This article can be filed under “controversial” and “opinion” because it falls into both categories. You can also file it under “important,” because I think it is essential to objectively examine the practice of Dominants placing submissives “under their protection.” Although we have covered the basics in our previous kinkweekly.com article, “What Is A Mentor?”, I thought a more detailed look would be useful – especially to new submissives. As with many BDSM traditions, “mentoring” in this “Fifty Shades” world is disappearing. People are just jumping into Dom/sub relationships. But until the practice totally dies out, I think we should examine it – if only to protect those new subs who might encounter – or seek out – this way of entering the lifestyle.
To recap: let’s define what “under the protection of (the Dominant)” (often called “mentoring”) means. In theory, it is where an experienced Dominant selflessly looks out for and coaches a submissive. In practice, it ranges all the way from honorable, experienced Dom/mes showing newbies the ropes while protecting them from predators (best-case scenario), all the way to conniving Dom/mes using it as a way to quickly become the “de facto Dominant” without any of the responsibilities of a Master/Mistress (worst-case scenario.) Mentoring seems to have no historical basis in BDSM; I cannot find reference to it in “Old Guard” lore or anywhere else. It appears to be an Internet-inspired phenomenon; there are no universal standards.
In its ideal manifestation, mentoring has much to recommend it. An experienced Dominant is the perfect person to guide a newbie through the daunting maze that is BDSM. He/she can show the new submissive the ropes while also screening out potential predators who might seek to take advantage of the newbie’s newness. (That is either a neat phrase or totally lame!) But, life is rarely ideal. For example, let’s say the protector is tasked with screening potential Dom/mes for the submissive. The most experienced Dom/me is neither all-seeing nor all-knowing. I would be more comfortable if the job of screening potential Masters included consulting with the sub rather than screening them unilaterally, which is usually the case.
This practice is just begging to be abused. After all, who is protecting the submissive from the protector? Protection can turn out to be less a teacher/student relationship than a version of “Dom/sub light.” (Of course, if this is what the sub seeks, then this is fine.) Although this is truly an anecdotal observation (I have no hard statistics to back up this claim), it seems that this is especially true in a male Dom/female sub situation. In this “worst-case yet common” scenario, protection is just a way of getting the milk without buying the cow. The insecure Dom is able to take a female sub off the market quickly and become the sub’s sole support system. He quickly becomes the sub’s de-facto Dom – but without the responsibilities.
As with any social system, there are bound to be abuses. So, let’s give newbies a few tips that can help them choose a mentor/protector, should they decide to pick one.
1. Both of your agendas should match. See if your potential mentor has a hidden agenda that is at odds with yours. Is his/her primary motivation your well-being or is there another aspect to it? Often married men, or Doms with alpha slaves, will use protection as a way of rapidly snapping up an additional sub. If this is acceptable to you, this is fine; otherwise, be forewarned. Make sure both of your agendas match. This is probably the most important aspect when picking a protector.
2. Check out the protector’s reputation. Ideally, you should have a “protector protector.” As this is not only silly but also impractical, don’t jump under someone’s protection until you check him/her out. If you meet your “protector” at a local dungeon, ask around (including other subs.) If you met online, find real time people who know him and ask! The keyword is “ask.”
3. Use your “bullshit-detector.” Don’t simply rely on detective work and testimonials alone. Use your bullshit-detector. (If you don’t have one, they are on sale, this week only, on kinkweekly.com.) Does your gut tell you the Dom/me is honorable or is he/she being deceptive? Honesty is everything if you plan to trust someone else with critical decisions. So, trust your instincts – your built-in “bullshit detector.”
4. Look for red flags. If the protector says, “Don’t go on the Internet…resign from kinkweekly.com…don’t talk to this Dom or that Dom…give me all your passwords…I will screen your friends…I will control all your money…I am your sole source of information, etc.” Any one of these, especially anything having to do with your money, is a big red flag.
5. Don’t be desperate. Often the worst abuse comes when a submissive is at an emotional low point and seeks a “protector” to help sort things out. This is a very human need. However, if you are desperate, it might attract predator Doms who can sense your situation. Search with purpose, not with desperation.
6. Mentor should not be making demands. Ideally, a mentor should be there to help you learn or heal, and he/she should not be making demands or asking for control. Unless this is what you want, this should be a red flag.
7. Don’t get bum-rushed. If your potential protector says, “Now,” this is another red flag. True story: I was at a local dungeon with my collared slave and a play partner. Play partner leaves us, checking out the play space; half hour later she comes back and states, “I cannot talk to you anymore, I am under the protection of Lord Bla Bla Bla,” whom she just met. Shortly thereafter, she left the lifestyle in disgust. The world won’t end if you wait a week or two. (Although watching the news, I am not so sure.)
8. Negotiate. Just as you should negotiate a Dom/sub relationship, you should negotiate the rules of protection. Don’t leave it as a vague concept that basically gives the “protector” more influence in your life than even a Dom/me! Be specific – set hard limits and specify where the mentor’s areas of control and/or protection begin and end. For example, many subs want a protector to be with them at BDSM events and parties, so they don’t attend alone. This could be where the protector’s duties begin and end. Or, there could be more. No matter what, obligations and limits should be negotiated.
9. Have fun. As I have stressed over and over again, BDSM should be fun. If your mentor makes the whole process “un fun,” you are losing out. The last thing you need is to make BDSM a chore. (Unless, if course you enjoy not having fun. In which case, disregard this tip!)
Although the concept of mentoring and protection is an admirable one, one should never forget to always be vigilant. Not paranoid, vigilant. I hope these tips will keep you on your toes and, should you seek out a mentor/protector, you will choose wisely!
After a ten year run as head writer for the legendary bondage.com, and an equally long run as the host of the hit internet show “Baadmaster’s Dungeon,” we are pleased to welcome the one and only Baadmaster to KinkWeekly. His thoughts about all things BDSM will now appear regularly on these pages. From the mental aspects of D/s to the nuts and bolts of S&M play, Baadmaster will cover every facet of this ever expanding lifestyle.
When I finished reading this it dawned on me you omitted something that became obvious to me when I read your article (yet was something I had never thought about before).
If the relationship is actually mentoring it is supposed to end. A mentor both in and out of the scene is preparing someone to go out and thrive in the endeavor without any more help needed. That does not mean the relationship ends, just that it eventually is no longer primarily a mentoring relationship. If things seem to be designed to keep the mentee under the control of the mentor something is very wrong.
I know you said this multiple times, but some things cannot be said too often. It is a huge red flag if a protector or even a dom tries to cut off all outside communication by the sub.
Good observation. Yes, Richelieu, this should not be an open-ended relationship (unless both parties agree to this). That could easily be the tenth “commandment.”
thanks for these important tips baad!
Jason Hall says
I am so happy this type of info is available. I do not wish to be the one to completely screw things up for a new sub. Also, i wish i could reboot and find a Dom Mistress to show me the proper way again. My last only did as much she felt she needed out of it. :/