We all believe we have something to contribute, and we do. Just because I have expertise in one area of kink, does not mean the knowledge and perspective of someone else who is less experienced is any less valuable. Others want to know what we know! It is why so many forums about kink exist.
These platforms give us a place to learn from others and hopefully find help with our own growth. Sometimes those conversations migrate away from munches and kinks. People newer to the Lifestyle look for people they click with, to help guide them. Mentors.
However there seems to be a scarcity of available mentors forcing too many to seek their information solely from online platforms. This is worrisome as the nuance of kink and the bond is missed when firsthand observations are not available. I do not think it an understatement that mentoring in our community is more important than ever.
Understandably, many who have been in kink for a long time are overwhelmed by the numbers of new people to kink. Quite simply, in my experience, we are far outnumbered. This brings a new set of challenges in mentoring and guiding others. We want, and like, to help other people who genuinely care to learn. However, sometimes we have to be careful what we wish for, we might just get it, and then some. As mentors, we can get in over our heads.
What is Mentoring?
We do talk about mentoring a lot in forums and other venues, but what is a mentor? By definition, a mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor who provides guidance and possibly training. It’s a relationship designed to pass knowledge, to help others avoid mistakes we may have made ourselves, and a way we can learn more about ourselves through teaching others. By virtue of the relationship, the mentor is taking on a responsibility, less formal than having a submissive, but more formal than a mere friend. The responsibility of being a guide.
Mentoring can be immensely rewarding. There is a joy that goes with helping someone else succeed. We get to reexperience some of the things we have learned as we came up. Often, we begin remembering lessons we learned, and have since forgotten, or just started taking for granted. We learn new perspectives, as often our mentees see things in a different light than we do. We are challenged, to help solve issues we may never have considered before. As a result of all these things, we grow also.
Like any other type of relationship, mentoring has traps and pitfalls which are easily fallen into if we, do not take the time to think things through. Please, don’t take this as me trying to scare you off. I am not! However, if this can save you some pain in the process, then why shouldn’t I share what I have learned? Here are just a few of the more common ones.
Things to Consider
Time Management: Have you ever been involved in an activity or organization where you got to the point, “Damn, this is eating up all my spare time! How did I get here?” I have, on more than one occasion. It was my own fault. I failed to set personal boundaries regarding my time, and kept saying yes to things, when I really should have said no. That drive to help blinded me. As a result, other things in my life suffered, or the organization I was volunteering for or mentee suffered. There are only so many hours in the day, guard them wisely.
If we take on a mentoring role, real thought should be given regarding how much time you can dedicate without doing ourself, or our mentee a disservice. There may be times you have to decline being a mentor, just because, you do not have the time. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t try to help occasionally, just we may not be able to help as much as they would like us to.
Ask these questions- How much time can I give this person on a weekly or monthly basis? How much time do they believe they need from me? Do these line up? Is there somewhere in the middle that would work for both of us? How is the time I plan to give to the mentee going to impact the other parts of my life?
Making Your Goals Theirs: It is easy for us to project what we want to accomplish onto another person. We’ve done something, it worked, why not? Because it’s not our journey, it’s theirs.
As a mentor, in my opinion, our job is not to guide the mentee to a specific result, but to act as a road map. To present options, provoke thought, encourage growth and progress, be a sounding board, and share perspectives. We can and should be the legend on the map, “There be dragons here!!!” Yet ultimately, whether they go to meet the dragons is the mentee’s choice. We want them to make good decisions, to do that, they need to be presented with the options and consequences of those options, both good and bad. Once that is done, it is up to them.
Ask them up front- What are your expectations from me as a mentor? What are your goals? What are you interested in learning?
Sure, there are the fundamentals in the Lifestyle, I believe, everyone should be introduced to such as safety, respect, and core values. Beyond those things, we help guide the mentee toward what they would like to achieve while pointing out possible traps along the way.
Assuming We Can Fix Them: I am so guilty of this. Some people never really wanted our help in the first place, or they get into kink and the Lifestyle for all the wrong reasons. We make assumptions about being able to turn them around thinking, “If I can just get them to understand this (fill in the blank),” and other variations of that thought. If we find ourselves on this track of thinking, the relationship is no longer about how we can help them, it is about us not wanting to fail. Failure sucks! I get it.
What you may not realize at that point, is that you didn’t fail. You were set up for it and it’s no one’s fault. Some people just are not ready to listen or be helped even if they are expressing otherwise. Recognizing this and knowing when to end a mentoring relationship can be difficult. However, if you do not you are going to wind up hurting yourself, and little or nothing will have changed for your mentee. They must be ready to learn and want to learn for the right reasons.
Making Decisions for the Mentee: “What do you think I should do?” Is a common question I am asked by a mentee. Making decisions can be hard business, why wouldn’t they want their experienced guide to make it for them? I have made this mistake as a mentor, as well as having been guilty of trying to get some of my mentors to make decisions for me. As hard as it is to remain neutral when guiding someone, being that middle grounds and pointing out options will be better for them, and you, in the end.
People become more invested in their success, if it was their success. Conversely, they learn from their mistakes more readily when they can’t blame it on someone else. They choose, good or bad result, it was their choice. When the mentee gets to own the good and the bad, they grow. We need to allow them to do that, even though it can be cringy and painful to watch at times.
Sometimes the Best Way to Learn is to Teach
Mentoring is a great tool and can be a phenomenal experience for both the mentor and mentee. I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested, to give it some serious thought. Not just Tops, Dominants and Masters…… bottoms, submissives and slaves. It takes all walks to fill these roles in our community. And you get something out of it too!!!!
We get to learn about ourselves, find new ways to look at old lessons we had learned, and get a unique opportunity to challenge our own assumptions about kink and the lifestyle. Throughout the process we get the satisfaction of seeing someone grow and develop in a way which is healthy for them and hopefully mold them into an asset for the community.
There will be highs and lows along the way, but in the end, it is worth it. Hopefully, what I wrote hasn’t discouraged you, and maybe armed you with some information to make your mentoring experiences better. Whatever you do, remember to have fun with it!
Make the experience something worthwhile for both of you.