When you first enter "The Scene," you will meet a lot of new people who all seem awesome. You will be invited to munches, encouraged to attend events, and welcomed to more than a couple discussion groups. This is all great! It can also be overwhelming. It can lead to what I call "Community Frenzy."
You'll notice that all these people constantly warmly greet each other, hug each other, flirt with each other, and most importantly, play with each other. You'll want in on that action. You'll want to be included. You'll want to belong. But there's a reason why those people are acting like they've known each other for years: because they have. The investment they have put into their relationships is the most precious commodity of all, time, and nobody can just replicate that, no matter how many munches or parties you go to.
But the desire to belong is overwhelming. You'll want to make friends. You'll want to be on the inside. And so you may just forget to protect the most important thing about you of all: you.
Your identity, your private information, your vanilla life, is to many of us (and I dare say, most of us) sacred. It is not stuff we should just give out willy-nilly. Very few of us are complete open books. (And to those who are, I say, go you. But most of us have family, jobs, children we have to protect. Our kinky selves do not take priority over our need for some semblance of privacy.)
But when you're new in the scene, the temptation to share this sacred part of you is strong. Why? Because—as we've all been led to believe—you think if you share this part of you, others will cherish it just as much as you do, and they will reveal something sacred about themselves, because isn't that how it's supposed to work? Quid Pro Quo? No. See, if you reveal your secrets to the wrong people, there are those in this community who will use that information to their advantage, to gain power over you.
They will seek you out, because you are a newbie, and they can smell a newbie across the room like a shark smells blood in the water. They will charm you with their wisdom, seduce you with their social standing, entice you with their familiarity with the scene. They will make you think if you become friends with them, not only will you be safe, they will be able to help you navigate your way around the scene faster. They will introduce you to the "right" people, teach you the "right" protocol, and take you to the "right" parties. These people are sometimes called Predators. All too often, they are not people you want to trust, but you will not figure that out—not until it's too late.
See, all that information about yourself you've been giving them, they've been storing it away. And when you finally realize what kind of person you've been dealing with—controlling, manipulative, gaslighting—they will use that information against you, to keep you silent. Silence is a powerful tool for predators. It keeps them safe, and able to keep going, because if no one is willing to speak up about their ugly behavior, no one else is ever going to know. They can continue to move from victim to victim, leaving no trail.
I have met too many victims who are too afraid to speak out about their abusers because they know their abuser has information on them they don't want getting out. And yes, I know of victims who did speak out, and did get outed by their aggressor...only to see their aggressor being protected by the community. Because sadly, this community does include predators in high places with many friends.
Now I'm not saying that everyone who approaches you in the beginning is dangerous—absolutely not. There are a great many fine people who offer themselves up as mentors and teachers to newbies, and they are incredible folks. I thank God I met some of the most fabulous people when I first entered the scene, people who protected me and offered me help when I needed it. But how can you tell the difference between the good, well-meaning folks, and the predators? The answer is, you can't. But there are ways you can protect yourself.
1. Don't give people your full legal name, especially if it's easy to look you up.
If you have a name like "John Black," you might not have cause to be worried. But if your name is something like "Harrington Mortimer Zelmitok," you should definitely create a kinky name for yourself, and give out that one instead of your legal name.
2. Create a new email account for your kinky persona.
Keep your kinky self and your vanilla self separate entities from the beginning. Give out your kinky email account to people who want to stay in touch. Eventually, if and when you decide these people are trustworthy, you can give them your other, vanilla, email account.
3. Be careful with things like LinkedIn, Skype, and any other social media sites where people can track you down, especially Facebook.
If you become friends with someone on Facebook, and they are friends with other kinky people, those other kinky people will be able to see your information—depending on not just your settings, but your friend's settings. Facebook will also "recommend" your friendship to other people in your friend's contact list. It's a slippery slope, and one you have zero control over.
4. Give yourself LOTS of time to get to know people before you give out ANY information about yourself you hold sacred.
You may decide to give certain people your legal name. You may decide to give a few others, perhaps your play partners, your cellphone number. Fewer still will get your address. Choose what information you give out, and who you give it to, carefully, because once it's out, there's no taking it back. And to those who say "you shouldn't be playing with someone you don't even trust with your phone number," I say, nope, I disagree—because I might trust that person enough to play with them once, but that doesn't mean I trust them with my kids' safety. And if by giving this person my phone number, I might make it possible for them to track my family down, or my kids—I'm not going there. Full stop, the end.
5. Try to find out whether the person you want to trust has ever threatened to out someone else, or actually outed someone else—and under what circumstances.
There are a few legitimate reasons to out another person in the kink community (and by "out," I mean, out their legal information). If the person has a criminal record including sex crimes, for instance, it may be not just appropriate, but necessary to out them to event planners and party organizers. Public documents may have to be shown to prove this person is a danger to the community at large. But if this person outed another as a method of revenge, as an act of vindictiveness, then that should stop you in your tracks right there. (Of course, they will try to justify why they felt the need to out this other person—they will also want to keep you as far away from that person, and their friends, as much as possible. But that is another method of manipulation for these predators: they try to control whom you talk to, and listen to, as much as they can.)
I realize this post can sound kind of scary and alarming. To a certain degree, it's meant to. It's a warning to newbies out there to take care. Be smart, be careful, be risk aware.