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Archive for May 11th, 2009

A funny thing about kink and kink advice: most commonly, the questions asked can be answered using the same kind of common-sense, rules of human engagement stuff that you might find in a Miss Manners column. I notice that Dan Savage deals with the same thing: he finds himself giving the same advice over and over again, as his writers and callers keep asking the same types of questions. It’s amazing how often the answer comes down to: Don’t Be A Dick.

Dear Delilah,

Let’s say you know you’re going to one of Those Kinds of Parties soonish. And you know that there will be some number of people at said party you’d like to schedule time with — not necessarily arranging a big scene or anything, because maybe you’re not quite into that yet, but maybe some relatively low-key hanging-out (with possible snuggling/making-out/exploration time if the mood/chemistry/humors work out). Do you have any recommended strategies for trying to arrange such a thing in a respectful manner? And in such a way as to minimize psychological trauma in the event of getting turned down? Part of me’s afraid that even suggesting such a thing would/could fundamentally alter a relationship between people, especially if you’re asking this of someone you’ve never asked this sort of thing of before, and I’d like to minimize that risk as much as possible. Anyone I’d be curious to do ask about this sort of thing is, by definition, already someone I like quite a bit on a personal level, and I wouldn’t want to mess that up.

You, loyal questioner, have the first bit down: just from reading this question I can tell that your desire to Not Be A Dick is strong, and therefore you’re unlikely to be one either by accident or on purpose. My guess is that you already know the “how to approach respectfully” tricks, which include asking politely, without pressure, while expressing clear interest. You might approach someone you know at such a party and say, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you more. Would you like to hang out at some point during the party?” If they agree, you might add, “I also kind of wanted to see if you’d be interested in playing with me at all. No pressure if you don’t; I’d still love to talk and know you better.”

But you already knew that, didn’t you? Because you’re clearly Not A Dick. Over-timidness, though, might lead you to being what many people in the straight dating world think of as the opposite of being a dick: lonely.

Now I don’t buy the whole obnoxious argument that women only want to date assholes, or that “nice guys” never get anywhere. But it is true that making any human connection involves some risk by its very nature. I hear a lot in this question about wanting to mitigate risk as much as possible: You want to “minimize psychological trauma,” and you don’t want to risk a blossoming friendship by suggesting a sexual connection. And that’s cool. But if you’re going to get anywhere, you have to do something. And it’s the paralysis that some people (particularly shy men) feel about Asking For Anything that makes them end up the last one picked for kickball.

So how do you get a little more aggressive in your approach, while mitigating the risk of Being A Dick or losing friendships due to a perceived imbalance in interest? I think that in each instance, dear reader, you need to decide what you value more: friendship, or the opportunity for play/sex? If you might enjoy playing with someone you already like, but are worried about adversely affecting the new friendship by suggesting it, then wait a little while. Keep fostering the friendship, and maybe add some flirtatious energy to it. As you get to know the person better, body language should begin to tell you whether your flirtation is welcome or not: if you touch the person, do they lean into it, or back off? Do they touch back? If they’re sitting cross-legged, are their knees facing you, or away? Is their posture open or closed? If you feel the flirtation is welcome and that the friendship feels solid enough to survive, then suggest playing with them. If you feel it’s unwelcome, then back off and maintain the friendship.

Conversely, if you’re just crazy-attracted to someone, and you believe that friendship alone wouldn’t be satisfying for you, then propositioning them sooner rather than later is likely the better approach. If you wait and hang back, your attraction will only grow and remain unfulfilled, and being around them will probably become frustrating. If you make a move and are accepted – score! If you’re rejected, well, at least the “psychological trauma” is quick rather than drawn-out.

Notice how the answer to this question hardly involved talking about kink at all?

The one advantage you have here, though, is rooted in the fact that we’re talking about play parties. Play parties can be excellent environments for pursuing casual encounters, for having interactions with people that may not leave the bounds of the party, and for suggesting things without having rejection be too crushing. Much of the awkwardness of conventional dating is removed by the fact that hey, we’re at a play party, this is what we’re supposed to do. Asking for what you want becomes a lot easier when the environment is specifically designed for that purpose.

So go out there and conquer! Or, well, at least make some polite suggestions of conquest. Consensual conquest, of course.

Comment with your questions here, or mail them to delilah@dommedelilah.com!

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