Kia Ora and welcome to both FetLife and BDSM
This is the fourth installment in a series of articles that I intend to write for people who are new to either, or both Fetlife and BDSM. The first part of the series covered the basics of setting up a profile and understanding the roles and status types that are included – as well as looking at ways to access more BDSM information through groups of other online sites. Other parts covered Gorean BDSM and meeting people for BDSM play.
This article will primarily deal with BDSM Trainers, Mentors and Protectors. It will also consider differences between those roles, the ways that people within them can enhance your BDSM journey, and the process of locating and selecting such people. People in these trusted roles can be invaluable, and really contribute to a person’s individual journey if they act with honour – unfortunately though, as with all positions of high trust, sometimes a desire for such titles attracts less than scrupulous individuals. I recommend working with people in these roles as valuable tools – but just suggest caution in selecting them.
You can read the past articles in this series here:
- Part 1: Setting up a Profile
- Part 2: Thinking about meeting someone to Play
- Part 4: Unpacking M/s – Welcome to Gor
Although it was written out of sequence this will be Part 3 in the series.
What makes me a good person to write a series like this? Nothing. I simply have enough confidence to assume that it may be something worth doing – and I do have a couple of decades experience as an active Sadist and Master (originally my M/s background was Gorean). 😉
In this episode…
I am going to talk about BDSM Trainers, Mentors and Protectors. It will cover the following topics in a basic way:
- An important note
I would also like to acknowledge a submissive (Xandria) who has taken the time to read a draft of this piece very closely and make helpful suggestions.
Give this some love 🙂
If you are reading this go on and press the Love button. It will give it wider circulation and therefore help it find the news feeds of more newly arrived kinksters. It is in all of our interests to help them integrate into our community as swiftly and safely as possible by providing them with as much information as we can.
You are also welcome to send me a friend request if you want to.
Can I share this?
I am happy for you to share this or repost it anywhere on the web that you choose – just do the right thing and attribute it to 2Jays on Fetlife.com. I would also prefer that it remained unedited, and included the entire post (such as this bit and the rest of the above introduction).
An important note
The place, and role of mentors, trainers and protectors, has shifted considerably with the rise of the internet and online networking for kink communities. Traditional definitions of those roles are now possibly somewhat outdated in many communities, yet they do still apply in some places and with more traditionally oriented practitioners.
In this chapter I intend to focus almost exclusively on more modern interpretations. This is not because I think the modern interpretations are better or more effective. It is written in this style because these guides are intended for people who are new to BDSM and Fetlife, consequently, it is the newer definitions and types of usage that they are most likely to initially encounter.
Furthermore, it should be recognised that every community – both in terms of the scene and online communities – will have its own regional quirks in the definition of these roles. You can expect there to be an overarching similarity, but there will always be those finer points of difference. Consequently it is always best to seek the guidance of someone who is knowledgeable within the community that you are entering to ‘flesh out’ the explanations that are provided here.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a mentor as ‘a person who acts as guide and adviser to another person, esp. one who is younger and less experienced. Later, more generally: a person who offers support and guidance to another; an experienced and trusted counsellor or friend; a patron, a sponsor.’
Mentoring is essentially a powerful strategy to draw upon for self empowerment. It can help you progress in a chosen field and aid you in striving towards your potential. A BDSM mentor is someone who can help guide you towards that process of self improvement. There are two main ways of interpreting the mentor role:
- A capable teacher who can impart knowledge and skills while facilitating your journey of learning
- A person with wisdom and experience in an area that you want to grow in, who will guide you towards that wisdom through support
In general terms a mentor is someone who: discusses, guides, prompts, and who helps you see the forest for the trees. A mentor is not someone who will play, or have sex, with you (although they may assist you in your own play to show you specific techniques). They are not someone who will scald you or push your limits. They do not own or control you. Steven Spielberg once said that ‘the delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.’ In keeping with that a BDSM mentor is someone who will help you move towards being the submissive, dominant or fetishist that is already bottled up inside you just waiting to come out.
Mentors should, in most cases, be people who have the same role as you. So a Master would seek another Master as a mentor, a bottom would be mentored by a bottom and a Primal would be mentored by a Primal.
A mentor is at times used in combination with a trainer – where the trainer provides a programme of development and the mentor provides a perspective on that training from a similar BDSM role, helping the mentee and trainee unlock the knowledge of the training more effectively.
How Mr Jay came to mentoring
I first came to the concept of mentoring through my (very vanilla) employment – back in the late 1990s. At that time I got involved in a programme where I was mentoring young men (16-18) who were experiencing a lot of difficulty in ‘getting their lives on track’. Fortunately I was given the opportunity to complete a training programme in the philosophy and approaches of mentoring as part of that programme – much of which I still use today when thinking about mentoring. I know that mentoring works.
BDSM mentoring and newcomers
In general terms a newcomer to BDSM may not make the best mentor. There are possibly a couple of exceptions to this rule, where they could fulfil a very specific and unique role. Examples that I imagine might be viable are:
- A newcomer who is a trained medical doctor mentoring a dominant in the use of specific tools that relate to Medical Play.
- A newcomer who is a professor of mediaeval history mentoring someone who is setting up a mediaeval styled torture dungeon regarding the aesthetics of the dungeon and possible ideas for custom built items that reflect the period and theme.
- A newcomer who is a trained counsellor mentoring someone on how they might better help their submissive move through issues that come up after play.
As you can see these are very specific examples – and they do not really relate directly to what we might usually think of in the mentoring role. In general terms, if you are new you are probably looking for an experienced mentor and not looking to become a mentor. That being said even the most experienced practitioners can gain from mentoring at times. (They probably just do it a little more informally.)
Mentoring and Time Commitments
Both being a mentor and being a mentee take time. There is a real commitment made to the process and the outcomes of personal development that are set within the mentoring programme. You should not take on either role if you do not have that time to commit. People will not benefit from mentoring if there is not a real commitment to the process – including making enough time and energy available not only for the sessions themselves but also for developing the things discussed outside of meetings.
Finding a good mentor
Quite often you will need to approach a good mentor if they would be willing to mentor you. The people who bring up the subject asking if you want a mentor probably have some other motive.
From what I have seen female submissives who advertise that they are looking for a mentor are usually, almost instantly, inundated with volunteers – most of whom have very little knowledge about mentoring and a huge desire to simply have their mentee perform felacio.
You are best off quietly seeking someone who is knowledgeable and who you can trust – who is in the same role as yourself yet who is deeply experienced.
The 2Jays BDSM Mentoring Cycle
The following process outlines the mentoring cycle that I have suggested, and used, in the past working with folks on BDSM development outcomes.
Step 1: Assessing Needs
To begin the process the mentee must assess their own situation, and work out which way it is that they wish to develop themselves. This is important as the mentoring process is all about helping the mentee achieve their own goals and grow into the individually unique BDSM practitioner that they have the potential to be.
Step 2: Identifying a Suitable Mentor
In this step you will need to locate and identify someone who:
- You feel comfortable working with and can trust.
- Has experience and knowledge in the areas that you want to develop.
- Is willing to Mentor you.
This can be a tricky process but the best approach is simply one of open and honest communication. You need to be clear about what it is that you are looking for. Understand that potential mentors are probably busy people with their own interests and goals to pursue – and usually they are people who are unpaid and helping others purely out of goodwill to see the community develop.
Step 3: Creating a Mentoring Contract
Writing down these details, and clarifying both the process that will be used, and the goals of the mentoring, can help make the process mutually rewarding and satisfying. You should make sure that you clearly identify the learning or personal development outcomes that are desired from the mentoring, and also success criteria to indicate how both the mentor and the mentee will know that those outcomes have been achieved.
I strongly recommend that you set a time, approximately one month from your first meeting, to review your contract, give your mentoring relationship a check up, and make any changes that are needed based on how things are progressing.
Step 4: Assessing Progress and Reviewing the Mentoring Relationship
In this, the final step of the Cycle, both the mentor and the mentee work together to identify progress towards – or achievement of – the desired learning and growth outcomes that were set out in the mentoring contract. They should also review the status and terms of the mentoring relationship – and perhaps either tweak or terminate the contract depending on whether or not further help is needed and available.
Following the final step the mentee can either:
- Decide they have achieved all that they wanted to out of mentoring; OR,
- Begin a process of needs assessment in preparation for their next phase of self development through mentoring.
Sample BDSM Mentoring Contract
The following is a sample BDSM Mentoring Contract that I have drawn up. Feel free to download and use it if you want. Just remember – like everything else – if you pass it on do the right thing and attribute it to 2Jays on Fetlife.com. I would also prefer that it remained unedited.
Reputable Groups for BDSM mentoring on Fetlife
To start off lets look back at how I defined ‘Under Protection’ as a relationship status in our chapter on Setting up a Profile:
- Under Protection = Either this person is new to kink and their partner is protecting them from the ‘wolves’ (read eager experienced dominants) until they build their confidence; OR; someone is being a pain in the ass so a dominant is looking out for the person; OR; an experienced dominant has marked this person as someone that they have first dibs upon once they learn more about BDSM
While it is very common for people to use the role of protector presently, this is relationship type that should never be taken on lightly. Both being protected, and being a protector, have several layers of meaning and responsibility attached to them within the BDSM context. To begin with lets think about the common definition of protector – as it is set out by the Oxford English Dictionary
‘A person who protects someone or something from danger, injury, etc.; a defender; a guardian, a patron.’
Perhaps notably to this discussion (and what I plan to argue), looking at the history of the word and its usage, just over a hundred years ago it also referred to a man who possessed a mistress (with mistress being used in the sense of a kept woman).
By the very nature of protecting someone, there is obviously a small element of power exchange involved this kind of relationship – through not only the protective and caring actions of the protector but also through the protectee recognising that they need the protector’s assistance.
A Current Interpretation of the meaning of Protection Status
In essence the current interpretation of BDSM protection can generally be characterised as:
- An experienced member of the community looking after an inexperienced one. That usually includes providing protection from the prowling ‘wolves’ who are seeking to play with ‘fresh meat’ – and might also be protection from other dangers (perhaps even themselves depending on the situation). People who wish to play with, or form a relationship with, the protected person will need to seek the approval of the Protector.
It can also refer to:
- Someone who, after being asked to by a submissive’s Owner, takes the place of their Owner at prescribed events or functions that the Owner cannot attend. At those events or functions they only assume a level of control or interaction that the Owner had stipulated.
Various etiquettes and protocols do also apply – yet those will vary based on if you are dealing with an online community or a real life one – and which country or region that real life community is set in. It is important to understand the additional protocols associated with your setting – so make sure that you ask for clarifications.
In a nutshell, protection says says: ‘Ub3r-M4st3r Scott will be mad if you muck twue-sl4v3 Betty around.’
Different people will add, or subtract, different elements to that general outline of protection. In some cases there are elaborate protocols while in other cases it is as simple as the above statement may seem. This is an area where open and frank discussion is paramount – just to make sure that your understandings are crystal clear.
Protection is something of consequence, and you should think about the associations, connections and positioning, that such a form of power exchange builds. This is not a whimsical concept – rather it is an important and trusted role that places people in positions where communication and integrity in their interpersonal interactions are of the utmost importance.
Furthermore, in some places, that status also indicates that the person in the protector role has the right of first refusal towards the protected person in terms of play or a future relationship. It is best to clarify as this can either be considered an expectation or a taboo depending on where you are.
The Implications of being a Protector
When stepping into the role of being a protector you need to think deeply about the implications of the decision and discuss the role with the person that you are protecting so that there is a clear and shared understanding of what it will entail.
- What are the parameters of the protection?
- Are you protecting them from being hassled on websites like Fetlife? – or, from either perceived or real threats in the real world?
There are some very real differences here in terms of the practicalities of the protector’s role. Examples of assistance required might range from sending an email to someone who is being painful online – or driving to the person’s house at 3am in the morning to help ensure their safety after some kind of incident. Notably however, in both cases, a ‘Plan B’ is always required – as the protector will need to have an idea of what they intend to do if such obvious initial interventions fail. Are you willing to ‘step up’ for that person to such a degree?
Can you give me an example of protection at work?
One good example of using protection is a case that I came across, a number of years ago, while I was living and working in Australia. It operated as follows:
- A submissive lass, very new to BDSM, was finding it very difficult to say no to people who were asking her to play with them. She was quite attractive and being flooded with play requests by people. After some positive and lengthy discussions she was put under the protection of a Domme within the scene who would ‘vet’ any play that she did. In reality the Domme provided her with a system where by she had time to wait after the request and discuss it with the Domme before an answer was given. This also removed the potential for anyone to feel rejected by the submissive – as the Domme ‘made’ the decision. Eventually, once the submissive lass had found someone she was comfortable with, and who was stepping up to want more than just a quick play and sex session, the Domme relinquished the protective status and passed her on to the care and guidance of that new person.
The history of Protection in BDSM
Historically protection used to be a feature of the Leather Culture where a new member would gain the protection of a Leather family (and accordingly the head of that family). Within that frame of reference the protection was very broad – and involved a range of strict protocols. It covered not only protection within the BDSM setting but also within a broader life based setting.
Sometimes people will stanchly argue in favor for a Leather interpretation – however in general terms it has gained wider use than that now.
A trainer, as opposed to a protector or a mentor, can at times be someone who is exceedingly ‘hands on’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a trainer as: ‘a person who provides sustained instruction and practice in an art, profession, occupation, or procedure’. Traditionally, within BDSM, a trainer was someone who took on responsibility for the growth and learning of a new submissive to the lifestyle. They would provide the submissive with instruction, both theoretical and experiential, in a range of activities to prepare the submissive for their future role with a Dominant/Domme or Master/Mistress.
The trainer may not be a popular person with the submissive at all times, however they would always be respected, and it would be recognised that they were providing an invaluable service.
Dominants were traditionally trained as well through a somewhat formalised process. The process of dominant, or top, training continues today and even in relatively small cities on a global scale (such as Auckland, New Zealand) there are Dommes who provide a range of training services to trainee dominants for a fee.
In many cases training can be arranged through a written contract – much like a mentoring contract. Using that style of formal agreement helps define boundaries and set up the experience to be a beneficial one for both the trainer and the trainee. I am aware of cases where the trainee has organised for training with a trainer directly, and of other cases where an Owner has organised with a trainer for their submissive to be trained on some particular aspects of BDSM. Reputable trainers will not take advantage of the situation and take liberties beyond the parameters of the agreed area of training – although there are unfortunately some trainers out there that are not reputable.
What makes training effective?
Effective training can be characterised in the following ways:
- Good communication between the trainer and the person being trained.
- Clear expectations about learning goals or outcomes.
- Active participation in training activities.
- Appropriate and regular feedback about progress towards the learning goals or outcomes.
- On task training time. You are not there to find a new BFF – you are there to be trained.
- Training that responds to the trainee’s preferred ways of learning. This might include: doing, reading, watching appropriate videos, talking, journaling or a range of other options. The point is that if one strategy does not work for you it should not be kept as the focus of your training. I would however stress that a significant percentage of the training should be ‘doing’.
Issues with Imprinting (or Bonding) when training submissives
One rather important, but sometimes overlooked, issue associated with the training of submissives in particular is the balance that must be struck between providing effective training and ensuring that a submissive does not bond too strongly with the trainer. That process of a bond being developed, and a style being strongly linked into a submissives actions is sometimes also called imprinting. The development of those emotional links can at times also be an issue for the trainer.
The place of sex
Historically sex had no place within the training of submissives. Presently however it is much more common for there to be sexual interaction between submissives and trainers. This should be clarified during the process of negotiating the training.
I do understand that in some cases – such as training for cumming on command – there may be a place for this, however in general terms it is not something that I would advise.
Tread with caution
This is an area where, as a newcomer, you may encounter some ‘interesting’ people. There is a particular element within the BDSM sphere that seeks out new submissives (and most often female ones) professing to be trainers who are there to help. Unfortunately they are often really just horny fools who are desperate for an endless supply of thank you blow jobs in return for a service that in reality is quite shallow and limited.
If they are real BDSM trainers you will most likely be seeking them out, not the other way around.
To recount an interesting tale – some years ago I owned a kajira who occasionally spoke of a previous Master’s acquaintance – who we shall call Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’. So on with the story… which is admittedly highly anecdotal and seventh hand, but it serves a purpose.
Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ was a very interesting a powerful Trainer. He somehow always seemed to be able to find a way to leave new submissives messages on their networking accounts that they would find when they woke up. After a greeting, and establishing they were new, he would offer to help them. To give freely of his time, experience and wisdom, in order to advance their personal journey into submission. Of course a poor little innocent subbie would love the attention and help of an experienced and wise Dominant – he is so officially Dominant everyone even has to call him ‘Sir’ apparently!
So the training sessions from Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ would begin with important acts like learning to not be ashamed of oneself. In order to achieve that goal all new female submissives had to email Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ fully nude photos of themselves masturbating. He would help them learn patience by making them wait until after 11pm to talk to him each day – precisely between 11pm and 12am – and only on Sunday-Thursday nights. Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ had a life! During those talks he would set them all manners of humiliating tasks that they had to photograph and send him proof of. They had to learn to be available to masters at all times – so just to be kind and help Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ would meet them during their lunch hours in the city and drive them somewhere to quickly and lightly spank them then have them perform felacio on him to prove their submission and availability.
So to unpack this story and explain a few things. The kajira would giggle recounting the exploits of Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ because:
- He was only talking to them between 11pm and 12am as his wife fell asleep at 1030pm.
- His desire to help them was probably linked to the fact that his wife didn’t find him very attractive anymore – and he was quite interested in getting blow jobs elsewhere. (The kajira had heard him discuss this.)
- He met them at lunch times, briefly, as that was when he could get away from his job as Grocery Isle manager at a store that belonged to a large supermarket chain.
- His use of humiliating tasks and making them do things while talking to him for extended periods… was to give him time to mute the mic and masterbate during the conversations.
- Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ had never lived with a submissive, nor had he ever been part of any BDSM scene based group.
So as you can see Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ was neither the most qualified nor the most ethical of trainers. He did not provide real training – as he had promised, and he probably only had a limited understanding of what would be required himself. There may be a Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ near you – so tread carefully. Just to clarify, Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ was from a large city in a country that I lived in – in the northern hemisphere.
I am actually aware of quite a range of other unscrupulous ‘trainers’ – even here in New Zealand. A few years ago I met a girl who lived in Dunedin (New Zealand). We had coffee a few times, mainly to talk about her start into the kinky world – as she had experienced some bumps along the way. She had encountered a ‘trainer’ who had made her take photos – much like Ub3r-M4st3r ‘Fred’ did with his charges. The difference being that this lad then turned around and tried to tell her that she was to front up for the in person ‘put out time’ training sessions or he would email/post the photos around. I helped her go to the Police and have the issue dealt with properly. Needless to say the Police were quite interested in what she had to say and that the matter was swiftly resolved with their involvement and help. I am aware that her ‘trainer’ left Otago shortly after the matter being concluded.
With those warnings delivered I would like to add that there are a lot of highly talented, honourable and good-willed trainers available. Generally the positive trainers are the ones with more experience and a greater level of connection to the BDSM scene. The chief advice I am giving here is do your homework. Make sure that the person you are talking to is legitimate and actually knows what they are doing. You are better off paying for a few lessons and being trained in how to effectively wield a cane than being shown by a 1337-Ub3r-D0m who has a very different agenda.
One comment that came back from a female submissive after reading this was that when she first arrived to Fetlife she was quickly bombarded with offers by mentors, trainers and protectors who not only offered their services but demanded that she dealt with them exclusively – suggesting that it was the only effective way. I would like to stress that this is utter rubbish. The very concept of a trainer is that they will be training you for your relationship with SOMEONE ELSE. A mentor is a trusted confidant and guide who helps you improve your relationship with SOMEONE ELSE. In fact it is a totally common occurrence for a person to take a mentor and a trainer simultaneously – in fact that is often recommended as it can help facilitate deeper learning and swifter processing of the emotions and feelings that the training creates.
A protector – while in some cases is someone who has signalled that they get first dibs on you after you learn more – is not someone who should lock you in a closet and ban you from talking to every other person in the world.
Do not let people like that ‘pull the wool over your eyes’. This sounds more like people trying to isolate a new submissive so that they can have their way with them, and explain that it is normal for submissives to do X, Y and Z.
Trainers, Mentors and Protectors are all valuable people and roles. They are however people who hold positions of power – in varying degrees. As we know from any setting or context, power can sometimes be used for the betterment of people and societies, and it can sometimes be used in improper ways. Consequently these are areas where quite a lot of consideration is needed – as you need to know that you want someone in that role, and that you definitely want it to be the person who you are embarking into that situation with. If you plan to take on one of these roles you need to deeply consider the responsibility, and how you plan to help the person that you will be working with.