A conversation about vetting


Vet, verb, gerund or present participle: vetting,

  • make a careful and critical examination of (something).

  • investigate (someone) thoroughly, especially in order to ensure that they are suitable for a job requiring secrecy, loyalty, or trustworthiness.

Often in this lifestyle we hear the term "vetting" used. It generally is used in connection with checking out a person before entering a relationship with them, or even allowing them into a venue or space. We are often told that a person must be vetted in order to come among us in one way or another.

Well, the definition of the word indicates that if we are actually vetting someone it would probably be a lengthy, tedious and arduous task. It involves being thorough. It involves being careful and critical.

Can anyone tell me what real mechanisms exist within our various communities to do this? We have all seen posts here on Fetlife about people who change their scene/screen names and pop up in other places. Is there a real mechanism to prevent that from occurring?

We have heard people ask for references, but in doing so, we do realize that one is unlikely to give as a reference one who would cast shade upon their reputation or give a negative review, right? Some require references from one who is "known in the community". But what if one is new to that community or to the lifestyle in general? How can they be expected to have a verifiable reference in a community in which they have not yet been a part? And with regards to the "well known in the community" reference, we have also seen "community icons" who have been violators of all sorts of ethics, some "well respected" authors of lifestyle books who gave seminars, arrested, tried and convicted of crimes involving the lifestyle, so their celebrity meant nothing in the vetting process. We have seen that certain people's opinions somehow carry more weigh than others simply because they present, lead a group or have been around for a long time. While these things can be a factor to consider, they are by no means without flaws. We have also seen how bias against a person who didn't quite fit into a particular lifestyle community could negatively affect their assessment of that person and cloud their opinions when asked by others. We have also observed this in the case of bad break ups, where sides are chosen and people aren't given an equal opportunity to present their perspective on the matter.

What happens when a person has made a mistake in the past and has worked hard to rectify that mistake? What happens if a person engaged in bad behavior and came to the realization that they were, in fact, the douche bag everyone said they were and they seriously worked on themselves to overcome that? While it is clearly understood that the person(s) they wronged has every right to decide not to forgive them or accept them, does this mean that if their behavior has changed their past acts forever ban them?

The definition of vetting requires that we be thorough, but I submit that our organizations, groups and communities don't really have the mechanisms in place to do this thoroughly and without bias. What then? Good question!

I think we simply have to do our best to use our best judgment, to be fair and not to be arbitrary. I think we need to view people as individuals. I do believe we need to be careful, but that it is not necessary to be paranoid or obsessive to do so. I think the bottom line is to treat people as we wish to be treated.

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