The Importance of Mentorship for Dominants By Headmistress Shahrazad

The Importance of Mentorship for Dominants

By Headmistress Shahrazad

The practice of BDSM, or Leather (as it is sometimes called in shorthand within LGBT communities) used to be quite underground. Practitioners honed their craft in dark bars and private gatherings, gaining entry by being in the right place at the right time with the right person. New people had to be vouched for, and nobody explained the rules. And there were a lot of rules. Over time, if you were watching closely, you noticed that some people wore collars, and some did not. Some wore Muir caps, and some did not. Some wore leather, and some did not. Some averted their eyes when they were spoken to, and others seemed assertive, confident and calm as they tied people to crosses and flogged their backs or pierced their chests.

The tenets of Old Guard Leather are still core values for many who practice BDSM. Like progressing through the ranks for a black belt in martial arts, an aspiring Dominant is expected to start their exploration as a submissive. They are meant to have experiences, watch, learn, make mistakes, and learn some more. They grow and develop under the watchful eye of respected community members more experienced than them, and then at some point in time, the community around them decides that they have enough personal mastery to guide others as a Master or Mistress. Usually by then the person has the wisdom to know that the learning process never actually ends, and that self-mastery would always be more important than the mastery of any submissive. Though there are exceptions to every rule, it has been my experience that a certain amount of humility tends to accompany a Master or Mistress forged in the Old Guard way, as they know what it is like to experience the other side of the slash.

Then there exists what is sometimes referred to as New Guard Leather, a more contemporary orientation to BDSM that is less community-oriented and regimented and more individualistic and fluid. The approach of New Guard practitioners tends to be motivated by a belief in the personal freedom to express kinks, fetishes, and power exchange in whichever way one feels called to. These individuals may be community-oriented, attending fetish parties and munches regularly, or may just play at home when the mood strikes. Others are more interested in the spiritual aspects of BDSM. They may pick up whatever honorific suits them in the moment to serve the scene they’re doing, or refrain from taking on a power exchange role as their sole “identity”. They may delve head-first into Dominance without any prior experience as a submissive.

Which of these two approaches is better will depend on whom you ask, and most individuals will subscribe to a bit of both. While I do not consider myself Old Guard, there are a few Old Guard principles that I do believe in wholeheartedly, the most important being the necessity of ongoing mentorship and experienced instruction in the process of becoming a Dominant. The terrain of what you step into when you start playing with power can be a minefield of intense experiences. It can be psychologically, emotionally and physically dangerous if it is not approached with consciousness, kindness, respect, skill, ongoing communication, and an attitude of mutual benefit and welfare. Any time you play, you are not only engaging the face that the person is presenting you in the moment but also their life experience, their trauma, their triggers, their mental constructs, their way of looking at the world, their hopes and dreams, their spirit and soul. The combination of erotic charge and power dynamics can bring anything up or nothing at all, so new players are essentially playing a risky game of Russian Roulette.

You might learn the art of spanking in a workshop, but if you spank 10 people they may each need a different approach to spanking, have a different intention for desiring the spanking and will each process the experience differently. Even playing with the same person on an ongoing basis requires the flexibility to realize that they are constantly changing, and their needs along with them. The role of the Dominant demands that you take responsibility for the bottoms and submissives you play with, and responsibility requires an “ability to respond” in a way that helps them digest what you are doing to them/asking them to do. If you have only played once or twice, you do not necessarily have the breadth of experience in real time play that a veteran Dominant has. Bouncing scenarios off a mentor is one way in which you can gain another perspective on how to handle each challenge that comes up, thus expanding your own “ability to respond” to different people with different needs.

Mentorship also allows you to learn from the mistakes of those who have more experience than you, so that you don’t have to repeat them. Listening to their stories and understanding why certain approaches work and do not work will prevent needless harm caused by common beginner mistakes. It is comforting and may build your confidence to find out that you are not the only one who has encountered a particular challenge, or to know that there are easy work-arounds or other ways of approaching whatever is giving you difficulty.

Finally, having a mentor can help you keep the power you are playing with in check, so that you learn how to stay in sobriety with it. Ever heard the expression that “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”? One of the most common phenomena observable in Dominants who have been playing in real life for less than 2-3 years (and beyond that if it isn’t made conscious and kept in check), is a tendency to develop a kind of omnipotence complex, where it is possible to get so high on the feeling of power generated by the scene that they lose contact with the submissive they are playing with. From that place, they become so disconnected that they can take the scene severely beyond the submissive’s limits without realizing that anything is wrong. The responsibility for ensuring a risk-aware consensual scene lies with BOTH the Dominant and the submissive (i.e. It is not acceptable for a Dominant to take a scene too far because “the sub never said his safe-word”). A mentor can help a fledgling Dominant to process the experience of power such that it does not serve to feed their ego at the expense of the safety of the people they play with.  

Mentorship with someone reputable and experienced can go a long way towards your development as a risk-aware Dominant who others trust and enjoy playing with. With 15 years as a Pro and over 20 as a lifestyle player under my belt, I am currently offering consultation and ongoing Dominance mentorship at my consulting rate for those who do not have access to experienced players within their local BDSM scenes. Appointments are personalized to cater to the unique challenges coming up for YOU within your journey towards mastery as a Dominant, catalyzing your understanding and ability to execute effective and pleasurable power exchange. Get in touch today!



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