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A Rant on Mentorship

© 2011 Ambrosio

Something I see quite often is a post from a novice that reads something like:

"Hi.  I'm brand new to BDSM and I want to find a mentor to teach me about safety and stuff."

I can understand the inclination to search out for a mentor when you're just starting out.  I've wanted a mentor before.

Some years ago --- I'd rather not get more specific than that --- when I was still in middle school, I wanted to be a magician.  I wanted to master the skills and techniques of the great illusionist.  I wanted to astound my friends and family with my skills and talents.  I had many books containing magic tricks which I had thumbed through.  I knew hundreds of tricks --- not by first hand experience but from reading the recipes.  I could explain away the feats which famous illusionists performed on television.  But I felt I was lacking some secret ingredient.

I knew of an amateur magician who owned a liqueur store and occasionally I'd see him and ask him to teach me how to be a magician.  His answer was always the same: "Choose 8 magic tricks from your library, practice them until you can do them well, come to me, show me your tricks, and then I'll teach you some magic."

I felt I was getting the brush off.  Perhaps I was.  But he was giving me the right answer.  I had no right in asking him to "teach" me if I wasn't willing to first learn the basics on my own.  It would have been a waste of both his time and mine.

With magic --- as with many other skills --- you can learn the basics from books and pamphlets. Once you know the mechanics of a trick, it follows that a more experienced magician can guide you to the next level. He can advise you about technique and style. But if you haven't learned the basics first, there's little he can do that will help you.

Back in the 40s, 50s and 60s  --- before Drummer magazine, The Leatherman's Handbook, The Loving Dominant, S&M 101, the Society of Janus, and Internet newsgroups and web sites --- the only way to learn how to do what we do safely and well was to learn directly from someone else.  Mentors weren't someone from whom you wanted to learn.  Mentors were someone from whom you had to learn if you were to learn at all.  The only other option was trial and error and error could mean serious injury, disfigurement, and death.

But now we have classes, books, magazine, web site, organizations, and conferences where we can get instructions in all manner of safety, tricks, and techniques.  Printed resources can't give you a complete education.  There's a limit to what they can teach you no mater how knowledgeable the author or how well written.  One on one instruction is still invaluable --- but not for everything.

So if you're looking for a mentor to teach you about BDSM, my response is this:  take some classes, read some books, visit some web sites, and maybe attend some conferences.  When you've learned about safety, protocol, and technique then come back to me.   Then I'll teach you some magic.

Related Article: See also Mentorship by Mistress Constance

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