Play Party Etiquette
So now you’ve made it out to a play party! Congratulations! These first steps are the hardest. If you’ve gone to a few munches, you should know some people going to the party, but sometimes you will end up going to a place where you don’t know everyone. There are some universal rules that you can follow to ensure you don’t make a fool of yourself.
Private, semi-private or public?
The first thing you have to determine is what type of play party you are attending because there are usually different rules for different types of parties.
A public play party is open to everyone, usually held at a nightclub or other public venue. You may see posters around (depending on where you live) or other advertising. There may be a dress code, but pretty much anyone who buys a ticket can walk in the door.
A semi-private play party will sometimes be advertised on fetish or kink centred websites. They are usually open to most, but you can expect to be vetted (more on this later). Often it’s a group or kink organisation that holds the parties, often in a commercial dungeon space or similar venue.
A private play party is invite only and is usually held at a person’s home (since many of us have a home dungeon) or in a rented dungeon space. You won’t even know this party is happening unless you’re on the guest list.
Because of the nature of what we do, you can expect to be vetted before getting the address or being allowed into a semi-private play party event.
While it can be daunting, all this really means is that you may be asked a few basic questions if you aren’t already known to the host. You may be asked for references, a person known to both you and the host or a person well known in the community. It’s polite to ask if a person will be a reference to you before giving their name.
You may need a person who will ‘vouch’ for you – if you behave inappropriately, both you and your friend can be asked not to return. You may also be asked if you have attended other play parties, or what sort of experience you have in the community. Don’t worry if you’re new, just be honest. Organisers understand that everyone has to start somewhere.
Some organizations ask for your online handle for FetLife, a popular kink website, so they can take a look at who you present yourself as.
While these will vary (check with the party host) here are some general guidelines. The type of play party may have a bearing on the dress code; a formal dinner party will require more formal wear while a club play party requires a different look entirely.
Public play parties
There is usually a fetish dress code, how strict will depend on the party host. Fetish clothing includes leather, latex, PVC, uniforms, lingerie, sports gear, cosplay outfits, zentai and pretty much any clothing you can have a fetish for.
If you don’t have any of that, formal wear is generally accepted. If there is a theme, any outfit that fits is usually ok. There is often a ban on jeans (except under chaps) and other casual wear.
At public events, it is required that people leave at least underwear on, so full nudity is not acceptable. Toplessness will be dependent on local laws, so be sure to check first. If toplessness isn’t allowed, you will probably see a lot of pasties.
Private and semi-private play parties
These play parties often don’t have a dress code, or will have a business casual or relaxed dress code. Check with your host to know for sure.
Nudity happens at a lot of these parties. At private and semi-private play parties people walking around in undergarments is common, full nudity is common during play scenes. Check with your host or take cues from the other guests before taking it all off.
There are some parties – CFNM and CMNF – where one gender is required to be nude, while the other stays dressed. Clothed Female, Naked Male parties have been popular with the FemDom crowd for many years, and I’m seeing more Clothed Male, Naked Female parties happening now too.
Whatever you decide to wear, it’s common to dress in a more vanilla way and change when you arrive at the play party. If you want to arrive dressed, make sure that you have vanilla acceptable outer-wear, so that you aren’t exposed walking up to the door. It means fewer questions from nosy neighbours (yours and the hosts).
Interacting with other guests
There are some basic rules for interaction that exist in addition to regular rules of social interaction.
Don’t assume titles – you can’t always tell what role a person plays by the way they dress, their gender presentation or anything else. Calling a random person ‘Mistress’, ‘Sir’ or ‘slave’ implies a relationship that doesn’t exist, and many people find this offensive. Stick to calling people by the name they offer, not some role you think they should fill.
On that note, remember that submissives are not communal property, don’t issue orders to people you haven’t negotiated with. Likewise, dominants are only your Dominant after you’ve negotiated it, kneeling in front of random Dominants (or similar behaviour) is not acceptable.#BDSM #submissives are not communal property, don’t issue orders to people you haven’t negotiated… Click To Tweet
In kinky circles, gender can be a bit of a challenge. While you will quickly get used to the protocol, it’s always best to ask someone which pronouns they prefer if you are unsure. Most people will appreciate you asking rather than guessing incorrectly. These types of questions get easier the more you ask them.
DO NOT EVER touch other people without asking permission first. A disturbing trend lately has been some people walking up to people they don’t know and rubbing their shoulders. This type of thing is highly unacceptable and can result in your removal from the party. You may have to ask the Dominant’s permission to touch a submissive, so don’t be surprised. A person’s clothing or lack thereof is not an invitation to touch – ask and negotiate all contact.
Don’t touch a person’s collar. A collar is an intensely intimate item, it often symbolizes the relationship between a dominant and submissive (or a similar sentiment). Touching a collar is considered to be extremely rude. Feel free to offer compliments, the person may then invite you to touch it, but be sure to respect their boundaries.Don’t touch a person’s #collar. A collar is an intensely intimate item, it often symbolizes the… Click To Tweet
Don’t touch other people’s toys without asking first. Even if you have permission to touch a toy, don’t turn and use the toy on your sub (or ask your Dom to use it on you). Everyone should be bringing their own toys to the party, and other people’s collections are not yours to use (unless they offer).
Remember basic manners; please and thank-you will always impress. Treat everyone with respect, regardless of role.
Play that happens at parties is fair game for spectators to watch. However, it isn’t a performance or entertainment for the party. Here’s how to perv the play without being a creep.
Make sure you give the players enough space. Some parties have a designated play area where spectators are kept behind a velvet rope or other barrier. Others have play happening all over the place. Make sure to keep a respectful distance. This will often be about 10 feet, depending on the party. It is much better to err on the side of caution and leave more space.
Keep your voice down. The players don’t need to hear your comments or commentary on their play. If you want to compliment them, wait until after they are done.
Don’t interrupt play. If you see something that concerns you, alert a DM (Dungeon Monitor). People play in their own style, which may look very different from yours. Don’t forget that aftercare is part of the scene, so give people time to recover after they play.Don’t forget that #aftercare is part of the #BDSM scene, so give people time to recover after they… Click To Tweet
DMs are there to ensure that the party runs smoothly and that the players are safe. They can usually be identified by armbands, sashes or other things denoting their role.
Don’t masturbate while watching (or at the play party in general), unless the players have invited you to do so. Even in a sex-positive space, it’s rude to wank and it can upset or distract the players.
Avoid making eye contact with the players. It can distract them and pull a bottom out of their headspace.
Be aware of the demand for the equipment. If it’s a busy play party limit your scene to a reasonable length of time. Packed parties are not the place for an epic 3-hour scene.
If you are doing any edge play or unusual play, inform the DM first. They may want to assign someone to be nearby for assistance, have the fire extinguisher handy or cover corners on tables or equipment.
Be aware of how much space your scene takes. Single tails in a crowded dungeon space may not be the best idea, wait until the crowd thins a bit.
Be aware of your noise level. Dominants shouting orders or bottoms screaming at the top of their lungs can be very distracting to the other players and can disrupt the energy of the party.
Make sure you clean up when you’re done. Most play spaces will provide wipes to clean equipment after use. Also, put a towel down if anyone is nude, it will make everyone more comfortable.
If you are engaging in messy play, use a drop sheet to keep the mess to a minimum and make cleaning up easier.
Don’t do aftercare at the play station. Exit the play area and find a quiet place to sit with your partner.
Don’t join in scenes in progress unless you’re invited or it has been negotiated beforehand. This includes touching anyone involved, touching the toys or giving suggestions.
Don’t show up under the influence or get wasted while at the party. A drink or two is fine but don’t get out of control. Many parties will be dry or actively discourage alcohol and other recreational substances. Public parties at bars or clubs will sell drinks, so it is your responsibility to know your limits and not play while under the influence.
Don’t out people. If you know them from vanilla life, don’t bring up those details in kinky circles – some people need or want to keep their worlds separate. Likewise, if you see kinky people in the vanilla world, don’t bring up kink. Be discrete.
Don’t bring cameras or take pictures at parties. If you really want to take a photo, make sure you clear it with the DM first. The DM will usually confirm with everyone in the frame that they want to be in the picture.
Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. If you have broken one of the rules of etiquette, accept the correction gracefully, own up to it and apologise to those affected. Most people will be very forgiving. If you are ever unsure about etiquette, ask someone with more experience. Err on the side of caution to avoid uncomfortable social situations.
Sometimes you will find events listed as high protocol, these events have rules that are much more strict than regular play parties. You will generally have access to the rules before the party (each group will have their own rules) so learn them well. Breaches of protocol in these types of settings can result in not being included in future events.