Party etiquette and protocol differ slightly in different regions, and even within the same area in different circles. However, there are some fairly consistent rules that are shared no matter who is holding an event or where. Always refer to the event or group’s specific rules first and foremost, but here are some basic guidelines everyone can follow:
Most parties and events will dictate the appropriate manner of dress. The most basic of these requests are quite often “vanilla to the door”. When this is stated, it generally means there are neighbors or otherwise “vanillas” in the immediate area who make take offense to your manner of dress, or lack thereof. Be discreet until you are inside.
Be polite, employ some basic manners and be respectful of others in attendance.
Bring an Open Mind
Expect to be a little shocked on occasion and be tolerant of things you perhaps were not expecting.
Do Not Touch
Do not touch people who are not known to you, even in a friendly way without asking permission. In some circles, hugging someone, even in a casual way without prior verbal assurance that it is welcome is considered overstepping boundaries. Submissives and slaves are often times forbidden from making any physical contact with those who have not sought approval from their partners to do so. The working assumption should always be that touching of any kind is not acceptable without asking.
Do not touch other people’s belongings without asking permission. It goes without saying that touching things that do not belong to you is not socially acceptable, and this is especially true when it comes to toys or other implements you may come within reach of. Finally, never help yourself to someone’s food or drink without being completely sure it was not left there for your consumption.
If you find yourself in proximity of someone executing a scene at a play party event, make room for those directly involved in it. Tops need room to swing things such as floggers and whips, and the participants of that scene need to feel intimate with each other. If the space is too crowded, stand against a wall, or leave the room. If a top asks you to move, then move.
This is also true for spaces with small corridors and entryways. Do not create congestion in these spaces and do not block entries and exits. If you must converse, do so in an area that is not blocking other people from getting around you. You also want to avoid “parking” and/or having group conversations near bathrooms or where food and drink is located or being served. Find a less congested location to do this and allow other patrons of the event access to these areas.
Be quiet while scenes are going on, or other intimacy is taking place. Be polite, and don’t talk or whisper. Yours could be the remark that ruins a wonderful moment for someone. If you must talk, remove yourself to one of the social areas to do so.
A novice attempting to start conversations with the top or the bottom during scenes is one of the most common and astonishing etiquette errors at play parties with new people in attendance. Do not address comments or questions to the top or the bottom while they are playing. Similarly, do not try to start a conversation with the partners while they are cuddling together after a scene. What looks to you like a lull in the action while the top steps away to get a new toy, or while the partners are whispering intimately together after a scene is not the moment to walk over and ask questions or make comments. The partners are very focused on each other and on the intimacy of whatever they are experiencing together, and they want to maintain that focus even during short breaks. Reserve any questions for when it is clear that the parties involved are ready to socialize once again.
Do Not Intervene
If you are bothered by something you see because it seems extreme, risky, or even impossible to be consensual to you, find a host or Event Monitor to check on the situation taking place, explain it to you, or reassure you. If a corrective action like a safety improvement needs to be taken, the host or Event Monitor will take care of conveying that to the top in an appropriate manner. When you are more experienced you will be able to recognize if something is possibly non-consensual or unduly dangerous. At your first few play parties, plan to absorb, watch and learn. If something is too extreme for you to enjoy watching, then simply leave the room quietly.
Make No Assumptions
Clothes and gender usually don’t tell you anything about a person’s interests, predilections, or experience levels. Unless the party rules specify that fetish wear is required, people generally dress however they like. Some people use clothes and flags to signal their interests, but in practice the majority of experienced participants do not unless clothing styles are separate pleasures for them. Some deeply devoted and owned submissives do not wear collars and do not hover at the feet of their owners at parties.
Do Not Monopolize Play Equipment
Play furniture is sometimes provided and is there to be enjoyed by anyone wishing to use it. If you are unsure, ask the host for an estimate for a reasonable amount of time to use the play furniture or equipment. Do not monopolize it.
Unless asked to do otherwise by designated help, pick up after yourself. Do not leave trash, plates, glasses, cups, bottles, napkins, or utensils lying around. Find a suitable place to dispose of them. Clean up play furniture or play areas when you are done using them. Wipe down the play furniture you use so it is not sweaty for the next person, and if any bodily fluids were spilled accidentally, clean them up thoroughly. Pick up your toys so someone else can use the play area. Hosts will often provide appropriate cleaning materials if you don’t have them on hand. If you need assistance, do not be afraid or ashamed to ask. And we beg of you, please discard your used condoms. That’s just plain nasty.
Do not mention anyone at the party to those not at the party without that person’s expressed permission. Especially, do not post to any public forum in a way that identifies someone else without permission. Even mentioning someone in email without that person’s permission can be considered a violation of etiquette. Outing someone because you thought it was way cool to describe some hot scene you got to see, or for any other reason, is not acceptable. It is usually acceptable to describes a scene in a manner that leaves the participants – and the hosts – unidentifiable, but even then it is customary to ask first. It is also customary to email copies of anything you post in a public forum to all people referenced or described therein, in advance, if there is anything you are in doubt about, or whether the party is mentionable or not. The rule of thumb is that event and anything that occurs during the event are not mentionable publicly unless stated otherwise.
Thank the Host
If you enjoyed yourself take a moment to thank the host or hosts personally. A follow up email is always welcome. Do not think for a moment that hosts do not notice those who take a moment to send a thank you, even if they already said thanks when they left the party. It could mean the difference between you receiving an invitation to a private gathering or not in the future.