As time goes on money gets tighter and clubs dedicated to BDSM only are becoming more scarce or harder to get into. As a result, mixed venue environments are being used more often for events, gatherings, and play parties. Mixed venue environments are places which may be kink friendly but are not solely dedicated to BDSM such as swingers clubs, kink friendly bars/nightclubs, or any other place where we can reasonably believe the crowd around where we will be playing comes from differing lifestyles.
There are plenty of safety considerations when deciding on the type of play and setup for a scene in these environments, it all hinges on forethought and preparation. Stand-off distance, equipment choice/availability, crowd movement around the play space, crowd monitoring, and crowd composition are some of the considerations when setting the scene and deciding on the type of scene you will be running.
Playing Where Not Everyone Knows the Etiquette
“People should know to stay out of our way,” is often the attitude of my fellow Lifestylers who are not as accustomed to working in mixed venues. Except a good portion of the crowd will likely not know the safety standards, may be drinking or using other intoxicants, and likely do not understand the needs of the players for unencumbered space for everyone’s safety, including their own. What we often take for granted, others are naïve of.
Recently I attended a kink night at a swingers club. This was a common event once a month (my first time there) and many of the kink players there were not familiar with the space as they had changed the setup of their “dungeon.” What was previously a fairly open and lighted space was now a tight, crowded, poorly lit area. So overcrowded with equipment it restricted players in ways they might not normally have to deal with in a dedicated dungeon. In addition, as aforementioned, there were plenty of intoxicated people around to throw a wrench in the works.
A spanking bench was set up dead center in a 20’ x25’ “dungeon” surrounded by a set of stocks, two St. Andrews Crosses, a medical table, flogging post, and a rather large snake looking things which I have no name for. There were no dungeon monitors to prevent anyone from encroaching on play. Out in another area there were two suspension rigs hanging above the dance floor barely ten feet apart without any cordon around the space to keep people at a distance.
To those who might not know better, it might look like a very cool set up. However, the reality was this space was ripe for someone becoming injured, including bystanders. As a result, players were unable to freely engage in activity without being constantly encroached on; no suspensions happened but plenty of rather loopy people walked up and started using the steel suspension rings like a jungle gym to the chagrin of the two rope tops trying to get something going; and actual scenes were few. But plenty of people brought budget toys to go after each other in manners I would rather not describe. Not a single first aid kit was in sight.
I did speak with the venue owners later in the evening to express my concerns. To their credit, they were more than willing to help make changes in the future to improve both safety and the ability to play. They just did not know what they did not know. Not their fault, but I am surprised no one had taken them aside before and had this conversation.
Before I go farther, I am not blaming anyone. There are a vast number of people entering kink who simply do not know and have not seen what can happen when things go wrong. I am just focusing on what I was able to determine as potential problem areas and try to address how to play safer in similar venues should you choose to attend one.
The new reality for many of us is we must learn to work within the spaces available to us for our kinky gatherings. Whether we like it or not. For some, they are the only spaces available to them.
About Some of the Considerations.
Stand-off distance: Depending on the space available, we may not be able to run a scene with a single-tail or other long implements. How much room is available will drive, partially, the type of toys we may be able to use. Or we may get to where we are setting up and have to change what we have planned. Bring options so you can adjust as needed. We need the length of our implement, plus the length of our arm, plus 18 inches for a minimum safe distance regarding swing path (from where we will be standing, not from the center of the furniture in use). There also needs to be at least four feet around where our bottom will be so no one can reach in and touch them.
If possible, we should border the play space with rope or tape at waist height to create our standoff. If this is not possible, we might have to get creative with how to create the standoff. Or enlist the help of a couple other players to DM for you, and in turn, DM for them to help keep the look-e-loos at bay.
Equipment/Furniture: Whether you bring your own, or the kink furniture is being provided, it all takes up space. Where it is placed within the play space and what angle it is placed can maximize your room available without having to impinge on the rest of the venue. Regardless of what we want, it is not likely the space provided for play will be able to be expanded (indoors) and your choice of implement may need to change accordingly.
Mixed venue spaces are geared more for the social, than they are for play. There may be other impediments such as tables and chairs, a bar, couches etc. which may limit where we can move kink furniture. Coordinating with local management to set up a play space for a limited time may or may not be an option, but it does not hurt to ask.
Crowd Movement Around the Play Space: Pay attention to the major routes of movement around your potential space. Which way are people traveling? Where are they going? Is it a route to essential services such as restrooms, a first aid station, or (chuckles) the bar? If you are able, pick a play space, or set up the play space so people only need to move on one side or another. Again, keep in mind your backswing area and over travel area for certain types of toys.
At one mixed venue club we attend regularly, our group takes over an elevated stage which is just about the right amount of room for a spank bench or horse and enough standoff to conduct flogging. Being bordered on three sides by couches (occupied by our friends) we are able to control the space fairly well.
Crowd Monitoring: We may need not just a Dungeon Monitor but someone to pay attention to what the crowd is doing. Often others in the immediate area will not understand what they are seeing and may try to encroach on the space in one way or another. The DM must have the ability to watch both play and monitor the crowd. In some cases, there may need to be more than one DM for the scene. Regardless, our DM needs to have the understanding that many of the people around them, do not know what is safe, needed, or expected. The ability to keep a cool head and explain things calmly will help greatly.
Crowd Composition: Let’s face it, some of the play we can get into can seem pretty rough, if not actually rough, to the uneducated observer. Edge type play in a mixed venue is probably not a good idea. Knives, hook suspensions, scat, piss, roman showers, blood etc. can get the average Joe or Jane all worked up and upset. Giving consideration to the crowd you will be in front of, can prevent Joe/Jane from having the compelling need to save your bottom from you and putting your DM in a bad position. Not saying you cannot do these and other things, just saying you should think about it first and plan accordingly.
Be Open to Questions: After the scene, when appropriate for you, be willing to answer questions for those who are curious. This is your opportunity to talk about not just the scene, but why things were set up the way they were, etiquette, as well as other points we simply take for granted. Remember, they likely do not know, be kind.
We all want to have the safest play possible, have successful events, and forward a good impression of kink, BDSM, and our Lifestyle. A little extra time and planning can help make that happen. How we conduct our play in mixed venues gives us the ability to be good kink ambassadors. We can show through our actions, how we handle onlookers, and answering questions that kink is more than just slapping people around and skull fucking.
There is always a way to have our fun in these environments, we just have to be flexible about it. So go out and get your kink on!
TAC is a lifestyle writer, dominant, and mentor who contributes to several online educational groups such as the BDSM Alternative Lifestyle Discussion and Education; Information Exchange for Dom/mes, Masters, and Mistresses; and the Virtual Munch. His writing includes information on self-improvement, growth, dominance, trauma, power dynamics and power exchange, and safety. His goal is to continue giving back to a community of friends who have supported him for nearly three decades. He can be found on Fetlife at TAC_1