Note: I shouldn’t have to say this, but this is obviously just one person’s opinion. The following is based on my observations of the community over the last decade. If it doesn’t match your opinion or your perspective, that is totally ok. I am happy to discuss and even debate in the comments, but non-constructive comments will absolutely be deleted without hesitation. This is a tricky subject and tends to bring out emotions in people. That’s fine, but if you make it personal, you’re gone.
X-Posted Here on Fetlife. I highly recommend checking out the fetlife post, as there is a long string of responses and conversation that I think is very valuable.
TL/DR: If you have a protector listed on your Fetlife profile, you should expect to be (rightfully) ignored by a large portion of the community, who wants nothing to do with you or your protector. You will find yourself struggling more than necessary to find a good partner, no matter how many personal ads you post or how nice you are at parties. In fact, many people will purposefully avoid you.
I am sorry if that sounds harsh or judgmental, but it is simply the truth as I have observed it. And I am FAR from being the only one who thinks so.
… you have now agreed to enter into a “protection” arrangement with somebody else. The very nature of entering into that arrangement means most people will not approach you. Sure the creepy ones won’t likely approach you, but neither will the ones that might be a really good fit for you. This results in a form of isolation.
Supposedly a protector looks out for a poor, vulnerable submissive, who is clearly too sweet and innocent (read, stupid and helpless) to a) figure out on her/his own who is safe to play with, and b) tell a top/dom/whatever who she/he doesn’t want to play with to back off.
The idea that submissive people need a dominant to look after them is stupid and insulting. Assuming that a submissive person is submissive to everyone and therefore can’t say no when they need to makes as much sense as assuming that because I’m a straight woman I’m attracted to all men and can’t say no to the ones who aren’t compatible with me.
“Protector” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does
The thing is, you have an idea in your head of what a protector means. And you are, of course, free to define that relationship between you and your “protector” however you want. But you need to understand the implications of making the choice to list that person on your profile. Because many people who have been around the community for a while have a very clear idea of what a protector means, and it probably doesn’t match what you imagine. They are going to immediately feel hesitant, especially because it is very common for that person to have a statement similar to this on their profile:
If we have not met at an event or in public or talked online before, you will need to send me a message to my Protector PRIOR to contacting me requesting permission to speak to me and/or add me as a friend. Failure to do so will result in immediately being blocked and your message being deleted without further adieu.
The above statement was taken directly off of someone’s profile. I won’t name them or link to them because that’s not important. The fact is that statements like that are very common for people with “protectors”.
Isolation and Predators and Liars
It is also not surprising that many people who are often listed as “Protector of” several people over the years are the same people who end up having a reputation as a predator or have no reputation at all because they aren’t actually part of the community, they just want you to believe they are so you will trust them.
Isolation is an important part of emotional manipulation. By establishing themselves as your “protector”, they are keeping you from being in contact with anyone who disagrees with them or who might tell you the truth about them. They are also able to prevent anyone who is “better than them” from contacting you, in the hopes that eventually you will conclude that there ISN’T anyone better than them out there. In the words of @MrAndrewLove:
This protector’s approach while it might have seemed full of good intentions at the start is devoid of integrity. You heard me, it has zero integrity. Your protector played a slow game of manipulating your trust and coercing you into a sexual dynamic.
You Are Being Robbed
But even if your “protector” does have all the best intentions, even if they are not a predator who is out to manipulate and take advantage of you, they are still hurting you.
The whole point of being a part of a community or being on a social network site like Fetlife is to communicate and interact with others. A “protector” will inhibit that, either by establishing rules for how you are allowed to interact with others (or how they interact with you), or simply by scaring people off, including decent, knowledgeable, experienced people.
Either way, you are being robbed of the experience of being a part of a community. You are being robbed of the opportunity to learn for yourself what kind of person is right for you. If there is always someone carrying you, you will never learn to walk.
You Don’t Need Protection
You need to learn how to navigate the community and how to find/keep partners. A mentor or friend may be able to help you with that. But you don’t need “protection”, you need hands-on experience and you aren’t going to get that with someone else screening your messages and potential partners. I repeat: You don’t need protection.
Or rather, you SHOULDN’T need protection.
If you are so undeveloped as an adult human being that you are incapable of the common sense and judgment necessary to be your own protector, then you also lack the emotional and mental maturity to be here at all. If you haven’t learned how to say “no” for yourself, then you should not be anywhere near BDSM. Because consent is everything here. And if you incapable of saying “no” to someone or something that you don’t want, then you are a liability to everyone you interact with. Because in any moment, in every interaction with you, we all risk the possibility of traumatizing you with something that you didn’t want, but were unwilling to say “no” to.
A “mentor” can, perhaps, help to teach you how to do that and how to be your own protector, but they should not be doing it for you. Because if they do, you are then dependent on them for your safety. What happens, then, when they get tired of you, or are too busy for you, or they die, or something else happens? Who will “protect” you then?
I want nothing to do with you, and neither does most anyone else
The risk of interacting with a “protected” person is to high.
On the one hand, you might have been tricked into this “protector” relationship by a manipulative predator, in which case, you are not going to hear anything I have to say to you about it anyway because your “protector” will filter that message and prevent you from getting it.
Note: On the original XCBDSM post, someone commented arguing that it was his job (Obligation was the actual word he used) to prevent those under his protection from being exposed to “harmful influences”, which is why everyone was required to get his permission to contact them. That is textbook isolation.
On the other hand, maybe your protector has the best of intentions. That opens up the possibility that you actually NEED a protector. And the only people who actually NEED a protector, in my opinion, are people who do not possess the basic skills, as a grown adult, to manage themselves and their interactions with other human-beings. So why, WHY, would I be interested in being in an adult relationship with someone like that? Why would I want to play with someone like that? Why would I even expend the energy to try?
If you have a protector listed, you are either in the process of being preyed upon by someone who will intercept my communications and possibly even lash out against me in some way for trying or you actually need a protector and therefor aren’t the type of person I would want to be with in the first place.
EDIT: I failed to acknowledge the possibility, here, that a person listed as someone’s protector is simply that person’s trusted friend and does not restrict them in anyway. The problem there is that no matter how YOU define that relationship or what it looks like for you, many (I would even say MOST) of the people who see that advertised dynamic of “protector” are going to interpret it at face value, they will interpret it as a mild form of power-exchange relationship that may or may not be safe to interact with at all, even in a friendly way. The best advice that I can offer here is to say somewhere on your profile what “protector” means to you so that people who get the wrong idea have the opportunity to correct the misconception without having to take the risk of contacting you inappropriately.
I have plenty of other options, and so does just about everyone else
Meanwhile, there are thousands of other available people in the community, more joining every day, and those people don’t have tests that I have to pass in order to initiate contact. Those people all have maintained their own agency and ability to decide their own fate.
EDIT: I am not actually seeking new relationships at the moment or for the foreseeable future. I was speaking figuratively.
So given the choice of who I am going to invest my time and energy into pursuing (even for nothing more than just friendship), I am going to choose the other people every time, and so will many others.
By listing a “protector” on your profile, you have communicated to many others, whether you intend to or not, that you are not worth the effort of a first contact.
Maybe you are really special and worth all of this trouble and risk, but I don’t know that and will never find out because the protector label tells me that I am not allowed to say hello to you without jumping through someone else’s hoops.
Ask Yourself This
If you were at a party with a bunch of friends and strangers and someone you didn’t know was walking around with a sign around their neck that said “Before talking to me, you must call 303-555-1467 and get permission from the person who answers”, would you do it? Most people wouldn’t. In fact, most people would go out of their way to avoid that person. Having a “protector” is the same thing.
Look for someone who wants to be your friend, not your “protector”.
A person who is interested in truly helping you and who also has the knowledge and experience to do so will (generally speaking) not ask to be your “protector” or agree to do so. Instead, they will simply be your friend. They will offer good advice and guidance. They will help you figure out how to be your own protector. They will answer questions. They will refer you to people who can teach you things they don’t know. They will refer you to people who disagree with them so you will get exposure to multiple viewpoints. Most importantly, they will never restrict you, isolate you, or take responsibility for you.
Because whether you acknowledge it or not, whether they will admit it or not, and whether either of you realize it:
Your “Protector” is hurting you.
Re-posts, sharing, or otherwise distributing this content is allowed, without explicit permission, provided that credit is given to “Isaac Cross” and a link to theoriginal article is included.
EDIT, Morning of 12/29: I have added some notes throughout and softened a bit of the language, but the statements and positions have not changed. I stand by my assertions in this post, but I do apologize for the aggressive tone of the message. My goal here was to get some people to consider something they may not have considered before, and that required some blunt language, but I never intended to be disrespectful.
Ultimately, every person has to make the choice for themselves about whether the risks of the “protector” relationship are worth the benefits. But the principles of informed consent require that those risks be acknowledged. And in my observation, many people fail to do so.