September 29, 2008


The topic of being a Mentor, or Mentorship, comes up from time to time, and I always struggle with the answer. When I first became aware of BDSM and D/s, I also discovered that there were actual "communities" and the first thing you find out about communities is that they have rules, there were rituals, routines, laws, protocols and established practices that people are expected to abide by. That is true for both online communities and real life local communities or clubs, all having rules.

One of the cardinal rules that I learned early on from these communities, both online and local, had to do with Mentors. My understanding of a Mentor was that is was a Dominant who took a submissive(s) under his wing and was essentially a teacher or advisor. He was someone the submissive could turn to when she had questions, an authority, who got to know her and could provide proper perspective. Perhaps it was a question about protocol, or relationships, or BDSM techniques, anything really. But the cardinal rule was, there was to be no intimacy between the Mentor and the charge.

I am sure this rule is intended to create a sense of safety for the submissive, which "the community" deemed as perhaps young, and naive, and inexperienced, and susceptible to undue or unethical influence. In other words, the rule was created to protect the submissive from the Dominant. This has always been the definition of Mentor that I had always recognized, and accepted.

However, having never really "joined up" with any communities, it really didn't matter much to me, one way or the other, and acceptance of that definition seemed fine. And then I started this blog, and people started asking me questions. So, in an effort to be smart(er) I undertook to research the matter, and sure enough, those communities are out there still, and they still have their rules. And what I found was, everyone's rules are different, not really surprising.


In read through many message boards and discussions groups, and I found that most who considered themselves "old guard" or "old school" had strict prohibitions about intimacy with a Mentor.

However, in searching through "published" sources, this was more typical:

"The submissive petitions the Dominant Mentor to train them while they are searching for the Dominant that they will serve the rest of their lives with. The submissive should be treated as if collared by the Dominant for life, until they are released to their formal Dominant. Usually if this type of training has taken place, the Dominant Mentor will assist the submissive in searching out and accepting the formal Dominant that they will serve." - Vixen Rose, Collars and Traditions

To her credit, her article says, "Includes: A special concern about the dilution of old traditions."

So, according to this definition, not only can the Mentor play with the submissive, he should essentially treat her as his collared submissive. That is certainly a dilution of the old tradition I learned.


Another source I turned to is a woman I have known for over a decade, someone who is considered an Elder in the greater Leather community. From an FAQ she published:

Q. What about intimacy (physical, sexual, emotional, etc.) in the mentoring relationship? Do mentor's and mentee's work SM together? Is sex OK between mentor and mentee?
A. To play or not to play? is a question that the mentor and mentee will discuss when they set the ground rules for the mentoring relationship.

So, I thought, it seems that the old rule I learned has pretty much been turned on its head, but then:

Q. Are there limits on a mentor's control?
A. An SM mentoring relationship is not an SM relationship per se, that is, power exchange and role-play is not appropriate in the mentoring relationship. The mentor and mentee are equals, one is not dominant and the other submissive in the relationship. Both are equals, sharing a common leather journey together.

Clearly, this kind of relationship is in a completely different ballpark.


And the deeper I dug, the more I kept running into varying definitions. Frankly it only led to even greater confusion on my part. So, I tucked all this research away for a while and thought about it, and forgot about it, and then thought some more, and have come to the following conclusion:

I do not agree that the Mentor's charge should be considered collared or owned by him, but I do agree that intimacy is okay between them if they agree to it. The thing that bothers me about the Vixen Rose definition is that seems to imply that if she accepts the mentorship, then she accepts the play/sex permission quid pro quo as well. That is the part I do not agree with.

In fact, I was talking to someone about this recently, and I said, it sounds like a friendship thing, almost "mentor with benefits". She said, "That doesn't sound that different from many relationships in this scene (blogosphere) that i've heard about? i mean, that's kind of what it's like in my life".


I am coming to think that intimacy between a Mentor and his charge is not as uncommon as I once thought, particularly for those who are not in a Master/slave, collared or owned situation. And I think that is a good thing, it seems an aftificial and unnecessary barrier beween two people who are sharing a powerful and growing experience together. Perhaps I was stuck in those old community rules and roles learned so long ago.


  1. I think perhaps the old rule was there because there is so much emotion involved with these relationships. And for women it can be very difficult to separate sex from their emotions.

    I think if the mentor has a sexual relationship with the sub the sub may find themselves emotionally bonded to the mentor. Sort of the, falling for your teacher type of thing. Often a training session can be so intense that the emotions get all muddled up. I know in the beginning it was often hard to separate the raw emotion that a training brought up in me with the Dom who evoked the emotions. It was only with time that I realized that a craving for the training was not the same as a craving for the person.

    I agree that a mentor and sub can have a sexual relationship but I think the Dom needs to be very careful. I can't speak for the Doms but as a sub its easy to lose yourself in this world, staying grounded is so much the key. If a mentor can give that to a sub then they have given them the greatest gift.

  2. I freely admit I'm not experienced vis-a-vis "community" rules and have only my own experience upon which to base my opinion.

    I think first, your point about the leather community is apt. The bottom line is that the leather community is very much the (to my mind) "original" BDSM models - I have read a number of books by leather community members and have found them to be straightfoward, honest and less prone to romanticizing the entire experience of D/s and S/m. In short, they offer practical, straightforward advice with fairly straightforwrd guidelines.

    Mentors "online" which is where a lot of people first look when exploring the world of BDSM are (again, my opnion only) almost invariably predators who are looking for quick sexual kicks. I know that a VERY brief stint on sites such as Collar Me and its ilk cured me of any desire to seek a "mentor" when finbar and I began our journey many years ago. Methinks there was an AWFUL lot of BS going on and lucky for me I not easily bamboozled nor manipulated.

    I AM familiar with some friends in the real-life community who have, at various points, had mentors. Almost without exception these mentors did NOT expect that a sexual relationship would be established, although a close and trusting emotional bond was established over time. The mentor, however, acted as a protector, guide and teacher - and with very much the same strictures and guidelines imposed on any teacher.

    Ultimately, as you conclude, there are no hard and fast "rules". the bottom line is that life is all about change and that includes established social structures - even the alternative lifestyle ones!

    But, I would STRONGLY urge any submissive or even dominant seeking a "mentor" to be VERY careful. They need to understand that (a) they have the right to say NO, at any time and without feeling like failures or apologists, (b) they have the right to set limits on the extent of the physical intimacy with which they are comfortable, and (c) they have the right to walk away at ANY time.

  3. A NEW submissive, wake in the early days of her submission, the questions are so deep,, the "Why's" and the "What if's"..

    Why do i feel this way, this is not of the norm.. These are the type of questions, that she/he has.

    So, as rule of thumb, for me, "A mentor is an individual, usually older, always more experienced, who helps and guides another individual’s development. This guidance is not done for personal gain..." is the rule of thumb i go by.

    i have Mentored a lot of new submissives, as being a submissive myself, to adhere to the "Old guard" way of thinking.

    Now there are legitimate mentors out there, but these are few and far between... a new girl/boy has to have not only the street smarts, but also has to listen to their inside voice, to be wary of those that pose as "mentors"...

    And as we all know, new submissives wanna do it all "RIGHT NOW", as we call sub frenzy..

    Very enlightening post, thank You for sharing it with us...


  4. I find this post quite fascinating, because it's something I have been wondering for some time now.

    I myself, although I've been submissive in my relationships always, consider myself a new submissive in the community. That is, I have yet to be involved in a full-fledged, all-out D/s relationship other than the situation that I currently find myself in. So I've given a lot of thought to the mentorship aspect of it.

    Reading the definitions among different people kind of confuses me a bit because while some make it seem as though a mentorship should be something that both parties set the rules for in the beginning. Like ~c, in terms of mentorship of any kind, I've always stuck to the same rule of thumb. However, I wonder if, because of how easily attached a submissive like me can become, it is reasonable or feasible that such a relationship can exist in the BDSM realm? Furthermore, in a D/lg dynamic, which in some respects involves a little more emotional attachment (at least in my limited experience it feels like it does), how is a mentorship role possible without some sort of intimacy?

    I don't know. Lots of muddled thoughts by this little girl. Pardon my lack of articulation today, my head is frazzled from all the silliness and the questions :).



  5. This is certainly interesting, and hearing about some of the rules underlines for me the reasons why I'm not part of the 'community'.

    I think that, in any alternative relationship, it's wise for both partners to look into established protocol, practices and rules, then see what works for them, logistically and emotionally. Even those of us with common interests have such varied needs.

  6. I found this interesting and made me look again at my relationship with my 'mentor'. I am not in a D/s relationship although the subject interests me. I believe I have sub tendencies.

    When I began blogging 2 years ago it was after 'my mentor' an online friend had got me to read his blog. I have since refered to him as 'my mentor' but meaning in the blogging world. Over time we have had many discussions about D/s relationships and also some BDSM.

    When I wanted to experience being spanked and caned he was the one I turned to. We have never been in a sexual relationship although we have been intimate.

    Recently I was chatting to a male online friend and referred to 'my mentor'. my friend said......'oh you have a mentor'. at the time I didn't think much about it but having read this post I wonder if my friend thought I ment a Dom mentor.

    Having read this post I am now wondering if 'my mentor' was actually leading me towards D/s as I had never thought about any of this before I became friends with him.

  7. Fascinating post. I've never been involved in the 'community'(didn't even know such a thing existed until a handful of years ago); strongly Dominant men have always gravitated towards myself, an innately submissive woman.

  8. Hmmmm, well to me a Mentor is a teacher, a can he "teach" the submissive without touching her? I suppose it simply means there are "different" types of Mentor/sub relationships.

    I am assuming, for instance, that a "new" submissive would need to be taught and trained....I certainly know that I do/did; and so, that would be part of my Mentor's job description...and I would certainly hope/think that would mean touching me.....smiles.

    The only downside, as other people have mentioned, is the growing bond/love that might be difficult, especially for the submissive, to fight against. There are, however, many, many, instances of Mentors and subs "falling" for each other and continuing on, to have a relationship.

    I think each Mentor/sub relationship is, most likely, unique and special, in its own right.

  9. like marianne, i believe in developing one's own rules - not just for an"alternative" relationship but in fact for ANY relationship. i think it is a by definition a healthy ting to do, because it requires self and mutual examination of emotions, desires, motives, values, and more, as well as a certain vigilance and consciousness in conducting the relationship.

    of course, that is all in an ideal world. in reality... well, we all know what happens in reality. sometimes we lose control. and when that happens, it doesn't matter where the rules came from. they're gone. out the window. smashed on the pavement below. and you're on your own in any case.

  10. You can never go wrong with a little continued education!