Sound silly? It's not. In every online system, people use a pseudonym or nickname. It's not at all unusual to find that people have layers of names in the lifestyle. So, they may have a "lifestyle name" of Trigger and then, when you know them better have a casual name of "John" and yet when you see their driver's license you may be startled to find out their real name is "Sam". Asking someone's real name isn't a silly question at all. For those in the online communities like this one, sharing your real name is one of the most intimate acts possible.

So, you're about to play with someone. You're going to be in private, perhaps bound and helpless, completely in the control of a person on whom you'll depend to remain safe. Don't you think at least knowing their name is a good thing? I do. (Oh, by the way, yes, my real, actual, true name *is* Chris.)

Sound like too much? It's not. You might want to share yours too. Feel uncomfortable sharing your true name? Then think twice about playing in private. If you can't trust someone to know your real name, why on earth would you trust them to tie you and then release you and to keep you safe? If you're not ready to share your name, and they're not ready to share their name and you're still keen to play, then consider doing so in a public setting in a dungeon or public playspace. You're actions will be monitored there and your basic safety will be assured by the dungeon master.

Ok, you know someone's name but do you know if they have any experience? Those who are involved in the local dungeon or community are most likely to have references from within the community. If someone says they have extensive experience in the local community then it's certain they should be able to have references. If they can't produce such references, then you should be able to find out about them right away. Contact anyone from the local community (you can find people online who will be running a local playspace) and ask about this person.

There will be some people who have extensive experience but haven't gained it in the local community. Here references may be harder to come by. How should you deal with it? Exercise caution. Be sure that you follow basic safety calls or play in a public space for awhile. Better yet, work on the relationship aspect of your relationship until you're comfortable with each other before moving to the BDSM aspect.

If it's a first meeting with someone you've met online, then finding a neutral public place to meet is a must. Set up for a meeting in a coffee shop or restaurant that's not next door to your house (in case the person really doesn't seem right and you don't want them following you home). Make a point of having this be a very public place. In most cases you won't want to be doing a scene this first time. It's a meet-and-greet to see if you're at all compatible in person. If you're travelling out of town for your first ever scene with your new BDSM partner then follow the same protocol. Have your first meeting be in a public place and set up your play to be perhaps in a hotel (where a safe call from your safe call partner can get instant results by calling the front desk.)

Ok, you're having a great time chatting online. Perhaps you've been using your webcam or talking on the phone. It's easy to get caught up in the arousal of the moment and how intense the play can be but it's worth thinking about the actions of the person you're chatting with. Are their actions a correlate to their words? Some people can 'talk the talk' but don't 'walk the walk'.

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