Public Rope Etiquette & Norms

Anytime you’re doing rope in a public play space, you’ll likely be dealing with the rules and supervision of organizers and Dungeon Monitors (DMs). Whatever the case, you should always be following the general safety protocols you’ve established with your partner in addition to anything else the venue will ask of you.

Public Play Safety

A few additional safety concerns for playing in a public space:

  • Make sure you’re thorough in your negotiations if you’re doing any type of “pick-up play” (interactions with people you don’t know well).
  • Check the space carefully: Is there adequate padding for your preference/needs? How close will other people/scenes be to you? Any objects on the floor, walls, or ceiling to be concerned about?
  • Watch for other people and their stuff. How close do observers stand? Watch for things that will snag your rope. Watch for drinks that your rope will topple.
  • Keep your quick release very nearby or (better) on your body. It will do you little good in a crowded dungeon if it’s halfway across the room.
  • The lighting is generally dark in public play spaces. You may not be able to clearly see everything you’re doing. Are you ready for that with the type of ties and interaction you’re planning?
  • Public play spaces can also be pretty loud with music and the noise of all the participants. This will likely make it more difficult to maintain communication with your partner. How will you overcome that?
  • In general, there are more distractions and possible interruptions in a public play space. Some may come from well-meaning friends, some from accidents and carelessness, some from inexperienced people who don’t know better. How will you handle those? Do you have a friend or two appointed to help “spot” your scene and guard against interruptions?

Public Play Etiquette

Many of these guidelines should be obvious, but just in case:

  • First and foremost, follow the rules of the venue. For example, if the venue doesn’t allow breath play, you can assume that rope around the neck is also off limits.
  • Second, follow the “common sense” rules of most public play spaces: don’t touch anyone or their stuff without permission; don’t interrupt scenes; don’t monopolize a space; clean up after yourself; etc.
  • One of the biggest etiquette issues for rope players is about “claiming a ring” or similar anchor point.
    • If there are spaces dedicated to rope, use those spaces. And either way, be careful about getting in the way of other types of play.
    • If there are spaces for both floor work and suspension work, don’t set up under an anchor point unless you plan to do some type of partial or full suspension work.
    • Don’t put your rope and equipment in a space (either one designated for floor work or under an anchor point) and then walk away and not actually tie for a while.
    • Similarly, don’t monopolize a space. Unless you are sure no one is waiting, give someone else a chance after each interaction.
    • Watch your rope ends. Often, public play means closer quarters, so be careful not to throw your rope into other people’s scenes or to hit those nearby with your rope.
    • Once your interaction is complete and there’s been a reasonable amount of time for immediate aftercare (if necessary), gather your rope and equipment and move to the side. In general, don’t sit and re-wrap your rope in the play space … do that elsewhere so that others can use the space. If extended aftercare is needed, also find a way to move elsewhere to continue that.
  • Another general point about good etiquette is to look out for others when you’re not actively playing. If you see someone finish a scene and they need water, get them some. If you see something about to interrupt a scene, help out.

For more, see also: “Am I ready to tie in public?

Roles & Responsibilities of DMs

Most public play venues appoint DMs to help monitor the space, and most DMs are volunteers. You should assume their motives are to help keep participants safe. In general, a good DM will help keep your scene free form interruptions, watch for any safety issues and solve them before they become an issue for you, and keep an eye on the interaction to point out concerns you may have missed due to the lighting, sound, other distractions, and pure excitement of the scene.

More importantly, DMs are typically given authority to stop scenes or remove participants. Therefore, your best approach to any (reasonable) request from a DM is to comply. If you feel the DM is in error, you can discuss that with him/her or with the venue owner or event organizer later.

Not all DMs will be knowledgeable about rope, so it may very well be the case that the DM has a concern that may not be valid. In addition, if the DM doesn’t know you and the relationship you have with your partner, they may be overly cautious. Neither of these facts justify you arguing with or ignoring the requests of a DM. As we said, if you have a disagreement, you can address that disagreement later.

As a final point of reference on this topic: when we train DMs to supervise rope scenes, we start by giving them a list of things to examine to help them determine how closely they need to keep watch. The list includes:

  • Pre-interaction negotiation and on-going communication between partners.
  • Assessing the hardware to make sure it seems appropriate for the planned interaction and is in good condition.
  • Assessing the participants to see how confidently and competently they interact in rope.

Beyond this, unless the DM is also experienced in rope practice, it can be difficult to assess the safety or risk level of a scene. As a result, some venues and DMs will choose to only intervene in the case of an obvious emergency while others may choose to always err on the side of caution. Be prepared for either.

For more, see Rope Safety for DMs