You meet someone online, at a bar, or at a play party and decide to play. What next? Negotiations! Not only does a set of parameters help all players get what they want, it also helps to make a better scene and makes “bad surprises” less likely.
Here is a short list that covers basic negotiations:
Who will take part. It’s not always one on one!
Type of scene. Scenes range from simple sensations to heavy play
Location. Even at a play party, some prefer more privacy than not.
Time, length, ending signal, and aftercare. It’s important for both the Top and bottom to connect after the scene and take care of each other emotionally and physically.
Dominant and submissive titles. Are terms such as Sir, Daddy, boy, slut or other descriptors to be used? Will there be a collar?
Limits. This includes physical limits, emotional boundaries and specific SM activities. It’s important to know about prior physical injuries, prosthetics, medications, allergies and even past incidents (i.e. a history of fainting).
Intoxicants. You need to be present in your body to be safe, sane and consensual.
Gender. Don’t make assumptions about someone’s gender, what gender(s) they play in, or their gender history. If you’re looking for some specific cock or cunt play, ask and negotiate it.
STDs. If you don’t want to ask and there is the possibility of blood or bodily fluids in the scene, assume that your play partner is positive for all types of bugs, and take the proper precautions with barriers to be at a lower risk of transmission.
Sex activities/barrier protection. It’s best to negotiate the specifics of sexual activities beforehand, not when everyone’s endorphins are surging. Having barriers handy or even on will prevent risky activities and not chill the scene.
Bondage. Are there any fears or limits or claustrophobia?
Pain. Be honest about your pain threshold and everyone will have a better time.
Marks. Some activities like flogging or biting can leave marks. Negotiate whether they’re allowed, or if it’s OK on body parts that will normally be covered by clothing.
Safewords. Traffic light colors work well (green is go, yellow slow down, red means stop what you’re doing). A good number of players pick a “scene-ending” safeword, which often is a word or phrase that would not normally come up in conversation such as “Mickey Mouse” or “safeword.” If the play involves a gag or loss of speech (think gas mask), pick a “safe action” like three taps or finger flexing.
Opportunities/special skills. Does the Top or bottom have any special experience such as medical play, electricity or something everyone would like to try?
Follow-up. Debriefing is good, but may not work well immediately after a deep scene because everyone’s headspace is often affected. Set a time – the next day, the next week, or even both – to check in. It helps in becoming a better Top or bottom!
In terms of etiquette inside “the scene,” consider manners that your mama taught you:
Don’t hit anyone (without their consent).
Be respectful–of people, of people’s scenes, their gear, and their space.
Be honest–about yourself, your play levels and your expectations.
Look around and “be present”–Inexperienced is fine, but no one likes a player who doesn’t pay attention or bother to learn.
Basically, if you take the “golden rule” and add a little basic sanitation, you’ll have it.
Most play parties that you go to will have a set of written rules. Read them. And don’t be afraid to ask the host or DMs questions.
But most of all, be polite. It goes a long way, and you’ll find that the polite players are often the ones that get the hot repeat dates.