I was listening to an older podcast episode by Graydancer (Ropecast, which is a kick-ass podcast, and I highly recommend it) that featured an interview with Instant Expert, who talked about how NOT to be a dominant; that is, bad behavior that doms (or wanna-be doms) exhibit. One of the things he mentioned was the touchy-feely, “everybody hugs!” atmosphere that many BDSM groups seem to have, and how that can be an area in which people end up violating others’ boundaries.

I have really narrow boundaries. I don’t like it when people assume that my physical space — and my physical body — can be impinged upon freely. I’m not anti-hugging, but I’m also not the type of person who self-describes as “Oh, I’m a HUGGER!” I will happily hug people to whom I feel close. I’m not, however, very keen on hugging someone who I just met. (Sometimes, when I have an obvious, instant connection with someone new, then a hug when we part is something that feels right. But, for the post part, I don’t like hugging new people.)

Frankly, I’m uncomfortable with giving up my personal bubble to people I don’t know. I won’t go so far as to call it a violation, but it sure is an imposition.

Back to the touchy-feely BDSM group. I understand why BDSM groups might be more physically affectionate — there tends to be more acceptance of bodies of any size, obviously there are genuine friendships and other relationships between group members, and, well, what we do *is* very physical and very revealing. If someone is brave enough to literally bare it all at a party, and is willing to engage in extremely intimate activities in front of other people, a sense of closeness with that person can develop, which might naturally be expressed via hugs and other physical contact. (I think, however, that that sense of closeness can be artificial, particularly if it’s based solely on “I’ve seen her get flogged while she was nekkid! Whoo!”)

I went to a play party a couple of weeks ago, thrown by a BDSM group that I was meeting for the first time. Everyone was very nice and welcoming, and the party was a great time. When we were leaving, however, and saying our goodbyes, I said goodbye to a male dom who had been part of a larger group of people I was making idle chit-chat with. We didn’t even talk one-on-one, and, in truth, I don’t think we were actually introduced to each other. Anyway, I said goodbye to him, standing 4-5 feet away, and he immediately threw his arms wide, stepped forward, and hugged me, while saying, “This is a huggy group; we all hug here!”

I wanted to step on his toes.

I’m aware that I tend to have a larger personal bubble than many people do (is 50 feet too much? what?), but I’m still tired of people getting annoyed when I sidestep physical contact that *I* didn’t initiate. If someone comes up behind me and starts massaging my shoulders, I am going to flinch. I guarantee it. And 9 times out of 10, I’m going to step away, and politely decline. (This massage-your-shoulders thing seems to be almost exclusively the domain of male doms. Sorry to generalize, but I’ve never had a femdom or a male or female sub come up and try to rub my shoulders.)

When I do that — when I choose to maintain my boundaries — the person inevitably looks wounded. And I just want to say, “Give me a break! *I* wasn’t the one who violated *your* personal bubble!”

One of the rules of BDSM etiquette (such as it is) states that You Do Not Touch Other People’s Stuff Without Permission. And “stuff” includes toys, rope — and *people,* as in, don’t touch someone else’s sub/slave. But that rule seems to be broken frequently when it comes to single female subs, perhaps because they don’t “belong” to anyone (which is bullshit, but I think that might need to be a whole other entry). And because I’m a female switch, I seem to fall into that category, too (though I’m not single, which brings up another passel of questions).