Finding a compatible play partner isn't always easy. Intimate interactions can be challenging enough under normal circumstances, and adding a desire for kink to the mix can complicate the situation considerably if it's important to you.
If you're wondering where and how to meet ideal BDSM buddies, I've been in your shoes and this post is for you. Before we dive into details, let's first consider:
Why is it important to be picky about play partners?
Even if you're not seeking a serious or committed relationship, BDSM involves a number of risks and isn't something you want to dive into casually with any and everyone.
In worst-case scenarios (that typically involve crazy people,) tops can end up getting falsely reported for assault, and bottoms can find themselves tied up and alone with a psychopath. Such things are obviously best avoided.
Great play partners approach BDSM with mental and emotional stability, patience, self-assuredness, open-mindedness, maturity, and empathy. They'll also click with you on a personal level and share at least some of your kinky interests and fetishes.
Here are 3 common strategies for meeting play partners that I do NOT personally recommend:
1. Online dating
There are a number of dating apps geared specifically toward kinksters, and mainstream sites like OkCupid do their best to link users based on their fetishes. People also attempt to hook up via Fetlife, the main social networking site for the BDSM inclined.
Online dating does work for some people and I respect that completely. If you know someone who met their soulmate online, I congratulate them on their luck with sparkly rainbows and sincere wishes for bliss!
I also understand why people search for play partners online.
Most people are shy about their kinks.
The internet provides anonymity.
It's convenient, especially for people who live in cities lacking a vibrant or supportive BDSM scene.
I'm not a fan however, because the internet, as we all know, is also a convenient place for predators with less-than-benevolent intentions to go searching for victims. These people use BDSM as an excuse for shitty behavior and make for very dangerous play partners.
You can meet people like this in person obviously, but your bullshit alarm is more likely to go off face-to-face than it is via messaging.
The other issue with online dating is that power exchange hinges on chemistry (as do relationships in general). You can have great interactions with someone via text, but that doesn't mean your personalities will complement one other when you finally meet, which is an unpleasant realization for everyone involved.
"Oh. I was expecting someone a bit less ... you."
So if you want my advice, you might want to skip online venues while seeking out play partners for sexy fun. If you do connect with someone online, take precautions when you meet them in person for the first time. Meet in a public place rather than a hotel or other private venue.
2. Playing with BDSM professionals
Encounters with pro dom(me)s and/or subs can be fantastic if you're looking to fulfill a specific type of fantasy. These people specialize in a variety of techniques, and are trained to make kinky magic happen in the safest way possible. Pros can also be great mentors and instructors if you're looking to learn particular skills.
If your goal is to find a regular play partner, however, this isn't the route to take.
First of all, professionals are (rightly) expensive, and most of us plebeians can't afford their services on a regular basis.
Secondly ... well ... BDSM is a job for them.
That's not to say they don't care about their clients or genuinely adore kink. It's more that these connections might not be what you're looking for long term. A huge part of the fun in BDSM is the quality of intimacy that play generates between practitioners.
I'm guessing you probably want to build trust and rapport with someone who's genuinely dying to play with you because they dig YOU, not because they're doing it for the money.
Emotional investment isn't just electrifying; it also protects you. If you run into personal issues (which tend to arise in BDSM) with a hired professional, can you be confident that they'll be there to support you like a partner would?
Spoiler alert: probably not as much as you'd hope.
People prioritizing their careers in BDSM are less likely to stick with you through play-related challenges than partners who are truly invested in your feelings.
And BDSM is allllllll about feelings, so never downplay the importance of yours.
3. Converting vanilla partners
Kink, like all aspects of sexual orientation, is a spectrum. On one end you have extremely vanilla types who like sex to be gentle at all times. On the other end you have people who only like it rough. Most of us fall somewhere between these extremes, and a very lucky handful can appreciate the entire range.
Wherever you are on this spectrum is fine as long as you and your partner are on similar pages. But if you can't find common ground, kink has the potential to cause major conflict in your relationship.
"I can't wait to tie you up and fuck you in the ass while tugging on your hair and calling you my naughty little bitch."
Some people are super down for this kind of fun. For others, just hearing a sentence like that is disturbing.
I've talked to vanilla friends who hesitantly acquiesced to trying BDSM and ended up feeling so traumatized that their relationships fell apart. I've also known kinky types whose relationships ended because BDSM was a no-go for the other person.
"DOODE. Could we not?!"
The bottom line is, strictly vanilla peeps aren't viable play partners. If kink is important to you, but your partner's not down, you're barking up the wrong tree.
So where's the right tree?
In my experience, your local BDSM community will be the safest and most reliable avenue for meeting fantastic play partners. This is because people involved in the scene usually have a few ideal traits in common.
First of all, they've moved past the point of shame or fear and accepted BDSM as a positive aspect of who they are, rather than viewing it as a personal defect. This attitude is optimal for fruitful experimentation. It's difficult to explore freely and happily if all parties can't approach play with a confident and open mind.
(And it's fine not to be at that point yet. It takes time to feel comfortable about these things. However, it's hard to become more comfortable with your sexuality with partners who have huge hang-ups about their own.)
Secondly, people in the scene are likely to have better intentions, interpersonal skills, and ethics than those who are unwilling to get involved.
The BDSM community provides accountability. If someone intentionally crosses boundaries, everyone will hear about that shit and that person will suffer consequences. Everyone in the scene is aware of this.
Finally, practitioners in the community like BDSM enough to take it seriously, which is crucial if you're looking to delve into the more hardcore aspects of play. Most people outside the community aren't willing to put in the time or learning required for more intense levels of exploration.
So without further ado, here are three great venues within the community for meeting awesome play partners:
1. Public dungeons
Mwahaha. Sounds scary, right?
It's not though, I promise. It's actually an exciting and interesting experience!
Most dungeons have policies designed to keep everyone safe and comfortable, particularly beginners. Some examples include:
Not allowing drugs or alcohol on the premises
Not allowing photography in play areas
Enforcing "house safewords" that can be used by anyone at anytime to stop a scene
Employing staff members to monitor play areas and make sure no risky or non-consensual shit goes down
Another thing to note about dungeons is that no one is expected or required to participate. Plenty of people just go to hang out, chat, and connect with like-minded friends. Attendance does not equal consent.
2. Kinky events
Whether you're attending a bondage performance, latex party, or domination-themed workshop, chances are the other guests are there for the same reasons you are!
This is especially effective if you're seeking a partner who's into your particular fetish. For example, spanking conventions are prime locations for spankers and spankees to hook up.
You can find listings for BDSM-related events in your area via social networks like Fetlife, or by inquiring with the Google gods.
And if you start making friends in the scene, you may come across some in-the-know VIPs with access to underground parties. If they come to trust you over time, you may find yourself on some very interesting Eyes-Wide-Shut-esque invite lists.
A munch is a casual get-together at a neutral public venue, such as a restaurant or cafe. The sole purpose of these gatherings is to let BDSM-inclined people meet and get to know one another. You can find out about munches online and then simply show up at the designated time or place.
(Note: Some munches may require you to RSVP. You'll probably be able to do so anonymously or under a pseudonym if you like.)
Munches aren't only for matchmaking. A lot of regular members go for the camaraderie. Others like to make friends who are studying the same skills or who share the same fetishes. In particularly active communities around the world, niche munches are organized to address groups with specific preferences, like bondage or age-play dynamics.
What I like most about munches is that play itself is off the menu. A pizza parlor's not the place to suggest launching into a kinky scene. (We must be mindful of our lovely vanilla friends, after all.)
This simple fact takes a lot of pressure off of meeting potential partners. At munches you're surrounded by a support system and there's no subtextual urgency during conversations.
e.g. "I'M TALKING TO YOU BECAUSE I WANT TO PLAY RIGHT THIS SECOND."
Yeah, no. People like that don't go to munches because their needs won't immediately be satisfied there.
(Impatient types don't make for good play partners anyway because they generally only think of their own needs. You want partners who honor their own needs while giving just as many fucks about yours.)
"Patience? I can wait alllllll day, honey."
Now, people absolutely DO hook up and play after munches, or at a later date when those involved are feel sufficiently comfortable with one another. It's worked for me and quite a few friends as well.
The system works, so get out there and check out your kinky community.
And a wee word of caution in conclusion:
Obviously when you finally do meet someone you fancy, there's no guarantee that play will happen with that particular person. These delicate situations must be approached with a keen sense of etiquette, which can be fairly confusing due to the non-intuitive nature of BDSM. I'll talk about how to get a hang of this in my next post.
Thanks for reading!