So, in a lot of writings online on sites devoted to BDSM and WIITHWD (What It Is That We Do), I constantly see notes about vetting the people you play with and checking references.
On one site, a young lady who was new to a town wanted to get some ideas on how best to check the experience of a Dom who was courting her.
She got the usual suggestions, then someone said something along the lines of:
I don’t check references, and I don’t trust people who speak of references. I do just fine on my own, thank you.
Granted, this is not a word-for word, but it does pretty much cover the concept as I read it, which got me thinking. And of course, once one person says something, all the others who are against or just not for references chime is as well.
And they make some valid points. And I thought of some other things that are rarely discussed myself, so I thought I’d write this.
References (HUH! YEAH!), What Are They Good For?
If you are a casual or heavy player, references are good to check on people that you are simply interested in doing particular types of scenes with. For example, learning about who offers the best needle scenes in a community, or whether HighDarkLordMasterMucketyMuck is really as good with a bullwhip as he claims.
If you have reason to mistrust your personal “picker,” and would like to get a good feel for how people are regarded in the community, to add to your own impressions.
If you met someone online, and you’d like to vet them as real.
If you just want to get a feel for a person, to see if it matches your personal impressions.
Absolutely Nothing (SAY IT, SAY IT, SAY IT!)
References are only worth how much you trust the people offering them.
Many people are not a part of the “community,” and therefore may not have any references. That does not make them bad people.
Some people give false references as a blind, knowing you probably won’t check them, because you’ll feel secure that they offered.
If you are confident in your own personal people-reading skills, you will likely do better making your own choices.
If you are interested in a relationship, versus casual play, references about relationships can get sketchy, because people are often either biased for or against.
References Don’t Work AFTER The Damage Is Done!
Several months ago, I taught a BJ class and an orgasm class at a local dungeon. Had a great time, met new people, and heard something that made my stomach sink.
Someone has used my name, my online presence, and their connection to me as a friend as a reference. And then gone on to be a bit of a dickhead.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time, nor the first person to do this. And also, unfortunately, I hear about it after the fact far more often than I am contacted before things can go wrong.
So, here’s a quick refresher on how to use a reference within the lifestyle:
1. Get a reference.
This could happen one of several ways: Someone gives you a name or several of people that they are confident will say good things about them. Perhaps they mention the name of someone who has a good reputation in the community in passing, as if they know them well. Better yet, you watch them online, and choose random interactions to learn about them.
2. Check the reference.
Yes. You read that right. You actually need to check the reference. That means reaching out, possibly to someone you don’t know, and asking, “Is this person OK? Could you or would you recommend getting into a relationship or playing with him/her?”
3. Repeat 1 & 2.
If possible, check several references.
4. Make your own decision based on what you’ve learned.
Of course, no amount of reference checking is going to tell you everything you need to know about a person. You have to make your educated choices based on your own gut and what people have to say.
That’s how it’s done. Easy.
How NOT to use a reference within the lifestyle:
1. Get a reference.
Someone gives you a name or several of people that they are confident will say good things about them. Perhaps they mention the name of someone who has a good reputation in the community in passing, as if they know them well.
2. Use the fact that they offered the reference (however obliquely) AS A REFERENCE.
This person knows all of these people. They must be awesomesauce. Get nekkid, play, and bare your soul without common sense, because, hey! They know people.
Let me state for the record: I have friends on online and in real life that I would not and could not recommend for play.
I bet other people do, too.
Maybe it’s because I don’t know them well enough (many people friend me online to follow my writings), or it could be because I disagree with how they play, their philosophies, etc. I may have them on my friends list because I want to keep an eye on them…
The point of references is not to find out how many people friend someone on FetLife. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s about checking the overall character of a person that you may choose to share your mind and body with.
To me, that is worth a bit of effort.
More than a bit.
So, I beg you, if you are given my name as a reference, USE IT.
Contact me. Ask me questions. At the very least, you may find that the person who is casually throwing my name around didn’t bother to ask me if I would give a reference (they rarely do, BTW), or you may discover that I have quite a bit to say about a certain person, that can help you make a decision to play or not.
It hurts my heart to hear the stories of people blindly trusting others because of my perceived status…
Especially when my status is really only perceived. I’m not all that and a bag of chips. I fully expect and encourage ANYONE interested in playing with me to vet me carefully as well.
If you are interested in playing with me (or anyone), or pursuing some sort of relationship with me:
• Look over my online profile(s).
• Read what I have to say.
• Reach out to my relationships (for example, to make sure I’m as open/poly as I say, and not just a liar).
• Go to events and watch how I interact with others.
• Follow my activities online, and see who I interact with and how: Does the way I communicate and treat people makes you feel safe and secure, warm and fuzzy, or a bit uncomfortable?
• Reach out to people within my local community and ask them about me.
I can pretty much guarantee reviews of Nookie won’t be 100% positive, and that’s OK. No one is loved by everyone. However, if you’re serious about getting involved with me (which means letting me into your head), then you should be serious about finding out as much about me as possible.
Because, when it comes right down to it, whether sub or dom or top or bottom or switch or kinkster or whatever, the only person who is always there to look out for you is you.
All of that said…
I give references. I encourage people to look me up, to KNOW that I am real, to see how I interact with people online, and see how they say that they enjoyed seeing me last night, or whatever.
I happily provide references. Honest ones. I don’t pretend I know someone more than I do, nor do I say good things because I like someone.
I believe references have a place in this world. And I will make use of them.
I also don’t personally feel a NEED for them, myself, because I like my picker, and I take time to really get to know people before I play or have relationships with them, generally.
What are YOUR thoughts on references? How do you use them, if you do? How do they fit into your life?
Nookie is a mostly FemDom-leaning North Carolina kinkster with a wide variety of
interests, and a penchant for writing and teaching. She and her work
can be found on Fetlife and tumblr.
Keith M. Anderson says
I’m very afraid of crazy because those who possess a true twist know this about themselves and hide it extremely well, until the moment some word, aura, situation or whatever, triggers them into displaying it. The results can be at least emotionally or physically damaging, if they aren’t fatal. I trust my perceptiveness more than anyone else’s, as I suppose we all do, but I’ve been wrong about three too many ladies I’ve had scenes with, who I would have bet anything were strong, very down-to-earth, rational women who went berserk. One of them attacked me with a kitchen knife when I stopped at her apartment to pick her up, screaming she saw me with that bitch. Who she was talking about, I had no idea. I’d just come from the airport after flying back home from a week in Seattle. What I’m getting at here is, everyone I knew thought as highly of her as I did up until that point. Be careful because, you just never know.
Great read, and important topic. I tend to agree with your cautionary tale and approach.
My House and I developed something a bit extra when it comes to Vetting, as you and your readers can likely agree the term “vetting” is rather open to interpenetration and could backfire easily.
Check out the link referenced for more info on what we call “Closed Loop Vetting”
Good advice. I have to admit I haven’t been that studious at checking references of people in the past before doing a scene with them. But probably a good idea…