Last week, we heard from Kayla Lords in a week-long series about how to enter your local BDSM community. Here's a link to the first post in that series. But what if you can't find it or would like to start one of your own?
I recently wrote about the difficulties some new BDSM community members face when trying to get out into the local, real life groups. One of the most common pieces of advice to anybody new to the lifestyle is get out in the real world, to go to a munch, to get involved. If only it were that easy, right? Sometimes it's simply not an option. In these instances one may consider beginning a new group and the question becomes how exactly to do so.
There are many reasons why someone may want to establish a new local group in their area.
Maybe there is no local munch or the ones that exist near you take place at a day/time that is unavailable to you. Maybe you are looking for an educational experience and all that is available currently are social events being organized (or vice versa). Maybe you're looking for a niche group of people to meet with, like only those into spanking or to discuss the polyamorous lifestyle.
Whatever your reason, that's good enough! Adding more groups to the local scene is a wonderful opportunity for both yourself and your local community members. There are likely local people wishing they could attend an event just like the one you want to begin. Organizing a local kink group can be a fun and fulfilling venture that helps everybody involved. I began organizing a new group in my area several years ago- a group that catered specifically to female s-types- and have picked up a few tricks along the way. Here are some helpful hints if you are considering starting an in real life group:
- Do a little bit of legwork in the beginning. If you are looking to start a specific group, take some time searching to find out if one already exists. If you will be doing most of your group and events on Fetlife, search your state and see how many nearby events of a similar type exist. Are there any national/international organizations that exist, ie MAsT for the Master/slave community? Search out other groups/events that are similar to what you wish to organize elsewhere; while you may be unable to attend, they can serve as a great template or inspiration for your new group.
- Figure out who this group is serving. Will all kinksters of legal age be invited to attend? Is this a group for shibari enthusiasts only? Only submissives? Figure out who you are looking to bring together and spell it out clearly. As an organizer of a female-only, submissive/slave-only group I can attest firsthand to magic that is created when you gather together a group of similarly minded individuals for conversation, or friendship, or education, or fun. I can imagine the feeling is similar to the "French jazz musicians who like to cook" club that exists somewhere in the world. If your goal is to broaden the local kink community gathering availabilities, a munch or coffee night inclusive of all may be just the ticket.
- Clearly define the nature of the events you are organizing. There are lots of types of kinky gatherings. Will your group be hosting events that serve to educate the community in some way? Will you be having presenters? Will you have specific topics for general discussion? Or maybe it is simply a social atmosphere, where kink-friendly people gather together to eat, or drink, or shoot pool, or whatever you want to enjoy doing together. Of course there are play-based groups/events as well, but unless you are more experienced and well-versed in your city and states local laws, it'd be safer to stick to non-play based gatherings.
- Pick a time/place/frequency that works for you, and others. One of the benefits of starting a group from scratch is being able to work around your own schedule. If you want to meet on a Sunday afternoon, do it! A Wednesday night works better? Then pick that! It would be prudent though to take into consideration the other group schedules in your local community for everybody's benefit. If you are hosting a poly discussion group on the same night as the local play party, well, you're forcing people to decide which one they'd rather attend, and in turn impacting both your event and the party. The goal is to add something to local calendar, not to detract from it. As far as places, search out your local restaurants/coffee spaces that offer some form of privacy for discretion. A private room or patio is a great way to ensure the comfort of both your group as well as the other patrons. Contact the location well in advance and let them know of your groups attendance. Number in attendance are one of the most difficult challenges: there will be people who RSVP who do not show and there will also be people who don't RSVP who show up unexpectedly. Always. I typically give them a number of approximately 75% of my RSVP's, allowing for an extra table to be added if more or not too big of a letdown to the restaurant if we have a few less. Gathering your group for events that require prepayment or exact numbers are always a headache. Either avoid entirely or point your group members in the direction of where they can purchase their own tickets/entrance. (A sidenote on private group gatherings: many people don't host events in their private home. Because of the nature of kinky gatherings, most people prefer to keep their private lives as just that, including where they live. Be cautious of opening your home to the entire world of Fetlife, and even if you are comfortable, know most people are not. It will impact your number in attendance significantly.) Pick a frequency of group events that works for your schedule. I have seen some really successful weekly groups, but know that there is a high amount of planning and obligation that goes along with that. A monthly gathering is more manageable for one person to commit to.
- Now it's time to host! Be sure to post the event where it is visible to people who may be interested in it. Some groups function on Fetlife, or Facebook, or Meetup, or all of them, depending on the type of group. In your post be sure to clearly state what you have decided above: who this is for, what you will be doing, when and where you will be doing it, as well as appropriate clothing choices, the cost associated, and importantly, how they can identify your group among the sea of strangers. One of the most common complaints about kinky groups is the difficulty in finding where they are at a public place. Figure out a way for your group members to identify you. Maybe it is a specific location (private room at a restaurant) or give them a group name to ask for (we meet as the 'Ladies Social Club"). As the host of the local TNG we bring the same card game to play after some socializing, giving our group members a visual identifier on the table month after month.
- Be prepared for small-ish results, especially at first, and that's okay. New groups take some time to build steam in the community. When you first begin, community members may have other obligations, they may be sick, they may wait and see if their other friends are going. It's not personal. It's just part of organizing a fluid group such as these. But once you continuously show up each week/month, more and more people will put attending your group in their calendar. There are groups that important to our household and we book babysitters months in advance to be able to attend! Be sure to reach out to newcomers who have RSVP'd and introduce yourself prior to the meeting; they will feel more comfortable knowing that there is somebody familiar to find at the event. Also, there is something to be said for the small group meetings that happen. While of course it is fun to have dozens of people gather around in a similar interest, sometimes it is the group gatherings that have 3-8 people where the closest bonds can form. You can easily meet and speak with newcomers, you can have a regular sized restaurant table, you can engage in conversation without shouting. If you go through the work of starting a local group, stick with it.
- Ask for feedback on the group and listen to your members. If you just wanted to do whatever you wanted to do, you wouldn't have formed a group! Let your new friends and members assist in the growing, organization, and improvement of your group. Ask for suggestions frequently and while you can't please everybody, do show that you are hearing their voices.
- Be smart about your noise level/content. If you are in a public place, be sure you are being discreet about your discussed material. It is so rewarding to be with people who understand your lifestyle, but the family of four dining next to you doesn't want to hear about your latest fisting experience. Encourage your group members to be respectful of those around you, including restaurant/event staff. Your venues will look forward to your arrival each month instead of cringing. Be prepared to moderate the gathering you pulled together.
- It may sound cliché, but have fun. If you have picked organizing a group that you are really interested in or that caters to something you really enjoy doing, this should turn into an enjoyable venture for you. It is your time and effort that is being dedicated, so make it fun for you. If you are enjoying what you are doing, other people will enjoy being around you. Have fun, meet new people, be cordial, be a good host.
- Give your group members a way to stay in touch in between events. Create a group page on Fetlife or a private group on Facebook or even a basic website for your group of like-minded kinksters to touch base on throughout the month. Encourage discussion and grow your group online as well as in person.
Starting a new group in the local community doesn't need to be complicated or time-consuming. Pick something that you really care about, do a bit of planning and prep work, enjoy your new friendships, and be proud of yourself for creating a safe space for others.