In the Kink Community we use a lot of words that are very specifically defined. Words like safewords, communication, vetting, and whole hosts of others prompting people to write BDSM glossaries every now and then.
But let’s take the word vetting in particular. Walking into my introductory munch, it was one of the things they briefly went over, with a demonstration. Perhaps because our purposes are different, the standard vanilla definition is close, but does not entirely explain: to investigate (someone) thoroughly, especially in order to ensure that they are suitable for a job requiring secrecy, loyalty, or trustworthiness.
To be fair, the secrecy, loyalty or trustworthiness portion is absolutely accurate. In the kink community, we want to make sure we can trust the people we play with, either casually or when considering them for a longer term power exchange or other relationship. For the bottom, they want to know they can trust their partner with their safety, as being restrained or even taking impact can be very vulnerable. For the top, they want to know the bottom is clearly communicating their limits and that interactions with this person won’t put them in jeopardy. It requires trust on all sides.
How we vet can often be a very individual thing. I have some pretty strong preferences in that area, myself.
For our group, we are welcoming every new person into our home. I want to be sure that we can not only trust them with that information, but that we trust them to build relationships with the other members of our flock. We see their safety as our responsibility.
For new people, that means meeting them at a small public event prior with the intention of getting to know them. If that cannot be scheduled, will they be attending as the guest of someone we already trust? Usually that is enough of a recommendation.
Sometimes that means reaching out to other group leaders we have met and digging around to see what past events the person has attended based on their Fet history.
We don’t reach out to people we don’t know to vet an individual. Whatever their reputation may be, if one of the group leaders doesn’t know them personally, we cannot accurately gauge their bias. To be fair, sometimes having met them, we still cannot accurately gauge that, but we feel it gives us better odds.
While the word-of-mouth system is not foolproof, by keeping our events small and having only three people do the vetting, we haven’t had any issues. We are very careful to keep an eye out when we see accusatory statements of local people violating the consent of others. If those accusations touch on one of our current or potential members, often that means a morning or two spent tracking down sources and getting as many first-hand accounts as possible, as gently and considerately as we are able. We understand there is no way to be entirely certain of a set of past events, but we do our best to extend sympathy while trying to determine if a person is “safe” to attend our events.
We are equally thorough in vetting our group chats. Often people feel safe sharing photos or personal anecdotes about work or their spawn, and we want to provide a safe place for that. We have to be able to trust that members understand confidentiality. We don’t play games of inclusion. It isn’t about judging any particular physical characteristic, for us it is a question of integrity. In fact, we welcome the socially awkward! Having these connections has helped some of our more introverted members become more comfortable with the people in our group, and has even led to some atending other local community events where before that thought caused anxiety.
When it comes to vetting for personal play, I find I am even more thorough. There are very few individuals I would personally put my stamp on. The last thing I would want is for someone to follow a recommendation of mine and have a poor experience. There are some tops I have seen complete scenes from negotiation down to aftercare and would highly recommend them to anyone. Others, I might only suggest to heavier players. Some I may not know well enough to feel comfortable forming and sharing an opinion on.
When vetting for myself, I like to reach out to mentors. Often they have a little more insight into what may become problem areas when dealing with an individual. Ultimately, I have to trust my own judgement. I spend time getting to know my play partners in a casual setting, first. Dinner, coffee, or general conversation. I want us to both have a good notion of what normal responses look like. I want us to solidly communicate expectations for play and have them align closely enough that we both feel comfortable. I want to exchange lists of preferences and limits. For me, pickup play is a safety risk I’m not comfortable taking, since as I’ve mentioned before, I can put my Master at risk if my own health is compromised.
Some people are less strict with vetting. Others may be more strict. I recommend informing yourself about the vetting processes of the groups you join. In the end, we all have to make the choices which work best for us, determining our own risk appetite as appropriate.
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