Dungeon Rules and Etiquette
Many people attend play parties and public events and find that they have done something innocently that has offended one or more people. Most rules are a matter of common sense, but not all, and it's very easy to offend someone in this scene out of ignorance.
One of the easiest things to do is to touch someone inappropriately. With all the hugging and such that goes on in this community, one of the most common faux pas that is made is to touch someone at the wrong time. A case in point:
A few months ago at a play party, I had a female submissive, Hayden, cuffed to a set of stocks. She was standing in front of the bar, not IN the stocks. I had also helped my friend, Mistress L, mummify her submissive on a table a few feet away. Mistress L had just had a birthday and also had owned Hayden at one time. She asked if she could spank Hayden once I had her warmed up. I agreed, and also agreed to watch Mistress L's submissive while she was spanking mine. When someone is mummified, you cannot just walk away and leave them. So we made our switches at the table with the mummified gentleman.
After Mistress L had spanked my girl, she came back to the table and I returned to my girl. In the meantime, a guy who had been watching the scene had come in, put his arm around Hayden and asked if he could spank her, too. And she had to tell him twice to go away.
Earlier, the same guy had tried to grab her and pull her onto his lap when she passed by him doing an errand for me. She had to struggle to get away. When I talked to him about these two incidents, he was truly bewildered about what he had done wrong. In the BDSM group that he mostly socializes with, touching is more casual. And he truly felt that grabbing her on the patio was more serious than touching her while she was in bondage. He nearly got banned from events in our area, and he had only a vague idea of what he had done wrong.
Touching someone in the BDSM community is subject to a number of rules. We hug, we shake hands, we cuddle and men hug each other with more frequency than in most communities. However, there really are rules that apply to this behavior.
1.)Hugging is common. Many women in the scene have reasons why they may not want to hug someone. Maybe she's a lesbian and she hates to have men touch her. Maybe she feels you hug her too close and doesn't like you patting her ass. Maybe she's wearing something crushable. As for men, maybe he thinks you're overly snuggly or he hates being touched by other men, or he hates being touched by women, or he has a cold and feels "icky." Here is something easy to do. If you approach a woman, let her make the move to hug you. If you approach a man, open your arms slightly, and if he doesn't move toward you, make it into a handshake. Take it gracefully if people don't want to hug.
2.)NEVER, NEVER, NEVER touch someone in the middle of a scene. Not the dom(me), not the sub, not any participant in that scene. If a submissive is in bondage in the middle of the floor by herself, assume it's a scene. Interrupting a scene can completely ruin the energy. Just because someone is naked and playing with one top does not mean that they want to play with you. And just because a top is playing with one submissive does not mean he/she wants to add you to the scene. If the scene is open to participants, there will be some way to let people know. People playing in public are doing so because they like being watched. This does not mean they want to let you play with them.
3.)The casual nakedness can make people feel vulnerable. Don't leer, don't comment on his/her body. Don't talk to women's chests. It may be meant in a spirit of fun, but it doesn't come off that way for many people. It can be downright annoying to have someone follow you around all night staring at some portion of your anatomy. Or looking, leering and grinning at you. Trust me that complaints to hosts and hostesses are given great weight. They will talk to the guilty party, and if he/she cannot amend his/her behavior, they suddenly find that they are not welcome at parties.
4.)Collars can be a fashion statement, but they can also have a huge meaning. My introduction to the scene was that collars mean owned. No ifs, ands, or buts. I have a collar that a dear friend gave me that is a "domme collar." I cherish it, but I don't wear it. I don't feel comfortable wearing a collar because to me, they signify ownership and submission. That is the way *I* was trained. Many unowned submissives wear collars to indicate that they are submissive. Some owned submissives don't wear collars at all. You can never go wrong assuming that a collar means owned. Be very careful about your behavior around owned submissives. The last thing you want to have happen is to have her master, Bubba, break your leg as a "warning" about "messing with my submissive." The safest assumption is that if it's got a collar, it's got a master/mistress who may be just a tad possessive.
5.)Asking people to play is a compliment. Continuing to ask them after you get a "No, I'm not interested, but we can be friends." is harassment. Don't persist, just take the "no" gracefully and maybe some other occasion it will turn into a "yes."
Two other incidents in the past few months have prompted me to talk about toys. In one, a male dom (who I don't like) asked to look at the whip that my girl had gotten me for my birthday. He'd already had two looks at it, and I really don't like people I dislike handling my toys, so I said, "No, you've already looked at it." He then took hold of it and attempted to pull it out of my hand. I declined to let go, and after a moment's tussling, he let go and walked off--not, however before a person nearby remarked about what a horse's bottom he was making of himself.
The second was when my girl was packing up our toys after we'd done a demo on interrogation play, and one of the audience came up to congratulate us on the demo mentioning how it almost looked like I was really hitting her. (She was wearing shorts, and the marks on her legs were pretty evident. But, oh, well...) and while talking to me, he reached down, grabbed one of my knives, pulled it out of it's sheath and tried it on his finger. He said, "But this is really sharp!" as if that fact amazed him. That knife had been used in the demo and I hadn't drawn blood, but I COULD have. He could have shared blood with my submissive and had no way of knowing her hepatitis C status. Not only was this rude, it was stupid.
One that happened to one of my friends was when someone looking at her toys that were set up, picked up a disposable scalpel, OPENED IT and tried the edge, then put it back in the wrapping. That person was apparently unaware of the fact that she'd just rendered that item totally unusable. Scalpels and needles, until unwrapped, are STERILE and meant to be used in that condition. Touching them makes them NON-STERILE.
Toys are very important items for those of us in the scene. I started selling toys because I thought they were overpriced in the kink stores, and because I wanted to own so many that I'd never be able to afford them, otherwise.
We invest a lot of our egos in our toys and many of us have memories associated with various toys, so they are very, very personal items. This is why touching someone's toys is not a good idea unless you are sure they do not mind. Having your toys stolen is more than monetary. It's a case of violation of your spirit.
Another reason for being very careful about handling someone's toys is cleanliness. If you touch something that is sterile or specifically cleaned for a scene, it's no longer in that condition. If you open a knife, lancet, scalpel, needle or anything else that is used to draw blood, it has to be either disposed of or (in the case of the knife, ONLY) redisinfected before it can be used. This really will piss off someone, even though most of the disposables are not too expensive. Most of us don't carry them in large quantities so you may have just totally ruined their evening by contaminating a toy.
6.) Never touch someone's toys without permission.
A friend of mine has a partner who take blood thinning medication. Generally, in the course of play, he gets a few nicks on him that bleed like the dickens. At a recent party, his top had applied about a dozen Band-Aids to his back as they played. Another person at the party stopped near the top and began singing, "I'm stuck on Band-Aids, and Band-Aids are stuck on me." This might have been cute at some other time, but not in the middle of a serious scene. Ruined the headspace of both the top and domme and they stopped playing.
A girl was playing with her male top and she was blindfolded. So many people were socializing and laughing in the same room that she suddenly got the idea that they were laughing at her. End of scene.
Hayden and I were doing a heavy scene at a party when someone came up, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "When you are done there, will you pierce my submissive. She wants to try play piercing."
This ruined our headspace.
Laughing and joking with our friends at a party is something we all do. Unfortunately, at a BDSM party, people are usually doing something other than socializing and they can become distracted by the noise and horseplay. If you are playing in a place with a separate dungeon, then don't socialize in the play area. Smaller houses which don't have separate play space, can be a problem. In those cases, you keep your voices down and do not laugh out loud. Even if you're not laughing at something going on in the play in the room, the submissive may very well think you are and come out of subspace. Ruining someone's evening is not nice.
Never make cute remarks to a top during a scene unless he/she's invited audience participation. Don't tell someone they're wanted on the phone (unless it's an emergency), that you want them to do something later, that you need to know where something is (except in case of an emergency), or interrupt them for any reason except that there is an emergency. This is just plain rude. There is no reason for it and no way that it's excusable.
Don't scene in social areas. At one party I was at, there was an ill behaved dom who was swinging a flogger where several of us were eating. The social area is for socializing, eating and things you don't do in the dungeon. One lady was hit and her hot coffee spilled on her. The dom got banned from future parties.
7.) Never interrupt a scene unless it's an emergency.
8.) Always be quiet and respectful in scene areas.
9.) Don't play in the social areas.
Most play spaces unless they are very large spaces, have a limited number of scening areas and equipment. Using an area for several hours can mean that someone will not have the time to get to use that piece of equipment. Be aware of those around you and never take up too much time on one piece of equipment.
I know one couple who manage to play all evening by moving from one piece of equipment to another. They are popular and well loved in the scene and they NEVER take more than about 40 minutes on any one piece of equipment. Remember, if it's a piece of equipment you love, chance are, other may love it, too.
10.) Don't hog the dungeon equipment.
11.) If you make a mess clean it up and always clean the equipment after use.
SMOdyssey gives three or so parties a year which are attended by 400 or so people. They hire local police as security. At the one called, "The Prom" Hayden and I had decided to do a resistance play scene where I forcibly tied her up, cut her dress and underwear off with a big knife, and then did some heavy caning, whipping, and flogging. I had gotten permission from the party hosts in advance.
The night of the party, we took the toybags over to the St. Andrew's cross, and after getting out the knife, cuffs, etc., I grabbed her, pushed her to the floor, sat on her, forcibly cuffed her, dragged her upright by her hair and one arm and threw her into the cross. (She's a very small woman.)
I missed it, but one of the DMs hadn't gotten the word and came charging across the playspace determined to break this up. Thankfully, he was intercepted by a DM who had been told what I was going to do. The scene was consensual, but it did look non-consensual, and if notifying the DM wasn't a pretty universally known rule, I could have been pulled away from her which would have ruined our head space, not to mention been embarrassing.
Many times you will see things going on that you may see as non-consensual, dangerous, disturbing, etc. Sometimes, a year or so later you'll be doing it yourself, sometimes you'll never understand why anyone would DO that, but you'll feel differently about it being non-consensual. This is why you should NEVER interrupt a scene yourself unless you are sure that the submissive's safeword is being ignored or the submissive is in real and immediate danger.
"No" is not a safeword. A lot of people like to yell that while they are playing. Having the submissive crying, screaming or struggling is not grounds for breaking in on a scene. For some people, this sort of play is fun. On the other hand, if, like me, you tend to do play that looks non-consensual, PLEASE tell the DMs in advance. It's not fun to have the DM break in on your scene in order to ascertain your submissive's safety. It tends to ruin your head space.
If you are going to do blood play, golden showers, resistance play, fireplay, or anything else that tends to be dangerous or against party rules, work out your permission with the host or hostess BEFORE the party. This makes for one less thing the host or hostess has to deal with on the night of a party (where there are ALWAYS several things going wrong). It also gives them time to notify the DMs that you have permission to do this.
12.) If you see non-consensual play, dangerous play, etc. do not try to stop it yourself, tell the DM or the host and if they tell you it's okay, take their word for it.
I'll probably be updating this from time to time. For now, I hope this has been helpful.