I've put together a list of what I consider to be essential thoughts. These are in no particular order and it's rather long.

1) The only rule is: Do Not Harm. This means mentally or physically. Any other rules you choose to accept you get to thoroughly own.

2) There is not a rule book that has been distributed to everyone else and missed you. Anybody who tells you how D/s is done is blowing smoke up your butt. There are as many variations to this lifestyle as there are people in this world. You do not have to accept someone else's version of this lifestyle.

3) Before you are contracted or collared to someone, you make your own decisions. It is perfectly okay to not do what a Dominant tells you to before you are collared or contracted to that Dominant. Matter of fact, I would recommend not obeying every schmuck that comes along calling himself a Dominant. Find out for yourself if he's a Dominant, and then obey if you are so inclined.

4) Before you contract to a Dominant or become collared by a Dominant: NEGOTIATE! This is your time to lay out your hard limits along with yours and his expectations about the relationship. If your expectation is that it will be a monogamous relationship and his expectation is for it to be an open or poly relationship it's best to find out before you commit. This is also a good time to ask questions like: A) What happens if I get pregnant? B) What happens if I move across the country for you, quit my job for you and you release me, abuse me, or make me so miserable I want to cut my heart out with a plastic spoon? C) Are we having unprotected sex and if so, may I see the certificate from the doctor regarding your HIV and STD tests? Put all this writing and both of you sign it. It won't mean squat in a court of law, but it will cover your butt in the case of arguments.

5) Safety, Safety, Safety. Dead subsmissives don't serve. Use your head. If a Dominant is about to do something to you that can cause you harm, speak up and possibly get out. There are a lot of inexperienced players out there that believe the Sleeping Beauty Books are real.

6) There will be a lot of people proclaiming that they are Dominants and Masters to you. Some of them are wonderful, incredible people, some are full of crap, some of them are looking for easy sex, and some of them are down right delusional. Understand that actions will always speak louder than words. I can proclaim myself the Queen of the United States and then demand that all of you send me your taxes so I can quit my job and build a 1600sf $5million house in Laguna Beach, but you're not going to do it, right? Be aware that there are people that search out novices because they know that they can take advantage of you.

7) There is always someone out there that will appreciate what you bring to the table. Don't change who you are to suit somebody else, simply because they say so. Men out number women in the scene 3 to 1. So, there are a lot of fish in the sea. Don't settle for someone that doesn't fit you.

8) There is a difference between domineering and Dominant. Webster's Dictionary says: Dominant - ruling or prevailing, Domineering - harsh, arrogant, tyrannizing, overbearing. Dominants shouldn't feel the need to be bullies. If someone does act that way...run away....fast.

9) Get yourself a mentor. Mentors DO NOT play or have sexual relations with the submissive they are mentoring. Mentors are there to teach protocol, to protect and to guide. This means you should get a mentor in your own community, not some online guy half way around the world. The reason is simple; if my Master were your mentor and you came to him and said, "I have been asked to play by Dom XXXX." Master would tell you no. Why? Because the guy has put at least 2 women in the hospital and was actually taken to court by an ex-submissive. We know this because we live in the same geographic area as Dom XXXX. Some guy in Chicago would not know this.

10) You do not have to call every Dominant "Sir" or "Master". If you want to call every Dominant "Sir" then do it. If you don't, then don't do it.

11) There are people that will tell you that you're not submissive. Many will do it in hopes that they can goad you into doing what they want in your effort to prove that you are submissive. Bottom line, until they've met you face to face...it's just cyberspace.

12) We're in this lifestyle because it makes us happy. If you take it too seriously, you will take all the fun out of it. Have a sense of humor.

When it comes to meeting Dominants:
1) Meet on your turf. Some place you're familiar with, in public with a well lit parking lot. I usually made it coffee at the local coffeehouse or drinks at a bar where conversations were possible. I would NEVER EVER meet somebody at a hotel or their home. I didn't do dinners because a) it's not easy extricate yourself if it's going miserably and b) sometimes people that buy dinner think they've bought you.

2) Never get into his car, even at the end of the evening. I also wouldn't recommend allowing him to walk you to your car. A string of rapes happened in the LA community where the "Dom" pushed the submissive into either his car or her car.

3) Get caller ID blocking on your phone and you call him. Preferably on his home phone number. I generally would not continue with anyone that refused to give me their home phone or lied about whether the number they gave me was their home phone. You can check to see if it's a cell phone by using Reverse Directory. It will tell you if a phone number is assigned to a cell phone company.

4) Wear whatever you want and are comfortable in. Until you are contracted or collared to that Dominant what you wear is your choice. I used to make a point of wearing either jeans or my business clothes to the first meeting. I did this because these pieces of clothing reflect who I am, if he can't accept that, then he's obviously not the person for me.

5) Be wary of people that start conversation off with: "Are you submissive?" " How large are your breasts?" "Do you like anal sex?" "What are your limits?" My general rule of thumb is that if the first thing they ask me is about sex or my submission, they're more interested in what I am, versus who I am. Anybody who focuses purely on the sexual part of your life will most likely only be there for the sex. If this is all you're looking for, fantastic. But, if you're looking for long term, this most likely is not the person for you.

6) I always made it perfectly clear that there would be no sex or S&M on the first meeting. In fact, there probably wouldn't be sex or S&M for the 3 to 5 dates. This is the stage where I'm still determining if I even like them, never mind trust them with my life. If a Dominant was unwilling to wait until I was comfortable, I wouldn't meet them. After all, I like to think I'm worth the wait.

7) Have a safe call. But, I do it differently than most. I usually told my meetings that I had an hour or so to meet them, and then I had plans with friends. After an hour was up, I would call a friend that I had made arrangements with. At that point, I would either tell her that I was on my way or was running a little late and would call when I left. The deal was that "a little late" was 30 minutes. If she did not hear from me 30 minutes later she was to call my cell phone. If I was in trouble I answered with a pre-arranged sentence.

8) Use common sense. The same idiosyncrasies exist in the D/s BDSM realm as the vanilla realm. This means that if you act like a one night stand, you probably will be a one night stand. If you cry to everyone about how he used you and never called again....some subs will try to comfort you, some subs will wonder what the hell you expected and some Doms will send you tons of email because you're obviously easy.

9) I really don't recommend quitting your job and moving across the country to become someone's live in 24/7 slave/submissive without a concrete plan on how to extricate yourself in case it doesn't work out. Think about how difficult it would be to get out of that situation with no money and no support network.

10) I believe that the absolute best way to meet people is to be active in your local BDSM D/s group. Attend munches, volunteer as help for fetish events, be involved. This serves two purposes. It gives you a local support network and allows you to get a better idea of the reputations of the people out there. Unfortunately, asking for references can be faked in this day and age. Knowing the community is the best way to learn if someone is safe.

11) If they've lied about age, height, weight, or whether they have submissives or a wife, I would just drop it right there. Lying about the first three shows me that they're willing to lie about something insubstantial, which makes me worry about how easy it would for them to lie about the big stuff. The second two shows me that they're willing to lie to the most important people in their lives, and they would not hesitate to lie to me too. This is a lifestyle based on trust and if I'm going to put my life your hands, goddammit I have to be able to trust you.

This is all that I can think of at the moment. I'm sure others will have additions to the list. I'm sure some will feel the need to flame me. Please understand these are my thoughts and practices that have come about through my experiences. You mileage may vary.