How To Find The 'Perfect' Play Partner?

How, where, and what to look for – as well as a few things to watch out for

By Ena Dahl • 8 min read • ENGLISH

A reader suggested we write a piece on how to find the perfect play partner. After some years in the BDSM scene, I’m happy to share my hints and tips, with one requirement—that we ditch the word perfect.

Just like how there’s no such thing as a perfect life partner, play partners aren’t either. But, it’s more than possible to find one, or several, that are just right for you and where you are right now, so let’s focus on that.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there isn’t necessarily such a thing as the one, but instead, you can learn new things from every relationship. Each play partner or lover will bring out something different in you—as will you in them. You’re akin to two separate bags of ingredients thrown into the hands of a chef asked to create a dish; the contents of the two mixed together determine the outcome.

To find what you want, know what you’re looking for

The most surefire way to get what you want is to define what that is—as specifically as you can. It could also be that you want to be taken on a wild ride into the unknown, and that’s a fine goal too, so long as you’re prepared to not enjoy everything you discover and confident that you’ll be able to speak up when that occurs. In this case, establishing your soft and hard limits—things you probably and definitely do not want—is the best place to start.

To know what you want, you have to be clear with yourself, which requires some self-reflection. I recommend interviewing yourself first, and consider the following:

Where are you on your BDSM journey? | Regardless of what your preferences, kinks and desires are, and whether you lean submissive, dominant, or a bit of both, how experienced are you?

Do you want your limits pushed? | If you’re fresh off the boat, do you want to be guided by someone far more advanced than you; who can help push your boundaries and expand your horizons fast? Or, do you feel more comfortable with another rookie, where the two of you can slowly but surely find your way together?

If the latter is true for you, I recommend attending events and workshops together (when they’re available again) and otherwise seek knowledge from trusted people and sources. If you’re new and looking for an experienced partner, beware of posers (more on this later); do some background checking and cross-referencing to make sure you’re in safe hands.

What turns you on? | Are you seeking fulfillment of one or several specific kinks, or are you open to exploring different avenues depending on who you meet? The broader your scope, the more likely you are to connect with someone who’s able to meet at least some of your desires. Still, being specific and goal-oriented isn’t bad either and will give you a clear idea of what to look for.

Are you searching for love too? | As we’ve discussed in previous articles, some can only imagine playing with a partner they’re romantically involved with, while others prefer the opposite, or are able to separate the two.

Meeting a romantic partner who shares your kinks can be harder than finding a strictly platonic play-partner, so if love is what you’re looking for, you may have to be more flexible and willing to compromise on the BDSM front. I’ve seen a handful examples of couples that seem to tick most of each other’s boxes, but this is rare. Within team SPNKD, we have Tess Dagger who married vanilla but practices BDSM with outside partners, and SPNKD owners Paul and Mir themselves who are partners both in crime and life. Personally, I’ve had variations of both, but will only have long term play-partners with whom I share at least some form of a deeper emotional connection

What about sex? | There are those who play without involving (traditional, genital) sexual activity whatsoever, while for some, sex is a huge part of their mutual play, whether they’re otherwise a couple or not—others want the full package. Many have different play partners for different kinks, such as one or more rope partners that they tie Shibari with and another with whom they engage in D/s play, and so on.

Whatever emotional and sexual connection you desire with a play partner, define this first as well as how willing you are to compromise along the way.

Establishing a network of friends in the scene helps keep you safe while opening you up to meeting new potential play partners!

Where to start looking

While it does happen, it’s rare that your hot neighbor is the dominant of your dreams or the lady from the bar shares your deepest kinks. If you’re looking to meet someone who’s into BDSM you’re best off getting right into the thick of it:

FetLife and your local scene | For straight-up play partners, I’ve always had the most luck via FetLife, the kinky social network where the majority of BDSM aficionados will have a profile. Finding someone who’s right for you can, of course, still be a challenge, and the amount of available people in your local community depends heavily on your geographic location. At least here, you’ll know that you’re surrounded by like-minded. This is also the best way to find your local event listings, which brings us to the next point.

Munches | These small gatherings of kinksters in a neutral location, such as a bar, are great opportunities to meet and chat with people in your local scene in a non-threatening environment—as opposed to running straight to a play party without knowing a soul, as I did. I met one of my best friends at my first munch and the two of us have been through thick and thin together. Building community and friendship in the scene is a great way to meet even more potential play partners.

Rope jams | These are gatherings for Shibari and rope enthusiasts to share, experiment, and learn from each other in a safe space. If a rope partner is what you’re looking for, this is an ideal place to start.

Play parties | While parties can be a lot of fun, they’re not necessarily the best place to find a regular partner. Still, they’re great to broaden your circle and make connections, as well as learn and observe from others. People do play spontaneously at these parties, so, if you’re looking to bottom for a spanking, for example, you’re likely to find a willing volunteer. Arriving as a newbie Dominant, on the other hand, is less opportunistic, not just here, but in general.

BDSM and sex-positive dating apps | There’s a difference between these and your more traditional platforms; mainly that people are immediately upfront about their sexual desires allowing you to sidestep the small talk. I personally like the UK start-up Feeld, who describes themselves as a place to explore desires, has been growing in popularity around the world.

There are multiple online lists of BDSM dating sites and apps that I haven’t tried personally, but this article on Refinery29 gives a good rundown of the most popular ones.

Regular dating apps | You might get as lucky as I was once, and meet a long term lover and partner here, but the kinksters are fewer and further in between on apps such as OkCupid and Bumble. The benefit of these places are that they’re less hook-up oriented for those in search of deeper connections.

What to watch out for

All communities where its members are open and vulnerable with their sexualities are bound to attract their share of those looking to take advantage. Luckily, the BDSM scene places a strong emphasis on consent and safety, and its members tend to look out for each other and encourage a vetting system. I personally have a chat group with a group of women from the scene, with whom we all cross-check every new person we chat with.

I’ve written other articles outlining what it means to be a good dominant or submissive, and can recommend So You Think You Can ‘Dom’? and How to Be a Powerful Sexual Submissive for more in-depth reading. Briefly, you want to look for the following:

A good dominant partner | Whether you’re looking for a Master/Mistress, a Mommy/Daddy, a mean sadist, a disciplinarian, or any other variety of top, qualities to emphasize involve empathy, maturity, compassion, and a willingness to learn about your desires, boundaries, and limits first. A good dom will emphasize consent and safety, establish safewords, and make sure you’re comfortable before they begin to push your limits.

On the other hand, beware of wannabe dominants and posers who treat or refers to you as their submissive right off the bat. Many submissives like humiliation and degradation and/or dominants who are highly assertive, but this too should be discussed first.

The right submissive partner for you | There are just as many varieties of submissives and bottoms as there are tops, but whatever your thing is, look for someone who knows their limits, are clear about what they want, and not afraid to speak up.

If someone claims to be game for anything, be aware! You might not want to rule out playing with this person, but be sure to ask them plenty of questions, talk extensively beforehand and take things step-by-step. Most new submissives will discover fairly quickly that they do indeed have boundaries and, as a dominant, you want to give your sub a chance to fall in love with BDSM rather than send them running for the hills with their tail between their legs after their first session.

Some of the most considerate dominant partners I’ve met operated with either a mental or written checklist of everything from tools, toys, and types of play, that they’d run me through before we got down to business. Tess Dagger’s article on scene negotiation is a great tool for further preparation.

All in all, play partners can come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. You may have a few at once and multiple throughout your BDSM journey, or choose to walk down the path with a special someone who seems to tick all the right boxes for you.

No matter which variety works best for you, always choose play partners who make you feel good in their presence; where you’re safe and cared for, and you have mutual trust. Only once these elements are present can we really let go and experience the wonderful world of kink together!


Ena Dahl | Writer for SPNKD

Multidimensional creatrix & muse
seeking to unite sexuality & spirituality,
instigate alchemical healing & ignite the wild (wo)man
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