You've dabbled in kink – a little bit of rope, a little extra control, maybe a forced orgasm or two. You're curious about what goes on in other places, though. Sex clubs, dungeons – they sound a little scary and a lot mysterious. No two places are exactly alike, but many have plenty of similarities. Before you think a BDS M dungeon is a place you can't imagine going, it may help to understand how they work and what goes on behind closed doors.

Private vs. Public Dungeons

Be aware that some dungeons are public and others are private. Public dungeons will let anyone in who follows certain guidelines, rules and requirements. You may have to be sponsored by someone who attends. You may have to show your ID or submit to a background check.

Private dungeons are often by invitation only. My preferred dungeon only allows people who have been personally vetted by the owner of the dungeon or select friends. People are often refused admittance because they don't practice safe BDSM or because they are seen as predator.

Not Everyone Gets In

Anyone under the age of 18, and possibly 21 if alcohol is available, will be denied entrance. If a dungeon requires ID, you're not getting in without that, regardless of your age. You may also be required to sign waivers and statements. No signature, no entrance. Dungeons can and do ban people for refusing to follow the dungeon rules too.

Don't expect that just because you show up in your best leather gear, you're getting in for the night. Dungeons are often very careful about who they let in. One misstep with the law or one person who doesn't respect safety or privacy, and the whole dungeon could be shut down - or worse. Oh, and don't expect to be allowed to bring your cell phone inside. This rule protects the safety and privacy of everyone present.

Expect to Pay a Cover

Dungeons are businesses, and they've got bills to pay. Space, electricity, staff ... none of it comes cheap. Prices vary from location to location, of course, but $20 or more per person isn't unusual. Be prepared to pay the cover in cash.

Memberships may be available for your local dungeon. Most of the time, you'll pay annual membership dues, and then get access to private parties, the ability to rent the space, or even a lower cover fee when you attend. Every club is different. Make sure to ask what you get for your membership fee before you join.

Understand Protocols

Protocols are very important in many BDSM interactions. Specific titles, averted eyes, only speaking to the “correct” people – it can get confusing fast. Most dungeons will either post the rules or explain them on your first visit. They may even offer an orientation session during non-club hours to go over the rules.

There are, however, some “standard” protocols that you'll see in many dungeons:

  • Dominants can't touch submissives without permission from the submissive's Dominant.
  • Submissives must use honorifics with all Dominants, not just their own. “Sir” and “Ma'am” are common, but ask if you're unsure.
  • Dominants do not speak to another Dominant's submissive without permission.

There may be more protocols at your local dungeon. If you're a single submissive, some of the protocols won't apply. When in doubt, ask. (Wondering what it's like to be a submissive? Read A Day In the Life of a 24/7 Submissive .)

Safety Is Paramount

Safe, sane and consensual is a constant refrain in the world of BDSM. From the time you walk in the door and show your ID until the time you leave, your safety and the safety of everyone else should be top of mind.

Dungeon monitors can be found throughout a dungeon. They monitor people who are playing to make sure safewords aren't ignored, bad technique doesn't threaten someone's health, and that bystanders aren't getting in the way of the action. A good monitor can and will stop all play if they believe a situation is becoming dangerous and unsafe. They will also remove someone who doesn't respect other people's space or the scene.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions – But Know When to Ask Them

Not everyone who attends a dungeon participates in a scene or plays. If you can't imagine being seen by an audience, no problem. Some people only go to hang out, observe and socialize. You will, however, see a lot that is new or strange to you.

It's perfectly normal to have questions about what's going on, but it's not OK to ask people what they're doing while they're doing it. Ask questions of other observers in a quiet voice unless you see a sign or have been told that the rule is no talking in the area. Ask the dungeon monitor. Wait until the scene is done and everyone has their clothes back on if you want to ask the people involved. Most people are happy to answer any and all questions if do ask them at the right time.

Nudity Is the Norm but Not Necessary

The first time I attended a local dungeon, I saw more boobs than I thought possible. Big ones, little ones, saggy ones and perky ones. Many people wear their fetish gear to the dungeon – or they change after they arrive. Some gear leaves very little to the imagination.

Other times, no one strips their clothes off until they become involved in a scene. I'm one of those. The only thing I wear during a scene is a thong. It leaves me exposed for whatever my Dominant has in mind. Just because nudity is allowed and common in dungeons doesn't mean everyone is getting naked. It's OK to wear your street clothes in the door and keep them on the entire time too.

Not All Dungeons Allow Sex

One dungeon I attend doesn't allow penetration or fluids. The other says anything goes as long as you clean up after yourself. Every dungeon is different. If you're new, don't walk in the door thinking you're about to see strangers getting freaky in every corner. Don't expect that random people will proposition you for some freaky corner action of your own. (Note that if someone does proposition, it's fine for you to refuse. And they had better respect your decision. Get a dungeon monitor immediately if they don't.)

This particular rule should be explained from the very beginning. As with anything else, when in doubt, ask. Remember, you don't have to have sex just because the club allows it. No one should make you feel uncomfortable because you do or don't get busy during a scene.

Read: The Dungeon Disguised As a Bookshop

Check Your Body and/or Kink Shame at the Door

When you walk through the doors of a dungeon, especially once the night is in full swing, you will see things you never imagined. Someone might be playing with fire. Others will be bound, gagged, and “tortured.” Someone will probably be completely naked – and they probably won't have a supermodel's body.

The dungeon is a great place to see people from all walks of life enjoying any number of kinks and fetishes. You don't have to like someone's body to be respectful. You don't have to enjoy a kink in order to accept it. If you show disrespect to someone's body or scene, you may find yourself looking at the club from the outside ... by yourself.

Just the word "dungeon" sounds a dark and scary. In reality, a BDSM dungeon is a place for kinksters to get together, learn something new, hang out and have a little fun. Sure, people will be naked and possibly having sex. Yes, there are rules to follow and new things to learn. Just keep in mind that the dungeon can and should be a safe place to be your kinky self too.

Note: There are two good ways to find out about what dungeons are in your area: word of mouth and Fetlife. Some people consider Fetlife a dark and scary place, and it can be. It's also an excellent source of information about munches , clubs and kinky people in your are. If you don't have any local kinky friends to tell you where to go, you'll want to check Fetlife to find a club or dungeon.