October 19, 2008

Also mentoring?

Previously, I talked about Mentoring (with a capital M) and the traditional rules and practices relative to the Dominants who Mentor and the submissives they teach. Several comments revolved around the formality of the relationship and the defined separation between the Mentor and the student/mentee/protégé, and rightly so. That is, that there should be no intimacy and/or play between the Mentor and the submissive, and the construct of the Mentoring relationship was discussed.

There are certainly unscrupulous people who will take advantage of a girl in such a "mentoring" situation, to wit:
"I now have a mentor/protector the trouble is i feel He is treating me more like a sub. He asked me to shave myself, i just trimmed it, then He wanted photos. (he is supposedly an on line so called mentor) I've not taken these yet. The thing that worries me most is He asked me to go without panties for seven days. This terrifies me as i may be soon working in an area of child care. I emailed Him with these concerns and still haven't heard. I thought a mentor was meant to guide and support someone and not set tasks that i believe are too much for me."

This sounds like an example of exactly what I was talking about when I said, these rules are 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. But perhaps the act of defining such roles and structures leads to the confusion and expectations this girl felt; that she would even question if it was possibly proper, if there were not some construct in place that suggested this man might have some sort of power over her. I cannot believe that any of the women I know would fall for this sort of treatment.

I think there are different constructs within the formality of these "communities", and the relationships that are formed within those communities or groups, can be different than the relationships that are formed between individuals. In general discussions, the terms, "mentor" and "mentoring" are used rather loosely to describe a wide range of roles and activities, and so the words have come to mean different things to different people. The formality of the role of Mentor in the leather community is a different than the role I, as a dominant, might fulfill answering questions from a submissive that reads my blog and sends me an email with questions, although she might very well consider it mentoring. And, if that correspondence continues on an ongoing basis, I might well be considered a mentor (with a small m), but that is certainly different from a Mentor.

And as that relationship develops, and she continues to think of him as her mentor, there is a likelihood that some affection and caring might develop, some intimacy. As many of you said, it seems that intimacy is inherent in the development and growth of the relationship. That the term mentor is used to describe the dominant in this kind of fledgling relationship might be a misnomer, but it is the word used by many people when forming a relationship. These submissives have not said, I want to go out and learn things from a teacher, I am going to find a mentor.

Perhaps the notion that a dominant/mentor that plays with a submissive is automatically being inappropriate is incorrect. And worse, I think it can be interpreted as insulting by implying that the submissive is too fragile or ignorant to be able to tell the difference between a learning experience and an experience of more emotional depth. I think it also paints the dominant as predatory and self-serving. Some people may be all those things, but I think making that general assumption is incorrect. In many cases it is just the natural evolution of a dominant and submissive relationship.

Every time I try to write about this I think I get stuck between the formal BDSM-D/s that is what communities are formed around, and the informal BDSM-D/s that is the personal thing that many of us feel is part and parcel of how we relate to a partner, as part of our routine day to day interactions, as part of foreplay and sex play, part of our emotional make-up.

I certainly appreciate the comments everyone provided previously, thank you all very much. I think both perspectives were well represented; the formal community-based notion that a Mentor is a teacher with limitations and boundaries constricting their role, and the more personal notion of a forming a relationship with a dominant who will be teaching them things about themselves and about BDSM-D/s, who they identify as a mentor.

There seems to be a lot of discussion of this topic out there in "the cloud", or perhaps it is just that since I have been thinking about it, I have somehow figuratively, stepped into the conversation stream.