Vetting 101

My namaste and I run a couple of groups that require Vetting in order to attend an event or join a group. Periodically it comes to our attention that some people are offended by Vetting, don’t know what Vetting is or WHY we would want to vet. Some assume erroneously that Vetting is akin to “clique-ish” behavior and discrimination. Others don’t know how to Vet someone or how to craft a good letter of reference when asked to provide Vetting information. This post is meant to hopefully shed a bit of light on the practice of Vetting, encourage others to use it, and offer some tips on both asking for a reference and providing one.

What is Vetting:

To vet was originally a horse-racing term, referring to the requirement that a horse be checked for health and soundness by a veterinarian before being allowed to race. Thus, it has taken the general meaning “to check”.

In short vetting is the process of doing a background check for the purpose of determining suitability for a position, membership in a group, etc;

Why Vet:

In the oldern days (heh!) vetting was done in our lifestyle mostly because engaging with the wrong person could mean harm in a number of forms – social alienation, losing one’s employment from being outed or even death. While vetting in general has become less common in our observation – we believe it is a practice that DEFINITELY needs to be brought back – especially because of the openness and inclusiveness of our community at this time. Anyone can walk into one of our munches, go to a party, even start a group. Because our community is expanding so rapidly, making blanket assumptions concerning the intentions of every person interested in attending events or group meetings can be problematic. Taking the time to Vet is a way of reducing the stress associated with inviting individuals that are unknown to your event or meeting, a way to make sure this person has suitable references, is actually a responsible member of our community and give you as much information as possible to make a good decision. Vetting is important for you no matter if you run a group, organize parties or are a bottom or a Top.

How to Vet:

There are many contexts for Vetting. Here are a few.

If you need a reference – if you are the individual being vetted be sure to provide those asking with appropriate references, consider asking your reference(s) to send an email or contact the organization or individual you are being vetted by. The communication should come directly from the person vetting you to the person requesting the reference.  A random person who saw you at a munch can not vet you. Anyone you are considering using as a reference should actually know you – this means they know your real name, and have had personal experience with you – such as dinner, coffee, phone conversations etc; . In other words you are known to this person in a real time, actual context.

If you are providing a reference – Feel free to say “No” if you are asked and feel uncomfortable with providing a reference. If you do not know someone well, would not be comfortable with them in your home, or have reservations – indicate those to the person requesting the vetting. Make a distinction between your personal experience with the person and what you have “heard” concerning their reputation. Ask what they are being vetted for. For instance  you may feel comfortable vetting someone for inclusion to a group, but not feel okay vetting them as far as their being a good Top or Dominant. If you feel you cannot vet a person – tell them and explain why. This is not being “mean” or “rude”, often new people do not understand vetting and they would be better served by having the explanation (that I do not yet know you well enough to recommend you as an X) than by your saying “yes” and providing a hesitant or incomplete reference.

If you are requesting a reference on someone else – Be clear in what you are asking for. Provide as much context as you can concerning why you want information without going into a long story. Are you considering someone for membership in a group? A potential play partner? A potential Master, Dominant, submissive, Mistress or Top? Context is important. For instance there are those I would gladly vet as a skillful top that I would not feel comfortable vetting as a potential Master. There are submissives I’d vet favorably as far as inclusion to a munch but would not consider vetting as a play partner.

Questions to answer or ask depending on context:

Here are some questions to be used in the vetting process. Feel free to use them as is or to use them as a springboard to your own questions.

For a munch or group: Can this person be trusted not to out others? Can they be trusted to keep confidences and obey rules? Are they new to the community or the Lifestyle? Have they been moderated, refused entry, asked to leave or had membership revoked to any groups according to your knowledge? Are they peacable or are they known to cause drama, dissension or confusion? Do you think that this person would be a good fit for the subject matter of the group that they are trying to join? Do you have any reservations that werent asked about? Can you provide reasons why they SHOULD be included in our group or event?

For a party/Play partner: Have you observed this person scening directly? Can this person be trusted to understand and honor what it means to Consent (this applies to Tops and bottoms), Has this person ever been accused of violating consent?  Has this person ever accused others of violating consent? Is this person (Top) a skillful player? Can this bottom be trusted to advocate for his/her self, use safe words if necessary and contact a DM or Host  if something goes awry with their scene? Any previous history you feel we should know about? Any reservations?

For a potential Power Exchange Relationship or Poly Dynamic: Have you observed this person or been involved with this person in a Power Exchange context? Does this person have experience as ____(insert position in P/E relationship or Polyamory)? How much? Has this person ever been accused of being abusive? Has there been any drama in association with this person and P/E  or Poly Relationships? Do you feel this person understands P/e or Poly? Were their previous relationships ended amicably? Based on what you know, what is this person looking for in a Poly or P/E relationship?

For a potential Leadership Position:  Does this person have leadership experience? What kind of experience? How long has this person been an active member of the Community? Do you consider this person fair? Just? Unbiased? Do you believe this person excercises good judgement? What is this persons reputation? Any known accusations of abuse? Do you have any reservations? If so what are they?

Final Notes: 

As a person requesting vetting it is ESSENTIAL to the success of the vetting process that you  realize the final decision is up to YOU. While reviewing the information you receive during the vetting process – use your intuition, common sense, and take into consideration the source of your information. Depending on the context it may be prudent to receive a number of letters of reference and/or to have conversations with more than only one person. Know what information you REALLY want, what’s important to you and ASK additional or followup questions if you feel you need them. Trust your gut!

If you’re the person providing vetting the most important thing is for your statements to be honest, forthright and based upon YOUR personal experience. If you feel you must interject second hand information make sure the person you’re providing such information to KNOWS that it is secondhand. If you do not feel comfortable vetting someone – DON’T.

If you are being vetted, be honest about your history, experiences and desires. Know that half-truths and omission about these things or being less than forthright will not be viewed favorably – however admitting mistakes, that you have a lack of knowledge or experience is no crime – you’re human, still growing and allowed to make mistakes as you grow.

It is our sincere hope that the practice of vetting continues to be an asset to our community, contributing to our meetings, groups and events becoming safer and more enjoyable for everyone!

In Leather,

Master Obsidian & slave namaste

 

Slave or Service Oriented Bottom

So today’s topic is recognizing the difference between being a Service Oriented Bottom and being a slave.

First let me say that I don’t think there is anything wrong, lessor, less honorable or less meaningful about being a bottom. When I first came into the Lifestyle being a slave was not something to aspire to. Slaves were considered weak doormats and usually extreme masochists. At some point it changed. Now, no one wants to be a submissive – (because that means being a weak doormat) and everyone wants to be a slave. Go figure. Also being a bottom is often maligned as being less “real” with statements such as “oh, he’s just a bottom” thrown about, which is unfortunate because this Lifestyle serves us better when it is defined by the Freedoms it grants us – not by the bondages we put on each other.

But I digress.

Slave, submissive, bottom – they are all simply descriptors of what is – not creators of what is not. To this end being a bottom in the realm of BDSM is often recognized in general as being on the receiving end of things – when not paired with other descriptors it often contains the unspoken qualifier of “during a specific, normally short period of time” – which is to say all submissives and slaves could be called bottoms, but not all bottoms are submissives or slaves.

That said what we’ve noticed of late is that many people in their reaching for self identification are quick to reach into the identifier “slave” and to ignore the identifier “bottom” even though “slave” does not really fit them. Why? Because while they may enjoy serving; they have a real issue, challenge, limitation when it comes to something foundational to being a slave….

OBEDIENCE

Yes- slavery is all about obedience – not service.

This may come as a shock or a revelation, and it is my hope that some light bulb moments will occur here.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with service or that slaves don’t serve. We do. I LOVE providing crisp, efficient, beautiful service. Both unseen seamless service and showcase service are delicious to me. When I am serving excellently I’m happy and quite content.

But the performance of service does not make me a slave. My desire to be of service and of use also does not make me a slave – any more than a desire to be used sexually would make me a slave, or a desire to be spanked would make me a slave.

Because many have forgotten that slavery is at it’s essence about obedience – we tend to look at actions and mistake one thing for another.

For instance we’ll look at the quiet demure woman who is sad and not allowed to provide service because her Owner has told her not to, and yet is attempting to sneak and do it anyway and say “See how slavey she is??”

And then look at the more outspoken woman who is sitting next to her Master, engaged in stimulating conversation with Him/Her and assume this person is not a “twue slave” – when in fact her Owner directed her to do so and she’s being obedient.

So here’s the question – does being obedient feel good to you? Really and truly? I’m not just talking about being obedient to the things that feed your kink or sexual proclivities. I’m talking about being obedient to the things that challenge you, that push and pull you? If you have a FABULOUS idea that you just KNOW will make both of your lives AMAZING and He/She says “no” – does being obedient to that, even if it’s uncomfortable and painful – ultimately feel GOOD and fulfill something deep inside of you? If so – you may be a slave.

If you love to serve but when the person you’re in service to requires certain things, makes certain directives, expects certain behaviors or conduct you find yourself saying “Yeah but…” , “If only He understood…..”, “She doesn’t understand that…..”, “I’d obey if only He/She was…..” or anything along those lines – you may want to consider that you may in fact be a service oriented bottom -and there’s nothing wrong with that!

This Lifestyle is fundamentally  all about finding ourselves and then finding the descriptors that fit who we are so that we can communicate our truth succinctly and in ways that others understand. It is my sincere desire that we find our truth and then shine within it brightly – whatever we identify as!