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SM Mentoring FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1.  Q. What is mentoring?

A.  Mentoring is "the most complex of all human activities because it involves and amalgam of teaching, counseling, negotiating, supervising, coaching, persuading, and other personal and interpersonal skills." U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles

2.  Q. What is SM mentoring?

A.   SM Mentoring is a partnership in which an experienced SM player (mentor) provides information, guidance and support to another person (mentee or associate). SM Mentoring is a powerful and popular way for leatherfolk to learn a variety of interpersonal and scene-related skills.  Simply put, SM Mentoring is a process, a set of behaviors,
and a relationship between two or more leatherfolk who share their SM journey to explore the heights and plummet the depths of SM experience together.

3.  Q.  What is an SM Mentor?

A.  An SM mentor is a trusted, experienced SM player who serves as a counselor, guide, teacher, coach, motivator, sponsor, advisor, referral agent, role model, and door opener. An SM mentor is a leatherperson who has a sincere desire to enhance the success of others in the leather tribe. An effective SM mentor is not only an experienced player, but is a supportive, patient, honest, trustworthy, empathic, and effective communicator.  An SM mentor facilitates the mentee's personal growth as an SM player and member of the leather tribe by sharing experience, strength, hope,
knowledge, skill and insights that have been learned through theyears.

4.  Q. What is an SM Mentee or Protégé?

A.  A SM mentee or protégé is a novice, newbie or simply an SM player or leatherperson who wants to learn more about SM and living in leather through an intimate relationship with a more experienced SM player or leather person.  An SM mentee usually is open to exploring the whats, whys, and hows for living in leather. Leather neophytes learn the unwritten protocols for living in leather and working with the sacred fires of SM.

5.  Q.  What are the roles of an SM Mentor?

A.  An SM Mentor can have many roles: SM Role Model, SM Supporter, SM teacher, SM Companion, and SM Resource.

6.  Q.  What are the origins of SM Mentoring?

A. In the leather tribe, mentoring was the responsibility of the Old Guard Elders who slowly exposed novice leatherfolk to the lifestyle and provided socialization.  These elders attracted and socialized newcomers into the leather scene through the protocols and made them part of their "family," "clan" or later, motorcycle club or fraternity. The elders gave "advice for love life and sex life; a home-life with our own kind; a place to barbecue on weekends; information about how leathersex worked; information on who the responsible players in the community were, the protocols and general

7.  Q.  What about Mentoring in the New Guard?

A.  With the advent of the New Guard, with its focus on inclusivity (everyone can enjoy and have access SM and leathersex), spirituality (the interrelatedness of SM with spiritual transformation), and community (focusing on being part of a larger leather tribe that has many groups), new ways are slowly evolving to mentor a new era of leatherfolk in the art, spirituality and erotic ethos of SM and

8.  Q.  Who are SM Mentors?

A.  SM Mentors can be fuckbuddies, friends, club brothers or sisters, relatives, coworkers, teachers, as well as historic or contemporary personalities. Most often, an SM mentor is a more experienced or older person who acts as a role model, teacher, challenger, guide or cheerleader.

9.  Q.  Is SM Mentoring a formal or informal relationship between a mentor and mentee?

A.  Many leatherfolk mistakenly conceive that mentoring in times past was only of the informal sort as we now call it. In fact it was anything but. The process was commonly contractual, though unwritten, just as a Master and slave would have a contract that outlined their relationship. The mentoring process followed a series of stages,
involved tests of ability and had a progressive but clear delineation between the novice and the more experienced player.  You can write a formal mentoring contract that clearly outlines what will be accomplished in the mentoring relationship.

10.  Q. What does a SM Mentoring contract include?

A.  In a formal mentoring contract, the mentor and mentee agree to enter into a mentoring relationship with a clear understanding of the strengths and limitations of any mentoring relationship.  Both parties agree to commit themselves to work together in their personal
development as SM players and leatherfolk through a relationship based on trust and openness, and by implementing an action plan that might include a vision statement, realistic goals and specific measurable objectives, specific activities,  and a timeline for periodic meetings (i.e., weekly, biweekly, etc.), as well as a timeline for reviewing and ending the relationship, and finally, ground rules for the relationship. In the contract, both mentor and mentee agree to respect each others confidence, work at building and maintaining trust in each other, and promise to be open and forthright with each other. Further, both parties agree to respect each other's limits and desires IF they engage in SM work with each other.

11.  Q.  What about intimacy (physical, sexual, emotional, etc.) in the mentoring relationship?  Do mentor's and mentee's work SM together?  Is sex OK between mentor and mentee?

A.  To play or not to play? is a question that the mentor and mentee will discuss when they set the ground rules for the mentoring relationship.  Most likely, the mentor and protégé will work SM scenes together, for we manifest our innermost selves, express the WHAT of leathersex, and reveal our personal answers to the WHY and SO WHAT -- the meaning of SM in our daily lives -- during SM work, which
is one of the main areas discussed in a mentoring relationship.

12.  Q.  Is there an order to the things to be taught in an SM
Mentoring relationship?

A.  The order of things to be taught depends on the status of your protégé: novice, experienced, very experienced, as well as what your protégé has negotiated with you in defining that areas to be addressed in your relationship (goals, objectives and activities).

13.  Q. How does an SM Mentor select potential mentees?

A.      Many mentors expect that the relationship will operate in their "comfort zone." To be in the comfort zone requires a good fit between mentor and mentee, that is the mentor has the SM experience the mentee wants to learn and/or explore and the mentee and mentor are comfortable in exploring SM together.  The mentor will want "low risk mentoring" since what your protege does reflects on you.  A mentor usually wants a "high degree of success predictability," that
is, the mentor/mentee personalities mesh and that they are
comfortable in working and relating with each other.

14.  Q. How does a Mentor cope with betrayal in the SM mentoring relationship?

A.  Make sure your mentee can be trusted with information, whether this be technical, business or personal information about yourself. Likewise, be sure that you can be trusted with keeping similar information about your mentees confidential. Breech of this trust and any form of betrayal typically ends the relationship.

15.  Q.  How does the mentor's self-identity (sadist, masochist, switch, etc.) affect the mentoring relationship?

A.  SM mentors are not necessarily Doms, Tops, Sadists, Gurus or Masters. Mentors and mentees are equals. In reality, as you go through the mentoring process, there's no separation between mentors and mentees. As mentees face their beasts, so does the Mentor face his or her beasts.  Doms and Subs, sadists and masochists alike must
empty themselves and remain open in the SM mentoring relationship. Being empty, means being truly vulnerable, something that Doms and subs alike must embrace, and for which we discipline ourselves to be in a better position to receive. The sadist who is full of himself, cannot receive the gift of true masochism. The masochist who is full of himself, cannot be empty to receive the sadist. The SM Mentor
actually strives to appear less knowledgeable than he or she is, and in the process, commits fewer errors and mistakes.

16.  Q.  What is the difference between mentoring, counseling and therapy?

A.  A Mentor is not a therapist, parole officer or
psycho-pharmacologist.  A mentor does have keen interpersonal skills, is a good listener, and usually spends more time listening than talking in the relationship.  While a mentor does use similar skills as a counselor or a therapist, like asking open-ended questions, a mentor knows when to tell his or her protégé to seek professional help to deal with certain issues.  It is important for a mentor to know of local Kink Aware Professionals to whom he can make referrals
when appropriate.  Finally, a mentor does not give any form of psychiatric drugs (valium, xanax, etc.) to mentees.

17.  Q. Are there limits on a mentor's control?

A.  An SM mentoring relationship is not an SM relationship per se, that is, power exchange and role-play is not appropriate in the mentoring relationship. The mentor and mentee are equals, one is not dominant and the other submissive in the relationship.  Both are equals, sharing a common leather journey together.

18.  Q. Are there some good resources to help SM Mentors?

A.  No one has written a handbook for SM Mentors, however there are many books and websites available about mentoring in general.  An excellent resource on the mentoring relationship is "Mentoring: The Tao of Giving and Receiving Wisdom," by Chunglian Al Huang and Jerry
Lynch, Harper San Francisco, 1995.  An excellent website, with links to other mentoring websites is: "The Directory of Mentor Arts and Mentorship" at

19.  Q. What is the most valuable SM technique?

A.  The most valuable technique is being able to understand how much fear the person has. What are they afraid of? Authority figures? Their own inadequacy? That they don't wear the right clothes or have the right background and experience?  Determine who they are by what they fear. Then work on what their fear is. Find a way to start
chipping at that area of defensiveness until they begin to recognize the fear and aren't defensive anymore. When they stop being defensive, they start learning and coming into their own as a leatherman or woman.

20. Q. How do I become an SM Mentor?

A.  The best way to learn how to mentor is to be mentored. All good SM mentors (giving, teaching) are continually open to being mentored (receiving, learning). To be a good SM teacher, one must be a good student of SM. To be a good SM student, one must learn well what he or she will teach other leatherfolk. Thus the crux of the SM mentoring process is the dance between mentor and mentee, where each
is involved with giving and receiving. To be a SM mentor, one must be able to transmit, with compassion and clarity that which he or she has learned well as an SM novice or mentee. In SM mentoring, each individual is interdependent in a relationship of mutual fulfillment, compassion, love and respect, in an atmosphere of openness, communication, and loyalty. It is an egoless dance that encourages us
to be empathic, to dig deep within ourselves for a selfless
reflection of the other person's state of mind and reasons for action or inaction putting yourself in your mentee's boots, so to speak.
We are one with our partner in an SM Mentoring relationship; we join and embrace each other in all the human dimensions; neither one is the guru or shaman or Master, because each has a wisdom that benefits the other.

21.  Q. What should an SM Mentor do when his or her protege seems to
be on the wrong path?

A.  Get your mentees to agree with your style of intervention. State clearly what you will do if your mentee seems to be on the wrong path, or if they isolate, or seem to have fallen into depression or burnout.  The style and mode of intervention should be determined when the ground rules for the mentoring relationship are established.

22.  Q.  How does an SM Mentor handle the stress of the mentoring relationship?

A.  Don't keep your feelings bottled up. Talk to other leatherfolk. Dump it all out. Be sure to balance your mentoring and other SM work with personally satisfying SM time in the dungeon or your SM space. Understand that you have to provide the initial energy in the mentoring relationship. The Mentor is the source. You plug into your
mentees and get them going. But after a while your mentees have to give you something back. Your protégés should be as energetic as you so that the mentoring relationship will click and move forward.  SM Mentoring has to be a real reciprocal re lationship.

23. Q.  How does a mentoring relationship affect the mentor?

A.  Recognize that SM Mentoring is a process that's going to change both of you. An SM mentor needs to understand that in the process of mentoring, he or she is going to change as much as the person being mentored. You can't come in with this notion of, "Oh, I'm just going to mentor today. It's not going to affect me."  It's going to affect you in a lot of different ways. Initially, you might think, "I'm just going to
tell them what to do and they're going to do it."  Remember, SM mentors are not Doms, Tops, Sadists, Gurus or Masters. Mentors and mentees are equals. In reality, as you go through the mentoring process, there's no separation between mentors and mentees.
SM mentoring is not just more work you do in the leather tribe. SM Mentoring is a relationship. With any real relationship, you'll want to put all of yourself into it.  You and your mentees will change as you explore each other in the mentoring relationship.

24. Q. How much do I have to reveal my own soul to my proteges?

A.  Be honest about your own personal brokenness, feelings of inadequacy, and weaknesses. If you do not share yourself honestly with your mentees, if you don't make yourself vulnerable to them, your mentees will not fully reveal their innermost hearts, longings and desires, fears and concerns with you in the mentoring relationship.
Don't be afraid to be honest with your mentees and challenge them.

25.  Q. What are appropriate expectations of the Mentor in a
mentoring relationship?

A.  There are three basic expectations that most mentors have of their protégés. It is appropriate and necessary that the mentee can be trusted with information, whether this be technical, business or personal information about the mentor. The mentor expects that thementee has a desire to pursue SM and the leather lifestyle and will make an effort to do so. The mentor expects and will receive constructive criticism and feedback from mentees.

26.  What are appropriate benefits that an SM Mentor will receive from a mentoring relationship?

A.  Through the mentoring relationship, a mentor can expect to receive many benefits, namely, access to information he/she may otherwise not have; visibility/recognition for the mentor when he/she is perceived to team up with "winners"; access to the mentee's network; opportunities to learn from mentees; a better understanding of yourself when trying to help others; a fresh perspective; a good feeling about yourself; better use of your own mentor by being a
mentor to others; and finally, "reverse mentoring" by the mentee on issues or techniques which the mentee can share with the mentor.

27.  Q. What are appropriate expectations of a mentee in an SM Mentoring relationship?

A.  A protege can expect that the information shared is confidential; honest feedback; help with the politics and culture of the leather tribe -- "how to get things done"; enhanced stature via the mentor's good words to the right people; protection; problem-solving assistance with the benefit of the mentor's experience; and the creation of "opportunities" where the protege's abilities and success
is demonstrated.

28.  What benefits can a protege expect to receive from an SM Mentoring relationship?

A.  The protege in an SM Mentoring relationship can expect to receive the following benefits:  the benefit of the Mentor's experience when working on new SM experiences, techniques, ideas or decisions; honest feedback and direction on where to concentrate improvements to match
expectations; advice/help with SM techniques and safety concerns; access to mentor's network;  help in determining what is the expected and/or appropriate behavior is for various SM settings; access to information he/she may not otherwise have; cheerleading, protection, and support from the mentor; improvement of skills (technical or interpersonal); emotional support, such as tips on balancing SM work and personal life, dealing with stress and burnout; and finally, someone to "vent" frustration to without fear of reprisal or breech of trust.



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