Virtual worlds have opened a door to BDSM for many people, allowing them to explore their curiosity about it in a fantasy environment. People who would never do so in “real” life can try on handcuffs, be chained and bound, and even submit to a Dominant, all without the risk of physical injury or social stigma. The wild popularity of BDSM in virtual worlds like Second Life and OpenSim attests to its genuine appeal in the sexual imagination.

But while casual dabbling in BDSM is safe and easy in virtual worlds, this very ease can be problematic. Those who have only experienced Domination and submission (D/s) in virtual worlds often think their experience and comprehension is complete. To be fair, I think some do develop a deep understanding; and the experience can be legitimate and worthwhile even for those who only get a glimpse of their own hidden desires, without fully exploring them.

Sadly, while virtual BDSM may be physically safe, I have seen far too many inhabitants of virtual worlds cause real-world emotional damage because they have no real idea what D/s is, or what it requires of them. It’s true that there is no one “right way” to do D/s. My Master and I practice an all-or-nothing form of D/s called TPE (Total Power Exchange), but even casual dabbling in D/s is not intrinsically wrong when it brings pleasure to all those involved. Unfortunately, too often it does not.

I’m not going to discuss the abusive sexual predators that lure women by claiming to be “Masters,” and then take advantage of them while ignoring a Dominant’s responsibilities. Much has been written of this elsewhere. In my case, I am fortunate to have a genuine Master who knows what he is doing, a good and loving man who takes his responsibilities seriously and who has the training, good character, compassion and strength to be a skilled Dominant.

Instead, I’d like to reflect on women I have met who call themselves submissives, but who are only posing. Bogus submissives have only their own self-interest in mind; they manipulate others and take advantage of them for their own agenda. They cause just as much emotional damage as bogus Masters. They are a special breed of sexual predator.

The dabblers who call themselves submissives usually have no idea what submission involves.

If you enjoy being restrained during sex… you are not necessarily submissive.

If you are attracted to a strong-willed man… you are not necessarily submissive.

If you wear a collar and know how to nadu… you are not necessarily submissive.

If you always do what everyone tells you to do… you are not necessarily submissive.

If you cooperate with a Master because you have no choice… you are not necessarily a submissive.

If you allow a Master to do only what you want him to do… you probably are not submissive.

If you tell a Master only what you think will get you laid… you probably are not submissive.

If you think you could roleplay as submissive sometimes… you probably are not submissive.

What are the differences between a bogus submissive and a genuine one? To me, the difference is a matter of character and nature. Some people play a submissive role. But some of us find that submission reveals our truest selves, our deepest, most authentic nature. Submission isn’t about what we do. Submission is about who we are.

Does the idea of surrendering complete control of yourself to a trusted Master thrill you? Does the excitement increase the more you surrender? Are you turned on by the thought of permanently abandoning your will to his? If so, then you probably are a submissive.

On the other hand, if it fills you with dread and suspicion, you probably are not a submissive.

The acid test comes the first time the Master directs you to do something you really don’t want to do. Many women are willing to play a submissive role temporarily—as long as she trusts that the Master will do exactly what she wants him to do to please her. There is nothing wrong with that. But it isn’t submission, it’s just cooperation. True submission is complete surrender. Of course you want pleasure, and a good Master wants that for you. But TPE submission means completely letting go of your own will, and trusting him, without setting your own pleasure as a condition. For a true submissive, that very act of surrender is the pleasure—that intoxicating rush of letting go and giving yourself to him.

You may think it sounds passive and easy to surrender your will. Power exchange is far from easy. It is a conscious choice you must make, over and over again, that requires a great deal of courage and inner strength. Saying yes to him means that you must be strong enough to say no to everyone else, including yourself. True submission means having true power, and then giving it away. You must own your own power, before you can give it away.

You may be able to deceive him, to play along and make him think you are surrendering, while in reality you hold on to your own power. That’s why I mentioned character. You know if you are not being honest. And eventually it will come out. If you are willing to lie to your Master, that is a matter of character. If you know you aren’t a true submissive, if you basically just want him to be your lover on your own terms, and yet you play the part of a true submissive—you are living a lie. You may in fact be a sexual predator. You risk causing emotional damage, whether you mean to or not.

If my description of total submission doesn’t appeal to you, there is no fault in it. It’s not a bad thing to admit that you like to role play as a submissive occasionally, but that you are not really cut out to be an authentic, 24/7 TPE submissive. I encourage you to enjoy dabbling in BDSM, and to take and give pleasure where you can.

But if you know this about yourself, do not try to hide it. If you are not a true submissive, do not try to pass yourself off as one.

In recent months, I have watched more than one bogus submissive wreak havoc in the lives of people I love. With only her own pleasure in mind, she accepted a collar and the loving care and protection of a Master. Thinking only of what was in it for her, she mouthed the words “yes Master” without revealing what she was thinking: “…as long as it’s convenient for me.”

She didn’t want a Master; she just wanted a lover.

She did whatever it took to lure him into a relationship under false pretenses.

She played the role, like a game, taking what she could get.

She let him love her, as long as it was convenient.

And when it came time to live up to her promise, she deserted him and broke his heart.

She damaged us, too. The betrayals cut like a knife through the community of family and friends who supported our beloved Master and friend. We agonized with him, hurt for him, dropped everything to stand by him when he needed us. We, too, suffered, as his open and generous spirit shuttered tight, his trust broken.

But the bogus submissive never stopped to think of what her lie would do to us, or even to him. She never considered the pain she caused. She thought only of herself.

She left in a whirlwind of drama that she created, a smokescreen with which she attempted to veil her deception. She did not have the strength of character to say, “I’m sorry. I thought I was cut out for this, but I’m not.” Instead, she invented some bogus reason to make it seem that she was not at fault. But she fooled no one, except perhaps herself.

I have seen this scenario play out more than once in recent months. My motivation in writing this post is not to claim “I’m a true submissive and you’re not.” It is, rather, a cry of resentment that the dishonesty of bogus submissives hurts me and my loved ones.