Creating the Right Atmosphere

written by Bernie and Arnora, with thoughts from Nick and Kathryn

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.

The Concept of Roles

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”).

What Does it Mean to be a “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. They will often perform menial tasks for their Dom on request. They may accept mild discipline if tasks are not carried out to their Dom’s satisfaction. In addition, they may be expected to demonstrate their submission in other ways, as negotiated with one or more Doms.

Keep in mind that even if you’re a sub, it does not necesarily follow that you need to be subservient to every Dom in the room. It’s up to you how you want to behave, and you can change your behaviour during the course of the evening.

What Does it Mean to be a “Dom”?

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.

Keep in mind that even if you’re a Dom, it does not necesarily follow that all submissives will behave subserviently towards you. It’s up to each submissive whether they wish to do so or not, and that can vary during the course of the evening.

Where Do You Fit In?

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.

Approaching People in Role

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 smalltalk 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.

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, mild 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.

About “force”

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.

Consider Trying New Things

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. If you accept that playing with another person is a spontaneous and unpredicatable activity, you’ll find the entire experience much more enjoyable.

In any case… have fun! That’s what this is all about.

And remember…

BDSM is Safe, Sane and Consensual. Always!