Dear new subbie,

Speaking on behalf of all of us already in the BDSM lifestyle, I would like to bid you welcome. We are glad to have you join us, and we would like to keep you with us. There are some things you should know, so that you can have a happy, satisfying and safe beginning.

Why am I writing this to you? Well, a couple of months ago, a new submissive wrote my girl with a question, and we started a brief, friendly, conversation with her. She seemed to be talented, smart and deeply committed to the lifestyle as it existed in her fantasy. Then started a pattern I/we have all seen far too often:

Within two weeks of getting on Fetlife her profile showed ‘owned by X’, ‘collared by X’, ‘in a monogamous relationship with X’, etc. The made plans for him to relocate her so they could live together.

Then she discovered he was married (a detail he forgot to mention), his wife didn’t know he was seeing her (the new subbie), and that he didn’t think his responsibilities included helping her recover from some minor injuries sustained while playing.

Disgusted she decided that the whole lifestyle was nothing like she had expected, and went back to looking on

If you think this is unusual, take a good look at all the writings on Kinky and Popular. 50-60% of them, depending on how you count, describe unsatisfactory, unsafe or unhealthy activities or relationships experienced by people on Fetlife. It doesn’t have to happen to you, but unless you manage your entry into the lifestyle, it probably will. If you will read on, I will try to give you some of the information you need to manage your entry intelligently.

First off

Most of the problems experienced are not the results of malevolence or deception. Most of the people in the scene are pretty decent and honorable. The problems mostly arise because of miscommunication and poorly defined expectations. However, there are a certain number of creeps and liars out there, as well as a number of people who, charitably, overestimate their own knowledge and experience.

Communication, or lack thereof, is generally blamed for just about everything that goes wrong. In the case of our lifestyle, that is especially true because we can’t agree on the definitions of any of our key terms.

Here are a few examples:

submissiveIf you want to start a fist fight, wait until a bunch of Doms or Masters have had a few beers, then ask them for the difference between a bottom, a submissive and a slave. Every Dom present will have an opinion, and it will be different from everyone else’s…..and each of them will be willing to defend his opinion to the death.

I defy anyone to provide a universally accepted definition of a collared slave. For some, collars mark a bond that is supposed to last forever, for others, they are a mark of a temporary exchange of power. Here are a couple of quotes from a couple of the most influential writers in our community:

….if all is well and the evening is heating up nicely, I will offer him a collar with a time limit. Do you want to be my slave for the evening, for the night? For the week?
The Compleat Slave, Jack Rinella

After the collar of consideration many relationships proceed to a training collar (indicating a deepening of the relationship) before a full collar is offered. A full collar signifies a permanent relationship.
Protocols, Robert J. Ruel, Ph.D.

Do you know what someone means when he says he practices safe sex? I don’t. Does it mean wearing a condom for vaginal and anal, but not for oral? Does it mean cleaning your whips with saddle soap between submissives, or having a separate set of whips for each? Does having been exposed to HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) keep you from being disease free? The Center for Disease Control suggest that just about every sexually active adult will be exposed at some time in their life, and you can’t test for it in men. So, rationally, shouldn’t you consider that anyone you play with has probably been exposed, and just get vaccinated?

I suggest to you, new submissive, that if something is important to you, then you should ask your potential Dom to give you his definitions of the terms he uses to describe what he wants, needs or expects from you….and, you should reciprocate.

Expectations are the very devil to deal with. They could be part of communications, but they are not because most people consider their expectations to be so obvious as to eliminate the need for discussion. Let me tell you a story about a new young subbie, let’s call her ‘p’ since ‘o’ has already been used, who entered the lifestyle a couple of years ago here in Dallas:

p was very clear in her profile that she wanted to surrender herself absolutely to her Master, that she wanted no limits and no negotiations. She would be his to use in whatever manner he chose.

p found a Master, let’s call him ‘M’, who agreed to take her into training. On the first day she arrived at his house, she was (to put it mildly) surprised to be gagged with a kitchen towel and duct tape, then thrown to a concrete floor and having a broken off table leg jammed up her ass without lubrication.

p tried to file assault and rape charges against M, but M showed the detectives the emails and chats, and no charges were filed. p told everyone on Fetlife and Alt that M was a dangerous rapist, and much discussion ensued.

I got to know both p and M after this incident, and discussed it with them. Both were certain they had behaved absolutely correctly. M considered that an unlubed-table-leg-up-the-ass was a nice warm-up for a no-limits sub, and that given her no-limits status there was no reason to leave her the ability to opt out, hence no reason not to gag her. p said she never imagined anyone would do anything like that, and that she had meant he could whip her and fuck her to his heart’s content, and even make her clean his baseboards.

To paraphrase J. B. S. Haldane, the stuff BDSM people do is not only queerer than you suppose, it is queerer than you CAN suppose. When submissives give the standard “no shit, no children and no animals” answer to their limits, they are also implicitly saying “…and also none of those things I never heard about or imagined, but which frighten or disgust me.” Unfortunately for all parties, it is very difficult to interpret that which is only communicated implicitly.

Do yourself, and all the rest of us, a favor, and make a list of the things that excite you, and limit yourself to just those. Start out conservatively, it is very difficult to erase the memory of an unlubed broken off table leg up the ass. Then, as you gain experience and trust, you can go further. You are going to have some bad experiences, you can’t experiment without occasional failures, but they can be manageable if you do it right.

There are two approaches to setting limits. One is to negotiate with someone you like who may have a much wider array of interests than you do (right now, anyway). The other is to find someone whose profile more or less matches your interests, and simply offering to serve him in all the ways listed on his profile. The advantage of the first approach is that you may see significant growth quickly, the disadvantage is that he may be dissatisfied if you fail to expand your limits at the pace he had hoped. The second is, roughly, the inverse of the first.

There is a group of Doms who make it a specialty to meet newbies before anyone else, and getting with them just long enough to wear off the “new-subbie smell” (so to speak).

You can recognize them, most of the time, from a few behaviors:

  1.  Almost inevitably, when you look on their profiles, you will see a bunch of pictures of different women, placed on the site between a week and 10 days apart. Feel free to message some of the women, if their profile names are mentioned, to see what happened. If they just hooked up for an afternoon of play, ok. If he promised a whole bunch of things he didn’t deliver, also ok, provided you don’t mind having sex with a weasel;
  2. He will change his desires and requirements on a continuous basis, to fit yours. If his profile says he is looking for a bi girl, because he loves threesomes, and after you tell him it is monogamy or the highway, he tells you he can be monogamous with the right girl, you are dealing with a weasel;
  3. They are overly smooth in their approach. The best people at any given activity are those who practice it the most. Inevitably, those who are picking up a new subbie every week are very good at what they do;
  4. They will promise you things your rational mind (I know it is clouded by desire, but take a cold shower and think) knows doesn’t make any sense. He will suggest a collaring, marriage and relocation for either of you, and discuss kids and possibly even a joint burial plot within three days of the first meeting.

Be careful of the new-subbie specialists. They can leave you with diseases, emotional hangovers of the worst kind, and possibly even dim the lustre of all your fantasies. Manage your expectations, so you are not disappointed unnecessarily, and you can have fun with these guys. Fail to manage your expectations, and your entry to the scene will be disappointing.

One of the most persistent problems (and most glorious benefits) for a new submissive is her capacity to be bowled off her feet. After 10 years of boring vanilla sex, anything that looks like hot dominance is intensely attractive, even if it isn’t exactly what she thought about initially. It is a lot like what the poly community calls ‘new relationship energy’ defined as the time when even his morning breath smells good to you. The problem is exaggerated because most of us in the community now meet online, meaning that you have very little knowledge (as opposed to what-he-told-you) about each other. The result is often a grossly inappropriate relationship, simply because he was the first person to rouse your interest.


Let me suggest some strategies to deal with this:

  1. Date. Have conversations online and on the phone with 5 or 6 men in the same time period. Chose them to be a little different. Meet them, but DON’T play or have sex with them on the first or second date (I know, I sound like a 1950’s mother). The benefit of having 5 or 6 you are speaking with is that you will actually have to turn some of them down, to actually think through a selection process. Don’t worry about having 5 or 6 to choose from, look through some profiles and send a message, you will get plenty of responses;
  2. Meet earlier rather than later. 20 minutes in a Starbucks is plenty of time to confirm whether many of the things he has been telling you are true, or not, and whether there is any ‘chemistry’;
  3. Recognize that this man, in anything other than a ‘fuckbuddy’ relationship, will have a significant part in your life. Can you see introducing him to your kids, your mom, your coworkers?
  4. Recognize that there is a lot of time in a relationship spent on things other than play. My slave and I have a very high protocol life, and she spends a lot of her time in some form of service. However, we also have discussion, do work together, travel, etc. Viewed objectively, does the man you are considering have the intellectual, educational, social and physical skills that match or exceed yours? I don’t know from personal experience, but I have heard it can be very frustrating to have to obey commands you know to be dumb;
  5. KNOW, don’t guess, whether he is married or otherwise attached. It is ok for him to be married or have another submissive, if THEY (the wife or other sub) and YOU, know about it and are ok with it. It is NOT ok if he is sneaking. The first, and most obvious, clue that he is sneaking, is that he won’t bring you to his home. The second is that he can’t produce references. If he does have a wife or other submissive, meet her in person, even if you will never be with her, so you can be sure she knows what is happening;
  6. Get references. Anyone who has been in the scene for a while has at least a few references. It is ok if it is only one subbie who has actually been with him, if he has been in a relationship for several years he may not have any more, but he should have friends in the community who can speak for him as well.

There are two major types of submissives

At least on this dimension, and you should know where you and your potential Dom fits, because screwing up on this dimension inevitably leads to trouble. It has to do with how you want to be viewed. Of course, there is no bright shining line dividing one side from the other, it is more of a continuum, but we can define the extremes. On one end we have the ‘worthless disposable sperm receptacle’, on the other end ‘my most precious possession, my treasured slave’. There are plenty of women craving to be either, if you don’t believe me look through some profile pictures. You will see plenty of pictures of girls with things like “pigshit whore” written across their smiling faces in ink, and plenty of other pictures with equally smiling girls being displayed by their obviously proud owners.

Dominants and Masters divide in exactly the same way on this dimension, and you should make an effort to find someone whose ideas match yours. In early play it is easy to get the two confused, because even the proudest owner will refer to his girl as his ‘fucktoy’ or ‘cunt’ in the heat of the moment, and even the most dismissive Dom will say ‘good girl’ the first time he cums in her mouth. Look for the general attitude, and don’t disregard any real differences of opinion.

Attitudes towards punishment are another great dividing line (ok, spectrum). Once again, our communications are disrupted by not having a common set of definitions, but you should have an idea about where you are on the spectrum. Slave, submissive, bottom, masochist, sensualist…meaningless terms unless we agree on the definitions. I will not attempt to define these words, it would just lead to a non-productive storm of invective from those who disagree, but instead give you some questions to ponder.

Select one of these that sounds the most like what you would say:

  1. “Punishment? You have to be kidding. When I want someone to beat me, I’ll let you know, and otherwise I will do exactly as I please”;
  2. “Punishment? For play maybe, so you can spank me if I wear panties after you told me not to. But, you are not going to tell me what to do except in play”;
  3. “Punishment? My Dom has the right to punish me, I suppose, but we have never seen the need. He knows I worship him and obey his commands, and that I punish myself far more harshly than he ever would if I disappoint him;
  4. “Punishment? It is an integral part of the relationship, we play for our mutual enjoyment, but if I disobey or disrespect my Dom, he punishes me in a way I won’t enjoy, then forgives me”;
  5. “Punishment? It is the reason for whips. I don’t enjoy play whippings or beatings, but I want my Master to severely punish me if I disappoint him in any way, so that I may learn to serve him better.”

These are arranged essentially in order of increasing transfer of power. Try to find a Dom who selects an option that is no more than one question up or down from your selection.

I hope this has been helpful to you,

Fetlife user Demanding_Owner1 wrote this post on fetlife, if you have an account head over and give him some bread crumbs

Thanks are given to Quentin Shih a.k.a Shi Xiaofan for the image used in this post.