Experience Requirements for Mentors

I think I’ve now heard it all.

At a munch today, the new mentorship director of the major local kink organization that sponsors the munch (the Society of Janus) announced that lack of experience in the scene is *not* a disqualification for stepping up to the plate and volunteering to be a mentor through that organization.

Yes, apparently experience is no longer required for this job in the San Francisco area on the new board’s watch.  Because after all, everyone knows *something* they can share with others, right?

I swear to God, that is exactly what was said.

Yes, even if you don’t have much experience, you are still encouraged to apply to be a mentor.  Step right up to this organization, and you, too, can call yourself a mentor and be assigned a newbie-er [sic] newbie acolyte of your own, even if you’re brand new to wiitwd yourself.

So, newbies, beware that the mentor you get hooked up with through this organization very well may actually have only a few days or weeks more experience than you have.

In fact, this has always been true, and is one of the reasons I’ve always objected to such structured “mentorship” programs.  It’s always been true that you need to vet the mentors you are assigned in this sort of arrangement, because they can and do accept just about anyone who volunteers.  (Which is kind of moronic, given that part of the whole point of finding a mentor in the first place is to find someone to help guide you through new waters safely, and if you already knew where the shoals and bad eggs were, arguably you wouldn’t even need a mentor.  But I digress.)

In most such programs, however, and in the past in this one, it has been the *experienced* people who are encouraged to sign up to share their knowledge.

What is brand new, apparently, is that now people who have almost no experience are actually being *encouraged* to sign up to teach others.

So caveat emptor now applies even more than it ever did before.

And yes, it’s true that someone with a few days or weeks more experience may know a few tidbits to share, but that does *not* make someone capable of safely or effectively mentoring another.

There is a name for people who have little experience of wiitwd – and that is “newbie”.

Just like you, if you’re new.

It’s a perfectly valid place to be in your journey, but it does *not* qualify you to do anything but share amongst yourselves about your experiences.  That is called “sharing with each other about your experiences”, not “mentoring” someone.

Understand the difference, and do not be fooled by a label like “mentor” into believing that this person necessarily knows much more than you do, no matter how you come across the person who uses it.

Ask questions, ask around, etc.

And better yet, follow other recommendations posted in this group and elsewhere for finding your *own* mentor as you walk your path through wiitwd, speaking to *many* people along the way, asking many for recommendations for who to approach to learn what you want to learn.

Read everything you can get your hands on, talk to as many people with as many different points of view as you can find.  Take it all in.  Eventually, you will find yourself drawn to certain people whose posts or comments in person resonate with you over time.  Then approach *those* people yourself and ask for guidance – or just follow along with what they write or talk about, and ask questions of them as they arise for you.

And most of all, beware of people who actually call themselves “mentors”, who offer to mentor you, particularly if they are the yin to your yang relationship role and gender-wise.  So, if you’re a female sub, beware the male dom who offers to mentor you, or to guide you, or to act as a “benevolent father figure” for you, because most often, that’s just a way for them to try to get into your pants.

But even if you’re the same gender and role as the person who claims that role, that is also no guarantee that this person who claims they can teach you what you want and need to know knows what the hell they are talking about themselves.

It is true in medicine that there is an axiom that goes, “See one, do one, teach one”.  The idea is that having to explain the process to someone else helps really cement the procedure in your own mind.  Thankfully, however, baby doctors are not actually turned loose on the unsuspecting public to teach other baby doctors, acting as their primary instructors.  That “teach one” component takes place under close supervision – and in practice, they do *many* before they are turned loose on the public to even just *do*, never mind teach others.

In virtually any activity, there is a *large* gap between when a person is new and starts to learn how to explain what they do and when they actually have solid experience and the wisdom that can only come from long practice.

And I can think of absolutely no other profession in which those who are brand new themselves are put in a position of authority to teach others who are also new, at least not as their primary instructors.  And at least not in any really reputable school or company that has its shit together.

Likewise, there’s no earthly reason that baby kinksters should be put forth as experienced teachers to guide other baby kinksters in this way, either.  There is no lack of truly experienced, reputable, and giving kinky folk who are plenty willing to share what they know.  Go out and find *them*.

If you’re a newbie, if you would find yourself assigned a mentor who is almost as new as you are when seeking an *experienced* guide, how would you feel about that?

If you’ve already been in this position, what were your thoughts and feelings when you realized what was happening?

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