Safety Matters
We can not say enough about the safety precautions you must take when exploring this lifestyle.  Whether you are married and trying out a new 'skill' or single and meeting potential Dom/mes, there is an aspect of safety to consider in all activities.  It makes no difference whether you are brand spanking new to the scene or a 'seasoned' veteran, take the time and put in the effort to become informed on this subject.  The resources below focus on different aspects of safety.
Cleanliness is next to....

Not only should you be careful of the big concerns such as HIV, hepatitis and the like, but also bacterial growth that may lead to some pretty nasty infections.  If you are like most of us, you put your toys away in a dark place.  Well, warm, moist and dark are three things bacteria thrive on, so you are doing yourself a grave disservice already. 

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind....

Use a weak bleach solution to cleanse your non-porous toys, then let them air dry for a while. Before putting them away, you might also consider a quick wipe down with some rubbing alcohol to ensure any residual moisture is dissipated. Putting something away wet is  not a good idea.
Porous surfaced toys are not the best idea. Bacteria and other 'bad' things can hide and grow in the cracks and crevices. Best to avoid things like unsealed wood and fabrics.
Keep in mind that sharing toys is not in your best interest, especially when they are the insertable-type items. Even when you are fastidious about cleaning, sharing is not advisable.
Be sure you are using toys in for one purpose. If you use something anally, it should be designated as an anal toy from that point onward. This will help avoid cross contamination between orifices.
During play, when you have finished using a toy and are finished with it, place a towel on the floor and put used toys on the towel. This way, you have a quick way to look down and know what you can and can't use.
Safe Words
Much is said about safe words, their use and necessity. This submissive believes a safe word is essential in most situations and relationships. Although there really is no set rule about safe words, a good rule of thumb is to have one.  Plain and simple, it keeps the principle of consensuality alive and well in the context of any play.

Define safe "word"

A safe word is a signal. It tells the Top to STOP or to SLOW DOWN whatever they are doing and check in with the bottom.  It is a word or gesture that can and should be used if the submissive is experiencing a feeling or sensation that he/she considers beyond their range of tolerance or ability. Remember the slogan "safe, sane and consensual"? Well, if a safe word is used, any continued action on the part of the Top falls outside of those principles and the scene then becomes an assault/battery at a minimum.

Picking a safe word or gesture

The word should be something that is easily recalled but not something that could send a confusing message to the Top. A frequently used safe word is red. Not only is it easy to say, it is a very symbolic word associated with stopping. On that same theme, the word yellow can be used to slow down the action, it signifies to proceed with caution. Finally, the word green can be used to let the Top know it is OK to resume the scene.  In terms of a safe gesture, holding up one's hand is fine, if you aren't in bondage.  Finding a gesture that will work is dependent on the activity planned.

Using your safe

You should NEVER be made to feel uncomfortable about wanting to have a safe word. Take that as a sign of trouble if the Top you are getting involved with is poo pooing the idea that you need one. More often than not, a Top who behaves this way is either inexperienced or just plain irresponsible and neglectful of His/Her role to be a protector of the one who is submitting.

copyright vaash
April 1998

Safe First Contact
So now what? You have spent time chatting online or phone with someone who seems to be a good Dom/me. What can you do to make your first meeting a safe one? These are some things to consider in preparation for your first "real time" contact.
Personal Information

Any Dom/me worth their weight will not hesitate to give you as much information about  themselves as is reasonable to expect. You might ask "What is reasonable?" Well, here is a start...

Full name
Phone number
Beeper number
Work information
How to reach Him/Her during day and evening hours

What might be considered unreasonable?

Blood type
Bank account numbers
Gross annual income

Perhaps this sounds rather formal, but when put in context with the fact if you misjudge someone, you could end up severely injured or worse, and I hope you begin to see the common sense of this practice. One way to do this is ask people you know to chat with your potential Dom/me to get to know them. This can be done openly or otherwise. My opinion is, it is always best to be honest and forthright. Take time to compare your impressions for consistency and question things that don't seem to jibe. No one will be worse off for it.  Let the Dom/me and his/her slave know you wish them to speak to a friend of yours.  Be honest!  Needless to say, be on guard when approached by strangers online. How does that saying go...'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me'.

If you are feeling ill at ease so much that you feel the need to disguise yourself under another screen name take some time to seriously consider if this is something you should be doing or if this is the person you should be doing it with.   Whatever your reasoning this behavior is immature and counterproductive to any meaningful advancement of the relationship.  Grow up and deal with any issues straight on or do yourself (and everyone else) involved a big favor and find yourself a new hobby

Setting up the Meeting

There are so many details to which you must attend if your first meeting is to be a safe, and hopefully successful, one.... When at all possible, you should agree upon a meeting place that is familiar to you. Don't go somewhere you really don't know how to get into our out of quickly. A responsible Dom/Domme will ask you to pick the place. This signifies someone who understands the risks you are taking and the sense of security you will derive from having a handle on the geography.  It is best to first meet in a public place during daylight hours. I know, this sounds like it should be common sense, but there are countless "subbies-in-training" who would be duped into thinking that following the commands of their cyber-Dom/Domme is an indication of being a good sub. Frankly, I think that's just plain bullshit.  "Dom/mes" who come across in that manner most likely have little concern for your safety and well-being.  Their actions demonstrate a significant ego problem if they must project themselves in this manner and demand unreasonable things before even meeting for the first few times.

There are bound to be exceptions to the above recommendations of meeting in familiar places and during the day. Life does not always accommodate us so well.

Safe Calls

You should ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a reliable back up system in place. Make sure at least one person knows where you are, what the plan for the night is and who you are with. Make sure that person has all the personal details about who you are meeting. I would go so far as to have someone nearby, perhaps at the same location you are going to be.  From personal experience, be careful who you tell about your new found interest. When I was first starting out, I had a two vanilla friends I used as my safe call. As part of this, I had to tell them what I was getting into. I regretted doing so ever since. Be that as it may, do not let that discourage you from setting up a safe contact. You should consider it is a good idea to "call in" to your contact at specified and agreed to times. I always found that calling soon after meeting, and again when I got home, worked out well. If there is a sudden change of plans, such as where or when you are to meet, consider canceling the planned meeting for the time being.  Certainly, life happens and changes our plans all the time.  In these circumstances, better to be safe than sorry.  Putting a meeting off for a few days should not carry a negative impact on a budding relationship.  If it does or if you are made to feel badly for being cautious, think over whether or not this is the person you wish to get involved with.  That type of behavior is negatively manipulative on his/her part.

I always had my cell phone with me when meeting someone one new. If you don't have one, either buy one or borrow one. Make sure you have fully charged the phone before going out. The last think you need to find is a dead battery in the event of an emergency.

The Plan

Something else you may wish to keep in mind is having a set itinerary for the meeting. There are a few reasons this is a good idea..... It allows you the opportunity to scout out the location beforehand. If you are not familiar with the area, you can get to know it, establish your escape routes, where the pay phones are, where the closest public area is, etc. If you feel it is too remote, you can look for another setting and suggest that to the Dom/me. I can not say this enough, but, a responsible Dom/me should be willing to accommodate you in this area. If you are made to feel you are being "difficult", think twice before you go any further.

Remember, your safety should be utmost in any Dom/me's mind. At the beginning of any Ds relationship, there must be a core of trust. True Dom/me's know this to be critical. How can you develop any further trust in someone who is making you feel discomfort at simply wanting to ensure your own safety?

Are We Having Fun Yet?

In my opinion, this is one of the most important things to key in on once you actually get into the meeting.  Stop and think about whether you feel an attraction to this person.  Are you able to converse on a number of subjects outside of the D/s - BDSM realm?  Are you having fun?

Again, I suppose it depends on what you hope to get out of the relationship. Your needs will be different if you are  seeking a life partner as opposed to a play buddy. Be discriminating.  Find the right person for what you need.
Don't be afraid to say, "Hey, it was nice meeting You but this isn't feeling like the right thing for me." You owe nothing to this person.  Take care of yourself and don't settle for less than what you truly want.
Copyright vaash - December 1997 | September 1999

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