Sometimes it seems like Pick Up Play gets a bad rap. Whether it’s the puritanical I just need connection with my play or fear-based It’s not safe. Which is unfortunate, because it leaves a lot of people sitting on the sidelines when they could be having a blast getting their kink on.
I’m going to take a single moment to state I don’t think pick up play need to be for everyone. Some people can’t wrap their heads around it, others have made commitments of various sorts to not engage in it. What I do hate to see is people putting it down, or missing out or opportunities for fun, hot, connected experiences due to fear, lack of understanding or judgement.
If you haven’t heard it yet, please allow me to be the first. No play is better than bad play, especially if “bad” is something you’re using to short hand nonconsenual, disrespectful or unfulfilling. Play shouldn’t be that – whether if it’s with someone you get 5 minutes ago or with your partner of 5 years. Seriously. Unfulfilling play sucks and nonconsenual or disrespectful are red flags for abuse.
Pick up play, doesn’t need to be unfulfilling play though, it simply requires a different skill set than playing with a committed partner. If you’re the tl;dr type, let me spell it out for you right now: for god sake, talk to your partners. Tell them what feels good and what doesn’t, tell them when you aren’t feeling safe enough to let go and what you need to feel safe in this moment. Tell when when you want to play harder, or if you’re worried that you’re pushing them too hard.
If you’re willing to stick around for the longer haul, let’s start by busting some pick up play myths.
Pick up Play doesn’t have to be with a stranger
At it’s core, pick up play is simply play you’re negotiating a bit on the fly, as opposed to scenes that are crafted via longer back and forth negotiations. How long you’ve known your partner doesn’t change the label, but it does add a level of familiarity that allows for more intense play scenarios or even faster negotiations. Not zero negotiations – it’s always smart to check for any health related issues (like blood sugar levels or if there have been any changes since the last time you played) to keep your play as safe as possible.
Pick up play is “easy”
One of the things that draws people into pick up play is it’s casual nature. Not a lot of planning goes into it and negotiations reflect the lower stakes nature of play (more on that later). But what this really means is the prep work is easy; crafting a ride between two people who may never have met before is not easy. You likely won’t have the trust built to drop easily into a connected space with someone, and you might not have any idea about how connection works best for this partner. Plus you probably don’t know how pain registers for this particular person; meaning you thinking you’re hitting at a 3 may actually feel like a 6 to them or vice versa. Pick up play requires a lot more attention be paid to establishing connection and calibrating levels of intensity – but those things are super necessary for a good scene!
Also, to lower your risk levels around unintentional coercion or nonconsent it’s important you visibly show yourself to be a person your partner can say no to. Now isn’t the time for any sort of coercive behaviour; even in jest because you don’t know how your partner will respond. Support your play partner is speaking their limits – top or bottom.
Pick up Play doesn’t lower your value as a human.
Your sexual choices do not impact your worth as a human. People, including yourself, have no right to treat your humanity (I’m talking about things like dignity, right to bodily autonomy, etc) any different than their down simply because the types of play you can engage in. You maintain your rights to say no, you maintain your rights to insist on safer sex supplies. You do not become communal property and if someone treats you as such, please report that to your organizing crews. That is not okay.
Now, let’s look at some ways you can make pick up play work for you.
1. Be casual, not callous
Have you ever noticed the disdain that often goes along pick up artistry? People are turned into goals to be met, things to be acquired; dehumanized really. This attitude turns hook up culture into something that could be great (after all, people coming together to share pleasure, shouldn’t that be great?!) into competitions and disregard for the other person (or people) we’re sharing time with. This will never lead to good sex, or a good scene. Give a shit about your partner – always. Give a shit about their pleasure, about their comfort – even when the point is to make them very, very uncomfortable.
2. Know that not all types of play work with all types of people
The better you know yourself the better you can suss out pick up play scenario’s that are going to work for you. For example, if emotional masochism is something you can shake like water off a duck’s back, but impact play requires a high level of trust in your partner’s skill tailor your play to be high on the degradation and super light on the physical play. This is information you need to offer to your partner (your top in this case) because you don’t have time to leave a little clever trail of clues hoping their pick it up on their own. Having a few go-to scenario’s that are likely to leave you a happy camper can help ensure a great time for you.
Also, throw out what you think you know. You are not with your last partner, or your main squeeze. You’re with this person. Don’t expect old moves to produce the same results.
3. Consider what negotiation style suits you and suits this play.
As a person who uses fluid negotiations for almost all of my play it’s hard for me to wrap my head around closed negotiations – which actually doesn’t work to my to my advantage when the scene I’m in doesn’t lend itself to talking. The more flexibility to have in your ability to meet other’s where they are at, the easier your pick up play scenes will be.
4. Understand you can’t trust yes without a bunch of nos.
Saying no, setting limits and expressing your boundaries are ways you can build a container of trust within your pick up play scene. As a bottom it shows you that you have some element of control in the play – that you haven’t picked an unsafe partner. As a top it shows you that you can trust your bottom to speak up if things go awry. Both of you can relax more and really into into the moment being created.
5. Close the energetic loop before you part ways
Opening up yourself and connecting deeply with someone turns pick up play into great play, but equally important is drawing that connective energy back into yourself, instead of leaving yourself connected to your play partner (that would be a relationship) or leaving your connection hooks flapping in the metaphorical breeze.
Honestly? I’m a pick up play aficionado. It’s one of my favourite ways to get to know someone, I teach on it, and it’s produced some of my favourite kink related moments. It would be awesome to hear some of your pick up play success stories too – leave them in the comments below!