BDSM Basics: Vetting a New Partner

“Vetting a new partner” means making sure they are who they say they are and doing your best to make sure they’re safe. It’s an old school practice in BDSM that gets ignored too often in today’s meet-online-first world. Before you get kinky with someone for the first time, do your homework on who this person is instead of just taking their word for it.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Note: If you prefer to listen to or watch the information, scroll down for the video version.

Check Their Online Profile

This works even if you met online first. Scroll through their social media profiles. What (if anything) do they say about themselves? Do they interact with people in ways that make you feel comfortable? Are they saying things that make you uncomfortable or go against your own morals or ethics? Who the hell are they online?

Don’t ignore negative feelings, either. Yes, we need full context to understand conversations, but don’t shrug off the things that ripple in the wind like gigantic-ass red flags, either. This potential partner might not know it, but their online profile tells you who they are — believe them.

Talk to Past Partners

This one can be the hardest to do, especially if you’ve only met online but if you can, we highly recommend talking to past partners. If you meet someone in your local community, you can ask around. Some kinksters are old-school enough to offer up past partners as references. And if you knew each other online before getting together, it might be worth reaching out to their former partners online. But don’t be afraid to ask if they have references. Tell them you want to make sure they’re safe to play with. If they reject that, it might be all the information about them you need.

Yes, of course, past partners can say whatever they want. But if MULTIPLE people tell you the same thing — good or bad — it’s important information to pay attention to.

Ask About Their Local Community Involvement

Not everyone is active in their “IRL” BDSM community, but if they are, ask what groups they belong to, which munches they go to, and whether they’re a member of a club. At that point, find those groups on Fetlife (most will be there) and start asking around. If no one in any of the groups has ever heard of them or seen them, you’re likely being fed a bunch of lies. Those same people may be able to vouch for this person or send you to their past partners for further information.

It’s not a deal breaker if a potential partner isn’t involved in the community. But if they are, those are important sources of information that you want to use to learn more.

Pay Attention to Actions, Behaviors, and Patterns

Anyone can say the right thing. Some “Doms” and even “subs” pay attention to what other kinksters say to learn the language of BDSM and repeat it at anyone who will listen. Words aren’t completely unimportant but that shouldn’t be your main source of information. It’s not what someone says that matters as much as what they do. If their actions don’t match their words, that’s a very bad sign.

And yes, anyone can fuck up once or twice, so that’s why it’s important to look at patterns. Some people are smart enough not to do the same thing twice, but if you’re constantly dealing with an “Oops, I forgot” or “Oh, my bad” kind of thing, that’s a pattern — even when the behavior is completely different each time.

Meet in Public First

Also, bonus tip: set up a safe call.

Full disclosure: John Brownstone and I did NOT do this when we first met, BUT we would probably do it different now. Know better, do better, y’all. For the first meeting, start at a restaurant, coffee shop, a MUNCH, the local BDSM dungeon, SOMEWHERE that isn’t their home or yours. A good way to weed out the fakes is how quickly they decline the invite to meet in public. Doing this keeps you safe AND makes it easier to get away if you decide not to continue the date.

The secondary tip is to set a safe call. Let someone you trust know you’re meeting someone new — and where. They don’t have to know it’s for a kinky date, just that you’re meeting someone new. Give them a time when you’ll call or text and a time to check-in with you if you forget. And if they don’t hear from you, they need to call the police and let them know where you should be. A safe and experienced kinkster may tell you to do this, anyway, which is a good thing. But it’s more important that the person you’re meeting not react negatively to the idea of a safe call. If they do, RUN.

Resources to help you learn more

Crossing Boundaries, Ignoring Consent When Pursuing a New Partner

Finding the Right D/s Partner for You

Red Flags of Submissives

Red Flags of Dominants

5 Things You Should Know About Subfrenzy

7 Things To Consider When Meeting New People in the Kink Community

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