Hi! I’m interested in learning more about the BDSM community and how to get involved safely. How does someone wanting to be in a submissive role find a good dominant and stay safe while looking for one? Is there a vetting process that subs use, questions to ask, etc.

Ah, the hunt. The BDSM scene can often feel like my underwear drawer as I approach laundry day - too many bottoms, not enough tops. But then, in other circles, everybody complains about the abundance of tops and no good bottoms. So which is it? I think the truth is that it’s simply hard to find someone who comes off the shelf tailor-made to fulfill your needs. Weird how that happens. So the name of the game as you get involved in the community is using your people intuition at every step of the way. Even more so than in vanilla dating, you have to be EXTRA SENSITIVE to red flags. Discuss as much as you can in advance of meeting if you find someone on an app, meet in a public place, then turn on your Red Flag Radar. Even if everything on the surface is fine, if something gives you anything from a tummy ache to the slightest whiff of suspicion - bounce. The right Dom will understand that they can’t go from zero to sixty with a new sub right off the bat without establishing trust. For clarity, a short rundown of red flags that are absolute, across-the-board dealbreakers:

  • The Dom doesn’t mention anything about BDSM being founded on the coming together of equals, and instead talks some weird game about Doms being superior to subs/rattles off some busted gendered bullshit/etc.

  • The Dom refers to their exes or former subs as “crazy” as a running theme

  • The Dom has no interest in your prior experience

    • This one is important! You should have an open and honest discussion about what you have and haven’t tried and your opinions about everything before jumping into a scene

  • The Dom doesn’t establish or discuss safe words

  • The Dom doesn’t do aftercare

  • The Dom doesn’t show an interest in obtaining active consent during a scene

I could go on and on, but those should serve as a beginning road map. In my opinion, no D/s play should begin to occur without a clothed, sober discussion of preferences, limits, safe words, and what to expect in a scene if you were to go forward. One thing you can do as a sub to better prepare yourself for a vetting process would be to know your limits — hard and soft — like the back of your hand and be ready to rattle them off. But also know what you’re into and can’t live without! This is high stakes, but it’s supposed to be fun. The more carefully you begin, the more fun you can have down the road.

The more carefully you begin, the more fun you can have down the road.

Another vetting tip I’ve heard of and strongly endorse is asking the Dom if they have any other play partners you can talk to before getting involved with them. Many members of the BDSM community will maintain longish-term FWB scenarios with various play partners, so checking in with those people about the Dom’s practices may help you feel at ease as well. But if your internal alarm bells aren’t going off, I say go ahead and slowly, slowly get crazy ;)