If you’re at all involved in your local scene, it’s very easy to get the idea that casual and/or public play is something every “real” kinky person does. There’s nothing inherently wrong with casual play, but it’s not right for everyone and I don’t think we talk about that enough. Emotional risks may not be as simple to handle as telling people not to flog the kidneys, but they still count.
Not everyone is fulfilled by playing with someone they’ve just met. Not everyone feels comfortable doing something so intimate with someone they don’t have some form of relationship with, whether they’re a close friend, a regular play partner, a romantic partner, or something else entirely. Not everyone can relax and enjoy a scene without the safety net of knowing, thanks to the relationship they have with their play partner, that they’ll still be friends even if the scene goes wrong.
While casual play is generally physically safe, it may or may not be emotionally safe for any given person. It’s not terribly likely that you’re going to get seriously physically harmed in a party full of people with dungeon monitors roaming the play floor (although there are certainly horror stories out there of safewords being ignored even at play parties). Physical well being is obviously important, but so is emotional well being. While some people feel great playing with someone, exchanging thanks and potentially never seeing them again, other people may feel abandoned when the person they had this incredibly intense experience with just up and leaves. Mis-matched expectations about how much on-going (next day or later) aftercare is going to happen can be terribly painful, and so can mis-matched expectations of what an enjoyable scene means. For some people, a fun scene is just a fun scene. For others, it may be more like a good first date, in that if the first date goes well, you expect there to be further dates.
Some people can play really hard with people they don’t know well, but I’m not one of them. I need to know that if I screw up and actually harm someone, they’ll believe me when I say that I didn’t intend to harm them, let me make it up to them, and not decide I’m the worst top ever to top and hate me forever. I can play relatively gently with people I don’t know well, but I don’t feel at all comfortable doing anything especially intense with people whose limits I haven’t gotten to know over time. Also, if I was ever to really push someone, I’d have to know for an absolute certainty that they would use their safeword if they needed to. I believe very strongly that it’s my job as a top to pay attention and notice when my bottom is struggling, but I also believe no one is perfect. I see safewords as kind of a safety net that help keep me from harming people, and I don’t think I’d feel comfortable doing anything especially risky without either having that safety net in place or knowing my bottom extraordinarily well.
Kink is extremely intimate for many people, and not everyone can be or even wants to be intimate with people they don’t know well. For me, it takes ages to really open up to people. If I can’t open up to someone, I can’t connect with them deeply enough to make playing with them worth it to me. Sure, I can whap someone with a flogger without making myself emotionally vulnerable, but play without at least some connection doesn’t really do it for me.
We all understand people not wanting to have casual sex, so why wouldn’t it be seen as completely normal not to want casual kink? This probably only applies to the public scene, where it’s extremely common to play casually at parties. There are plenty of blogs written by people who only play with their romantic partners, but those writers are also often not involved in their local scenes.
Particularly if you’re interested in exploring d/s, casual play may not work for you. I imagine it does for some people, but I can’t see how someone I just met wanting to submit to me would mean anything. I want someone to submit to me, not to the nearest dominant woman.
The one message I really want to get across to people who have never wanted to play casually, or tried it and didn’t like it, is that you’re perfectly normal. You don’t have to play with half a dozen people at every party to be a “real” dom/sub/top/bottom/switch/non-specific pervert. The only wrong way to do kink is the way that harms yourself or others.