Advice on BDSM from Tamar Kay


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Wisdom from Tamar Kay

Coming Out and Getting In
by Tamar Kay

For some it's no big deal to attend that first group meeting of "alternative" or "kinky" people. For others it's more than a bit terrifying. If it's a hard step, it's also a brave one. Standing up for yourself in a world that often doesn't understand or approve isn't easy. But if you're here at RCDC, you should be proud of that step. So now you're probably wondering: what next?

Maybe you'd like to make some friends, get some hands-on education, or maybe even find a partner. Maybe you've heard rumors about other get-togethers. Private ones. Maybe you get the feeling that you're sort of on the outside looking in. How do you get in? What's the password?

Groups that support alternative and BDSM interests vary a lot. Some, like RCDC, very enthusiastically welcome newcomers. Others are harder to locate. Some groups are formal, some not. While most people in the BDSM community are warm and friendly, they are also understandably cautious about newcomers. People in the community may be hesitant to open up and trust you until they know you better.

And that's a good thing, really, though it might not seem that way to you when you're new. It's that very caution that protects you as you become a more trusted member of the community. So how do you start the process of becoming better known and more trusted?

Here are some recommendations.

And when you have questions, ask. Ask more than once, get different opinions, and think about them. Remember that everyone had a day when they were the newcomer. Everyone had to once walk through a door for the first time.

And everyone should be proud.

Welcome to the community.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.)

Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370, Clackamas OR 97015

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Safe, Sane, and Consensual
by Tamar Kay

You will often hear it said that the first and most important rule in B&D-S/M is that all things we do with each other must be safe, sane, and consensual. What does this mean? Ask any set of experienced players and you'll get a different set of answers. Here's mine.

Safe

"Safe" means that we take care of each other as best we can, that no matter how we want our scenes, however gentle or rough, we do them in ways that do not injure our partners. "Safe" means that we take the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases seriously and use our best efforts to minimize those dangers.

What can you do? Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can so that you can do safe scenes. That means read books, take classes, and ask others about specific techniques that interest you. Want to learn to use a cane? Ask an expert. Want to swing a flogger? Practice first on a pillow.

Whether you're driving a car or tying somebody up, safety should always come first. It's especially important to not let your desire rule your good sense, so think about the specifics of your scenes outside of the scene. "Don't think with your groin."

Sane

Power exchange is about trust -- trust that the person who has the power in a scene will use it responsibly. If you are the Top then it is up to you to use the power your Bottom has granted you in a respectful and sane way. Your Bottom has given you a gift of trust, and you are honor-bound to repay it with good judgment.

If as the Top you are so involved in your scene that you can't make good judgments, then you are not in control of yourself, and you have no business being in control of someone else. Sanity is about control, and self-control comes first.

Consensual

Everything that happens in a scene between people must be acceptable to all concerned. If you aren't sure that your partner has consented -- has said 'yes' -- then you need to talk until you are sure.

The best way to get to 'yes' is to make sure that 'no' is an equally acceptable answer. This holds true in every situation, whether asking someone for a phone number or negotiating a scene. The less pressure you apply, the more likely that a 'yes' will come and will be a sincere answer.

It's dangerous to play with someone who has said 'yes' for the wrong reasons. You can quickly end up in a situation that is neither safe, sane, nor consensual. To protect against this, refrain from pressuring anyone, and if you feel you are being pressured, set limits and stand by them. You should always feel free to say 'no.' Consensual means that you are sceneing because you want to, with someone who wants to, that everyone involved is willing to go ahead with the scene. If you are in the least bit unsure, stop and talk.

The time to clarify consent is before a scene, not after.

Unsafe Players

There are no entrance exams to pass to get into the community and personal judgments vary. Anyone who has been around for more than a little while has likely heard about someone who is reputed to be unsafe, emotionally unstable, or who doesn't respect limits. You should take these warnings seriously, but remember that such judgments are necessarily subjective. Get second and third opinions if you can.

And if you find yourself in the position of wanting to warn others about a player you feel is unsafe, be as objective as you can, and give facts whenever possible.

Let's take care of each other.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995.
Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated)

Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370, Clackamas, OR 97015

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The "C" Word and the "B" word
by Tamar Kay

"C" is for "Community," a word that many of us believe can, and should, mean more than our shared interests and occasional gatherings.

I would like to believe community means respect for each other, for the courage it takes to be who we are, and to live the way we are called to live. Respect for those who do not share our kinks. Respect, even, for those we don't like.

"B" is for "battle."

There are times to question another's actions, times to object to what someone has said or done. There are times to take friends aside and tell them that what they said maybe didn't come out the way they meant it to. There are times to talk about what someone has done -- as factually as possible -- in order to try to save someone else from getting hurt.

There are even times to complain about individuals and groups, to say how much better things would have gone if only we had been in charge.

And then there are times when discretion is the better part of valor. Times to turn from harsh words to respectful silence. This community is like an extended family, and as much as we might wish, not everyone in the family acts the way we want them to. At the family reunion little Bobby draws on the walls, grandma thinks it's cute, and Aunt Sally screams at them both. We don't always get along and it's likely we won't. But we can try. At this family reunion, would you stand in front of the family and yell out that grandma is a stupid old woman, or that Bobby is a worthless child?

Is the issue, whatever it is, worth that much pain? Is it worth starting a battle?

Maybe, and maybe not. A battle can last a long time. Ask yourself if it might not be easier to solve the problem yourself, one-on-one, instead of drawing lines and involving others. Ask yourself if a community this small can afford to splinter into bitter, resentful camps. Ask yourself if you could do it another way.

When you stand on stage, you represent our community. In those moments think carefully about what you say and do because your actions speak for all of us. Whether you're leading a march, teaching a class, giving a demonstration, or simply being yourself in a public place, you represent us. If you treat the community with honor and respect, it will treat you similarly.

We all make mistakes. I have some advice for you if you do: say so and let it go. If someone else does, say so -- as kindly as you can -- and let it go. Let's all work toward living more in the present than in the past.

Maybe you think this article doesn't apply to you, and maybe you're right. But things sometimes sneak up on us when we least expect them.

I ask a few moments of your time. I ask you to think about what I've said here, about how you can put more of yourself into the "C" word and less into the "B" word.

This is our community. It is what we make of it. Respect begets respect.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.)

Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370, Clackamas

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All You Need to Know
by Tamar Kay

You walk into the monthly meeting or party. Someone gives you a look, then whispers to a person nearby. You tense, then relax as you overhear them say something like: "What I wouldn't give to play with her. She's supposed to be incredible."

You may have to watch your ego, but those are problems you want to have. If you're serious about being a good player, whether top, bottom or switch, you want to be wanted. You'll need experience, of course, but how else do you, as a relative newcomer, get from where you are to being the sort of partner that people (or the right person) will seek out (and whisper nice things about?)

All you need to know is -- well, everything.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you what I think you should know in a few hundred words a month in this monthly newsletter. Even if I had thousands of words a day, and could offer private lessons too, it would be only this woman's opinion. What you need to do is to learn from many sources, and think about and practice what you learn.

I'm going to suggest some written resources here that I find valuable or that others have recommended to me. Ill tell you where I think you can get them (although there are no doubt other places, too. Its not a sacred list, its just my list.

So check 'em out. Study. Get good at your craft, be honest and considerate, and you'll get those looks and whispers. SM101, by Jay Wiseman. Even at $25.00, this book is a great deal, and is considered by many to be the best single reference around. It goes over all the basics, yet is worth reading no matter what your level of experience. (Available at Spartacus and through JT Toys catalog.)

DIFFERENT LOVING, by Gloria and William Brame. This is a survey of different aspects of d/s, with a gentle approach and personal essays in each section. If you're not sure of where your interests lie, this book can be a great help. (Available at the Crimson Phoenix.)

THE SEXUALLY DOMINANT WOMAN: A Workbook for Nervous Beginners, by Lady Green. A reference for woman who are just starting as tops. (JT Toys catalog.)

THE LEATHERMAN'S HANDBOOK II, by Larry Townsend. This is a cultural and technical exploration of the gay men's leather scene but discusses issues relevant to serious players of all orientations. (Spartacus and from JT Toys.)

LEARNING THE ROPES, by Race Bannon. "A Basic Guide to Safe and Fun S/M Lovemaking." (Spartacus and JT Toys.)

THE HISTORY OF THE ROD, by (the Reverend) William M. Cooper. The author of this turn-of-the-century history wants it known that this is "neither for the prurient nor the prudish." If you think that BDSM is a recent development, think again. This history travels from convent to bedroom and includes drawings. (I found my copy at Powell's, but that was a long time ago, and the book appears to be out of print. Check your favorite used bookstore. ISBN 1-85326-918-2) JT Toys -- send $2 for catalog (worth it) -- 4649 1/2 Russell Ave, LA CA 90027 -- 1-800-755-8697 -- friendly and helpful.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.)

Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370, Clackamas

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Ask Tamar
by Tamar Kay

This month I'll address a couple of questions that I was recently asked. If you have questions or issues that you'd like me to explore, please write to me, anonymously if you wish.

Standard disclaimer: this is only my opinion. Consider what I say and see if it makes sense to you, but remember that some answers work for some people and not for others. You must ultimately do what you feel is right for you.

Q: When I meet someone I think might be kinky, how much is okay to say? What's reasonable to ask? How do I make sure that I don't give offense?

Much depends on where and how you meet such a person. For example, if it happens to be a co-worker (depending on where you work), even if he or she dresses in leather and chains and sports a whip on Fridays, you may want to be circumspect before asking questions that will give away your own level of interest.

If you're at RCDC or some other kinky event, it's reasonable to assume some level of interest on the other person's part -- at least a desire to explore. If you are polite, there's nothing wrong with asking someone what his or her interests are.

Of course, such a discussion may be too personal for some (while others may talk your ears off), so you should always gracefully accept a reluctance to discuss such things. Be especially sensitive to newcomers, who may not know what's expected of them. Make sure that they do not feel compelled to go beyond their limits in discussing their interests. It is the responsibility of the more experienced community members to make sure that newcomers are as comfortable as possible.

If you're in a coffee shop and that leather-clad nymph at the other table has you so curious you can't help yourself, try asking about the cause of your suspicion. Sometimes the direct approach works: "nice handcuffs. Ever use them?" Or: "I recognize your leather pride pin. Are you active in the community?"

Remember that the traditional symbols of our community -- collars, chains, leathers, handcuffs, piercings -- have become very popular as fashion items among people who have little or no interest in power exchange or SM. Always be polite and friendly, and be careful of asking questions you're not willing to answer.

Q: I'm going to a play party for the first time. Everyone keeps telling me that I'm not expected to actually do anything. Why do they keep reassuring me? Should I be worried?

If it's a good "play" or dungeon party, given by a responsible member of the community, you have nothing to worry about. Many parties have a "no play the first time" policy that is intended to give you a chance to get familiar with that particular dungeon's rules and atmosphere.

As for the reassurances, lots of newcomers are understandably nervous before their first dungeon party. No matter how much you know, what books you've read, or what you've heard, the first time is the first time, and it can be nerve-wracking, as it was for me. At my first party I felt terribly awkward. Only after I met friendly folks did I begin to relax. Remember that a few kind words can go a long way toward easing a newcomer's fears.

It takes time to assimilate a new culture. If you're new, take that time. Listen and watch. If you have questions, ask them. The basic rules for dungeon parties usually include these: watch scenes from a respectful distance, never intrude in someone else's scene, and don't touch anything -- or anyone -- that isn't yours. Every dungeon varies slightly, so study the rules you're given carefully.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.)

Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370, Clackamas

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Finding a Kinky Partner, Part I
by Tamar Kay

This article begins a discussion of how you might go about finding a kinky partner, now that you've decided you want one. Since this discussion will take longer than a single article will allow, this article starts a short series.

Please understand that this article, like all my articles, is a reflection of my experience and discussions with other people, and may or may not be useful to you. I suggest that you read this article--and all material about relationships--with a critical eye. Only you can decide what works for you.

Finding a kinky partner can be quite a challenge, since you may have already eliminated most people you're likely to run across as potentials. But it can be done.

The first thing to do is to become as clear as you can about who you are, and what you want. This is especially important when you're looking to match interests with a potential partner.

There are a number of ways that people describe their kinky interests. I'm going to offer a few of the standard ones and then one of my own. Like any set of attributes, these are simplifications and generalizations that at best only sketch your areas of interest, but this can be a good place to begin.

If you're just starting in the scene, you may not be able to come to clear conclusions all at once-- that's all right. Give yourself time to learn who you are in this arena.

Charting your interests

For the following three categories, I suggest you try rating yourself from 0-10, where 0 means "not at all interested," 10 means "yes, definitely, and a lot," and 5 means that you can take it or leave it, or that you're not sure. Feel free to give yourself a range of numbers. Dominance and Submission, or "D/S": Power exchange, that is, having power over someone, or giving someone else power over you, usually in an erotic context.

Sadomasochism or "SM": Giving or receiving pain for some form of pleasure.

Sex: How often do you want it? Does your kinky activity need to include sex? Are you straight, gay, bi, or unsure? You may find your definitions vary depending on the activity and your partner. (Some people, for example, describe themselves as "SM-bi" even if they normally consider themselves straight or gay.)

Relationships: Do you want an exclusive relationship, or an open one? One partner or many? (The two previous questions are not the same. There are those who have fidelities relationships with more than one partner.)

Tamar's "Need and Desire" Scale

Your level of kinky "need and desire" can affect what you do and look for in a partner. I developed this scale to help people rate their interest level with regard to D/S and SM. I find it very useful when discussing partner matching issues and possibilities.

I divide intensity of "need and desire" into four categories. This is how I apply those categories to an interest in D/S and SM:

Category 0: No interest or enjoyment of D/S or SM. Also described as "vanilla."

Category 1: Enjoys D/S and/or SM activities as an addition to other sexual activities, as part of a repertoire. Could make do without such activities without feeling loss.

Category 2: Enjoys D/S and/or SM activities as a major component of sex and would be unhappy to be without these activities.

Category 3: Requires D/S and/or SM activities in order to be sexually fulfilled, such activities and/or perspectives being defining factors in their lives. These are often (but not always) those who will say they are at the "lifestyle" end of the spectrum.

You might ask yourself which category you best fit into. If you meet someone you're interested in, you may also want to ask them. Mismatched interest levels can lead to problems. For example, a category three is unlikely to feel fulfilled in a monogamous relationship with a category one.

Think about what's important to you, what you need and want, and what you can compromise on. The better you know yourself, the better luck you'll have finding someone to share your interests. Next month: now that I've got you thinking about you, let's talk about the person you're looking for.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1994. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.) Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370; Clackamas, OR 97015

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Finding a Kinky Partner, Part II
by Tamar Kay

This is the second article in my series on finding a kinky partner. In my last article we focused on who you are. Next I'll talk about the person you might be looking for and how to interest them. The best way to make yourself interesting to others is to be interested in them.

Again, please keep in mind that this article is a reflection of my experience and may or may not be useful to you. I encourage you to take in any information about relationships with a critical eye. Only you can decide what works for you.

Last time I examined some ways to describe your own kinky interests, which can be useful when you're trying to find someone to match you. But who are you looking for?

Perhaps you've given it a lot of thought (after having read last month's article and, of course, SM101 cover-to-cover.) Now you have a pretty clear idea of what you're looking for. That's a fine start, but now try thinking more about that other person--not what you want from them, but what they might want from you. The sort of person you're looking for--what would they be looking for? What would that someone get from being with you?

Relationships work best when all parties get more out of being together than being apart, when they get their wants and needs met most of the time. In short, when the benefits outweigh the costs. The better you understand a potential partner's wants and needs, the better you'll be able to negotiate about and meet those needs. By putting yourself in that person's place, you may start to understand what they might want. Think about the issues from the other side. Ask yourself what a potential partner might be most concerned with.

For example, a successful business person might be concerned with discretion--will you be able to go out on dates and "pass" as vanilla in vanilla circles? A very attractive partner might be concerned with anything but physical appearance--they might need to feel wanted for who they are inside more than for their looks. And many women are concerned with the safety of a new partner. Can you address those issues?

Everyone wants something. See if you can figure out what it is. Those will be the keys to engaging in a successful relationship.

If you're a heterosexual man, you may be thinking that it's harder to find women, and that you're at a disadvantage. There's some truth to that, since there usually appear to be more men in the scene than women. But remember that you aren't competing with all other men, just the ones who are looking for the same things you are, which (remember last month's column?) might be very specific.

And be careful about getting caught in the "I can't find a partner because there aren't enough of <insert-target-group-here>." That may be a convenient way to make yourself feel better about not finding what you want, but it is also a way of making the challenges someone else's problem. If you want a partner, these are your challenges, and you don't get any closer to meeting them by giving them away.

The more you know about your target group, the more likely you are to find someone in that group with whom to share a mutual attraction. Think about the needs and wants of your target group. What makes you special? What can you offer someone? What's unusual about you? Be as specific as you can. Make a list. Take some guesses. If you're really stuck, ask someone to help you. Once you have a list, try to look at it from the point of view of a potential partner. Imagine that you're your desired partner. How does the list look? What are you pleased to find there? What's missing?

Be careful on that last one; we are usually our own harshest judges. My goal here isn't to encourage you to list all your shortcomings (though you're free to do so) but to encourage you to try to see out of the eyes of an imaginary partner. Understanding someone else's needs goes a long way toward building a successful match.

After you've made your list and given it some thought, you might want to try looking around to see if anyone you already know looks different in light of your reflections. You never know. Next month: where should you look and how?

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.) Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370; Clackamas, OR 97015

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Finding a Kinky Partner, Part III
by Tamar Kay

This is the third in my series of articles on finding a kinky partner. In this one I'll talk about where to look for a partner, and how. As always, please bear in mind that this article is the result of my own experience and might not be applicable to you. Please read all information about relationships with a critical eye. Only you can decide what works for you.

Last month I asked you to think in depth about the person you're looking for to get a better idea of what that person might be like and what you might offer them. This time I'll explore ways to meet that potential partner.

When you're searching for something, you should try to increase the odds of finding it. Sounds pretty simple, eh? So, when you're searching for a partner, seek ways to contact the broadest possible spectrum of compatible people.

In short, you should look everywhere.

Events

Being physically present at an event increases the odds of coming across a potential partner. Meeting someone in the flesh is always the best way to screen potential partners because you get more information from them than you would, say, over the phone. If you decide to use this avenue, try to attend as many events as you can. RCDC and other groups put on regular events. Ask around. You may also want to join the NLA -- the National Leather Association, which now has local events and yearly conventions.

Personals Ads

Placing and answering ads may also be a way of hooking up with like-minded individuals. Remember that not everyone who might be compatible with you is involved in the organized scene. Some people don't like crowds. If you're one of them, you may find this a better avenue than attending events.

Local ads make it easier to meet potential matches, whereas national ads let you search among a greater range of people. Much depends on the publication in which you place your ad.

If you have access to the Internet, you can place an ad for free on alt.bondage.personals. Since access is both free and world-wide, not everyone posting there is serious, but many are.

Personals ads are effective for some people, less so for others. Keep in mind that while the odds may favor women looking for men, anyone can stand out with a good ad.

Should you lie, or maybe fudge the truth a little? Someone once told me, "everyone lies in personals ads." But it isn't true. If you want an honest partner, you have to offer the same. It's a bad idea to misrepresent yourself in a community whose watch phrase is "safe, sane, and consensual." Honesty builds trust.

Ask Your Friends

You can ask the people you know in the community for help in your search. Most people in the community are pleased to help. Some are closet matchmakers who would be only too happy to have an invitation to be involved with your search. And if someone in the community recommends a potential partner to you, that personal reference is an added safety bonus.

But never take anyone else's word on the safety of an unknown partner. You have to judge for yourself, which brings us to...

Safety

I recommend reading the chapter, "Finding Partners," in Jay Wiseman's SM101. He covers a good number of safety tips. If you are a woman, be especially careful: don't give out your home phone or address to an unknown contact and don't meet in private unless a trusted friend knows where you are and will check on you.

Safety first! People do get hurt, and you don't want to be one of them. I can't begin to cover good safety practice here, so I again recommend picking up a good reference. Ask around. (SM101 is available at Spartacus or by mail through JT Toys, 800-755-8697.) Don't compromise on your safety. Safety is no joke when you're letting someone you don't know tie you up. Be safe starting with the first time. You may not get a second chance.

Getting The Word Out

Try writing a personals ad for yourself. Start out writing whatever comes to you, and edit later. You may want to scale it down for a newspaper. Ask friends to review it for you. There's nothing wrong with a second set of eyes, no matter how practiced you are. (I have my articles reviewed before I send them to RCDC -- Thanks, Simon!)

Approaching Someone in Person

People in the scene are rarely offended when approached directly, provided you are direct, don't apply pressure, and gracefully take "no" for an answer. If there's someone you're interested in, then consider approaching them directly. It's not that different from other social situations -- simply walk up and politely start up a conversation.

Some Do's and Don'ts

Do be friendly and try to show your best qualities (with your clothes on, please, unless it's that kind of party.) Do treat everyone with respect and courtesy. Do be honest about what you want and know.

Don't throw yourself at someone's feet, or start ordering them around. Such activities must be negotiated ahead of time. Behavior like that is considered rude and immature.

Do get out there and start looking.

Nervous? You're in good company. But the best thing you can do is start practicing. Introduce yourself to someone you're interested in, or answer a voice mail ad. Give it a try.

Next month: Patience, Persistence, Seduction, and Compromise.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.) Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370, Clackamas, OR 97015.

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Finding a Kinky Partner, Part IV
by Tamar Kay

This is the fourth article in my series on finding a kinky partner. In this one I'll talk about four important aspects of finding and developing a relationship: patience, persistence, seduction, and compromise.

Patience

You can't rush good wine, chocolate chip cookies, or great relationships. And even when you've got someone in your sights, respect and trust--essential components of any relationship, especially relationships based on power exchange--have to be allowed to develop over time.

If you're sure you've found the partner of your dreams, yet find they're sometimes hesitant or ambivalent, don't panic. It takes time to relax into each other. Getting to know someone is a lot like learning a language -- you have to practice and have time to absorb the subtleties. Hang out. Talk a lot. Play.

Sceneing is a lot like high-risk sports. Do you ski? Skydive? Race cars? It may be that if you invite your new interest to go white water rafting, they'll be strapping on a life jacket before you finished talking. But then again, maybe not. SM and d/s can be extreme forms of human interaction and not everyone is equally ready to jump in and start the ride. Sometimes patience is the answer.

Even if your object of affection is enthusiastic, there may be moments that make one or both of you hesitate. Be patient with your partner and yourself. There will always be time later, after you've learned each other better. In the beginning, take as much time as you need. A strong, lasting relationship is built gradually on solid foundations.

Persistence

If you've found someone, then you know that persistence pays off. If you haven't, you may instead feel discouraged. Looking for someone can be frustrating, especially if your erotic desires limit the playing field, as they do for many of us. (Remember Article One and categories of interest level.)

While many people report that they find partners when they least expect them, that doesn't mean they weren't looking when they hit pay dirt. Keep your eyes open. Search in whatever way suits you best (some I discussed in Article Three), but most important, keep that window of opportunity open as long as possible -- the ideal partner may be out there looking for you, but if you stop looking, they may miss you.

If you need to take a break, then do. My articles tend to focus on a scene-oriented view of issues, but there are other things in life besides SM and d/s. If you get tired of the search, it may be time to focus on other things that matter to you. And who knows what you'll find? Remember that kinky people are everywhere. Be open to opportunity, wherever it may arise.

Once you've found someone, persistence is still important. Some relationships take a lot of work, some take much less. Determine what level of attention your relationship needs, and then figure out how to provide it. Like plants, relationships need different amounts and types of nourishment.

Seduction

Seduction takes many forms. Everyone has a different approach. There are, however, a few basic principles.

Look good. It can be discouraging to search and search and still not find. Ironically, the more desperate and hungry you act, the less likely someone is to be attracted to you. The best way to seduce someone is to start by being seductive to yourself.

The key to looking good to others is to look good to yourself. Look in the mirror. Talk to yourself about what you see. Get comfortable with how you look and move and sound. Do what you can to become happier with yourself.

There are no objective measures here--however you look, move, or act, when you are comfortable with yourself, you'll be at your most attractive to others.

Listen well. When someone cares about what you say, you notice them. Why? Because people want to be cared about and want to be heard. Listen well to someone and you can make them feel, if only for a moment, that they're the most important person in the world. There is little as compelling as that.

The most important thing to be able to hear is "no." People may use other words, but you have to listen for the real meaning. If you're uncertain, err on the side of caution. You might be reluctant to hear "no", but that very reluctance can work against you--how you react to such communications is vital. If you treat someone's "no" with respect and understanding, you might find the "no" changing--but don't count on it. Do listen.

Give the best gift. The most unique gift you can give someone is yourself, your respect, your time. Learn to be as present as you can for each moment you are with someone you care about. Give of yourself, with integrity, as completely as you can.

Compromise

In any relationship, whether one is the top or bottom, there has to be give and take to make the partners fit. When the first snag comes along--and it will--remember that even in ideal relationships people have to change to meet each other.

The food of a relationship is the fun stuff, the stuff that makes you want to be close. Ideally, you'll both be so well fed on each other that when you have to work hard, the relationship will easily seem worth the effort. Feed your relationship the best food--the fun stuff--as much as you can.

In SM- and d/s- based relationships, we often use the word "negotiation" instead of "compromise." You may have already negotiated the basics of your relationship, but if the relationship has changed, those negotiations may be out of date. There's nothing wrong with reevaluation. Talk about what works as well as what doesn't. If you're the dominant, you can make it easier for your submissive to bring up problems by encouraging communication. Patience, persistence, seduction, and compromise. And fun.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.) Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370, Clackamas, OR 97015.

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Finding a Kinky Partner, Part V
by Tamar Kay

This is the fifth and final article in my series on finding a kinky partner. There's no way to cover all the aspects of this subject in the space I've had--even if I knew what they were. Instead I've tried to examine some of the basics that I consider most important. I've focused specifically on kinky relationships, but many of the points I've covered apply as well to any relationship: knowing yourself and your values (article 1), knowing whom you're looking for (article 2), being respectful and caring about others (article 3), having fun and sharing fun (article 4), and good communication (this article) are all important aspects of any successful relationship.

But please remember that this series is only a reflection of my personal opinions and experience. I recommend that you consider information about relationships with a critical eye. Only you can decide what works for you.

So perhaps you've found that special someone, but things aren't working out quite the way you want them to. What now? If the relationship turns messy, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself.

What are the problems?

Do you know? If not you might try writing about them. Often putting issues into writing can make them clearer, and can also give you a chance to review them later. If you're stuck, try making a list of incidents, how you felt about them, and what you wish had happened instead.

If you can't agree with your partner about the nature of the problems, perhaps you both could benefit from writing about them. This can be especially useful when tempers are short.

Are you fighting?

Can you talk about the issues without fighting? If you can't, then that's another problem. It's important to try to communicate clearly, to fight, when you must, as "cleanly" as possible. Be careful about assigning blame when trying to sort out the issues. It's very hard not to feel and act defensive when you feel attacked, so do whatever you can to make sure your partner doesn't feel attacked. For example, saying, "When you said that, I felt bad..." is less hostile than saying, "You made me feel bad." Try to keep blame out of the picture, and try to state your feelings nonjudgmentally.

Are the problems D/S- or SM- based?

If the problems are rooted in power exchange, then you may be able to deal with them by renegotiating your power-exchange agreement. Remember that in order for power exchange to work, both partners have to feel they have power to begin with. After all, you can't give anything away unless you have it to start with, and you can't take something that someone isn't fully giving. Don't be afraid of renegotiation--you may find that your new arrangement suits you better, or even that it doesn't look very different from the old one. Sometimes a willingness to reevaluate is all that's needed.

Can you talk about the problems?

One of the differences between a vanilla relationship and one based on power exchange is that there are times when it's reasonable for one partner (often the top) to not want to talk about the problem with the other because it might damage the power exchange. Even then, that partner should talk with someone, preferably someone who has had experience with the issues involved--another top, for example. This is a good time to make use of the community. If you can't talk to your partner, for whatever reason, find someone you can talk to.

Can you ask for help?

It's common in our culture to keep our relationship problems private because admitting we need help is often viewed as weakness. But we depend on other people all the time, and helping each other is one of the greatest privileges of friendship. Ask for help when you need it.

Kinky relationships can be especially complicated, and some of the issues can't be taken to a counselor. (There are some scene-friendly counselors, though. Ask around.) People in the scene are usually quite willing to talk with you about your experiences and offer opinions. But everyone is different--if what you hear doesn't make sense to you, continue asking. Get different viewpoints. Trust your intuitions.

Are you still having fun?

Are the problems in your relationship preventing you from having good times together? If so, then you may be starving the relationship. A balance of fun times to hard times is necessary in order for you both to continue working and expending energy. It's not uncommon for two people dealing with hard problems simply to become exhausted. If the problems detract from your ability to "feed" the relationship, then you need either to solve them before the relationship starves, or to find new ways to feed the relationship so that you don't run out of energy.

Are you listening?

It's hard to listen when someone you care about is saying things you don't want to hear. But it's essential. Rather than blowing up, try to take a "time out." Even five minutes apart can help both people cool down. If neither is listening, you may find that it helps to take turns. Use a stopwatch.

Listening is a powerful tool. If you can say to your partner, "Why don't you talk and I'll listen," you may find it possible to transform a fight into a good exchange.

Do you like your partner?

If there is a feeling of good will between you and your partner, then you have the most important tool of all. If that starts to break down, try to get it back.

Don't forget to tell your partner, in all the ways you can, that you value and desire them. That is, after all, the essence of any good relationship.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.) Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370, Clackamas, OR 97015.

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What You Don't See
by Tamar Kay

When consenting adults get together to do kinky things, as they often do at dungeon parties, erotic imaginations manifest in all sorts of interesting ways, which we generally call "scenes." (As opposed to "the scene," which refers to the kinky community in general.) The variety of scenes you can see at a play party can be both inspiring and educational.

Or startling or disturbing, especially if you're watching intense scenes that you don't understand, or that look dangerous. The thing is, you can't always see what's going on just by watching. I'd like to take you on a stroll through an imaginary dungeon party and give you the inside scoop on a few imaginary scenes.

Picture yourself in a large room, with high ceilings, an assortment of racks, tables, and other interesting dungeon equipment. The first thing you notice is a small woman who snaps a single tail whip at a helplessly bound man. The single tail licks at him so fast that it's a blur, and the only way you can tell where it's landing is the little red marks it leaves on his backside. He yelps, cries out, and finally starts yelling "no" at the top of his lungs. He sounds quite sincere and you begin to worry whether or not he really wants to be there.

What you don't see: the bottom in this scene has a safe word, but it isn't "no." If he needs the scene to stop or slow down, he has a way to make that happen. However uncomfortable he may look--or may truly be--he is in this scene by choice.

In the corner a man and a woman sit talking. You recognize them and start to walk over to say hello, but something about how intent they both are on each other makes you hesitate. It's not a scene, so there shouldn't be any problem, right?

What you don't see: This is indeed a scene, an intense, quiet, d/s scene. Not all scenes are obvious. Some are subtle and psychological. Because you can't always be sure, approach people respectfully, giving them a chance to notice you and welcome you, perhaps with eye contact or a greeting. The same sort of thing can happen at non-kinky gatherings, when two people are deeply involved and don't want to be disturbed. Just be sensitive.

You watch as over the course of an hour a woman ties another, naked woman into a tall wooden frame with rope. The tied woman is blindfolded and clearly unable to move. As a final touch, the top stuffs a wadded up handkerchief into the bottom's mouth and then sits herself down a few feet away to drink a cup of water. You know enough about knots to know these aren't quick releases, and you don't see scissors around anywhere, so you begin to worry that the scene might not be safe.

What you don't see: The tied woman can spit the gag out at any time. The top knows her knots very well and has a knife in her back pocket. She has, in fact, practiced cutting someone out of bondage like this before. If she has to, she can free her bottom in seconds.

As you walk to the water fountain you see two people sitting at a table. The man is someone you know, and the woman is new to the scene. She pulls out play-piercing needles and starts to do a scene with him. You know that needles can be dangerous and you worry about your friend doing a scene with this inexperienced stranger.

What you don't see: yes, the woman is new to the scene, but she's also a trained medical practitioner. She probably knows needles and health issues better than anyone else in the room.

You glance back at the couple in the corner who you know. The man stands, grabs the woman by the hair, pulls her head up, and slaps her loudly across the face three times. She starts to cry and he starts to hit her again. They aren't gentle slaps, and she appears to be truly upset. It disturbs you to see this, and you genuinely worry that the woman might be in trouble.

What you don't see: hair pulling and face slapping can be done quite safely. As for tears, strong emotions can be an important part of power-exchange scenes, especially between people who know each other well. Again, you have to trust that the people involved know what they're doing, that they choose to be there, doing it. Just because you're uncomfortable with a scene doesn't mean that it's wrong for others to do it. Try not to project your own uncertainty onto the scenes of others.

Remember that you're not merely an observer in dungeons like these--you're part of the environment and community that makes this party a safe place for people to do scenes in the first place. As such, your understandings and knowledge matter. Your support and wisdom makes a difference.

The above scenes are based on real-life incidents. They are safe as any scene can be, because of the knowledge and expertise of the people involved. That knowledge and expertise isn't always visible to a casual observer. But it's there.

There are times to be concerned. Some of the above scenes might not have been safe. There is a proper etiquette for dungeon parties in this case: if you're worried, go to the dungeon master or mistress. The dungeon master or mistress (also called the "DM") is someone who is trusted by the organizers of the event to monitor play and insure that it is safe. If you're worried, find the DM and tell them of your concerns.

But don't take it upon yourself to make things right. Don't interrupt the scene, with action or voice. Don't start rumors and don't gossip. Remember that there may be things you don't see. Go and talk to the DM.

If you are still concerned, talk to someone else you respect in the community. And finally, if your mind is not yet at ease, talk to the people involved--respectfully, and with an open mind--after the scene is over. They may be quite willing to explain their motivations if you approach them with a sincere desire to understand.

Remember, there are scenes that won't make sense to you just by watching.

Copyright (c) Tamar Kay 1995. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety with byline. (A copy of the publication would be appreciated.) Tamar Kay may be contacted via RCDC, PO Box 1370, Clackamas, OR 97015.


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