BDsM vetting tips

One of the most challenging and exciting parts of BDsM is finding someone to play with.  Although some fantasies can be acted out on your own, eventually most of us are going to seek out someone to join in the fun.  For some people, this will mean working BDsM into an existing relationship.  For others, it means finding someone completely new to play with.

person in brown sweater holding white tablet computer
Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

If you’re searching for a play partner outside a relationship, things can get downright stressful.  Not only do you have to go through the process of meeting someone you don’t know, deciding if you get along and establishing trust, you also have to figure out if this person is right for the dynamic you’re hoping to create.  Although there are plenty of people who are eager to fill this role, only a small number of those potential partners will be a good fit.

There are a range of reasons why a person might not be a suitable play partner for you.  They might lack the technical skills to execute the particular type of scene that you’re hoping to explore.  They might not be trustworthy, and placing yourself in their hands might be dangerous.  It could also be as simple as a clash of personalities.  Although BDsM is fun and playful, it can also pose some very real dangers, and it’s vitally important that you choose your play partners wisely.  Today, I’m going to provide a few tips to help you vet potential play partners and weed out the ones that won’t work for you.

Know what you want

You won’t be able to find your ideal play partner if you have no idea what you’re looking for.  It’s like going to the grocery store without a list: you might come home with a bag full of goodies, but none of them are what you needed in the first place.  Start off by thinking long and hard about what qualities your ideal play partner will have.  Do you want them to have specific skills?  Would you prefer an experienced player, or would a newbie be Ok?  Do you want to take the top or bottom role? Do you want a sexual or romantic relationship, or are you on the lookout for play only?

Take your time to make a list of your non-negotiable qualities.  Remember to think about safety concerns such as skill level and trustworthiness as well as aesthetics.  Do not sell yourself short and be brutally honest about the type of play partner you want. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Look for red flags

Just as you need to know what you’re looking for, it’s also beneficial to flesh out the things you don’t want.  Think carefully about the things that make your skin crawl, or signals that might indicate to you that a person is not going to be a good fit for you. These can be basic preferences such as incompatible play styles (Your style is more nurturing while they like hard-core humiliation) or a desire for complete discretion rather than a public relationship.  You also want to think about the clues that might point to a lack of skill, trustworthiness or respect of boundaries.  These red flags might include things like:

  • Very young players who use honorific titles such as “Master”
  • People who flat-out refuse to engage in important parts of relationship building and establishment of boundaries, such as being reluctant to negotiate, use safewords or perform aftercare.
  • Players who seem to go through a lot of play partners quickly
  • People who are overly familiar, such as a potential dominant sending you an initial message calling you “little one” or “pet” or “slave” without any prior negotiation of terms.

Creating a list of red flags (and adding to it over time) is a good way to identify people who don’t respect your boundaries and aren’t going to be a good partner to explore with.

Ask for credentials

This tip is particularly pertinent for any bottoms who are searching for tops.  Ask any potential play partner about their experience, how long they’ve been in the scene, and details of any training or workshops that they’ve done.  This is especially important if you’re hoping to explore any of the more specialized or dangerous kinks such as rope bondage, suspension bondage, sharps play or edge play.  Find out whether they’ve had any special training in these areas.  If you’re not satisfied that they’re experienced enough to play safely, don’t play with them.  If they’re honest about a lack of experience, but are willing to take it slow and learn together, then assess whether you’re ok with this. Make sure that you’re comfortable every step of the way.  Do not put yourself in the hands of somebody that you cannot trust, or who is over-confident or dishonest about their abilities.

Get some references

Just like if you were an employer interviewing a potential employee, it can be helpful to get references.  Ask them if they have some previous play partners that can vouch for them.  Ask around your friends in the BDsM community to find out if they have a reputation for being safe and trustworthy.  If you know they like to play publicly, have a chat with people who frequent the same play parties or dungeons.  If a person has been a poor partner in the past, or if they’re known for engaging in dangerous or questionable behaviour, asking around within the community is a good way to find out about it.

Don’t play on the first date

Even if you’re not looking for a romantic relationship, I recommend treating the search for a play partner like the early stages of dating.  While it can be super exciting to find someone that you imagine could fulfill all your dirty fantasies, it’s important to keep one foot on the ground until you’re certain that it’s safe to leap in.  Meet up a few times in public, vanilla settings to establish whether you feel comfortable with them.  Then meet in private to discuss and negotiate.  Have at least a couple of meetings where play isn’t on the agenda so that you can feel them out and make a decision about whether you want to proceed. It can be easy to get swept up, and it’s tempting to fast forward to your dream BDsM scene, but you need to keep your excitement in check until you’re certain that this is the person you’re happy to explore with.

Listen to your gut

Instincts are a powerful tool when it comes to deciding if a person is right for you or not.  A lot of us can find it difficult to decipher our feelings due to past traumas.  A history of being taught to stamp down our true feelings can leave our inner voice muffled.  But in my experience, if something doesn’t feel right, that’s because it probably isn’t.  If an interaction with a person leaves you feeling uneasy, then I’d recommend proceeding with caution.  If your hackles are up because of something they’ve said, or if their story doesn’t seem to add up, you are under no obligation to go any further.  Listen to your gut and don’t stay in a situation that doesn’t feel right.  You deserve to be with someone who you feel comfortable with and trust.  You do yourself a disservice by playing with someone you’re unsure about because you’re worried that you’re overreacting, or that you might not get another chance.

Finding a play partner can be a daunting task.  The best thing that you can do is take your time, gather all the information available and proceed only when you feel sure that you’ve found a good fit.  There’s no sense in rushing forward, because the best play partnerships are built slowly, carefully and with a lot of effort and mutual respect.

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