How to Rock Your First BDSM Play Party

“Play parties” are BDSM gatherings that enable participants to get pervy, play publicly, or just connect with likeminded kinky people. It can be very overwhelming to enter a space designed to encourage desires you rarely express in large group contexts, so I’m here with basic play party etiquette that’ll help you feel as comfortable as possible at your first fetish event.

First, it’s important to accept that if you’re a newbie, you’ll probably look like a newbie — but that’s not a bad thing! Everybody was new once, and we all remember how intimidating that was. As long as you’re respectful and mindful of others, nobody will judge you based on your newness alone.

The basics of a play party (and being invited to one!)

Public play parties

Public play parties are, as the name suggests, events open to the public; they usually occur in a dungeon or fetish space where invitees pay admission. You can find advertisements for these on Fetlife (the social network for the kinky community), queer cruising groups, or sometimes Instagrams or Twitters of publicly/professionally kinky people and party promoters. The upside and the downside of public fetish events is one in the same: anyone can attend. This means you can get your first introduction to your local kink community here, but also that not everyone can be vetted as safe. You may well see kink and/or sex acts being practiced; professionals hired for the event may put on a performance of a particular technique, or private individuals may play with each other. There’s also similar social opportunities as a non-kinky party, like getting to know new friends or potential dating partners or mingling with a drink.

Private play parties

Private parties are mainly set in private residences — essentially, a kinky house party — and are invite-only. Everyone at the party generally knows someone else, which helps create a safer, closer, more intimate play environment. You may see more involved or intense kinds of play, given the intimacy and controlled nature of the space, than you would in a larger, more public play party. If you don’t know any kinky people (or don’t know that you know kinky people) and don’t have anyone to vouch for you, getting involved at a public party and making connections in the larger kink scene in your location is how you’ll meet the people who hold private parties. The other, less intimidating option is attending a “munch,” a casual social event in which kinky people meet up at a restaurant, have a meal, and talk shop — you won’t see or engage in sex or kink play here, as you’ll probably be in a coffeeshop or an Applebee’s, but you can ask questions or learn more about it. Like public play parties, you’re most likely to find out about munches on Fetlife or Facebook cruising groups — look for groups dedicated to your area and follow them, or even local subgroups if there’s a particular aspect of kink you know you want to explore.

In both scenarios, you can expect a mix of people just there to socialize (albeit in a specific and sexualized setting), people playing publicly (which can range from something like spanking over the clothes between friends to an intense scene involving fetish play, nudity and/or sex), and people playing privately in other spaces in the building. There will be some people in established partnerships or kink dynamics who are looking to socialize as a couple or play together; there will be some people cruising either for people to play with at the party or potential dates/play partners outside it. It’s a good idea to decide for yourself ahead of time what kinds of engagement you’re interested in (or if you’d rather just watch and chat, which you can absolutely do!).

Be a prepared pervert

Getting ready properly can do a lot towards you having your best possible first play party experience.

Dress for success

You’re gonna wanna wear something sexy and comfortable that fits the party’s described atmosphere. I’d recommend a bold, conversation-starting piece that represents who you are.

I, in my infinite lack of chill, will usually wear a tank top that broadcasts some interest of what I’m into and flags my interests. Jeans and a baseball cap — a fetish fashion faux pas I made more than once in my youth — are probably too casual, but don’t feel like you need leather and latex to fit in. (Although they’re always cute!) If you wear lingerie, that’s a good easy option, as is anything lacy or sheer. But respect the host’s discretion and cover yourself with a jacket or dress on your way over. When all else fails: just wear black. (Carolyn wrote a full guide to this with different options for trying out a kink party “look” without compromising your personal style or presentation.)

Play preparation

If you intend to engage in play at the party, there are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure you’ve eaten and are hydrated; BDSM expends a whole lot of energy and adrenaline, so proper nourishment will help prevent an intense crash.

Second, while bondage equipment to play on may be provided, most play parties are BYOT (Bring Your Own Toys), and it’s never a bad idea to bring your own favorites, whether you’re a top or a bottom. Some parties, particularly those set in dungeons rather than residences, will have communal toys, but just ’cause there’s a cool whip laying out on a table doesn’t mean it’s for you to use.

If you’re feeling anxious about the social aspect, bring someone with you! Play parties can make for really sexy dates, just be sure to check in ahead of time about what you’re interested in doing, seeing or participating in together. If you’re going to cruise, you can still bring a BDSM buddy; it can alleviate a lot of social anxiety as long you’re both comfortable seeing the other flogging or getting flogged by some hottie.

If you don’t have anyone to come with but are still feeling too awkward or not freaky enough to hang, I have one immutable truth to share with you: kinky people are all nerds, and most nerds are awkward. People in kink scenes who go to play parties choose to be in those spaces because they’re very passionate about their interests or fetishes, which is nerdy by definition. I can guarantee you that any given play party is full of people, both new and experienced, who feel just as socially awkward or anxious as you do.

Set your expectations

Kink encompasses so many different things that any two fetishists can be equally kinky in the abstract while having completely different proclivities — so be aware that while you’ll probably see some scenes you really enjoy, you’re just as likely to witness play that you don’t like or that may even make you uncomfortable or triggered. While it’s fine to be uncomfortable with someone else’s kink, know that it’s your responsibility to remove yourself from the situation in that case, not the players’ responsibility to stop.

On the topic of safety, any good play party that doesn’t have these essentials is not worth attending:

  • Safe sex supplies: Barriers, lube, and gloves to use at your discretion
  • Cleaning supplies: Cavicide, alcohol, towels, and puppy pads. Play can get dirty and that’s hot, but not everyone wants to roll around in your sweat, squirt and blood, so always clean up after yourself.
  • Dungeon Monitor: A dungeon monitor, or DM, is the person who makes sure everyone is playing safely, respecting the space and each other’s boundaries. If you see someone not doing this or are unsure if someone is, talk to your DM.

A lot of parties will have alcohol and snacks, which both support the general social gathering atmosphere and fit into the play party environment. Snacks are great for keeping blood sugar up before or after a scene. Alcohol is obviously a social lubricant that can lower inhibitions that could hinder you from interacting with that gorgeous power bottom, but don’t overdo it! Play parties are not a space for excessive drunkenness, as it makes you a non-consensual hazard to other attendees, their scenes, and yourself. If you’re drunker than you look, let your play partner know so they can decide if they’re comfortable playing with you or not on this occasion.

Keep in mind when checking out potential new play partners

Pay attention to D/s etiquette (collars)

D/s etiquette is a big topic, but the most essential concept to understand for the sake of play party attendance is the collar. Out in the world collars and chokers can be cute fashion accessories, but a submissive usually only wears a collar if it’s given to them (referred to as “being collared”) by a Dominant they’re either owned by or in service to. To quote my Dominant, the beautiful terrifying Dahlia Snow, “I’d say almost never cruise an obviously collared person unless you already knew them and their dynamic.” If you’re not somebody’s personal submissive, don’t wear a collar. It will confuse people.

Plan to communicate for pick-up play

You meet someone cute, you hit it off, and you’re ready to get freaky immediately. That’s called “pick-up play,” and unlike building a longterm kink relationship where you take your time getting to know each other and filling out fetish spreadsheets, its spontaneous nature requires more concise, to-the-point negotiation of the scene you want to engage in. A good list of things to hit upon before a pick-up play scene would be:

  •  Pain tolerance on a scale of 1 – 10
  • What you want to do together
  • Hard nos (things they absolutely don’t want to do)
  • Soft nos (things you are cautious/scared of, but may want to try)
  • What you do or don’t like to be called
  • Safe words – the thing either of you can say to stop or pause the scene, “red” and “yellow” respectively being the most common safe word for each

For bottoms playing with a top for the first time, you may find they’re hesitant to go heavy — but erring on the side of caution is always the responsible choice with someone you’re not intimately acquainted with, even if you are able to take more.

Aftercare

The last thing to hit on in pre-scene negotiations is what aftercare each of you needs. Engaging in BDSM and other sexual taboos can be a very intense experience that may leave you feeling shaky and drained. Aftercare brings you back to feeling safe and okay, especially for bottoms/submissives — although dom/me tops need aftercare too! Don’t neglect it. Common aftercare actions can be: holding each other, talking, giving positive affirmations, or bringing the other person food or water.

If you’re topping and your bottom says they don’t need aftercare, it’s still a good idea to get them water and make space for them to chill with you for a second before jumping out into the party to ensure they don’t unexpectedly crash. You can also offer to check in with a text message the next day to make sure everything’s alright with them emotionally and physically.

If you’re a bottom, check if your top needs aftercare. Even after the beatings have ended, the scene isn’t really over until aftercare has been addressed. If you can’t make sure your playmate gets the aftercare they need, you really shouldn’t be playing with them.

Feel free to watch if you don’t want to play

BDSM play is encouraged at a play party — but it’s not required. Just snacking and socializing while surrounded by kinky activity can be fun on its own. If someone’s playing in a public area of the party, feel free to watch. Being a voyeur to someone else’s exhibitionist fantasy can both be really hot, and is a great way to learn new things; just remember to make sure you aren’t imposing over their scene or talking too loudly.

If you do decide to play, be conscious of the level of play you choose to engage in; it can be tempting to engage in certain BDSM activities to look or feel “cool,” but remember to not do play above your skill level at a community event. This puts the whole party at risk if something goes very wrong, and no one wants the paramedics or police called.

Don’t interrupt someone’s scene

I touched on this briefly above, but it’s the number one mistake I see new people make, so I can not reiterate it enough. BDSM is a deeply intimate, intense, and personal experience. There’s a lot of energy exchange involved and for some people (myself included), it’s as or more powerful and meaningful than sex. So unless they initiate it, do not talk to or touch someone while they’re playing (this includes aftercare). The best point of comparison would be for you to think how frustrated you would feel if someone interrupted you going down on your girlfriend to tell you how cool it is.

Speak up!

Say hi! Tell someone they’re hot! Ask for what you want!

Even if she seems like the scariest Mistress you’ve ever seen, remember: she’s just a person! Saying hi to her won’t hurt (until you want it to). Flirting or just meeting someone new at a play party is so fun! Someone may come up to you, but also, be as proactive as you can in approaching new people yourself. I know queer flirting anxiety is real; my number one tip is to accept that you might get rejected… and that’s okay! You can only really get what you want if you ask for it, and if they say no, move on and flirt with someone new. I believe it was either Aristotle or me that said “A quiet bottom is an empty bottom and closed holes don’t get filled.” It was probably Aristotle.

Don’t make assumptions, and prioritize consent always

These may as well be the golden rules of play parties. Maybe I’m just saying this as a bottom frequently mistaken for a top, but don’t assume — not about identities, desires, boundaries, anything. Assumptions are the enemy of direct communication and understanding. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; just make sure to be respectful and un-intrusive.

As far as actually engaging in play, remember that for some people, engaging in their kink is the whole act, not foreplay for sex, so never assume that sex is part of the package. Check in throughout your play, even if safe words haven’t been used. If you wanna be a brat pretending to hate everything, it can take the sexy out of it to outright say “yeah, I’m loving it,” so choose non-verbal cues ahead of time to signal you’re good to continue. My go-to is an arm squeeze that I return if it’s okay to keep going.

It seems basic, but a sexually charged environment can make you lower your inhibitions and may lead you to believe there are less rules, but in fact there are usually more — because BDSM runs on rules. So unless you’re specifically told otherwise, don’t touch anyone without their consent.

Also, not everybody is out as kinky. Never take pictures without consent. If you run into someone you met at a play party outside, don’t mention where you met without checking in first.

It’s okay to make mistakes (and you don’t need to leave if you do)

There are quite a few BDSM-specific social rules that can be hard to keep track of, especially in a sexually charged situation — so know that you may mess up, but don’t see it as the end of your kinky world. We were all new once and we’ve all made mistakes. What matters is that you’re open to learning and acknowledge your mistakes. Use the situation as a growing experience rather than internalizing it as a failure.

Going to a play party for the first time — or the first few times! — can be intimidating, and it’s easy to feel pressure to Do It Right and make a good impression on the hot kinky people in your area. Remember that both play and parties are supposed to be fun! Let yourself have fun and low expectations, showing up in the spirit of exploration, trying new things with curiosity and enthusiasm, rather than focusing on how you’re perceived or set-in-stone desires for how you want the night to go. Who knows what memorable new friends, fantasies, knowledge or experiences you might leave with if you’re open to them!

Chingy is a writer, actress, humorist, and bottom of extraordinary ability based out of Los Angeles and Oakland. Her passions include pop culture, femme tops, meat, and publicly indulging her plethora of fetishes. She is not to be confused with mid-oos rapper Chingy and she is really not sure why she is allowed on tv as much as she has been. Chingy can be found at @TheGayChingy on Instagram and Twitter, slinging hyper-specific gay memes, career updates, and Femme4Femme thirst traps. Did we mention she's a bottom?

Chingy has written 3 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. Love this! It’s so comprehensive! I especially appreciate the communication suggestions – play parties can be overwhelming, even if it’s not your first, and having excellent default q’s to fall back on is super helpful 🙂

  2. Just want to offer that I’ve been going to play parties both private and public for many years, and the vast, vast majority do NOT offer alcohol and explicitly ban its use at parties, as well as drugs. There’s just too much at stake in terms of safety and consent to risk any “blurred lines.” I’d honestly be wary of attending a public party in particular if alcohol is allowed. It would make me concerned about the organizers’ ability to create a safe(r) space.

    • This is very interesting to me as someone who has also attended play parties, both private and public, for years. While I in no way doubt your experience, my own experience has been more aligned with what I said in the article, with a majority but not all the parties I’ve attended having alcohol. This also is probably just the result of different kink culture in different scenes and cities, although it is something I’ve experienced a few different places.

      Regardless, thank you so much for your input!

      • That’s so interesting. I wonder what the difference is? I’ve only played on the West Coast. Maybe there’s more of a culture of defaulting to sobriety out here? And most of my public play party experience has been at public-yet-membership-based venues like Seattle’s former Wet Spot (can’t remember what it’s called now), so maybe it was partially due to liability/insurance concerns.

        I don’t want to say people can’t or shouldn’t play under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but I guess I would hope that it’s only with someone you know well and have built trust with, and that you’re tailoring your play accordingly. Like, if you’re tipsy, maybe that’s not a good time to mess around with fire or blood play or breath control, probably better to just have some lighter naughty fun.

        And as others have said: This is a great and helpful starting point, thank you!

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