5 Signs Your BDSM Partner is Shady

Some of us are lucky enough to meet safe, ethical people to explore our BDSM interests right from the get-go. They prove to be kind, trustworthy and patient with even the newest of newbies and move at a mutually consensual pace. My friend Mary is one example. She had all the luck! She found someone online whose ad she liked, she set up a safe-date in a public setting and after two hours of deep talk, decided her prospective dom was not only hot but sane and on the same BDSM page as her. Shoot ahead 20 years later, and they are still together, as happy as ever with the BDSM life they have built. It worked out the way most of us dream things will work out.

Lila didn’t have anything like that kind of luck. She found someone online with an impressive, seductive ad; she set up a safe-date in a public setting and after a deep talk, was entranced by her prospective dom. So hot! So self-confident! She was ready to drop to her knees there and then, she was so wet. Shoot ahead 3 months later, and the painful truth emerged: the dom was not at all what she expected and she’s already figured out that the dom outright lied about a lot of things when they first met. After agonizing and seeking out therapy for a while, she finally broke it off. Now she’s questioning her judgment, her faith in people, and even whether BDSM itself would ever turn out the way she wants or will just be an emotionally destructive hell hole.

Is it just the luck of the draw? Yeah, admittedly, sometimes it is. There was no guarantee Mary would find Master Right first time out of the chute. As a newbie, she could easily have been led in a different and dissatisfying direction. In fact, she says she’s seen too many stories like Lila’s and has realized how uncommonly lucky she was.

Many a naive newbie has been slurped up by a clueless dominant who presents as all-powerful and all-knowing about BDSM. The same holds true for over-eager or naive doms who fall in love with clueless subs. I don’t even KNOW a dom who hasn’t, at least early on, felt betrayed or deceived by someone who had promised them devotion only to turn out unfaithful or didn’t feel bound to promises they made, or who lied about their relationship status, their health status or their commitment to service. Even more hurtful is when our partners manage to maintain their facade for years before we wake up with a start one day and realize that it’s all been a hollow sham.

The reason BDSM doesn’t always go the way we dream it will is, simply, because we’re human beings looking for love, filled with hope, and hungering for a rare kind of erotic connection. In other words, we’re like every adult who wants to find a true and deep connection with the added kick that we are looking for someone who gets us sexually.

As BDSMers we are not immune from making all the same mistakes that adults make when it comes to love, romance, and a bonded partnership, and the kind of sexual spark that revs our hormones. Indeed, it’s a little more complicated for people like us because we tend to invest more interest and more trust in people who identify as BDSM. We can’t help but get distracted by the thought of all the great scenes we could have and project our fantasies and hopes onto that person. If this sounds like a typical single person hungry to get married and wearing rose-colored glasses when they meet someone possible, it’s because it is.

I don’t expect us to really get over that either, because finding a BDSMer who one really can bond with, in the ways one needs to bond with them, is a heady and very hormonal experience. Since we are a minority still, just identifying a BDSM partner can be a struggle, so when we meet someone we think could be the right one, we tend to carry more emotional expectations into a relationship with them than non-kinky/straight people who have a much larger pool of potential candidates ordinarily do.

It’s important for everyone, then, to remember that, just by our passionate nature and off-the-hook sex fantasies, we are vulnerable, whether we’re young and optimistic or old and baggage-laden. I had a client once who was a dom man, Mark, nearing 60 and had become positively smitten with a submissive lady in her 30s named Karin. The more he talked, the more alarmed I became. Karin had lied about her marital status; she had vanished on him for weeks at a time for no reason that made sense; she had dissed him once in front of other doms at a club; she constantly went back and forth with him about whether or not she even wanted to be a submissive. Or a slave. Or whether to get out of BDSM altogether and reconcile with the husband she had lied about and lied to. Through it all, his love and loyalty to her did not bend.

“I’m just bringing her along slowly,” he’d say, “She needs time, but I know, in the end, she’s the slave I always dreamed of.” Mark could not see that their whole journey together had brought him only fleeting crumbs of joy during those short periods when she lived up to her promises, and massive chunks of grief during those longer periods when she withdrew from him and acted as if her commitments were “only roleplay,” as she put it, and not heartfelt. I’ll mention that Karin was very pretty, well-dressed and well-spoken, while Mark was average-looking and more manual laborer than office worker in appearance and speech. To him, Karin was the kind of woman he always wanted but never thought he could get.

I’ve written pieces like this for mainstream magazines, so it seems like time to create a list of things every BDSMer should look out for to do whatever damage control is possible right from the outset. Remember that it is possible you will meet the right person right away; but it’s increasingly possible these days, especially with so many people doing BDSM who aren’t actually BDSM, that you’ll meet a bum, like Lila did or an undecided sub like Karin who kept her dom on a starvation diet according to her mood swings.

 

5 Signs Your BDSM Partner is Shady

 

Be vigilant about the narcissists and predators who infest the Community.
 They won’t tell you their real name or give you a way to contact them outside of email or chat.

It should be obvious by now that the people who thoroughly hide their true identities have a dirty secret. And that dirty secret might just be YOU.

People don’t protect their identities, their addresses or other normal contact information from people they are doing BDSM with unless they are keeping you separate from their “real life.” That means they could be hiding and compartmentalizing their real life as something entirely separate from their BDSM life. This may include anything from having a spouse or significant other they don’t want you to know about to hiding their authentic gender to religious/personal restrictions that make the chances of a full-fledged BDSM romance with you impossible.

I knew a guy who made a habit of gathering up as many online submissive conquests as possible, promising them the world while maintaining a totally straight identity with a wife and children he absolutely would never leave. He kept the two worlds separate by treating his family with respect, while treating all the BDSM players he dealt with as one-dimensional characters in a game, feeling a thrill every time he found someone whose gullibility he could exploit for his late-night thrills. “It’s just online,” he’d say, “it’s not really real. They know that. Besides, we’re all adults, right? They’re getting something out of it.” Yeah, well, the hell with you, Mister, because the pain and disappointment were very real to the people who thought you were grooming them for a full-fledged Master/slave relationship.

Anonymity is fine if YOU want a no-strings situation and you are equally anonymous. But watch out for people who ask you to give them all your contact details and private information but don’t share the same information about themselves with you, and run away fast if they want your financial information or ask for money.

Be vigilant about the narcissists and predators who infest the Community. They want to squeeze as much out of you as they can without giving back. Serious about this: they could be sociopaths.

2 They vanish and reappear, and won’t agree to a normal, predictable schedule that makes sense to you.

People who come and go a lot usually have behind-the-scenes issues they aren’t explaining. They owe you that explanation. There are a lot of legitimate reasons why people may have gaps in their time with you, and if they do, they should explain them to you, whether it was a work crisis, a medical emergency in the family, a vacation or something else that sounds pretty normal. PERK UP YOUR EARS if they give you an explanation that doesn’t make sense. It could mean they are lying. If they refuse to clarify, you can be sure they are lying.

Other reasons people act so unpredictably could be that they have mental health issues they won’t talk about but which routinely change their moods so profoundly they can’t deal with you during an episode. It’s a very confusing situation for partners who are expecting predictable and stable behaviors. You have a right to know about their mental issues and decide freely whether or not you want to walk that hard road with them.

Sometimes it’s a person who’s otherwise stable but unresolved about their BDSM needs and who goes back and forth about them, deciding periodically they would be better off without it and then coming back it to when they are sexually hungry for it again. Unresolved people who still feel the tug of vanilla relationships, like the woman Mark was trying to “bring along slowly,” are bad bets for a stable relationship in the here and now. If they’re worth it, tell them to get back in touch when they’ve worked it out and decided which world they belong to. Otherwise, you need to accept reality and move on: they aren’t ready for the relationship you want.

A safe player doesn’t act whimsically but understands that when you make pacts to have a BDSM relationship, you owe your partner the same kind of stability and regularity of contact as you do in any other committed, loving relationship. Protect your heart and don’t let your fantasies of a better future ruin your life today.

 

3 They lure you in by dropping names and boasting of experience in ways that make you feel grateful they are paying attention to a newbie like you.

People who do that may actually need to diminish you in order to feel good about themselves. Some of them thrive on feeling superior — which is very different from feeling dominant, and misses the point that a power exchange is an agreement between equals. Instead of respecting your humanity, they’ve put you in a small box labeled, “the person who should be grateful that I deem to pay them attention.”

Barry just loved to impress new conquests by mentioning all the infamous Scene players he’d met, making new partners drool as they imagined how much experience he must have had. True, Barry knew a lot of people but he didn’t learn from any of them. He approached BDSM the way he approached life: it was all about him. Instead of establishing an authentic dialogue with partners, he just wanted to blow in, let the person know how magnificent he was, and get them back to his place for a perfunctory spanking followed by a blow-job.

Beware of anyone who does not want to know as much about you as you do about them. Good BDSMers are naturally inquisitive and want as many details about you as they can gather in order to steer things in a mutually ecstatic way. If they don’t ask you a lot of questions but do talk extensively about themselves, rein in your expectations big-time. They may never get over their love affair with themselves to fulfill your desires.

Don’t let name-dropping and acting superior suck you in. Save the stars in your eyes for the first time you see your magnificent friend actually act magnificently. Avoid people who are legends in their own minds. It’s called Top’s Disease and it’s never pretty.

 

4 They pretend to have vast experience as SSC players and BDSM leaders. 

You can spot them. When pressed, they can’t name any other famous BDSMers and get skittish about even giving you the names of people they did BDSM with. Instead, they may claim that the people they’ve played with are mysteriously “all gone now.” Excuses may range from “they moved away” to “they wouldn’t want me sharing their names.” I knew one top many years ago who claimed all his slaves were dead so nobody would look them up and find out what an uncaring boob he really was.

Then there’s Lee’s story. Lee met her Daddy Clay on FetLife, who billed himself as a Community leader with years of SSC experience and special insights into the mind of a submissive. She fell for him hook, line, and sinker, and served him faithfully for almost two years, until the day he summarily dismissed her without so much as an explanation. He wouldn’t answer her emails or texts. He had his primary slave text her instead saying, “Clay’s priorities have changed. Please stop contacting him.” She cried her heart out when she read those words. She could see he was still active on FetLife, but he had scrubbed her from his list and was acting like he didn’t know her. She left one or two sad messages, but his friends ganged up on her and told her to get over it.

Outside of his tiny circle, nobody else she met on FetLife seemed to know who he was. She had believed him when he told her was a famous, respected BDSM leader. So she kept asking around. The more kinky people she talked to, the more she realized he was a total unknown outside of his FetLife cult. She also realized there were a lot of things about their relationship that weren’t SSC either, including the sudden unexplained dismissal. She was heartbroken and felt ashamed she’d ever fallen for his bullshit.

Learn from this. It’s fine if you know you are with an inexperienced BDSMer or someone who only did it with an intimate partner (significant other) or two. If they are honest about it, you can adjust your expectations accordingly. But if they claim to be active in BDSM or a BDSM leader, they should know other people in the Community and other people in the Community should know them. They should be able to talk about their favorite and least favorite BDSM leaders and/or books and have some body of experience attending conferences, clubs, munches or other BDSM happenings. If they are clueless about the astonishing bounty of BDSM resources, they are outright lying to you about their creds.

Genuine BDSMers with experience will almost always be happy to direct you to speak with people who can vouch for their safety in real life and not just on the Internet. So if they are lying about their BDSM status, they will lie to you about almost anything else. That means you can’t trust them with your body or mind. And if you can’t trust them with your body or mind, you can’t do BDSM with them because safe BDSM requires mutual trust.

 

5 They don’t abide by safewords.

I hope you already knew this but it bears repeating as often as possible. Safewords are a tool to help people who don’t know each other deeply and intimately play together without harm coming to either of them. Safewords are good for bottoms/subs to ensure they can slow down or opt out of any BDSM scene that’s too intense for them. Safewords are good for doms/tops to ensure they can run a humane and compassionate scene that results in mutual pleasure. Personally, I tend to check on people every few minutes and ask them in plain English to let me know how they feel. If you play that way, great. If you use safewords instead, just as great. But if you do use them, then be a safeword warrior and ABIDE BY THEM.

If a top/dom won’t allow you a safeword from the get-go, be prepared that they could go crazy on you and leave you hurt physically, emotionally, or both by the time they’re done. In the early days of my own exploration, I met a lot of submissive males and females who had been abused by tops under the guise of BDSM. It was a revelation and relief to all when the BDSM Community adopted the standards of SSC (and, later, RACK) and tools like safewords and safe signals to return some free will to bottoms/subs in terms of limiting how much sensation they wanted or could process.

One of the interviewees in Different Loving Too told me a private story about a well-known dominatrix who billed herself as a sadist. She let people choose safewords but didn’t abide by them. She didn’t care if people were genuinely hurt by her whippings. She felt that once people accepted her label of “sadist” she wasn’t responsible for their well-being because they knew what they were signing up for. Unfortunately, most people did NOT realize that included ignoring the apparently pointless safewords she agreed to. If it’s your turn-on to be a flesh-sack for someone to beat on, okay. For the rest of us, that sadist of a dangerous predator.

There’s been a rash of complaints about people who present as tops and dominants yet don’t seem to understand the fundamental underpinning of BDSM: if it isn’t fully consensual, start to end, it isn’t BDSM. It’s abuse.

Protect yourself. REQUIRE MUTUAL CONSENT. That is your human right.