Tying at a play party can be exciting and nerve-racking, especially if you've only tied privately. Watching others engage in intimate rope play or having others watch you may feel thrilling and overwhelming, but it’s less intimidating than you might think! Remember that being out at a play party means you have tons in common with the other attendees, and everyone is there to have a good time. This article will cover tips for tying in playspaces, including advice for partnered tying and self-tying and etiquette for watching.
This is one of my favorite topics because exhibitionism is my core kink. I rarely scene privately; when I do rope at home, it’s because I’m labbing new ideas or practicing for a class or performance. Voyeurism and exhibitionism are common kinks, but they may or may not be your kinks. As with anything we do in BDSM (and in *waves jazz hands* life), it’s crucial to start with the question of intention. What do you (and your partner, if applicable) want to get out of your play party experience? Are you into watching, being watched, both, or neither? Some folks tie at events just because they don’t have a suspension point at home, and being in public is incidental. Considering these factors helps to shape your experience—for example, if the person being tied gets self-conscious from being watched, they might want to wear a blindfold.
The effect of shared experiences is particularly relevant to kink events and what drives us to play in environments like this. Sharing experiences, like tying surrounded by other folks doing rope, can be powerful. The amplification hypothesis describes the impact of sharing experiences—as the name suggests, studies show that shared experiences produce intensified reactions. For example, in one study, participants were given pleasant chocolate to taste. They judged the chocolate to be more likable and flavorful when they tasted it at the same time as another person, as opposed to when the other person was present but engaged in a different activity. In a follow-up study, researchers found that participants judged unpleasantly bitter chocolate as less likable when tasting it with another person. The study authors concluded that “sharing an experience…without communicating, amplifies one's experience. Both pleasant and unpleasant experiences were more intense when shared.”  This phenomenon makes it all the more important to ensure you know what kind of experience you want when planning a rope scene in a playspace.
All right, you’ve examined your motivations and are ready to do the thing! You have logistical matters to keep in mind. First, many spaces have playspace monitors (PMs) to facilitate safe(r) play and act as a resource. They are performing a service-focused, lifeguard-esque role. If you’re unclear about the rules of the space or have equipment questions, the PM can be an excellent person to ask! Consider checking in with the PM before you start to tie, especially if you anticipate doing anything that might concern them. Checking in with a PM is particularly important for self-tiers! Ensuring that observers don’t interrupt scenes in progress is essential to the PM role. Some spaces require self-suspenders to have designated spotters. Remember that PMs are not necessarily familiar with bondage techniques; don’t rely on them as your only safety resource.
Know the rules for whatever space you’re tying in. Playspaces usually have written rules and codes of conduct. These span from general etiquette expectations, like being respectful of scenes in progress and not touching anyone without explicit consent, to space-specific details, such as where attendees may use cell phones, whether the space permits neck rope, and what the house safeword is. Suspension points may have time limits or particular loading guidelines, and spaces often have specific cleaning protocols. Following the rules goes a long way toward making a good experience, as it shows respect for the venue and the individuals managing it, who are often volunteers. Respecting the guidelines demonstrates that you are conscientious and responsible, which creates a more welcoming and inclusive environment.
Setting up your station is important when you’re having a scene in a shared space. One of the first things beginning chefs learn is to set up their mise en place—a French term for having all your ingredients and tools prepared before you start. Just as having a mise en place allows a smooth, efficient cooking experience, setting up your rope tools will help you create a connective scene by enabling you to focus on the person you’re playing with (or yourself, for self-tiers), not the tools you’re using. A bag like a MonkSak can be a helpful tool in this process! As well as rope and a cutting tool, remember any medical supplies (inhaler, glucose tablets, etc.), something to drink (coconut water is a favorite), and a blanket or robe.
Imagining your rope skills on a scale where 1 is the skillset you are absolutely solid in and 10 is the very edge of what you can execute, consider scening in a playspace at a maximum of 5. Self-knowledge is more important than rope knowledge! Monitoring your body and your partner (if applicable) during any play is a skill. As you add variables, you add more potential for things to go sideways. Distracting stimulation, an audience, loud playspace music (potentially impairing your verbal communication), and so on, are influential variables.
Communicate clearly with your partner or spotter before you begin to ensure you’re on the same page regarding what you're comfortable doing in a particular environment. Limits can be context-dependent—go slow. To quote Alice in Wonderland, “you can always have more, but you can’t very well have less!” Check in frequently and consider using nonverbal safe signals.
Be conscious of your space as you’re playing. Modulate how far you throw your rope tails—this is crucial to ensure that you’re not encroaching on surrounding scene space or trailing rope across a walking path. Be aware of your noise level—social conversations or extensive negotiation should occur before entering a playspace. Noise level awareness also applies to in-scene volume. I love screamy, bratty, noisy scenes more than anyone, but saving them for an appropriate environment is essential.
Some spaces have time limits for equipment. If you’ve been on one piece of equipment for over an hour, it’s polite to take a break or move on. If the space is bustling, gathering your supplies and taking your aftercare and rope bundling to an area that isn’t taking up a piece of play equipment shows thought for other party-goers. A MonkSak is handy to facilitate a quick load-out!
People watching you can alter self-perception. My pain tolerance is much higher when I have an audience. “The thrill of performing…offers opportunities for unexpected and exciting occurrences, both positive and negative. This excitement creates physiological changes, including the uptake of ‘performance adrenaline’...an enhanced performance caused by a concentration of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, and adrenaline.” 
Performance adrenaline is exciting and intrinsically rewarding for many folks (*cough* exhibitionists *cough*). However, this phenomenon can be dangerous if performance adrenaline prevents you from noticing or attending to warning signs of damage. If you’re new to being in front of a crowd and aren’t familiar with how your body may react differently, be extra mindful of going slowly and monitoring for safety. Another factor is the psychological pressure we can put on ourselves not to tap out while people are watching. Remember that your safety and well-being are always more important than a scene!
We exhibitionists couldn’t get our kink on without voyeurs, and we often appreciate others respectfully watching our scenes. You still have etiquette to remember if you’re watching. In some spaces, you can walk through the play areas; in some, specific sections are designated for watching, and you’d only walk into the playspace if you’re starting a scene. Maintain a respectful distance and be mindful of your volume if you’re chatting while watching. It’s easy to get too loud accidentally—I’ve had my own PMs hush me when I got too animated in social conversations at events I was hosting. You might see scenes that aren’t to your taste—curate your viewing experience by moving around the space or watching something else. If you have a concern, ask the PM or host. If you want to talk with folks after they are done playing, ensure they’ve completed their aftercare before engaging. If you’re not sure, wait longer! Respectful compliments and questions are often welcome, but open by asking if folks are ready and interested in engaging.
Whether you’re an exhibitionist, voyeur, or just someone who ends up tying in shared spaces, remember to have fun and enjoy the moment!
Shay Tiziano (she/her or they/them) is a dynamic presenter, community organizer, and self-suspender renowned for their innovative, acrobatic bondage performances and friendly, attainable, and risk-mitigation-focused approach to kink education. She is the author of Tying & Flying, the first-ever book about self-suspension, and Creating Captivating Classes, a guide for kink and sexuality educators.
Based in San Francisco, Shay is the stages & entertainment co-lead for the Folsom Street Fair and produces the acclaimed bondage and fetish performance event Twisted Windows. She hosts events including BENT, Rope Lab, and Friction, as well as curating performance showcases for the Seattle Erotic Art Festival Aerial & Bondage Stage, Tethered Together, Ropecraft, and San Francisco Pride’s Leather Alley.