Red Flags in Relationships

A guide to getting you started on your path to awareness… by Barbary


There’s an old saying that “Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, experience comes from bad judgment.” I teach this class for two reasons. One, to – hopefully – keep you from making some of my mistakes and Two … to remind me not to repeat my mistakes in the future.


There are some absolutely amazing, wonderful, phenomenal people in the lifestyle. There are also some real ‘interesting’ types – both good and not so good. Some of those ‘not so good’ types are damaged, some of them have serious mental wellness issues and some of them are flat out predators.

So … how do you tell Dr. Jekyll from Mr. Hyde? Well, if you keep your eyes open, there are usually some warning signs … or Red Flags. This class is not by any stretch of the imagination a complete list of every Red Flag that you’re going to encounter; but hopefully, it will at least start you thinking about and looking at your potential partners with a more careful eye.

I’ve broken the class into three basic levels of Red Flags: Acute, Chronic and Systemic, followed by sections on what to do when you run into these situations and Good Decision Making Criteria. So, let’s get to it.


Face it, we’ve all been there. The lights are low, the music’s pounding, the dungeon’s hopping … you look up and there “they” are … the Dom of your Dreams, the Subbie for your Soul. And your good sense goes right out the window as you slap on your favorite pair of rose-colored glasses and run madly across the room to secure them as your very own. And thus the Dance begins …

So the big question is … what’s the hurry? Fear? Fear that this is THE ONE AND ONLY, and if you don’t land them right now the fantasy of a lifetime will get away? Someone might get to them before you and you’ll be out of luck? Hormones? You know, that old cliché of men having two heads and only one brain is just as applicable to women … we call it Ovarian Reasoning. Same problem. Same outcome. We want what we want and we want it RIGHT NOW!

Well, fear is not in charge of your life … and neither are your hormones. Making a healthy commitment (whether for one night or for a lifetime) means using common sense, clear thinking, and solid decision-making skills. If you’re picky about the shoes on your feet, the brand of hair products you use, the beverage you drink, or the food you place in your mouth, why not take the time to make a decision that benefits your mind, spirit, and emotional well being, as well as your body.

Sooooo, you might ask: How do we circumvent all this and keep our brains functioning when the sparks are flying? It starts with acknowledging all the pluses and possible problems that might arise; especially when looking frankly at the Red Flags that signal when that Perfect Person we’re drooling over might not be quite so perfect in the harsh light of day.



“Acute Red Flags”: In other words, it might be dangerous to start something with this person. Aka “Run Toto, Run.”

To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “IT MIGHT BE A RED FLAG IF …”

bullet They approach you and want to “Mentor” you. There are absolutely legitimate mentors within the lifestyle. Most of them are usually well-known in the lifestyle and offer excellent classes, references, etc. Unfortunately, there are a particularly sleazy brand of dungeon lizard who likes to scope out the ‘fresh leather/newbies’ and offer their – ahem– protection and guidance. Now this looks good on the surface, but what is really going on with this bunch of predators is that they are throwing their lasso on the fresh meat before any of the others can make a play for them. Don’t be confused about this. Mentors do not solicit mentees. Those wishing to be mentored seek out a Mentor and petition them. And Mentors DO NOT EVER have sex with their mentees. That totally violates the Teacher/student boundaries. If you have someone who wants to mentor you and tells you that they can best do that as your Dom/Domme/Lover/sex partner/you on your back or with your face in their crotch, etc., you have encountered someone who is NOT a mentor, but is a predator in mentor clothing. Remember, you don’t have to bite that hook!
bullet They start out by treating you like they think they own you/ordering you around … or belong to you/serving you without your permission or request for their service … before you even know each other’s name. Just because you’re a sub doesn’t mean you’re ‘His or Her’ sub. Just because you’re a Top doesn’t mean you have to accept service from every sub that offers. Mental and physical boundaries are very important, and you should have yours “in place” before you go to a dungeon or an event. One place to start is with a knowledge of basic social protocol and etiquette. By understanding these primary rules, you become familiar with the rules of interaction and engagement. Remember, you don’t have to blanket accept anyone’s presumptuous behavior.
bullet They want to collar you/be collared by you the first, second, third time you talk to them. The “Velcro Collar” is a widespread occurrence…unfortunately. While this is not necessarily dangerous (although it can be), it’s probably going to be very temporary in nature. It’s much like a high school quarterback’s senior class ring … it’s been on the finger of every girl in the class before the year is out.
bullet They start proclaiming “I luuuuuvvvvv you,” “I own you,” or “I want you in my family” before the appetizer arrives on the table at your first meeting. If you wouldn’t believe a line from a guy in a bar why are you buying it from someone online or even in a dungeon? What’s their hurry? Are they trying to secure you before you can research them/find out about their history in the community?
bullet They are not willing to give you their contact information. Maybe not immediately – they have a right to protect themselves, also – but if you’re meeting for the first time F2F and getting ready to play, don’t you think it might be a good idea to actually know who you’re dealing with? And provide that information to your safe call. In this day and age, understanding medical restrictions and requirements is imperative. Anyone who will not provide information might be dangerous, and I recommend NOT playing with him or her.
bullet They insist on meeting you alone. No safe call “allowed.” They don’t want to meet in a public place. They don’t want anyone to know you’re meeting at all or even that you two are talking. They want to get you in an isolated position where you might be more vulnerable. Their usual line is “I am the Master, you MUST obey me! Do as I command!” orrrr “You don’t trust me? This would prove that you trust me.” Either tact is bogus. Don’t buy it.
bullet They want you to do something that is either illegal or potentially dangerous or at a minimum socially unacceptable. Meet them at their hotel room, kneel naked and blindfolded in the hallway and wait for them to let you in. Sounds exciting, yes? How good is it for the parents and their children who come down the hallway from their room and find you like that? Or the housecleaning staff who find you like that and call hotel security. Or … if the door opens and it’s not the Dom/me you thought you were dealing with, but an entire roomful of people who think you are there to be the ‘party doll’ with no right to say no to anything they have in mind … or worse … people are killed or disappear every day. Keep in mind that it’s not just females who have to worry about these scenarios. And it doesn’t have to be ‘life threatening’… could be as simple (or complicated) as pulling some routine at the airport with the TSA … that metal buttplug that they commanded you to wear that gets you body cavity searched … and not in a good, fun, spanky way. Or ordering you to shoplift something. They do this to establish their ‘control’ and your ‘submission’.
bullet You’ve met them online and every time you set up a real life face to face meeting with them “something comes up”. You’re probably dealing with an online wannabee who is never going to want to take it to real life. Whether they are married and their spouse has no idea they are online with you, or he or she is a teenager with a Master of the Universe fantasy going on, or is a game player – these individuals aren’t real and therefore get red flagged. Either resign yourself to living in The Kingdom Of Never Will Be or cut your losses and move on.
bullet They are not willing to provide you with up-to-date clean bill of health. Not only that, but they get defensive and even go on the attack about it. There are people out there who will look you in the eye and flat out lie about their HIV status (or whatever disease they are carrying) or skirt the issues with a deceptive non-answer. “Are you clean?” (meaning ‘do you have an STD that I can catch?’) gets answered with, “Of Course I’m CLEAN, boy” (deliberately diverting the answer to reply as if the question was “Do you bathe?” instead of ‘Are you disease free?’) See how they can twist it? A disease-free person will happily produce documentation of that fact. If they’re not willing to provide you with proof, don’t even think twice in this instance. Walk away. The other side of that coin … do you have your own paperwork in order and ready to show them? Both sides need to be ready to share in case of emergency and to make the fun truly exciting and NOT DANGEROUS.
Ø Now I want to put a qualifier on this. If they are up front with you about having an STD and you two sit down and negotiate it out, that is a whole different situation from those who hide their status or flat out lie about it. Just be aware that STDs are contagious and don’t cry wolf if you agreed and then later have buyer’s remorse.

The primary elements of Acute Red Flags are TOO MUCH, TOO FAST, TOO SOON and they VIOLATE PERSONAL/SAFETY BOUNDARIES. People who these red flags identify are desperate to get you under their control as fast as possible so that you don’t look too closely or think too clearly. Remember how wonderful that initial rush of new relationship energy is? They count on that to keep you hooked – at least for a little while. But they have to get you hooked first and that requires speed. Slow down and take a good look before you leap off that particular cliff.


Chronic Red Flags: Stop, Drop and Roll. Leave And Don’t Look Back.

bullet He or she does not take good care of himself or herself. If hygiene is lacking or attire is unkempt, this is a sign that the person is incapable of taking care of himself or herself. See this as a Red Flag, because this might be a sign of medical or mental imbalance, or a signal that there is a tendency toward dependence in a negative manner. They only ‘work’ if there is a slave/sub there to do it all for them.
bullet They badmouth every ex they’ve had (and there’s a LONG line of them). It’s always the other person’s fault that the relationship didn’t work/ended, that THEIR life has been damaged by these people … i.e., they would have been happy, healthy, successful, etc… except these evil exes have fucked them over … it’s all their fault … they are to blame. The person takes no responsibility for their own actions or the fact that their life is in the crapper. It’s EVERYBODY else’s fault. Understand something, it will be YOUR fault one day, too … when you are their newest EX.
bullet They are inconsistent between what they say and what they do. Remember, actions always speak louder than words. Look at what they do. That’s where the truth of the person will be.
bullet They always need something from you. Money, Time, Work, Emotional Support. They are ‘incomplete’ and ‘incapable’ of taking care of their own life and bit by bit they suck you in as caretaker. You begin to spend more of your personal resources on them than on yourself. They are a black hole that you can never fill… but they keep taking more and more as if it is their god-given right that you should just roll your entire life over for them. This is unhealthy behavior that is often confused with D/s relationships.
bullet Their play partners and subs/bottoms are injured on a regular basis. This shows a lack of skill or a lack of concern for the safety of those in their care. Either one is bad.
bullet They’ve injured you personally. Take responsibility for your own part in the injury, but look closely and how and why it happened. Again, is this a pattern with this person?
bullet “Do they go with your carpets and drapes?” I know… that sounds funny, but it’s something to consider. This is not really a hard Red Flag in the dangerous way, but it could cost you a lot of time, expense and heartache when you finally discover that your lives really are just not compatible, for whatever reason. Think about it, if you like opera, the ballet and fine dining – which the other person very vocally loathes – and they are into heavy metal, monster truck rallies and McDonalds, which you detest, is haute cuisine … you two are going to spend a lot of time unhappy with each other’s choices. If He’s a Gorian Master and you’re a feminist submissive, or You’re a Sadist and he’s NOT a masochist… it’s reallllly going to get interesting … and, again, not in a good, fun, spanky way.
bullet Listen to your gut!!! Even if you’re not seeing any blatant Red Flags but your gut is telling you that something just isn’t ‘right’ (is ‘off’ somehow) SHUT DOWN THE FANTASY IN YOUR HEAD AND LISTEN TO YOU GUT!
The primary element of the Chronic Red Flags is ONE PLUS ONE PLUS ONE EQUALS A BAG FULL OF WTF. People who these red flags identify just ‘don’t add up’… or they do add up, but not in a good/healthy way. They are ‘project’ people who will suck you dry and damage your own life. There are good, healthy, positive people in the lifestyle out there to play with or enter relationship with… these are NOT them.


Systemic Red Flags: You’ve Been Warned.
This is where the research of a potential new person in your life will begin to pay off huge dividends. Trust me, people in the community will be all too eager to fill you in on all the gory details of the person you’re interested in. The trick is to sift fact from gossip. Good rule of thumb for me is that if I’m hearing pretty much verbatim information from several unconnected sources it’s probably correct … or different stories from different people but with a common theme of behavior. If it’s one person with an axe to grind, that will become apparent relatively quickly. Ask lots of questions of lots of different people. Check references, and then check the references out to make sure they aren’t just friends of the person. Sooooo….. Systemic Red Flags…..

bullet They have more exes than Liz Taylor, and they all hate the person. All past relationships have ended in global thermo-nuclear war and the tales from the ex’s are all pretty much the same. There’s a theme forming here. Pay attention.
bullet The people in their lives are always newbies. They always make a play for the fresh meat because anyone who has been around for more than a minute has seen their routine and won’t let themselves get hooked. Newbies are the only people they can sucker in. These people will often have to move from one community to another because they have worn out their welcome and need to start fresh with people who don’t know them.
bullet They too quickly form and just as quickly implode their ‘family’ on a regular basis. Family members are changed more often than socks and underwear and you need a printed program to keep up with who’s in and who’s out ‘this week’. The family roster gets totally thrown out and a brand new cast of characters is in place after every community picnic/BBQ/national event – with the ousted family members left sitting in the dust going, “what the hell just happened?”
bullet They seem to always be at the center of whatever volcanic activity is happening in the community. Constant Drama … and not on a stage or in a scene. These people don’t know how to live unless they’re in the middle of a major soap opera and dragging you into it with them. Think long and hard. Do you really want to hook up with Master or Mistress Heartburn?
bullet They don’t keep their commitments. To people, to organizations … or even to themselves. They won’t keep them to you either. Do you really want to be with someone you can’t rely on?
bullet Their Vanilla life is in shambles either through ineptitude or something more shady. If they can’t hold a job, there’s a reason. If they are in constant, ongoing legal battles, there’s a problem, be concerned. If they are involved with the law on a regular basis (and they’re not a cop), get the hell out of there. Do NOT stick your dick in CRAZY (or let CRAZY stick it’s dick in you). It’s just soooo NOT worth it.
bullet They are dishonest. You repeatedly catch them lying. Big things. Little things. Things that would not make a difference if they just told the truth about it… it’s almost like they can’t help themselves. Lies of commission, omission and twisting of the facts. Keep in mind, if they lie to someone else, they will lie to you. If they cheat on someone else with you … they will cheat on you with the next person. If they steal from someone else… they will steal from you. If they are abusive to someone else, they will abuse you. They will not change their behavior.
bullet They behave badly/unethically/hatefully toward others. In the end, they won’t treat you any differently or better. If you think they will, you are living in a fool’s paradise. You’re not special to someone like this. You’re just “Who’s Next?” They “turn and burn” through people quickly and need a ready supply of fresh meat for the grinder.

THE REST OF THE STORY. Because nothing is every one sided.

Your Part of The Equation: What’s driving you toward letting one of these people in your life… even for a night? What do you need/want that they represent for you? Why do you want this particular person in your life at this time? Are you….

bullet Needy
bullet Hurt
bullet Lonely
bullet Horny
bullet Depressed
bullet Fear of rejection
bullet Fear of being alone
bullet Need to belong/be accepted
bullet Need to rescue someone because that’s just what you do
Only you can answer what your own motivations are. Keep in mind, no matter how bad of a Red Flag the person you’re considering is, if you’re not vulnerable to their line then they can’t negatively affect your life. Sooooo… what is YOUR part in the dance that you two are doing?


How Do We Do This? Good Decision Making Criteria

Good Decision Making Criteria is an entire HUGE Master’s class in and of itself. What I have listed below barely touches on the subject. It is meant to give you a starting point from which to launch your own investigation into what your personal criteria are for making good, healthy decisions.

bullet What is a decision? Webster’s defines it as a conclusion reached after consideration.
bullet The point of making a decision is to benefit you. If it isn’t benefiting you, you need to look at why you’re willing to put yourself in a situation or a relationship that is clearly not to your advantage or in your best interest. If you’re in a situation or relationship that is not healthy or positive for you, the question then becomes … what are the criteria you are using that allows you to remain against your own best interests.
bullet So, what factors play into your decision making criteria. Here are a few. Feel free to list your own or bring up some as a topic of discussion. And understand that everybody’s criteria is going to be different … and that’s ok.
Traditionally, the four common factors we are most protective of are:

· Our heart (example: some criteria-setting questions might be)

o How do you connect on an emotional level as M/s?

o How do you deal with emotional upset?

o How do you deal with achievement? With sorrow?

· Our mental state

· Our physical bodies, and

· Social or monetary interaction.

By developing sets of questions that address these areas, it becomes easy to see who is a PLAYER and who is a GENUINE SOUL with an interest in developing a relationship. Take your time, my friends, and remember that YOU ARE WORTH IT.


So What Do You Do About This?

bullet Slow Down. Take a deep breath and take your time. If it’s a good match in the heat of that first meeting, it will be a good match in a week or two after you’ve had a chance to check them out. If it’s meant to be, they’re not going anywhere.
bullet Take off the rose colored glasses. Is this person well-kempt with good hygiene, well-spoken, aware — or is the neediness coming off them in waves making you want to either shelter them or run and hide from them. Don’t be scared to get real about a person or a situation.
bullet Be environmentally aware. Ask around and get references. And actually listen to what they are saying BEFORE allowing yourself to get emotionally involved or to invest your time, money, lifeforce, resources, etc.
bullet Have a list of boundaries – your Do’s and Don’t. Be firm. Don’t let them override your own good sense.
bullet Know your health history.
bullet Safety First! Whether it’s a safe call or meeting at a munch or other public venue the first few times or making sure of their HIV/health status, when it comes to your safety, mind your P’s and Q’s. Sometimes you don’t get a second chance at that.


So we’ve looked at some of the basic red flags that you might to run into and what some of your options are for dealing with these people. I hope this has helped you to be able to more easily identify them and develop a strategy that will promote your having a positive experience in the Leather, Lifestyle, Kink community.

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