Kink has taken the world by storm, and with it – there has been an enormous increase of industries and individuals looking to cash in. This is only natural and to be expected, but (as is the case in all things), quantity and availability do not automatically mean quality will be found in all the products and services that are out there.
Yes, there has been an upwelling of “50 Shades of Grey” products… and yes – most sex stores are carrying truly pathetic “bondage kits” and so-called “whips”. And while the kink snob in me turns her nose up at all of that, I’m not terribly bothered by it all – because it’s pretty much harmless. What I find down right terrifying, however, is seeing trusting people – who are earnestly seeking out knowledge – being “taught” by people who are a far cry from being experts. These so-called “educators” who provide little to no real knowledge, while making a profit off of their “students”, or – worse yet! – the ones who teach people how to engage in kink activities incorrectly and unsafely… these are the people who genuinely scare me.
So, if you (or someone you know) want to learn more about kink, or specific kink activities – how can you tell the difference between someone who really knows what they’re talking about, and someone who should be avoided? One of the easier ways, is to stick to workshops that are held by your local BDSM non-profit organization. The group will be very concerned about its reputation, and will take the selection of educators quite seriously. They will often bring in people from out of town, and will chose local educators with great care. They do all the hard work, so you don’t have to.
If, however, you’re interested in classes being held by individuals/individually set-up, private, for profit businesses – you’re taking a gamble. As soon as it’s an individual putting on something in their own home, or a person who has started up their own business, it becomes less and less certain about the quality of educator and education you’re going to find. So if you’re finding some classes being put on in your area – and it’s NOT your local Non-Profit BDSM Organization – here are some guidelines to help you decide how much you should trust the teacher and their teachings:
- BEFORE SIGNING UP FOR THE CLASS: Check them out. Find some online information about them. Read their biography or find their online profiles on Fetlife. Just as is true in all other walks of life, the more someone feels the need to “prove” how amazing they are, the opposite is typically true. People who are confident in their competence usually don’t feel any real need to prove anything to anyone. So watch out for how fast a person goes on about how long they’ve been in the scene (and how much emphasis they put on that) and also how many relationships they have (i.e.: protecting, mentoring, brother, sister, in a pack, in a leather family, etc, etc.). There are plenty of people out there who surround themselves with impressive facts instead of impressive feats. When you see any of these flags, take note of them. They don’t automatically mean that someone is less than they seem, but it’s quite common – so approach their education with caution.
- WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT THE CLASS: Ask around – talk with people. Is the class comprised of mostly newbies, and/or people who ONLY attend events put on by this teacher? If so, this is a very bad sign indeed. If an educator isn’t encouraging students to learn from other sources, or is preventing students from learning from other sources, that is definitely something you should worry about. There are lots of talented, learned, skilled people out there, and if a “teacher” doesn’t want you learning from them – you have to ask yourself “Why?” What are they worried about? What are they scared of? If their first concern is your education and safety – this won’t be an issue. However, if their first concern is taking your money and making you feel dependent on them – to ensure your repeat business & “customer loyalty” – this isn’t someone you should be trusting.
- DURING THE CLASS: (A) How well are they managing the class? Are people allowed to not pay attention when the important safety stuff is being discussed? If the teacher doesn’t care about whether or not the students are learning to play safely – it’s a bad sign. (B) How well do they handle questions? Are they nervous, seem ‘put out’ or are they enthusiastic about sharing more information? (C) What happens when they don’t know the answer to a question? If they are comfortable giving you other learning materials to source, that’s a good sign. If they get agitated or avoid the question – that’s bad news too.
- AFTER THE CLASS: Are they checking your play after the lesson is over? If the teacher loses all interest in what you’re doing after the lesson – when you’re doing what they just taught – this is another red flag. A serious teacher wants to make sure that you learned correctly, and catch any errors BEFORE you leave their watchful eye. If the teacher is “done” after the lesson, and leaves with no care for what the students are doing – well, that proves how much they care, now doesn’t it?
“Buyer beware” applies to buying more than a car or fruit – it applies to your BDSM/kink education as well. You can’t rely on others to keep you safe; you must always take your own safety – and the safety of all who play with you, as a result – very seriously. Always remember: safety first, sexy second. If you stick to that mantra, you will fare far better then the people who have it the other way around. Safety should not be treated as though it’s ruining a good time… because NOTHING ruins a good time more than having to explain what went wrong to the paramedic, ER doctor, police &/or lawyer. Safety is there to make sure it starts off as a good time, and ends as a good time. And anyone who thinks otherwise is someone you should ignore and steer clear of – whether they’re an educator OR if they’re someone who wants to be your play partner. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Make sure you don’t end up with a head (and life) full of garbage.