Despite the medieval connotations of the word “dungeon,” most community spaces for BDSM are anything but cold, dark, or uncaring. A dungeon is more often than not a labor of love organized by volunteers hoping to create a safe space for sexual expression that is free from minors, nosy neighbors, or space limitations. As BDSM continues to occupy more time and space in mainstream media and conversation more and more people might find themselves curious about what to expect from a visit to a dungeon. Although every dungeon has its own unique setup and community, there are many things that they share in common.
- Finding a community play space might take some work but it isn’t impossible. Many dungeons are private commercial play spaces so it may be more helpful to contact your local LGBTQ center for a referral rather than attempting to sift through Google results. Some dungeons are listed on Yelp but Fetlife (link NSFW) is probably your best bet. Fetlife is a social networking site for those interested in alternative sexual practices. It’s a way to make friends, find partners, participate in conversations, and find events and workshops close to you.
- Once you’ve identified a place to go, it’s a good idea to check out their website or contact one of the organization leaders to find out a good time to visit and what they expect from first time visitors. Some dungeons may request that you attend one of their regularly scheduled orientations, others may invite you down for a personal tour. Most are incredibly friendly and welcoming to new members from all experience levels.
- Sadly, events are rarely free. A community plays space still needs to pay the rent to remain open to the public not to mention the cost of keeping everything neat, clean, and safe. There are sometimes price differentials for women, couples, or single men or for those in costume or fetish attire. Check in advance to see how much you will be expected to pay. Those who find themselves short of cash can often attend events if they are willing to volunteer. Dungeons absolutely rely on the help of volunteers and those willing to lend a hand are always needed.
- Dungeons come in different sizes and layouts, but they are almost invariably discreet on the outside and request that visitors are too. Make sure that your exterior clothing is street safe and keep your play inside the building. There will usually be a welcome/social area near the front with some snacks and water where people can chat with ease where play may or may not be allowed.
- Many dungeons have a calendar of events with different theme nights. If you’re squicked out by foot play, as an example, you might not have as much fun at an event centered around foot worship but the next night might be dedicated entirely to something else that you love. If you glance over a calendar and find that your favorite style of play is missing, it may not be the case that it has been excluded so much as it may be lacking a good host. Maybe that person is you! Contact the owner to find out more.
- Community dungeons also commonly offer a wide variety of classes and workshops. Many people will join a dungeon just for that purpose. Whether you’re looking for more information on how to design an out-of-this-world costume, learn basic bondage, or tackle a more esoteric type of play there’s always something new and interesting to learn.
- Each dungeon will have a set of rules and expected behavior. Make sure to read it and ask questions if you have them. Even if you’ve been a member of one community play space for a decade, the next state over may have its own unique set of rules. It’s also important to note that a dungeon has a very different tone than a sex club. Some clubs permit sexual contact, others do not. Aggressive cruising for partners is rarely tolerated and clubs work very hard to make sure that everyone feels safe.
- Most dungeons have trained hosts and monitors who keep on eye on things to make sure that people are behaving safely and in keeping with the rules of the space. If you see something that seems dangerous, it is much better to inform one of the dungeon monitors about the situation rather than stepping in yourself because they have specific training to handle the situation and may have more context for what is going on due to their dedicated vigilance of the space.
- A dungeon provides a place to play, but it is your responsibility to provide things to use for play itself. To be more clear, a dungeon will often have swings, crosses, benches, and tables but they won’t provide individual toys. Some members may have large bags full of fun things to play with while many others may have just a few or none at all.
- Expect to see many different ages, body types, genders, sexual orientations, and levels of physical ability at a dungeon. If you’re concerned about disability access, someone will do their best to accommodate you if the issue hasn’t already been addressed and solved.
The best things to remember about a dungeon is that it is a community space. Aside from getting together to discuss or participate in BDSM play, members help support one another in times of celebration and distress. Some dungeons organize to help raise funds for charity or get together for clothing swaps and movie nights. No one is expected or pressured to play and many people may come out just to socialize with their friends and acquaintances.