The Fetiquette "White Paper"
Bernie and arnora, 1997
A General Guide to Fetish Nights and Play Parties
|This document began as a set of "general guidelines" for
the first-ever EHBC play party.
EHBC is a kink-friendly social community in the wilds of Southwestern Ontario.
In 1997, after several years of operation,
we finally became brave enough to organize our first
play-party. Because of the relative inexperience of a number of people
in the EHBC community, we felt we might benefit from putting some simple
guidelines in place for that first party. The guidelines were drawn from
many sources and assumed at least a basic knowledge of BDSM practices,
regardless of actual level of experience.
Once the first draft of those guidelines was in place, two of the EHBC party organizers considered putting them into a format which could be distributed easily to people who were new to the BDSM scene. Since many of the people in the EHBC community are new or low-key players at best, we felt that this information would be extremely valuable. A series of documents was generated first for the EHBC private web pages, then for email across the EHBC mailing list, and finally collated with further additional materials into the format you see now.
This information has been grouped into several categories, and for simplicity, we assume that most of these rules apply equally to both private play parties (which typically use their own brands of "house rules") and to public fetish nights. We would suggest that you try to learn the "house rules" of either a play party or a fetish night before you attend.
Hosting a Party:
|In this section:
The safest place is usually in someone's private home, but not everyone wants to open their private space to a public party. In the event that you have to go to rental space, make sure it is somewhere where you have complete control over access. How open you are with site owners regarding the nature of the event is up to you, and you get to decide how much information you are willing to disclose. A lot of people might be really uncomfortable knowing they are booking a group with the kind of interests we have!
Make sure your space is closable to "prying eyes" - windows that can be covered or blocked, doors that can be locked or limited for controlled access. Also ensuring you have enough space for changing and storing things would be a good idea. It is advisable that you arrange a general "social" area, which is a no-play or low-key-play-only space. If you can, try to create both a "public" play space and a "private" play space. This gives your attendees the maximum number of playing options, which in turn helps them feel safe and comfortable.
You, as host, are ultimately responsible for the security and safety of the people attending the party. In small BDSM communities it is easy to restrict party invitations to only the people you know, but this is not a simple process for larger groups.
Be careful how you advertise; the EHBC party, for example, is limited to only those people on the EHBC mailing list and their invited guests. Public fetish nights, on the other hand, are open to anyone who meets the minimum dress requirements. What kind of crowd do you want to create? What kind of crowd can you manage? Will you know everyone who is coming, or will there be strangers? Are these strangers being vouched for by anyone else on the guest list? How will you handle people who behave in an out-of-line manner (known guests or otherwise)?
Try to be sensitive to the personalities on your guest list where you can afford to be; often this may involve vetting the list to make sure conflicts are kept to a minimum, though this is something easier to do for a private party than a public one. Too much vetting runs the risk of cries of discrimination, too little may result in people having to be exposed to others who make them uncomfortable. As host, how you tackle this thorny issue is up to your discretion. The EHBC parties, for example, constitute a "limited public" party, where everyone on the mailing list is welcome, but attendance is restricted beyond that, and we rely heavily on the DMs (Dungeon Monitors) to keep things moving on an even keel. We're lucky that way; others may need to look into alternative methods of keeping the guests in a comfortable party mood.
Don't plan in a vacuum, and don't assume you can handle running the whole thing yourself. We use a "Planning Committee", where volunteers are assigned specific areas of concern. For EHBC parties, we typically use two DMs, with a Security person who handles the door and doubles in as DM if one of the DMs gets busy (yes, we allow our DMs to play; it's one reason why we have two of them). We also make sure we have some sort of certified First Aider on site, in case of accidents. There is a "booking secretary" to manage RSVPs, guest lists and relevant signs for the event. If we are handling money for the party (donations, cover charges, juice-bar float, etc.), then someone is assigned to look after that. We may assign someone to look after the juice-bar on the night of the party, but often we can get away with reliance on the Honour System.
Make sure your staff works well as a unit as much as possible. Assign such tasks as arranging munchies, setting up a sound system for music, setup/takedown crew and general cleanup. The tasks which need to be assigned will vary depending on the size and structure of the party. But in all cases, it helps to know who you can lean on for help.
Are you hosting a BDSM play party or a tupperware party? Do you want to entice people into playing, or are you happy to let them just sit around and socialize? Sometimes it pays to make sure you have a couple of dedicated players there who can "get the ball rolling", as it were - this could be anything from opening with a toy show-and-tell to an invitation to everyone to come watch a public scene.
You may also find occasions where having a "host" who is NOT a DM is a good idea - someone who can set up fun things, like dances or party games, or even simple crowd circulation, without having to "keep an eye" on the rest of the party. This has been an extremely successful tactic for the EHBC community in both their regular social munches and their more private gatherings. Someone who can keep things going, keep new activities happening, keep the interests fresh, is a big help.
If you are using players to get things rolling, remember that there is really no way to "force" interest if your attendees aren't ready to start playing, or even watching. Don't try to herd people from one activity to another; make sure there are enough things going on to give people some variety, without setting things up in conflict (i.e., don't schedule an impromptu spot dance just as your feature players are about to start an open scene!)
And remember the idea is to be non-threatening; you or your host should entice attendees into getting involved, not subject them to activities. They'll be more likely to get involved if they are comfortable, than if they are forced.
Always a good idea at any play party is the idea of "clear" space, or "time out" space; both general attendees and players sometimes need to go somewhere which is mentally away from scene space, where they can talk, or unwind, and effectively ignore the scenes. This could be either a scene-free social area, or it could be a small room or walled-off section of the facilities.
Find a way to let everyone from the DMs to the general attendees know that there is a clear space for them if they want to "get away" from the scenes without necessarily leaving the party. Particularly for unattached submissives, there is usually comfort in knowing there is space for them to go to unwind from a scene, or retreat from potentially unwelcome dom attention (if that's the case, the sub should consider chatting with a DM before retreating into clear space). Everyone should be made aware that roles and scene activities don't matter in clear space; everyone is an equal individual in the time-out area.
While not everyone may elect to impose a set of guidelines or rules on either a Fetish Night or a play party, many people find they have a better time when they know what the limits of the party itself are. Simple things like dress codes and smoking/no smoking policies often make all the difference in the world to individual comfort levels.
The basic 10-point list that EHBC uses was distilled down from a much longer list, and details a number of issues which are either site-specific (like the no smoking policy and the requirements for leaving building doors locked), or are the limits of what the DMs are willing to tolerate. This list will vary somewhat from party to party, depending on what the site or host or DMs are willing to consider. Many private parties don't bother with rules about sexual or penetrative play, but this sort of behaviour is typically a no-no for any party or Fetish Night which is considered "public-accessible".
Consider the needs of your guests, your site, and your staff very carefully when putting together specific guidelines for your party. Keep the wording simple and clear; make sure everyone has a chance to see the rules either beforehand, wherever possible, or at the party. When in doubt, post them as a big sign somewhere for everyone to see.
Regardless of your role at the party - whether you own the site, or if you're a host or DM, or you're staff, or a general attendee - you are there to have fun. In BDSM, like every other aspect of life, you can always walk away from something when it ceases to be fun (ok, so you may have to safeword your way out of bondage first, but you get the idea).
If you are on staff, remember that the whole concept behind building a support staff is that there will always be people to help alleviate the worries and responsibilities. Make sure there are people who can spell you for a bit if you need a break or if you want to play. If you are a party-attendee, then you will get out of the party what you put into it; if you make an effort to have fun - regardless of whether you actually play, or just watch, or never get out of the social area - then fun is what you'll have.
Show a little respect for other guests and players, and they should respect you; being friendly and willing to chat never hurts either. Try not to interfere in scenes unless invited, and if you see something that doesn't seem right in the context of the party, bring it to the attention of the owner/host or DMs. It's their job to worry about these things, and they know who on staff they can turn to when they need help.
There are two "rules of thumb" that everyone should consider:
These are two concepts which apply to everyone at the event, whether you're working it or just there to have some fun. A little communal effort to keep things running smoothly goes a long way towards creating a safe and relaxed atmosphere where everyone can enjoy themselves!
|(These were the House Rules set up for the first EHBC Play Party)
A few simple guidelines for your safety and enjoyment; if this is your first play party, we advise you to read these very thoroughly. These are FINAL and NON-NEGOTIABLE rules.
The rules will be posted at the party. Non-compliance results in a warning; continuing non-compliance results in ejection from the party.
(Optional: Players with known medical problems might want to make note of them with [med staff] and the DMs).
A Sample Invitation/Event Notice
A Sample Invitation/Event Notice
|(This is the actual posting put together for the first EHBC Play
EHBC is about to host it's first Play Party! All the basic information about the event is available right here:
Before we go on, it's important to make one point crystal-clear: This is a private event! Unlike our munches, it is NOT open to the general public. You are welcome to bring guests (see below) but DO NOT pass this information around to other people unless they are actually planning to attend the event as your guest.
The party will take place on [date]. It will be held at [site], [address] in [city]. We have the entire top floor, and the bottom floor should not be in use that night. The doors will open at 9 pm, and they will close promptly at 10 pm. If you'll be arriving late, you MUST call to let us know. There will be a phone on-site, and the number will be announced here soon.
Needless to say, you must be of legal age to attend this event.
This will be a non-alcoholic event. No liquor will be served, nor will you be allowed to BYOB. Anyone who (in the opinion of Security) is under the influence will NOT be allowed in.
There will be pop and juice available (50 cents for pop, a buck for juice), along with free munchies (chips, pretzels, that sort of thing).
There is no "admission charge" as such, but we will be taking donations to help cover the cost of renting the building for the night, as well as the cost of the munchies. $5 is recommended, more if you can afford it. There will be chairs, but you may want to bring pillows to sit or kneel on.
There is no actual dress code for this event, but bear in mind that we're trying to create a BDSM-oriented atmosphere. When in doubt, basic black is best. Fetish-wear is welcome if you have it. Bare breasts are fine (three cheers for Gwen Jacobs!), but no exposed genitals please.
Ample changing space will be available, but you are encouraged to leave your valuables elsewhere since we have no secure storage spaces in the building.
There will be music and a sound system. If you have a favorite tape or CD, feel free to bring it along. Make sure it's clearly labeled, so we can return it to you afterwards. Also be sure to let the DJ know which songs you want to hear.
Since this is a play party, playing is encouraged. It is not in any way required! If you're shy, and just want to watch, that's perfectly okay. There will some "open" playspace and possibly some "private" playspace as well. Check out the Fetiquette and Atmosphere pages.
You MUST read the House Rules. Those rules can be thought of as the "hard limits" for the event, and they are entirely non-negotiable. When in doubt, the DM's word is final.
In order to ensure the safety and privacy of everyone at the party, this event will be invitation-only. That means there will be an actual guest list that will be checked at the door. If someone is not on the guest list, they will not be allowed in.
If you're on the EHBC mailing list, then you're invited. However, please let us know that you're coming, so we can put you on the guest list. Knowing who's coming will also help us decide how much pop and munchies to buy.
If you want to bring a couple of friends, that's fine. However, you must contact us ahead of time and tell us who they are, so that we can put them on the guest list. Keep in mind that you are responsible for the behavior of anyone you bring.
If you want to bring more than just a couple of friends, that's probably okay too. However, you MUST contact us first to check.
Guests are not allowed to bring other guests. Everyone at the event must be vouched for directly by an EHBC list member. No exceptions.
If you're wondering who to bring, keep in mind that the EHBC group (unlike almost every other BDSM group around) has a high proportion of male doms. Therefore, female subs are particularly welcome. We also have a shortage of female doms, so if you know someone of that persuasion then they're definitely invited.
To put yourself or someone else on the guest list, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive an acknowledgment within a day or two. If you don't, then send your email again.
Looking forward to seeing you on [date]!
|This section deals with some very basic issues regarding "acceptable
behaviour" for play parties, fetish nights, etc. The information contained
here is culled from a variety of sources, edited a little bit to apply
to more folks on a more general level. The editors were trying to generalize,
rather than dictate, suggestions for conduct, aimed predominantly at people
with little to no experience in "public BDSM situations".
The following are some common-sense tips that will help make the event more fun for everyone.
Double check interests before proceeding, and immediately respond to safewords while playing. Common safewords might be "yellow" (meaning pause, slow down, check in, etc.) and "red" (meaning "stop immediately"). You can negotiate whatever safewords you like, but if you don't negotiate anything then yellow and red will be assumed.
Do not interfere in someone else's scene unless specifically invited in by the Dom or Top in question. If you seriously believe there's a problem with a scene, appeal privately to the DMs and let them handle it.
Some people like one on one play, and others like group activities. If you want to join a scene already under way, don't just butt in, but don't just go away, either. Check with the Top running the scene and join in or not, as he/she says. If approached to join in by a Top, you may politely decline if you wish.
If you're in the vicinity of action or watching a scene in progress, keep out of the way and keep quiet. In the playroom and other play areas, keep what you say to appropriate subjects and to an appropriate level.
If you are into heavily verbal trips, avoid places where your loud shouts, curses, etc. may disturb someone else's scene.
As a Top, force only those who want to be forced, and make certain that you know your bottom's major limitations and turn offs before you begin.
As a bottom, if you have a medical or other problem that might affect the scene, make certain that your Top is aware of it BEFORE you begin.
No photographs, videos, or other recordings may be taken in the play area without the permission of the organizers and the consent of everyone recorded (this includes people in the background for both pictures and sound). Posed shots for photography or video require written releases from everyone shown in the picture.
The DMs are not housekeepers or maids. Clean up after yourselves throughout the evening, and please consider staying around at the end to help with final cleanup.
Creating "Scene Atmosphere"
Creating "Scene Atmosphere"
Creating "Scene Atmosphere"
Creating "Scene Atmosphere"
|In this section:
The reason for having a "play party" (as opposed to just a regular party) is to give everyone an opportunity to explore their chosen role as a dominant or submissive. That can only happen if we all work together to create an atmosphere in which everyone is accepted and respected for who they are.
Building that kind of supportive and encouraging atmosphere requires a certain amount of effort from everyone at the party, not just those who are there to play. Even if you're planning to just sit back and watch, you will still be contributing to the atmosphere. At the very least, you should avoid doing things which will distract other people from playing out their chosen roles.
At a regular party, it might be quite acceptable for you to show up in a loud shirt and Bermuda shorts, talking about your retirement package and showing snapshots of your grandchildren. However, this is not a regular party. We're trying to create an environment in which a kind of light role-playing is not only acceptable, but actually encouraged.
Some people find it very easy to slip into their roles as dominants or submissives. They can do it anywhere -- in a restaurant, on a bus, or even over the phone. Other people, particularly those who are new to domination and submission, may find it more difficult to let go of their everyday lives and adopt their in-scene roles.
Our goal is to let everyone enter their role as deeply as they feel comfortable with, and to let them feel accepted once they're there.
The most basic way of accomplishing that goal is simply to treat people in a way that meshes with their chosen role.
In other words, the "golden rule" doesn't apply here. You should treat people the way they wish to be treated, not the way you would wish to be treated. If someone is trying to maintain a submissive headspace, you should respect that by not talking to them about their job, their kids, their mortgage, or anything else that brings them back up into the mundane "real world". Similarly, if someone wishes to maintain a dominant headspace, you should treat them with a certain amount of basic respect that supports that frame of mind.
In general, people who think of themselves as submissives should be willing to behave appropriately to those who identify themselves as dominants, even those they are not playing with or have no intention of playing with. Dominants should also respect each other, and not try to compete with one another in any way.
We've been talking a lot about "roles", but what do we actually mean? Well, roles can be anything from a formal, ongoing master/slave relationship to "character" roles (such as schoolmistress and misbehaving schoolgirl) which may only last as long as a particular "scene" goes on.
The two most basic roles that you're likely to encounter are those of "dominant" (or "dom") and "submissive" (or "sub").
Adopting a submissive role means becoming subservient to one or more doms. This subservience can be demonstrated in a variety of ways. For example, a submissive will typically address a dom as "sir" or "madam" as appropriate. They may kneel in the presence of a dom, or bow their head, or lower their eyes. There may be a visible expression of their status, such as a collar and leash. They will often perform menial tasks for a dom on request. They may accept mild discipline if tasks are not carried out to a dom's satisfaction. In addition, they may be expected to demonstrate their submission in other ways, as negotiated with one or more doms.
Adopting a dominant role means taking control of one or more subs, directing their actions and providing them with opportunities to express their submission. It involves accepting a certain amount of responsibility for the well-being of the submissives under their direction. Domination primarily involves psychological control, though physical discipline can certainly be part of the process as well. Although the interaction between a dom and a sub must be negotiated by both parties, a dom is generally responsible for directing specific activities once play begins.
Regardless of whether you're a sub or a dom, you are not obligated to play with anyone if you don't want to. However, if you decide that you do want to play, you should adopt an attitude that expresses your chosen role.
This is necessary for two reasons. First, it conveys to potential play-partners that you are (a) interested in playing, and (b) which role you wish to play. Second, it puts you in the right frame of mind. This is very important -- regardless of whether you're dominant or submissive in your everyday life, you are adopting a well-defined role for a specific period of time. The more you get into it, the more you'll get out of it.
Never assume anything. Just as you have no obligation to play with anyone, they have no obligation to play with you either. Be aware that the person you're approaching may have some specific reason for not wanting to play. For example, they may be involved in an exclusive master/slave relationship, or they may not want to play with someone they don't already know, or they may simply not be in the mood to play at the moment.
However, assuming you meet someone who is potentially interested in playing, you need to communicate with each other and establish some ground rules.
The first step is the same as it would be in any other type of social interaction: establish mutual interest. This can be done in a variety of ways, depending on the situation. For example, eye contact and casual small-talk are a good way to break the ice and clearly define the roles each of you likes to adopt.
What happens from that point on is entirely up to you and your new-found play partner. And that brings us to the subject of negotiation.
Some people are very much into the more physical aspects of BDSM. They're often referred to as "tops" and "bottoms". They like to explore pain and pleasure, bondage and discipline.
If that's the direction you and your partner decide to go, it's especially important to establish some guidelines as to what type of activities you share an interest in, as well as any personal limitations and expectations. In particular, you should identify any medical conditions or other potential problem areas. You should also agree on a set of safewords that can be used to slow down or stop the festivities if they begin to exceed either player's limits.
However, not all play has to be physical. Many doms enjoy simple obedience training, humiliation play, or psychological control. For many subs, particularly novices, this is a much gentler way of getting into scene space. There's no rush -- you'll know when you're ready to move forwards.
If you're a submissive, and part of your fantasy involves being "forced" to submit, then it's your responsibility to communicate that fact clearly to any dom you may wish to play with. Any sensible dom will err on the side of caution, and won't proceed if there appears to be any resistance. If you want to resist, and have your dom overcome that resistance, you will need to say that clearly before beginning to play. This is true regardless of what form the play takes.
You should also inform the DM's (Dungeon Monitors) of this aspect of your fantasy, since they are under orders to intervene in a scene if they feel it is in any way non-consensual.
It's important to stay open to the interests of your partner. They're not there to act out your fantasy, any more than you're there to act out theirs. What you're trying to do is find a fantasy that works for both of you, and give it life.
Both the dom and sub need to give consent in order for a scene to happen. Don't assume a dom will consent to everything you want them to do to you. Doms have limits too!
If you come in with a "script" in your head, and try to act it out with someone, things will not go the way you planned. Accept that playing with another person is a spontaneous and unpredictable activity, and you'll find the entire experience much more enjoyable.
In any case... have fun! That's what this is all about.
BDSM is Safe, Sane and Consensual. Always!
Suggestions for Simple
|When some of the members of the EHBC community organized their first
road trip into a Fetish Night at one of the Toronto bars, there was much
ado about "what to wear". Since we have many people on budgets,
or without access to specialty shops like Northbound Leather or the He
& She Gallery, we needed to come up with suggestions for how to dress.
Some of these suggestions involve a modicum of construction talent, or patience; however, most of the ideas can be put together from easy-to-come-by materials. Farm supply and hardware stores are a cornucopia of "pervertibles". While black as a colour and leather as a material may be "de rigeur" fetish dress, there are as many alternatives as there are bodies to wear them.
(As a side note, it is typically a good idea to check the dress code for each fetish bar well in advance of your planned trip; the "severity" of the dress code varies noticeably from place to place).
When in doubt, basic black works every time - black jeans or skirt, black shirt, black shoes or boots. Simple or ornate is a matter of your personal preference. The more skin you can show, the better, especially for subs. Bear in mind that most public fetish nights or play parties have a "no exposed genitals" rule, which means you may need some sort of g-string to keep your privates covered.
Lingerie is easy to come by, often inexpensively. As a man, if you cross-dress, lingerie is usually the easiest option for fetish dressing - bras and panties, stockings, garters, corsets (including "merry widows"), slips and other items can be bought at any department store. Adult lingerie shops often stock a variety of more "daring" styles, but prices will rise accordingly, and sizes are often more limited.
Interesting or adaptable leather goods will often surface in second-hand shops, from boots and shoes to jackets, vests, hats, and so on. For those with some construction skill, these pre-made items can be cut down or re-modeled into anything you desire. Or you can start from scratch and build yourself a wardrobe or accessories from hides of leather if you are so inclined, and have the time, tools, and budget for working with leather. "Standard" leather clothing items include pants (or shorts), chaps, skirts, vests and hats.
Moving from the mundane into more "hard-core" fetish dressing, we come to items such as body harnesses, restraints, and "peekaboo" clothing.
Body harnesses run the gamut from rigid devices designed to take a lot of use and abuse, to decorative drapes of leather straps, or chains of varying grades (or combinations of both). Unless you have the wherewithal to design and create your own, these are typically only available from specialty shops, and can be quite pricey. Again, chain is readily available from hardware stores for minimal prices, and often requires nothing more than a saw and a pair of pliers to work into something fetishy.
Restraints are a very common item, and range from wrist/ankle cuffs to collars and leashes, and so on. These are often worn in conjunction with body harnesses, and may be joined to each other by straps or chains. Cuffs and collars are fairly easy to make if you are so inclined, and are also available from both adult novelty stores and from the specialty shops, often at relatively reasonable prices.
"Peekaboo" clothing refers to anything which covers the body without necessarily obscuring the view of it. This may involve anything from semi-transparent "mundane" clothing to lacy lingerie, bodysuits with zippers to reveal breasts or genitals, to sheer/transparent garments. Lacy lingerie is likely the easiest to come by, though zippered bodysuits are a staple at adult novelty stores (and can be easily made by a competent sewer). Clear plastic is often available through fabric stores for very low cost, and can be made (if your machine is up to the task, or if you don't mind hand-setting eyelets and grommets) into a variety of items, such as skirts.
For those with an interest in making rubber clothing, a lot can be done with inner tubes or sheet rubber (if you can get it). Fitting can be an arduous task when working with rubber, and your options for holding pieces together are rivets or glue (construction tip: if using glue on rubber or thick latex, find a way to score the surface of the rubber in order to give the glue more surface area to adhere to, and use clamps to hold the pieces together as they dry).
Some people also choose to wear a specifically evocative "costume" - a police or military uniform, a doctor's outfit, a schoolgirls' uniform, Victorian sleepwear, and so on. Second-hand and surplus shops are excellent places to hunt for items which might help "suggest" any of this sort of costume, thus saving you the expense of renting an outfit from a costume shop. Cities large enough to sport separate schools using uniforms will often have ads in local papers for uniform items which have been outgrown and are being sold off.
And finally, no outfit is complete without accessories. For many, this may simply involve wearing a crop or flogger from a belt loop, or dangling a set of cuffs somewhere accessible. This may involve "props" if you are wearing a costume - sunglasses and hats for those in uniform, knee-hi socks or teddy bears for little girls, and so on. A good pair of high heeled shoes or boots are a good addition for women and cross-dressing men; heavy boots, either western or Doc Martin-style, are common for men. Personally, I would rather see bare feet than loafers or sneakers and socks!
"Simple is better" in many cases - often it is far more effective to scale down the outfit to one or two accessories for two reasons: they won't make the outfit look "cluttered", and they won't get in the way if you decide you want to play at some point!
||This information was compiled from several sources:
The EHBC Web Site is maintained by Bernie; there are both public-accessible general pages, and a private, members-only page (password-protected). Among other things, the site has a book list, compiled by Karen D., offering a lengthy list of BDSM source materials.
The EHBC Mailing List is administered by Bernie, and provides an outlet for general BDSM discussions. The Mailing List is also the primary means of communicating event information within the EHBC community.
The EHBC monthly munches are held the first Wednesday and third Sunday of every month in Kitchener-Waterloo, and the second Monday of every month in London Ontario. For details, and for any other information, contact EHBC.