Friday, July 13, 2007

Yes, My Lady: Knowledgeable Tops Lead to Safer BDSM

It is common knowledge that there are more bottoms than tops available in the SM Community. This situation leaves many bottoms looking to few potential play partners to fulfill their fantasies. Of the small amount of tops available, even less may be trustworthy, good people or respectable, trained players.

Under these circumstances, it seems like it is a top's world, where some tops run amok, such as talking down to a bottom simply because the person is a bottom. However, many novice Dominants are attempting to train themselves to be trusting, refined players.

Tops who once only fantasized about dominating someone after reading the Story of O are now learning how to cultivate the dominant within in the world of virtual reality. Recently, when opening my inbox at, I learned the breadth of Dommes who are looking for knowledge on how to play. inquires: "Any hints for a fresh potential domme new to the scene?" Any Domme who is clever enough to give herself the name "Weltgdss" is well on her way! M.Gwen wants to know the "Dos and Don'ts of BDSM."

D.Shulman claims that she doesn't even know where to begin because there is so much information on BDSM. I can remember the day when there was hardly any information available on BDSM one had to learn by simply doing.

Being in the SM scene for over nine years, sometimes I overlook that new Dominants, Switch, and Bottoms need to learn the ropes just as I once did.

Thanks to my column readers for not allowing me to neglect my duty! Below I address some issues vital to everyone who's beginning a new SM relationship or who attends play parties and other events where strangers play together. While this guide is not exhaustive, I do believe that it will prove useful, particularly to some of our new Dominants being born.

1. Get to know the person you want to play with BEFORE you play. Find out what that person's history has been in the SM community.

2. You must take time to get to know the person. A week or two, or a hot e-mail exchange is NOT long enough.

3. Do NOT assume that if you are attending a well-known club or a party organized by reputable players, all the people you meet are trustworthy.

Although the network isn't as reliable as it once was, if you meet a person at an SM party, club, group meeting, or any other SM venue (including IRC and other on-line environments), you should be able to find at least one player who knows this person. Ask them for feedback. There is nothing rude or disrespectful about asking people whether they know another player. Respect that a bottom may ask about you. Encourage this behavior.

4. If you are at a party and do not know the person, but still want to play, I strongly advise that you negotiate the use of a safeword. A safeword is a tool to limit the risk of unintentional harm when playing and is available to both the top and bottom to check-in or stop a particular activity, or the whole scene. Many SM practitioners use the color "red" as a safeword. Here is an example on the use of a safeword: While your Mistress is applying her new rope knots, you notice that she may be cutting off circulation unintentionally. This is not erotic and can cause damage. So, you say, "Mistress, red." She should stop the bondage and communicate with you. If she doesn't respect your needs, you should end the scene and not play with her again.

5. When trying to pick up a stranger at a party, you may want to begin with a question like, "Are you having a good time?" This innocent question can be answered so many ways without either party losing face. Often, though, I get the answer that they would have a better time if they themselves could play.

Then I might ask what kind of scene they are looking for. If I like it, I offer to play. If I don't, I might offer to look for someone else for them.

If you're looking for a long-term or permanent relationship, what Dr. Gloria Brame, Domme and scholar of sexuality, recommends (and implements in her own life) is something she calls "D&S Dating." This is not unlike regular dating, in that you spend time doing real-world things together, however, instead of having vanilla sex you do SM. As often as possible. Dr. Brame gives herself about 3-4 months of D&S Dating before making a commitment to a long-term relationship. She tells a prospective submissive that during the dating stage, he's still free to experiment with other people. He doesn't wear her collar and she doesn't require him to call her Mistress when they're out in public. She still makes most decisions (about where they go and what they do and so on) but it's in a natural context. In other words: he sees her in her street clothes and gets to know her as a complete human being, not just a mysterious creature who exists only to fulfill his fantasies. This cushion of time gives potential partners the opportunity to see one another in a variety of circumstances. If in the course of dating, you discover that, for example, your top or bottom tends to lie or fudge the truth about things; that s/he is generally irresponsible and directionless; that s/he plays games or blows hot and cold a lot; or any other characteristics that you know will ultimately make her/him an incompatible partner, then the dating ends.

The most important thing to remember in your exploration into BDSM is that you are a worthy person. Worthy players earn trust and respect the old-fashioned way: they do trustworthy and respectful things. Through reading, learning, and practicing SM, one not only learns how to fulfill one's desires, but also the way to becoming a better human being.

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