Rules of Engagement
When it comes to playing in The Lifestyle — and I don’t care if that’s Poly, Swinger, BDSM, Kink, or whatever other non-mainstream lifestyle you think is The Lifestyle at the moment — there are always rules of etiquette that need to be followed for everybody to have a good time. These rules often also serve to help keep people safe and, in general, insure that a return visit will be allowed, perhaps even requested, by others at the event. Some of these are standard issue rules of etiquette that apply to any public behavior — be mindful of surroundings, be polite, follow the rules of the establishment or host, etc. — but some other rules come into play when dealing with those of us on the kinky fringe of society.
Most notably the Swinger and BDSM communities are very much focused on direct consent. A play partner — in either sense of the word — negotiates what is and is not allowed during time with somebody new. Negotiations may take place exhaustively before play or take place organically during play, but in every good case some variant of the question “may I do xxx” will be asked. Asking to kiss a new lover, or remove her dress, or whip her back and thighs, or paddle her with a wooden paddle, or fuck her from behind; all are various examples of what might be asked in either (or sometimes both) environments. There is respect inherent in the asking. All the fun, all the risk, all the excitement and high of the new Dom, the new scene, the new couple, the new fuck… it’s all built around and based upon respect. Without that respect and the trust granted with it, none of the fun happens.
What about general, more open-space rules, though. In BDSM people generally include hard limits during negotiation. Hard limits are lines that are not to be crossed; if somebody has knife play as a hard limit, the sharp shiny objects don’t come out of the toy bag. Soft limits are more flexible and can be pushed a little, so if so with knife play, maybe the back edge of the steel is used to induce fear without risk of cutting. In a Swinging environment maybe the limit is that oral is fine, but all male orgasms must occur within the confines of a condom. Those can apply to more private and more public affairs, but what about spectators and others within the confines of the space. At a Dungeon, say, maybe somebody has a hard limit against whips because a traumatic experience with a whip once left too many emotional scars, and simply hearing one becomes problematic. Whips are common instruments at Dungeons, though, and play spaces for Scenes often allow a wide radius for people being within earshot. Should whips be disallowed in the general playspace because of somebody having simply the sound of a whip being cracked as a hard limit? Should the person with that limit avoid the common area where such a scene may take place? With whom, if anybody, does the responsibility lie? Or, in a Swinger environment, what if a person cannot stand the smell of male ejaculate, and it makes her sick to her stomach? Should everybody in the group rooms avoid allowing any of that smell to escape? Should she avoid the group room at all costs? What middle ground can be found for all?
I think ultimately people must be responsible for themselves and their immediate playmates while maintaining reasonable safety and courtesy measures for those in the immediate vicinity. At a BDSM event, room is given for a Scene, and people nearby remain quiet so that those involved can stay in proper headspaces. In a Swinger environment, a exhibitionist couple may be fucking where all can see, and have a respectable crowd, but the crowd will watch without intruding. The performers in these cases have a responsibility, then, to control their actions in a way that will not intrude upon the viewership. Bodily fluids stay contained, instruments of pain and pleasure remain controlled, and volumes remain appropriate for the circumstances.
In that light, the rules become simple; respect others even as you get your kink on.
Stay SINful, friends.