A prevalent myth in the kink community is that “new people need to go to classes to learn about the lifestyle”. That is obviously true. But there’s a subtle implication that more seasoned players know what they’re doing and don’t need classes. They’ve read a few books. Know the lingo. Found people to play with. And suddenly, they think they’re legit and can do what they want.
This division creates an unhealthy hierarchy, in terms of knowledge and education. It leads people to trust others based on their seniority on the scene and the friends that flock around them. Trust needs to be earned and fostered, never assumed and handed over. Trust takes time.
The problem with assuming safety from the established player’s perspective, is that when a they make a mistake, they’re forced into a position to defend themselves. If a person, after years in the kink community, has no one to turn to for honest advice and accountability, all they will hear is support from their friends. There’s very little scope for personal growth and healing.
So, however long someone has been on the scene, if they’re not going to classes regularly, they’re too comfortable in their skin. They are complacent. They are ignorant. They are arrogant.
I’ve been teaching in the community for nearly 3 years directly and previously for a year at a leading event in my area. But I still go to classes when I can. I read books and engage in group discussions. I write and welcome other perspectives in comments. I am not complacent. I know in only speaking from my experience. I know there are gaps and limits to what I know. If I ever get to a point where I think I know it all, I hope one of my partners will pull me to the side and get some sense back into me.
Kink practice requires us to reflect regularly with peers. We need to learn how to navigate the complexities around health and safety, from the equipment we use, the etiquette in kink spaces, to how very unique we and our partners are, and how that evolves over time. We benefit a lot from the perspectives and experiences of others. No one has all the answers. We need community; one that takes education very seriously.
In my classes, I stress the importance of seeking other sources of information. We are accountable for what we do as individuals. If we harm someone, it’s not an excuse to say that’s what someone else said they should do. Sure, study different methods and schools of thought. But never lose sight of how little you know. There are many different ways to do the same thing. The more you know, the more you realise you don’t know.
And, of course, classes are a great way to meet like-minded people.
I would note: before going to a class, check the credentials of the teacher. Do they know what they are talking about? Do they acknowledge the limits to what they can teach? Do they have policies and procedures in place? Anyone can set up a class, so don’t follow blindly.
Keep safe. Get to classes.