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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.

This article is introductory. It is not meant to be a "complete guide."

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 7 of 7:
In Closing

In Closing


In summary -- play nice. BDSM is about playing games, and in the best games everyone has fun.


  • Mistress Constance: A Lecture on Etiquette at the PEER TNG Tea Party. January 24, 2004
  • Townsend, Larry. The Leatherman's Handbook: The Silver Jubilee Edition (Masquerade Books: New York, 1997) Introductions by Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., Victor Terry, and John Preston

Further Reading

Recommended Books

  • Campbell, Drew and Donna Barr The Bride Wore Black Leather ... And He Looked Fabulous!: An Etiquette Guide for the Rest of Us. (Greenery Press: Emeryville, 2000.)
    This book includes some information on Leather protocol but that is not its main focus. It covers a wide spectrum of alternative lifestyles including but not limited to Pagan, Wiccan, Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, and Polyamorous. Buy it on Amazon.com
  • Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage
    (The 1922 edition is the most highly recommended book for High Procotol. It's available on-line at http://www.EvilMonk.org/A/epost.cfm)
  • Schwartz, Oretha D., Service Etiquette 4th edition.
    The definitive book on U.S. military protocol and etiquette. Buy it on Amazon.com
  • Townsend, Larry The Leatherman's Handbook: Silver Jubilee Edition. (Larry Townsend Publishing: 2000)
    Both a historical document about the Gay Leather scene in the 1970s and also a useful guide to the leather lifestyle. Buy it on Amazon.com

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Further Reading on Etiquette in General

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Further Reading on Etiquette and Protocol in a BDSM and Leather Context

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