Aftercare

 

What is aftercare?  What does it entail?  Why do people need/want it?

 

Aftercare, in it’s simplest definition, is something that takes place in the time following a scene.  In my opinion, it’s best to think of aftercare as a part of a scene – the last chapter of the story, so to speak.

First, let’s talk about what aftercare may look like.  It is different for different people.  In general you will tend to see the bottom covered or wrapped in some kind of blanket if available, drinking water, perhaps laying with or next to the Top.  They may have their head on the Top’s lap – either laying on a seat or bench next to them or sitting at the Top’s feet.  Once they’ve rested for a bit they may look to eat some food and talk quietly about the scene or just about how both parties are feeling.

So what are some variations to this?  Some bottoms have very specific aftercare requests.  My advise to those with certain needs that aren’t guaranteed is to have those things on hand.  If you always love to eat a cookie after play, bring a cookie.  If you like a specific blanket, bring it.  Don’t rely on your Top or the club to have these things on hand.  There may be plenty of snacks out before you start your scene and by the time you’re done it’s all been eaten.  Another idea (and great for fulfilling any “service” needs/fetishes you have) is to pack up a little picnic with water and snacks for both you and your Top.  It is a very nice thing to do – especially if you know you will have a more intense scene.

Some bottoms or Tops need the opposite of the “norm”.  They may need to be left alone for a certain amount of time.  Perhaps they don’t like to be touched right after play for a while.  They may not want to talk.  There are some Tops that don’t enjoy giving aftercare, or whose aftercare requirements include activities that remove them from the bottom.  Maybe they like to go straight outside to cool off and have a smoke.

Tops that don’t enjoy or don’t offer aftercare, for whatever reason, should discuss this during negotiation and offer other support or recommend that the bottom has another person for support or aftercare after the scene.  Never leave a bottom hanging after a scene is over!  Even if the bottom wants to not be touched or spoken to – still make sure you have an eye on them.

Also, leave enough time – don’t fill your dance card with scenes and no time in between for aftercare.  Like I said, aftercare should be negotiated as a part of the scene.  I recommend having no more than 1-2 “planned” scenes in one evening.  If more happen and it’s all good – great.  However, this allows for time in case something goes wrong, a bottom needs more time in aftercare, a trigger comes up, etc.  You never want someone to feel bad or guilty because you make them feel rushed or that giving them aftercare is an inconvenience.

Having said that, just as some Tops don’t enjoy aftercare, there are bottoms that don’t need or want it either.  If a bottom says they typically don’t need aftercare that’s ok.  However, I still advise leaving enough time for it.  The bottom may experience something in the scene that causes them to desire aftercare or perhaps they reach subspace (or a different level of subspace) and they want some aftercare.  Again, better to make the time and not need it than to need it and not have the time.

 

So now the question is why? Why do people (for the most part) seek out aftercare?  To me the reasons why fall under one or more of three categories – the 3 “R’s” – Reconnection, Reflection/debriefing, and/or Recouperation.

Reconnection.  Most scenes include one or more of the following – role play/various headspaces, humiliation and/or degredation, and/or pain.  Aftercare provides a time for both parties to connect with one another in a positive way – whether it’s a play partner who is an aquantance, friend or romantic partner.  It reinforces the respect, friendship and/or love they have for one another.

Reflection/debriefing. This can be a time to talk a little about the scene itself.  The good stuff as well as anything that may have triggered either party.  Discussion over what worked or didn’t.  Making sure that everyone is ok emotionally and psychologically.  There may be more of this over the first few days following a scene but this can be a time to speak to it in general.

Recouperation.  Make sure you are both drinking water and getting some food if necessary.  If any minor injuries occured during the scene or something was uncomfortable physically this may be a time to double check and make sure it’s all good.  Also, the bottom may be a bit “spacey” having gone into subspace a little or a lot.  Aftercare gives them time to “come down a bit” so they can walk, talk, and eventually drive home.  Sometimes you may not be in subspace but still feel sleepy or just generally “out of it” for a bit.  These feelings go for Tops as well!

General rule: never take advantage of someone during aftercare!  They are usually in an altered state due to the chemicals that were released in their body.  You should not make any sexual advances or play advances during this time unless it was negotiated BEFORE the scene!

There is an extention of aftercare that also needs to be addressed.  As the Top you should be prepared to check in with the bottom the next day and a couple days later.  This is to cover any possible subdrop.  If you know you won’t be able to check in, then make sure the bottom has arranged for another friend to check in with them or that they have alternative plans in place.  Bottoms, this is also a great time to continue to reflect on the scene and write a messege to your Top giving them feedback.

 

All in all, aftercare can be, and usually is, a lovely and peaceful time for both (or all) people involved in a scene.  It serves many purposes for most people.  I know a few folks that look forward to the aftercare even more than the scene itself!  Don’t treat it as an afterthought – aftercare can be just as important as the play involved.  Enjoy it!

What is a Switch?

 

When someone tells you they identify as a Dominant or Master, submissive or slave – you have a pretty good idea what that means.  But how about when someone tells you they’re a switch?  Well, it means you need to ask more questions.

I often compare somebody that identifies as a switch to someone who identifies as bisexual.  Now, before you get all upset, I understand that sexual orientation and D/s dynamic identifiers have nothing to do with one another.  That is not what I compare.  Here is what I mean: both identities lay upon a spectrum and there are some similar stereotypes that both groups deal with.

On one hand you can have someone like me when I first started in the scene – I personally identified as an s-type, however, I had the skills to top and did enjoy it on occasion with a handful of people.  So, technically, I could say I was a switch because I could Top and bottom for play.  However, for me, I had no interest in being anyone’s Dominant or being involved in a D/s dynamic with me as the D-type.  I couldn’t say it would never happen because I knew better, it just wasn’t something I was interested in at the time.  On the other hand you will find people (like me currently) that feel equally Dominant and submissive and may have a partner (or partners) that they switch with – or are in a poly situation where they have one (or more) partner(s) they submit to and another (or others) they are a Dominant to.  Some people may flow from one to another – go through phases if you will.  Some times in their life they feel the need for more submission and at other times feel the need to express more of their Dominant side.  Still others may lean more toward one side or another but it’s closer to a 60/40 than someone else who is closer to 80/20 (or so).

The point is that there is a very diverse spectrum when it comes to being a switch.  Everyone is different and you just need to ask what it means to them.

Now I would like to address the stereotype that seems to get placed on switches that reminds me of the one placed on those that identify as bisexual.  It’s the stereotype that a switch is confused about their identity, going through a phase, or just doesn’t want to commit one way or the other.  While these things, of course, can be true for some people – it is not true for most.

Being a switch is just as much who they are as someone who knows they are a D-type or an s-type.  I am not confused about what I like.  That doesn’t mean it may not change.  When I discovered this community I swore I was totally an s-type and would never be able to Top.  Eventually I started exploring it because, well, why not?  I believe this lifestyle is perfect for self-exploration and growth!  So I explored the “Top side” of play.  I had always gone to classes to learn how to use implements, etc. to enhance my play as a bottom and learn about it for safety reasons.  So once I started to Top I already had some skill.  I found I tend to prefer Topping s-type women.  I can Top men, however, I usually do that from more of a “service Top” position.  It’s not what curls my toes.  I don’t know what will develop down the line.  None of us really know what the future holds.  Does that exploration and growth mean I was just “going through a phase”?  Absolutely not.  I still feel my submission pulled from male Dom energy and believe I always will.  It’s simply a matter of how my Top side has grown and with whom.

We all have our own story and our own journey.  This space allows us to explore and reach in directions we never thought possible.  Know thyself and then get to know others.  Especially those darn switches!  🙂

 

 

 

This is not my original writing – reference: https://www.morethantwo.com/polymistakes.html

This is a long article, however, if you are in a poly dynamic or thinking about entering one, this hits on many important points.  I like it because it is written for those who are approaching poly from a well-intentioned and compassionate place, yet mistakes and hazards can still happen.

 

Common mistakes in poly relationships

With grateful acknowledgement to Suzie, for her insight and contributions

 

There is an excellent guide to screwing up poly relationships on the alt.polyamory site, which describes in some detail the petty, mean-spirited, malicious things that you can do to help ensure that your relationship fails in the most dramatic, painful way possible.

This is not that page.

This page is designed to describe some of the mistakes you can make in a non-monogamous relationship even if you are compassionate, honest, and well-intentioned. Sometimes, building a stable, happy, non-monogamous relationship is not intuitive, and there are mistakes that can be made along the road no matter how well-intentioned you may be. Ideally, you should seek to learn from other people’s mistakes rather than your own; it’s a lot less trouble.

Don’t make assumptions about your partner or your relationship; talk about everything

There are people in the world who don’t like talking about relationship stuff, or who see it as an onerous chore. The problem with that is you can easily end up in a situation where you think something’s okay with your partner, or that you’re at some place in your relationship with your partner, or that you’re in a type of relationship that allows some things or doesn’t allow others, and your partner has a completely different idea. Finding that out by talking about it is a lot less dramatic than finding it out by crossing a line you didn’t even know existed. Be clear up front about what your partner expects from you (and about what you expect from your partner), and you’ll be a lot happier, trust me.

Don’t ignore the consequences of your actions—even the unintended consequences

The law of unintended consequence is as universal and as inescapable as the law of gravity, and is certainly more than capable of screwing up your romantic relationship beyond all recognition.

Put simply, your decisions and your actions have consequences for both your partners and your relationships, and you bear responsibility for these consequences—even if you feel that your decisions were appropriate and justified, even if you feel that your actions were expressly permitted by the rules of your relationship.

The most common example of unintended consequence can be found in relationships that have “veto” rules permitting one partner to veto another partner’s romantic relationships. Most of the time, veto is a negotiated and mutually agreed-upon rule; the people in a relationship that includes a veto power explicitly give that veto power to their partner.

Yet if your partner falls in love with someone, and you then veto that relationship, you are almost certain to hurt your partner. It does not matter if your partner explicitly agreed to that veto power and explicitly consented to give you that power; when a person loses a romantic relationship, it hurts. That’s the way human beings work. When you hurt your partner, that can and likely will affect your relationship with your partner, even if your partner explicitly gave you that power. Now, I’m not saying you should never exercise a veto; but I am saying that when you make a decision affecting your partner, seek to understand how it affects your partner, and take responsibility for that. Say “Yes, I know this hurts you, and I’m sorry.” Acknowledge that your decisions may affect your relationship with your partner, and take responsibility for those effects, even if they were unintended.

This is probably the single most crucial factor to the success of any relationship. Everything you do—whether it’s inviting your partner to some function but not inviting your partner’s partners, or seeking to exclude your partner’s other partners from things that are important to you, or even something as simple as not acknowledging the value your partner sees in his or her other relationships—will affect your relationship with your partner, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in ways that are more obvious. Be aware of the consequences of your decisions as well as your reasons for making them.

Don’t try to micromanage your feelings, or those of your partners

One of the more common problems in a polyamorous relationship arises when one of the people involved, in an effort to feel less threatened or more secure, seeks to control the extent to which his or her partner becomes emotionally involved with another partner. People often feel threatened by emotional intimacy—sometimes, more threatened than by physical intimacy. But trying to micromanage emotions isn’t the way to solve that problem.

Emotions are resistant to being managed that way; it’s virtually impossible to pass a “rule” that says “you may be physically intimate with another person, but you may not be emotionally intimate past this point” and have it stick. It’s not always possible to predict what relationships will become emotionally intimate, or how they’ll become emotionally intimate; attempting to manage insecurity or fear by micromanaging emotional connections is virtually certain to fail. In fact, sometimes, attempts to micromanage emotional intimacy lead to the next problem, which is:

Don’t destroy the village in order to save it

It’s a given in most relationships of any sort at all that hurting one’s partner will hurt the relationship. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if you break your lover’s heart, you will cause damage to your relationship.

One way to break your lover’s heart is to force your lover to withdraw from a person he or she loves, which is where rules forbidding emotional intimacy generally end. Because emotions can’t be arbitrarily controlled, and because it’s not always possible to predict in advance when a relationship will become emotionally intimate, people who build relationship structures in which emotional intimacy is forbidden often end up unintentionally violating those structures. When that happens, a choice must be made: the rules forbidding emotional intimacy can change, or the person who’s become emotionally intimate with a new partner can withdraw from that partner. Doing the latter is going to cause a lot of pain, both for that person and for his or her new partner; eventually, that pain is going to affect the existing relationship.

In an effort to avoid making this mistake, though, people sometimes commit the next, which is:

Don’t expect someone to develop the same relationship with both you and your partner

One way people sometimes seek to address the problem of feeling threatened by emotional intimacy is to say “Okay, emotional intimacy is not a problem, as long as a new partner becomes involved with both of us and loves both of us. That way, nobody feels left out, and nobody needs to feel jealous.”

On paper, it looks great. In the real world, however, it’s not usually successful, because it rests on an assumption that isn’t true—namely, that it’s possible to dictate that two separate relationships can develop at the same rate and to the same degree with two different people.

Let’s assume that a person begins dating a pair of identical twins, and that he or she spends the same amount of time with each of them. Even in that situation, it’s not realistic to expect both relationships to develop at the same rate and in the same way. Relationships, like people, are individuals, and it simply isn’t realistic to think that a relationship with two different people will turn out the same.

People will sometimes seek to do this because they feel that it will protect them from insecurity or jealousy—“I feel threatened when my partner has an emotionally intimate relationship, but if the person my partner is involved with has the same relationship with me, I won’t feel left out, so I won’t feel threatened.” The better approach, I think, is to create a relationship that is inclusive rather than exclusive, but that does not rely on an impossible goal like “anyone new must date both of us and must develop the same kind of relationship with both of us.” Inclusiveness does not have to mean “two relationships that are the same”; indeed, it is possible to construct inclusive relationships in which the new person is only romantically involved with one member of an existing couple, but has developed a strong friendship with the other.

And while we’re at it, the second mistake people make along these lines:

Don’t assume that you can prevent jealousy by making sure you and your partner date the same person

This is one of the most common mistakes made by couples who decide to try out polyamory. The idea is that if one of the members of the couple has insecurity or jealousy issues, the way to keep this from becoming a problem is if both of them date the same person. After all, if your partner is sleeping with someone else, but you’re also sleeping with that person, you won’t get jealous, right?

Wrong.

Jealousy doesn’t work that way. Jealousy isn’t rational. It doesn’t make any difference if you and your partner are sleeping with the same person; if you are insecure, or have unresolved fears of loss or of being replaced, you may still feel jealous if your partner has another lover even if that person is also your lover.

The way to keep from feeling threatened or jealous is to figure out what lies at the root of the jealousy and then deal with that, not by creating relationship structures that are intended to make the jealousy go away. Jealousy is rooted in other emotions, such as insecurity or fear of loss. Dating the same person that your partner is dating does not make those other emotions go away.

Don’t forget your priorities

It is completely natural to become so wrapped up in the joy of a new relationship that you neglect your existing relationships; in fact, it often takes a considerable act of will to pay full attention to your existing relationships.

But doing this is necessary. Neglecting existing relationships in the giddy rush to a new relationship can be extremely destructive…to all of the relationships. Don’t get carried away; pay attention to what you’re doing. Take care to make all of your partners feel loved, needed, and secure.

Don’t start new relationships if your existing relationships have problems

Polyamory is not a way to evade problems in your romantic life. In fact, problems in one relationship have a very nasty habit of spilling over into your other relationships if you’re not careful.

If you have a relationship that is facing difficulty, that is not the time to be starting new relationships. Doing so is likely to create problems in the new relationship and exacerbate the problem in your existing relationship. It’s unfair to both your existing lover and to any new lover to begin relationships under these conditions.

And on the flip side of that same mistake:

Be careful about getting involved with an existing couple who haven’t worked out what polyamory is all about

One almost-certain way to run into heartache is to start dating one part (or both parts!) of an existing couple when each of the members of that couple has a different idea about how their relationship should work.

Any time two people are clearly not on the same page about what is and is not allowed, or have different ideas about how their relationship should be conducted, you’re likely to find trouble. And as often as not, when problems occur between the members of the existing couple as a result, you’ll be the bad guy. It pays to do what you can to see that everyone is on the same page before your heart is on the line.

And while we’re on the subject, the flip side of that same coin is…

Don’t get involved in polyamory if you’re still not sure whether or not you have a poly relationship in the first place, or if you’re not prepared to take responsibility for your actions

It should go without saying, but don’t invite someone into your relationship if you aren’t clear whether or not your relationship permits it. If you are partnered, and you think you might like to explore polyamory, be clear with your partner about it before you bring someone else in. And when you do bring someone else in, be clear that this person’s heart is on the line. You are offering this person physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, or both; take responsibility for that. Don’t let him in, create vulnerability, and then turn around without warning and say “well, my partner and I aren’t sure if we’re poly or not.”

Your partners are human beings, not commodities; if you want partners who will treat you well, consider your feelings, and behave with compassion and respect, you need to treat them well, consider their feelings, and behave with compassion and respect yourself. Get clear in your own head and establish with your existing partner how your relationship works and what the terms of your relationship are; don’t make someone else find this out by trial and error! If you’re not sure whether or not you’re in a polyamorous relationship, you aren’t in a polyamorous relationship.

Don’t assume that needs not being met in one relationship can be met in another

Often, people may fall into the trap of believing that if some need is not being met in a relationship, the solution is to meet that need by seeking another relationship. This is particularly common in primary/secondary relationships, where if the secondary’s needs aren’t being met, the secondary may seek out other relationships to meet them.

In reality, many needs are connected to a person, not to a relationship. If you need A, B, C, D, and E, don’t assume you can have needs A, B, and D met from Joe, and needs C and E from Bob. What you may find is that you need A, B, C, and D from Joe, and need A, D, and E from Bob; getting A from Joe does not mean that you do not also need it from Bob.

Don’t try to force your relationships to fit a predefined mold

Many people believe that communication is Rule #1 in a polyamorous relationship. If that’s true, then Rule #0 is: Let your relationships be what they are.

When someone who is in a polyamorous relationship begins searching for a new partner, sometimes the temptation exists to search for a new relationship that will fit within a predefined form—for example, “I want a bisexual female who will date both my partner and me, who is already partnered, and who likes skeeball.”

Like any kind of romantic relationship, a poly relationship isn’t likely to be quite that tidy. Often, a relationship may fail if the people involved in that relationship try to force it to fit some predefined set of conditions, rather than allowing the relationship to grow in whatever direction is natural.

This is particularly true in situations where an existing couple or group seek out a new relationship that will involve everyone equally—for example, “We are a couple looking for another couple in such a way that all four of us will be romantically involved with one another.” The impulse here can be to try to force the new relationships to fit that pattern even in situations where the relationships, if allowed to grow naturally, wouldn’t take that shape.

But this can happen in one-on-one relationships as well. When people say things like “I want a secondary partner,” they may be committing the advanced form of this mistake; you can’t always predict in advance how intimate a romantic relationship will become. You can’t force a light, casual relationship to become deep and passionate—but you also can’t force a deep, passionate relationship to be light and casual!

A very valuable tool that can be used to avoid this problem is to treat any relationship between two people as though it has three components: the needs of the first person involved, the needs of the second person involved, and the needs of the relationship itself. Often, the relationship itself acts like a third, independent entity, and it’s wise to listen to the needs of the relationship.

Don’t try to isolate your relationships

Nothing exists in a vacuum. Often, people try to isolate their relationships from one another, and try to “compartmentalize” the relationships so that each is a separate, distinct entity. This is usually more common with relationships that follow a primary/secondary model.

Trouble is, it doesn’t work. Each relationship can and will exert an influence on the others. It’s important to keep this in mind, and to understand that the things you do in one relationship have consequences for the others.

On the other hand, it’s also easy to go overboard in the other direction, which leads us to the next poly mistake:

Don’t try to combine your relationships, or force them to act as a single relationship

This happens most often in people seeking to create an intentional, equilateral relationship involving three or four people. The impulse is for all the people involved to want to do everything together—to spend all their time together, go out together, and so on.

The dangers here are twofold. First, it can be suffocating to have no space of your own, to always be surrounded by other people. Second, this tends to try to “force” the relationship to fit a mold it might not fit naturally. It’s quite normal for all the people in a triad or quad to relate to one another somewhat differently, even if the triad or quad is equilateral; and two of the people may enjoy doing something together that the third doesn’t enjoy, or doesn’t enjoy as much.

This is normal and healthy. There’s nothing wrong with letting the relationships develop as they will; not everyone has the same needs, the same tastes, and the same desires. It doesn’t mean the relationship is not equilateral.

Don’t try to separate yourself from your lover’s other relationships

This most often happens in situations where one partner is polyamorous by nature and the other is monogamous. A number of factors can cause you to try to distance yourself from your lover’s other lovers: Fear, jealousy, insecurity, and so on.

The reality of your lover’s other relationships is almost never as bad as the fear makes it out to be. Getting to know your lover’s other partners can go a long way to driving out that fear. The fact is, a person who is involved with someone who’s poly is also in a relationship with that person’s other partners—even if it’s not a romantic relationship.

If you see those other partners as competitors, it becomes easy to dehumanize them, and the impulse is to vilify and distrust them. This tends to cause a great deal of stress on your relationship with your lover; it also tends to cause you to go crazy.

Once you see your lover’s other partners as human beings, instead of as competitors, it eases any stress you may be experiencing. It also helps you to establish healthy, happy relationships with them.

If, that is, they want a healthy relationship with you. If they don’t, then it’s important to consider the next common poly mistake, which is:

Don’t be afraid to put your foot down

This is one of the hardest lessons to learn.

Not everyone is a good person, and not everyone is perfect, and not everyone makes an ideal match for your lover. Often, we may want to do things that make our partner happy, even if we know better or if we have to sacrifice our own happiness to get there.

This usually works in the short run, and usually causes pain and grief in the long run. Listen to that little inner voice; it’s rarely wrong. If something bothers you, speak up about it. If you find something completely unacceptable, say so! Even if it’s irrational, your lover should at least be willing to listen to what you have to say about it.

And speaking of being irrational:

Don’t expect human beings to be rational all the time

We are inherently irrational beings. This is a part of the nature of man. Irrational responses are a part and parcel of who we are as human beings, and these things can’t be addressed rationally.

You may find some of your partner’s behavior or emotional response to be irrational in any romantic situation. This is not necessarily bad; love is not rational. Nor is jealousy.

Remember that you are not always rational, either. Do not attack, browbeat, or berate your partner for behaving emotionally; do not expect that your partner will always act in accordance with reason and logic. It’s not going to happen.

If your partner is acting irrationally, you must still be compassionate and respectful—even if you disagree with things your partner says or does! Treat your partner’s feelings with respect and courtesy. Try to find out why your partner feels the way he or she feels. Often, there may be some underlying reason that is not obvious; if you want to address the feeling, it’s necessary first to find out where it comes from.

People often know that it’s important to be compassionate when faced with jealousy, but it’s important to remember that all of your partner’s feelings are important. Even positive feelings, such as love or new relationship energy, can cause your partner to behave irrationally. Try to understand what your partner is feeling, and why, when you address any problems this behavior may bring up.

Develop good communication and conflict resolution skills

This one is obvious, really, but it bears repeating. A relationship is not doomed until the people in it stop talking to each other and start breaking dishes instead.

Talk to your partner. Honestly. All the time. About everything.

Don’t make unilateral life-altering decisions

Partners should include one another in life-altering decisions. Big announcements of major changes in one’s life can often make one’s partners feel alienated.

Talk to all your partners. Don’t relay information through your other partners

This never works. Seriously. Information that passes through an intermediary never quite gets to its destination without getting mangled. If you need to talk to someone, go directly to that person.

And on a related note:

Don’t rely on relayed information

Never trust that what one partner says about what another partner said is entirely accurate (even if no skewing was intended). Go to the source and get confirmation.

Don’t move too fast

There is no such thing as instant polyamory. Don’t think you have to have sex on the first date. Don’t show up with a moving van on the second date. And don’t call it a “relationship” till you’ve actually dating a while. Try letting things grow naturally, and build something lasting instead.

Polyamorous relationships are not different in kind from monogamous relationships, and the beginnings of any relationship are fraught with peril. Take it slow.

Don’t ignore that little voice in your head

This is an easy mistake to make in any kind of relationship, not just a polyamorous relationship. Sometimes, your heart may tell you one thing even when your head tells you another; even if you can’t put your finger on any rational reason why, it’s often a good idea to listen to your heart when it suggests that something might be wrong.

Just because you can’t find a rational reason why something is wrong doesn’t necessarily mean everything is OK. A wise course of action is to start with the assumption that the little voice is trying to warn you about something you have not consciously become aware of, and to delve deeper into figuring out what that may be.

The little voice is not always right, of course, but don’t write it off just because it’s not rational.

Don’t be afraid of change

Often, especially in a primary/secondary relationship, we may have a subconscious expectation that somebody new can come into our lives and our lives will continue pretty much as they were, undisturbed.

But any romantic relationship is going to leave a permanent mark on the people involved. Any time you introduce someone into your romantic life, even as a secondary, that person can and likely will alter your life permanently.

This is a feature, not a bug. If you bring people into your life, don’t expect to continue on untouched.

Don’t assume every problem you encounter is related to polyamory

When you’re involved in any non-traditional relationship model, it can sometimes be tempting to blame every problem you may encounter on that model. This seems particularly true in polyamory, where it might be easy and tempting to blame the polyamory for whatever trouble you may encounter—“If we weren’t poly, we wouldn’t have to deal with this!”

But that’s not necessarily so. Even traditional, monogamous relationships face their fair share of challenges and difficulties.

For example, if you’re in a poly relationship and you feel that you aren’t getting enough of your partner’s attention, it might be tempting to say, “If you weren’t also involved with so-and-so, I wouldn’t be feeling neglected.” But in any relationship, situations exist that may distract your lover’s attention—work, family, and so on. The problem in this case isn’t really polyamory—it’s time management.

Isolating the root cause of the problem, rather than simply blaming the problem on polyamory, is an excellent way to resolve relationship difficulties.

Make sure your actions and your intentions match

This is a valuable rule to apply to any relationship, but it’s particularly important in a poly relationship.

For instance, if you claim to accept or like your lover’s other partner(s), but in practice you manage to avoid acknowledging the other partner(s) as much as possible (such as never asking about them, never taking any initiative to nurture even the most casual or friendly relationship with them, falling silent or changing the subject whenever your lover mentions them, etc.), then you’re sending a clear message that you wish the other partner(s) didn’t exist.

This is very difficult on the lover-in-the-middle, which is made much worse if you deny that you’re doing this.

 

Last updated: June 18, 2011

https://www.morethantwo.com/polymistakes.html

 

Dungeon Etiquette

So you’re new and ready to go to your first play party?  Or perhaps you’ve been going to play parties for a while and started letting basic etiquette slip?  Oh yes, it’s usually the people who should know better that I see making faux pas!  So let’s go over the most common play party do’s and don’t’s.

CLEAN!  This is in reference mostly to the equipment and furniture you are using for a scene.  However, I also advise that you clean your toys.  But hey, that’s on you and if we aren’t playing then you and your partner can cover that.  Back to the furniture, though, you should clean it before you play as well as after you’re done.  Some people may complain, “but I’m the first one to use it, so why clean it first?”  While you may be the first one on it at that party – you have no idea what happened on it the night before or before the party started – especially if you are at a dungeon that offers pro sessions.  It could have been used 30 minutes before the party doors opened.  Plus, if you aren’t the first ones on it that means someone else (hopefully) cleaned it – but did they clean all the parts you will be using?  Did they clean it correctly?  Better to be safe than sorry.

SPACE!  Giving those in a scene the space they need.  Stand back, give them room.  Do NOT get up close and personal.  You are not involved in the scene and it is not ok to invite yourself!  It doesn’t matter if they are doing something interesting that you don’t have a good view of.  If you want to know more about it then wait for a better time later in the evening to approach them and ask.  Also, if whips or floggers are being thrown, go around!  Don’t complain if you get hit because you walked through someone’s scene.

SHHHHHHH!  Be mindful of your voice and socializing.  If you want to socialize there are areas in every club meant just for that.  If you’re watching a scene but want to say something to your friend next to you – get in their ear and whisper.  Keep the conversation to a minimum.  If you are setting up for a scene or just finished – again – be mindful of your non-scene noise level.  Keep your voice down as much as possible.  Too much “non-scene” talking can really pull people out of their head space that are playing around you.  On the other side of this issue you may be the one who is trying to do a scene and it’s other people being loud.  Simply gesture to them to lower the volume in a respectful way.  Most people get carried away and don’t realize their voices got louder.  Typically a small reminder is enough.   If that doesn’t work, well, keep reading.

EQUIPTMENT HOG! Hogging equiptment can take two forms.  Time and space.  At some clubs you may have a time limit on your scene.  In this case it won’t matter because you won’t have a choice but to give up your play space at the designated time.  However, most clubs do not time scenes.  Therefore, you should consider how many people are in attendance and how much of a demand there is for play stations.  Be considerate.  If it’s a busy party don’t play for hours.  The other issue is space.  I see it all too often – people wandering around (sometimes including me!) looking for an area to play and there are perfectly good spaces that are covered in the toys or bags of the people scening on the next station over.  Not cool.  First of all – if you have a million bags but have a specific scene planned, try to consolidate your toys before heading to the party.  Beyond that – look for a place to put your bag/toys that is within your station.  Don’t use a play table for storage.  If you’re concerned about putting your things on the floor, bring a towel to throw down.

DON’T INTERRUPT! I don’t care if you get to a party and are really excited to see a friend of yours but they’re in a scene or you are leaving and really want to say bye to someone who is in a scene.  Don’t interrupt if A, you haven’t been invited into the scene or B, there isn’t an urgent situation.  That said, let’s look at these two exceptions.  Being invited into a scene can take on two forms.  One, all involved have consented to you joining the scene to bottom, top or assist in a positive way. Lovely, have fun. Two, the Top has requested for you to enter a scene because they need assistance in an urgent situation.  Perhaps they have their bottom suspended and they need to come down faster than expected.  The Top knows they have time to bring the bottom down safely, however, asks you to lift one leg (for example) to make it easier for them to loosen the rope.  There could be a million similar situations, but you get the picture.  In this situation you do ONLY what the Top has asked you to do.  You are not automatically granted consent for anything else.  I have seen this happen where the person is asked to assist to lift a bottom’s leg and decided that meant he could also let his fingers wander to her “naughty bits”.  NO! NO!  Only do what you are asked – nothing more.  Moving on to the other exception – the urgent situation.  This may be things like someone needs to move their car or risk getting towed or the club is closed/party is over and they need to wrap it up.  Yes, these examples are situations where the person should have taken a few more steps in personal responsibility, however, that’s a different issue for another article! So you need to get their attention but they are mid-scene.  Make eye contact with the Top and gesture to them that you need to tell them something.  Most Tops will assume that if you are interrupting it must be important.  Once you let them know what’s going on then assess what needs to happen.  If the Top needs to walk away from their bottom then they need to put them in a safe position and make sure someone they trust stays with them.  Another option is to have someone else handle the problem so they can stay with their partner.  NEVER just leave a bottom unattended mid-scene!

Not interrupting also applies to when people are in aftercare!  Aftercare is an extention of the scene.  If it’s obvious that people are in aftercare – treat them as if they were still playing.  If you aren’t sure, make eye contact with the Top, the person most “present”, or the person you know best, and ask if they are up for chatting.

GET HELP! So you follow all the rules, politely ask people to keep it down, etc.  Great!  What happens, however, when you need assistance?  Here are a couple reasons this may happen.  One, a bottom my call red and you don’t see the Top stopping or perhaps someone seems like they are in extreme distress to you.  Especially if you’re newer to the scene and public play – you may be reading the scene wrong.  This is a good time to express your concern to a DM (Dungeon Monitor).  DMs have typically been trained to assess scenes and situations in the club.  They are usually easily identified via an arm band, sash, or badge.  Another time you should get a DM or the party host is when you are having a personal issue with someone.  If you have politely asked someone to decrease their volume or give you more space and they repeatedly ignore your requests – ask for assistance.  It’s not your job to personally take on someone being rude or unruly.

BONUS TIP! HYGIENE!  Stinky is not sexy!!  Come to the party clean, use deoderant, brush your teeth.  This doesn’t mean swim in cologne!  I, personally, always have a deoderant stick in my toy bag in case I need to re-apply post play.

Overall – be aware, be respectful and if you don’t know, ask.  These tips will get you far and a more pleasant party experience for everyone!!

 

 

NRE: New Relationship Energy

“New relationship energy (often abbreviated as NRE) is a state of mind experienced at the beginning of most significant sexual and romantic relationships, typically involving heightened emotional and sexual receptivity and excitement. It begins with the earliest attractions, grows into full force when mutuality is established, and slowly fades over months to years. It carries an implication of contrast with the feelings involved with “old” or an ongoing relationship.” (Wikipedia)

While the dynamics described by NRE are common to almost all relationships, the term is particularly common in the polyamorous community, in large part because polyamorous people often experience new relationship energy alongside ongoing but older relationships which they also wish to maintain.  This can be the basis for one of the most common issues I see arise with poly clients.  The “original” partner feels the effects of the NRE when one or more of their partners is starting a new relationship.  This is a common place for insecurities to emerge and feelings of jealousy, fear and/or sadness can arise.

So what are a couple of tips for surviving NRE in a poly dynamic?

First is awareness.  Once you, as a couple, decide to open your dynamic to additional partners or if you come together as a poly couple from the start – knowing NRE will occur is extremely helpful.  Part of that awareness is understanding the physical changes it creates.

“That’s right we are actually experiencing changes in brain chemistry – increased dopamine and norepinephrine in particular. New relationships light up the pleasure centers of the brain, including what are known as the addiction-like drives in the brain meaning the drive to get MORE of that as soon as possible. These parts of our brains give us more energy, they can cause us to maintain focused attention and an intense yearning for the recent source of our pleasure. During this early phase of attraction people find that they need less sleep, have strong emotions, may experience intrusive thinking about the person they are drawn to, find it hard to focus on normal daily tasks, and have a heightened sex drive.” Melissa Fritchle, 6/2013

Second is kindness.  Be kind to one another during this transitionary phase.  If you’re the partner that’s starting a new relationship, try to maintain awareness of how you’re acting around your longer-term person.  When you are with them give them your full attention even though you have “puppy love brain”.  Keep in mind they may be struggling a bit and may need a little more reassurance than normal.  Also, don’t abandon your responsibilities.  You may want to spend all your time with the new partner, but that’s no excuse for leaving your long term partner to pick up your slack when it comes to shared household, children, or other responsibilities.

If you are the long-term partner, try to keep in mind that this is a normal and temporary phase your person is going through.  Their actions aren’t personal and you have entered into a poly agreement because you agree that multiple loves don’t diminish what you have together.  Make an attempt to self-sooth when you feel some jealousy – whether it’s self-talk, leaning on friends, or even therapy.  However, that being said, don’t stuff your feelings only to have them evolve into resentment or anger later on.  Communicate with your partner.  Take ownership of your feelings yet let them know if you’re having a tough time.

Especially if this is a first time transition for you as individuals or as a couple – be patient with one another.  NRE is probably something you both enjoyed at the start of your relationship and it’s bound to occur with every new relationship ahead.  So be aware, communicate, and be kind to one another.

Discovering the world of kink can be a fabulous and overwhelming experience.  So where do you go?  What do you do?  This can be especially nerve-wracking if you are coming in like I did – unpartnered and clueless.

In my opinion Fetlife is the best way to find events in the scene.  Most event coordinators will promote there whether or not they promote elsewhere.  So the first step, if you haven’t already, is to join Fetlife.  Go to Fetlife.com and create a profile.  Feel free to use a stock photo or a picture of your dog as your profile pic until you come up with something better.  Just don’t leave it empty for long.  The profiles with a big “?” as the profile pic may make people think it’s a fake account, you’re a troll, etc.  Also, keep in mind my next step will only work if you input your actual city or one that is near you.  I understand if you are uncomfortable putting your specific city name – but even a nearby city will work.  For example if you live in Santa Monica (which is a beach city near Los Angeles) then use Santa Monica or Los Angeles.  However, if you use Antarctica (and don’t actually live there) then my next suggestion will not work.

On to the next step.  Along the top of the site you will see a link for “Events” – click on it.  Under “Upcoming Events” you will notice three tabs.  “Friends RSVPed to”, “Near Me”, and “All Events”.  If you are brand new to the site, chances are you don’t have any (or many) friends on your friends list yet, so that tab won’t offer much.  The “All Events” tab will be overwhelming and probably take you a while to scroll through, however, if you posted a fake city this will be your option.  So that leaves you with the “Near Me” tab.  Click it!  You will probably have to get through the first few pages of events that recently happened before you get to the current date.  Then look at each event listed for the dates coming up that you have some free time.  My opinion is that you focus on finding a class first.  Starting with classes accomplishes a few things – you learn something regardless of current interest, you meet people in a non-pressure environment, and if you are on the shy side there is less expectation of socialization.  So find a class on any topic that works for your schedule and GO!

(*If you are in the Los Angeles area I know a wonderful BDSM 101 Series at Sanctuary you can attend every Monday at 8pm – wink wink.)

My first class was on singletails.  Was I interested in singletails?  Nope.  Did they, in fact, terrify me? Yep.  I went anyway because I figured I would meet other people who were active in the scene and possibly learn something – or at least have fun watching the demo.  Sure enough, all of those things happened.  There was no pressure to play (because it wasn’t a party), going alone wasn’t awkward, and even though I am very social and extroverted, there was more focus on the class and presenter, which was nice given my newbie status.

Once you’re at the class be sure to approach either the instructor (after the class is finished) or another classmate that looks friendly and let them know you’re new and wondering what other classes or munches are coming up.  Ask if they will be there – then you will have a familiar face to look for.

Go to more classes, start attending munches.  Munches are just where a group of kinksters get together in a vanilla setting (usually a restaurant) to eat and socialize.  Let people know you’re new and looking for friends and other events.  Once you are ready to attend a play party you will have met lots of people and started to create a friends list.  You will have people to reach out to and to look for and talk to at events.

I know you may be anxious to start playing and/or finding a partner.  However, my advise is to slow it down and take your time.  Get to know the scene and the people in it.  Get a feel for who is experienced in the type of play you want to try, who you can trust, etc.  I know it can be overwhelming and scary at first – and your experience will differ depending on how big your local scene is – but enjoy the process.  View it as an adventure to be explored!

SAFE, SANE, AND CONSENSUAL – we hear this all the time, but what does it mean?  I want to take this opportunity to discuss a portion of this, which is the ‘consensual’ portion.  One way to make sure that what you’re doing is consensual is to negotiate.

Negotiating tends to get easier the more you do it.  In addition, as you play you will learn more about yourself including more things you need to include when you negotiate a scene.  (Negotiating a relationship or D/s dynamic is a whole seperate article.)

The conundrum is that while you want to cover important things when you negotiate, you also don’t want to negotiate the scene to death.  Many scenes are about an exchange of energy and may include elements that the top/D-type doesn’t want to necessarily devulge to the bottom/s-type.  This is true especially for players that know each other well, are regular play partners, or in a dynamic/relationship.  The negotiation I’m focusing on is the “newbie negotiation”.  Assuming you are fairly new to kink or new to your partner, or both.  Below is an easy way to remember what should be covered and descriptions for each element.

As I have been teaching the 101 series I have gone over what should be covered (in general) when negotiating play almost every week. I decided to come up with an easy to remember acronym. They are not necessarily in order of importance, but I had to make it into a “word”! lol

 

Negotiation Acronym: S.M.A.S.H.T.

 

An easy way to remember the basic things that should be covered in a negotiation for play.

 

S – Safewords

M – Medical

A – Aftercare

S – Soft Limits

H – Hard Limits

T – Triggers

 

Safewords – sometimes it’s not enough to just agree that the typical “stoplight” system be used. (Note: if you are using other safewords please also inform a Dungeon Monitor)  “Green” means it’s all good and you are enjoying what’s happening.  Most people don’t actually shout “green”!  Although that may be kinda funny!  Lol  Usually giggles or moans are good indicators. “Red” is also pretty straightforward.  It means you STOP.  Stop whatever is happening and immediately check in with the bottom.  I have found that people’s understanding or expectation of “yellow” can vary. It’s important to make sure you are on the same page.  If the bottom expects the top to simply “lighten up” when they call yellow but the top assumes they should stop and check in (similar to a red with perhaps less urgency) – this may effect the bottoms head space.  The bottom should tell the top during negotiation that, “if I call yellow it just means you’re going too hard but don’t stop and talk to me because it will interupt my head space.”

 

Medical – not just obvious things like surgeries, joint issues, injuries, etc, but also things like asthma, blood sugar issues, or allergies.  Allergies can be food related but also if they have any allergy to natural fiber you may need to double think about the type of rope you’re using (if any) or if other toys have been stored with rope that can cause a reaction.  Also if there are animal allergies and you have toys made with any kind of fur, etc.

 

Aftercare – this varies from person to person and possibly scene to scene with the same person.  Some people enjoy close snuggling or putting their head in the tops lap while others may need some time alone or to not be touched.  (side note – even if they ask to be left alone they should always be somewhere that you can keep an eye on them)  Always have water at the ready for both parties and food may be desired as well.  If you know you need to eat right after I suggest having something that you bring so that you are not relying on the club to have food once you’re done playing.  Even just throwing a protien bar in your bag is a good back up.

 

Soft limits – this refers to limits that the bottom isn’t interested in or has concerns about, but are willing to try them or push. This may also include activities that the bottom knows they don’t like, however, is willing to do them from a place of service or submission.

 

Hard limits – limits that are a no go. Not happening. Nope.

 

Triggers – psychological or emotional responses that can effect the scene (usually negatively). Can be body positions, for example the bottom may be fine on a cross but if they are bent over furniture it makes them feel too vulnerable or exposed.  It can also remind them of childhood punishments and cause a negative response.  Verbal triggers, often in the use of humiliation and/or degredation play.  The bottom my not be ok with any “negative” talk – only affirmations or positive feedback.  They may also be ok with some types of humilation but not others.  For example sexual humiliation is ok but don’t call them anything negative in reference to their intelligence or weight.  Certain implements can trigger someone.  Perhaps as a child they were always hit with a belt as punishment.  For some they may seek out belts for impact due to this experience OR it may become a negative trigger/reminder.  Particular parts of the body is something else to consider.  You can have a bottom who is a heavy masochist that you can do almost anything to…..except don’t touch their feet!  (for example)  Maybe you have to stay away from face slapping due to it triggering memories of past abuse, or their stomach due to insecurities, etc.

 

All of the above should be discussed with concern for both parties. The top may have medical issues or triggers that the bottom should be aware of, both should be on the same page as far as safewords and limits, and the top may have their own requests for aftercare!

 

Also, make sure you understand the intention of the scene.  I know two people that did a full negotiation – listed all the things they both liked – then as they began, realized they BOTH assumed they were the Top!  Decide together if this is more of a casual, teaching scene.  Perhaps one or both of you are looking for experience but not necessarily power exchange.  Do you want it to have a certain energy?  Energy of the scene isn’t always something you can control, and in my opinion it’s usually best when you don’t try to, however, if one person is looking for a very sensual energy and the other desires a more strict and disciplined energy that’s good to know up front.

 

You may need to add to this depending on the type of play or intensity of the scene – but this should cover all your basics.

 

I hope this helps!

It’s ok to be a D-type

 

Defining “D-type”: general term I use to encompass those that identify as a Dominant, Master, Mistress, Goddess, Trainer, Top, Owner, Daddy/Mommy, etc.

D-types in the BDSM community are those that hold the power or control that their s-type surrenders, or yields, to them.  Why would someone want to assume this great responsibility?  The answers will vary depending on who you talk to.  People are drawn to this roll for a variety of reasons.  Some reasons may include a desire to maintain control, power, or decision making for another, wanting to provide structure or discipline, bestow a sense of safety and caretaking, and/or seeking service from another.

Where does Dominance come from?  Why are some people naturally this way or seek this role in relationships?  Again, just as with s-types, not all paths or reasons are healthy.  Many are quite healthy.  There are complex layers that turn us toward certain partners in life, vanilla or kinky. It may be that it is an extension of how they were raised.  Messages like, “A man is the head of the household.” or “A strong woman is independant and shouldn’t be controlled.” could contribute to someone being a D-type.  It could also be that they grew up with chaos or feel a lack of control in many aspects of their life (ie, answering to a boss, etc) and so taking consensual control within their relationship is empowering.

One complaint about 50 Shades of Gray is that the books portray the main character, a D-type, as a man who has found this dynamic as a result of childhood abuse.  While this may be true for some kinksters, both s and D-types, it is certainly not true for many – if not most.  It’s unfortunate that this popular piece of fiction has perpetuated negative stereotypes.

There are many messages, that D-types may hear from folks around them and pieces like 50 shades.

 

“You’re just a control freak.”

“You are a predator that wants to take advantage and use other people.”

“You need to control your partner? You must be insecure or overcompensating for attributes you lack.”

“You’re an asshole/bitch.”

 

Or worse yet, you hear these types of messages from your vanilla partners before realizing that it’s OK to be a D-type.  This is where I want to tell you about an ex of mine because her story is a perfect example of someone being naturally inclined towards Dominance, yet suppressing it due to external negative messages.

When I met *Lisa she claimed to be “the most vanilla person you’ll ever meet”.  So why did I persue a relationship with her?  I don’t know, perhaps I saw that as a challenge or maybe it was her punny sense of humor.  That part doesn’t matter.  What matters is the part where I started introducing her to the kink scene.  I started with munches, then slowly introducing her to my friends, and eventually taking her to parties.  It was a whole new world and experience for her but after the initial shock wore off she was starting to have fun.  We began to introduce more kinky play into our dynamic and she was taking lessons and tips from so many wonderful people that embraced her.  As our relationship continued I started to encourage her to take the lead with decisions and making demands.  I showed her through my response that not only did I not fight her on these things, I actually thrived in following her lead and supporting her commands.

At first it was difficult for her and we would discuss why.  Turns out she had some fairly strong Dominant traits all her life, yet when she would act upon them in her vanilla relationships, her girlfriends did not appreciate those traits at all.  They wanted to be equal and it would turn into a power struggle as opposed to a power exchange.  After enough of these experiences within failed relationships she ended up suppressing these Dominant traits.  She was attempting to maintain the peace when her partners would accuse her of being “too controlling”.  Her natural Dominant tendencies became “wrong” and “bad”.

So there I was – opening her eyes to a whole world where people thrive with the structure she was attempting to suppress.  She was experiencing a relationship with me, who not only accepted, but encouraged her Dominant side.  She was finally able to accept and cherish parts of herself that she had grown to villainize.

She learned that it is OK to be a D-type.

Something I say in my classes is, “the D in D-type should NOT stand for Douche-bag”. It should stand for Dominant and represent someone who comes from a place of confidence and security.  Someone who can be trusted and someone with integrity.

Dominance in and of itself is not a bad thing.  It’s when people use it in a harmful or irresponsible way that leads to abuse (emotional, physical, or psychological) or intentional/unintentional harm.  If you are Dominant take responsibility for how you express that Dominance.  There are many s-types out there that thrive on and crave what you have to offer.  It is your responsibility to understand what you are offering, continue to grow and learn, take classes, join discussion groups, read more articles, etc.  Don’t take advantage of your role and use it to control your s-type in an unhealthy way.  Part of your responsibilities as a D-type and as a partner is to support your s-type in reaching their full potential.  Know and accept your Dominance, embrace it, and use it for good.

 

*Actual name not used

Jessica Ogilvie from MEL magazine attended Club Awakening and followed up with me in a phone interview.  I have included the link to the article and pasted the full article below…

https://melmagazine.com/a-night-of-bdsm-for-newbies-fbcc4ecce8d2#.n70qz1sid

A Night of BDSM for Newbies

L.A.’s Club Awakening is a live-action Kink 101

The orgasmic wailing is coming from my left.

A barefoot woman swathed in a black fishnet body stocking is handcuffed to a St. Andrew’s cross, her back toward me. Her silky brown hair is gathered in a low, loose bun, the stocking exposing her naked body through its cheesecloth-like holes. With every thwack of the flogger’s tentacles across her cream-colored back, she howls in ecstasy.

We’re in a dark room with black walls, gray carpet and several other pieces of kink-themed furniture. Outside, about 100 people mingle, wandering at will into other rooms just like this one. The labyrinth building is called Sanctuary Studios, a space where L.A.’s BDSM community can come to play. But tonight’s event, Club Awakening, is slightly different than other parties held here: It’s geared specifically toward welcoming newbies to the world of fetish.

“I wanted to create someplace where people could come and play, [and] if there’s something you want to try, you can,” says Jenn Masri, an L.A.-based marriage and family therapist who created Club Awakening a year ago. “It provides a little less of a shocking atmosphere.”

Masri got the idea for Club Awakening after teaching BDSM classes for rookies for several years. She instructs students on concepts like consent, safe words and terminology. She says one question that comes up consistently is, “Where can I go for my first party?”

Four newb-friendly booths scattered throughout Sanctuary Studios allow attendees to try hands-on play — e.g., spanking; crops, canes and paddles; flogging; and ropes. A fifth surprise booth has included more extreme offerings such as fire cupping and light knife play. The event has been packed every month since its debut, including the night I attend.

The event is monthly and generally well-attended. This night in mid-February isn’t any different — despite its being at the peak of the worst rainstorm L.A. has seen in years, the type of foul weather that usually renders Angelenos unable to leave their houses at all, let alone drive somewhere in the dark. But once I check my coat and enter the club’s inner sanctum, I find myself amid a throng of dry, happy and, occasionally, nude or nearly nude people.

Masri has linked me up with Pam, a 47-year-old data department manager from Orange County who has been exploring “the scene,” as it’s colloquially known, for about six months. Pam discovered the scene through a friend just as her 18-year marriage was coming to an end. “I was looking for something,” she says, and “the more I read, the more I got interested.”

Her story, I find, isn’t unusual: Leave an unhappy marriage, enter BDSM. Masri herself has a similar history. “I didn’t get involved until I was out of a 17-year, vanilla marriage,” she says. “Someone I dated did a couple kinky things, and I was like, ‘That was fun, I want to do more of it!’”

Pam has been to Club Awakening, she estimates, five or six times. “I love this event,” she says. “You can try something new, and you can meet new people.”

Around 5-foot-6-inches, Pam is dressed for the evening in a blue-gray tunic top, tight black pants and low-heeled mules. Her lips are painted red, as are her toenails; her shoulder-length, dirty blonde hair is collected into a low ponytail, and she wears delicate amethyst earrings that dangle into the shape of flower petals. We were originally going to explore the event as a pair, but last week, Pam met Jeremy, a 48-year-old dominant and her date for the evening. Much taller than Pam, Jeremy has been in the scene for several decades. He wears coke-bottle glasses and sports a scruffy salt-and-pepper beard, gray-blue button-down and black slacks.

For the first hour, the three of us stand around a cocktail table and chat. It’s an alcohol-free event, so the bar is stocked with six different kinds of soda: Cactus Cooler, Cherry Pepsi, 7 Up, Mountain Dew, root beer and — amusingly — Squirt. It’s also a potluck. A folding table is decorated with homemade platters of food, including frosted lemon cake and pink sugar cookies with Hello Kitty emblems at their center; plastic tubs of cookies from Trader Joe’s; and a bowl with single-serving bags of chips: Spicy Cheese Doritos, Chili Cheese Fritos, Cheeto Puffs and Ruffles.

As we mingle, Jeremy explains the scene to me.

“Sex is our common interest,” he says, “but it’s all about consent. We talk about everything; what we like, what we don’t. It’s all about consent.”

Throughout the night, he’ll continually demonstrate to me that he won’t do anything to which Pam hasn’t consented — e.g., “Can I put these handcuffs on you?” And: “Can I make them tighter?” He also makes a point to demonstrate the nature of his relationship to Pam; within moments, he grabs her ponytail and yanks her head back. “Here,” he says, “I’m showing my dominance.”

When the main room is nearly full, Masri takes the stage. Her waist is cinched into a corset, causing her already bountiful breasts and hips to reach cartoonish proportions. After introducing herself, she opens with the rules: “No cell phone use. Even just opening your cell phone; please go back past the bar and open the door, or go out to the smoking patio.”

As she speaks, Jeremy, who is sitting next to Pam as she stands, begins running his fingers up and down her outer left thigh.

“Make sure you got a ticket for the raffle,” Masri continues. “Vendors donate items for it, and tonight we have a flogger and a full set of ankle and constriction collars.”

The crowd cheers.

“We have stickers, which overall mean you’re open to negotiating play,” she says. “Purple means you’re open to top; blue means you’re open to bottom; orange means you’re open to both.”

By now, Jeremy’s fingers have traveled up to the left side of Pam’s ass, lifting her shirt slightly and slipping his hand underneath it.

Masri goes on: “Consent is key. If you’re going to utilize our practice bottoms” — volunteers who’ve agreed to be submissive for attendees’ learning purposes — “talk to them about it first.”

“No edge play,” Masri continues, “including breath play, fire, needles, cutting, electric, medical, food, blood, anything involving bodily fluid or wax. Sexually: No genital-to-genital, no oral-to-genital, no penetration. On the outside of the body, sexual touch is to be negotiated — and you can get naked!”

More cheers.

Masri then provides the crowd with the evening’s safe words — red and yellow — before introducing the volunteers who will be manning the booths and providing one last line of instruction: “Be kind, ask people if you’re not sure, be respectful, don’t touch other people’s things or peoples — and have fun! We’re gonna open up the rooms and booths. Have a good time!”

Pam and Jeremy’s first stop is the vendor room. A small, brightly lit chamber with “Gin & Juice” playing softly in the background, the room features several tables overflowing with fetish toys for sale: Floggers in a rainbow of colors; handcuffs, collars, leashes and canes.

Jeremy has come here to buy, and he asks Pam her opinion on a pair of heavy-duty leather handcuffs lined with soft red fabric.

Already, Pam has been discreetly carrying around Jeremy’s briefcase, an agreement that seemed to go without saying from the moment the event began. It’s a hard black number that looks like it should hold stacks of ransom money, but in fact it contains toys he brought for the evening. Now, Jeremy ups the stakes: He buys the cuffs, straps them onto Pam’s wrists and instructs her that this doesn’t preclude her from hauling the kitbag.

“This is all part of the play,” he tells me.

Next, the duo heads toward the evening’s surprise booth — a sadistic massage and skin-rolling table run by a man named Dan. Pam lies down on her back, and Dan immediately goes to work.

It’s subtle at first: Taking her right hand in his, he presses his thumb down into her palm. “What I’m doing is pressure points,” he explains, “and I’m doing a little manipulation on her with her thumb.”

He asks Pam — if she wants — to bend her thumb. She does.

“Oh God,” she says, laughing.

“Now, turn your palm up.”

Pam’s face twists into a grimace.

This, Dan explains, is called a “predicament situation.” Pam can move at any time, but moving will cause her more pain. He repeats these moves on her shoulder, her elbow and her shin — all of which are cringe-inducing to watch — before Pam decides to move on.

“Did you like it?” says Jeremy as she gets up.

“Yes, thank you,” Pam responds, before leaving for the flogging room.

Once inside, Jeremy begins to push Pam’s boundaries further.

“Are you comfortable removing your top?” he asks.

She is. He places the blindfold over her eyes and instructs her to kneel over the spanking horse. Handcuffs unlocked, Jeremy begins rolling a Wartenberg wheel — a metal wheel on a handle with small metal spikes, typically used by doctors to check reflexes — up her back.

As he does, three people enter the doorway, but quickly stop. It’s poor etiquette to approach anyone involved in a scene. Jeremy ignores them and continues rolling the wheel.

“Harder?” he asks Pam.

“Yes, sir.”

He rubs her ass with an open palm, then smacks it.

“What do you say when I spank you?”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Good. Now, how was that?”

“That was good.”

He spanks her three more times. Then: “Stand up.”

Pam stands and faces Jeremy. He rolls the wheel over her stomach, across her breasts and sternum. Turning to me, he explains, “The front is always more sensitive than the back.”

They continue this way for about 20 more minutes before wrapping up. Handcuffs back on and briefcase lifted, Pam is getting weary physically. That, however, doesn’t stop Jeremy from having her trail him outside to smoke, insisting that she leave the cuffs on and the briefcase in her hands as she tries to smoke a cigarette herself.

We stay at the event until 1 a.m., for a total of four hours that go by surprisingly quickly. Pam and Jeremy have tried everything they want to try, and are ready to wrap up the evening. We say our goodbyes, and they head to their car together.

When I speak to Pam a few days later, she explains that finding the scene was “an epiphany” after 18 years of marriage to a man for whom she felt she had to do everything. Prior to that, she was a rule-follower; a good girl.

“The way I grew up, I don’t know if I’d call it sheltered — I had a very good family life — but you’re always doing the right thing,” she says. “When I decided I didn’t want to be married anymore, I was making that decision for myself. I learned in the scene that that’s okay; nobody judges you. In fact, it gave me a lot of self-confidence I’d never had before.”

This change in herself, she acknowledges, has all happened in just the past six months. She’s been involved with a different dom for much of that time, and her relationship with Jeremy is moving in a positive direction as well. (Many BDSM relationships are open, although they aren’t typically considered dating relationships to begin with.) Meanwhile, Pam — like many people who open themselves up to the scene — is enjoying the freedom that comes with no longer caring about what other people think.

After all, she says, her divorce wasn’t about finding someone else to marry: “It was about me finding out what I wanted.”

Jessica Ogilvie is an L.A.-based writer. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, VICE and BuzzFeed. She last wrote about the Trump phenomenon as explained by the filmmaker who got there first.

First, what do I mean by “s-type”? For those that don’t know I refer to anyone that identifies as a slave, submissive, bottom, pet, property, or babygirl/boy (etc) as an s-type.  It’s just an easier way to refer to this group without listing every specific identifier.

What does it mean to identify as an s-type?  Why would someone desire, or even crave, to yield their control or power to another human being?  This isn’t an easy question to answer, as there are many answers out there depending on who you ask.  Some reasons may include a desire to surrender control, power, or decision making, wanting someone else to provide structure or discipline, feeling a sense of safety and caretaking, and being of service to someone else.

The paths that get an individual to this place – this want for surrender – will also vary from person to person.  Not all paths or reasons are healthy.  Many are quite healthy.  There are complex layers that turn us toward certain partners in life, vanilla or kinky.  It may be that one didn’t receive the care and discipline he/she required as a child and therefore finds it in a D/s dynamic.  It could be simply that the rest of their life demands authority (high powered job, parenting, etc) and the ability to release that control with a trusted partner is like going to a spa after a long hard day.  These are only two possible examples of why someone may be drawn toward submission.  Not everyone understands this draw however.

 

“It’s 2015 – you don’t need to bow down to a man!”

“Seriously man – are you that pussy whipped?”

“Slave? How can you let him/her call you that?  You’re a grown adult!”

“You mean to tell me you do whatever he/she tells you to do?!  Hell no!”

“It sounds like you are just being used and taken advantage of.”

 

As an s-type we hear so many things from friends and loved ones who just don’t understand or who view our situation from a skewed perspective.  Female s-types get lip from the “feminists” about how many years were spent fighting for equality, only for us to throw it all away by stripping our power willingly.  However, we need to keep in mind that true feminists would argue that we should have equal freedoms to CHOOSE our behaviors and our lifestyle.  Therefore, choosing to consensually yield power, control, etc is, in fact, a huge leap from the days that it was NOT our choice.  Everything in our life comes down to the decisions we make.  Even in circumstances where we hold no power or control, we still choose how to respond. The movie ‘Life is Beautiful’ comes to mind.  (If you haven’t seen it you should!)  The point is, we all have the right to decide how we live our life.  If we choose to turn over power to someone we trust and respect then that choice should be honored.  Male s-types usually catch flack for different reasons.  They hear messages like submission isn’t manly.  They get called pussies or wimps.  Which is kind of hilarious when you think about the fact that many of them could take a much heavier beat down than their “domly” friends.  (Although they enjoy it, so maybe not a fair comparison. lol)  Again, how is it less manly to CHOOSE how they live their life?  To consent to behaviors, dynamics and protocols that make them happy and enrich their life and their relationships?

To every male or female s-type that finds comfort and satisfaction in their submission, how is it any different than the person who finds this in a bottle of beer, a favorite sport, or the traditional vanilla relationship dynamic?  Human beings seek safety, comfort, love, affection, and happiness.  It isn’t for anyone to judge how you do that so long as nobody is getting hurt (in a bad way!).  So take pride in your s-type identity!  Slave, submissive, pet, boy/girl, property, bottom, little.  Embrace who you are because it’s OK to be an s-type!