Today’s rant is brought to you by the folks who have emailed me asking me how vetting works, and how they can start vetting play partners and other groups.
When I first wrote about Vetting, I assumed that it was common sense. I ranted blindly (or without my contacts on, anyway) about how everyone should be Vetting their partners, parties, and penis-pin-cushions. It flew over my (surprisingly tall) head that I once had to be taught about it too. So we’re going over this in detail, using assumed common genders (her for “you”, and Him for “the hawt guy I wantz to haz play wit”). This is not to say males shouldn’t Vet females! See my rant on 10 Things a Dominant Needs, the section on Sanity, if you don’t believe me.
Vetting, at its heart, is simple. It’s the same thing farmers once did in villages during the early middle ages. Law Enforcement Agencies do it to every applicant, and your grandmother did it to your grandfather. We’ve forgotten it, in the era of “teh internetz makez uhs all equalz!”
You call around and ask friends what they know about “Name” in the scene. You check up on the things he’s done and said, to see if they are mature and have a good reputation. You read over their profile, and their friends profiles. You go to elder, and ask them for an opinion. You gather that information – and then you make an informed choice.
It’s the same process you (are supposed to) make when you buy something, btw. Check out the product’s reviews and the company’s reputation, then make a decision based on cost versus gain. The cost, or risk in this case, varies anywhere from your emotional safety and sexual health, up to your very life. The gain or reward is either a fun night of sex, or a relationship that will fulfill your emotional needs and maybe even end in marriage and babies (or shared vacations in your old age if you don’t like kids…both cost about the same.)
Vetting works in steps - in stages. And the corner stones you build those stages on are “Relationships”, and “Reputation”. To get good sources, you have to have relationships with trusted people in the scene and with respectable elders. And to get TRUTHFUL information, you need a reputation as someone who can keep their mouths shut.
If you’re the type who posts on FetLife’s status updates about every little snip and spat with people in the scene…you’re probably the person being Vetted, not the one trusted to do the Vetting. You might want to meditate on that. Just sayin’.
I Can Haz Vettz? (In surprisingly logical order):
- Do your Homework.
FL is an incredible tool for Vetting, if you’re willing to do the legwork. Cyber-stalk Him a little. Read his posts, examine his profile and the kinds of comments he makes on people’s photos. If he claims to be a “Superior Man” but can’t spell or use common grammar, and spends half of his time commenting on breast photos? That’s a warning sign. If he’s a member of a dozen groups on rough sex and trolls K&P, but joins nothing on healthy relationships? Huge Warning Sign. If he’s got a huge collection of naked genitals in his photos, a profile that looks like a 6 year old did it (disorganized and chaotic) or is (worse) completely blank? Huge-Flashing-Red-The-Klingons-Are-Coming Warning Signs.
- Contact the friends you have in common.
See #1 & #4 if you need a bigger list of what friends you have in common. Bear in mind, these are his friends too – so take what they say with a grain of salt. They may have been prepped to give you a specific view. Or they may be leery of alienating their friendship with him. This is where your reputation makes a difference – if you‘re known as someone who runs their mouth, you won’t get much info worth having.
- Contact friends you DON’T have in common.
This will be the telling one – share in private what you’ve already heard with friends who won’t gossip, and use the friends who don’t have an emotional stake in the issue to back-stop the information. If they confirm it, the odds are good that the info is good too. If they turn it around on you – you not only know how much the first information was worth…you now know how much the first friend who gave it to you is worth, too.
- Back-walk Profiles.
People put stupid amounts of sensitive personal info right on their frakking profiles. (ISEC and OPSEC weren’t kinky, apparently). When I was a kid, I won a bet by tracking an online friend to her home address and home phone number from just her IP address and chat logs…and that was LONG before Fetlife or Facebook. The amount of information people put out there now is horrifying. So take advantage of it. Follow him to what threads he “Loves”, and what his friends say about him on his photos. Look at what he writes in his Notes and what Groups he joins. They also give you a picture of what kinds of people he hangs out with – and you really can judge a man by the company he keeps.
- Use Common Sense and Check Facts.
From #4 above? Start checking facts. If someone claims in a post to have personally trained with “Name Here”…email “Name Here”. I know, by scene name and personal name, every person I’ve ever played with, personally trained, or been personally trained by. Or if they say they’ve been around 10+ /20+ years in the NY Scene, then SOMEONE (see #6) knew them way back when. The scene wasn’t that big before social networking. If they claim they went to M/s conference, talk to one of the organizers and see if they behaved themselves or caused any problems. If they claim to be a master with a whip, SOMEONE will have seen them play, or taught them, or learned from them.
- Contact your Community Elders.
This should be the last step – because you’ll need the information you get from above to approach an elder and not seem like you’re fishing for gossip. A lot of elders have gotten to the point where they tune out requests because of the gossip attached. Approaching an elder politely, and privately, with specific and informed questions about the person you’re checking out? That’s a quick way to give yourself a good reputation with that elder, and to get the real deal on the person you’re vetting . Odds are if the elder is as mature and senior as anyone with the title “elder” should be – they’ve been around long enough to know a bit about the person you’re checking out, or to be able to tell you exactly who will give you the real story. They’ve also probably heard and seen all of the scams…so if the guy is claiming X, Y and Z, the elder can spot the snake in the pile.
This is not an end-all and be-all of Vetting, ladies and gentlemen (and gentlequeers, NotGentlePrimals, et.al). This is my primer, my rant, and my opinion. Feel free to ignore it. To flame it. To rant on it, or refer it to friends.
But please. Vet the people you play with. Get to know who is drama-laden, and who is genuine. Take the time to build healthy, communicative, safe relationships with friends, lovers and play partners who you can trust.