There is a widespread myth around on the Internet. One that you will often hear in erotic power exchange oriented discussion and newsgroups and on chatboxes. The credo is: "there are no SOPs in BDSM" (SOP = Standard Operating Procedures). That's not only untrue, it's also a very dangerous statement. Especially when it comes to safety and safe sex, there are such SOPs. Many in fact and they're there to protect your health and physical and emotional safety.
Apart from the Top 10 below there are a few other things to discuss here. One is the assumption that the erotic power exchange world is one rosy-tinted, wonderful, understanding, loving and caring community. That is not true, especially not on the Internet. The world is full of idiots and dangerous people and the erotic power exchange community is no exception to that rule - neither in a positive nor in a negative way. Like in any other groups, idiots and dangerous people are everywhere.
Of course it's wonderful when you discover your own emotions and it's great, super, awsome or whatever that you can relate to others that share these same emotions and that as such can be an overwhelming experience.. But that's no reason to suddenly drop all your natural safety shields, put your brain on the shelf and jump in feet first.
There's no way you can tell for sure that someone, who seems to be so wonderful in a chatroom or on a discussion list, in real life is so wonderful as well and - unfortunately - there are quite a few reports about first dates between people that had met on the Internet, that turned into absolute disaster, either emotionally, or physically, or both. Sometimes it's just a matter of someone telling a few white lies about his/her looks and over-emphasizing his or her positive points while conveniently hiding the less positive habits. But there are also reports about rape, physical injury and - recently - clever fraud schemes.
Although there is no reason to be dramatic about this and we're certainly not here to create more cases of paranoia, it's only wise to be "en guarde" especially when it comes to first and second real life meetings. And it's also not a matter of "bad dominants/tops" only. Of course there are doms/tops around with the wrong intentions. There are however just as many reports about submissives/bottoms who turned out to be outright criminals or serious psychiatric cases who needed treatment and help - and certainly not erotic power exchange.
All this is not limited to the Internet. People with long-lasting party and support group experience will tell you that the credo "never ever have a first meeting in your home" has been around for ages and for very good reasons. People are easily lured into something they do not want to do when they're vulnerable and talking about or dealing with intimate and very personal emotions like erotic power exchange and sexuality.
So, the bottom line is: be safety-aware and take safety serious. For your own good.
1. In your dreams and fantasies anything is possible. Doing this in reality may be quite something different. DO slow down on your fantasies. Take it one step at the time and only add things and ideas if you feel up to it. DON'T confront your partner with an exact scheme of what you think is supposed to happen. Share ideas and dreams but leave enough space for each other to fill in whatever it is you like.
2. DO establish safewords or other signals. If for whatever reason you don't want to use safewords, then be sure to tell your partner about this and agree on this mutually. DON'T disrespect or ignore someone's safewords.
3. DO communicate with each other about both fantasies and barriers. DON'T withhold valuable information. "I don't like this or that" is also valuable information. If you don't tell your partner, how is he or she supposed to know?
4. DO try and be as clear about the signals you send out as you can, even when "in scene." DON'T expect your partner to be clairvoyant. (Tops/doms are not really mind readers...they just seem to be).
5. DO buy quality toys and gear. Or learn how to make quality gear for yourself - the key ingredient is quality, learn all you can about what makes each item high-quality. DO make a habit of testing locks, rings, hooks and suspension gear every time before you use them. Be sure you know the difference between static and shock ratings on ropes and chains if you want to use suspension techniques (we'll add a section on bondage and suspension tips later). DON'T go for cheap toys, you may seem to save money, but in fact you will get into trouble.
6. DON'T overestimate yourself. Getting a hundred lashes in your dreams is not quite the same as ten "live" ones. Never promise, or threaten with, things you're not yet certain about for yourself. DO get inspired by what other people do but DON'T think "oh, i can do this or that" without making sure you can. It's ok to tell others in the scene that there are things you don't know about or haven't tried - it often leads to some wonderful "learning experiences."
7. DO concentrate on the game and on your partner. For one thing, doing things with focus and intent will intensify the experience for both of you. For another, accidents usually happen because you're distracted. Pay attention and you'll both have a much better time!
8. Alcohol, drugs or poppers can make a scene unsafe. They will suppress your pain-sensation and can easily pump up your level of general acceptance beyond your control. When in scene your body produces endorphins (a natural opiate) and adrenaline. Artificial stimuli will only interfere with or act to strengthen these things - but perhaps not in the ways you'd expect. Better to learn to use your body's own chemical reactions. If you choose to ignore this advice be sure you and your partner(s) are aware of what you're using and that they still agree to play anyway.
9. DO tell each other about physical, mental or medical problems, recent medical treatment and possible medication, if you are taking any.
10. DO be prepared for intense emotions and fierce reactions but DON'T let all this scare you away from all the fun, intense love and great sensations an erotic power exchange scene can bring about.
BDSM Safety Guides continue over several pages, see menu bar at left for links to more information.