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.

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What To Do About a Dangerous Top? What If They Are a Community Leader?

Recently I bottomed to a well-known, fairly high-profile member of the Bay Area’s leather community, and I was very upset to find that in real play this person did not live up to the high standards of safety and consensuality I had been led to believe would be all but automatic by the person’s public statements. I am unhappy and disappointed for myself, but I am also worried for the fates of less resilient bottoms than I am. Under the guise of being my Top this individual tried to play in a way I said I didn’t want to, and pushed very hard to persuade me to change my mind even though I stated clearly that I felt doing so could jeopardize both my physical and my psychological safety. Apart from my anger and frustration, which I know how to handle, I wonder what to do with my information about this person in terms of community safety: do I accuse? do I hide what I know? How can I behave most responsibly? [italics added]

In an article entitled “Ask the Therapist: What Do I Do About a Dangerous Top?” that starts off with the above query, distinguished therapist William Henkin, PhD very ably and comprehensively addresses the question of what to do after the fact.

What I want to talk about here is the fact that such people exist, whether or not they are leaders of the community, and the trap that “saying all the right things” can lead to in general, but also particularly when they are well-known, or otherwise part of the leadership of a community – and how to avoid getting into exactly the kinds of situations described in the above quote in the first place.

It is an unfortunate fact that tops not walking their talk is not an isolated occurrence.  It is even more unfortunate when they hold positions of leadership because newbies in particular have a tendency to view such people as being the arbiters of what is right and good, and make all kinds of dangerous assumptions about how safe these people are to play with that may or may not have anything to do with reality.

What you must understand is that there is nothing about the structure of the BDSM subculture or any of our organizations that in any way vets presenters, owners of community spaces, members of the elected board of organizations or its appointees, or anyone else as safe players. No one is responsible to check any of these people out.  No one makes any guarantees about anything.  There are no tests of competence, no checklists to ensure they actually comply with what they say, no one watching over their shoulders to be sure they do it right before they are turned loose on the public.

Nothing.  Zip. Nada.

You are 100% on your own to sort how who is safe and who isn’t, exactly the same as in the vanilla world, although we do have some accepted conventions in this one that can help, if used judiciously.

People who become the community leaders have one or two qualities in common, often only that they are simply the only ones willing to step up to do the volunteer tasks involved.  When an organization is run by volunteers, they take anyone they can get to do the tasks involved, to the point that often even known problem people are allowed to participate, simply because there is no one else to do the job.  

(This is by no means true in all cases, and there are a lot of very dedicated, very safe people involved at all levels, but it comes into play often enough that you really need to not assume anything about anyone involved in the leadership of the community just because they’re there, and to check out each individual yourself, as your personal needs arise.) Continue reading

I Miss… I Don’t Miss

12/22/09

Every morning I still awaken with the thought of how much I miss you, how much I want to be with you again, how much I miss being in your arms.

And then my mind changes course, and I correct it with the new thought what I miss is the good parts, not the bad. And I try to remember what they all were… Continue reading