Tips for Your First Visits to Dungeon Parties
These ideas are written for a play place like SFCitadel. They apply to a lesser extent to commercial sex clubs.
Q. What should I wear?
Some events have specific dress code, which you should follow. Others permit street clothes. You'll probably feel more at home if you dress a bit for the occasion - e.g. all black, clubwear, lace, leather, fetish, lingerie, nude, etc. The important thing is to dress to make you feel good about yourself, not conforming to someone else's notion of kinky / attractive / etc.
Relatively few people can afford the high-end fetish outfits. But there are lots ways to make hot outfits on a tiny budget. Many first timers are in street clothes.
Q. What should I bring?
Bring admission fee and photo ID (for proof of age). If arriving in street clothes, you might bring something more festive to change into. You may bring your toy bag (bdsm gear and/or sex toys) if you like, but it's optional.
Some people bring a small lock, if they plan to use a locker.
Don't bring alcohol, firearms, cameras, recording devices, or illegal substances. Cellphones must be off and completely put away.
Q. Is it OK to show up alone?
Yes. (Unless it's advertized as one of the few couples-only events.) On a typical night about half the attendees arrive alone, and the rest are in pairs or groups. There's no stigma attached to coming alone.
Q. What's the gender balance?
Usually about 50-50, unless it's a men-only or women-only event.
Q. What's the age range?
18 - 80+. It's a diverse and inclusive group.
Q. How many hot bi babes show up?
SFCitadel attracts a wide range of genders, orientations, ages, and body types. They discourage the notion that only 'cute young things' are attractive. If you're just looking to hit on hot bi babes, you'll not have a good time here. If you like being around a diverse group of kinky folks, you'll like it here.
Q. Any queers?
Yep. Often lots.
Most attendees are comfortable with non-mainstream sexualities. On a given night, there will be various types of hets, bi's, gays, lesbians, trans, and gender queer. Just like outside. Only in here you don't have to hide who you are, or want to be. This is an inappropriate place to be homophobic, transphobic, or heterophobic, or to put down other people's preferences or kinks.
It turns out that many heterosexual leather folk regard themselves as 'queer', meaning that they don't conform to society's norms.
Q. Is everyone poly/swingers?
If you're asking about the energy of the party, it's quite different from a swingers event, and a bit different from most local poly events or tantra events. It's not ok to touch anyone without explicit permission. It's not ok to assume that someone is poly or available.
Many attendees only play with one partner, period. Some do bdsm with more than one partner, but are exclusive for sex and emotional relationships. Some are polysexual, but monoamourous. And a few are proud to be sluts. There are a lot of possibilities. If you're interested in a praticular individual, you'll have to ask them.
Q. What are the logistics and layout?
First you find the place. Outside SFCitadel, there's no signage, only a street number and leather pride flag.
The doorperson or front desk may ask to see an ID to prove you're at least 18, and may offer you a set of rules to read. The front desk will ask you to sign that you agree to the rules, and that you waive liability. They accept your fee, and may require you to buy an (inexpensive) membership (unless you're a guest with a member). That's the only money you'll need - there are no hidden costs.
You go through a leather curtain, and there's a changing area with (free) lockers. If you like, use any available locker (bring your own lock, or some are for sale ($5)). At the end of the night, leave the locker empty and unlocked.
The music is kept at a level for easy conversation, and the mood lighting allows you to easily see what you're doing. There are no dark anonymous corners.
Next is the social area, with couches and socializing / mingling space. Snacks are provided, but you should eat a full meal before arriving. The kitchen area is off limits.
Beyond is the upstairs play area, with 3-10 stations, depending on the event. No spectator talking or idle strolling in the play areas.
At the back are two unisex toilets and stairs to the basement. There is another stairs at the front.
The entire downstairs is playspace, with 10-20+ stations.
Q. What's a 'station'?
A station is one piece of equipment for BDSM play. Examples include: sling, bed, stocks, spanking bench, bondage table, medical table, hoist, bowsprit, cage, suspension bar, whipping post, spider web, rack, and St.Andrews Cross.
Q. What goes on at a dungeon party?
People relax and chat, maybe cruise lightly, watch scenes, maybe play, and relax after playing.
Most people show up fairly early. The place is lively by one hour after opening.
Q. What's a DM?
A Dungeon Monitor (DM) is like a lifeguard. They facilitate everyone having a good time, and also enforce the rules. There's always at least one marked DM on duty. Ask them any play-related questions. Ask non-play questions at the front desk. Some DMsare marked, e.g. with an orange bandand. Others are "plain clothes".
Q. Parking and transit?
Due to society's erotophobia, erotic and kinky venues are often not in the best neighborhoods.
SFCitadel is fortunate in having easy parking and access to transit. BART, Muni, and Night Bus are 1-2 blocks away. A SamTrans bus stops at the door.
Street parking is free after six, and usually available within a block. Read all signs carefully. Some blocks are clearway until 6 or 7 pm. Some blocks must be clear at 2 am for street sweeping. There is indoor pay parking a block away at the Holiday Inn, 50 Eighth St between Market and Mission.
There's been no inter-personal violence against our people. Police report that violence is mainly among drunken out-of-towners.
From time-to-time there's a rash of car break-ins. Don't leave anything visible or valuable in a vehicle. Avoid parking in the alleys.
Q. Booze and drugs?
Dungeon parties are clean and sober. Don't bring in alcohol or illegal substances. If you're too drunk to drive a car, you're too drunk to drive a whip.
Q. Is the space dark and dirty with sticky floors?
No, SFCitadel is upscale. Clean, well-lit, well-appointed, with fitted carpets. Please don't spill anything. The walls showcase erotic art exhibits, by local artists and photographers, changing every six weeks.
Q. Isn't this illegal or underground?
SFCitadel is in compliance with all applicable laws and codes. They're on good terms with each relevant city department.
And yes, the main dungeon is underground. Literally.
Q. What's 'a scene'?
A scene is a period of direct connection between two or more people, involving one or more of the 300+ known BDSM activities. It might last 10 minutes to 4 hours or more.
Q. What are typical BDSM activities?
That varies a lot with individual preferences. Examples include: abduction, aural seduction, bastinado, bondage, boot blacking, caning, CBT, cupping, discipline, display, dominance, edge play, escapology, femdom, fetishes, flogging, fucking, genitorture, grovelling, handballing, inflation, insertions, Japanese rope bondage, kink, kitty play, leather, licking, masochism, massage, medplay, mummification, nipple play, obedience ,objectification, orgasms, paddling, pony play, puppy play, queening, resistance play, role play, sadism, sensation play, sensory deprivation, sex, shaving, slave auctions, submission, suspension, sybian, teasing, torture, uniforms, violet wand, voyeurism, wartenberg wheel, wax, wrestling, xhibitionism, yiffing, zippers, and hundreds more. Most people like/do only a few of these.
All activities must have the full consent of everyone participating.
Q. But I don't know any of those.
Everyone has to start somewhere. At every party there are first-timers. There's no penalty for being a beginner. (There is a penalty for pretending you know more than you do.)
Also, not everyone is into everything. Some people only like bondage, some only like Ds, etc. We respect people's preferences.
Q. What kind of freaks show up at a place like this?
Every study has shown that members of the BDSM community are very similar to the general population. We have about the same percentages of exciting, boring, or eccentric people as anywhere else. The studies also show that kinksters on average tend to be more sex-positive, more adventurous, a bit more communicative, and a bit more intelligent.
Q. How do I talk to people?
First, don't talk in the play spaces (unless you're part of a scene) - it's too distracting for the scenes in progress. Confine talking to the social areas.
Talk about interesting, happy topics - holidays, food, arts, hobbies, etc. It's boorish to complain or brag about negative or mundane things - landlords, stock portfolios, etc.
Attendees value their privacy. It's inappropriate to ask for personal information, but it's OK to volunteer yours.
Q. Can I just walk around watching people having sex?
Casual strolling in the playspace is a no-no. It's unsafe and distracting. Instead, choose a safe place, walk there carefully, then watch from that one point.
Watching is fine. Gawking is not. It's ok to look - many people here are exhibitionists. It's not ok to try to try to make eye contact with people in scene. It's not ok just to stare at tits or crotches. It's not ok to be an energy vampire. It's not ok to be a sex tourist.
If you're just looking to watch conventional sex, this won't be the place for you. People here try many different erotic fantasies, and ordinary penetrative sex is not among the most common activities. Also, people do a scene for their own benefit, more than for any audience.
Q. What's a safe distance from a scene?
At least four feet from any person, toy or furniture. Some types of scene require more distance. Stay well clear of any possible backswing.
People in a scene may change what they're doing at any time. Give them plenty of room, in advance.
Q. "Hit her harder!"
Please don't say that.
Saying anything to someone in a scene is bad etiquette. Never talk so that you can be heard by any scene in progress. If you wish to compliment someone on their scene, wait until they have finished and are in the social area again.
Q. Will I get groped?
Only if you ask nicely.
If someone does touch you without permission, ask them to stop. If they persist, tell a DM. We don't want that behavior here.
Q. Do I have to get naked?
And the people who do choose to get naked usually do it for self-empowerment, freedom, or other reasons. It's not necessarily for your benefit. It is not an invitation for comment, touch, or misbehavior.
Q. Do I have to participate?
Nope. In fact, you'll probably have to put in some effort if you want an acceptable offer.
Q. What do you say to a naked person?
Q. "Hey babe, where do you work?"
Don't ask that. People in the scene value confidentiality. Don't ask someone's last name, where they work or live, or other 'stalker' questions. It's OK to offer your own information, and OK to ask for an email address.
What happens at a party, stays at the party. Outside the kink world, don't mention that someone is kinky, or was at a given event. There are people outside who don't understand.
Q. What's a 'scene name'?
Much like a stage name or pen name, many kinksters use a scene name rather than their birth name. This makes things more vivid, and also provides some protection in case they run into someone who's too persistent.
Most people also have an email address for kinky correspondence, separate from work or family addresses. Free email accounts are easy to get, e.g. at mail.yahoo.com or gmail.com.
Q. Can I join in that hot scene over there?
Nope. Even if you see people walking up and joining in. They were prearranged. Unless someone inside the scene explicitly invites you, don't approach it.
Q. How do I get laid?
Make yourself attractive and available.
Q. How do I meet the dom/me of my dreams?
Join the queue. There's a premium for experienced, versatile, attractive players. Make yourself into the type of person they might want.
Q. What's a collar mean?
For some it's identity - a sign of being a bottom (e.g. submissive, masochist, slave, or similar). For some it's a sign of relationship to someone. For some it's a fashion statement. You'll have to ask the individual.
Q. I love this place, but that one guy makes me feel creepy.
If anyone makes you uncomfortable, by unwanted touches or attention, tell any member of staff. They want to keep it safe and comfortable. It's not ok if one clueless person drives the nice people away.
Q. What's a 'Specialty Party'?
An 'Open party' is open to all members and usually has no particular theme. A 'specialty party' will have an evocative theme, may enforce a dress code, and may limit attendance. E.g. a FemDomme party might admit any women but only submissive men. There are many different specialty parties. Schedules range from monthly to annual.
Q. So people can people can get naked, do kinky things, have sex in public. Anything goes, right?
Not at all. This freedom requires more attention to respect and consent than in the outside world.
Some specific taboos in this community include the following. Don't bring in this energy:
Q. Can I pay for 'extras'?
Offering to buy or sell sex is illegal and would get you banned, at the least. We're all amateurs here.
Q. How dangerous is this stuff?
Statistically, the most dangeous part of your evening is the trip home, among the drunk drivers. Most kinksters attend classes or get trained on each technique before they try it. Our hallmarks are SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consentual) and RACK (Risk-Aware Consentual Kink).
Be aware that most people experience an emotional roller coaster, including delight, fear, joy, confusion, doubt, guilt, relief, and other emotions, often for hours or days after their first scenes. Relax, enjoy the ride, and don't make any life decisions in the first week after a scene.
After a scene, it's considered polite to cuddle for at least a half hour ('after care'), and to reconnect by phone or email the next day.
Q. Someone's getting rich here?
Nope. Can't even pay the rent from the one main party per week. It's a labor of love. Eveyone on staff is a volunteer.
Do clean up after yourself, unless you brought your Mommy to do it for you.
Q. Other advice for a first-timer?
Relax, observe, talk to people. Don't expect to play during your first visit. Try to cultivate some people like yourself, who can give you advice and insight. One of them might eventually become your mentor.
You may attract a little attention from some member of the self-appointed 'welcoming committee'. If someone just happens to be free every night, there might be a reason. It's encouraged to ask around about someone's reputation before you get involved with them.
Attend kinky classes. Consider also joining an organization like Society of Janus.
Don't fall in love with your first dominant. It's more likely to be the play than the person.
Q. This kink stuff is great. Can I tell all my friends?
After finding the joy of kink, people are tempted to tell the whole world. We recommend that you not 'out' yourself to anyone during your first year. It may be safe and fun for you, but they still see it as danger and perversion. They won't share your joy.
Before outing yourself, read the book "When Someone You Love is Kinky" from Greenery Press.
Likewise, don't out a playspace. It's ok to pass event listings to appropriate individuals you trust. It's not ok to blast craigslist or other non-kinky media.
Q. Is it wheelchair accessible?
The entire ground floor is flat and level, with roomy, single-person, gender-neutral toilets. There is no step at any door. Only the basement play area is difficult to access.
If you have mobility issues, you might want to contact an organizer before an event, to see where it will set up. I.e. some classes and discussion groups are on the ground floor, others downstairs.
Q. What about the club rules?
The club rules are gently, but actively, enforced. Read them at SFCitadel.org/Rules/Rules.html
Q. How can I get more information about entering and enjoying the kinky sub-culture?
There are many good books on BDSM. Among others, we recommend anything from Greenery Press.
We'd also love to have you on our mailing list. We offer diverse classes, workshops, parties, conferences, and discounts: groups.yahoo.com/group/EduKink, EduKink.tribe.net and/or fetlife.com/groups/1780
If you've read this far and are still interested, then you're probably ready to attend and enjoy a Dungeon party.