“‘Twas in another life time, one of toil and blood–Bob Dylan, “Shelter from the Storm”
When blackness was a virtue, the road was full of mud
I came from the wilderness, a creature void of form
Come in, she said, I’ll give ya
Shelter from the storm”
Hey, my kinky, polyam peeps! Spring just kinda flew by, didn’t it? Can you believe it’s already June? And half way through 2023 at that! It’s funny that, as I get older and move deeper into my forties, I’m becoming more aware of the passage of time and how we need to hold on to it while we can. We only get one go-around on this gigantic ball that’s spinning through space, so let’s do our best not to have any regrets.
Speaking of regrets, this piece represents a little bit of a milestone for me. Even though I’ve been blogging for coming up on two years now, each piece that I wrote has, more or less, flowed pretty effortlessly from my brain to the keypad. It’s been very much an “assembly line” process where I will think of an idea, write it, publish it, then move on to the next idea. I’ve heard of cases where writers and other creative types will start a project, get frustrated with the way it’s turning out, take a break, try to come back, and sometimes just abandon it completely. I never had that issue with my writing.
Yes, truth be told I started this piece WAAAAAAY back the second week of February. I ran into a little bit of writer’s block, put it to the side, and didn’t publish anything for the blog for a good two months. Every time I picked this piece back up, it just became a reminder of how I couldn’t break through that wall. That’s why this piece is so special to me. After months of feeling frustrated, uninspired and finding every excuse in the book not to work on it, I decided I was going to be damned if one blog piece was going to keep me from doing what I loved. So this isn’t my best piece of writing, honestly, I don’t care. I finished what I started, and to me, that’s WAY more important.
So, I was at a play party last December (The local Kink group that I belong to holds them once a month) and I was chatting with the partner of the woman who runs the group. In addition to him being a Dominant, he also acts as a protector for a few other submissives in the community. This sparked the conversation about what exactly is a “protector”, what are their responsibilities, and what differentiates them from a traditional Dominant. The more I researched the topic, the more I discovered how divisive it is. While the role itself is pretty self-explanatory, who should fulfill that role is a matter of debate, with relatively good arguments on each side of the issue.
As usual, before we get started, it’s time for the resource dump…
Before we delve into the controversy behind protectors, it helps to define the word. Merriam Webster defines it as “one who covers or shields from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction.” As a secondary definition it provides “one who maintains the status or integrity of”. From what I’ve read and the people I’ve spoken to, I think they all agree this is a pretty accurate description. At it’s heart, a Protector is someone in the BDSM community who takes a new individual (usually a Submissive) “under their wing” and acts as a gatekeeper or guardian while they become accustomed to the community. Protectors should be tenured individuals within the community, particularly those with a lot of contacts. As part of the role of the protector will be to vet potential play partners for the protectee, the more people they know in the community, and the more they know ABOUT people in the community, the better.
Depending on who you speak to, the role of protector can have a vary wide or narrow range of responsibilities. Some individuals, like Mistress Savannah, see it is a solemn promise to the protectee, while others, like Dark and Dominant, view the role as more customizeable. Common responsibilities of a Protector include escorting the protectee to munches and events, introducing them to other members of the community, acting as a go-between and “screener” for potential play partners, and even as far as providing support for the physical safety of the protectee when the protectee is alone or without the protector. If all of this sounds like what a Dominant does for their submissive, you’re not far off. In fact, most Protector/Protectee relationships involve and a Dominant and a Submissive and how their relationship plays out is what spurs the controversy, but we’ll come back to that in a moment.
So why would someone in the kink community want a protector and what are the potential benefits and drawbacks of having one. As stated previously, a key responsibility of the Protector is to screen potential play partners for the protectee. They may attend kink events with the protectee as a “bodyguard” and facilitate meetings between the protectee and the potential play partner in the early stages of their dynamic. As the Protector is generally a tenured individual within the kink community, they may also facilitate trainings and classes for the protectee to learn new skills or enhance existing ones.
While the Protector sounds like a valuable resource, what could be the potential disadvantages? For starters, if an individual is labeled as “Under The Protection Of” on their online profile, it can scare away potential play partners. While on the surface one may ask “Why is this a bad thing?” as the whole purpose of a Protector is to weed out the “bad actors”, the truth is that it can also deter some of the “good actors” as well. No matter how pure their intentions, some people will see a first date with a love interest and their parent as a chaperone a deal-breaker, so one must ask if the benefit of the Protector outweighs the cost of missing out on a few genuine connections.
Along those same lines, how comfortable are YOU allowing someone else to call the shots. Becoming a protectee means giving up a measure of control. How comfortable do you feel allowing someone else to review play partners, possibly crossing off options before you see them? How do you feel about having a parental figure watching and monitoring you at public events? For those who value their privacy and their individualism, being a protectee may not be the right fit for you.
Assuming you do decide that a Protector would be a good fit, who should fill that role. If you’re a Submissive, should it be a Dominant, or another Submissive? If it is a Dominant, should it be YOUR Dominant, or a third party?
While I have my own opinions on this matter, I want to discuss the various viewpoints and their relative merit, as I believe there can be advantages and disadvantages to each.
In their article, Dark and Dominant posits for the Submissive’s own Dominant to be a viable option as a Protector. The benefits seem obvious: The Dominant is (presumably) already intimately familiar with the Submissive and their unique needs. In addition to this, the Dominant presumably has other contacts in Dominant circles which they can pull from as resources to assist both them and the Submissive in their education.
As straightforward as this option sounds, it does raise several questions, the most obvious being: “If a Submissive has a Dominant, why do they need a Protector?”
It’s a fair question to ask as protecting and educating the Submissive should be part of the job description of the Dominant. In addition to this, unless the Submissive is “Polysubmissive”, meaning they have more than one Dominant, who does the Dominant need to vet for? While the title sounds prestigious, it ultimately becomes superfluous and serves no real purpose.
If we exclude existing Dominants as candidates for Protectors (as Mistress Savannah would argue), who then would be an ideal candidate? I have my own thoughts on whether it should be another Submissive or possibly a switch as opposed to a Dominant, and I’ll push that commentary to the side for the moment. Regardless of their identity in the community, a protector should be one who is willing to make both the time and energy commitment to keep the Submissive safe from harm as well as ensure they are maturing within the community.
As Mistress Savannah argues, a Protector is far more than a fancy title. It’s an educator, an agent, and a bodyguard. Protection involves physically escorting protectees to community events like munches and play parties, scheduling, attending, and possibly running educational events to ensure that the protectee is learning and enhancing their skill set, and coordinating with potential play partners, much like a publicist or personal assistant and vetting these individuals before introducing them to the protectee. The job carries numerous responsibilities and is done for little more than the gratitude of the protectee as well as a desire to serve the community. If choosing to become a Protector, it’s important not to underestimate the gravity of the position.
While Mistress Savannah never specifically states which role she would believe would be the ideal role for a protector, it is customary that a Dominant take on that responsibility for a Submissive. However, is this really the best choice?
As someone who has taken a lot of instruction from members of the community over the years, I’ve learned the most from my three Dominants and I strongly believe it is because they all identify as Switches. While they take on the role of Dominant with me, they will engage as a Submissive with other partners. It is through their personal experiences as a Submissive that they have been able to teach me what skills I need as well what to look out for in potential play partners.
While submission is often seen as a passive role, if we as a community are going to actively educate Submissives on their responsibilities, we have to “flip the script” and start discussing submission as “something you do” not “something that is done to you”. It’s more than just lying on a table and receiving a spanking. Submissives need to be just as versed in anatomy, safety, the toys being used, and the techniques being applied as the Dominant is. More than that, they need to be encouraged to vocalize when something feels good, bad, or even painful so proper feedback can be offered to the Dominant. Finally, they need to know what red flags need to be watched out for when speaking with a new potential play partner.
While a Dominant may have adequate, even above average skills in coaching to these points, I’m a firm believer that, in order to learn how to catch a fish, you don’t talk to the fisherman. You talk to the fish. While the idea of a Submissive as a protector may seem uncommon, in reality, who better to teach the needed skills other than someone who lives and breathes them every day?
In conclusion, Protectors can provide a much needed service inside the kink community. However, like most things, there are pros and cons that need to be weighed. With protection comes an added layer of safety that newbies might find comforting. The trade-off however, is the spectre of chaperone-like figure overseeing your activities, which can cause one to miss out on genuine connections. There is, of course, the whole question of how to properly vet a protector. There’s no point in appointing a wolf to guard the hen house from other wolves. While the vast majority of people in the kink community are good-hearted individuals, there will always be those bad apples that need to be looked out for, and how to do that in the safest way possible is really a personal decision we all need to arrive at independently.
Until next time, stay kinky, my friends…
–The Bratty Cat