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BDSM 101: How to Find Partners for In-Person Play

By CAGE Staff​(staff)     June 1, 2022

Okay, it's time. You've been browsing THE CAGE for a few months now, and you've felt that intoxicating tingle of arousal and excitement each time you read a forum post that speaks to you. Depending on your preferences, you might have even done a bit of online play (maybe while following our tips to find an online play partner?) to really explore whether kinky play is for you.

And you've decided: it most definitely is.

Getting to know yourself - and exploring new things - might have seemed like the hard part, but I have a bit of bad news: the hard part is going to be finding a play partner to explore this with in-person.

That isn't to say it's impossible! It definitely isn't! But a big part of finding someone for in-person play is simply luck. You need to be at the right place and at the right time - and both of you need to be in the mood for socialization. There's just a whole lot of moving variables that rely on luck – and perseverance.

I'm here to make things a bit easier, though, by giving you some tips and tricks on your journey to find in-person play. Let's tilt the odds in your favor by digging right into it:

Be Cautious

Before we cover anything else on this list, I want to be very, very clear: it's vital that you treat all potential in-person play partners with a lot of suspicion. I know, I know: that sounds bad.

But think about where you're at. Especially if you're a beginner, you're essentially looking for a stranger you don't know to do sexual things with you. Those things might include forms of pain or forms of restraint. Your newness to the world of kink makes it very easy for shitty people to exploit you - and manipulate or abuse you.

A common tactic includes telling you "This is how it is in kink; you just don't know enough yet" to things you may be uncomfortable with - or expressing disappointment when you both approach something you're uncomfortable with. ("If you're not going to do what Daddy/Mommy says, we're just not going to play tonight.")

As you're trying to find a good partner for in-person kink, please look at every potential partner with the harsh sun of reality. Especially as time passes without success, most people are willing to toss aside their critical thinking skills in hope that this person might finally be their gateway to kink exploration. Try to resist that urge at all costs.

Make sure any potential kink partner:

  • Negotiates your relationship with you. There is no "one way" to do BDSM. Anyone who tries to pigeonhole you into a role without discussing what it entails is a bad fit.
  • Is able to explain the risks of any activity if you ask.
  • Never guilts you or tries to push you even further after you've said "no".
  • Takes your pleasure into account; BDSM is not a one-way street unless you've specifically negotiated it that way.
  • Treats you with respect - especially outside of the kink scenes. Even if you both aren't trying to date, they should still be treating you like a good friend outside of play.
  • Is willing to respect your safety and comfort levels. If you request to meet up in a public place - and they make fun of you or refuse to meet-up unless it's at their house, that's a giant red flag.

As a final note: every person who doesn't fit into this list is an abuser or a giant walking red flag. The reality is that everyone starts somewhere. For a lot of tops or bottoms, their only experience may be porn or erotica written with one hand. For obvious reasons, this isn't a great way to really learn how to do BDSM safely or proficiently. It's very possible that the partner you're getting bad vibes from is just, simply, a newbie who doesn't know better. It's not your job to educate them or play with them anyway if that's the case, but their lack of understanding doesn't automatically make them an intentional abuser either.

Just keep your eyes open.

Attend Local Kink Events

The biggest, easiest, simplest place to find other kinksters in your local area is simply to go to the kink-specific events that happen in your local area.

Really. That's it.

That being said, most local kink events are not intended to be meat markets or dating events. They're designed to be social events where people can get together and feel comfortable discussing their hobby. Think of it like a knitting club, honestly - only people at kink events might be discussing the finer points of human furniture instead of particular stitches.

Don't write off local kink events until you've attended quite a few of them. The thing is: curious people come and go at kink events - a lot. If you're a face that's only been seen once, you'll probably be welcomed and people may be polite, but simply showing up once won't be enough to make people feel comfortable enough to play with you. You'll want to show up - time and time again - and you'll find that people start to slowly open up as they see you as someone willing to put in time in the community.

Do remember: kink events aren't designed to be dating meet-ups (unless they're, specifically, a dating event.). Acting like they are is usually extremely obvious - and not going to win you any points. Instead, remember there are decades upon decades of experience at every kink event you go to. Not only does this mean that you could find an amazing mentor, but it also means that this group of people can be a sounding board if/when you find a real-life play partner. This can be an extra level of safety against abuse or manipulation. During your next kink event, you can bring up your kink partner's behavior and say "Hey, is this normal?" and they can help. That's huge!

Three common types of kink events you'll likely see pop up:

Munch: Think of this like a social meet-up. Dress in normal, everyday clothing, as a munch is (usually) located at a public place like a park or restaurant's conference room. Munches are designed to be comfortable spaces for newbies to interact with a giant group of kinksters; after all, you might be a whole lot more nervous to attend if your first meet-up was at Bob's house in the middle of nowhere. Expect a ton of talking about completely random, everyday topics (fandoms, how the kids are doing, new movies, etc.) as everyone sits around and munches on food.

Slosh: A slosh is essentially a munch - but held in a location (usually a bar!) that's more focused on alcohol. While your munch might be held in an all-day breakfast joint, a slosh may be at a bar & grill - or, literally, just a bar. Depending on where you're more comfortable, a slosh may be a better fit for you. Just watch how much you drink – and ensure you have a ride home.

Party: A play party is a private, locked-up space where kink furniture is set out and you're able to play with one another on the furniture while other people watch. Despite how this might sound in your fantasies, play parties are social spaces first - and play spaces second. You'll find the majority of people spend the entire night talking - but there's some amazing stuff to watch while you're doing it! Since play parties feature people in various states of undress and doing various sex and kink activities, many groups will not let you attend a play party until you've attended a specific amount of munches.

Protip: I highly recommend volunteering at kink events when possible. Not only does this put you in a positive light with the people who run these events, but it also gives you a great "excuse" to avoid a lot of your nerves. Your sole purpose at this kink event isn't just to talk to anyone anymore; you're here to help check-in guests and help things run smoothly. This also can give you a great excuse to end up in conversations with people you otherwise would be nervous talking to; just make sure it doesn't interfere with fulfilling your volunteer duties.

Consider Online Help

I know, I know: this is all about finding a partner for in-person play. However, especially as people become more absorbed in their devices and online life becomes tied-in to our everyday lives, a lot of people use dating sites and online sites to find people to meet in-person.

You can do the same thing for kink.

I don't want to go into too many details (as all of the details that we included in our guide to finding an online partner actually are perfect advice for using those same platforms to find someone for in-person play!), but don't forget to utilize online websites in your journey to find an in-person partner.

Depending on what you're looking for, online dating websites can be a great resource if you're looking for a future marriage partner - but you also want them to be kinky. Remember: kink is just one aspect of compatibility, and you, presumably, want to match up on the rest of your compatibility outside of the dungeon too. This is why dating sites can be such a great resource; not only can someone "hint" at their kinky proclivities on their profile, but you can also figure out if you both would be a good fit on the non-kink aspects.

On the other hand, dating sites may not be a great resource if you're looking for casual or hook-up kink play. It all depends on the site you use, but many dating sites intentionally encourage getting to know one another and forming deeper connections. That may not be what you're after at all - and emailing for a few weeks before any meet-up may be the opposite of what you're looking to get out of the experience.

Of course, personals on kink websites, like the ones here on THE CAGE, can be used for either functionality. People are generally more "open" about their interests on a kink-specific site, so you'll be able to better gauge kink compatibility at a glance with kink personals.

Especially if your end goal is an in-person meet-up, however, remember to present yourself online and in your ads as someone that another person would feel comfortable meeting up with. This means putting bits and pieces of your personality into your profile - and interacting with topics and interests that catch your eye to showcase the well-rounded person you are.

"Convert" a Vanilla

If you're looking for a long-term relationship with your in-person kink partner, some of the most-popular "find a partner" advice out there is simply to date outside of the world of kink.

If you're looking for a partner to love, treasure, and spend your life with - who just happens to be kinky - it's going to be extremely important that the person is compatible with you outside of the bedroom. While kink is amazing, most of us spend more of our time doing un-kinky things than we do kinky things.

This is why a large subset of people believe that the best way to find a kinky partner is simply to date outside of the kink spaces. There are a whole lot of people who exist in various ranges of "kinky" who never step foot on a kink website or in a kink group.

You can expect this to have an obvious hiccup: not everyone who is trying to date is open to kink. If you have a particularly niche kink, you can also expect that some already-kinky people may not be open to your kink.

To help reduce the likelihood that your date is completely anti-kink, especially if you date online, you can add a few mentions to kink in your profile - or within a few date's of conversation. This can be something as direct as mentioning that you enjoy kink - or something as tongue-in-cheek as making jokes about your "large collections of blindfolds" with a wink at your first dinner.

Trying this approach will require some mental flexibility - and understanding that not everyone will be a good fit. Especially if your kink is especially niche (watersports vs bondage, for example), not every person is going to be open to it - even if they're kinky in their own way. You may end up parting ways earlier than you would have liked because of it - and that's okay! Don't feel like you have to "settle".

To this end, you may want to think about when you want to "disclose" your kinks. Even if you've been upfront about the fact that you're kinky, "kinky" means something different to every person. They may think you mean blindfolds - while you actually mean pony play. At some point, you'll want to have the vulnerable conversation about what you're into - and whether that's something that could ever appeal to them.

Try to disclose your kink interest somewhat early on – and disclose with no "expectations". As you're dating around to try to find someone who's open to your kink, if you wait until you're a year into the relationship, you're not necessarily meeting your end goal effectively. Personally, I'll usually wait until my date and I have had a few sexual adventures under our belts - and then have the conversation.

This tip could be expanded into an entire article about "how to introduce your partner to your kinks", but the basic gist when you're first dating is: be upfront about your interest in kink in a non-expectational way; start with light, easy-to-enjoy activities that are easy to escape; verbally disclose and negotiate kinks that are beyond that; go from there.

Find Kink Friends

So, let's say you're not looking for something so serious. In fact, you're really looking for the exact opposite: you're just looking for someone to do kinky things with on occasion.

If that's the case, I'd recommend trying to make kinky friends instead of trying to find a "casual" kink partner. When it comes to kinky sex, the required trust and vulnerability ratchets up to an unbelievable level. You aren't just hoping that this stranger will enjoy your naked body; you're hoping that a complete stranger won't tie you up in a way that hurts you – or possibly something even worse.

This is why very few people engage in kink-heavy hook-ups compared to casual sex hook-ups. There's just so much more that can go wrong when you start bringing dangerous (but oh so hot!) kink activities into the mix, and it's hard to trust that a stranger will be a safe person to explore that with.Instead, quite a few kinky people choose to explore kink with their friends - or known acquaintances. Those kink explorations may (or may not!) include sexual activities as well, but it's very common for friends to get together to tie one another up - or to share some fun impact play.

This way, the people involved can get their kink appetite satiated in a way that also feels safe. It may not have the same "passion" some people as casual sex hook-up culture, but for most people, the trade-off in feeling safe during (and after!) the experience can be a worth it.

Expand Your Search Radius

Yes, you're looking for in-person play with someone, but are you willing to occasional travel and occasional play if it means finding the right person? Is it possible that someone a couple hours' drive away would be the perfect fit?

In an ideal world, it would be simple and fast to find someone near you who matched with your interests, but we live in the real world - where that's rarely the case. Expanding your search radius to where you can comfortably travel may end up being the "secret" you need to find someone.

As a Domme woman myself, I have very, very rarely found any play partners in the city I live in. Just my luck: I usually find them a couple hour's drive away. Depending on my schedule, I'll take my days off and stay with them for a few days (or they'll stay with me). On the bright side, having dedicated time for visits like this can really let the two of you "immerse" yourself into your roles - unlike a single date night.

Consider the search radius you can comfortably tolerate and start there in your search. How far are you willing to drive? Are you willing to fly? Are you able to fly - but only to cities with cheap airports? What does your budget allow for - and what does your schedule allow for? Consider all of this as you think about expanding your search radius.

Remember that your potential partner may have a different comfort level for their search radius. This means they may be willing to fly - or drive - longer or shorter distances than you'd be comfortable with.

Be Patient

If you read our "How to Find Play Partners Online" article, you know I ended it the exact same way: you need to be patient.

No matter how you're trying to find a partner, finding a partner is hard. Not only are you looking for physical and mental compatibility, but you're also adding a kink compatibility on top of everything else. Even when searching online - where location doesn't matter - this can be hard to find a partner. Now remember that you're looking in an even-smaller radius of people who are just physically near you!

Some people luck into a partner when they first start, but for many people, it might take years and years of active looking until they find someone who's a good fit. Luckily for all of us, just like in the world of non-kinky dating, there's a lot you can learn about yourself - and how you fit in with others - while that entire process is happening - and you can hopefully come out of the other side a little bit better for the experience.

All that's to say: have patience. I know it's rough, and I know there are days where it's ridiculously frustrating. But in the end, all of that time and effort can culminate in being able to share yourself - and your kinks - with another person, and for a lot of people, that's really worth it.

Mistress Kay lives in the world of sexuality and kink. With a house that's quickly running out of space for things that aren't sex books and sex toys, she spends what free time she has writing femdom help articles (http://kinky-world.net/category/bdsm-advice/femdom-advice/), trying the latest and greatest in sex toys, and exploring the sexual universe with her partners. She can be reached at Kinky World (http://kinky-world.net/).


unistrutman
Interesting how the term this or that 101 originally was created by myself, Jay Wiseman, Frank Jurr and my first wife back in 1982 after an all night GEMINI BDSM party in Pacifica California. Nice to see that the earlier groundwork for good BDSM community relationships has not died out. Thanks to the Cage!
Jul 15, 2022, 6:25 PM
Elly​(sub female)
Is there a specific way to look up sloshes and munches? I'm fairly newly single and want to explore this community now that I have the chance, but I don't know where to start. Is it something that can be found on Facebook or the like?
Aug 6, 2022, 7:45 PM
Villanelle​(staff)
@ Elly, check our Events calendar for in person and online BDSM related events.
Aug 7, 2022, 9:45 AM