"HARNESS" column - August 2005

Gaining SM Confidence

This month's question is: "I've only just discovered SM, and I'm scared to approach anyone because they all seem to have much more experience. Why would anyone want to play with me?"

The obvious cliché is "of course you should approach other people, everyone has to start somewhere". But that doesn't help when you attend an SM party, club night or demo and see people making whips crack every time or throwing a flogger in each hand with perfect co-ordination. It's very easy to become intimidated by other people's level of skill. Here are some tips to remember which might put you more at ease:

  1. SM is not a competition between you and other people. If everyone involved in your scene finishes happy, healthy and pleased with the outcome it doesn't matter if you flogged them with one hand, two hands or standing on one leg with a vase of flowers on your head!

  2. There is no SM "council of elders" sitting somewhere making pronouncements on the right and wrong way to do things. The only time I would interrupt someone else's scene is if I think it's not truly consensual or if they have misjudged the risks involved (for instance if the bottom has gone unconscious and the top hasn't noticed). Otherwise, if all the participants are all having fun and not at risk of serious injury then it doesn't matter if the rope knots are tied with reef knots or bowlines, or if you are flogging forehand or backhand. You will develop your own style over time.

  3. Try to see beyond the physical appearance of other players. The best SM teachers may not be your type, but you would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to play with them and learn a thing or two. It's also possible to develop a great SM connection with people of different genders and sexualities than you would normally play with. Don't restrict your options by only spending time with people that you are sexually attracted to - you might be pleasantly surprised.

  4. It's possible to have fun pushing or approaching someone's limits regardless of where their limits are. In fact, some SM players actively seek out newcomers because they get a real kick out of seeing the look of wonder on someone's face when they experience an activity for the first time.

  5. It's not just technical skill that makes someone a good SM top. You also need a connection with the person you are playing with based on trust and good communication. You can develop sensitivity to other people from everyday life, so you may already have those skills even though you are new to SM.

  6. Consider making up contact cards with your picture and contact details. If you are worried about having the right words to say when approaching someone for the first time, just hand a card over with an appropriate look of interest. If you have time, borrow a pen from the bar and write a personalised message on the back.

  7. If someone shows an interest in you but you're too scared to play with them, ask to meet them at a later date for coffee or lunch. Many of the scariest SM tops and bottoms take on a very different image ordering sparkling water with their burger and chips!

Have fun, look after yourselves and the people you play with.

John Pendal
International Mr Leather 2003

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