So you're comfortable whacking your wife with an electric flyswatter, chaining your husband to the hot water heater, watching your girlfriend hump a mop handle on webcam, and "forcing" your boyfriend to pick up the contents of an entire bag of Doritos off of the carpet--with his mouth. You've owned your kinkiness, and you're ready to meet and greet other like-minded adults for friendship and maybe more. But how, exactly, do you take your kinks from the bedroom to a local playspace?
Denver's delightfully demented dominatrix, Mistress Saskia, has street cred and a hard and fast rep for being especially welcoming to new kinksters. Being a premier pro-domme with plenty of experience, she is full of wisdom, wise-assery, and solid advice on how kinky noobs can enter the Denver scene unscathed.
"I believe that whatever way people choose to explore kink is valid for them, as long as they're not damaging other people," she says. "That's not always a perspective that's comfortable for the more hidebound [so to speak] leatherfolk, but it makes me a safer, more non-judgmental person for new people to approach for guidance because I'm going to encourage them to do what feels right for them and offer them insight into how they can do that without impinging on the boundaries of others."
There are some common myths that being part of the scene means a huge time/social commitment, or that there are stone-set roles, or that you have to do crazy or extreme things just because others do. Saskia says it's not true.
"You don't have to be in a 24/7 Master/slave relationship for your kink to be valid," she explains. "You don't have to do extreme acts to be a 'real' player. It's not a contest. Personal authenticity -- being true to yourself -- is going to be far more rewarding to yourself and others in the long-run than feeling like you have to conform to arbitrary expectations before you'll be taken seriously. 'Serious' is overrated. Play can be playful, lighthearted and surprisingly innocent. It can also be dark, intense and scary. One is not greater or lesser than the other, and when I'm helping guide new people in the scene, I make an effort to get that across as clearly as possible."
And with open minds comes open mouths -- ones that ask many, many questions -- which is why Saskia has a list of answers for these frequently asked questions.
"Who are you people? Why am I glued to this packing container? What are you doing with that chainsaw? Where's my Mommy? Is that a TV crew? How can I sign a model release when my hands are stuck? What are you doing with that bucket of softballs and that pitching machine? Can someone please get me a hockey mask?"
Okay, so most (though not all) of those are jokes. But here are the questions Saska says newbies should be asking themselves:
"What do I hope to get out of this? What happens if people I work with find out? What happens if my family finds out? What's legal and what's not? If injuries are incurred during play, who's responsible for medical costs?"
Questions to ask of scene people are things like:
"What are standard expectations of behavior at play parties? What does one do if things go wrong? What safety mechanisms are in place? What privacy protections are in place? And most importantly, who's your Daddy?"
The next step is donning your best chaps and/or fishnets and doing something really scary -- leaving your house. Saskia says that hitting Denver's only public--but members-only--dungeon club and attending the orientation will give the newbies an excellent grounding in public scene dos, don'ts and please-do-agains.
"Going to a place like the Denver Sanctuary is an excellent first step towards entering the public scene," she says. "Going to the Sanctuary means you can go through an orientation that'll break down what club rules are and how to comport yourself so as to minimize offense to others and making sure you're clear on what your own rights are."
Once in the club, knowledge is power, and although hard rules are articulated, there are the more subtle but equally important social mores that will keep new kinksters safe and respectful around the regular crowd.
Saskia says relax....
"Plan on doing more chatting and observing than playing, she says. "Ask a lot of questions, but not of people who are in the act of playing. Interrupting people who are in the middle of a scene (e.g., one person is in restraints and another person is doing things to them that cause the person in restraints to make funny faces and noises) is the ultimate in bad manners. The only thing worse would be joining in a scene in progress without being invited. It's far better to observe the range of play styles through the course of an evening and to chat with people than to assume it's a free-for-all and that anything goes."
What is one basic but seriously cardinal sin to avoid committing? Being too greedy too fast.
A common noob mistake is to approach numerous people in a short amount of time, asking for play. The people who've been around for awhile are quite aware of who the new people are and when we're one of a dozen people someone's just asked for play without bothering to get to know us at all first, it's clear that each person is interchangeable to the noob. Nobody likes to feel that way. It's not a lot different than seeing guys at singles bars wander around a room, approaching every woman they see that isn't clearly standing with a male date. You're marking yourself as a person with no discretion and that crassness is a major turnoff. Show a little class and don't get so overwhelmed by the candy store that the candy store boots you out before you get so much as a jelly bean. I wish 'jelly bean' were a euphemism for something dirty. Let's say 'jelly bean' means 'spanking scene'. There. Now jelly bean is a euphemism and fits nicely with the whole candy store metaphor."
Armed with this useful advice, a last bucket of chicken-fried tasty tips from Mistress Saskia will give new kinksters a forward-thinking plan for both club and, when the time is right, post-club meetups or "play dates." It can be difficult adjusting to and understanding the roles of dominant and submissive when playing with others for the first time, but caution, care and consideration are great qualities in play partners, new or otherwise.
"Submissves may indeed be submissive, but that doesn't mean that they're obligated to be submissive to any old person that happens along and barks an order at them, Saskia says. "They're valuable as human beings and deserving of respect and consideration at all times. When they've met someone that they feel a connection with or attraction to and they hope to pursue casual play or more of a relationship, they have got to be clear about what their boundaries are and they have got to have enough respect for themselves to insist that dominants respect those boundaries. The difficult part is that many are so eager to finally get a chance to explore kink that they'll ignore red flags and allow boundaries to be crossed and won't hold dominants accountable for poor behavior. That's when damage is most likely to happen."
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She goes on to say that, "With the dominants, they need to know that they're not infallible. Submissives are not children and can actually think on their own, and a lot of dominants tend to forget that. Our egos are more fragile than we'd like to think, and we don't always take criticism well, but the best dominants understand that a dominant/submissive interaction or relationship isn't one-sided, and will take the time to listen to what their partner is saying and adapt when something isn't working."
Taking your kinks public is a huge leap of faith, requires more than a little trust, and being prepared with as much education, planning and foresight is the best way to approach it. And having some extra flyswatters and bags of Doritos for your new kinky friends couldn't hurt.