My Love/Hate Relationship with Public Play OR: The Continued Evolution of a Dominant

I’ve long asserted that I “don’t do” public play.  For me, D/s is an expression of a private and intimate dynamic between two people. Doing a scene in public was always akin to making love in public – not something I’ve ever felt called to do. I’ve never considered myself an exhibitionist (although I am something of a voyeur…). I’ve blogged about it before. Heck, I even wrote a poem about it once and even recorded myself reading said poem.

And yet…

I have enjoyed being on stage in theater productions from the time I joined my local Repertoire Theater at age 9.

I have been a teacher of both students and teachers for nearly 20 years. I’ve presented at local, state, and national conferences to audiences of all sizes.

But a scene is not a performance…

…. or is it?

I’ve certainly seen some amazing rope performances that were pretty intense scenes (or appeared to be) for both the bottom and the top. I’ve been a DM at play parties and observed a lot of impressive scenes that had elements of performance. Ones in which both parties clearly knew they were being observed – and liked it.

I’ve also talked to people who speak of “the room melting away” and “creating a bubble” around themselves and their partner in a public play space.

Where is the line then, between intimate scene and performance when one scenes in public?


My argument and rationale for why I don’t “do” public play has always been tied to my general philosophy about D/s:  A D/s relationship is about the power exchange, plain and simple. That’s what attracts me, what gets me excited, why I do it. The kink, the play, the protocols, the “things we do” are what both reinforce and embody that power exchange.  They’re the icing on the foundational cake of the power-imbalanced relationship.


And for me, they tend to be quite private. Protocols are established between myself and my submissive – others likely don’t notice a lot of them. I don’t script scenes; in fact I do very minimal discussion/planning of them (beyond what is required to establish limits and consent as needed) – they tend to flow organically, wherever the energy exchange leads.

So this mindset, then, is why I have struggled with “pick up play”, “play partners”, and public play.

And then I went to a Charity Service Auction last weekend…

And I found myself bidding on a stranger. A big strong man I’d never met (but who is well known and respected in the community – remember, I’m still newish here). A big strong ox of a man who was offering to top a woman (yawn)….or to bottom (I perked up)…and oh yes, said the auctioneer, reading off his auctionee sheet…he brought his sounds. Sounds? Someone willing to let me stick metal rods down their cock? Suddenly I was paying attention and raising my paddle. Nobody else was bidding on the opportunity and when the auctioneer said to me, “looks like you don’t have any competition”, I cockily replied, “I rarely do.” That brought a laugh from the crowd, but sure enough, no more competition, and suddenly I’d purchased a scene with the ox-man for a mere 20 tickets (legal reasons meant people’s services were auctioned for tickets which were paid for later – 1 ticket=$1 with all money going to local charities).

We secured a sturdy padded table and moved it well out of whip-range of the dominant setting up a Whip-casso scene in the corner (painting a bottom’s back with a whip dipped in multiple colors of paint) and he showed me his toy bags which included not one but TWO complete sets of sounds – each a different style.

medical_sounds                                             Bulbus Ended Sounds

I went through a standard set of pre-scene questions, including asking about medical conditions, trigger points, and when he’d last had some water. I asked if he was OK with being restrained with rope (he was), what he needed for aftercare (he stated nothing), and after a brief discussion of limits, we were off. My back was to the majority of the venue, which helped me to focus just on him. He was responsive and accustomed to giving feedback, so things went really well!

We both enjoyed the experience a lot. The one detraction for me was the man I’d never met who kept lurking about as we were setting up and continued to come uncomfortably close into our space even after I’d tied up ox-man. A bit creepy. He eventually approached me and asked how he could reserve the table when we were done. I was shocked someone would interrupt a scene – even at the beginning and I was a bit rude to him, but I’m quite unapologetic about that. Thankfully he went away and I was able to continue.

I did glance up from time to time to see we’d gathered a crowd, but quickly realized they were just there for the Whip-casso scene in the corner. But I also noticed the men studiously NOT looking at the sounding scene in front of them and most of the women staring open-mouthed in awe and admiration. I grinned at them and went back to work. But that made it feel more on the performance side of the line, and I certainly had no intimate relationship with ox-man, despite the fact his cock was in one of my hands while my other guided a well-lubed metal rod deep enough to massage  his prostate. It was a little distracting, but it also felt good to know that what I was doing was making an impact on those watching. Perhaps the fact that I DON’T have a relationship with ox-man meant I could indulge in a little performance and not feel that it detracted from any intimacy of the scene.

So did I enjoy it? Heck yes! (I mean…SOUNDS!! Squee!) Did I enjoy knowing the submissive I’d brought with me to the Auction was sitting nearby watching? Yup. Did I enjoy shocking and possibly impressing random strangers? I did!


I also know that if that had been ALL I’d done that night, if I’d come alone, done a scene like that, and gone home alone, I would have felt really empty – hollow. I was able instead to get a little aftercare for my aching feet from my boy (I’d been standing longer that I’d realized in some pinchy boots), to tie him up later, and eventually take him home with me. That made a huge difference.

I’ve been giving things a bit of thought lately, and I think that this experience and especially that final realization, have solidified for me why I’m seeking a primary partner. I’m really enjoying having multiple partners in my life – and I don’t want that to change. I genuinely enjoy all of the people in my life and thoroughly enjoy our times together and what they bring to my life. But I think I also need a core – someone who is my partner in every sense of the word, someone who is 100% mine.

I need someone for my heart to come home to.


3 thoughts on “My Love/Hate Relationship with Public Play OR: The Continued Evolution of a Dominant

  1. This was such an interesting post! I come from a similar place as far as viewing D/s as an intimate expression between two people within the context of a relationship (however serious or traditional that relationship may or may not be). All my early explorations were private and I didn’t really get the appeal of a dungeon scene.

    My second scene with my current boy had to be dungeon scene for logistical reasons and I liked him, so I went with it. It was a very, very crowded party with a play area and a spectators area. During the scene, I went into the “bubble” you describe. I wasn’t aware of anything but him and me – for safety and dynamic, that seemed important. It was a really good scene, and when it ended, I turned around and saw the dozens and dozens of people that could see us from the spectator area, knowing many of them had watched. It was unexpectedly exhilarating. It made me feel confident and proud of myself, and I had that post-performance rush. It totally made me a convert to public play.

    We also go to a smaller and less attended dungeon where people are minding their own business. I’ve found it’s easy to have an intimate experience in that context where you might as well be alone – but it’s worth it for all the cool equipment that doesn’t quite fit in the privacy of one’s home.

  2. I am also not a fan of public play. I enjoy watching it but rarely engage in it. The type of play I engage in is not very showy. I don’t do a lot of impact play and when I do, it’s typically pretty intense CBT or something highly sexual or humiliating that is not suitable for the dungeon masses.

    I also don’t play with people I don’t know well. If I do, it’s very superficial – a little rope and some impact maybe.

    But I do understand the draw to it. Like you, I’ve found myself torn. There’s something erotic about knowing people are watching you when you’re in the Domme headspace feeling sexy and powerful. I can do it with a partner I know well but can’t quite reach that headspace with someone new.

  3. We have a great deal of fun in playing together in private and in (kink friendly) public. This might stem from some of my very first ventures into kink were in public venues. My partner at the time lived oh-so-close to a nearby well known local bdsm manufacturers playspace and she was good friends with him. Since then, we’ve attended lots of events where the public play is oft the reason for many to attend.

    I feel insulated, however, when we play in kink public, so there’s THAT to be said for our play. It’s not really public in my mind. It’s more… among friends. I find that this trusted environment certainly lets me relax and play.

    I also find when I do top people in public, that I am sometimes paying attention to people around me. Sometimes I _am_ on a stage and performing for them and I’d like them to have a good show. I’m nowhere near a good enough rope person or am I consider myself enough of “eye candy” that people would be watching me, but I do want them to see me loving up the partner I have with whatever implements I’m using on them… either my hands or additional tools… Yeah, I’m a performer…

    But ‘kink your own kink’ – as it were… And play in the ways you want to.

    Thanks for the perspectives of the “not so public” public player. 😉

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