I’ve been involved in the local bdsm community for four years now. It took probably half that to work up the nerve to play at parties. For subs, it can be tough because we’re making ourselves vulnerable for others to see, exposing that soft underbelly. For those on the dominant side of things, there can be a feeling of being judged or critiqued, sort of a performance anxiety. So it took a while to be able to do this.
Public play isn’t without its disadvantages. (When I say public, I mean not only dungeons and other bdsm events, but also private parties.) Most places have restrictions on what type of play is allowed. Usually, watersports and blood play are verboten. Some don’t allow fire play or penetration of any kind, including strap-on play. Edgier scenes don’t happen nearly as often in public as they do in private. Plus, there is sometimes a time limit imposed for use of the equipment, so you have to limit your scene. At some events, you have to wait to get on any piece of equipment at all, or stake out a certain piece for an hour or two in order to secure a spot.
The people watching can add a certain exhibitionist thrill for some people, but at the same time, there’s often a feeling of having to hold back or not fully be oneself while being watched. In private, there’s no need to worry about perceptions or extra sets of eyes. With private play, you also don’t have to clean up right away. It can wait until later, or even the next day. But in public, you have to immediately wipe down the equipment and clear your toys out to make room for the next scene.
When doing humiliation play in public, I feel like the people watching are also taking part in the humiliation. They’re all topping me, in a sense. And that doesn’t work for me. It feels invasive, and not in a good way. So I generally don’t do humiliation play in public.
But public play has helped me become more confident. Being nekkid an vulnerable in front of lots of people was horribly difficult at first. Over time, it got easier. While I still prefer private play over public, I’ve got no problem with public play now. That sense of self-assurance can even come in handy in the ‘nilla world; in a tough situation, I can think, “I’ve been naked and helpless in front of 150 people. I can do this too.”
Often public play is the only choice if you’ve just met someone; it’s not a good idea to go somewhere private and put your life in someone’s hands when you’ve only known that person for half an hour. When you’re at a party, you’re not so much trusting that one person as you are trusting everyone else there. You know your friends won’t let anything happen to you.
Playing at parties or other events can also serve as a bonding experience with your friends who are watching. I’m not sure exactly how it happens, but it seems to bring people closer. You watch them play, they watch you play, and it fosters a sense of camaraderie.
There’s another type of public play that I’m a little more leery of, but still curious about………mild humiliation in the ‘nilla world. I don’t advocate pushing our kinks on the nonconsenting public, nor do I want to perpetuate the stereotypes of “those s&m freaks”. At the same time, I think it’d be incredibly sexy to, for example, be made to kneel and kiss the feet of the domme in a somewhat public place. Not one that’s crowded with people, and not one where there are likely to be any kids or people I know. Something a sidewalk after a weeknight munch, when most kids should be in bed. The idea has a thrilling, edgy feel to it, and it’s something I’d like to explore.