One of the most common questions for single people coming into the scene new is: “How do I meet people”. For some naturally charismatic, outgoing extroverts this is easy, people just flock naturally to them. For most of us that is not the case, and often we need to actively work on our social skills. Some of the general advice is common sense, some is bdsm specific but consider much else of it to be motivation or encouragement.
The first place most people go is online. It is a bit more anonymous and can be safer when you are just discovering that you may have some not-totally-normal interests and are trying to find out more. Fetlife is one of the most common kink portals on the internet. However, the use of fetlife is as a social site, not a dating site. Many of the people on there use it to stay in touch with friends they have, to discuss kinky things with others and to find out about events in their area. It works as an excellent medium for all three.
When on fetlife, or any other similar site, with the intention of getting to know people, remember. How you write, where you write and what you say is how you are presenting yourself. Avoid ‘txt speak’, posting nothing but pick up messages and if you do want to message someone, read their profile to get an idea if they want messages or what the situation may be. A great way to initially get to know people is find and join local fetlife groups and follow along with the discussions. When you have something to add, or just to ask a question, be brave, hit the submit button and add your voice to the conversation. Over time people will get to know you and you will have side personal conversations. People are far more likely to chat with or friend someone they have seen as part of a discussion rather than just an anonymous person online. As you talk with people, either in a forum or privately you will get to know people a little so when you do make the next step you won’t be going in not knowing anyone.
As you start to dip your toe into exploring kink in the real world you do need to put yourself in situations where you can actually meet people. While that seems simple it can be a daunting task. The best two places to start out going are novice groups that are specifically targeted at new people or munches which are informal gatherings of like minded people at a vanilla restaurant to have social time together in a comfortable and non pressured space. If you look around the site there is a number of articles discussing both of those areas in-depth. The focus here is actually making connections.
But a bit of advice, most of this is common sense but when asked I always include it since some people don’t think about it. When you go to your first munch or gathering, dress appropriately, it will be in a vanilla situation so leave the PVC and the chaps home, come in what you would wear out to that restaurant with friends or co-workers. Make sure your clothes are clean and while you don’t need to dress-up, do keep in mind that you are trying to meet people so dress comfortably and for the first time inconspicuously. Unless it is a core part of your identity, the death metal t-shirt or the ‘fuck the police’ hat probably should stay home. Jeans and a solid tshirt or a polo shirt tend to be the best bets. Unless your goal is to stand out for your fashion, go for blending in, that way you can let yourself stand out rather than your outfit.
The next bit of advice is often times hard for those that are introverted or shy, if the thought of this makes you uncomfortable I am honestly glad you are reading this. I know it did for me. But learn to extend your hand, look someone in the eye, say “Hi, I am <xxx>, nice to meet you” and give a handshake (or you can just wave instead of making physical contact). It doesn’t need to be that formulaic of course, but being able to keep eye contact and do a very simple introduction goes a long way in many parts of life. First impressions at kink events are no different. It sounds silly but practicing introductions in front of a mirror or with a friend you don’t mind feeling a bit of a dork around can really help increase your confidence. If you honestly don’t think you would be comfortable starting out like that, at least contact the munch organizer ahead of time and let them know you are new and nervous, it will let them keep an eye out for you and help start some introductions. The key is feeling like you can talk to someone else and a simple ‘hi’ is a major first step.
Once you have broken the ice, just try and relax as much as you can. Join the conversations if you feel comfortable or just listen in. Sitting at a table with several other people, even if you are being quiet will be a start and you will eventually have something to add. Do not feel nervous about asking questions of things. But the important thing is to be honest, everyone was new once and if people know you are new to this they will be more likely to offer advice, introductions or just maybe explain a bit more about what they are discussing. You will note none of this advice is geared to only tops or bottoms, it applies just as much to anyone coming in.
Remember when talking, be yourself and be honest but don’t make it all about you. Just like in any social situation don’t hog the entire discussion make sure others can talk. If you have a specific fetish don’t constantly bring it up unless the other people at the table have it to, follow the flow of the conversation and let it go where it will. Generally it is also a good idea to leave out religious or political views, the kink world is a huge spectrum of the population and that also does include the political one. You are not at the munch to sell people on the latest international trade deal, you are there to get to know folks and have a relaxing meal where you can be a little bit more open than with your normal vanilla circles.
If you do find yourself getting out occasionally to social events, I recommend getting some cheap business cards made. It doesn’t need to be a giant flaming suspension rig with 15 naked girls in intricate shibari bondage on it. A plain cheap vistaprint style card with your chosen name, fetlife name and possibly your email address is a wonderful thing to have handy to give out. Sometimes it can be hard to remember someone’s fetlife nick after the event, having some of those handy will help people remember to contact you. Just make sure not to mix them up with the business cards you have for work.
Friendship is magic. The cornerstone of your social network and finding what you want is friends and acquaintances. Getting to know people is the best way to get to know more people. Obviously, don’t just become friends with someone to get to someone else, but at the same time don’t avoid getting to know someone because they are not relationship compatible with you. Both, knowing people and having people to hang out with when out tends to make everything better, but we all have our social webs. Just because Sallie may be a top and you are looking for a bottom, odds are she knows a number of bottoms and as she gets to know you and finds what you are interested in she may be able to help facilitate introductions, or just get you into the same circle of discussion, by accident, as someone who you do find irresistible.
If you are involved in online kink communities, fetlife or others. Don’t be afraid to meet people in person. There are lots of articles on how to safely meet someone from the internet. However, just like with munches, don’t just chat with or interact with people who you might date, see who is interesting, who you would like to get to know more as a person, see who you share interests with. Suggest meeting up for coffee (yes, you can be just friends), do simple little things that step things from online to the real world. You can make some amazing friends just by making that step from online friend into real time friend. For the shy, the step into the real world can be really intimidating, the key to remember is ‘what is the worst that could happen’. You go to get coffee, you find you don’t really connect and you both go off to live your lives. You have still gotten out, you still met someone, and even if you two did not suddenly become besties, this is still one more person that you can say hi to at events and know you won’t go in not knowing anyone.
If you are looking to just explore or find more casual things keep an open mind about people. One thing the kink world has is a fairly large spectrum between ‘friend’ and ‘dating’ that is considered a ‘play-partner’. This is someone you play with and maybe hang out with at or outside of events but there is not a deeper relationship there. This can be a great way to explore without needing to be in a traditional dating situation. Play partners are generally people who have compatible play interests and engage in when they feel like it. Remember when thinking about if you want to play with someone, there are lots of amazing people that come in packages you might not have thought about. If all you are doing is play, you need to decide if your normal interests in someone you would date apply. That is a personal choice, but I always suggest that people keep an open mind, even if the other people may be the wrong gender, bit a bit older, a size you don’t normally date, have conflicting political views, whatever it may be. If you enjoy their company some of the time and would have fun playing with them, don’t dismiss the opportunity offhand.
On that notion, one of the common themes for people coming in is a romanticized view of kinky relationships. There is an expectation, often thanks to popular media, that they will find “The One”, quickly and be swept of their feet or have that person perfectly kneeling immediately. The reality is kinky relationships are mostly the same as normal ones. You need friendship, trust, respect and mutual interests and attraction for that connection to work. This does not happen immediately and as all relationships, it takes work for all parties involved. Do not assume the top will take care of everything and if you are the top, you are not responsible for everything. All relationships are two way streets that need communication, compromise and honestly. Remember: creating and nurturing kinky relationships is no different than finding vanilla ones.
Meeting people in the kink world is very similar to meeting them in the normal world. You need to go out there, be genuine, and take the initiative. Get to know people, interact with them and in time you will feel comfortable to go out and explore what you are looking for because you will have people that know you and support you and can help you. We were all new once, and many of us were or are shy. You are not the first nor will you be the last nervous new person walking into a munch unsure if they want to find the group or walk back out the door and go home to make dinner instead. Do what you feel is right for you, but once you get past that initial scare it will get easier, you will get to know people and you will be able to start exploring whatever it is that you are interested in.