In the first part of this series we discussed how the Scene has changed positively with the past couple of generations coming in, and how popular media has also changed things. We discussed abusive dynamics and why it’s a good idea to avoid them.
You can find the whole article here: Exploring a Kink Relationship Safely (Part One)
In part two we talked about abusers, important questions to ask of a new Dominant, and conversation techniques you can use to make sure you’re talking to someone who will be healthy for you.
You can find the whole article here: Exploring a Kink Relationship Safely (Part Two) Important Questions and Conversation Techniques
Now we’re going to discuss red flags. The hard part here isn’t always spotting red flags… sometimes it’s acting on them. I think most of us know a warning when we see it. If not the first one, then by the third or fourth we’re definitely starting to be aware of a pattern.
Read more: Exploring a Kink Relationship Safely (Part Three): Red Flags
We get that anxious feeling, that cold pit in our stomach that is warning us to walk away.
But too often the lure of a magnetic Dom draws us back in. We make excuses. We give the benefit of the doubt. We pretend that nothing is wrong. We listen to the words instead of watching the actions.
So the most important thing here, is to believe that warning feeling when it comes. Act on it. Ask for proof, clarify things, or just walk away—but do something.
For those who aren’t just submissive at certain times but have a submissive personality in general, this can be very hard. Standing up for yourself isn’t easy at all, but you can do it and you have to. Learning to protect yourself from abuse is a valuable skill everyone needs to have, and even if you find a great Top who is very protective, being able to take care of yourself is still essential.
Let me start by saying that many red flags will vary depending on your needs. What is a red flag for you might be fine for someone else. So if the Dom triggers a few flags and you walk away, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with them, other than them not being your match. This does depend on what the flags are, because there are some that are universal signs of danger.
When we start talking about red flags, there are going to be a lot of things that can cue you in you’re not dealing with a Dominant who will be good for you. Your single best warning is still going to be your own feelings. And like I said earlier, you need to pay attention and not dismiss them.
But even so, sometimes these internal warnings can be confused for normal nervous jitters. They can come up because of your own past baggage. They can even come up because the Dom is also new and nervous. Doms get jitters too don’t forget, and people aren’t always at their best when they are nervous.
I find that the best way to separate them out, to know if you’re just nervous because new relationships can be scary, is to sit down and approach things logically. It might sound dumb, but I will even occasionally fall back on a positive/negative list.
Positive: She makes me feel special.
Negative: Some of the things she wants from me are scary.
Positive: I really want to try the things he’s suggesting.
Negative: Those things seem really intense, and I feel like he’s pushing me too fast.
It’s not about whether there are more positives versus negatives on your lists. It’s about listing out each thing you see so you can really look at them. One red flag can be dismissed as nerves on either, or both, sides. But a whole list of them should make you seriously consider where you’re going with this.
In the beginning of a relationship, there will usually be light conversation, maybe some flirting, as you get to know each other. It’s normal to be slow to approach the deep topics. Serious conversations can be heavy and difficult to bring up, especially if you’re afraid of ruining the new vibe.
But eventually the harder topics need to be discussed. Once you’re both feeling comfortable together and starting to consider things like meeting in person, and before considering an actual relationship (either in person or at a distance), or even exchanging phone numbers and real contact info… then it’s time to have some real talk.
Now, in the last part we discussed conversation techniques and questions to ask, so that’s where you’re going to start. If there are red flags and warnings, they should begin popping up as you talk, but sometimes it can take awhile until they feel comfortable enough to relax and let you see the real them.
That’s why it’s better to ask questions slowly, easing them into conversation and drawing out the answers in a casual, not confrontational way. People answer differently if they feel like they are being tested than they do in casual chatter.
But let’s have a look at some red flags or warning that come up commonly and I’ll give you a little context with them because anything can look like a warning without context.
You: I’m looking for a 24/7 D/s relationship. I like to be dominated in the bedroom, but I also want more than that. A complete relationship is important to me.
Them: What are your dirtiest sexual fantasies? Does being dominated turn you on? How turned on are you just talking about this? How would you feel if I shoved my cock in your mouth and made you suck?
If you keep trying to guide the conversation back to discussing a whole D/s relationship and they continually bring up sexual questions that is a red flag. If you’re trying to discuss limits, needs, goals and they continually push back to sex it’s a red flag.
For some people D/s is all about sex, and that’s fine if they are honest about it. But abusers will pretend to be what you’re looking for, so they can get sex.
You: Should we talk about safewords?
Them: You don’t need a safeword, honey. I’m good at this. I’ll know when you hit your limit.
Safewords should be discussed and used in a new situation, but even aside from that, if the submissive is asking to talk about safewords and the Top is dismissing it and saying you don’t need them… run.
You: I like you, but I’ve been hurt before, and I really want to take this slow.
Them: Don’t you trust me? I’m not going to hurt you like those other dudes.
Them: We can take it slow. (But then proceeds to keep trying toward the next step anyway.)
Them: I don’t know. I’m feeling a real connection to you. If you want to take it slow maybe you’re not feeling it… maybe this isn’t meant to be…
Hinting that they will move on to someone else if you are taking too long is blatant manipulation and a major red flag. Relationships should only move ahead and when everyone is read.
You: I definitely know I’m kinky, but I’m just not sure if I’m a sub. It’s hot, but I could see myself in a lot of roles.
Them: Once we meet, trust me, you’ll want to be on your knees.
Some Doms think that once you meet them your own needs/wants will vanish because you are overwhelmed with their Domliness. They also think they can push you into the role they want you to be in. This is a red flag and a sign of insecurities.
We all have insecurities and Tops are no different, but if they are pushing us to control others then it’s a problem.
Our fantasies don’t define us. Many people fantasize about one role, but for many reasons don’t actually like to be in that role. Women, for instance, commonly fantasize about having control taken from them, but are quite dominant in real life and won’t let someone else be in charge of them.
You: I love the idea of being spanked, but I’m not a sub. I think I’m more of a brat.
Them: I know how to deal with brats. A few weeks under my authority and you won’t be acting up anymore.
There is nothing wrong with being a brat. It’s a role in the scene that many choose in the beginning because it’s comfortable and familiar. It reminds us of being a kid and getting disciplined for breaking rules. Some people grow in new directions and others never do.
The counterpart to a brat is a Brat Tamer. They love and enjoy brats because they are brats, and know better than to think they can force you out of that role. They tame a brat by settling them down and getting them to follow the rules sometimes, while being fully aware that they will remain a brat, and continue to need plenty of discipline to keep them in line.
Any variation of trying to imply that you are wrong about your role, and they will help you see the light is a red flag. It comes up a lot with submissives who know they don’t want to be slaves too.
And speaking of this need to push people into other roles… we have variations of red flags that involve someone presenting themselves as a Dom when they actually are bottoms themselves, or versatile with a strong lean towards bottom.
Dominant women are harder to find, and submissive men can be wily about trying to get submissive into a Top role.
You: I’m a total sub. I can’t picture myself topping anyone.
Them: Really? I bet you could with some guidance. Maybe we could try it sometimes just for fun. You never know you might end up being a real Domme.
Listen, I know a lot of people who started out thinking they were pure sub, and then learned topping can be fun. People grow in the scene. They learn new things about themselves all the time.
And besides that, many people who are mostly Dom or identify as Dom do on rare occasions switch with people they trust. There is catharsis in submission. But that’s not what this is.
Don’t start a relationship under a false pretense. Someone pretending to be a Dom and then sneaking this in makes it clear that they have an agenda. If you’re looking for someone to switch with than make it clear. If you’re mostly Dom but hope to find someone who won’t mind topping you now and then, make it clear.
I think that’s enough examples to give you an idea of what to look for in the earlier stages of conversation. The next set of red flags are going to pop up when you start moving to the deeper. Before you consider meeting someone offline you should know a lot more about them…
Unless you are planning a public place or party situation type meeting. It’s perfectly fine to want to meet and put a face to the chat without being ready to give out your home address and your relatives names. I do recommend a public meeting first anyway, but I’m aware that’s not always possible, especially when one of you is traveling from far away.
No one is flying over from another country just to meet for coffee at Starbucks and I get that. And I encourage even more advance diligence so there are no surprises when you arrive.
You: So, we’ve been talking a lot and things are getting serious. Can you add me to your Facebook? (Or any variations of social media.)
Facebook isn’t as popular as it used to be, but most people still have one and it’s the easiest social media to find out if someone has been lying to you. Maybe you’ve been talking on Twitter all this time, but we all know Twitter makes it very easy to hide who you are with any random name and no personal info required. Getting on FB is a lot more helpful.
Them: I don’t have any Social Media. (Or any other social media accounts)
This isn’t necessarily a Red Flag. Some people don’t like SM and they avoid it. However, in this day it’s rare they don’t have any. If they say they don’t have one, but you have their full name, check anyway.
Many a submissive has found out her Dominant online boyfriend is married with kids that way. Beyond what info is available, check their posts, and then check what they ‘like’ too. Sometimes people will like some really unpleasant groups/pages/posts without actually putting them on their own feed for people to judge.
If you’ve been talking on IG, Twitter, TikTok you should still take a look at what they’re liking and commenting on.
Them: Oh, I don’t use them much.
That’s okay. They can still add you and you should suggest that. It’s perfectly fine for them to set boundaries about what/when you can interact with them on SM. Maybe they don’t want to be outed in front of their parents and high school teachers—and they can set those boundaries, but if they have SM and won’t add you… that to me is a red flag that they are hiding something.
A caveat here… if they just aren’t ready to share their full real name, and personal info with you that is okay. It’s absolutely fine, but if they aren’t being honest about that being the reason then it’s an issue. If they aren’t ready for that then it’s also not time to be talking about next steps.
Them: Okay, but listen… my family is on there and they don’t know I’m kinky so please be careful what you say.
Not a red flag. This is setting boundaries in a healthy way.
Them: Okay, but you should know I use a different name here, so it won’t match.
Also not a red flag.
Many people don’t jump into kink using their real legal name and I think it’s obvious why. It is a big sign of trust that they are allowing you to know their real name and access a more personal part of their life. No matter how the relationship goes after that, do not abuse their trust.
Now, how about red flags that pop up once you are actually considering a face-to-face meeting?
You: I’d prefer to meet in public the first time, so we can see how things feel. Maybe coffee?
Them: Oh, do we really need that? I already feel like we’ve been together for years and I was kind of hoping we could get a hotel room and play a little.
Definitely a red flag. The only caveat would be if they are traveling from far away. Let’s be realistic the expense and time of crossing the country to meet up is not going to be satisfied with a cup of coffee. If one or both of you will be traveling, I suggest being even more careful to be sure of who they are up front.
You: So, we’re meeting next week and I’m going to set up a safe call with some friends. I wanted to let you know I’ll be sending them a picture of you and your license plate number for safety.
Them: Wow… if you don’t trust me maybe we shouldn’t meet at all.
Any response from them that makes you feel bad for taking normal safety precautions is a big red flag. And I highly advocate letting them know about your safety precautions in advance, just so you don’t waste your time with someone who would do this.
A Dom should never discourage a sub/bottom/Little/brat from keeping themselves safe and I would never trust one who tried. There are lots more red flags out there waiting, but hopefully this covers some of the basic ones.
I’m going to wrap up with some safety advice. Before you meet someone from online in person:
- Make sure that you are ready and not being pushed into a meeting too soon.
- Vet them if possible. If you have shared friends, ask about them.
- Know their real name and as much about who they are as you can.
- Exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
- Make a clear and concise plan to meet in public first. Even if one of you is traveling you can still meet in public in a visible place, before going somewhere private.
This gives you a chance to at least make sure some of the basics they’ve told you are true. Age, basic physical description, and just the general vibe you get from them are things you can check in public. Listen to your instincts! If there are warning signals you may then rethink going anywhere with them.
- Make a safety plan. Plan to check in with friends frequently, on a schedule, and then set up alarms on your phone to remind you to call them. Or have your friends call you at a scheduled time. Make sure your ringer is on so no one ends up panicking.
Texts can be faked from your phone, so either make sure the checks are by voice or establish codewords in advance that you would use in your text. Just don’t establish those codewords in the text where someone could scroll up and read what they are.
- Let people know where you are going and who you will be with. Provide them with the contact info for the person you are meeting. If anything happens, which is unlikely, but always a risk, the police can use that to track them down.
If you are flying, then make sure your friend has your flight info too.
- Take a picture of the person you are going to meet and send it to your friend when you arrive. A nice couple selfie also works.
On a personal note I will say that I’ve met probably three hundred people in real life that I first knew online. Most of them have been exactly what they said they were, and it’s all been perfectly safe. Most of the time these meet-ups happened in a group, or at a party or event so many precautions were built in.
Occasionally they didn’t. I’ve had people fly in and picked them up the airport to stay at my house. Or they’ve driven directly to my house. None of these were people I just met. All of them were people I had known for many months or years.
I also knew I wasn’t alone in the house, so the risk was fairly small. You need to minimize your risks in whatever way you find necessary, and no one should make you feel bad about that.
Now, I have addressed this all to the bottom part of the equation, because as we’ve discussed, they are statistically more likely to be the ones abused. And also statistically it’s more likely to be a male Top abusing a female sub… however, you don’t want to be one of those rare outliers.
Any gender can be abusive. Any gender can be abused. And yes, I’ve seen situations where the ‘submissive’ ended up being the abuser.
Situationally it tends to present a little different, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because it all goes out the window if the person you are talking to has been lying about who and what they are.
So, please bear in mind that safety precautions shouldn’t only be for the submissive. And subs… if the Dom you’re meeting says they need info for their own safety precautions, and you make them feel stupid for it… then you don’t belong in the scene.
If you want their real name, you need to give yours. If you want their phone number, then you should be offering your own. If they want a safety call then you will nod and smile, because safety is for everyone.
One last time: Safety is for everyone, and you are not less dominant for taking precautions to keep yourself safe.
This is the third piece of this series and I think I’ve covered most of it. Did I leave anything out? Anything you think I should add to the series? Any personal situations to share?
Feel free to like and comment, and as always you can send me an email if you need some level of privacy!