by Ambrosio. This was first published on Ambrosio's site and has a free to distribute license. Ambrosio dedicated this article to Beverly M. in Austin.

Did you miss part 1? Read it Now.

Socializing & Networking

Socializing takes place at muches, general meetings, runs, and parties. Munches are semi-public gatherings of BDSM enthusiasts for the purpose of socializing. They often take place in the private rooms of public restaurants but they can also take place in shopping mall food courts, bars, city parks, the main dining area of restaurants, and private homes.

Novices are often afraid to attend their first social or munch. Perhaps they are afraid that they will be expected to participate in an initiation ritual. They needn't be. Generally, munches are for socializing not play.

  • If the munch is restricted to a private room in a public restaurant, restrict scene related discussions and actions to the private room.
  • It's common for people running a munch group to get letters and emails from strangers expecting to be matched up with sex partners. Most BDSM groups are social organizations, not dating services. Although the clubs officers hope people find like-minded partners at socials, they don't encourage a "meat market" atmosphere. If have no interest in getting to know people, you won't have much success finding someone with whom to play. Can someone feel safe with a dominant who isn't concerned with whom they play? Does a top feel appreciated by someone who wants to bottom to them without knowing anything about them?
  • Try to meet a variety of people at munches -- not just the people with whom you want to sleep or play.
  • Befriend novices and shy people. When you see unfamiliar people who aren't talking to anyone but seem as though they would like to, then go over to them and introduce yourself. If they seem receptive, start a conversation, answer any questions they might have, and introduce them to other people they might want to know. That small act of friendliness can do a great deal of good.
  • Don't inquire about a person's profession or business. Some might volunteer that information and many people aren't concerned about keeping them secret but some people want to keep their professional life separate from their scene life.

For more on socials, munches, and bashes, please read the following three articles:

Dress

"A good uniform must work its way with women, sooner or later." - Charles Dickens

You don't have to be dressed in a $500 designer latex catsuit to fit in. The models in <> and Taste of Latex are not representative of the scene in general. The players come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and orientations. As Ani DiFranco sings "You don't have to be a supermodel to do the animal thang." BDSM doesn't have to be about conspicuous consumption and outrageous fashion statements. It can be -- if that's your kink -- but it doesn't have to be.

So how should you dress? It depends on the function and your area.

Socials, Club Meetings, and Munches

: The dress code for munches in public restaurants -- even the private rooms of public restaurants -- vary greatly by region. In Silicon Valley, the munch might take place in the center of a restaurant with attendees in handcuffs and none of the vanilla customers will give it another glance. In the Bible Belt, the munch might take place in the private room of a family restauran and the guests asked to dress conservatively. In general, for semi-public munches or socials, it's best that you not wear anything objectionable like a transparent blouse or an exposed thong. There are two considerations behind this:

  • Consideration for the restaurant's management which wants to appeal to a family clientele. After all, the munch organizers would like to be welcomed back.
  • Consideration of the munch membership -- who feel varying degrees of comfort with being identified as part of our sub-culture. Some of us are afraid to be identified as being a "pervert." If they're seen associating with "leather-clad bikers" and scantily clad "exotic dancers" it might hurt their public reputation and cause real harm.
  • Most groups encourage dress creatively within the dress code. One man in San Antonio likes to wear a military school jacket and black latex pants. Other groups in other states prefer that you dress as vanilla as possible. While tasteful collars that look like necklaces are welcome, dog collars from the sale bin at PetsMart may not be. When in doubt, dress like you're going to a PTA meeting.

Parties: For parties, dress for your own enjoyment or for the pleasure of your significant other. Just be sure to wear something over your more "inspired" clothing -- or lack of it -- when you're outside the party space. Acceptable party wear can include

  • Classic: black leather
  • Fantasy: harem girls, priest, nuns, catholic school girls, barbarian warriors, etc.,
  • SCA: period costumes
  • Formal: dinner jackets, dresses
  • Goth
  • Drag / Cross dressing
  • Nudity or near nudity
  • Black clothes

The only thing that occurs to me as being borderline unacceptable is the "preppy bar hopping" look in which the attendee makes absolutely no effort to fit in. It looks like he has stopped by for a few minutes before heading to a trendy singles bar.

In some cases, because of legal consideration, complete nudity might not be permitted. When in doubt, check with the host.

  • Leather Bars and Runs: There is a rather consistent uniform for the leather scene. While deviation is acceptable, it's traditionally a variation of the classic biker uniform:
    • leather cap or cloth bandana
    • plain white t-shirt
    • blue jeans
    • leather belt worn with the jeans
    • leather chaps worn over the jeans (or over a leather thong or g-string)
    • leather pants
    • leather boots
    (NOTE: in some high protocol circles, a novice would not wear leather -- just a plain white t-shirt and blue jeans.) That's not to imply that the uniform hasn't evolved a bit. Someone with more experience in the Leather community than the author writes:
    The most suprising change, to me, is that blue jeans are much rarer than black jeans now. Grey or black t-shirts outnumber white. Usually, the t-shirts don't have logos or writing but t-shirt from the leather community (bar, store, etc.) is OK. There are some other odd variances--Boston seems to have the tightest dress codes in the country, New Orleans the loosest. During a leather run, the rules are relaxed, not tightened (so friends and partners who are not into leather can join leatherfolk out at the bars).
    That said, the leather look is a "classic" look and it is well served by the economy. To quote Larry Townsend again:
    On the whole, I think the more subdued costume is the most effective, regardless of the action you're seeking. The guy who affects an obvious pose, who wears clothing which is calculated to stand out under the black lights in many bars is not going to do well as his more conservatively dressed counterpart. The leather-bike people tend to favor a less-flamboyant sexuality, although an impressive basket is never unappreciated. (The Leatherman's Handbook, p. 142)

When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

S.A.M.

"If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won't. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the manner according to the dictates of your best judgment." - Mark Twain, "Bad Boys and Girls"

S.A.M. can mean "smart ass masochist" also known as a "brat." As the name implies, S.A.M.s are non-submissive masochistic bottoms who -- under the pretext of submission -- become deliberately disobedient and disrespectful to their dominants in order to provoke punishment. While many doms dislike this sort of manipulation and consider it "topping from below,", S.A.M. behavior can be appropriate -- if all parties enjoy and consent to it. Some doms call any bottoms who choose not to submit to them an S.A.M. when in fact, it is a bottom's prerogative to choose to whom they submit. To be a real S.A.M., a bottom must be inappropriately and intentionally rude, disrespectful, and provocative.

BTW, playful bratty behavior -- while often unacceptable in the BDSM scene -- is quite common and acceptable in the spanking scene where D/s is not an essential component.

Touching Others

Casual touching seems like a bigger irritant in our scene than in society as a whole. I know a lot of female dominants who get notably irritated when someone touches them, their toys, or their subs without permission. I once saw a novice male dominant reaching over to touch the hand of a dominant woman he didn't know and ask her "Are you a sub or a domme?" He found out very quickly.

Gender Identification

Drag Queens and Sissies: It is correct form to address and refer to a drag queen or a sissy as female. It is considered bad form to disparage a drag queen no matter how poorly they pass as female. That is especially true in the Gay Leather scene.

Butch: Some butch women prefer to be addressed as men and to be referred to with male pronouns. Some do not. When meeting a butch woman for the first time, the best advice is to ask "how do you prefer to be addressed?" You might forget yourself and use the incorrect pronoun on occasion but that is very common and most butch women are very forgiving if they can tell you are trying.

No matter how confused and flustered you might become over a person's gender, you must never refer to them as "it." Not being sure about a person's gender is one thing but to refute their humanity is inhumane.

Apologizing

"I never apologize. I'm sorry -- but that's the way I am." - Homer Simpson

"If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble." - Theodore Roosevelt

Rudeness is inexcusable in both dominants and submissives. Even if a master orders his slave to get refreshments, the slave cannot push aside people in her way or cut in line. And a dominant may not touch someone else's property -- or even an unattached submissive -- without permission. A dominant or submissive who is rude should apologize -- truly apologize.

In the article "Elements of an Apology", the late Tammad Rimilia describes a proper apology:

... the elements of an apology are these: 1) A restatement of what it was that you did that was wrong, 2) A statement that you regret doing that wrong thing, and 3) A promise to try not to do similar things wrong in the future. The first element allows the recipient of the apology to feel confident that the apologist is actually thinking about the same event or act that they are. The second element conveys that the apologist is keenly sorry for what they did, and the third element gives hope that the future will proceed better. ... an apology does not feel sincere unless it incorporates all three elements.

In addition to the elements which Tammad Rimilia lists, etiquette expert Llewellyn Miller offers the following:

  • Acknowledging the offense
  • Recognizing your responsibility
  • Explaining why you made the mistake
  • Acknowledging the pain or discomfort you've caused
  • Showing sincere regret and genuine concern over the injury
  • Apologizing for the pain or discomfort
  • Attempting or offering to rectify the situation

A real apology does not put the blame on the injured party or someone else. A real apology does not emphasize the excuse over the regret. A real apology is not delivered in a manner that trivializes the offense.

Marsha L. Wagner offers an excellent illustration of the difference between a poor apology and a proper apology: The New York Senator Alfonse M. D'Amato mocked Judge Ito on the radio by referring to him as "Little Judge Ito" and adopting an offensive stereotypical Japanese sounding accent. The senator was widely criticized for what seemed like racial slurs and he was encouraged to apologize. In his first attempt, he issued a brief written statement through his office:

If I offended anyone, I'm sorry. I was making fun of the pomposity of the judge and the manner in which he's dragging the trial out.

That only made the situation worse so he apologized again. This time he made the following statement personally:

I'm here on the Senate floor to give a statement as it relates to that episode. It was a sorry episode. As an Italian-American, I have a special responsibility to be sensitive to ethnic stereotypes. I fully recognize the insensitivity of my remarks about Judge Ito. My remarks were totally wrong and inappropriate. I know better. What I did was a poor attempt at humor. I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused Judge Ito and others. I offer my sincere apologies.

The second apology was acceptable where the first was not.

In summary, a full apology consists of the following:

  1. Acknowledging the offense
  2. Admitting that the offense was wrong
  3. Explaining why you made the mistake
  4. Recognizing your responsibility
  5. Acknowledging the pain or discomfort you've caused
  6. Showing sincere regret and genuine concern over the injury
  7. Promising to try not to make the same mistake in the future. (Or in the case of major betrayals, never to make the same mistake again.)
  8. Apologizing for the discomfort or pain
  9. Attempting or offering to rectify the situation

[Sources: "Elements of an Apology" by Tammad Rimilia at http://ms.ha.md.us/~tammad/ (defunct), "Apologies and Excuses" in The Encyclopedia of Etiquette   by Llewellyn Miller, and "Apologies" by Marsha L. Wagner at http://www.ombuds.uci.edu/JOURNALS/1996/apologies.html (gone)]

Accepting Apologies

"How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it." - Marcus Aurelius

"I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice." - Abraham Lincoln

  • You are not obligated to accept or acknowledge an apology if you don't think it is sincere and appropriate. Over time it can become apparent that some people use apologies to get out of trouble. To them, apologies are just another tool to get what they want.
  • People cannot bargain with apologies. Conditional apologies are as real as conditional love and are even less satisfying.
  • If someone seems to make an honest attempt at an apology or explain their actions, it is only fair to listen.
  • It is as important to accept a sincere and appropriate apology as it is to offer one. It is also heathier than holding a grudge.

Addressing Inappropriate Behavior

For the good of the community, it is everyone's responsibility to report inappropriate behavior to the correct individuals:

  • Misbehaving collared submissives: The behavior of a submissive reflects on his or her dominant and the dominant is responsible for the behavior of the submissive so it follows that when a collared submissive misbehaves, you should report the submissive's behavior to the submissive's owner. It is then the owner's responsibility to address the bad behavior.A few couples don't observe this convention. They feel that the submissive is responsible for her own behavior. (To many of us, that seems to contradict the roles of dominant and submissive but the BDSM scene does not have a board of standards and practices.) Still, if the couple's relationship is not clear, then it is prudent to approach the top first.In any case, someone -- either the dominant or the submissive -- is answerable for the submissive's behavior. The protocol card doesn't get them both off the hook.
  • Unsafe Players: It's bad form to interrupt a scene at a party. If you see something that appears dangerous, non-consensual, or against the party rules, bring it to the attention of the Dungeon Monitor. The DM will decide on the appropriate action to take.
  • Stalkers and other criminals: If someone in the community has crossed the line between simple rudeness and inappropriateness to something illegal -- stalking, rape, non-consensual abuse, theft, etc., -- it is your duty and in your best interest to report such behavior to both the proper legal authorities who are best equipped to handle the issue and the leaders of the local community who need to know. Keep in mind the community's ability to police itself is both limited and problematic. It should go without saying that no one should make false accusations or exaggerate misunderstanding and honest mistakes. Unfortunately, that happens in the community and it has unfairly caused serious damage to people's lives and reputations.
  • All others: At group functions --- such as a munch or party --- please report someone misbehaving --- touching without permission, refusing to take no for an answer, etc., --- to the munch facilitator, a party host, or to club officer.