I've been venturing out into the city a bit more lately and going to events. It's great to meet new people, discuss common kinks, talk shop, and find new resources. Frequently at events like these (which is actually the point of the event) there is play, specifically "Pickup Play" or play where you don't know the other party. This can be fun as you get immediate gratification of sceneing during that rush of new energy after meeting someone, rather than the days or weeks of grueling negotiations to even meet before play. However, it can also be risky and has high potential to go bad. I witnessed one such scene this weekend.
A submissive male I'd been talking to was working the room and getting various ladies to dominate him in quick little scenes, so it was of no surprise when I saw him setting up to scene with someone new, and I sat back to watch. He frequently plays with new and inexperienced women as he likes variety and giving women the experience of dominating a man. The lady currently sessioning was quickly identified as not only inexperienced, but also slightly drunk--a dangerous combo. I saw the sub wince and grimace in pain as the woman attempted seductive movements at his expense. Concerned, I asked his friend if the sub would safeword. "Yeah, but a lot of times we just take it."
The above scenario is a risk (at play parties or otherwise), but it's one you can mitigate. For starters, abstain from being under the influence before or during play. There will already be enough endorphins and blood rush altering your thinking without adding in drugs or alcohol.
Secondly, have safewords in place, both verbal and non-verbal. During the scene I was watching, loud music was playing and if the sub had cried out, the lady may not have been able to hear him. Have an object to drop, or a specific movement such as tapping, planned out to indicate that you need to safeword.
I hear on a regular basis "I don't like safewords". If that's the case, you're putting yourself more at risk, but it is possible to play that way. Make sure the person you're playing with is knowledgeable, trustworthy, and knows how to read people. The submissive was clearly not enjoying himself and his top should have seen that.
Know the difference between good pain and bad pain. Good pain is enjoyable; it heightens your experience before fading away, only leaving a warm fuzzy feeling. Bad pain is unpleasant and your body's way of telling you to stop. It's the difference between scratching an itch and being scratched by a cat.
Don't be a power bottom! A power bottom is someone who "powers through" the pain. They don't want admit defeat to themselves or others, or risk having the top take their feedback as criticism. If someone is harming you and makes you feel poorly when you ask them to stop, that is not someone who should be playing with you or anybody.
In the end the submissive didn't safeword, but he was close. Luckily, the scene was over pretty quickly and he was unharmed. These games we play are fun, but come with a multitude of risk. Remember, communication is the best way to stay safe.