Reviewing Playing Well With Others

51y05DOH86L._AA160_Playing Well With Others is exactly the book I wish I’d had about four years ago when I started getting serious about exploring my interest in kink and BDSM.   This humorous and thorough introduction to kink, BDSM and Leather communities and activities, is very accessible for beginners.  But it’s not just a beginner book, even for experienced players, Playing Well With Others can serve as a valuable guide to those who want to reflect on their practices and dig more deeply, especially in improving their communication skills, and in turn, their relationships.  It’s more than a guide or how-to, this book is a magic decoder ring for mysterious symbols, titles, codes and kinks.

In fact, much of the advice presented by Lee Harrington (PassionAndSoul) and Mollena Williams (The Perverted Negress) could be used to improve relationships between individuals in non-kinky relationships as well as friends and acquaintances.  The correlation is intentional:  when you are involved with people in the practice of kink or BDSM or Leather, you are creating and maintaining relationships, and the quality of those relationships will directly reflect the amount of time and intention you put into them.

Playing Well With Others is jammed full of information but never becomes dry or pedantic.  Harrington and Williams have liberally sprinkled anecdotes from their own extensive experiences throughout the text, for humorous and educational impact.

The appendices themselves are worth the money you’ll pay for this book:  Kink Lingo Glossary, Kink Flags and Symbols, Negotiation tools and a collection of other information including books, websites, ideas on talking to health care providers about your kinky activities, safer sex information, a piece on gender variation, and much much more.  Those four appendices are easily worth $20 but when you buy this book, you get those and another 11 chapters crammed full of advice, encouragement, and information.

Through eleven chapters, Williams and Harrington take you through the various stages of immersion into kink, BDSM and Leather communities. From basic questions about kink and communities that embrace kink, to a very inclusive listing of the kinds of communities, activities and events you can become involved in.  Throughout, you’ll find great, detailed information on planning your excursions, maintaining relationships while starting new ones, negotiation, safety, pitfalls and cautionary tales, the how-what-why of public play spaces, staying healthy and happy and transitioning from kink-space back to the ‘default world.’

And even with all that amazing information crammed into around 300 pages, I didn’t feel that I was being lectured to.  The pacing and delivery was damned near perfect.  And did I mention the warmth and humor?  Each chapter includes numerous sidebars by Harrington and Williams containing humorous and revealing anecdotes and examples from their own lives, giving the reader the kind of first person revelation that really drives the message home.

Some of the bits I made note of…

  • Use of the term ‘default world’ for the non-kink part of our lives (for those of us who have that).  My term has been ‘muggle world’, because, yeah, kink/BDSM and Leather are magical.
  • Don’t shame the kinks of others… or, as we say in groups I facilitate, Don’t yuck my yum.  Another take on Do unto others… because unless you’re into that kind of humiliation you don’t want that done unto you.
  • RACK — Risk Aware Consensual Kink and SSC — Safe, Sane and Consensual.  Key word being consensual, drawing a line between safe, consensual kink and predatory, abusive behaviors.
  • Pick an organization based on your core needs matching with what the organization provides, which is a very individual decision.

What I wanted more of ….

  • Aftercare… no, not because of the book, as a part of the book.  I realize that not everyone needs or wants aftercare, but enough of us do, or might if we knew about it, that the topic deserved a bit more space and consideration.  What would I have added?  There are some examples of what aftercare can look like, the acknowledgement that it’s not just for bottoms, but value could have been added with a list of questions each person should ask themselves in order to assess their aftercare needs.  I think especially for people new to playing, the idea of aftercare may not be something they’ve given much thought to.  Also, aftercare needs can be different depending on the situation and players.  After playing with my Sir, and others I feel emotionally close to, I want to spend time cuddling and talking and easing out of the bottom/sub-space.  I have also been in situations where I was fine sitting with a group afterward feeling group closeness without much individual attention.  I do know that if I needed a specific kind of aftercare and couldn’t get it, it would definitely put a negative spin on the experience, and that’s why it’s important.  Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the difference.  For example, I adore cuffs, and in my post-scene transition, I like to keep them on for a while.  I think one way to consider your aftercare needs, if you’ve never played before, is to think about how you feel after peek emotional or physical experiences.  After a hard competitive sports experience, do you want to sit quietly by yourself, drinking water and having space, or do you want to do post-game analysis and celebrate with high-fiving, or maybe doing some downloading with specific individuals?  Is water your choice for thirst quenching, refreshing beverage, or will you want something else available?  I crave water, dark chocolate and then some carbs in the aftermath of heavy physical activity.  These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself when assessing potential aftercare scenarios.
  • Another part of after-care that could be discussed is the possibility that the top will want a scene report.  This may be more common in situations where the top and bottom don’t socialize in non-play space, but either way, it’s the kind of thing a person new to these communities might not be expecting.  This may seem like a simple thing, but depending on how your default world life is structured, making the time to sit and compose a detailed and thoughtful email could be challenging.  Or you might find that post event drop takes the wind out of your sails and you don’t have the emotional energy for it.  If you know ahead of time it will be expected, you can help manage the top’s expectations about expected delivery of that report.

I highly recommend this book to you if you are new to kink/BDSM/Leather or have years invested in those communities.  If you’re interested in finding new ways to evaluate your motivations, desires and fears with regard to those communities.  If you are already involved with someone, or multiple people, and want to improve those relationships.  If you’re looking to expand your involvement and want to check out your options.  Basically, anyone with any interest or curiosity about BDSM, Leather and Kink.  Williams and Harrington don’t just serve as your happy-go-pervy tour guides, after the first few pages, they are trusted friends, demystifying a sometimes intimidating world in an easy going, respectful way.

The Scoop
Playing Well With Others:  Your Field Guide to Discovering, Exploring and Navigating the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities by Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams.  Published by Greenery Press.  Available through Amazon, $19.95 print / $1.99 Kindle.

I’m giving this book the full 5 boots and highly recommend you acquire a copy for your bookshelf – physical or virtual.


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