Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Part 19: Going Real Time: Attending Your First Play Party

Master Tony whipping solipsist
at a private play party, Sydney 2008
(photo: courtesy Master Tony)

This post is part of the BDSM For Beginners - Going Real Time series, about moving into the BDSM Lifestyle. You may have experienced kink online. This post works on that assumption but can still be read if you don't have cyber kink experience. You can find the introduction to this series here on Mistress 160's Abode and here on my BDSM for Beginner's blog.

In this series we're exploring some of the questions you have asked me, including:
You should read the First moves into real time / Finding your local scene post before this, if you mid transition from cyber to real time. It tells you how to find your local community and suggests lots of different ways you can enter the lifestyle. You need to gain some experience and be known in your local community BEFORE reading this current post, which looks at the intense experience of attending your first play party.

All BDSM For Beginners posts are very long posts. Think of each post as an hour's seminar. It will take that long to read, so make sure you have your favorite coffee / munchies to hand. Remember: don't skip the quotes in red (they may contain questions we then discuss. Or provide a point of view important to the section) and do any homework!


Kinksters kicking up their heels
at a friend's recent play party


"i cant move to real time Miss 160 I really
cant, i
m scared. I dont know even what a
party is let alone how to find one"

I receive a lot of emails like the one above. I totally sympathize. Been there. Done that. Felt exactly the same.

Attending your first party can appear a totally terrifying experience. Especially the anticipation of it. Normally with anything kinky, anticipation is half the fun, but not in this case! What if you aren't welcomed? Or you make a fool of yourself? How do you find the courage to make the initial contact or to even walk in the door? But here's the thing: a few years after making that move to become part of our locally community, sol and I can't imagine life without play parties.

Let's get one thing out of the way first. Remember one of the most important things you learned in the First moves post in this series: that every kinky community worldwide is different? Well, of course that equally applies to the parties each community hosts. Some are more formal in approach, others are more casual. This is often linked to the culture / society holding the party. So keep in mind I'm writing from an Australian point of view. Here in Oz the lifestyle is fairly casual, and play parties (which are sometimes held in backyards or outside) are usually equally relaxed and welcoming.

Here are some of the individual questions you've sent that I've responded to in this post:
  1. What's a play party?
  2. Expectations / goals for this first party
  3. How do you get invited?
  4. Privacy issues (Scene names etc)
  5. What's about titles?
  6. Finding out about play parties
  7. What actually happens at a party?
  8. Let's go into the "how do I attend" logistics a bit more...
  9. "I've accepted the invite, now I'm having a panic attack"
  10. Getting ready 1: "What the *^@% am I gonna wear???"
  11. Getting ready 2: "Do I take toys?"
  12. Getting ready 3: "what else do I take?"
  13. Getting Ready 4: what NOT to take!!
  14. What happens when you arrive at a party
  15. Party behavior
  16. Will people avoid me if I tell everyone that I'm new?
  17. Is it okay with just watch other people play?
  18. Playing at this first party
  19. Can I join in?
  20. Don't gape .... don't gawp!!
  21. If you get a chance to play...
  22. What if I get asked to play and I am too nervous?
  23. What about photos?
  24. After the party...
  25. References and Online Resources
Sol being flogged by Eileen at
Uber party, Sydney 2008


"It's called a play party because you are likely to see people
playing. By and large, those of us who play in public do so
because we enjoy it. We are exhibitionists as well as voyeurs"
Ms Constance

Ms Constance sums it up well there! I originally quoted Wiki's definition when I wrote this, but it wasn't quite right, and now I prefer Portland Leather's "New to the scene" page:
"A play party/dungeon party is an event that gives kinky people the opportunity to engage in BDSM play at a public event. It is a chance to watch others interact, to meet and possibly play with new people, and show off your kink in an accepting environment. Dungeon furniture such as bondage crosses, spanking benches, padded tables, slings, and other furniture are provided. Everyone brings their own portable toys. Every play party has its own rules but some etiquette is standard"
Wiki includes an extra line or so about location ("play parties may take place in a dedicated dungeon (run by a professional dominant), a private home or a rented space) and restrictions:
"Play parties generally have a list of activities that are prohibited. These rules may be enforced by dungeon monitors), and sexual contact ("the amount and kind of sexual contact allowed varies ... depending on local laws"
Between the two definitions, I'm sure you get the general idea - which is basically that every play party (or more accurately, every party organizer and kinky community) is different.

Keep in mind I'm not talking about BDSM / fetish clubs here. These types of clubs are great, I might add, and as we discussed in some detail in the First moves post they play a very important role; for many kinksters clubs like these provide their first exposure to real time BDSM play, often in the form of demonstrations or audience participation scenes. However, because BDSM play at these types of venues is restricted, many kinksters who want to play find themselves organizing parties on the public and private play party circuit. I have two friends in Sydney who began holding parties for this reason:
"[our private parties] are hardcore BDSM parties which cater for those who wish to explore their limits and fantasies in a non-judgmental environment. We found that to explore our kinks to the fullest, it was difficult to find a place where there are no limits, where there were no judgments, so we decided to invite our hardcore friends home to party hard..."
Once you have attended a few parties you'll begin to appreciate what kind of venue suits you best, whether you feel most comfortable in smaller or larger groups, etc.


"So I went and like nothing happened"

Let's backtrack a moment and talk about why you want to find a party to attend, and what you think might happen when you go.

The fact that you are thinking of attending a play party presupposes another fact: that you've begun the move into real time BDSM. You might have begun this move in several ways. You may have joined online groups in your area, making contacts and getting to know what real time events are happening locally. You may have begun attending local munches, or local BDSM workshops and educational programs. You may have begun attending local BDSM / fetish clubs. All ideas suggested to you in the First Moves post in this series.

If you HAVEN'T done any of these things then you might like to consider doing some of them BEFORE attending a private play party.

Why? Because via these events you will have not only made like minded real time friends, you will also have gained more experience and knowledge of BDSM. You will be more prepared for what you will see at a play party. This is important enough that some kinky organizations and societies insist you attend several munches before a play party.

If you HAVE done a few of these things, if you have read the books, perhaps attended demos or workshops, and/or enjoyed the performances at local fetish clubs ... and have this desperate desire for more, or what I call an itch that desperately needs scratching ... then it's definitely time to party.

But keep your expectations realistic. As I noted above, it might take a few parties to find the group / venue / limits you are most comfortable with. My Sydney friends' website stated:
"We do not judge other people's kinks, fetishes or sexual preferences. Everyone should have the freedom to express themselves in whichever way they desire. Hardcore Heaven members are from a wide cross-section of the community - straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, cross dressers & transgender, have fetishes and kinks which include bondage, corporal punishment, latex, corsetry, foot fetish, domination, submission, spanking, role-play and many, many others...."
While my friends might welcome all those categories of gender, sexual / kinky orientation and fetish, other organizers may be planning more specific events. You are not going to feel comfortable at a party (or in some cases, even gain entrance to it) if you don't fit their specific criteria.

Another thing to keep in mind if your level of experience. Are you going to feel comfortable for your first ever party at something extreme ... or would you rather start with a party with more defined limits? As Tammad Rimilla rightly observes:
"If [a] guest feels uncomfortable with the party limits then they should probably decline the invitation. If they accept the invitation, then they have to be prepared to honor the party rules and to cope with watching the play of other guests"
I'm all for pushing a little at kinksters' comfort zones, but keep in mind we are talking about a first time event here. So don't push yourself too hard!

One last thing: it's a lucky kinkster indeed who gets to play at their first play party. In fact, if you are attending a party in a new area - with new people and new rules - I'd recommend that you DON'T even attempt to play. Your first party should be a time to watch and learn, as well as socialize, setting up the connections that will later provide play partners when you feel more confident.


So how do you find out about parties?

In the past it could be really tricky, but these days many groups / party organizers have websites. Some advertise via local fetish shops / munches / online groups / local kinky magazines, etc. Others are far more private. Once you become known - whether online, or at BDSM clubs or at the more public parties - and you are seen to treat others with respect (especially those you play with) you may be invited to the more private ones.

You'll find the former type of parties on your favorite kinky sites, like Alt, MyDungeonSpace or Fetlife. Also look out for groups in your geographic area like (for a couple of diverse examples!) Portland Leather Alliance's New to the Portland BDSM Scene or Cherry's Getting 2 Know U in Sydney. Apart from her own parties for newbies Cherry includes all sorts of other kinky events in Australia and overseas on her lists, so is a great way to keep in touch. So look for similar things in your area. Fetlife seems to be an especially good place to check out regional groups at the moment. For example I belong to a Southern Queensland Yahoo group that now has a sister group on Fetlife.

Once you've found a party that you'd like to attend, it's time to discuss how to attend it. For instance, do you have a scene name chosen yet? Because you can't approach party organizers without one. We talked about privacy issues in the First moves into real time post, now let's look further at the reasons for scene names here.

Subs relax after serving
a kinky formal dinner


"I am known by my "scene" name. My reputation,
my working life and my business are all built around
that name - it is my trademark. Most of what I write
and contribute to both on-line and in real life is in
this sphere and under this name"
MsDemmie, The Edge, UK

A scene name is the name you are known by in your local scene. Simple. Some people just use their first names. Some use pet names or personal favorites, or the names given to them by their dominant. Some slightly change their first name. Or choose a name that reflects their kink / fetish etc as we all do online. Obviously if security is an issue you'll choose a name that has no personal connection to you.

Some communities or kinky organizations may even make the decision for you, enforcing their own rules about names. Rose from The Black Rose in Washington D.C writes:
"At Black Rose, we do not use last names to help protect the identity of those who prefer anonymity. Certainly some people exchange real names, but we urge all our attendees to keep that knowledge to themselves. Being in Washington, DC, we get visited by many people in political jobs and in sensitive military positions. Discretion may be more important to us than in other communities, but protecting others from harm we can cause by opening our mouths at the wrong time is simply the right thing to do anywhere"
These days some people are known in their real time community by two names. This happens when we become identified (via our blogs or publications) with a name that's a bit too complex to play with, so choose our own first name or something simpler as a scene name.

So keep these things in mind when you choose your scene name. Once you have decided on it, set up an email account so all your kinky correspondence can be forwarded to one place. It will also help with security / privacy issues. And don't forget to use that email address and name when you are asking to be added to play party invite lists.


The BDSM title / honorific thing - "Master this", "Mistress that" etc - is a whole can of worms that I really don't want to get into here. In a nutshell, traditionally - and in more formal communities with strict protocols - titles are something that are earned, not chosen. Most of us don't use titles anyway.

What about my own title, you ask. Good point. I don't use one for my scene name. But I do use Mistress online. I was trained under the premise that I could call myself a dominant until I owned a sub, at which point I could term myself Mistress if I chose. I started using the title because it pushes sol's buttons to address me that way, and it pleases me to please him. Then I had to deal with subs in chat rooms who would discourteously address me as "160", because I was not "their Mistress", then demand I domme them!

So seriously, avoid the whole title thing at this point. If you go to your first play party and call yourself Master or Sir you may set yourself up as an object of amusement and you don't want that. Because you want to be invited back, you want these people to like and respect you. The thing to do is keep your ear to the ground - you'll be attending munches in your local community prior to play parties, so check out the types of scene names people use at munches. And if in doubt, or if you think you are moving into a community where protocol is strict, then apply the golden rule: ask.

Ms160 and sol at a friends'
party in Sydney 2007


"can u give me an idea what goes on?"

The fact that many party organizers include Q and As online that deal with "what can I expect [at a play party]??" shows that this is a common concern amongst kinksters moving into real time.

The first thing to keep in mind is that there are no hard and fast rules - I know I keep repeating this lol but every organizer / host / BDSM community does things their own way. So think of the info below, and the info you will read on play parties in the links below, as explaining local customs rather than rules!

The second thing is: there are lots of different types of parties. You'll probably enjoy your first experience more if it matches your own interests. Especially if you are also looking for a play partner.

You also need to know before hand that parties are divided into socalising / conversation spaces and play areas, or 'play stations'. It's important you check out where those boundaries are, and respect them. The party has been set up like that for a reason, notes Rose from The Black Rose, Washington D.C:
"Each scene also has a boundary. Be aware. Just as individuals need their "space," a scene needs its space. A couple from New York grew so tired of having their space invaded by wankers, they began bringing police tape and barricades to delineate the area in which no one else should enter. It stopped the problem"
So how do private play parties unfold? This is what Cherry writes about her Getting 2 Know U parties for newbies in Sydney:
"G2KU has been around for over 8 years and is one of the largest and most successful kink BDSM house parties in Sydney. They are held every month and have grown from the modest social nights of light play to a party where you can let your hair down and experiment with your kink – who are we to judge...

"We start off the night as a social gathering enjoying a sit down hot /cold buffet dinner, great perverted conversation with other kinky folk. The night progresses through to a play party where we have 3 fully equipped dungeons. A large back room for more play and a open out door chill-out area for the more social kinkster.

"There is plenty of opportunity to use the dungeons and equipment. Also many experienced players are there to offer advice. Everyone is welcome - come and have a darn good night."
For those wanting less limits, the friends I mentioned in Sydney tell kinksters attending their parties for the first time:
"At [our] private parties your play is limited just by your imagination and also “Safe, Sane & Consensual”. Our private parties tend to be more full on so we ask that you ensure that you come with an open mind and remember that everyone has different kinks. No one is forced to do anything they wish to do, as everything is “consensual”. There are a number of experienced players around. If you have any issues, you should approach [us] or one of the experienced players. Extreme play involving fluids is acceptable but please remember the safety of others. It maybe a good idea to ask one of your hosts if you need assistance organizing something extreme.

What can I expect?

The night always starts with socializing & dinner out on the enclosed back deck where you can mingle and catch up with friends. The erotic show then follows and that sets the mood and atmosphere for the rest of the evening. Then it’s usually time for everyone to play. Some people prefer the more relaxed atmosphere outside in the socializing area, some may have a spa.

Who attends?

The age range for attendees varies widely from 20’s to 60’s. The sexual preferences are also varied. We try to keep the numbers of males/females relatively even. We usually get around 100 attendees.

What facilities are available?

The main dungeon has a cage, sling and suspension points. There are suspension points in the ceiling through much of the house. There are more crosses, an a-frame and a huge padded cage which can be used for a variety of purposes. There is an outdoor cross near the spa and also ring hooks attached to the back of the house…. There should be enough space for at least 10 sessions to be going at the same time.

How do I attend?

If you have never attended one of our parties before, please fill out the application form or call [us]"
Sincere thanks to my friends for giving me permission to quote that in full - you can see how the kind of info they provide specifically deals with questions from new guests on what type of venue / party they are going to find themselves at. You'll receive something similar when you contact your first party's hosts for further info.

Now let's provide a few examples of actual play parties. You can read posts about parties I've personally attended in Australia - in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane - on my blog. Below is part of a post about a party at a private residence in the Bay Area from the Frugal Domme site:
"[We] arrived about 9:00 PM. The party had been going on for about two hours by this time. About two dozen or maybe thirty people were scattered throughout the rather large house...

"The owner of this house has a regular party here once a month. He is a dom, and his house has a dedicated room for D/s purposes with a sling, several removable and varied chain and horse set ups, and a gurney. There are several items of portable D/s furniture set up in other rooms that are typically living area, just for the party. A nice buffet is set up in one corner of the great room. Coffee and soft drinks are available. Alcohol and drugs are not allowed. This is typical of the D/s community (especially in the bay area). Drinking, drugs, and D/s do not mix. Toy bags are in evidence: this party is for playing publicly, showing off how submissive your submissive is, and showing off your newest toys. Some people will play, some will watch, and some will just socialize. But the point is that you are meeting with others who share your lifestyle...

"We started by peeking in the doorways at the scenes in progress. There were three rooms opened for scenes; the official dungeon, a room opening into the great room, and one bedroom. Nothing exceptionally unusual was happening in any of the rooms, and since I like to start by socializing, we circulated around the great room, chatting with the people we knew well, and sampling the buffet ... then settled in and watched a scene in the dungeon...

"The couple we were watching finished their play, and we set up the room to suit us. I placed Feynman in standing bondage (with his help since I couldn't reach the placement points necessary without a step stool) and then we did our scene. (My particular interest is floggers.) As with all parties, the host checked into our scene once or twice to make sure that all activities were being done safely. This is typical of a proper play party. Public parties and larger private ones will have "dungeon masters" or "dungeon monitors" to rule on the safety of play and to make sure all safety rules are complied with. Smaller parties, the host usually takes care of that chore. Several people dropped by to watch portions of it, but we weren't doing anything that required exceptional skill, so our scene was rather a bland one. We didn't get that much attention..."
You can read the rest (and another example) here.

What I've tried to do with these examples is show you that play parties are real events, that you don't have to be shit scared of actually going. In fact, you'll meet lots of nice, like minded kinksters ... like sol and myself :)

Now let's backtrack a bit, to that "how to attend" question my Sydney friends raised...


"many have expressed dismay about the inconvenience of having to go through an application and orientation process for becoming members of smOdyssey and/or Edges. These measures ... assure that a level of screening stands between sincere BDSM folks and those who are merely curious and/or potentially disruptive"

SMOdyssey (quoted in red) has obviously encountered some irritated newbies, but play party hosts establish their various selection processes for newcomers for good reasons. Such proceedures not only sort out "sincere BDSM folk", but also establishes levels of experience, which is absolutely necessary for more extreme parties.

So be prepared to fill in application forms and speak on the phone to organizers, or in some cases, even meet them prior to the party. Some organizations hold "Meet and greets" for new members wanting to attend their parties. Others insist you attend a few social events (usually munches) first.

The application form will request a name (usually providing a scene name is fine, or just a first name), contact details, and often information about your BDSM / fetish interests and real time experience levels. Be honest about these.

You may also be asked for real time referees, someone in the local scene who is known to organizers. Don't panic! If you have just told organizers you don't have real time experience they are not going to expect you to know real time players. But on the other hand you may have friends in common that you've met at munches, or know via local bdsm groups online. Letting organizers know you belong to such groups is important, even if you don't feel you can give individuals names - the fact you beong to BDSM / fetish groups, or have attended local events or workshops, confirms your own status as a serious kinkster.

The benefits of a quick chat on the phone or a meeting:
  • allows organizers to brief you on what will happen at the party
  • to advise you of any costs (there is often a small fee for catering / special entertainment - try and take the right amount of money if you can, it can be a real pain for organizers to locate change on the night) or whether you need to bring food (if everyone is expected to bring a plate). Or both
  • also if the evening's entertainment includes a meal its rude to turn up after it's been served, so make sure you double check the program.
  • to advise you of their door policy - some parties close the doors at a set time, after which no-one is allowed in. This signals guests that its time for the planned demo or performance, and that play will not be interrupted. So don't be late!
  • provides an opportunity for you to ask organizers any questions you have
  • for example, if you want to invite other friends, let the organizers know well in advance so they can cater for them, and add their name to the list. And vet them if they don't know them. For God's sake don't take vanilla friends!!
When you receive your invitation, don't forget to RSVP. If your name is not on the door list you won't get in.

It's also common these days for organizers to send out a "what to expect at our party" or "information package" email to guests. This provides info about how to find the party, what to wear, what to bring etc. It may also include the party's rules. READ THEM!!!


You may be required to sign some type of binding contract for attending a private party or events agreement when you accept your invite, or arrive at the party. Or not. Again this happens at some venues, in some countries, and not in others, depending on local laws and often on the experiences of each venue. Midori noted during one of her recent classes in Oz that when you attend a party in the US these days you sometimes have to sign so much paperwork that you might as well incorporate it into your scene!

Want to see an example of the type of contract a venue might insist you sign, to confirm you are aware of their house rules and will preserve confidentiality in regard to what occurs? You can view one on Dark Angel's Lair's website here.

Interested in the legal status of BDSM venues? Have a read of this article, from a US law point of view.


Well, first of all: congratulations. This is a huge step for you. You are doing brilliantly.

Now: relax. Go online and check your favorite kinky sites for info on play party etiquette. Or use the links in the Reference section at the end of this post as a start. Have a think about what sort of things you'd like to see at the party and read up on them.

Have a think, too, about what would make it easier for you to attend, if you are really worried about it. If you are attending as a couple that makes it a bit easier, some people find it hard to go to a party alone. If this is the case, how about inviting another kinky friend, or arranging to get a lift to the party with someone else who is going. If you don't know anyone else, then ask your host for their advice.

If your courage deserts you and you end up not going, don't feel you've failed. Drop your hosts a polite line to apologize for the no show, offer to cover any costs (if there was a catering fee, or special performance costs) and ask whether you can join their regular guest / mailing list.

"WHAT THE %^*#%


The most important thing: read your invitation and "information package". Most party organizers provide a dress guide, usually something like "Black, Fetish or Goth" but you might strike a guide like this amazing one from Portland Leather:
"Fantasy, fetish, leather, PVC, vinyl, latex, rubber, metal, feathers, satin, velvet, cyber/futuristic, goth, vampire, master, slave, dominant, submissive, headmaster, headmistress, military (army, navy and airforce), school boys and girls, police officer, nun, priest, nurse, doctor, patient, the list can keep on going), burlesque/theatrical, exotic dancers, retro 40’s/50’s, belly dancers, angels, devils, anything obscene or bawdy, lingerie, drag, totally naked except for body decoration: piercings, tattoos and body painting. The only limit is your imagination..."
Non Famous Lauren has some wise words about dressing for a party:
"Clothes and gender usually don't tell you anything about a person's interests, predilections, or experience levels. Unless the party rules specify that fetish wear is required, people generally dress however they like to dress.

"Some people use clothes and flags to signal their interests, but in practice the majority of experienced players do not unless clothing styles are separate pleasures for them. Many deeply devoted and owned submissives do not wear collars and do not hover at the feet of their owners at parties. Other folks wear collars even when they are not owned and sometimes not even looking to be owned, just because they enjoy doing so. And just because someone is decked out in a cow's worth of distressed black leather and carrying a flogger does not make the person an experienced, respected top.

"That innocent-looking barefoot woman in a white silk nightgown and the unprepossessing man dressed casually in a preppy tee shirt and jeans chatting warmly with each other ... might not be the submissive woman and newbie top-wannabe you think they are---they might be, but they also might be the hottest tops at the party.

"In short, clothing---black leather, boots, latex, PVC, high heels, corsets, collars, etc.---are separate fetishes, not signals that someone is into BDSM. Wow, you never knew that, right?! *grin*"
When people ask me about what to wear, I remind them to keep in mind their goals for the evening. If they are there to socialize, to look hot and pick up another kinkster, then go for the high boots and the corsets if they press your buttons. However my main goal at a play party is to play. So I dress for comfort - I dress in clothes that allow me freedom of movement so that I can swing a cane, bend my knees to crouch beside sol during a scene and not lose my balance.
PRACTICAL HINT: Sometimes - if the party is being held in a residential area - you may be asked to arrive in street clothes, or with a coat covering your fetish outfit. Make sure you do this. Causing trouble with their neighbors is not a way to endear yourself to your hosts.

PRACTICAL HINT: Sometimes - if coming from work / vanilla life - guests arrive at the party in street clothes and need to change there, so if this is the case with you let your hosts know. They often have a room set aside. They will also have a room for coats / handbags / briefcases / etc to be stored.

Ms160 taking toys to a Sydney party


I'll go into this in more detail in a later post, because in this one, re your first party, I advise you to watch, listen and learn not play. But here's some basic info.

Obviously everyone can use the larger equipment at a party (things like bondage crosses, spanking benches etc) re smaller toys, check with the organizer. Some parties provide them, some don't. If a party is being held in a dungeon then it's likely there will be toys you can use. Many kinksters prefer to bring their own.

What you bring depends on your interests, and how you are getting to the party. Bringing your entire toy chest will be impractical if you are arriving via public transport. Also be discreet with how you pack them. Make sure they are well concealed.
PRACTICAL HINT: Bring a toy you have made - an interesting chastity device, a beautifully crafted flogger. This provides a terrific conversation starter and with luck someone might make a play date to use it with you :)
If you have interests in edge play - areas like piercing, knife play, fire play (waxing, cupping, flash paper, etc.), branding, gun or firearm play, bloodsports, toilet play, rape scenes etc - check the party's rules. Some venues these things are absolutely NOT going to happen, in others - with prior permission / arrangements in place with the host - a scene might be possible if you discuss your ideas with the host prior to the party.

  • A pen and paper - for writing down the contact details of your new friends - is a good idea.
  • Another good idea is to have some business cards made up with your own scene name and contact details
  • Food, if you have been asked to bring a plate.
  • Cash for any cover charges. Try and bring the right money. It will endear you to your hosts - mucking around trying to organize change will hold other guests up and makes things difficult for the door slaves.
  • If you like sex with your BDSM and it's allowed in the party rules: take safe sex materials (condoms, gloves, lube etc) plus a small clean up towel.
  • You might like to take a change of clothes, or even a dressing gown / robe. My cyber friend Carrie Ann suggests:
    "if you're playing in a public space it's always nice to keep a robe in your kit. It helps a lot for after... when you're done with your blanket but may not want to get dressed yet. [We] play pretty heavy and there is usually blood involved. I often hate to put on my "good clothes" again (often something tight or vinyl or just plain old not something I want to ruin) and a robe is ideal. Even without the blood it's nice to be able to wander around comfortably while you're "coming down".
If you are planning to play and know your personal aftercare requirements, I also encourage people to take a small aftercare kit. Below is a list of items other kinksters have found useful, and that you might like to consider including in your own kits:
  • large bottle of water (for both drinking and washing, if there’s no tap handy)
  • high energy sports drink
  • energy food: chocolate bars / dried fruit / nuts / biscuits
  • ice packs
  • nail clippers and file
  • hand sanitizer: Carrie Ann suggests: "it's a decent cleanser for superficial wounds (abrasions or small spots of broken skin) and, in public, it's just not a bad idea to have"
  • small first aid kit containing bandaids, vaseline, betadine, pain tablets, regular medications
  • warm cotton socks
  • soft blanket (Sol always gets very cold after intense scenes. I adore Brookstone's NAP range for softness)
  • vitamin E oil: Carrie Ann again: "the pure, edible kind with no scents or mineral oil added. It's great for wound healing and for the general drying out of the skin that can happen during a scene, as well"
PRACTICAL HINT: : Don't know much about aftercare? No problem but you need to before you start playing. Have a read of these other BDSM For Beginners posts:

Aftercare for submissives

Aftercare for dominants
Aftercare for switches

  • Some party rules request guests refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, or heavy scents. Check YOUR party's rules.
  • Americans who like their guns: leave 'em behind, unless you have discussed a firearm scene with your host.
  • Some parties ban cell phones completely (especially if it contains a camera). Others are happy for you to leave it on, in silent mode. Again: check your own party's rules or ask your hosts.
  • Some parties allow cameras. Others don't. Check the rules of your party!
  • Some parties allow alcohol. Some don't. Check the rules with your host before the party. And a word of warning: don't use too much alcohol to steady your first night nerves. Kinksters who appear drunk or belligerent may not be allowed to enter the party, or may be asked to leave. Which means you'd be unlikely to be invited back.


  • Park legally, and - if in a residential area - preferably NOT in their neighbors' driveways.
  • Your name will be checked off the list at the door, and you will be asked for the cover charge (if there is one). If you have been asked to bring food, this will be collected from you. If any paperwork is required to be signed, this is when you'll do it.
  • If it's your first party you might like to arrive earlier rather than later, so that you can have more time with your hosts. However, if your host specifies a particular time to arrive, make sure you do so - you don't want to arrive fashionably late and find you have held 100 guests up for dinner, or missed the performance of a visiting VIP kinkster, or worse, find the doors have been locked at a pre-specified time and you can't get in.
  • Your hosts may be on hand to greet you. If they are busy when you arrive, make sure you introduce yourself a little later. Saying goodnight and thank you, is also polite.
  • Only smoke in the specified areas.


"[play party] etiquette is about
respect and expectation"

Discipline Corps

I've said this before but it bears repeating: always read the house rules / etiquette prior to attending. As Tammad Rimilla points out:
"Party rules are how the host makes explicit their EXPECTATIONS for behavior at their party. If those expectations are not made clear, then it is quite possible that the guests will unintentionally violate one or more of those expectations..."
Which is not a good start. Remember too, that if you bring guests of your own, that their behavior reflects on you - if they behave badly you may both be asked to leave. So make sure your guest understands this specific party's etiquette and rules.

As I mentioned earlier some organizers (like Uber and Getting 2 Know U in Sydney) will send you an "information package" when you RSVP. Others have details on their websites or blogs. If you can't find the ones related specifically to your event ask the host.

I can't give you a list of hard and fast rules here because every organizer / host / BDSM community does things a little differently. I'm facing the same problem as Portland Leather, who gets it just right when they try to provide in their page for newbies:
"information pertain[ing] to a “typical” play party. The only problem is that there is no “typical” play party. Each one is different, depending on who is running it and who is attending. Make sure you read the rules specific to that event before entering the Dungeon. Nevertheless, we think this information will give a good idea of what to expect and how you’re expected to act".
Hopefully this BDSM For Beginners post will do the same. "Play Party etiquette [Portland Leather continues] is mostly normal party etiquette and common sense [with] are a few special rules". If you have any questions, ask your hosts or dungeon monitors - the latter are sometimes appointed by the host to keep an eye on scenes and make sure all proceeds smoothly. Equally, they are very helpful to newbies in filling in information gaps.

I've provided a list of links to sites with different rules etc. Read a few. The more you read the more you'll understand the reasons for various limitations and differentiations, so if you want to be informed, here are a few examples of rules / etiquette for different types of parties and events (more in the Online Resources section at the bottom of this post):

For a D/s party (from San Francisco)
Discipline Corps Play Party Etiquette
Code of conduct for private parties held in residential area (US)
Tammad Rimilla's thoughts re party rules
Kinkfest 2009: Dungeon Party Rules and Play Party Etiquette, Codes of Conduct

(if you'd like to read more on how to host a play party, click here)


Only if they are already complete prats. But seriously, no ... people won't avoid you or be wary of you. We are all newbies at some point, and as I wrote in the First Moves post, newbie is not a dirty word.

Everyone handles being new at a party differently. Some people like to say upfront that they are new, others try and bluff it. If you are one of the latter I'd advise you to say little and simply smile, watch and learn. But if you prefer the former approach then just let people know it's your first party. They will enjoy welcoming you - plus you can ask them questions about anything that is interesting / concerning you at the party.

One thing to keep in mind. Let me quote Ms Constance because she gets it just right:
"As you enter a community, bear in mind that many of the people around you may have known each other a long time, may have played together, and may have shared intimacies of which you are unaware. There are likely a number of relationship and power dynamics you don't recognize that nonetheless exist ...

"[so] allow people to become comfortable around you, recognize that you are a newcomer in an existing community that already has a number of complicated relationships in place"

Master Tony, sol and Ms160
at a Sydney party 2008



Absolutely. Especially if you are new to the scene. The wisest newbies watch quietly and learn. You will pick up an enormous amount by watching experienced kinksters play.

Here are a few general tips:
  • The most important word in that paragraph above is "quietly". As Lauren has accurately observed: "Novices attempting to start conversations with the top or the bottom during scenes is one of the most common and astonishing etiquette errors at play parties with newbies in attendance. It should be obvious, but perhaps it is not, so I will say it outright: Do not address comments or questions to the top or the bottom while they are playing!"
  • Actually, be carefully of talking at all, close to where people are playing. You might find yourself accidentally ruining a scene:
"Laughter can be devastating to a nervous sub. S/he may feel humiliated because you are laughing at her/him even if you are responding to a joke someone just told. Or a sub may be deep into headspace and sailing though a difficult pain scene, but your obnoxious loud laughter and conversation may pull her/him out of it an into dangerous territory"
  • Make sure you leave plenty of space for scenes to take place. By which I mean, for the flogger to swing, or the full body suspension to happen. If you don't know how much space is needed take a quick look around, at where everyone else is standing / watching, and then move back.

Ms160 learning fire cupping
at kinky camping weekend 2008


For your first party, I seriously advise you to not play.

For this particular instance, this first party, these are the only reasons for playing:
  1. you (and your level of real time experience) are already known by - at least, some - people at the party, that perhaps you have played with them before, or know them very well online, and that they feel comfortable enough to invite you to join in.
  2. you may have come to the party with experienced friends, and have a scene planned (which you have already checked with the host)
  3. you have made yourself useful at the party, have socialized and got to know people with similar interests, and have managed to position yourself in the right time and place to be asked to assist during someone else' scene (this is how I learned needle play!)
However if you are on your own and a complete unknown to people at the party, then the best advise I can give you is: wait this one out. Take this night (and possibly the next few parties, depending on your level of comfort) to watch, to observe the dynamics of the group around you and learn from the scenes of experienced players.

If you decide to risk it, then hear me, this is important: be very very careful. It's easy to make social gaffs when you are new and a bit overwhelmed and behaving a bit cocky. But those mistakes may never be forgotten by the community you are trying to become a part of. Remember Ms Constance's wise words:
"If you're unsure what is appropriate at a party, ask. Ask the host of the party, ask someone whom you respect in the community, ask the person(s) involved [Ms160 adds: ask a dungeon monitor if there is one]. And ask before you commit the faux pas that gives you a reputation as a wannabe or a jerk or a bitch. Reputations can be hard to shake."
So be careful who you approach. And when. And how.

To provide an example of how easy it is to offend without meaning to, here's a thread on Fetlife "Clueless in BDSMLand" where Princess Skye finds the behavior of a unknown male sub who approached her after a scene to request she repeat it with him, incomprehensibly rude. I have no indication whether he was new to his community or not, but this post and it's responses provide a good example of how easily mistakes can be made. In this case, if the sub ever approached PrincessSkye again he'd get very short shrift, and might never understand the reason why. PrincessSkye concludes:
"Before attending a bdsm event, at least learn the proper way to approach someone and also when it is or isn't appropriate to do so. Having good manners will go a long way in this lifestyle as it will in life in general"
  • You can only join in play if you have been invited.
  • Never interrupt a scene.
  • Never touch the players themselves or their toys without advance permission.
I can't stress these points enough. Especially, notes Non Famous Lauren:
"Do not ever touch or get too close to the bottom during---or after---a scene. Bottoms are dependent on their tops: the bottom's physical and emotional well-being are the top's responsibility during and after scenes. After a scene, give the players a quiet space on the sofa if they want to cuddle together. The closeness and aftercare following scenes and the bottom's emotional fragility usually last longer than it looks to outsiders. Give people time to come down. If you need to ask a quiet question, like "Would you like this blanket that's here behind me?," address the top, not the bottom, and be as unobtrusive, succinct, and quiet as possible"

"in my experience the most acceptable facial expression
for watching a scene is polite interest with a touch of pleasure.
This means that a smile is OK, but drooling or rubbing yourself
is not. However, the only real rule is to watch the other people
who are watching and model your behaviour on theirs"
K Robert

Very good advice in that quote - you might want to reread it.

If this is your first party, keep in mind that you are going to be feeling a tad overwhelmed by what you see around you. Sure, you'll have watched BDSM play on the internet / porn, but there's a huge difference when things happen right in front of you, even when it's "things" you have fantasized about for years. "Don't gape at scenes, behavior, or sexual proclivities that are new for you to actually encounter in real life even if you've heard of such things and wished for years you could actually see it", says Non Famous Lauren:
"There is a fine line between open-minded curiosity - the desire to learn and understand something that is new for you .... versus prurient judgmentalism, gawking, or tiresomely asking someone who is sick of being asked what he or she can possibly enjoy by doing whatever astonishing thing you saw the person do. Be sensitive about when and who you ask, and be sensitive while you watch. People at play parties are not there to entertain or educate you, even though many folks who choose to attend play parties do also enjoy the exhibitionist and educational aspects of what they are doing..."
Lauren also makes an important point about tolerance:
"Be tolerant of things you didn't expect. In particular, even if you are fascinated, try not to gawk noticeably at stuff you personally have never encountered before. Watching and learning are fine---and are often exactly the point!---but there is a social norm in each group about what is appropriate astonishment to show to those around you.

"If you have never seen two males play sexually and lovingly together before, or if you find watching the two women playing together across the room really hot for you as a voyeur, or if you have never talked to a cross-dresser close enough to actually hold a social conversation ... if you ... are shocked by the amount of bloodflow from a ritual cutting, or by what appears to you to be the hate-filled screaming and cursing of a bottom raging at her top at the height of a difficult scene, or if you never envisioned seeing a piercing of a needle right through someone's nipple, or if whatever else you didn't expect and are suddenly encountering seems extreme to you, then the astonishment is probably yours. Get a grip"
If you really feel uncomfortable about what is happening, retreat to areas of the party where people are simply socializing.


*sigh*. As I've already said I would advise simple observation for your first party. However, if you find yourself offered a chance to play and you want to do it, here's a little info about what not to forget:
  • do not even consider play if you have been drinking alcohol before or during the party
  • you need to understand how to negotiate a scene. If you can't do this, then don't play. You will just show your lack of experience in a bad light
  • keep in mind the tenants of Safe, Sane and Consensual. If you don't know them, don't play because all play MUST follow these rules.
  • keep your planning for the scene simple. As K Roberts writes if you "get to play at your first party, take it easy! You don't need to impress everyone with a totally over the top scene, and trying to do so will just increase your chances of causing someone harm. Start gently and do it well and you will gain a reputation as a safe and worthwhile player"
  • ask for the safeword in the current scene, or whether there is a house safeword (usually RED but absolutely DO NOT take that as confirmation). If you don't know about safewords, I again encourage you to think hard about playing in public at this stage. What else might you get wrong??? To read a good, brief description about safewords see Portland Leather's "new to the scene" page.
  • put some thought into the location you select - try to move the scene to a smaller play area if you are worried about playing in public
  • if penetration / sexual contact are permitted provide your own safe sex items even if you and your partner are fluid bonded
  • keep the scene short, don't use too many toys and don't monopolize equipment
  • never leave a bottom/submissive unattended at any time during play
  • if you are acting as assistant only do exactly as you are asked
  • move away from the equipment during aftercare so it can be cleaned / used
  • clean up afterwards, leave the play station spotless - cleaning materials can usually be spotted around the play area
If you have any concerns have a word with your host or dungeon monitor, let them know this is your first scene and that you'd not mind another pair of eyes making sure it went well. Running to them mid scene when something goes wrong is not going to get you invited back again.


Many people feel nervous about playing in public, especially at first. Remember: consent is one of the fundamental ethical values of the BDSM community. Put simply, you never have to do anything you do not want to do.

So if you are asked, just respond with something like "This is my first party ... I'm interested, but I don't feel comfortable about playing yet, but thank you for inviting me." And as Portland Leather points out:
"Everyone plays differently and many people may want to do things you are not comfortable with. If someone asks you to play, or to do something you don’t want to do during a scene negotiation, it really is ok to say no"
If, at any time, you feel that you are being coerced or forced to do something that you do not want to do then you should immediately inform your host.


If your first party is a small one, and everyone knows each other, rules about taking photos may appear relaxed. However usually BDSM party organizers have strict rules about cameras, cell phones, personal digital assistants and recording devices of any kind. Respect these rules. They protect your privacy and allow you to play without concern.

Often all cameras are banned. Your hosts may be the only one with a camera, or will designate an official photographer for the evening. If you don't want to have your photo taken, just let your hosts and the photographer know. You may be asked to sign a release form re photos taken by the official photographer. If you agree to their release, don't forget to let them know what name you want used if the images are utilized.

If you are allowed to use a camera, always check with players before a scene starts (never during!) as to whether you may take photos. And THINK before you take a photo! A unexpected blinding flash in the face may cause real injury at a badly chosen moment, and is not going to endear you to any player. For your first party it's best to stand back and watch how others use their cameras.


Respect the privacy of the others:
  • What is seen or heard at a party stays at the event
  • If you want to write about the party on your blog or website, keep your comments general. Don't use personal or place names unless you have permission.
  • If you wish to write about a scene in which you took part, it's courteous to double check with your play partners
  • If photos of your scenes are taken that you'd like copies of, it's fine to request them from your host. Remember to acknowledge the photographer and your host in your post.
  • If the photos feature other guests at the party in the background, check with your host before putting them online. It would probably be best to edit the faces out of the image before uploading it anywhere.
  • Respect other people's lifestyle choices and keep in mind when you meet other guests from the party in vanilla settings (like a shopping mall or cinema) that they may not want their companions to know where you met them
Remember: you want to be on your best behavior at this party. You want to be invited back, so that you can take part in all the great scenes you've just seen. Breaking confidentiality and outing someone due to careless blogging / public greetings etc is NOT the way to inspire trust, and return invitations.

Don't forget to thank your hosts! An email is fine. A card is better. And here's another thought (this one from Bill Reed) that might get you invited back:
"Offer to help set up for future parties. It is not easy to host a party, especially when you have equipment to set up and furniture to move. Most of the time your help will not only be much appreciated, but it will get you invited to future parties. Helping to set up or clean up for a party is not a submissive-only thing. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty just because you are wearing the "Master" or "Dominant" hat. Your help goes a long way as well"

This post - both within its own text and the references and online resources list below - will provide enough information for you to choose, prepare and survive your first play party. This BDSM For Beginners blog features the experiences and stories of many newbies ... if you would like your first play party experience to be included in this post, drop me a line :)

In the next post in the Going Real Time series we'll look at how to equip you with skills for playing in public - how to choose a play partner, how to approach that person in the correct manner, how to negotiate a scene, acquire practical skills etc.


My Sydney friends' website is currently offline but
I'd like to thank them again for permission to quote from it :)

Cherry Getting 2 Know U
Discipline Corps Party Etiquette
Dungeon Rules (blog featuring different party rules)
JKPS Howe "History if Histrionics
laynie Etiquette for public play
Mistress Constance What to Expect at a Play Party
MsDemmie on aliases
Non Famous Lauren Play Party Etiquette
OzAbis Play parties
Portland Leather's "New to the scene" page
Bill Reed Scene Etiquette

Tammad Rimilla Rules for Play Parties
Kirrily Robert Attending a play party and How to host a play party
Uncommon Bonds Attending A Play Party
Wikipedia (Feb 08) Play party (BDSM)

Angelica (HCH)

Thank you:
to those who attended the parties in these pix!

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