Exploring a Kink Relationship Safely (Part Three): Red Flags

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!

Exploring a Kink Relationship Safely (Part Two): Important Questions and Conversation Techniques

In part one we discussed how the Scene has changed positively with the past couple of generations coming in, and how popular media has also changed things, not always for the positive. We discussed abusive dynamics and the damage they can cause to your future relationships.

You can find the whole article here: https://kessilylewel.com/2023/01/06/exploring-a-kink-relationship-safely-part-one/

Now we’re going to discuss important questions you should be asking in the very early stages of talking with a potential play partner, as well as how you should be bringing up these questions to get the most honest results.

Continue reading “Exploring a Kink Relationship Safely (Part Two): Important Questions and Conversation Techniques”

Exploring a Kink Relationship Safely— Part One

This is going to be a multi-part series. I’m not sure how many parts there will be yet, but at least three because it’s gotten long and detailed.

Some of this may seem basic to those of you who have been playing for a long time, but if nothing else, it might show you how things have changed since you entered your first kinky dynamic.

The newer generations of adults are learning about kink earlier and getting involved in playing earlier too. This includes Millennials, the youngest of which are at least twenty-six now, and the oldest members of Generation Z who have been adults for five or six years already.

A lot of things have changed and will continue to change as they come in. Overall I think the updates have been good. There is more focus on safety and conversation than there used to be.

And just to be clear… the BDSM world as a whole has always pushed for safety. The Millennials didn’t invent this coming in. Safewords have been around for a long time.

But… previous generations and elder Millennials didn’t have the same access to learning materials that we have now. When people logged online in the early 90’s there weren’t hundreds of lifestyle blogs around where they could get the facts. And the sexuality section at the local bookstore was restricted to like… three books (Which we’ll discuss soon!)

Continue reading “Exploring a Kink Relationship Safely— Part One”

Safewords Aren’t Just for Scenes

Today we’re going to discuss a use for safewords that most people haven’t thought of or considered. We all know how useful they can be during scenes, a way to stop or slow things if something has gone wrong.

Read more: Safewords Aren’t Just for Scenes

Saying ‘Red’ (or whatever you choose) is a way to let the Dom know that there is a problem, in a way that won’t be mistaken for part of the play. It removes the ambiguity.

One reason safewords were created was because many submissives/bottoms/brats like to get into a headspace during play that allows them to struggle a bit. Saying ‘No, no, stop!’ doesn’t actually mean they want you to stop. There needed to be a way to make it instantly clear that it was a real protest, not dramatics as part of the scene.

It’s also important that when people see a scene, they know that the person being spanked/whipped/hurt has an escape route. The fact that they aren’t using it means everything is consensual and okay. So, in some ways the safeword is also there to reassure the community also.

It’s a tool, one of many, that make the scene a safer place. Can you play without one? Sure, lots of people do, but it does mean you have to be more careful. The Top needs to pay closer attention and even with that you need to remember you are adding additional risk.

It’s never a good idea for people who are new to the scene or playing with a new partner—but we’ve discussed these things before.

But what about using safewords outside of a BDSM scene. They can be useful during sex, of course, and I think a lot of people have already figured that out. There are times when sex actually borders on BDSM or includes it, so some people make the jump naturally to include them.

If you haven’t… you might want to consider it because it’s easy to make mistakes and misunderstand things during sex too. And the rougher the sex the more danger there is of making a mistake.

But … that’s not our focus today either.

Today we’re going to discuss emotional safewords. We’re going to talk about using safewords during intense or difficult conversations.

Stop for a minute and consider this.

Not all pain is physical. Words can be hard to hear, and hard to say. Every relationship will eventually need to have a difficult, painful, conversation.

Romantic partners, and D/s partners especially will hit these places. When you’re sharing intense emotions with people, criticism can feel like an attack. Requests to change or do things differently may seem like you’re being told you’re not good enough.

Whether you’re romantic partners, Dom/sub, or both, there will come a time when a conversation twists into something painful, and maybe even harmful to both of you. What is a safeword for, if not to stop you from getting harmed?

And I want to make it clear that even if we’re talking about a D/s dynamic, the safeword shouldn’t just be for the submissive/bottom. Tops/Doms can be hurt by words too. Tempers get heated. Words fly out of your mouth without thought on both sides.

If you know you’re going to have a difficult conversation, or you can feel a regular conversation starting to turn… stop. Suggest using safewords. Simple yellow and red stoplight colors would probably be best. Especially if your partner isn’t kinky and isn’t totally used to safewords.

I think we’re at a point now where most people know what they are, even if they’ve never used them. So you shouldn’t have to explain how they work. But it might be a shock to consider using them for a conversation.

But think about it like this… wouldn’t difficult discussions be easier if you knew when you were triggering your partner, upsetting your partner, or even hurting your partner? Do we get anything accomplished when we’re both hurt and angry?

No, because once you reach that point people shut down. They stop listening. They can’t take in what you’re saying logically, once emotions are engaged.

Let me give you a quick example:

Donna notices that things have been left undone for the fourth day in a row and decides it’s time to address it with her sub. “Katie, I’m really angry with you. I feel like you’ve done nothing but ignore me and your rules all week. I’ve given you lists every day and half of it isn’t even done. Are you even trying?”

Katie, who has been having a very stressful week and is feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of this is not going to be able to respond with calm logical reasons about why the lists weren’t done. Katie is probably going to shut down. There might be tears, or there might be angry snapping back—either way this is not going to be productive.

I find yellow is good for needing a minute. Red is good for when something has seriously been triggered and the whole conversation, or some part of it needs to be tabled for a little bit.

So, let’s try this instead.

Katie tries to explain and realizes it’s too much. “You don’t understand! I— Yellow.”

Then they both take a minute. They both calm down. Nothing gets said that will be regretted later.

After a minute of organizing thoughts, Katie can explain. “I have been trying, but this has been a difficult week. My boss doubled my workload because a co-worker is out sick. I’ve had to stay late every day. On top of that my car broke and was in the shop so I couldn’t get to the errands.”

Donna may have been vaguely aware of some of what was going on, but they hadn’t specifically discussed it. She had her own busy, hectic week and hadn’t put it all together. Because Katie was able to interrupt things and then calmly explain, they can now discuss ways to fix the problem.

You can reverse this too.

“Ma’am, I did everything I was supposed to do this week. You promised me a reward scene the other night and then you fell asleep. It feels like it’s been forever since we played. I’m hurt and struggling. And you don’t even notice I—”

“Yellow!” Donna has been struggling all week just to take care of herself. She has been trying to take care of Katie too, but she’s exhausted and worn out.

When Katie, clearly upset, starts to complain all Donna can think is that she’s failing them both. She’s shaky and on the verge of breaking down. But instead of falling apart, or worse, lashing out at Katie… she says ‘yellow’.

She takes a minute to get a drink of water and calm down. And then she comes back, and they talk about why things have been a struggle for them both. Donna as the Top is allowed to have limits too.

People forget this.

She is allowed to put her own needs on the table and that might mean she can’t give Katie everything she needs at the moment. That kind of conversation can be extremely difficult. Both want things to work, both are trying and there is no bad guy except for the world around them making things difficult.

In a conversation like that you both might need to safeword, more than once, before you finally reach a resolution that you can both live with. But being able to stop or slow things before they escalate can be a big help.

Do you find, as a sub, that your Dom reacts defensively when you discuss needs not being met?

Do you find as a Dom, that your sub falls apart and starts putting themselves down any time you try to discuss behavior issues?

These are things that a safeword can help with and the great thing is that either of you can use them. Is your sub being defensive and cutting you off to say why none of it is their fault? Is your partner not listening because they are getting too upset?

As with a D/s scene using the safeword removes the ambiguity from the situation. It can also be the shock you need to break out of a spiral.

For myself, I’ve found that just being able to say ‘Red!’ when I’m struggling with a conversation is a release valve in a way. I can feel myself starting to calm down as soon as I get the word out.

I wish I had learned that it was possible to use a safeword in other situations earlier, because when I think back, I can see many times it would have helped. It was until my current relationships that it became a thing.

G normalized it and it’s been a big help when navigating relationship discussions. I’m not sure why I had never thought of it. I think probably a lot of people haven’t—so now you have a new idea to try.

Let me know how it goes if you end up using it!

Things Every Kinky Person Should Know When Trying Bondage

So just a forewarning to start with: bondage is not my number one kink. I like it, but for me it’s a side kink that goes with all the other stuff. It’s a way to restrain while spanking or doing other things, more than exciting on its own.

Which isn’t to say I haven’t had my share of bondage adventures. It’s just that if you are looking for extremely detailed how-tos you will probably find better examples on other blogs. People who are realllly into bondage will be happy to walk you through every knot, every style, and every type of bondage there is.

What I want to give you is some brief advice about safety in bondage from my own experience. Especially for people who are just beginning to explore.

Continue reading “Things Every Kinky Person Should Know When Trying Bondage”