One ring to rule them all

A comment weezie made on my post about ‘mentoring’ and ‘protecting’ reminded me of yet another thing I wanted to rant about 🙂 Specifically, the fears that people who are new to the scene often have about how if they do something wrong at an event and accidentally offend someone, everyone will laugh at them and then throw them out. There is ONE and only ONE rule (to rule them all) you absolutely have to follow at your average kink event, be it a munch, play party, conference, or what have you.

I say ‘average kink event’ because there are specific high-protocol1events that do have many more rules that are much more strict. However, high-protocol events are clearly advertised as such, and the hosts will generally be happy to fill you in on the specifics if you ask them. Most kink events (such as munches, play parties and conferences) are low protocol.

The one rule is (drumroll, please):

Be polite.

Anti-climactic, huh? That’s it. That’s literally all you have to do to keep people from thinking you’re a big jerk. If you wouldn’t do something at a vanilla event with someone you didn’t know well, don’t do it at a kinky event. To be a little more specific, when I say ‘be polite’ I mean:

  • Say please, thank you, and excuse me.
    • Being polite sends the message that you care what people think of you, and that you’re willing to follow social conventions to make those around you comfortable. These are very good messages to send at a kink event.
  • Treat people like people.
    • ‘Hello’ is a reasonable greeting. ‘Ma’am, this one humbly begs to be allowed to kiss your boots.’ is not.
  • Do NOT touch anyone or their stuff unless you’ve been given permission.
    • Kinky people are extremely particular about this one. The only reason people feel comfortable dressing up in revealing fetish wear at parties is that they know that no-one will take the sight of some skin as in invitation.
  • Don’t interrupt people who are busy.
    • Don’t barge into conversations, and do NOT, under any circumstances short of a fire or blood emergency, interrupt someone’s scene.
  • Don’t be a creep.
    • Creepiness is difficult to define, but in general try not to act like you are entitled to anyone’s time, attention, or personal space. Don’t get angry at someone who wants to talk with her friends more than she/he wants to spend the evening entertaining you, don’t stare fixedly at people as if they dressed up solely to titillate you, don’t physically corner people you want to talk with, don’t stalk them around the party.

On the other hand, there are a host of things you have absolutely ZERO obligation to do:

  • You do not have to take orders from anyone you do not have a prior agreement with.
    • Repeated for emphasis: you do NOT, under any circumstances, have to take orders from ANYONE you do not have a prior agreement with. Not even if they’re hot, not even if they’re popular, not even if they’re super-duper-dominant. Some people think that just because a person looks submissive, they can order them around. Those people are stupid and should not be encouraged. Get a DM (dungeon master) or official volunteer (there are usually some at every party) to get them off your back if you need to.2
  • You do not have to play with anyone.
    • Not even if they really, really want you to. Not even if they ask nicely. Not even if they’re friends with your friends. Again, get a DM or volunteer if you need to. It really is their job to make sure the event goes smoothly.
  • You don’t have to put up with it if someone else is being rude.
    • If someone insists on talking at you all night, it’s perfectly fine to excuse yourself. If someone invites themselves to sit at your table, it’s perfectly fine to say that your friend will be back for that seat in just a minute. If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, it’s perfectly fine to tell them to back off.

That’s pretty much it. There’s no set of arcane protocols you absolutely must follow to be accepted in the scene. All you really have to do is avoid being a jerk. If you’re not sure what you should do, it’s always fine to ask. If you’re worried about attending your first event, just send the organizers a message. They like it when new people come, and will be happy to answer any questions you have. Often they’ll offer to set you up with someone to sit with/talk to. If the group throwing the event has a forum of some sort (very often a fetlife group), by all means post there. We like it when people think to ask questions, it makes them look smart 🙂


1. High protocol is sort of a general term, as there are many different and often contradictory rules that can be called ‘high-protocol’. To borrow from the O&P Wiki(why yes, it was one of the first google results I found) high protocol includes such things as:

  • Restrictions on speech (eg silence; speaking only when spoken to; requesting permission to speak; or specific forms of address such as “Sir, yes, sir!”)
  • Deferential behaviour (eg not turning back to the dominant; keeping head below theirs; kneeling when otherwise unoccupied; requesting permission to leave the room.)
  • Immediate response to commands, and concentration on the dominant and their requirements.
  • Serving or waiting without drawing unnecessary attention to the submissive.

2. What if a DM or other volunteer is hassling you? Then you’re basically screwed. You can try complaining to another volunteer, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll take you seriously, and even if they do, they may not be able to get the person bothering you kicked out. I wish I had a better answer, but unfortunately kink organizations are just as prone to corruption as any other kind. Because of the way kinky people often feel attacked by the mainstream media equating BDSM with abuse, we often minimize or ignore abuse instead of rooting out the sources of it (see discussions about this on Consent Culture, and Kinky Little Girl’s blog). Also, kink organizations are almost always run by volunteers, and it can be difficult to find reliable volunteers. If someone is a reliable volunteer, the organizers of the event will be very reluctant to invite them not to come back.

5 thoughts on “One ring to rule them all

  1. I totally agree except… I was chided, laughed at, and thrown out.

    Sometimes the group itself can be the poison element, not the new people.

  2. Yeah, I probably didn’t make that part clear enough. I just wanted to reassure people that if you make a reasonable token effort to be a decent human being, most likely everything will be fine. Or at least you’ll know that it’s the local scene there’s something wrong with, not you.

    The cynic’s advice would be to do all of the basic politeness stuff, try to avoid having any opinions that the organizers disagree with, if at all possible be female and attractive (but not younger or prettier than anyone in charge), and whatever you do, don’t be a submissive guy, because they’re considered pretty much disposable.

  3. Solid advice! All that’s really needed are basic social skills.

    Though as weezie said, some groups are simply not that amenable to new people. Or at least certain new people.

    I would agree with your assessment that submissive men are generally seen as a lower life form, though I’ve seen varying degrees of this in different communities. Locally, it’s not a huge difference. I did have to work to gain the respect that everyone else received instantly. But thankfully a lot has changed around here since then.

  4. Very well said Stabitty. I agree entirely with the last part too, about volunteers. Good help is so hard to find. In fact I’ve noticed that almost any small community or group has the same problem finding reliable volunteers. The other commonality is that if someone is a bit of an asshole, and shows up to do a token volunteer job consistently, they can claim way too much credit, and someone who comes in consistently to do grunt work gets cut very little slack. Perhaps that’s a contributor the shortage itself though.

  5. @roo-roo My local scene is changing too, but not very quickly. Traditionally we’ve been pretty short on openly submissive men, which I’m sure hasn’t helped. I have to wonder if the problems weezie ran into had something to do with him being openly submissive.

    @curtacular Sad but true. Volunteers are always hard to find, and there’s all sorts of political bullshit that goes on around how much work someone does versus how much credit they take.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.