Dungeon/Play party etiquette can vary from event to event, venue to venue. The dungeon you were at last weekend may have had a very rigid code of conduct. One you’re interested in attending next month may appear to operate on a free-for-all basis. Even your favorite event host may have changing party protocols based solely upon the venue they secure.
This can be confusing, and even frustrating, at times. I get it. As a many-decades kinkster, I’ve seen dungeon etiquette run the gambit.
So, how do I combat the confusion? For every event I plan to attend, even if I’ve been there before, I proactively seek the rules. And, I do it BEFORE purchasing my ticket. With little effort you can locate them. Dungeons usually have club rules clearly listed on their website. On FetLife, they’re almost always posted within the event page description. If you have trouble finding them, reach out to the host directly. Just don’t wait until the day of the event when everyone’s setting up and too busy to answer PM’s and emails.
Although party-specific rules can vary, there are commonly accepted universal rules in the kink community.
For the purposes of this blog post we’re calling them ‘dungeon etiquette.’ But, these are consideration/thoughtfulness/respect-based codes of conduct that are long-standing and established for dungeon/play parties.
Do NOT Touch
Seems simple and sounds like common sense, right? Three little words. Yet, it’s one of the biggest problems at many kink events. Dungeons have even taken to posting signage that reads “NO TOUCHING WITHOUT EXPLICIT CONSENT.” The BDSM/kink community is built on a foundation of trust through open communication and explicit consent which leads to the trust we require to access vulnerable places within us. Consent being the paramount component.
But, sometimes people feel like they are in grey areas. Or, for a myriad of reasons, they just aren’t sure how be behave situationally. I understand. The best advice I can give is to never, ever touch without explicit, expressed consent.
What often happens at play parties is we get caught up in all the excitement and dopamine & endorphins start pumping through us. Everyone has been there. But, it’s important to remind ourselves that just because we are in a sexually charged environment, that NEVER means it’s ok to touch someone without their EXPLICIT expressed consent. Regardless of what’s occurring around us.
Over the years, I’ve been asked questions from folks who felt situationally confused, had the best of intentions, but felt they were in a grey area and didn’t want to proceed poorly. Here’s small sample of a few of those questions them:
“What if I did a scene with them at a previous event last week?
NO. The consent you were granted does not go beyond the the scene your shared together last week. It isn’t a blanket consent.
“They said once they’d like to play/do a scene with me someday.”
NO. That’s just a previous expression of interest. It’s not a current green light to touch them.
“We’ve been messaging and planned to meet up here at this event.”
NO. This is NEVER a guarantee of intimacy or kink play. You’re simply meeting up at the event. People use public events (even play parties) as an opportunity to safely get to know others in the community. This is a common vetting practice. Just because you discussed your compatible kinks, or even flirted a bit prior, it’s not ever permission to touch them in-person without explicit consent.
It’s also important to note that just because someone accepted a gesture from you in the past, like a hug, it’s not standing permission to do same. I always ask if I can hug them even when I know it’s ok. This because my actions as a fellow kinkster can set an example for others and we’re all responsible for the betterment of our community.
Advice: A consent violation is not worth the risk. Not only does it mean getting booted from the event, a ‘consent violator’ often gets blacklisted in their local kink community. Once labeled as such, there’s not really any coming back from that.
Hands Off Someone’s Toys
Toy collections are often personal. They’ve been used for intimate connections and can carry fond memories. Often, past or current partners may have gifted them. To some folks, they may just seem like objects-du-fun, but to many collection owners, they’re very personal. In the same way you wouldn’t just hop on a strangers motorcycle or use someone’s eyeshadow palette without asking, the same applies for kink toys.
BUT, if you’re like me, and you see something really sexy or interesting, you want to know more!
The good thing is kinksters DO love to chat about their collection. If you want to handle someone’s implements (toys, I’m talking about toys ya pervs), all you have to do is engage the owner. I like openers similar to “mind if I check out your paddle/flogger?” or “this is really cool, is it ok if I pick it up?” or “can I see what it feels like to hold/swing this?” Asking if it’s hand made or who made it is also a great opener. You’ll likely get a favorable response because you were respectful. Plus, a new kink friendship was is often made.
Btw, keep timing in mind. If they’re laying toys out, it’s probable that they’re headed into a scene. Is their play partner already positioned? Do they seem in a zone? Its best to suss that out before engaging them. Approach them once they’ve re-emerged from aftercare.
Did you know that the laying out of toys is often a ritualistic PART of the scene? It’s a psychological tool in our arsenal that we Dominants/Tops wield to build delicious, seductive anticipation. BONUS: An added benefit to asking first is that others will see/witness you as respectful. Respect garners you trust. Trust and respect are currency in the kink community!
Respect Everyone’s Bubble
Whether it’s their personal bubble or an scene bubble, steer clear.
A Personal Bubble is the space that surrounds someone’s body. That space belongs to them. Every society has a standard bubble and in the US it’s 18″. We’ve all had that uncomfortable feeling when someone is standing too close, that’s the intrusion of your personal bubble. At kink events, try to be very mindful of everyone’s personal bubble. Body language violations are powerful silent assigns that can garner someone a ‘creepy vibe’ reputation.
A Scene Bubble is the space surrounding where someone is engaged in play or a “scene.” Respecting a scene bubble is incredibly important for several of reasons.
First, you never interrupt a scene (this is discussed below in Never Interrupt An Active Scene). Walking or standing too close to an active scene is intrusive, distracting and disrespectful to those engaged in it. We all love to watch a good scene, who doesn’t? But, that must happen from a respectful distance. A good rule of thumb is to imagine a bubble around the scene, then, make the bubble a third larger. That’s your guideline.
The second reason to respect a scene bubble is safety. From personal experience folks have gotten whacked by my floggers’ backswing by walking too close. I’ve seen people walk into active paddles. Once, a Top’s wrist got sprained and the person walking into them got a black eye because there were beelining it to watch another scene-but not paying attention to the one right in front of them.
Reminder: A personal bubble is approximately 2′. For scenes, imagine a bubble around the play area, then, make it 1/3 bigger. That’s your boundary.
Use Your DM’s. What’s A DM?
Most every event you’ll attend where kink play is engaged has dungeon monitors (DM’s). They’re there to keep everyone safe via security, answering questions and assisting party go’ers. They generally know the answers to any questions you have and if they don’t, they know where to get ’em. DM’s also wrap folks up when they’ve gone over allotted equipment or room limits. They oversee active public scenes to ensure a sub/bottom is ok or that the Top/Dom/me is respecting limits & boundaries. They can assist with equipment issues as well.
Generally, they’re in place to attend to everyone best interest. Like kinky guardian angels.
Sex and Nudity. Ask Ahead.
As discussed above, kink events/play parties are highly varied. So is the Sex/Nudity rule. In many locations in the US, events cannot legally have alcohol AND nudity/sex. Some parties offer BYOB. Some don’t. Some allow BYOB & nudity but no penetration. CFNM are power exchange-centered where subs are required to be nude but they’re there to serve, not to engage in kinky sex. Rope events can be nude or clothed, partner sex or just rope share. There are many, MANY variables.
If this is important to you for an event you’re considering, check the promo materials, event page or website. It’s often outlined there. If not, contact the event holder directly. I’d especially contact them about the issue surrounding alcohol and sex because there are actual local laws and ordinances regarding this. Brick and mortar locations are usually up to date on the specifics of local laws & ordinances since they hold the all the legal liability. Locations have been shut down altogether for violating these local ordinances.
It’s best to check every event thoroughly.
Advice: Do you due diligence. Never go into a kink event assuming nudity, sex or alcohol are an option.
Never Interrupt An Active Scene
As touched upon in the ‘Bubble’ section, avoiding an active scene is required for good etiquette. In fact, it’s highly frowned upon.
When players choose to engage publicly and share their scene with us, it’s a gift, not an invitation to engage WITH them. If they scene publicly it’s usually because they feel safe and comfortable. Isn’t that what we all seek in the kink community – to have a safe and comfortable place to be ourselves? Avoid fracturing their scene, because ultimately, it can fracture their feeling of safety.
So, unless you’ve been clearly invited, and engaged in negotiations ahead of time, stand down. I’d go so far as to say that even if a Top invites you mid-scene, decline. Why? You have no way of knowing if the bottom/sub consented to THAT in negotiations. And, they certainly can’t consent mid-scene when they’re likely high on mind-altering things like endorphins and dopamine, right?
Scene interruption also includes being mindful of your voice level when in close proximity. Especially in smaller play spaces.
Remember: Whatever the reason they chose to play in front of everyone, it’s never, EVER an invitation to interrupt, comment, offer suggestions, flirt, joke around, step into, touch etc.
Clean Up After Yourself
This seems like a no-brainer. But, clean up falls through the cracks more often than people realize. If you’ve been part of a dungeon crew or play party event staff, you understand this all too well.
It’s not that folks are running around being ignorant and thoughtless. Not at all. What happens is that everyone is zombie’d out after a scene and clean up falls through the cracks. Or, aftercare occurs and everyone is coming down from endorphins, adrenaline & dopamine and are sorta stupefied.
But, part of the social contract of being permitted to scene at someone’s event is post-scene clean up. At some events it goes further than a social contract and it’s part of the rules listed in the paperwork you signed upon entry. This is especially so at brick and mortar dungeons. If they’re kind enough to purchase & provide the clean up products, try to be mindful to use them.
Also, imagine if the people before you didn’t clean up. Would you want to be rubbing around in their stray sweat, saliva or other bodily fluids? I always recommend using the sanitizing supplies and wipes prior to and after your scene.
Note: Nobody wants to be disrespectful to others. Try to be mindful that clean up is part of your overall scene. It can be a shared task further bonding the two of you post-scene. Or, for the service subs, clean up extends your scene further.
Confidentially is up there with consent. It’s a kink/BDSM fundamental that’s rooted all the way back to when we kinksters were forced to play deeply underground.
What happens at parties, stays at parties. Just like Vegas.
Some confidentiality guidelines to consider:
- Sometimes you run into someone from your vanilla life AT a kink event. It happens. Sometimes it’s awkward, sometimes it’s not. Regardless, it’s best to refrain from talking to them about outside-world, vanilla stuff. Why? Many people leave their ‘real-world’ identities at the door and are there to indulge in their kink persona. Just like you, they’re there to escape into and enjoy kinky aspects of themselves. Nothing kills a kinky buzz like real-world talk.
- Regarding that same vanilla friend just mentioned. When you do see them again in your vanilla lives, remember that kink talk isn’t comfortable for most folks. They’re often scared of being accidentally ‘outted’ or someone overhearing your conversation. Suss that out, a lot. Maybe you’ll chat kink, maybe you wont. But, never lead with thinking it’s ok.
- Since many people can’t be ‘out’ about being kinky we need to protect one another. If you see or meet someone at a ANY kink event and run into them publicly its best to proceed as if they’re a stranger. Even if they’re alone. Plus, you don’t know what their comfort level is about that part of their life. The next time you see each other at a kink event, you’ll have something to chat about AND you’ll both likely make a new kink friend.
We all make a social pact in the kink community to look out for one another’s best interest. Be a good community member.
My own personal, bonkers, experience with this: I was at a public, vanilla event with my horses. From across a large crowd I hear “Mistress Kye, Mistress Kye!” I was up on my horse and clearly a center of attention in the crowd. Plus, there were tons of kids around me and my horse. I made eye contact and smiled to silently acknowledge them and then continued with the crowd. I figured they’d take the hint. Surprisingly, they didn’t. They proceeded calling out “Mistress Kye!” from across the crowd as they made their way towards me. Because of this, I had to move my horse away from the kids while being as nonchalant as I could. I even looked back to give “shut up” eyeballs as I walked off-and they were STILL calling out. I went to our horsey break area for privacy. There I told them to STFU to hell and back. Normally, I would never be so hostile. Normally, I’d just ignore them and address it the next time I saw them. Most people would take the hint at the start. BUT, they made such an inappropriate spectacle that it forced me to exit a paid gig in order to shut them down. I was a little upset at their sheer thoughtlessness. Sure, I’m openly out as a kinkster, but that type of spectacle is never ok in a vanilla setting. At an adult convention, YES, call me out across the crowd, let’s do a selfie, lets chat! A vanilla event, NO screaming “Mistress Kye!” in front of kids.
For the most part, event hosts do NOT want anyone playing under the influence. That’s because legal responsibility falls upon them. There are a plethora of legal issues, criminal and civil, that event hosts/dungeon owners face if they allow intoxicated play to occur and something goes wrong. But most importantly, it’s simply not safe for you, who you’re playing with, or the host of the event.
Does this mean that ALL events don’t allow alcohol or other substances? No. It happens. As mentioned in the ‘Sex and Nudity’ section above, all events vary. But, I can attest that after decades in the kink scene, most of the worst instances/disasters I know of have occurred with folks under the influence. I’ve seen hospital visits, broken bones, damaged kidneys and more. Even under the best circumstances, what we do can get risky and things go wrong. Why amplify the odds of something bad happening?
Most dungeons and event hosts are NOT willing to incur the risks surrounding the legal ramifications of intoxicated players. And, if you have a reputation for playing high or drunk, they’ll blacklist you from their events to protect themselves and their community.
Honorariums. Scene Names. Pronouns.
It’s simple. How someone chooses to be addressed is how you address them. Period.
You know me as Mistress Kye. I’ve chosen that. Yet, I’ve experienced (by mostly cis men) being called “Goddess” in place of “Mistress.” I don’t care for this whatsoever and I’ll tell you why. I CHOSE “Mistress” and I’m well within reason to expect to be called by something I chose for myself, rather than what someone else prefers to call me. All kink protocols aside, it’s just rude as fuck to address others by what YOU prefer, than what they call themselves. It’s like someone introducing their friend “James” and someone immediate saying “Nice to meet you, Jimmy.”
It has nothing to do with our kink community protocols and everything to do with human-to-human respect.
Let’s say you know someone’s ‘real’ name or government name because you’re friendly outside the kink community. Although you have that familiarity, it’s best to address them by their chosen scene name when involved in any kink community events. Unless otherwise directed by that person. The person you see at events is often their alter persona. Let them indulge in that part of themselves.
I know this should go without saying, but, just ask. Period. It’s easy. “What are your preferred pronouns?”
Advice: Just ask how someone wants to be addressed.
*Please accept my invitation to share your insights, experiences, suggestions, etc. regarding dungeon and play party etiquette, rules & protocols. I know there’s SO much more you can to add to this conversation and I’d love to hear from you in the replies so we can share a discussion together.
Also, feel free to share on your socials so we can bring more folks into our conversation.
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Warm Regards, Kye