Out of the Shadows: Is It Safe to Meet a Dom in Real Life?


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Is It Safe to Meet a Dom in Real Life?
by Non-Famous Lauren

[The following is an edited version of a post I once posted to the Internet newsgroup ASB.]

I recently received private email from a woman in Pittsburgh asking an important question that I have not seen discussed recently. I quote from her email with her permission:

"Is it safe to meet someone through the Internet that is going to be tying me up and whipping me?"

There is no way I can give a blanket answer to this question, but I will give it a try and offer some suggestions. Here are six rules of thumb.

Before I begin, I want to point out there are many, many safe, honorable doms and tops out there, experienced folks and novices alike! This post is intended to open a frank discussion of how to make a pass at avoiding some of the horror stories. Because unfortunately, there are some verified horror stories around, and there are likely even more stories that go unreported.

Meeting any stranger is risky, of course; and meeting someone for BDSM purposes or even to discuss that possibility is no exception. For anyone who is submissive, for females, and even for the strongest of males, there are additional risks associated with being bound or giving in psychologically to submission. Because of the additional risk, the portion of the Scene community in which I hang out has some safeguards. I will try to list some of these widely used precautions below.

First: Honorable tops and doms willingly offer references. If you are thinking of meeting someone in real life, I strongly urge you to ask him directly for references of playpartners he (I am going to use the male pronoun from now on, but if it is a female, just please substitute "she") has previously played with. Do contact those references! This system is normal and customary, and no dom who is honorable is offended to be asked or asked about. If the person is new to the Scene, perhaps he can offer other sexual partners as references.

The Net also affords a fairly good grapevine if you work a little at finding folks who might be in the dom's local Scene community or Internet/BBS circles. People I know in the Scene often ask around discreetly about a prospective dom or top. Most people who respond try hard not to gossip or blacken a person's reputation while still relaying any actual problems they have heard. Violations of safeword, violations of known safe practices, and physical abuse are the most common occurrences that circulate on the grapevine. The way I often handle this is to refer the asker directly to the party who had a negative (or positive) experience, trying not to relay directly what I have heard as a third party. However, sometimes, if the information is bad enough, I have relayed information directly. One reason for this might be if the injured party is afraid to reveal her name or be spoken to directly---for example, if the dom knows her address and might figure out she was relaying information he doesn't like. Those cases thankfully are rare in my experience, but there are a few names out there with reputations so terrifying that it pays to check.

Second: Take what you learn seriously! Recurrences when the person has been warned are extremely sad and frustrating. In several cases I have heard of, women who were warned were simply incredulous and disregarded the information. They were sure that a dom so wonderful and loving in his courtship of them could not possibly violate negotiations and safety in such ways, or might have done that with someone else but would never do that to them---until the same thing happened to them. It is always possible that someone who was the wrong match for one person is a great match for someone else; but it is foolish to get so wrapped up in your fantasy life that you disregard first-person accounts completely. At minimum, discuss the report with the dom or do some more checking. It is also very sad that honorable tops, especially males, have a harder time reassuring prospective partners of their abilities all because there are some bad eggs amongst humanity, but the risks are a fact that cannot be brushed aside.

Third: Meet people first in a public setting. Malls and restaurants are common choices. This advice is so well-known and so independent of BDSM that I will not elaborate. Letting a stranger pick you up at the airport or at your apartment might seem convenient, but the risks are evident.

Fourth: Get a friend to serve as backup or "safety." This is very common, especially if you have not been able to speak first-hand to any people who have played with your top or dom in real life. It could mean having a friend staying in the living room while you and the dom play in the bedroom. It could mean playing first at a playparty; or it could mean having a prearranged agreement to make a phone call to a friend any time you change venues or at a pre-specified time. Let the dom know you will be making these arrangements -- their purpose should be deterrence and your comfort. Once again, honorable tops and doms are not offended by expressions of concern for safety and are happy to try to think up ways to make their bottoms or submissives comfortable.

Fifth: Have clear in your own mind what will constitute a warning bell. An unforgettable and very fine post starting the thread "Scared Back to Vanilla" on ASB (alt.sex.bondage, now soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm [Internet newsgoups]) once described a woman whose top started triggering warning bells with her right off. She chose to ignore those bells, though, probably thinking her reactions were normal and that she was just inexperienced. She really wanted the experience and hoped it would be ok; but in the end she had an experience so bad that she has sworn off BDSM, at least for a while.

A dom who agrees on the phone to accept safeword but then meets with you and suddenly says he wants to play without safeword, or someone who pulls out a knife in scene when knives were not negotiated and do not feel acceptable to you as unnegotiated toys, or someone who argues with you about the safe sex practices you have specified should be setting off immediate warning bells! Listen to your internal warning bells and stop things before they get to the point where you will regret what you have done.

Some people recommend playing with a safeword, especially when starting out with a partner. I tend to like this practice myself, and I would be suspicious of a top or dom who utterly refused ever to play with a bottom or sub who has the right to safeword. However, I would not go so far as to say that playing without safeword with a new partner is necessarily dangerous. I know many honorable tops and doms whose play is the epitome of safety with no need for safewords. I tend to think of safewords as a communication device during play, and since there are many other ways to communicate it is quite possible to arrange for safe play without safewords. And after all, no safeword at all will stop someone who is out to rape or harm someone; so having a safeword is not an effective precaution when it comes to the most horrifying risks of playing with a relative stranger. Even so, I think that a top or dom who utterly refuses to consider playing with you if you want to have a safeword is ringing warning bells that should warrant extra precautions: say, additional checking with other of that person's playpartners. This is particularly true if you yourself are a novice at BDSM, in which case you yourself do not know how you will tend to react in a scene, much less have a clear sense about the complex range of practices that devious tops and doms can use to push your limits.

Sixth: Read some books about safety practices in BDSM. That way you will recognize it if you see the dom doing something unsafe. Do not confine yourself to books that were written for people only of your sexual orientation, either. Safe rope-tying and flogging techniques apply to everyone, gay, lesbian, and heterosexual alike. There are only a few books around, and the more you read the more you will learn. Other good ways to learn about safety are to talk in real life to other folks who do BDSM, either at Munches or in organized educational/social groups. People in the Scene are extremely happy to share safety tips.

MORE INFO:
Moving from IRC
to real life relationships
And last: Having done your homework and having found a person who sounds like a good match for you, have a wonderful time and share anything you learned about safety with the rest of us!

© 1997 non-famous Lauren

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