Situational Awareness in BDSM

Situational awareness is perceiving, understanding, and predicting the situation you are currently facing. While traditionally used in fields such as aviation and emergency response, most of its principles are easily adapted to the special needs of a BDSM session as well.

First Part: Pay Attention

The human sense system, while adaptive and quite resilient, is also fairly limited. Especially in stressful situations, our focus becomes narrower and concentrated on the most threatening thing we observe. While this evolutionary trait is useful in the jungle, it can be dangerous in a complex situation requiring rational action.

Maintaining attention of your surroundings is hard work, which is why most of us drift through routine without thought. This is dangerous in BDSM, as a lot of scenes have a potential to turn lethal fairly quickly. While we are unable to see everything all the time, some key thoughts should be going through your mind on a repetitive cycle:

  • Is my sub alive? Is he breathing? Is he moving?
  • Has anything changed in my sub’s behavior seemingly without reason?
  • Has anything changed in my environment, even slightly? Do I smell smoke? What is that noise outside?
  • How long have we been playing? What’s my energy level right now? Am I losing concentration?
  • Am I affected by feelings? Am I pissed off about something that has nothing to do with my sub?

Perceiving is not just using your five senses. It’s also using your intuition from past experience. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance it isn’t.

Second Part: Understand What You See

Seeing is nothing without understanding. Once you notice something unusual, you must interpret what you see and judge it in the context of a session. You must use your experience and rational thought to pick out the important from the noise. Some examples of this are:

  • Did my sub stop moving because he fell asleep, or because he stopped breathing?
  • Is that sling creaking normally, or is it about to break?
  • Am I so pissed off about work that I can’t concentrate on my sub?
  • Is my sub making all that noise because he loves it, or because something is wrong?

Third Part: Predict And Act

As a top in a BDSM scene, you have ultimate control and usually no-one to negotiate with. This also means that you are obligated to act decisively based on your understanding of what is about to happen. These decisions can be for example:

  • Something is not right with my sub. I’ll untie him and we’ll figure out then what’s going on.
  • I feel I can’t concentrate on this session, so we will take a break right now, regardless of what my sub thinks.
  • That sling sounds like it might break. I need to stop fucking and get my sub out of it.
  • I don’t know where this smoke is coming from, but it’s getting hard to see my sub. I’ll untie him.

Playing with multiple people at the same time

Situational awareness becomes a lot more difficult when there are more people in the scene, regardless if they are dominants or submissives. This also applies when you play in social situations, such as parties. You must maintain a clear picture of everything that is happening around you, including what other dominants are doing.

To maintain control of a situation, there should never be more than one person in charge of a sub at any given time. While multiple people can of course handle a sub simultaneously, only one person is in charge of the scene and safety. This is not usually automatically clear, so it should be pointed out explicitly while having a scene.

Case Study: Interrupting another top’s scene

While attending a fetish room party in a group of about 20 people, I noticed a sub, immobilized and gagged, seemingly dominated by multiple people on the hotel room bed. As the party went on, and people came and went, several times I noticed I was the only person in the room along with the sub. As it was not my scene, I inconspicuously monitored him while people were coming and going.

Eventually, as I was having a chat with another unrelated person, I noticed the sub making gagged pleading noises. As there was no top in the room, I went to the sub, removed the gag and asked if everything was alright. He said it wasn’t, and he wanted out. I proceeded to untie him, and finally found the top in another hotel room, unaware of his sub’s plight. The top was under the assumption that someone else was in charge of the sub, which clearly wasn’t the case.

Leaving a person unattended while gagged is always potentially lethal. This was highly unprofessional of the top.

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Guide: Travelling Internationally With Gear

As an international kinkster, I have to travel with my gear all the time. A lot of people overestimate the difficulties when it comes to especially airport security, so here I describe the outline of different precautions you should take while bringing interesting stuff with you for international trips.

Airport security check

ItemRestrictions
Regular fetish clothing: rubber, leather, lycra Luggage: No restrictions in checked luggage or hand luggage

Wor
n: No restrictions
Heavy gear: motorcycling suits, hazmat gear, diving suits Luggage: No restrictions in checked luggage or hand luggage

Wor
n: May need to be taken off for security screening. Wear something underneath.
Uniforms Luggage: No restrictions in checked luggage or hand luggage

Wor
n: No restrictions if not containing insignia or appearance with legal powers (such as police)
Gas masksLuggage: No restrictions in checked luggage or hand luggage

Worn: You should probably not wear a gas mask while in an airport or onboard an aircraft
LubricantsLuggage: Regular liquid restrictions apply for hand luggage, no restrictions in checked luggage
HandcuffsLuggage: TSA explicitly allows handcuffs in both checked luggage and hand luggage. Other countries will most likely not allow handcuffs in hand luggage. No restrictions in checked luggage.
Other restraintsLuggage: Restraints which are deemed a risk to aircraft safety are not allowed in hand luggage. No restrictions in checked luggage.
Butt plugs and dildoesLuggage: No restrictions, unless your plug is large enough to be used as a weapon, in which case you might want to ease a bit on the ass play.
Electro boxesLuggage: No restrictions, in hand luggage should be taken out of bag for separate screening like all electronics. Should be charged to display functionality if requested.
PoppersLuggage: Forbidden in both checked and hand luggage for flammability. But difficult to find in screening.
Shock collarsLuggage: No restrictions in hand or checked luggage.

Worn: should be taken off for security screening
Chastity beltsLuggage: No restrictions in hand or checked luggage

Worn: metal belts should be taken off for security screening, or a thorough private search will follow

Local legislation

In general, airport security is not concerned with your destination legislation. However, certain items can be illegal in your travel destination.

Viagra and other erection aids are usually prescription medicines. Standard rules for posession and importation of personal medicine apply.

Shock collars are illegal to import in some countries. There is generally no exception for human use only.

Leg irons are considered instruments of torture in international law. Their import and export is subject to licenses. In the EU, Council Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005 forbids the import of leg irons. There is no exception for personal use.

Military equipment and parts of them are subject to international controls. In the US, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regulates the movement of such goods. There is no exception for personal use. The list of items controlled is surprisingly large, and found in the United States Munitions List.

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