Not long ago I was chatting with some kinky friends and the subject of years of experience in the scene came up. Specifically, the way we give people more credit than they necessarily deserve just because they’ve hung around for a while. It’s absolutely normal to assume someone knows more than you do if they’ve been around for longer, but it’s also important to remember that just grimly sticking around does not make a person smarter than you, it doesn’t mean they’re amazing at everything, it doesn’t mean they know what’s right for you, and it doesn’t even mean that they’re good at much of anything. All it means is that they’ve stuck around.
Taking myself as an example, I’ve been part of the local scene for around seven years. Impressive, huh? Well, not so much. First of all, while I started showing up about seven years ago, that doesn’t mean I’ve been coming to events at all regularly. The organizer of those munches used to good naturedly tease me about how I would show up once a year and then go back into hibernation. Even after I started showing up to munches and parties more regularly, there were plenty of times where I was especially busy or just feeling anti-social and didn’t come to much of anything.
Not only does however many years of experience not tell you much at all about how many events someone has gone to, but it doesn’t tell you anything about how much they’ve been playing either. I played fairly regularly at parties for the first few years I was in the scene, then that tapered off for a while, then I started playing mostly privately, then I had another dry spell, and more recently I’ve been playing privately again. Even if I could come up with a rough estimate of how many scenes I’ve done, that wouldn’t tell you whether I’ve been learning from each scene or if I’ve been making the same mistakes over and over. It wouldn’t tell you how the people I’ve played with felt about the scenes we had, or whether I’ve been playing infrequently because I’m picky, shy, and kind of a dork or because I’m such an asshole that I can’t find people to play with.
Of course, having tons of play partners doesn’t necessarily mean much either. Pretty much any idiot can prey on new people who don’t know any better and look like the best thing since sliced bread unless/until they finally hurt someone who has friends and the house of cards comes down. Even having long term relationships doesn’t mean someone is a good person, let alone a good pervert. The whole birthday spankings at munches debacle in my local scene completely destroyed my respect for a number of people who have been part of the scene for longer than I’ve been living outside of my parents’ house and have had plenty of serious long term relationships.
If someone’s advice sounds reasonable to you, if you like the way they play or run their relationships and think something similar would work for you, by all means listen to them. But do not take anyone’s word as gospel just because they’ve been around longer than you have. Despite what some douchebags out there will tell you, you don’t owe any special treatment to people who have been in the scene for longer than you. If somebody wants you to hang on their every word, they can goddamn well earn it.