In our local scene, there is talk of starting up a mentoring program to help people (who are interested in participating in the program) navigate the bdsm world. The idea of helping new people is close to my heart since I had a difficult time getting into the community. I run a monthly gateway meeting for new folks where I (along with a rotating co-host) give information on local groups and events, as well as answering any questions they may have. Lots of people who started at these meetings have expressed gratitude. But individual mentoring is more personal and time-consuming.
I wouldn’t mind volunteering as a mentor in this program if it comes to pass. To clarify, this would not involve play or sex, but simply conversation. Most likely I’d be a decent mentor for someone who is submissive. Quite a few dominant women have asked me for advice though, and I’ve also helped dominants and switches of various genders who were trying to find their way in bdsm. So I don’t believe that mentoring necessarily has to be sub-to-sub or dom-to-dom. But it’s probably better to match the mentor with a mentee who is of the same d/s position since there’s less opportunity for abuse of power.
And for the record, every time I type “mentee”, I think of manatees, and it makes me chuckle. Sea cows. Yeah.
One guy in the local community came to me early on. He was new and submissive. He was reading a lot online, and he kept coming across all the crap that says, “real subs do this and that, and if you want do be a good slave you have to do x and y.” None of the propaganda struck him as legitimate, and he was confused. So he asked me if he could ask a few questions about femdom. We talked. I answered his questions and pointed him toward some resources online. I answered his questions and made sure he knew that my experience was only my preferred flavor of femdom. I recommended getting information from multiple sources. Month after month, we had a lot of conversations which slowly helped him remove his training wheels. He told me that he considered me a mentor. While that felt wonderful to hear that he valued my opinion so highly, it also made me cringe a little; the mentorship programs I’d seen before typically were very rigid and resulted in either brainwashing or the mentee thinking they weren’t really cut out for bdsm. These programs often carried an implication of “if you don’t do things this way, you’re not really submissive.”
Mentor, role-model, friend… whatever you want to call it, he’s now off and running on his own. We’re good friends, and he still occasionally comes to me for advice. It feels good to help.
Stabbity wrote in a recent post that all these actions attributed to mentors are things that friends should do for each other. I agree wholeheartedly. Everything should be done with the goal of helping the mentee find their own way of doing things. This takes time. Still, some friends might get annoyed if one friend kept coming to them over and over again with questions and concerns that required detailed answers. And maybe even *gasp* some thinking and effort on the part of the person being asked. So it seems to me that a mentor is someone who consents to giving that bit of extra effort, to having long conversations about the minutiae of what we do.
Everyone has their own learning style. Some learn better is a highly structured environment, while others thrive in a more free-form situation. In learning about oneself, learning style is still important to take into consideration. Those who prefer structure may be better off with a highly-involved mentor or three. Someone who doesn’t do well with structure might just need a few people now and then to bounce an occasional idea off of. Mentoring can be successful as long as everyone involved keeps their wits about them and doesn’t try to take advantage of the mentees.