Staying Safe

In the mid 70’s I was employed by a company called Selective Social Club. We were the forerunner of the computerized dating craze. We “scientifically selected” your dates from data you gave us when you joined. Actually, we matched you with anyone who was within your age range and hoped something took. We gave women free memberships and charged men for yearly memberships. A 6 month trial membership was $100 and I received a $6 commission on a trial membership. I sold a lot of them along with the more expensive ones. I was great employee, so much so that they moved me to Portland to open up an office there. Off I went to Portland. (I ended up living in an old hotel downtown. I don’t remember its name — may have been the original Heathman. Most of the residents lived there long-term and were older than me by 50 years or more. In fact the owner of 3 of the largest Asian restaurants lived there and a former Oregon governor. That’s a story for another time)

Anyway, I bring this because I have a story to tell about something that happened when I lived down there. I have only told this story once and that was recently at a discussion group I attended in Tacoma. At that time of my life, I had yet to really explore my kinky side and most everything kinky was in my imagination. I had no idea how to meet anyone who was interested in what I was. Yeah, I worked for a dating club but businesses like mine were for meeting potential mates (yeah sure). At that time the primary way people connected for sexual and/or kinky encounters were through swinger magazines. And, that’s how I had my first real kinky encounter.

I answered an ad in a magazine that I picked up at one of the local strip clubs, by a guy who was into B&D (bondage and discipline). I don’t even remember what compelled me to do this. I did EVERYTHING wrong.   I had few friends in Portland and there was no way I was going to tell those few I knew what I was up to. I didn’t want anyone to know I was kinky. I didn’t meet him in a public place. I invited him to my office, after hours on a Friday, when no one else was in the building. He was a bearded short stocky man who immediately brought out his ropes and a few toys (I mostly remember all the rope). He proceeded to tie me up and in a few minutes I realized that I was totally at his mercy. I was petrified at first. Couldn’t even speak. What the fuck had I done? Here I was with a complete stranger, on a Friday night, in an office building that would not be occupied until Monday and he had me trussed up like a turkey. That’s when it dawned on me that I had no control over what this man could do to me. Worst case, I could die and no one would be the wiser. To his credit, when I finally got my voice and asked to be let go, he did so.   I asked him to leave and it was many, many years before I would even think of letting someone tie me up and by then I’d found the kink community and had been playing with other kinky stuff for a while. And, because of my shame around what happened I never even told anyone what I did.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want everyone to realize that no one is immune to making mistakes that could jeopardize our safety and health. And that, while we live in a world that I believe makes it easier to compromise our safety, it’s not indicative to any particular generation or type of person.

We live in a plugged-in world –a world where we meet people using hook-up apps like Tinder, Scruff and Grindr.  There are even specific ones like Stitch for us old folks and JSwipe for Jewish hook-ups.  Then there are free on-line places like OKcupid, Fetlife (for the kinky), Facebook and all kinds of dating and hook-up sites that you pay for, like Adult Friend Finder and Match.com (there was even called On-line Booty Call).  And while it’s kind of cool to have hook-ups at the touch of a button this form of dating creates many more opportunities us to end up in not so optimal situations.

Today we may have an on-line relationship with someone for weeks before we ever meet them.  Our only contact is through a computer screen or maybe via phone calls.  We form a romanticized ideal of this person before we even get a chance to see if their pheromones work for us.  I know of several people who have traveled across country to meet the “man of their dreams” and one in particular was sexually assaulted and held captive for several days by someone she’d thought of as her new “Master”.   Luckily she got away. And even when they are local it’s easy to set our good judgment aside and meet them at their home or invite them to ours and take a chance that they are as awesome as their on-line persona seems to be.  And, of course most of these hook-ups are usually okay.  They may be disappointing in the sexual thrill department but usually they people we meet aren’t killers or rapists or . . .  That said, it only takes one.

How do we stay safe? It’s really not that hard. We don’t let our hormones get the best of us and we meet potential partners in a public place. Ideally have coffee or lunch before proceeding to something sexy or kinky. If we’re looking for a one-night encounter or just to play and if we’re lucky to live in a place like Seattle, we can even meet at local clubs, like the Center for Sex Positive Culture. If we aren’t meeting at a club or for coffee first there are a few precautions we can take to make sure that we’re safe (or at least make sure they know where to find the body) .

Safe calls are a BDSM construct to create a safer opportunity for meeting potential play partners. They should be used the first several times you meet anyone alone for play or sex or just hanging out if it’s not in a public place. I think even if you aren’t kinky, they are a wise way to handle meeting new people. Here’s how to establish a safe call.

Get the person’s full name, phone number and address where you are meeting them. If you want to be very safe ask them to send you a photo of their driver’s license (and offer to do the same). Find a good friend who you trust to follow your instructions. Give them the person’s name, number and address and if you have it the photo of the driver’s license. Tell them that you will call them at 2 or 3 specific times that evening. The first call should be when you get to your location. Tell the person you are meeting that you have set up a safe call and need to call your friend at say 7pm, 10 pm and 1am (when you’re leaving). Set up a safety phrase that means “call the police”. That way if they are holding a gun to your head while you’re making the call you can let them know you are in trouble. DO NOT FORGET TO MAKE THE CALLS! Set an alarm if needed. Nothing would put a damper on a fun night if the police showed up while you were in the middle of a good scene.

Anyway, safe calls are just one of the many ways we can keep ourselves safer and an easy one to set up. Common sense is probably the smartest way to keep safe. If we find ourselves so hungry for sex or play that we let all caution go to the wind, it’s just a matter of time before we meet someone who doesn’t have our best interests at heart.

Stay safe! That’s an order. 🙂

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