*Otherwise known as the seven habits of highly effective kinky people.
I thought I’d kick off my career as a cliterati.co.uk columnist by sharing some romantic stories, most of which involve consensual pain, bondage and/or bollock torture. Start as we mean to go on, eh?
The course of true love never did run smooth, but it can be extra bumpy for the kinkster who has to satisfy both a heart full of passion and a head full of sick, sick fantasies.
Vanilla dating guides work from the assumption that a man wants a woman who’ll laugh at his jokes, not knee him repeatedly in the groin. Equally, these guides assume a woman’s main aim is to *avoid* the man who wants to tie her up and torture her, not attract him. And, of course, they all totally ignore same-sex couples. So I’m setting the record queer for kinky types with the Perverts’ Rules for finding love on the fetish scene.
RULE 1: Remember that most people don’t get into kink to find love.
*You* might have reached the stage where you know kink is your destiny, but everyone has to start somewhere, and on the scene that starting point is generally, ‘Wow, there are all these dirty people to play with!’. A lot of people will never get beyond that stage, for various reasons, and crossed wires can ensue.
Enna, a 26-year-old kink blogger, says, “There are an awful lot of people out there who want something fun and casual rather than deep and meaningful. There are also a lot of ‘day trippers’ around who are looking for a kinky excursion. They might not really be kinky, but they want to give it a go. If you’re looking for something serious you need to be aware of this from the start.”
Aishling Morgan, author of over 30 erotic novels and Naughty! The Xcite Guide to Sexy Fun, says, “Several straight female friends of mine have had real difficulty finding long term partners because a lot of men seem to feel threatened by or insecure with sexually adventurous women. Perhaps when you’re open about your sexuality you become, to them, someone to play with but not to be with in the long term.”
And London Faerie, a ‘sex positive pioneer’ who runs Sacred Pleasures in London, a ‘sex positive space for personal growth’, says, “When I was playing regularly on the fetish scene I had a few experiences where people thought that as Dom I was an arm for hire, and I felt quite hurt and used. That changed when I started offering Ecstatic BDSM as a professional. Now I make a clear distinction between personal playing and work with clients.”
Remember, though, that most vanilla dating sites are full of people only looking for ‘fun’ anyway (whatever that means for the ‘Nillas). Just bear in mind that some people genuinely can’t get their heads round the idea that kinky sex can ever be anything more than a game.
Another category of ‘not in it for love’ is, of course, the pro-Domme who, no matter how much you might worship her, is unlikely to ever fall in love with you. This is also similar to vanilla sex work, though, which has its own breed of men who think they can be every random street girl’s Richard Gere. In Kink World as in ‘Nilla Land, if you’re paying now, you’ll probably always be paying. Obviously, if that’s your fetish then you’re in luck.
RULE 2: Trying to convert a vanilla often doesn’t work.
“From my experience, most people are happy to play with handcuffs or talk dirty on the odd occasion, but asking a vanilla partner to cane you until you cry doesn’t usually go down so well,” says Enna. Many people who end up in full-time kink start off by attempting to convert their existing partners. But the stories in which it all ends in tears (that’s bad tears as opposed to good, end-of-heavy-scene, tears) far outnumber the success stories.
Nick, a 46-year-old Dom who left his vanilla marriage 10 years ago, says, “I tried to introduce my wife to kink and, although she was willing to try it, she just found it ‘weird’ and unsettling. I had a vanilla girlfriend after my marriage broke up and she took to it better – except she wanted to switch roles! I didn’t attempt it with her again!”
Submissive Emily, 30, got into a relationship with an avowedly vanilla woman in the belief that she could bring out her hidden kinky side. “I succeeded,” she says, “only it turned out she was submissive too. That was awkward.”
London Faerie says, “When I discovered I was kinky I was in a vanilla marriage. My partner and I tried some stuff and enjoyed it; in fact it spiced up our sex life just as promised in Cosmo. But when I wanted to explore playing with others it caused a massive rift, which in the end ruined us.”
But Paul, a spanking fan who introduced his vanilla wife to kink 20 years ago, insists it is possible if you’re open from the start. He says, “The commonest problem by far is when people set out on relationships without being honest about their sexual needs and then find out, too late, that their lover is disgusted by those needs.
“After a failed teenage relationship I decided that in future I would make my sexuality, and in particular my love of spanking girls, very plain from the outset. I did so with my next partner and we’re still together now.”
RULE 3: Ask, ‘Are you a good freak, or a bad freak?’
There are truly awful people everywhere, and the fetish scene is no exception. Unfortunately, though, on a scene where (consensual) violence, bondage, domination and so forth are the norm, it can be easy for the abusive to hide.
Enna says, “There’s sometimes a very fine line between consensual behaviour and abuse. I’ve met quite a few people who I’ve felt have had questionable motivations and intentions. At the end of the day, if someone is just looking for a partner they can get away with hitting, or for a partner to play their parent in order to replay some emotional abuse that happened years ago, it isn’t going to create a stable foundation for a truly safe, sane and consensual kinky relationship.
“My first BDSM relationship ended when I discovered that I’d been routinely lied to over the course of many months. It brought my world crashing down. What had been wonderful experiences suddenly seemed very abusive. It made me question who I was and why I do the things I do. It took me a very long time to rebuild my confidence and start trusting people again.”
My own experience is that you need to have decent boundaries to begin with (that’s the physical and emotional type) before you can start letting people mess with them. If you don’t know what you like and don’t like, how to say no, how to hear and accept ‘no’ from someone else, and how to recognise someone who isn’t good for you, then you really, really don’t want to be looking for love on the fetish scene. But then again, those rules clearly apply to any kind of sex and dating, right?
RULE 4: Be a total slut on the first date.
Andie, 28, met her current partner on a fetish dating site and for their first meeting they went for a wander on London’s South Bank. By mid-way through the date she was, at his request, pleasuring herself on a bench in full public view. His reaction: “Wow, you’re a really good whore!” Three years later they are still together and deliriously in love.
Sam and Simon’s first date took place when Simon picked Sam up in a fetish club, took her home, tied her up and whipped her. For several month she was his ‘plaything’ and both continued to see other people. Seven years later, they have bought a house together and are both now very happily monogamous.
Meanwhile, Tom and Alice met at a fetish club where their first interaction involved Alice singeing Tom’s bollocks with cigarettes (this was in the days when such things were allowed – smoking indoors, that is). Alice went home thinking no more of it, until she bumped into Tom again a few weeks later. “You were amazing,” said Tom, kneeling at her feet. “I couldn’t wank for weeks!” The pair were together for several years.
RULE 5: If s/he’s really cruel to you, it’s because s/he’s really into you…
OK, it’s a bit more complicated than that (see Rule 3), but in general the consensual cruelty levels in a good kinky relationship often tend to increase the closer two people get.
Slave Christian, 25. had always felt a need to be caged, but it was only when he’d been in a relationship with his mistress, Marla, for several years that she became willing to start extending his periods locked in her basement to several hours at a time, eventually building up to 24 hours or more. On one of these occasions, sleeping on rags and eating only dry bread, Christian realised how much he loved Marla and, on his release, asked her to marry him.
For Enna, the most romantic Valentine’s Day evening possible took place a few years ago, when her master invited some friends round, tied her up and flogged her in front of them. “He beat me silly,” she says happily. “I was still getting all these gooey feelings about it a week later.”
And Simon, 38, realised his relationship with a new sub was going awry when she wasn’t able to accept certain treatment from him. He says, “She wanted to be humiliated, but when we tried it during play she couldn’t take it, and safeworded. That was when we both realised that I wasn’t the Dom for her. Since then she’s gone on to find the right person and I’m really happy for her.”
RULE 6: Go gently with your vanilla friends.
“I’ve met this amayzing person – I really want you to meet him/her… and his/her two other slaves. We’ll be in full fetish gear. Forgive me if I don’t speak to you over lunch, though – I’m not actually allowed to without permission…”
If this is your first full-on kinky relationship, there’s a risk of getting a bit evangelical about it. Just be kind to your old friends, and don’t regale them with too much detail unless they really want to hear it. They remember when you didn’t even know how to put a condom on, so seeing you kissing your new Mistress’s boots might be a shock. Equally, inviting them to a party at yours and then launching into an extreme multi-partner kinky orgy and expecting them not to bat an eyelid is a bit unfair (er, sorry about that one, guys).
On a serious note, there’s an argument that the latter scenario constitutes non-consensual kink. Because they didn’t consent to watching it.
RULE 7: Most people don’t get into kink to find love… but a lot of people find it anyway.
It’s a rocky road, but those who do find love on the scene tend to do so in a spectacular, heart-warming, faith-in-human-nature-restoring kind of way.
London-based pro-Domme Ms Slide says, “I wasn’t looking for love when I entered the scene. Actually, I’ve always been rather cynical about relationships under any circumstances – even in the ‘nilla world, humans tend to be utterly incompatible. That’s why I was somewhat surprised to meet my beloved. We became friends through the scene, played together at clubs and eventually became inseparable. We’re getting married next year.”
Says London Faerie, “Since I left my marriage I’ve had many fulfilling, beautiful and rich experiences on the scene. Sacred Pleasures is all about love, from the romantic to the divine, and I created it (with pro-Domme Claire Black) to foster an open, loving environment on the scene. So far we’ve been responsible for one marriage and a number of relationships.”
And NIck married his slave, Amy, and they’ve recently had their first child together. Kinky activities have been curtailed to a certain extent as a result, but Nick says, “Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe this is real – I’ve managed to find the Holy Grail of someone I connect with on both kinky and vanilla levels.” Now if that doesn’t warm every kinky person’s heart, I don’t know what will.