Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But sometimes, especially sexually, you don’t really want to take big risks. You know, like having sex without protection in an age of killer STDs and old-school non-killer ones that are becoming harder and harder to cure. Or getting in too-personal a setting with someone you don’t know nearly well enough to trust when you’re drunk off your ass. Letting yourself be tied up in a basement by a dominant you only recently met without telling anyone where you are.
Or, in the case of my wife and I, trying to navigate the swinger, polyamory and kinkster worlds and indulge our desires without getting noticed. We haven’t been all that terribly active simply because of the fear of exposure. I know, I know, some of you will tell me, “If someone at a kinky event see you and knows you, they have as much to lose as you do.”
Not exactly true, though. They might have far less to lose or might just have a mean streak. Or no common sense. Some of the younger folks we’ve seen at munches have their faces plastered all over the Internet at places like FetLife, acting like no employer, relative or anyone else could ever find their photos, showing a startling lack of discretion. I would hate to get to know (or get sexually involved) with a person like that who might openly share my business or my wife’s without hesitation.
But my real point here is that it’s a small world, and if you’re into “non-standard” sexual stuff, be it BDSM, swinging or whatever, and it’s often in a group setting, you may very well run into these people at some point. And the question is, how are you going to react when you do?
Case in point: My wife and I have only gone to a few swinger events and less than 10 munches in the nearly two years since we decided to open up our marriage and get kinkier, and we’ve already had random encounters with several people outside those events. Part of that is that we live in a state with less than two million people in it. On the other hand, we live in the most populous part of the state, so what are the chances?
Pretty good, apparently.
The first swinger event we went to, located more than a 40-minute drive from our home, we joked to each other, “Hope we don’t run into anyone we know,” certain in the knowledge it couldn’t possibly happen. Before an hour had passed, we ran into a couple we knew that lived right in our damn neighborhood. It all turned out good in the end, but still, it was unnerving.
At another swinger event, a woman who had a mutual friend in common with my wife came to the event solo and was openly surprised and a little nervous to find herself face-to-face with someone who only had one degree of separation from her life.
Also, my wife lately has taken to going out on Friday night with one or two friends or getting a group together while I stay home. Nothing sexual or kinky about it…just social time with friends unattached to our sexual scenes. At the restaurant where my wife typically starts these nights to enjoy nachos and margaritas, once of the members of the wait staff is a regular at the swingers events we’ve been to a few times. We’ve chatted with him and his lady extensively while at the events, I’ve danced sexy with his lady, and she and my wife did the stripper pole on the dance floor together one night.
Although my wife has never mentioned the swinging lifestyle when she’s right in his workplace, not even in a sly whisper to him, he (or so my wife says) tends to have this deer-in-the-headlights look like he’s certain my wife will point at him and shout, “Hey, are you and your girlfriend ready to have a foursome with me and my man?!” My wife treats him with total neutrality and discretion in that place he works, and yet he’s still clearly scared shitless seeing someone from the swinging scene there.
Finally, my wife recently got interviewed on a radio show, and a member of the staff there who she saw from afar (and he saw her, though they didn’t have any reason or chance to talk) is an organizer of one of the munches in the area, which as many munches do tends to focus a lot on BDSM. They shared some laughs via the Internet afterward about that unexpected encounter, but still…that marked the fourth time in less than two years—in a fairly urbanized area with plenty of people—that we’ve run into people we know in these unnerving ways.
This is the kind of thing that has led my wife to have far less interest in going to events, because she has a growing visibility and prominence in her professional role, and it could quite literally mean the loss of her job if she were to be outed as being a swinger or kinkster.
Now, this brings two thoughts to mind.
First, I think we need to remember not to be blasé about our sexual activities with others when those activities could come back to haunt us. If we aren’t careful about the choices of places we publicly show our kinky sides, and if we aren’t careful about who has knowledge of us, we could find that coming back to haunt us in worse ways than an ill-advised tattoo (like one that covers half your face or prominently bears the name of someone you’re currently fucking but chances are you’ll break up with and hate in less than three years time).
Second, I think we need to do a better job (all of us) of simply not making a big deal out of seeing each other outside of sexual venues. While my wife and I were surprised to see folks who live near us and know us at an event, ultimately we laughed it off with them and we don’t talk about it when we see each other at the grocery store. As for the waiter and the radio guy, my wife reacted to them just like normal people in a normal situation…because…well…that’s exactly what they were.
I think there’s a strong tendency at times, particularly in the kinky world, to define ourselves and others by their interests and actions. That guy is really into rope-work. That woman is a total pain slut. That couple is into hard swaps with anyone, any time. Sure, friendships are formed at events and in groups; no doubt about it. Some of these folks hang out in totally vanilla ways with regularity. But overall, it’s easy to fall into the trap of defining each other by our sexual proclivities when we meet in such venues, rather than as people first.
It’s not that odd, I suppose. If you’re a person who is in a line of business, and you meet people at conferences and such, you probably define them by their job. And if you run into them at non-business events, there’s probably a good chance you’ll talk to them about their work rather than about their family, because that line of work is the context in which you know them.
But I think when it comes to sex, it’s better just not to make a big deal of it when we see each other outside of sexual events. Safer for everyone and more comfortable, too. Don’t make a big deal of reminding the other person that you saw them in a four-way in one of the suites at the swinger event. Also, when you’re surprised by a person you know only in a sexual context in a place like the store or a restaurant, don’t freak out when you see them. Just wave and say, “How are you” like you would with anyone else.
There will be plenty of opportunities for talking about the sex at the next event. Chances are that the other person probably doesn’t want to discuss it with you at the gym it turns out you both belong to, and you probably don’t, either.