One of the more daunting prospects as a single kinky person or someone who is open to casual play is approaching others at a play party with whom you might be interested playing. It’s often called pick up play because you are simply trying to pick someone up for the purpose of play. Whether you are a top or a bottom, the cold approach is scary. But there is help! If you have a bit of understanding and confidence in what you want and who you are it can make negotiating that play, or tactfully handling a turn down that much easier.

Play Parties

Let’s start out by talking about play parties. A play party is first and foremost a party. People come to socialize, enjoy snacks, talk about kink, dress in fetish gear and just enjoy being around people who understand this side of themselves. It’s also a place with a dungeon space and people will likely be playing. Most parties have an entrance requirement, some have a door cost and still others are private to known members only. If you are active in your local BDSM community it is quite possible you can find a party going on near you at least once a month.

Learn more about Play Parties on Submissive Guide

What is Pick Up Play?

You’ve likely encountered the term hook up before if you’ve done any online dating before. A hook up is quite simply a one off sexual encounter with no expectations of anything beyond that. Well, pick up play is like the SM equivalent, someone looking to just experience BDSM play with no strings attached. There’s always someone that is looking to play, often that’s me, and browsing the people at a party to see if someone looks open to approach. And there’s always people there that want to play but don’t know how to approach someone. Often, that takes stepping out of your comfort zone and talking to someone that might be flogging you later, or even someone that you don’t find attractive but you’ve heard is a wizard with canes. Selecting someone is actually the easy part. Once you have someone that says they’d be happy to talk about arranging play, you need to sit down and get serious with some negotiation.

Selecting Someone is Easy?

Okay okay, so I may have made it sound a bit too easy, but truthfully there are a lot more people willing to play casually at a party than there are people willing to hook up sexually and parties are perfect, safe spaces to explore! There are a few things to consider as you walk around the party space, so let’s talk about how to approach someone you might be interested in. (Oh and this works if you are top or bottom, after all, that has to be negotiated too!)

First, walk around the party and see who looks like they are with someone and who brought their own toybags. People who are already partnered often aren’t looking to pick up any further play, but that’s not always the case. Toybags are a huge clue that the person is interested in playing tonight. While that may not be with you specifically it does put them in perspective. Toys aren’t always a great indicator though. The last play party I was at I ended up with someone who was definitely looking to play but didn’t have their own toys.

If the party you are attending does a round of introductions, mention in your introduction that you are open to playing tonight if someone would like to come chat with you. Be friendly about it, open and excited! After all, who wants to approach someone who says, “Hi, I’m Brian and I guess I’d be interested in playing tonight, but I dunno.” You would definitely want to approach the person who says something like, “Hi! I’m luna and I’m definitely interested and open to pick up play! I even brought my own toys and I have a wide variety of things I enjoy. Come talk to me!” Even if the group doesn’t do introductions, take some time and introduce yourself to the people who seem to be more talkative, energetic and social. They are more likely to help you get to know people and could even give you a point in the right direction of someone who might be into playing that night.

Now, the reason I don’t directly talk to people who look reserved, shy or not engaged in the social atmosphere is because more often than not, and yes I’m making assumptions, they are too shy, not interested in talking to people, not allowed to because of protocol or punishment or just plain interested only in their small circle of people. There is nothing wrong with being this way, but when you are trying to find someone to play with, you are more likely to find them through the more social people.

Once you’ve gathered a few ideas of people you might want to approach you can do one of two things. You can go right up to them and introduce yourself. Get straight to the point and see how things go, or you can go to the organizers of the event and ask them if so-and-so is someone they’d suggest as a safe, fun player at their event. If they have seen the person play they can give you a general reference or if the person you are interested is new to them also you’ll at least have something to start a conversation with them about!

The Cold Approach

Nerves do run high when you are approaching someone you might want to play with. You have no idea what they might say and being rejected never feels good. But one must do what one must do when getting to play is on the line! Take a deep breath, wait for a pause in the conversation and introduce yourself! Small talk is nice to break the ice so compliment them on something, ask them if they’ve been to the party before and then come out and say that you are looking for someone who might be interested in playing that night.

If they are interested, you’ll likely get a smile and an energetic, “Sure! Let’s talk.” If they aren’t, they will tell you they aren’t interested.

Being Turned Down is a Part of the Game

Not every approach is going to be successful and you will have people that say, thanks but no thanks. It’s nothing against you and hopefully you can learn to not take it personally. Everyone is there for different reasons. And you can learn from what they say if it’s a not ever interested response or if they are just too darned busy that night. I know of one service top local to me that often has a full dance card if you haven’t set anything up by the time the party starts he’s already turning people down. There’s only so much time at hand.

Even if it’s not a full dance card that they turned you down, politely accepting that they aren’t interested and moving on is the most graceful thing you can do.

What’s the Big Deal about Negotiation?

Go to any BDSM group and there will always be at least one talk a year about negotiation, how to do it well, what pitfalls there are and why it’s so important to practice, understand and use to keep you safe, happy and getting what you want and need. It’s useful for pick up play, relationships of all sorts and even for just making friends. Setting boundaries and expectations is a very responsible thing to do.

Without negotiation, people can cross those boundaries that you have without them even knowing it. You can end up feeling afraid, hurt or worse just because you forgot to communicate effectively. Negotiation is how you take responsibility for yourself and make it clear what you are okay with and what you are not okay with. Learn it, practice it and preach it. We all need a refresher every now and again.

What are your responsibilities in play? Find out when you click this link.

But, in my everyday encounters I find so many people saying that they don’t know how to negotiate, or asking for help with understanding what should be covered in a negotiation that I decided it was time I shared with you how I negotiate pick up play. I do it so often and with a variety of people that I’ve been told that I can cover everything a potential playmate might need to know and some they didn’t think to ask. So, here goes nothing. Let’s pretend that we’ve agreed to play and I’ve pulled you aside to discuss what we might be able to do. It goes something like this:

I introduce myself.

“I have over 15 years of experience in all sorts of BDSM play, so nothing you might be interested in trying will surprise me. I’m a moderately heavy bottom and enjoy pain a lot. It’s a sexual/pleasure thing for me. I do mark easily and am okay with marks. I enjoy touch during play if that’s something you like also, I’m not uncomfortable with any part of my body and am okay with impact practically everywhere.”

I talk about what I get out of play and how I experience it.

“I’m very vocal when experiencing pain, from laughing, cursing, moaning and occasionally crying. I enjoy a build up and then release instead of just one off strikes unless they are really hard. I prefer sting over thud just because of the sensation of it and I’m known to have pain orgasms. If you wish to know more about how I process pain and what that might look like, we can cover that here. Also, if you want to know just how painful something was, ask me. I can give you a number from 1 to 10 so you can gauge intensity and force as well as where both our limits are.”

I set my limits for the evening.

“I do not wish to enter subspace tonight. If you notice I’m starting to look detached, please check in with me. There are 2 ways that will work to pull me out of space. They are tickling and a sharp pull on my nipples.

“My limits for play tonight are no genital contact with toys or body parts, don’t mess with my feet, no face slapping, no belts and no toys not discussed before play. I don’t really like my nipples played with unless they are to pull me out of subspace. Do not yell at me and I can’t stand being called a bitch.”

I share what health conditions I may have.

“I have Carpal Tunnel, so if we are going to tie my hands up, I’d like to wear my braces to protect my wrists. I can’t be on my knees for more than 20 minutes without a break but other than I have no medical conditions that might change the way we play.”

I approve or disallow each toy. This also gives the person a chance to see what I brought and say yes or no to those as well.

“Now, how about we show off the toys we brought and we can discuss what kind of scene we can do with them.”

It may sound like I know what I’m doing and it’s only because I’ve given this little speech many times and am pretty confident that people appreciate that I know what I want. It’s okay if you don’t, but expect negotiation to take a bit longer. As I go through each part, I do ask if the person has any questions or anything to add. It’s a negotiation after all and not just a business arrangement.

While negotiation is definitely something of a personal nature, if you have some basics down you’ll be able to customize it for your own needs and situations. Remember, negotiating is to make sure you’re responsible and take care of your own needs. I hope you give these tips a try at the next party you’re at if you are interested in some pick up play.

How would you negotiate play at a party? I’d love to know your own thoughts! Head over to the FetLife group and create a discussion thread!