The prospect of taking play outwith the privacy of one’s home and playing in public at an event can often polarise opinions. Sometimes the answer is a resounding no, others may feel curious and wonder how the experience would feel and sometimes the response is an enthusiastic yes, let’s try it!
I think there are a number of important things to be mindful of regarding playing in public. One – you will know yourselves whether it is appropriate and desirable for your own dynamic, two – you should not feel pressured to ‘have’ to move to public play, and three – whether you choose to play in public or not, no matter how occasionally or frequently, it doesn’t diminish or enhance your D/s ‘standing’ any more or any less as a couple. It must be what works for you both and both must be in agreement if you do choose to take your play public. It is absolutely okay to write it off completely as an option if it is not right for you, or shelf it for later if it’s currently a consideration but the right opportunity hasn’t yet presented itself or if you are still building confidence.
Sometimes couples can be quite curious, harbouring fantasies of exposing or being exposed to others in a kinky setting but worried about what to do, expect, see or experience and I can imagine this is very common. I know that for Cuiplash and I the thought of public play was initially a no until we attended a local kink event and saw for ourselves how play spaces work and surprisingly found we were both exhilarated by the prospect of trying it. I think also that some concern can naturally arise from performance anxiety and the fear of potentially doing it ‘wrong’ in front of an audience, no matter what side of the slash you occupy. Whilst these fears are very valid I am glad to say that, for us, they were completely unfounded.
I would suggest that if you are curious it’s an incredibly valuable experience to go along to an event together and get the feel for the place. The first time Cuiplash and I attended a kink event we did not play but the seed had definitely been planted and we were keen and prepared for the second time we went a number of months later. You can learn a great deal about how well play spaces are managed logistically just by watching the Dungeon Monitors and attendees. Get acquainted with the rules of the club/event as these are often posted around the location, as well as on their online event pages. They will tend to always cover time limits, types of play allowed and disallowed, the generic club safe word that will result in a Dungeon Monitor intervening, safety and cleaning of equipment at the very least.
We’ve found that during busy times DMs will allow 30 minutes on equipment to ensure enough time for a decent scene plus sufficient turn around for all those waiting to use the equipment in the play spaces. One trick we have utilised is simply to get into a space early, therefore allowing for a longer scene. This also helped us in the early days when it wasn’t so busy by building our confidence in scening in front of a smaller audience. It’s important to know how long you have and at least have an idea of what type of scene you’d like to do, what toys you will need and the space you require. I would also suggest, if you are new to playing in public, to stick with a well known firm favourite routine rather than choosing that time to try or introduce something new that may not go to plan.
I would imagine most play areas are set up with sufficient space around them to prevent being caught by a swinging cane by accident however spacial awareness is a must. There are fundamental rules about not crossing into or through another scene space but unfortunately people are not always as aware as they should be and it would not be the first time that Cuiplash has narrowly missed accidentally striking someone with a flogger or dragon tail as they cut through our space.
Basic manners and public play etiquette are a given in terms of such things. As is not immediately dumping down your toy bag before another scene has fully finished, and the previous players have yet to tidy up, clean the equipment and provide any required aftercare. We’ve found DMs tend to be very good at keeping an eye on who is waiting and lined up to play on equipment next but it does no harm to alert them that you’d like to try something and they’ll let you know when you can proceed and will provide a gentle non intrusive reminder when your time is almost up. They are also very helpful in assisting with anything you are new to in terms of how to use equipment.
Cuiplash and I do not get to play in public very often at all, but when we do we always try and make the most of it and we always get a lot out of it. The first time we played in public we were both very nervous, having never scened with an audience before, and also because this pushed our boundaries around exhibitionism and openly showing our D/s dynamic and our S&M to others. Stepping barefoot onto the St. Andrew’s Cross as Cuiplash secured my wrists with the heavy leather cuffs chained to the wood, my bare bottom exposed to the gathered crowd, was a delicious cocktail of humiliation laced with glee. I still remember shivering with anticipation of showing to a gathered crowd, for the first time, that I am his. That my submission belongs to him and that I honour him as my Dominant. It was a heady combination of adrenaline and pride.
I think taking things at your own pace is also very important and taking time out to reflect and decide how and when to move on is a must, both during and after the event. Whether you play once and are done, or a number of times at one event, be mindful of altered mind states including Dom/sub high, play frenzy, drop and physical effects, I’ve often felt very shivery after an intense impact scene and a sugary drink or something sweet to eat can help you enjoy the rest of the night better. We attended one event where they came around with home made tablet for players which was a wonderful touch!
We played a number of times our first night, gaining confidence and enthusiasm as we used the different spanking benches and returned to the cross, exploring the potential of the wonderful BDSM furniture that allowed us more freedom in positioning and space than we are afforded at home. We learned a lot by observing others, the toys and techniques used and it was interesting to watch how dynamics, scenes and aftercare were conducted by others. Some play spaces have a dedicated aftercare zone, or you can provide aftercare within the play spaces if required or move out to a more informal space to relax afterwards, depending on your needs. A lightweight warm blanket is another good thing to pack into your toy bag for some snuggly post scene aftercare.
I would say that despite having concerns about ‘performing’ to an audience and knowing we are being watched I find the space always narrows to a focal point of just us. Everything and everyone else expands outwards to the periphery of our awareness as we focus on the responses of each other. He has been tender and cruel, playful and serious, tolerant and uncompromising. I have had to ask out loud which implements of pain I want, admit I want more, and count for him. This definitely pushes pleasurable objectification and humiliation buttons for me, and he knows this. I’ve shown what my body can take, what gets us off and exactly how we do it.
Another thing to be mindful of is how your responses may differ playing in public than in private. We have found that I react quite differently to public play than private play. I am usually able to take more, I think this is because the exhibitionist in me wants to push myself harder, as does he. I want to please him, and to show that I am a good submissive and masochist to him to make him proud of me in that situation. There’s also something delicious about being fully dressed up to play, and knowing others are looking at us as we do. I slip easily into a giggly high subspace as we are playing, which amuses Cuiplash no end and makes for some fun scenes surrounded by the hypnotic beat of the music, friends, observers and the exciting and stimulating sights and sounds of fellow players. It is utterly immersive and incredibly freeing experience.
To read more by Kisungura, please find her at My Controlled Ascent