Being Good Members of Your Kink Community
When we join our local in-person kinky communities — or even the online kink community, do we have certain responsibilities or obligations to everyone else in the community? That’s a tricky question, but certainly one that’s been on my mind a lot lately.
For the record: there is no one right way to be a member of the kinky community. Each of us, as individuals and within our D/s dynamic, has to do what’s right for our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Sometimes that means you simply can’t do something that others can. We also get to set our own boundaries and comfort levels as we interact with people.
I think, primarily, I want to give each of us something to consider as members of any kinky community — primarily in-person but online, too.
Respect Limits, Boundaries, and Consent
When we plan our kinky fuckery or negotiate our D/s relationship, many of us — even when we fumble — understand the importance of consent and limits. We know it’s the foundation on which a good scene and a strong power exchange rests. But it’s something that can be forgotten when we’re at a munch or at a workshop.
- Ask before touching.
- Make sure the person you want to hug wants to give a hug.
- When in doubt, ask for permission for anything — getting advice, asking personal questions, anything.
- Watch for cues in the conversation (if you can). If the other person is distant and quiet, they may not want to talk.
It’s easy to get so comfortable with the people we know and the community around us that we barge through someone else’s limits and boundaries without thought. Not because we’re bad people — but because we’re enthusiastic. Take a moment and get consent.
Like all relationships, you’ll develop shorthand with your closest friends. A look, a nod, or a smile will be all you need to know that your hug or touch on the arm is welcome. Until you’ve formed that bond, ask first. Yes, even if they hugged you last time you saw them. You never know what’s going on with someone else.
Maintain Privacy and Anonymity
Some of us don’t care if everyone knows we’re kinky, and some of us could lose our job if anyone found out. It takes a lot for many kinksters to go to a local kinky community event like a munch or even to start a kinky Twitter account. The fear of being found out is so great that it’s easy to assume “everyone” will know what you’re up to simply because you left your house. (Pro tip: They won’t.)
For the most part, this isn’t true at all. But to help all (but especially newer) kinksters feel more comfortable, everyone else in the community has to be conscientious about the need for privacy and anonymity.
- Don’t ask for a legal name — accept their Fetlife name.
- Don’t ask about their work/kids/family unless they offer the information first.
- Let them share what they want to share. Wait until you develop a better connection before asking personal questions.
If I see you at a munch and recognize you, I’ll walk up to you to chat. If I see you in the grocery store, I’ll wait for a signal from you that it’s okay to approach. And if I don’t get that signal, I’ll stay away. Until we’ve established a friendship in AND out of the kink community, I make no assumptions about how much contact someone else would like.
What happens at the munch, BDSM club, party, and social gathering, STAYS there. Vegas rules, y’all.
Welcome New Members to the Kinky Community
This one is tricky…and has been the cause of many of my rants to John Brownstone lately.
One of the hardest things a new(ish) kinkster — to the lifestyle OR to the local area — may do is attend an event. Munch, workshop, whatever — knowing you’re likely the only new person in a group of strangers is hard. I can hear you saying, “Yeah, but you have social anxiety, Kayla. You always think it’s difficult.” True. I struggle with meeting new people, and go when I can.
But guess what? John Brownstone, one of the mentally and emotionally healthiest people I know, finds it difficult too, and he practically runs head first into any kink event he can find.
You don’t have to be the life of the party and jump up to greet every new person. Hell, sometimes it’s a struggle to say hi to the people you do know. But think about how you felt the first time you went to a munch. How nervous you were. How weird it felt to not know anyone while it felt like “everyone” else knew each other.
There are plenty of ways to make someone new feel welcome:
- Have everyone at the table introduce yourself. If everyone’s doing it, it feels less awkward.
- Make eye contact (if you can) with the new person, and smile and nod to acknowledge their presence.
- Say, “Hi!”
- Include them in your ongoing conversation. Look at them from time to time or ask, “What do you think?”
- For hosts: go from table to table or group to group at some point during the munch or event to say hi to people. If you have your own anxiety to deal with, ask someone you like and trust in the kink community if they’ll do it for you.
You don’t have to make best friends with every newbie who walks through the door. Nor do you have to tell them your life story or spend the entire event with them. But helping them feel welcome makes it easier for them to come back the next time or go to more events.
Do we have specific responsibilities as members of the kinky community? What does it mean to be a “good” member of the kink community?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer that question. But I do think we can all do our part, even small things, to be good members of the kink community. Some are easy…don’t out people. Some will be harder…talk to strangers. But if we all do what we can, we all help build a kink community where people feel safe and welcomed.
We’ve all been new once. And many of us have faced our fears to join our kink community. Maybe what we need is a kink version of the Golden Rule: doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Although, that can be problematic if you’re a hugger and the other person isn’t or if you’re very sociable and they’re not. Proof there’s no single, perfect solution.)
Ultimately, try to be empathetic to other people in your community. Remember how you felt when you were new (assuming you’re not). And treat people with kindness and respect — until they give you a reason not to. That’s probably all any of us can do.
Now it’s your turn. Are there things you do (or wish others would do) that helps maintain a strong, thriving, or growing kink community?