalance to take advantage of others who are new to the scene.
Do Your Research
The first step in vetting is to ask around about people that you are interested in, or who may be interested in you. The BDSM community is often tightly-knit, and often information about potential partners can be obtained through in-person networking, or through online forums.
Do your research. Ask a lot of questions. Ask your mentor. Ask for references from people you trust or who have been in the scene for over a year. Ask other people who may have played with the individual you are vetting. If someone drops a name, go ahead and follow-up with the name of the person they dropped. Ask other educators or event organizers if they know about the individual.
However, make sure that you ask around as much as you can as an individual’s reputation within the community might be a reliable indicator of a trustworthy play partner.
Trust Others, and Trust Your Instincts
As you go about vetting potential play partners, make sure that you listen. Listen when others give you good, and bad, information about an individual. Additionally, listen to your gut feelings when vetting potential play partners. If something doesn’t feel right or raises red flags, take them seriously. Trust your intuition, and don’t feel pressured to proceed with someone who makes you uncomfortable in any way.
Unfortunately, we have seen circumstances where people have been told that an individual was problematic, or where past concerns had been shared, where the individual asking the questions then chose to disregard the information and perhaps rely more on the word of the individual being vetted.
If someone takes it upon themselves and warns you about a member in the community, listen.
Communication is Key
Effective communication is critical in any healthy BDSM relationship. As you go through your vetting process and before engaging in any play, work have open and honest conversations with potential play partners.
Ask a lot of questions? Do they look to help you understand and grow your own understanding and knowledge. If you don’t know what questions to ask, are they willing to help guide discussions around consent, negotiation, safety, risk awareness, etc.
Discuss your desires, boundaries, and limits. Ensure that your partner does the same. Again, if you don’t know what your boundaries or limits you might have, do they attempt to help you clarify them or to share how they play with others in similar situations.
Feel open to challenging a play partners assertions or expectations to see how they might react. Do they discuss your concerns? Are they willing to compromise if your interests or boundaries and limits don’t align? Do they pressure you to potentially do things you’re not comfortable with.
Transparency and openness are essential in order to establish mutual consent and trust.
Learn How to Negotiate
Negotiation is a vital aspect of BDSM, and are the conversations that we have to understand our partner’s interests, boundaries, and limits as well as to ensure that we have positive and affirmative consent for any actions that we might engage in. So learning how to effectively negotiate for what we want, and don’t want are skills that are critical.
Boundaries are personal limits and rules that we set for ourselves within relationships. They are intended to define what we are, and what we are not willing to do any accept having done to us. So as you negotiate with potential play partners, you need to clearly define your boundaries and limits, and make sure your potential partner understands them and respects them. Be open to discussing your desires and expectations, and encourage your partner to do the same. Effective negotiation helps create a safe and enjoyable experience for both parties.
If a potential partner is not willing to accept your boundaries, or pressures you to do things you are uncomfortable with or unwilling to do then that is likely a red flag that you should fully be aware of.
Safe Words and Signals
Establishing and feeling comfortable using safe words and signals is crucial during BDSM play. These words or gestures are used to communicate when things are good, when you might need to slow down or have your partner check in, and when you want to stop. We recommend that everyone have safe words and feel comfortable using them before beginning any play.
Safety and Risk Awareness
As part of your negotiations, both safety and risk awareness should be a top priority. Kink and BDSM are inherently risky activities and should be openly acknowledged and discussed as such. Additionally, remember that being able to provide your affirmative consent requires that you are both informed and fully understand the actions that you are being asked to consent to.
So as you negotiate with potential play partners, ensure that you discuss and understand the potential risks associated with specific activities and take precautions accordingly. And that you also are aware of any necessary safety measures, such as the use of safe words, safe sex practices and histories, the presence of first aid kits, and any necessary medical conditions or allergies.
Finally, as part of your negotiations ensure that your aftercare needs, what you need for need both emotionally and physical after a scene, are understood and agreed to. Ensuring that your potential partner understands the importance of aftercare and is willing to provide or receive it as needed is equally as important to the other areas of negotiation.
Some Other Safety Tips
We’d also recommend a number of general safety tips as you being meeting people and exploring potential play partners.
- Be inquisitive and ask a lot of questions.
- Look to build friendships with others in the community who have been around for more than a year, and feel free to ask for their inputs and opinions.
- Meet new people in public places, and share your location with a friend who is willing to check-in with you.
- Do not play in private with people you don’t really know. First time play is best done in public spaces where others are present (e.g. play parties).
- When you do have your first scene, particularly with someone new, do not go hard and intense. Start with light play and then look to build intensity as your own trust and comfort levels increase.
Vetting potential play partners in the kink and BDSM communities is a crucial step in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. By prioritizing effective communication, trust, research, and safety measures, you can create a fulfilling and respectful BDSM dynamic that meets the needs and desires of all parties involved. Remember that consent and ongoing communication are at the heart of every successful BDSM relationship.