Stonehaven

I had become rather cynical by the time I visited Stonehaven. I held no hope of finding anything more than an evening’s entertainment. My first impression was forgettable. The place looked rather bland. Like other BDSM clubs, it had various bondage devices scattered around, the requisite castle, and a few noobs engaged in capture roleplay. In other words, it did not seem very inspiring. Still, it was a capture roleplay sim, so it held at least a small promise of danger, a little bit of intensity perhaps. So I entered.

I wandered around for a few minutes, but no prospective captors caught my eye. Bored, I noticed a group of people gathered on a terrace beside the castle. Hoping to stay out of sight, I circled up behind them and stood at the edge of the terrace, hoping not to be noticed until I could eavesdrop for a bit.

Hello, Camryn. Welcome to Stonehaven. Oh well, so much for not being noticed.

I looked around for the person speaking to me. I saw him, prominently seated. He seemed to be holding court; others deferred to him. Among the group gathered there, he stood out. Tall, muscular but slender, with generous long hair, his avatar was thoughtfully put together. He was dressed tastefully in black leather, of good quality, with a contemporary look, not the dreary gothic sameness of most dominants.

I’m Walter, I’m a warden here, he said. If you need any help, or have any questions, just ask. I’m always available to help.

I relaxed a little. This was different from the arrogant opening lines most dominants employed.

I explained that I was new to Stonehaven. He offered his protection, and told me a little about the place. When I confessed that I was not well versed in the ways of capture roleplay, he smiled.

Do you have shackles, or something? he asked. Otherwise… it’s a little hard to capture you. He smiled. I blushed. I rummaged around in my inventory, found some, and put them on.

Now that I said that, Walter smiled, I’m going to capture you, of course. He laughed. I smiled, increasingly at ease. A friendly captor? That was unexpected. And yet I sensed something more within him, that made me think his good natured manner might have an inner strength behind it. I wondered what he was like if provoked. I decided I’d rather not find out first hand.

He reached out and grasped the shackles. There was an ominous yet satisfying snick as the locks snapped securely shut. Walter took the keys. I shivered slightly, feeling an inner thrill.

The shackles were more secure than I ever imagined. They locked not only my wrists, but my heart as well. Three years later, even when I do not wear them, I am still locked. Walter still has my keys.

.

Control, Intensity, Trust

My experience with that passionate young man taught me what I desired from D/s: control, and intensity. Those who think of BDSM as little more than sex with handcuffs might find it difficult to understand either desire. It is difficult to explain to someone who isn’t wired this way. The experience of surrendering, abandoning control of myself to a trusted dominant, thrills me beyond words—and the more control I give up, the more extreme my surrender, the better it gets. I also need for the space between me and my partner to be alive with intensity; without that, I am easily bored. In the absence of the emotional and sexual intensity I had known with Jonah, the world felt pale and bland.

After several weeks of searching, I began to despair. There was no shortage of dominants in Second Life; just a shortage of good ones. Again, those who are unfamiliar with D/s might imagine that being a submissive means that I like for people to tell me what to do—and that might seem like an easy desire to fulfill. It is not easy at all. In fact, I find it nearly impossible. The third thing I need, in addition to control and intensity, is trust. I do not trust easily. In my life, I don’t let anyone tell me what to do. I am rebellious and fiercely independent. In work and social situations I am usually the one in charge. Not because I want to be; but because no one else can dominate me. I am too smart, too strong, and my standards are too high. I want desperately for someone else to be in control, but I cannot trust enough to give up control to anyone unless they are smarter and stronger than me—and very few people are—and unless they earn my respect.

Jonah was one such person. It had been so easy to surrender to him; I had not fully appreciated exactly how many things had to click before that could happen. With each unsuccessful encounter, I began to despair that my relationship with Jonah might have been the kind that only happens once in a lifetime.

I was wrong about that.

Next: Stonehaven »

Reawakening

For several days, I roamed the virtual world, visiting BDSM clubs, in search of intense, extreme experiences to rouse me from the ennui that gripped my soul. At first, in my numbed state, it felt less like an adventure and more like research. Before I could have those experiences, I had to attract a dominant’s attention, and it wasn’t entirely the same as “vanilla” cruising. I made notes about how to get noticed, and learned the expectations of the dominants I met, so that I could be prepared to fulfill them. I outfitted my submissive’s tool kit: collars, handcuffs, gags, silks, latex, leather and sexy outfits; anything a prospective dominant might desire. I went to classes about D/s and joined several groups, mainly to listen and learn. Soon I knew which clubs to frequent, what to wear, where to stand, how to get noticed. I re-wrote my profile to present myself in the most appealing way. I became adept at attracting the attention of dominants, and had many interesting and strange encounters.

For three days, I became the property of an older, established Dom whose elaborate rules, rituals and protocols taxed my patience.  After that didn’t work out, I was captured by a 19 year old Turk who, apparently, was letting his 13 year old brother watch the computer monitor over his shoulder; I ended that one quickly. Then I met a European fellow who was only in SL to make initial contact and really only wanted to talk on Skype. Next was a man who wanted me as a house-slave to assist with his business, followed by a couple who wanted to share me; it took me less than an hour to decide against each. A brand new dominant was a lovely friend, but didn’t have enough experience to meet my needs, nor I his. There was an intriguing man with ice-white eyes who was into fantasy role-playing; unfortunately, that meant long, painstakingly composed descriptions of his every action and thought that were exquisitely crafted but took ages for him to produce. He brought me to his house for sex, but after two hours, he’d only managed to write us through a single kiss. After he spent another 45 minutes writing a description of removing his shirt, any arousal I might have felt had totally evaporated, and I’d nearly dozed off waiting for his next lines. Knowing there was no way to build a relationship there, I excused myself.

It was rather common to find dominants projecting a certain image that ultimately bore little resemblance to their actual personality. Everyone seemed to be a stereotypical Goth in black leather, heavy boots and spiked wristbands, with a scary name and dangerous-sounding profile. One such dominant turned out to be a cream puff who mostly liked tickling. Another severe-looking hyper-masculine Goth collared me for a couple of days, until I discovered that he was actually female. One exceptionally dark and dangerous dominant gave me chills… until he opened his mouth and started talking, bursting the bubble with a notable lack of sophistication, intelligence and ability to spell.

With each encounter, satisfying or not, I learned more about myself and what I wanted and needed (and what I didn’t want or need). Thus I was alert when, three weeks into my search, I met a young man who expressed an intense desire to possess and control me. As we explored one another, sharing our hopes and failures, to my surprise I felt life stirring in my empty heart. There was no sex between us; just possession, and complete control. His intensity reawakened my passion and tuned it to a fever pitch. I gladly surrendered myself to his control for one glorious week, before the differences in our needs became painfully apparent. He was “just passing through” to make initial contacts, uninterested in Second Life for its own sake, preferring only phone and webcam contact. His disinterest in the possibilities of the virtual world disappointed me, and ultimately his insistence on real world involvement caused our relationship to unravel. But inspite of that, he gave me a great gift. He breathed new life into my feelings, and helped me remember how it felt to be consumed with desire.

Next: Control, Intensity, Trust »

BDSM in Second Life

Before I move on, I think I should say a few words about the phenomenon of BDSM in Second Life, for the sake of readers who are not already residents.

In fact, I will start at the very beginning. “BDSM” stands for “bondage, domination, sadism, masochism.” The acronym is shorthand for consensual erotic practices in which one partner controls the other for their mutual enjoyment. The power exchange of domination, in which a Dominant (Master or Mistress) controls a submissive partner, and bondage, in which the submissive is restrained by use of straps, ropes, cuffs, confinement or other means, are typical practices. S&M, a practice involving extreme sensory intensity, is included in the acronym, but is less common. Domination, the “D” portion of BDSM, is sometimes referred to separately with the expression “D/s” which stands for the pairing of domination and submission.

In real life, the practice of BDSM tends to be hidden, protected in secretive societies, whispered about in private. But in Second Life, BDSM is a wildly popular mainstream activity. I suspect that nearly everyone who has sex in SL has at least tried bondage. Bondage items are plentiful and easy to obtain. BDSM animations are included in many of the most popular sexual items.

One apparent reason for this phenomenon is the fact that virtual BDSM presents few of the risks that one might face in corresponding real life situations. Emotions can run high, of course, but as long as it all stays online, there is no possibility of physical harm… even from the most intense bondage scenarios. One can be cuffed, chained, tied in extreme positions, whipped, erotically choked, suspended, or locked away in a cage, all without danger. If it makes you uncomfortable, just log off, or turn off your computer.

Apparently a lot of people don’t find it uncomfortable–just the opposite. Without the risk of danger, one’s imagination free to engage the wildest sexual fantasies, a surprising number of people indulge in BDSM. The popularity of BDSM on SL is clear from the high traffic statistics at locations that provide opportunities to engage in it.

For most people who try it, RL and SL, bondage and D/s are simply occasional selections on an otherwise vanilla menu of sexual activities. Some, however, embrace BDSM and D/s relationships as an identity, a fulltime lifestyle choice. This choice can take a wide variety of forms. A Dominant may form a household with one or more submissives. Some may not establish formal relationships, but may engage in BDSM sessions or scenes. Some like to be restrained, but are not necessarily submissive; some get a thrill from dominating or submitting, and may not engage in bondage or even sex. Some enjoy the most extreme and restrictive forms of bondage, possession or even torture, while others have strict limits and will only go just so far and for just so long.

With such diversity, it is not easy to paint a picture of BDSM in Second Life. The only threads that tie all these practices together are the enjoyment of power exchange for mutual pleasure; and the freedom to indulge that fantasy without fear of physical harm.

My story is one of those threads. It’s a long and wandering thread, because it took a long time to find what I was looking for.

Next: On the edge of tomorrow »

Into darkness

But I’m getting a little ahead of the story.

Those were dismal days, after Jonah was gone. I seemed to plunge into a darkness that muted my heart, my thoughts, my desire, my outlook. It was not a darkness of anger or anguish. It was nothing so dramatic. No, I didn’t feel pain, or rage, or resentment. I didn’t feel anything at all.

My relationship with Jonah had been a dizzying series of highs and lows. In the words of the poem: when it was good, it was very, very good; when it was bad, it was horrid. At any given moment, I would be soaring the heights of bliss, or else my heart was ripped open. There was never anything in between. My friends were perplexed when I would sob, heartbroken, after the latest fight, or worry during one of his unexplained absences. Loyal to me as they were, their concern was reasonable. Why on earth do you stay with him? they would ask. Look what he does to you. Granted, the bad times were extraordinarily painful. But what can I say? I was in love with him, and that kind of love transcends the immediacy of highs and lows. For me, the good times were so good, that it was totally worth hanging in there through the bad times. I knew those bad times would happen. But I also knew that they would end. No matter how horrible the fight was, I knew he would be back, and that if I could let go of the hurt and anger, and allow myself to embrace the pleasure, the bliss might be even more exquisite than anything I had yet experienced. Hanging on was worth it, because the lows were predictable, while the highs kept on getting higher.

Until the day when they stopped, for good.

The soaring and plunging between highs and lows with Jonah had been exhausting. But even the anguish of the lowest low was not nearly as bad as the deadness that had taken over me now. I felt no relief. I felt no pleasure. I felt no longing. I felt no pain. I felt nothing. I continued to move through life, putting one foot in front of the other, but it was like eating food without being able to taste it. The world had no color. I could not take pleasure in anything. It was the worst.

I remembered that there had been a time before Jonah, a time when Second Life was shiny and new and interesting. Hoping that I could get interested in something, anything, I explored SL, wandering, searching. I shopped, but without enthusiasm. I went sailing, but it was boring alone. I tried to build, but with no one to build for, every prim just reminded me of my loss. I even made a half hearted attempt to date a little, but compared to Jonah, every man I met was a disappointment.

It was unbearable. I became desperate to break free of the deadness, the ennui. I just wanted to feel something. To feel some evidence that I was still alive.

My mind wandered back over my two and a half years in Second Life, trying to remember whether I’d ever done anything else that could potentially shake me out of this state… anything intense enough… even a little risky. I started wandering in the back alleys, the red light districts, the post-apocalyptic ruins, the darkest corners of SL. I threw caution aside and sought out sexual encounters that were anonymous, primal, a little dangerous. The danger caused something to stir inside. I went after it with a hunger for more.

As I searched for experiences intense enough to rouse me from my ennui, I recalled a moment from my distant past, before I met Jonah. In the first flush of realizing that in SL, as long as I stayed anonymous, I could try anything without threat of physical harm, I’d visited a seedy meeting place and challenged myself to flirt with the most dangerous looking man I could find. He was pretty scary, too; he was tall and powerfully built, with an air of dark power around him, dressed in black leather with metal trim. I may have been brazen, but I was still naive; he told me he was a Master, and I responded, a Master of what? He laughed. At that time, I honestly knew almost nothing about BDSM, and certainly nothing about D/s, dominance and submission.

He corrected that quickly. Here, put this on, he said, handing me a collar. I hesitated, a thousand questions spinning in my head. Should I do it? What am I getting into? My heart was racing. The fear of the unknown. The thrill of danger. I took a deep breath. What’s the worst that could happen? I thought to myself. In a rush of boldness, I complied, and put on the collar.

I waited nervously as he typed some information and adjusted the collar. Suddenly, I was kneeling. I struggled in confusion. Why was I kneeling? I didn’t recall wanting to kneel, or touching my keyboard in any way. But there I was, on my knees, hands behind my back. I looked up at the Master. His dark eyes were fastened on me with an intensity that made me shiver. From now on, he said, you will greet me this way.

Then I heard a snap, and the chink of metal; I saw that a chain had been attached to the collar. He held the other end. Come, he said, and turned and walked away, obviously expecting me to follow.

Um, I don’t think so, I thought to myself. I don’t know where this is going, and it sounds like a good time to stop. But to my shock, I could not stop. I seemed not to be in control of my movements. Not of my own volition, I followed, jerking along at the end of the leash. It wasn’t up to me. Every nerve was firing as I grasped that by putting on that collar, I had given control of myself to someone else.

Now, two and a half years later, my memory of the intensity of that brief encounter created a spark of interest in my otherwise dead heart. Those few days I spent with that Master had opened a new world to me. I only had a glimpse of it at the time, but something about it resonated very deeply. I know that the prospect of not being in control scares some people half to death. Others place great value on their freedom and independence and are not interested in losing it. Until I met that Master, I thought I was one of those people. After all, in RL, I am usually the one in charge; the manager, the leader, the chairperson. But not because I want to be. I do it because it is expected. Being in control energizes some people. Not me; being in control depletes me.

Gradually, subtly, that Master taught me to see something in myself, something that goes against the grain of popular culture. That first experience was a surprise; he took control without asking. If he had not, I would never have understood. Once I tasted it, though, I wanted more. I gave up control to him willingly. Each time I did, I had no idea what would come of it. But the excitement was intoxicating.

I came to realize that I feel this thrill because I am, by nature, submissive. It wasn’t a choice. It’s just a part of my personality that I was born with. I had managed to ignore it for my entire life, to that point, believing myself to be a natural leader.

My first encounter with D/s lasted only a few days. I met Jonah not long after. Was his naturally dominant personality part of his allure? He did not practice BDSM in any formal way, but because he was dominant by nature, and I was submissive by nature, our relationship had that dynamic. I ceded control to him in everything. He made all the choices, deciding what we would do and when. He always operated the menus, selected and placed the pose balls; he even designed my avatar, choosing my clothes, skin, shape and hair. Being in control of me was deeply satisfying for him. For him to be in control was deeply satisfying for me. 

Now, in my dismal numbness, I remembered those butterflies in my stomach, the sensation of simply letting go, letting someone else be in charge of me, accepting the danger. Would BDSM provide the intensity I needed? I decided to find out. When I felt the thrill in the pit of my stomach as I faced the unknown, I began to suspect I was on the right track.

Next: BDSM in Second Life »