KinksSex & SexualitySunday School

Sunday School: On Top Shopping

Let’s say you’re not plugged into the BDSM community in your area, but have been exchanging flirtatious overtures with a very hot person on Fetlife who wants to tie you. How do you pre-screen for doms that aren’t going to murder you to death? –TOTALLY HYPOTHETICAL

Another week, another question about bondage. My life is very hard.

…lol hard.

This is actually a really excellent question. I would be willing to guess that most of you, my dear readers, already know the kinds of minimum due diligence you should probably do when you’re meeting someone from the internet for sexytimes. Whether any of us actually bothers to do any of that stuff anymore is a different story, but I’m sure you’ve all had occasion to google a date before, just to make sure they weren’t a sex offender or a Republican. Just like vanilla dating, the majority of people looking for kinky hookups online are perfectly nice people that you would probably like if you met them on the street, who are only looking to hurt or be hurt in mutually consensual ways. The problem, of course, is that if a subby kink-inclined person lands a bad egg, the stakes are considerably higher.

So, step one: Google away. You aren’t just looking for the mundane stuff like a criminal record (domestic violence citations are bad news in someone who wants to tie you up–at best it indicates poor negotiation with a prior partner), but for blog posts, pictures, anything that tingles your spidey-sense about your prospective partner maybe not treating violence against someone of your race, gender, or orientation with the proper gravitas. Get their full name, friend them on facebook, and stalk around. Do they seem to be the same person on the rest of the internet that they are with you in private messages?

Step one and a half: If they get mad or indignant about you wanting personal information from them for vetting purposes, or if you find something that makes you uncomfortable, drop ’em like a bad habit. Especially since knowing their Fetlife username, their facebook username, and their city of residence for the past five years or so is really all you need to do basic checking-up.

Step two: Once you are satisfied that their internet activities match how they are presenting themselves to you in private correspondence, set up a date. Something that works well is dinner on a weekend at a place you don’t go often and is not near your home. Before you go, decide on a constraint to impose on the evening, and let them know. Say you need to be home by a certain time, rule out dessert, or say that you’re not going to drink (even or perhaps especially if it’s a nice place where you would ordinarily have a glass of wine with dinner). What you pick isn’t really important; what you’re looking for is whether or not your prospective partner is willing to respect this arbitrary boundary. If they know in advance that you have to be home at 10 and they try and wheedle you into staying past 9:45, or if they try to talk you into dessert or a cocktail, those are warning signs. If they get intoxicated and do these things, that is a huge warning sign.

Apart from the boundary-testing, trust your instincts. If anything about your date makes you uncomfortable, you are not obligated to see them again and you are certainly not obligated to let them tie you up. Ladies are generally more experienced at watching out for creep-signs than dudes are, but I promise you, dudely readers, that it is a great skill to develop, especially in this arena.

You might think I’m being really hard on this hypothetical date, but I’m really not. If someone I don’t know isn’t taking a social outing seriously, I don’t trust them to take a risky liaison seriously, either. And if they passed step one but don’t realize that they are still being vetted after you agree to go out to dinner with them, they are probably not worth your time. (It is probable that an abuser would be on their best behavior during a first date, but hopefully you’ve already weeded them out with the power of the internets.)

Step three: If your date passes the above tests with flying colors, hooray, you’re ready to negotiate your first scene. Do this in email if you can, so that you have a record in writing of what you agreed to do. Definitely do it in advance, so that you have time to think about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to react to it. If they want to blindfold you and you’re not comfortable with that (with that person–if you’ve said it’s a hard limit and they try to talk you into it anyway, walk away) yet, it is way better to realize that before the rope comes out.

Step three and a quarter: If you live alone, do not under any circumstances offer your home as venue.

Step three and a half: Before meeting up with your date, decide on a check-in time with a trusted friend who also has the full name and phone number of your date, as well as the address where the scene is taking place. For your first scene with your new person, two hours from start to aftercare is a respectable amount of time–if you’re going to their house at 6, make your check-in time 8 or 8:30. Tell your trusted friend that if you don’t call them by that time, they need to call you. If they can’t get a hold of you by half an hour past your check-in time, they should call your partner. If they can’t get a hold of your partner, they should call the police.

Step three and three-quarters: Tell your partner about your arrangements with your trusted friend–up to and including the “call the police” part.

Step four: SCENE \o/

These are obviously not hard and fast rules, and if you think that you need more time or more negotiation or more of a paper trail to make yourself comfortable and keep yourself safe, obviously you should do that. And I’m not trying to scare anybody–remember that most people on the internet aren’t actually out to get you, and that includes top-inclined people. Too, there are undoubtedly subs on the internet who it would be a Bad Idea to get involved with, and a lot of my advice can really go both ways with regard to vetting a prospective partner. I based this script on my own experience as a good starting place for single people who are interested in kink and looking for someone to explore that with.

Anything you want to add, dear readers? The comments await.

If you would like to submit a question to Sunday School, please use our contact form. We won’t publish your real name (unless you want us to), and creative pseudonyms get bonus points!

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Rachel is a queer lady from Texas who currently resides in southeastern Wisconsin. She studied history at Texas A&M University and has spent more time than she cares to admit arguing social justice with junior Republicans. She volunteers with Planned Parenthood and enjoys knitting, media criticism, and comic book slash fiction.


  1. March 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm —

    The only thing I’d say to this is wariness to give out real name is probably going to be pretty common in most bdsm communities, where many players use pseudonyms for fear of people trying to out them. I for one would be a bit hesitant to give out my full name to someone I had just started talking to, because what’s to stop them from then contacting family members, jobs, deans, etc. Unfortunately I don’t really have a solution, other than say, asking for references in the bdsm community.

  2. March 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm —

    I agree that many won't give up real names for first dates. But if you don't know their real names by the 3rd date or so, then there's probably something fishy going on (not the murder-you kind) but the cheating on a partner kind.
    Many cities have kink friendly communities, centers, and parties. These meetups, activities, and parties are great places to bring first dates because you don't know anything about them and there are other people around you who know bdsm lifestyle rules. The people also may know your date and give can you a referrence.

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