Read any of the multitude of general groups on FetLife and you’ll find a barrage of “Hey, I’m new and want to learn!” messages. Some are smartly worded, some show a decent degree of intelligence, and some are so mind-bogglingly, incomprehensibly naive that you’d swear the person writing has lived their entire life in a box.

I responded to one of these messages today with a torrent that I’m sure the OP wasn’t prepared for. After finishing up, I realized the post made a great start to a longer written piece, so here it is.

The best tidbits of advice I can offer to new people in “the scene”:

Go to munches and social events, attend parties (and understand that you don’t have to play), don’t engage in play with people you aren’t comfortable with (that applies on both sides of the “/”), and learn everything you can about negotiation, basic safety and sanitation, first aid, aftercare, and the techniques or protocols you find interesting.

Suede, leather, bamboo, rattan, birch, and most other natural materials can’t be sterilized. These should probably be one-person toys.

Alcohol doesn’t kill every infection. Neither does bleach. Many, perhaps most, play spaces will provide these items, not realizing they’re just offering a placebo. Clean your play space and multi-partner toys with a sanitizer rated to kill pathogens like HIV, hepatitis C, MRSA, and the like. Follow the instructions.

Make toys. It may not be the prettiest or coolest but a toy you’ve created will help build a sense of ownership in your play. On the flip side of that, hardware, art supply, and dollar stores are great places to buy BDSM supplies.

Post-play drop happens to everyone, in widely varying degrees. Check-in with your partners for a day or two after playing, keep your comforts handy, and don’t try to power through it alone.

Watch out for predators (again, on either side of the “/”). Ask for references and believe your inner voice when it says “Something isn’t right!” Popularity and status don’t always mean safety and wisdom. Leave a party or event if you don’t feel safe, or if the atmosphere or crowd don’t make you feel welcome.

If you’re a top, don’t attend a single 101 class on a subject and assume you know how to do it safely. Find a mentor or mentors in the areas you want to learn. Understand that edge play is called edgy for a reason; the potential for injury or worse is real. Bottom at least once so you can relate to your partners. Know that you’re going to fuck up, and own it when you do.

If you’re a bottom, learn to use toys anyway, so you can better decide if a top is safe to play with. Use safe calls and safewords (It’s okay to “red”.), and don’t leave common sense in your car. I can’t say this enough; GET REFERENCES! You’re trusting your ass to someone, so be sure you’re right to give it.

And if nothing else, don’t be a dick.

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