I’m writing this as an events organiser and facilitator. I write this as someone who has been active on my local scene for six and a half years…
I remember joining my local community to find friends and a potential partner. I wanted to connect with like minded people and have fun. I read books and watched YouTube videos of how it is important to meet people at events, and one day I but the bullet joined Fetlife and started going to events. But it wasn’t plain sailing.
I met friends that I still love today. I had fantastic experiences, too. I was fortunate to be a DM at a leading event within a year. The skills and knowledge that I brought with me made me stand out, especially on Fetlife, in particular my knowledge of safe vs abusive patterns of behaviour. I continue to advocate for safe practice and promote anti racist inclusivity when the opportunity arises. But problems still exist.
The reality is that when you go to events not everyone is risk aware nor do they all have good intentions. There are people to watch out for that attend events:
- The Newbie – we all join our local scene over-eager, naiive and easy to manipulate. Newbies need to learn and observe first. Their thirst for play makes them unsafe and vulnerable to abuse. They need to slow down and not treat people like a treat in a vending machine.
- The Fantastist – They have very specific kinks and don’t quite get that we are all human with our own needs. They often operate outside safe and consensual practice, and can be very difficult to negotiate risk aware scenes with. They need to get a grasp of reality before playing.
- The Organiser – they hold power and not all respect that in an ethical way. Some actively prey for “fresh meat” and “new girls” to play with. Some have rules that they don’t enforce. Some have no rules. Some pick sides/form cliques and don’t understand why we have rules in the first place. The responsibility of running events is huge. The event is only as good as the rules it has and the organisers and staff that enforce them.
- The Predator – they sit close to the organisers, quite often. The organisers have had great fun with them and will vouch they are safe. They will convince organisers that the Newbie or Fantasist is crazy or doesn’t respect them, twisting everything that happens in their favour. They do not take responsibility for their own actions.
- The Old Schooler – the ones that have fixed ways to do things. Which is fine, but some don’t respect that people come to the table with different intentions and aspirations. Not all people over 40 practice that form of kink, I certainly don’t. To Newbies or Fantasists, they might seem attractive with their firm hand and “old fashioned values”, but an ethical player will avoid anyone not ready.
- The Educator – a good educator will know the impact of what they teach. They will have studied pedagogy (either professionally or through mentorship on the scene) and be skilled in explaining concepts and good practice in different ways. They will reflect on their practice regularly. But there are educators that have limited subject knowledge and lack teaching skills. The worst will teach bad practice, or a specific form of practice and not explain the scope of that practice (ie that it’s just one way of doing things, look elsewhere too). Some educators will use their position to prey on the vulnerable (eg Newbies and Fantasists).
- The Tourist – they turn up new to a local community and have online profiles with great photos, say they are well known elsewhere and are in the area for a short time or to settle. The tricky thing is they are difficult to vet and they have some skills and knowledge under their belt, so they sound good and people give them the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, sometourists s are liars. They cause trouble, then want support to change, only fleeing when they get caught out. They move to a new pool of victims in another area. Or leave and come back some time later.
When it comes to choosing events to attend, you may want to ask yourself and/or the organisers the following:
2. What is the health and safety policy? Do you have risk assessments for the venue and all the equipment? Who are the first aiders?
3. What is the complaints policy? How can I provide feedback?
4. How accessible is the event? (Especially if you have any specific needs).
5. What is the purpose of the event? Play, education, performance or a mix of these.
6. How can I meet new people? Is there a way to partner up with others to play? What are the limits of pick up play at the event?
7. Are alcohol and drugs welcome? What is the policy on intoxicants for the event?
8. Are sex/penetrative and/or nudity allowed?
9. Are photos and phones allowed?
10. What do you need to bring with you?
Most events will be willing to support you and will give you all the information you require. Some, though, will just want your money and will make promises they won’t keep. This is an issue because rules need enforcing. Organisers need to have clear policies and procedures in place. Everyone needs to know their role and responsibilities. If organisers don’t see how their support of predatory behaviour, lack of good health and safety practice, people will be harmed. I’ve seen good people stop going to events because they are harmed or are sickened by the poor practice they see. We need to do better.
I’m not talking hypothetically. There are convicted abusers on our scene. There are events that don’t promote good practice, letting people do what they want. Dungeon Monitors are often poorly trained or given bad guidance on dealing with problemd such as consent, safety and content warnings. I’ve seen people leave after being seriously injured, sexually assaulted, stalked, battered, had seriois consent violations AT EVENTS. I’ve seen under 18s allowed into markets that the host told me is PG. I’ve seen organisers band together to dismiss complaints, joking they “should be gagged”, chalking their assaults to miscommunication.
It’s exhausting. I’d love to give a list of names and events, but I won’t. It is so prevalent, you’re better off assuming no one is safe and an event is only good if they answer the questions above and follow through. Sad, but true.
This is my own opinion. I still support events and run my own. I intend no harm to any particular person or event. This post is for educational and self reflective purposes only.