Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Getting Your Feet Wet

Surf - Network - Meet - Play

If you are the kind of person who can easily branch out to new social circles the BDSM community will be a lot of fun for you. But, if you are of a more introverted kind, joining us can be a challenge. You may not only face the normal anxiety caused by the prospect of meeting new people; you will also have to deal with the context surrounding this characteristic we all share called kink. When you walk for the first time into a kinky group, feelings of vulnerability and exposure may run through your veins potentially triggering fear and raising many questions:

- ¿What will they think about me? ¿Will I be accepted? 
¿Will they ask me to do something kinky as soon as I show up? ¿Am I going to fit? ¿How to overcome years of sexual shame? ¿How can I even start to explore?

The mere thought of adventuring in something like this can be both: exciting and overwhelming. Every person is different and every city’s scene will have a different dynamic.

If you already jumped into meeting people and go to parties regularly ¡great job! Take the time to enjoy this new endeavor. But, if you feel you need to reach a higher level of comfort before meeting people in real-life, there are four steps that can help you make your plunge into the lifestyle smoother. Since you are reading this you have already started with the first of these steps: surfing the web.  ¡And this is a great first step! It’s the easier and less stressful approach to our community. The second step is networking which will help you understand the basic dynamic of your local scene making you more familiar with it. The third step is to meet people in real life. Events such as happy hours in public places are among the best options. And finally, if you still feel the appeal of the community, you can come and take the fourth step: actively participate. Lets look into these fours step in more detail.


The easiest, less stressful and most private way to learn about kink is internet. But... ¿Where to look? ¿What information to search for at this stage? Well, probably the best way to start is creating an account on FetLife. (See the post on Social Resources for Kink) You don’t need to set up a fancy profile at this point. You just need to get an account to start finding relevant information about your local groups. As soon as you create your account and log in, FetLife will show groups within the area your profile is located. Your goal at this point is to try to get a good idea of your local scene structure. (See the post on Local Scene Organization) Try to find which groups are more active (v.g. have more numerous and more recent messages). Identify groups that are oriented to online discussion only from those who organize real time activities. Check whether there are groups oriented to general kink and groups oriented to specific interests. You won’t need hours and hours of reading to figure this out. Maybe a couple of hours by yourself or with your partner will be sufficient. This will help you feel more comfortable to take the second step.


Now it would be helpful to have a decent profile in shape. You have already surfed other groups and, potentially, other profiles which may have provided some inspiration. Having an informative profile will get other people more engaged with your comments, messages and questions. A blank profile with no picture (or a generic picture taken from the internet) won’t spark a lot of interest. It’s also a great opportunity to do something unique and creative. If you are not of the creative type a profile with a recent picture of you and a well written introduction with good information will do. Note that the picture doesn’t need to be one that would identify you physically, there are many ways you can put a picture of yourself in creative ways to avoid jeopardizing your privacy. Also the information that you provide in your description doesn't need to have identifiable details.

Once your profile is set up, interaction with people will be much more engaging. A great way to start said interaction is participating in groups. You can ask questions (¡Please be mindful which questions you ask!) answer questions or introducing yourself (Note some groups have specific threads for introductions to avoid spamming everyone when a new member joins. Read the group’s rules before posting). Thoughtful posts will make people be more prone to approach you and the ice will start to break.

The networking stage will help you deepen your knowledge of the social scene because, now, you can ask specific questions to active members instead of just relying on FetLife’s search box or finding the correct link. You will also learn more about how real people interact. Members who are involved in several groups could be an amazing source of information. Try also to interact with as many people as you can in order to get a more objective understanding of your community. This is very important and should be stressed: talk to as many people as you can, ideally fairly active members, to try to get a better picture of your local scene. If you are starting this journey with your partner it helps a lot to have separated accounts with the appropriate relationship status so people will see you as a couple (or triplet, or n-tuplet or whatever).

In this stage, your main purpose is to identify an appropriate group, communicate with people in your local area and to start building a network of (online) friends. This way, when you actually go to a munch or activity with a group, you will already know a few people with whom you have started conversations online and you can just follow up with them in person. This will make the first interaction much easier than trying to pick a topic while meeting another 30 folks you have never seen in your life.


If any of the local groups you visited online caught your attention you may be considering attending to one of their activities. You may also already have established friendship with a few folks online through your interaction in said group on FetLife, private messages or local chats. ¿Are you eager to go out and meet people? ¡I really hope so! You will notice people are really friendly in the kinky world. Consider that a lot of us had to go through all these steps described here so we understand when a newcomer feels anxious.

It’s not rare that people feel more apprehensive about walking into a big group of people even in vanilla settings. This feeling can grow stronger in a kinky setting. However, big events in public venues organized by well established groups are the best way to start your real-life journey in a community like ours. ¡This is important! As in online dating, I strongly advise against meeting a stranger in a private venue (Like their home). It’s just a basic, common-sense safety measure. Big gatherings organized by established groups provide added advantages: big groups are not just created overnight, groups of 10 or more people have been around for a while and have been successful, their members like each other and implicitly vet each other reducing risk of a bad experience. If it makes you feel safer, arrange a safe call with a trusted friend.

Many groups require you to attend to some of their public events and socials before letting you to come to a party or workshop making social interaction a required step. It's always important to mention that, in these interactions, no one is expecting you to participate or engage in anything you don't want to. That's why these events are so useful. The fact these events are organized in well known public places sets certain standards to the behavior of the members making it easier for you to know what to expect. No group should expect you to do or behave in any way differently than in any other vanilla public interaction. If a group does want to impose a policy that is beyond what you would consider "normal interaction" at said events it should be considered a red flag and probably a good reason to check out other groups.

If your first real-time social experience with the group is good, you find the members friendly and welcoming, you like the group's rules and activities, then you might be ready for the last step.


I probably should have used a more encompassing title for this paragraph such as "Participate" or "Getting engaged" but I chose "Play" because of its connotation in our lifestyle. "Play" is a term used for the execution of actual kink activity, normally time-bounded and between, at least, two people. But the fourth step I'm trying to describe here is about experiencing kink in real-life. Play is only one aspect of this experience, albeit an important one. Other real-life activities you may be able to find in your community could be parties, classes, discussion groups, workshops, shows and even conferences. You can also be involved in different roles: attendee, volunteer, presenter, performer or organizer. Your imagination and enthusiasm is the limit. Depending on your personality and background, taking this step could be stressing because is when you'll be witnessing actual kink performances. This section is meant to provide a succinct list of characteristics most kinky events have in hopes it'll dissipate misconceptions and fears; hopefully encouraging you to eventually try it. Believe me ¡It's really exciting! 

To comply with the local laws of each country and region as well as to accommodate for the needs and interests of the members, kinky events will be subjected to different rules when it comes to matters like alcohol, nudity and sex. These rules are normally posted in the groups' forums. If you cannot find them easily feel free to ask about them to your group leaders. As a bare minimum, in order to provide a safety environment to the members, the group's rules must strive to foster the following principles: 

  • Consent - Probably the single most important concept the kink community fosters.   
  • Safety - Safe sex, safe practices, safe equipment, safe people. 
  • Optional participation - Access to a party should not be conditioned to participation in any scene. 
  • Respect your privacy -  Look for rules seeking to protect attendees privacy. What happens at a party should remain at that party.

These three guidelines are a very reduced subset of principles that groups should try to achieve; specially for those oriented towards newcomers. Groups that do not encourage principles similar to the ones enumerated here should be seen with suspicion. In a future post I'll explain in more detail these principles, what to look for in the group's rules and what to expect in these kind of events.