Are stupid. As well as liable to go wrong in fun and exciting ways. Unfortunately, they both look like good ideas on the surface.
In theory, a mentor is someone whose judgement you trust, who helps you learn to be a better submissive/dominant/switch/fill in the blank and gives you advice. If that was actually how it worked out in real life, I’d be all for it. Sadly, ‘mentoring’ generally ends up being an excuse to pounce on the fresh meat while pretending you’re only interested in teaching them. ‘Protecting’ is generally more limited, but can also be abused in much the same way, as well as being insulting to capable adults who happen to identify as submissive.
A real mentor is NOT necessarily dominant. Dominant identified people are absolutely not the font of all knowledge in the scene. A fellow submissive is probably the best person to teach a new submissive about the kinds of crap a bad or misguided dominant might pull. It’s technically possible for a dominant to mentor a submissive, but a purely altruistic exchange of information is probably not what a person has in mind if they pounce on a new submissive and offer to ‘mentor’ them.
Competition for the new blood in the scene can be stiff, and one way unscrupulous dominants try to give themselves an advantage is by offering to ‘mentor’ someone. This lets them appear altruistic while they use the mentoring relationship to get the submissive attached to them and to control their access to information. By controlling access to information, they can convince the submissive that the way they want her/him to submit is the one correct way. If that sounds kind of pathetic, that’s because it is in fact pathetic. If you can’t get someone to choose to submit to you on your own merits, without resorting to misleading them about what kind of relationship you’re after, what business do you have calling yourself dominant?
A real mentor does NOT, under any circumstances, play with their mentee. We already have a handy word in the scene for someone you play with: ‘play partner’. A mentor is supposed to be something entirely different. They’re also supposed to be able to offer unbiased advice, the way a trusted friend would. How can a mentee possibly get unbiased advice about something that went wrong in the scene they had the other day when they had that scene with their mentor?
Playing with someone you’re supposedly mentoring is a clear and obvious conflict of interest. Even if nothing goes horribly wrong, an ethical person would not put themselves in a situation so likely to go haywire. It’s simply too easy for a mentor to give in to the temptation to tell their mentee not to play with someone who they’re worried might steal them away, or avoid giving them information that might cause them to ask inconvenient questions about their mentor’s proficiency with their toys/protocol choices/how the scene actually works/what’s really going on. It’s also too easy for the mentee to avoid disagreeing with their mentor for fear of losing their play partner or being punished in scene.
Even in the more regulated environment of a job, a mentor is still generally someone other than the mentee’s boss. Again, that’s because of conflicts of interest. What’s best for a person’s career may be very different from what’s most convenient for their boss, making it very difficult for the mentee to get unbiased advice if their mentor and their boss are the same person.
A real mentor does NOT engage in power exchange with their mentee. Just like non-power-exchange play with the mentee, this is a conflict of interest. Once you set up a power exchange relationship with someone, you’re no longer an advisor, you’re a mistress/master/owner/etc. If you want to be someone’s mistress that’s great, but calling yourself a mentor while you act like a mistress is dishonest. Lying is a kind of a dick move, and also completely counterproductive. Misleading someone about your intentions certainly won’t make them stick around, and if they’re dumb enough to be fooled for any length of time, do you really want them around?
A real mentor points the mentee towards a wide range of resources, even ones which the mentor doesn’t necessarily agree with, and encourages them to talk with other people and gather a range of opinions. You don’t necessarily have to have an extensive library of bdsm related books to be a mentor, but you really do have to be able to give your mentee information in some form, whether that’s a list of links to read through or a list of people who are especially skilled in certain areas to talk to. If you can’t provide someone with information and help them learn to find things on their own, you have no business calling yourself a mentor. If you really need a fancy title to make yourself feel important, there are plenty of other ones to choose from.
A protector is generally even less useful than a ‘mentor’. Supposedly a protector looks out for a poor, vulnerable submissive, who is clearly too sweet and innocent (read, stupid and helpless) to a) figure out on her/his own who is safe to play with, and b) tell a top/dom/whatever who she/he doesn’t want to play with to back off.
There are very, very few situations in which I think a ‘protector’ figure has any use at all (aside from making said protector feel important).
- A bottom-type person who is completely new to the scene and going to their very first play party might feel more comfortable with a trusted friend who is there specifically to look after them and make sure no-one tries to talk them into doing anything they’re not completely comfortable with.
- A bottom-type person who knows their judgement of people is not always the best might choose to compensate for that by running potential play partners past a trusted friend before doing anything with them. This could also protect them from at least some predators by making it more trouble than it would be worth to either get the go ahead from their protector or persuade the person to go behind their protector’s back.
- A bottom-type person who is in fact perfectly comfortable telling people she/he doesn’t want to play with that no, she/he’s actually not at all turned on by their grandiose titles and domlier-than-thou posturing could easily get sick of tops arguing with her/his reasons for not wanting to play with them and ask a trusted friend to pose as her/his ‘protector’ for the sake of cutting those arguments short.
Note that none of these reasons have anything to do with submissive people being fundamentally unable to look after themselves just because they’re submissive. The idea that submissive people need a dominant to look after them is stupid and insulting. Assuming that a submissive person is submissive to everyone and therefore can’t say no when they need to makes as much sense as assuming that because I’m a straight woman I’m attracted to all men and can’t say no to the ones who aren’t compatible with me.
So, all together a mentor and protector would ideally:
- Give you a sounding board for ideas
- Point you toward information you might not have found on your own
- Give you advice to help you develop in your chosen role/figure out which role works for you
- Look out for your best interests
- Help keep you safe
Does that list remind anyone of a certain relationship that doesn’t have a pompous title? Oh yes, I think it might possibly be, what’s the word…. ‘friendship‘. A good friend who has some experience in the scene would do any of the things a mentor or protector is supposed to do, without lying about their intentions. So what’s the point of ‘mentoring’ and ‘protecting’ again? Making ‘mentors’ and ‘protectors’ feel important.