The other day I had a lively discussion about verbal and written agreements and how they relate to play, whether you are in a public space or a private home. A friend approached me about playing after seeing 50 Shades of Grey and wondered how realistic contracts were. I have been fortunate that in my longevity in the BDSM community, I have negotiated verbal and written contracts. But unlike 50 Shades of Grey, my first contract with my Sir was only 4 pages long. When I began to explore play more frequently, I learned a lot about myself from both the top and bottom perspectives when it comes to scening. So, when my dear friend asked me about play, I shared with her “The 5 E’s of Scening” which are sort of like my personal guidelines to ensure I stay on track no matter what role I am in for the duration of the scene.
When two people negotiate a power exchange that is related to Sadism and Masochism, it’s called play or scening. Play can involve pain and/or pleasure, usually with instruments or toys, like floggers, paddles, cuffs, single tails, etc. There can be multiple people involved in a scene, but the most common is where one person gives and the other receives. The sadist, the person administering the pain and pleasure is called the top and the masochist who receives, is the bottom. Play is often short-term events that must be healthy, safe, sane, consensual and willful. Words to play by in my opinion. Doing a Scene can also be challenging physically, sexually, or sensually, be intense, exploratory and depends on each other’s expectations.
Exploration and Expectation are the first 2 of my 5 E’s. Always be diligent when you are negotiating a scene whether verbally or on paper. Be sure that you are clear cut about what you hope to achieve by the experience, what you want to try or have already done or simply want to explore. Remember, communication is key. For those first timers, my suggestion would be to think about things you definitely wouldn’t like. For example, mine were slapping in the face, humiliation and spanking, stuff I knew I would not enjoy, thus another key word of the 5 E’s, Enjoying the experience.
The last 2 of the 5 E’s, Engage and Etiquette are more relevant to approaching someone to play with or watching others play. It is very important that Scene Etiquette be maintained whether you are in a public space or someone’s home. I’ve had situations where I was bottoming for someone and another person kept interrupting the top, asking questions because she liked his floggers. I found this very distracting and in poor etiquette. It’s a good idea to set up parameters or mark off a specific spot that you are playing in. I’ve seen people put tape on the floor around the area they were using as a way to discourage interlopers and I’ve seen closed off private rooms with just a window looking in on the action, voyeurism is certainly in the realm of play.
Approaching someone can be intimidating. But what I have learned is if you are sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to come to you, it won’t happen. A top can’t guess if someone is interested in playing with them and a bottom can’t assume that all people are tops. I have found that if you observe when you are in the play spaces, you can distinguish who are tops and who are bottoms that evening. Watching allows you to see if that particular person’s style is interesting to you. Whatever you do, don’t interrupt their scene, wait until it’s clear that the scene is over and then approach. Start up a conversation letting them know your interest in them and what you’d like to accomplish. Yes, you might get turned down, but 9 times out of 10 you won’t.
For tops, please be clear when a scene is over. I’ve had someone leave me standing buck naked to get some water and never came back because she assumed the scene was over, but I didn’t. The art of negotiation is knowing when a scene starts and when the scene should end. For bottoms if you are unfamiliar with floggers, paddles, etc., ask the top to lay out some toys for you to pick from. There is usually a table in the dungeon space that can be used for a top to display their toys. The table can also set up a perimeter to keep onlookers at bay. Handling the top’s toys with their permission is also a good way to get to know each other and set up the scene, especially if you are a newbie.
While keeping these 5 concepts in mind, I predict you will have successful outcomes. And always remember, play should be mutually beneficial to both parties. After all, if we didn’t enjoy it, we wouldn’t do it.
Any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.