I think back on occasion to the challenges I encountered when I was first seeking my local kink community. It was a different time then, and the books I’d read suggested searching for information wherever I was purchasing my kink implements. Spoiler alert, that was a bust. It took someone familiar with the local community, a Fetlife account and some determination much later to find my people.
I see some similarities in some of the people who have been searching for kink over the past year. For a moment, really take a moment to image how challenging it would be to attempt to find local kinky people without munches, without events, with many of our local groups dormant and the only options as some sparse Zoom educational events, some swink events that never seemed to take a break or enact safety measures and won’t be in many folx’s risk profiles, and with the majority of kink social media divided sharply down a political line that didn’t seem to be drawn quite so determinedly some six months prior. Even those who had a party or two under their belts were suddenly left to flounder, with no partners, no mentors, no education, and no options. They had a hunger for their brief tastes of kink, and no options to feed that other than to take chances on dating sites and meeting strangers from Fet.
To be quite frank, that sucks.
The others who came searching for us along the way have had an equally difficult time, though at least they only have a vague idea of what they’re missing.
My local community slipped sideways to Telegram, creating a virtual spiderweb of chats that are all run by kinky folx for kinky folx. Of course, newcomers and veterans alike had to find it or be told it was there to go looking. We aren’t going to advertise, for goodness sake.
As a project to keep my spirits up, I have tried to stay active in planning educational Zooms, participating in conversations which may have educational value, and writing here. But for these newcomers, what does their path look like? What should they do to engage their local communities as they begin to sputter back to life?
First and foremost, we each have to look out for our own self-interest. We cannot depend on others to value our physical or mental health, and we cannot trust that someone random we’ve met at a kink event has our educational best interests in mind either. It is up to each of us to seek knowledge.
Read. Find books, read fet articles, read Kink Weekly articles, do searches on topics of interest. Don’t take my word for anything, do the research. I don’t mean read one article that took two minutes and then make a snap decision, I mean research. One of my graduate professors insisted that 50 sources was the absolute minimum to truly cover any subject, and while I admire his enthusiasm, many of the BDSM topics I want to read about won’t have that many research opportunities, and most will be opinion rather than data, though hopefully it will be informed opinion, which is sometimes the best we get. I’m happy to find 10 different viewpoints on any given topic. Regardless, make sure to inform yourself. Read about negotiations. Read about communication. Do self-work you encounter. Figure out what sparks your interest and notate it. Figure out what scares you and notate that. Those things will quite likely change drastically, then change again once you encounter these things in the real world, but knowing what interests you is an important way to start finding what you think you are seeking.
Vet. Get to know people. Ask questions. When I say vet, figure out what that means to you. To me, that means finding experienced community members I trust and asking questions. It means watching and seeing what kind of person someone is. To others, it is a more or sometimes less involved process. Don’t take it lightly, from either the bottom or the top side. There are people you’ll wish you’d avoided of all genders and kink identities. If you can weed those out on the front end, it can save heartache, pain, and potentially even trauma you may wish you could have avoided. If you’re going to meet someone in private, for goodness sake, please have safe calls lined up with a friend ready to call the police if things go sideways. Your safety is your responsibility and it is important to not treat it lightly. Pretend you are making arrangements for someone you love dearly to meet someone. How can you set that up as safely as possible so they will return to you unharmed (or in your case, as unharmed as you want to be)?
Find group leaders locally and ask them how to access educational events. If you can’t find any locally, search Fet for digital offerings. They are becoming more common, and range from subjects such as poly and jealousy to demonstrations of different kink skills, to social meetings with assigned topics of discussion. Regardless of how long you’ve been in the community, these events are great opportunities to learn.
Find out if any local groups are offering safe options for meetups. Are they offering parties for vaccinated folx? Are they enacting safety measures you feel are within your risk profile? If not, are there other towns or larger cities nearby who might have better options?
Are there experienced kinksters who can offer advice or information on their specialty areas? My partner and I have taken a newcomer under our collective wings and are training him in impact play, leatherworking, and teaching him general kink skills and communication. He sarcastically calls himself “the most experienced newbie ever.” To be fair, he probably is at this point. He was writing articles on impact implements last week and laughing at all of his practical knowledge outweighing his physical experience.
Opportunities are out there. There are chances to learn and grow for all of us right now, regardless of how active our local communities are choosing to be. Maybe those come in the form of individual relationships, and maybe they come as digital learning, but we can find them if we seek in the right places. The trick, as it always has been from back when I first came seeking, is in the knowing where to look.