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These are guidelines for polite behavior in the BDSM scene. It's based on observations, personal experiences, conversations with peers, mailing list & newsgroup postings,
workshops, web pages, magazine articles, books, and personal mistakes. While some items of higher protocol are covered, these notes are mainly to address the most common social situations.

Play Nice: Some Notes on Scene
Etiquette and Leather Protocol

Version 2.09

Version 1.00 first posted May 31, 1999
Version 2.00 first posted May 31, 2005
(formerly entitled "Basic Protocol and Etiquette"
and "Some Notes on Basic Protocol and Etiquette")

This article is dedicated to Beverly M. in Austin

Part 4 of 7:
Play Parties


Play Parties

Three Types of Parties

Play parties -- or dungeon parties -- are parties where people in the Leather and BDSM scene can go to play, socialize, and watch. There are two types: private and public.

Private Parties
Play parties that are held in someone's home. They are invitation only. There is usually no charge or donation (but the host might appreciate a gift.) They can be potluck. Normally there is no dungeon monitor, the rules are looser & more intimate, and edgier play than in a public party is permitted because the host knows all the guests.

Public Parties
Play parties that are often in a rented space and sponsored by a BDSM organization or business (such as a private dungeon or a professional domina) for members of the BDSM community or for the membership of specific BDSM organizations. There is a charge for admittance or a donation is strongly encouraged. The rules are more stringent than in private parties and dungeon monitors are on duty to see that the rules are observed and that the scenes are safe. Since it's not really open to the general public, perhaps the term is a misnomer.

In addition to play parties, a related event is the S&M -- or Erotic -- Ball.

S&M Balls
Huge BDSM themed events in large rented halls open to the general public as well as to people in the BDSM and Leather scenes. The emphasis is on seeing and being seen. People wear their best and most outlandish dresses, uniforms, and costumes. Performances, costume contests, and scenes take place on stages for the benefit of the audience. Cameras and other recording equipment might be allowed for those who want to "make it last longer." Unfortunately there is no ballroom dancing.

A great example of an s&m ball is the yearly S&M Ball that takes place in Houston, Texas. Despite my concern over it being open to the general public, nearly everyone there has been into the spirit of the event and dressed appropriately whenever I attended.

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Sample Party Rules

While there is no universal set of dungeon party rules, most organizations seem to have developed rules that are remarkably similar. Here's a sample set of rules that I've freely adapted from an existing group in Central Texas which in turn adopted many of its rules from exiting groups like TES in New York. (The official party rules for the South Texas group have since been revised.) Except for one or two innovations, they are representative of the rules at most parties.

These rules are provided to offer an idea of the rules for a local play party in your area but that does not imply that the rules for parties in your area are the same. You must read the rules at the parties which you attend -- and review them each time you attend a party.

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More on Parties

"No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks."
- St. Ambrose


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