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Welcome to the Dungeon: How to Join the BDSM Community

Published: OCTOBER 17, 2023 | Updated: NOVEMBER 10, 2023
The BDSM community is not a black leather dreamland, but for those who come into it with open hearts and minds, it can be much more than a place for sex.

So, you’ve been reading a lot of good books and looking at a lot of great sites (ahem). Maybe you’ve even tried some kinky play on your own, but you know that when it comes to BDSM, there’s more out there: an entire world of clubs, classes, events and - best of all - lots of potential playmates.


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So how do you go from here, where you are, to there, where all those kinky people are? In other words, how do you actually join the BDSM community? The good news is that it’s a lot easier than you think - although there are some valuable lessons to be learned before, during and after you put on your fetish gear and join in.

Understanding the BDSM world

One of the biggest hurdles many people face when they search for their place in the kink scene is letting go of what they think the community is. You can’t really blame them: when it comes to BDSM, the mainstream media gets more wrong than it does right.

Fictional depictions of BDSM are often closer to emotional and physical abuse than to the reality of being a member of the BDSM community. Crucial elements like negotiation and consent are often glossed over for the sake of (ill-conceived) erotic intensity.


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When you decide to find your place in the BDSM world, try not to bring expectations along with you. Instead, take it slow, take it steady, and do your best to walk into it with your eyes open.

Another common hurdle is that people sometimes expect the BDSM community to be the solution to all of their kinky troubles. They expect it to be a leather utopia free of conflict and mistakes. When something does go wrong, they don’t just run for the door - they slam it shut behind them.

Like the term BDSM itself, the kink community is vast and almost infinitely variable. There are subsets within subsets of interests and activities. If there’s one consistent thing, it's that it’s made up of people. People can be caring, loving, tender, infuriating, rude, intolerant and everything between.


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That being said, the BDSM community really does try to be inclusive and welcoming. In fact, we seriously recommend that when you do go to your first meeting or event, that you be upfront and clear about your experiences, as limited as they might be. “When I entered my first BDSM event I thought ‘This is the island for misfit toys,’” says, Robin Beatch, sex and relationship educator and host of Sex with Robin.

People new to the kink world are usually treated with kindness and care, in large part, Beatch says, because everyone there remembers how intimidating it was to show up for the first time.

The only times I’ve experienced someone who isn’t treated well is when they’ve arrived weighed down with either bigotry or arrogance. Perhaps even worse is when they come thinking the BDSM world is going to be some kind of free-flowing orgy where sex is there for the asking - or the grabbing.


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How to Connect With the BDSM Community

Back in the day *cracks aching joints* you had to find munches and other BDSM events through listings on the back page of the newspaper. These days, it’s far easier to connect with the BDSM community, both online and in person.

How to Connect with the BDSM Community Online

So how do you find the BDSM community? One of the best resources to find your part of the BDSM community is online, through sites like Alt.com, Adult Friend Finder, FetLife, Reddit, and even MeetUp or dating apps. You can also try googling “BDSM Events” plus your city or state.

These days, there are more online classes and workshops than ever before, so even if you live in a small town, you can access BDSM content from the comfort of your living room.


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Exploring online has other advantages too. The anonymity of a username can help ease anxiety for first-time kinksters trying to navigate a new world. It can also be helpful for protecting your privacy if you’re not ready to come out to friends, family and co-workers about your kinky interests.

Plus, online communities often feature blogs and forums that allow you to interact with other members. They give you the ability to ask questions and find the answers you really want to know.

It's important to note that not all online BDSM communities are created equal. Keep an eye out for spaces that use moderators to keep the scammers and trolls away.


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Online Safety Tips

Diving into BDSM can be fun and exciting, but it’s important to keep your privacy and safety in mind. Here are a few key tips.

  • Choose an anonymous username. Online spaces will allow you to choose a username - take advantage of this feature! Even if you think you’ll want to be fully out down the line, give yourself options while you’re exploring.

  • Consider profile pictures carefully. Unlike sites like Facebook or Instagram, you may want to think twice before posting real pictures of yourself on BDSM sites. Try starting with something artistic, or a body or outfit photo in which you can’t be identified. Remember, the internet is forever. So, don’t post anything until you’re absolutely sure you’d be OK with people you know seeing it.

  • Don’t share personal or identifiable information. You may decide to go to events or go on dates with people you meet online - and that’s fine. But don’t share too much info online until you’re sure about the person or people you’re talking to.

  • Use dedicated accounts or phone numbers. Consider creating a new email address specifically for joining these communities, and if you plan to give out your phone number, create a dedicated Google Voice account for this purpose.

How to Connect With Your Local BDSM Community

If you want to connect with your local BDSM community in person, you’ll likely still begin with the steps above. Online spaces are often the best way to discover what’s going on locally, and to get a feel for the vibe of an event before you show up.

The first piece of advice pretty much everyone gives for joining the BDSM community is to attend a munch. What is a munch? Well, it’s a meet-up of kinksters in a public, vanilla space. (Often a bar or restaurant, where there’s food.)

Munches are specifically designed to be welcoming to newcomers and often have greeters there to spot anyone who looks lost or overwhelmed, and to help answer their questions. Sometimes munches even host their own classes, which can be a great way to learn, and also to get your toes wet without the fear of small talk.

Speaking of classes, they’re another great way to start to get to know your local community. BDSM comes with risk, and that means it’s important to learn how to explore your kinks safely. From spanking to bondage to more extreme fetishes, you can find classes on a wide variety of topics both online and in person.

The great thing about starting with classes is that while there’s some mingling before and after, you spend most of your time simply watching a presentation, which can be a less intimidating way to dive in. Classes are also a good way to meet new people who are also interested in exploring safely.

How to Choose BDSM Events

When you find a BDSM event you’re interested in checking out in person, do some research. Most venues and clubs will have a website and a social media presence. These are great ways to check out the vibe of a space before you attend. You’ll also want to carefully read all the rules and look up the dress code before you take the plunge. Some events require fetish gear (wearing all black is often a safe substitute) or may not allow jeans or sneakers, etc.

If the event or venue has social media with comments, read them carefully. This is a great way to get a feel for the kinds of people who attend, and whether they’re your kind of people.

Read: The Dungeon Disguised as a Bookshop

In-Person BDSM Event Safety Tips

As with any BDSM event, put your safety above everything else. Just because you’re meeting folks face-to-face doesn’t mean you need to give out your real name. Plenty of people have a “scene name,” something they go by in the BDSM community. This may be their screen name from online communities, or another pseudonym. Here are a few other ideas to help you protect yourself:

  • Be ready to say “no.” If you’re going to events, especially events that involve kink play and/or sex, you’ll need to be comfortable saying no.

  • Create a safe call. Similar to going on vanilla dates, it’s a good idea if someone knows where you are and what you’re doing. Try to find at least one friend who you can text info about who you’re meeting or what event you’re attending. You may also want to share your phone location with this friend.

  • Use the buddy system. One of the best ways to stay safe when going to in-person events is to bring a friend. If you know anyone who’s also interested in exploring - great! But even if a friend isn’t kinky, you may be surprised what they’re willing to go along to, just out of curiosity.

  • Vetting & references. Before you play with someone at an event, or meet up with them alone, check their references. You can ask the person to provide references, but it’s also a good idea to ask around on your own, too. Beatch recommends contacting event organizers because they usually have all the dirt. This can be especially useful if you need to travel out of your local area, and don’t know anyone you can ask.

  • Trust your gut. Whether in person or online, if something feels off, it probably is. It may be tempting in a new or unfamiliar space to second guess yourself (especially if someone is taking advantage of your inexperience) but 99% of the time if something doesn’t feel right to you, that’s probably because it isn’t. At a minimum, get a second or third opinion from experienced kinksters. “I’ve regretted not trusting my gut. I’ve never regretted going with my gut,” says Beatch.

Read: Everything You Need to Know About Your First BDSM Play Party

How to Behave at a BDSM Event: BDSM Community Etiquette

Before you attend an in-person event, you’ll have done your research … right? That means you know what you’re walking into. Be sure to follow any rules or guidelines that are posted with the event or your foray into BDSM might be quite brief.

For starters, be very clear about the purpose of an event. For example, a munch or a class isn’t for play, and is often in a public space, so dress appropriately. Save the kink outfits for dungeons and explicit play spaces.

Another fairly standard rule is that whatever happens at a BDSM event, social or otherwise, stays there. If you see someone you recognize away from a munch or anywhere else don’t run up and scream, “I SAW YOU AT THAT FLOGGING CLASS!!” You have just outed this person in front of their parents, their boss, their children - and you have now done irreparable damage to their life. A nod is OK, but otherwise keep your mouth shut until you get a very clear signal to do otherwise.

It’s also worth noting that even though the BDSM scene does try to ensure participants’ privacy, you should be prepared for the potential of being outed yourself. As with anything involving BDSM play, you should hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

And here’s another key rule in BDSM communities: do not EVER touch anyone or anything, like BDSM toys, without clear consent to do so. This isn’t just a major no-no in the kink scene, but in the world at large. If you make a mistake - and it will happen - apologize immediately and sincerely. Consent is key in healthy and safe BDSM.

Another key point: don’t yuck anyone’s yum. If you go to enough events, or browse enough online, you’re going to see something that’s not your cup of tea. And that’s OK! Not every kink is for everyone. But it’s important not to kink shame anyone either. Walk away if you need to, or approach unfamiliar kinks with genuine, open-minded curiosity. Most people are open to talking about their kinks if you ask politely.

When you show up to an event, “Tell them you’re new. Ask for a tour,” Beatch recommends. This is a great way to get introduced to other hosts and facilitators, and learn where all the equipment is and get a refresher on the rules.

Ultimately, remember to treat people like people. Just because someone is in a kinky or sexy space, doesn’t mean they’re not also a person, just like you. So don’t treat anyone like a prop in your fantasies, or like they don’t have feelings too.

Becoming Part of the BDSM Community

One of the truly special things about the BDSM scene is how it works on trust. When you first step into this world, you might feel pretty lost and alone, scared you might do or say the wrong thing. Keep your head on your shoulders, treat everyone with respect and politeness, take classes, go to social events, perhaps even volunteer (a great way to get into things, by the way), and before long you’ll get known and, even better, seen as someone who is trustworthy.

This is also why it’s a great idea to make real friends and not just look at everyone you meet as only a potential playmate. If you come off as someone who is just cruising for play instead of actually trying to join the community, you’ll get a lot more cold shoulders than warm hugs.

After what could be a short time, the doors will really start to open: that friend of a friend of a friend invites you to a private party, then perhaps a private event, then maybe … who knows? And if you really want to seal your place in the local BDSM community, you can also consider one of the following options:

  • Volunteer. Like most communities, BDSM spaces and events rely on volunteers. One of the best ways to get involved is to help out. From taking tickets at the door to setting up or tearing down chairs, pretty much every event has some entry-level help needed. “Not only is volunteering a lot more financially accessible, but there are tons of opportunities for admissions at events, which is great for social anxiety because the interactions are quick, says Beatch. And as you stick around longer and learn more, you may also be able to take on more skilled roles, like event host, greeter or even dungeon monitor.

  • Teach. Many BDSM classes and practice spaces run on peer learning. After all, one of the best ways to learn is to teach. You may be surprised by what niche skills you have that are relevant in the BDSM world (knots from sailing or climbing, first aid, etc.) After just a few classes, you may be able to show basic skills to other newcomers.

  • Host events. People love attending events, but they take a lot of work to put together. Once you’re established in the community, consider taking a turn hosting a munch, or a rope practice event, for example. You can also host events for your own specific interests if you don’t see what you’re looking for yet locally. From board game munches to fetish-specific meetups, there’s always room for more events on the calendar.

Welcome to a New World

The BDSM community is not perfect. It’s not a black leather dreamland, but for those who come into it with their eyes open, their minds willing to learn, and their hearts welcoming to friendship, it can be much more than a place for sex; it can also be a new world to explore … and even a place that will often feel like home.

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Stella Harris

Stella Harris is a certified intimacy educator, coach, and mediator, who uses a variety of tools to guide and empower her clients and she teaches everything from pleasure anatomy, to communication skills, to kink and BDSM. Stella has appeared at conferences across the US and Canada, and regularly provides workshops and guest lectures to colleges and universities. Stella’s writing has appeared widely, including a weekly sex advice column in her local paper. Highlights of her...

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