Real Virtual People

How “real” is the virtual world? Is it more than a cartoon, a video game or a fantasy? And what does “real” mean, anyway?

Is this place realThere are many shades of real.

We might say that something is “realistic” if it closely resembles reality. Subtle shading and shadows in the corners of a room, or motion capture animation may make a scene look “almost like” the real thing. To say something is “realistic” acknowledges the craftsmanship of its creator. But saying that something is “almost like” the real thing is an admission that it’s not the real thing. It may resemble a real tree, but it is not, in fact, a physically real tree—it is a collection of pixels. I don’t think very many people believe that the virtual world is the same as the physical world.

That doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Whether or not it’s physically real, the virtual environment can affect us physically. It’s like when a skillful filmmaker weaves together story, cinematography, acting and other elements to make light, color and motion affect us emotionally, and even physically if we recoil in a horror movie or weep over a sad ending. In the same way, a well crafted scene in a virtual world can evoke real-world physical sensation and emotion. The serenity of a quiet virtual forest, under a protective canopy of giant trees, with sounds of birds, brooks and breezes actually calms my physical body in the “real” world. The desolation of a vacant shack on a dry, windswept plain makes me cough as if I can feel the swirling dust catch in my throat. Standing around in a virtual snow scene makes me feel cold in the physical world—and putting a sweater on my avatar warms me up.

Of course there is the whole matter of virtual sex and BDSM, and the very real arousal it can incite. “In the real world, arousal mostly happens between your ears anyway,” a friend of mine said recently. “Virtual sex is just like physical sex—but with better animations!”

We all know that the emotions we experience through our encounters in the virtual world are real. The whole gamut, from mirth to rage, wonder to repulsion, heartbreak to love—yes, love—all just as authentic as if they were triggered by events in the physical world. And the qualities of the human spirit we encounter are also real: generosity, creativity, selflessness and selfishness, forthrightness and deceit.

Flower AvatarSo, is the virtual world real?

A better question would be: are your experiences real? Does the virtual world evoke real emotions and sensations? Is pleasure real? Is inspiration real? Is friendship real? Is excitement real? Is beauty real? Is laughter real? Are art, craftsmanship and creativity real? Dare I ask: is love real?

Some people ascribe no reality to the virtual world; they see it as a cartoon, with no value in and of itself. They treat it as if it were only a screen separating them from other “real” people. They seem impatient, then, to get past this screen and connect with a physical person, who is, to them, the only person who matters. These are people who typically don’t put much effort into their avatar, since the virtual world is not important to them. They don’t care about their avatar, or yours, but they are very interested in who you are in “real” life, where you live, what you look like, how old you are, etc. For them, the virtual world is not real at all. For them, the physical world is the only reality.

On the other end of the continuum, some of us inject so much of our conscious awareness into our avatar that our physical self becomes secondary. As in the movie “Surrogates” I live through my avatar much more than through my physical self. If you only know me in the physical world, you don’t really know me. Camryn Darkstone is the “real” me. In the virtual world, I am freed from some of my physical limitations and allowed to be my most authentic self. Of course it can’t be carried to extremes, since I do enjoy some pleasures with my physical body that aren’t available in the virtual world, for example singing and food. But in terms of my sense of self, and everything else that is most important, I am much more present as Camryn Darkstone.

For others, the avatar is a fantasy, a character they have created, through which they role-play. Some even view the avatar as a separate person, with a life of its own. I know at least one person who, when speaking as his avatar, refers to himself in the third person, as though he and his avatar were two different people. The avatar refers to “that person behind the keyboard” as if it were someone else.

virtual-worldI can’t wrap my mind around that kind of disconnection. For me, there is no boundary between myself and Camryn Darkstone. I am Camryn Darkstone. Camryn Darkstone is real. In fact, Camryn Darkstone is much more real than my physical self. Camryn Darkstone is a better representation of my sense of self than my physical presence.

The seamlessness between virtual and physical has been enhanced since I accepted my Master’s collar. He is a TPE Master—Total Power Exchange—and he is my Master all the time, 24/7, not just for the duration of a scene. I don’t segment off certain areas of my life for him to dominate. He has total access. He gets to be in charge of every part of my life, virtual and physical. So the seamlessness between the virtual and physical aspects of my life is strengthened even further by him.

It is also strengthened by the culture of our family. Whereas many people draw strict boundaries of anonymity and privacy when interacting in the virtual world, within my family we are very open. Each of them, for me, is the same type of blended virtual-physical person as I am. We don’t role-play, we are our authentic selves. I voice with them. They know my real name, and some even know my address (and are likely to send me mail order gifts, as I do for them). My Master has been to my home. They know what I look like, where I work and what I do for enjoyment. And yet, even with all of this “real” world information, I am still Camryn Darkstone to them. I am one person—submissive, builder, tree lover, horse racing enthusiast, fashionista, bourbon connoisseur, anglophile, musician. This—all of this, virtual and physical—is Camryn Darkstone.

I am not a virtual person. I am a real person in a virtual world—a real person whose real life is extended, enriched and enhanced beyond the limits of the so-called “real” world.

Expectations

firebird

“Expectations are limiting.”

I have said this before, but in our goal-oriented world, my assertion is usually met with blank, uncomprehending stares, or polite dismissal.

It is fashionable to have expectations. We are supposed to decide what we want, and go after it. Admiration is lavished upon those who achieve their goals, and get what they want.

The problem is that most of us get so focused on achieving our goals that we totally miss glorious surprises that don’t fit into the preconceived plan. When something comes along that isn’t what we set out to achieve, it is too easy to simply dismiss it as irrelevant.

But what if this unexpected development is actually better than our original goal?

Not only do we miss glorious surprises, we may get mired in the negative emotional energy of resentment, frustration and disappointment. I have known so many people who seem never to see or appreciate what they do have. Instead they can only think about what they don’t have.

When I was younger, I had goals and expectations. Almost none of them came to fruition. My life has turned out very differently from what I imagined it would be.

The way I see it, I have a choice. I can be sad and resentful that I didn’t get the life I wanted. Or: I can pay attention and notice all the wonderful things I do have… and be grateful.

My life isn’t what I wanted.

It’s better.

Let go of the limits of expectations. Have enough humility to admit to yourself that you don’t know everything. Accept that you may not be able to know, in advance, exactly what the best outcome is. Have aspirations, but be mindful that there might be something even better waiting for you, something you can’t envision or predict. Be open to the possibility that you will be surprised by something wonderful you could never have imagined. Open your eyes, and your heart, to the surprise and delight of unexpected pleasure.

Generosity

We were meandering down the streets of the town where I live, enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon. He had surprised me by driving up to take me to breakfast. I was floating, savoring the pleasures of the moment: the beautiful cool spring day, a tasty breakfast of pancakes and bacon, and most of all, being with my Master in person.

He is subtly different in person. He looks very much like his avatar. But his avatar never smiles. The flesh and blood man smiles constantly. Always smiling. He exudes warmth and charisma and charm. In person there is a difference in the timbre of his voice. Richer. Softer. I hear confidence and strength, but surprising tenderness. His voice wraps around me like a down comforter, and makes affection and adoration pour out of my heart.

cannoliWe passed a new Italian gourmet market. With a twinkle in his eye, he asked if we should pop inside to have a look. I smiled and nodded eagerly. We perused the culinary delights: trays of salads, entrees and artisanal pizza. The salumeria tempted us with fresh pasta, prosciutto and cheeses. We oo’d and ah’d over the pastries: creamy cannoli, tiramisu, butter cookies piled high. He said he was going to get himself a sandwich for later. I wandered through aisles of imported olive oil.

A few minutes later we left to head home. As we came out of the market, he pressed a bag into my hand. “Here,” he said simply. Curious, I peered inside. The bag contained dinner for me for that night—chicken francese and polenta—and a huge box of the cannoli I’d been admiring. My little gasp of delight at the unexpected treat made his face light up with pleasure.

This simple expression of generosity will come as no surprise to anyone who knows him. I have never met a more generous person, or one who takes more delight in it. He absolutely loves to cause that response of surprise and pleasure with his gifts. And because he does so much for me, he gets to see that reaction often.

I hope he knows that I love his gifts—but his gifts are not why I love him. My love grows from the honor of knowing him and having him in my life, being loved by him, and the remarkably wonderful person he is.

He is the most delightful gift of all.

.

Submission and Abuse

Are submissives more likely to end up in abusive relationships? Does being submissive imply acceptance of abuse? Is a submissive a victim?

These questions, inspired by my last post, have come to me in emails and IMs the last few days (come on, people, don’t be shy; post a comment!). I realize now that I did not elaborate on some elementary aspects of BDSM before that post, and those who are unfamiliar with the lifestyle might not understand them. So it probably would be responsible of me to back up, and reiterate the basics of BDSM safety.

One poll in 2011 reported that 30 percent of women have experienced abusive relationships. I am one of them. I am a survivor of an abusive marriage. I know all too well the terror, the agony, the resignation, the despair of abuse victims; the sense of being trapped with no way out. I also know what it is like to try to convince an abuse victim to leave an abusive relationship; the helplessness as you struggle with their twisted sense of loyalty to their abuser, and their intransigent belief that their situation is hopeless.

So yes, I know something about abuse.

I also know the other side. I was lucky. I escaped more or less intact and, after a lot of healing and work, have been blessed with a D/s relationship that is the polar opposite of abuse. I know, now, what it feels like to be loved, respected, safe, and cherished.

subbeamIt may seem that submissives face a dilemma. How do you surrender control, and yet be safe, steering clear of abusive Dominants? How do you end up in a healthy D/s relationship like mine?

In my previous post I talked about my desire to surrender control to my Master and the pleasure I have received from giving up my right to make decisions. BUT it is essential to note that this surrender occurred only AFTER I had carefully considered and made a thoughtful, conscious choice to submit. I willingly gave him my right to choose—but first I had to own it, before I could give it away.

My choice was the culmination of a long, careful process. I did not jump into the collar of the first Dominant I met; I “auditioned” quite a few. A D/s relationship must be built on trust. Trust rarely happens instantaneously. Even after my Master expressed his desire for me, I did not say yes to him immediately. He had to earn my trust, until I was sure that he would take responsibility for my emotional and physical safety. I had to be sure of his character, and know that I could depend on him. By the time I submitted to him, I had proved, beyond any shadow of doubt, that he was not an abuser, but a generous, loving man of integrity.

“Safe, Sane, Consensual” (SSC) is your key. Be smart, and strong, and responsible. Some believe that when one is “submissive” you just naturally do whatever anyone tells you to do, without thinking, and that you become conditioned to blind obedience. I don’t know what that is… but it is not submission. Submission requires your clear-headed consent. You must be able to choose whether or not to submit, and to whom.

You get to negotiate the terms of your submission. You may expect a Dominant to push your limits a little, but not to ignore them. You do not have to experience anything unless you want it, and have agreed to it, and then, only in the context of emotional and physical safety. And if something goes badly wrong, you must have the choice to walk away.

In my post, I also said, “I don’t want to be equals.” This doesn’t imply any lack of respect from him. My Master respects me, even admires me a little. I know that I am valued; he makes it clear to me every day. I defer to him, because I chose to. It is consensual. He would never put me down. He raises me up, and I raise him up out of my admiration and respect for him. I can release myself into his arms, trusting and secure. He will never let me fall.

If you are very lucky—like I was—you will find a kind and loving relationship that is safe, sane, and consensual. Then, and only then, you will have the choice to throw off the chains of freedom, and experience the delight of surrendering total control to a competent, trustworthy, loving Master.

The Chains of Freedom

Many subs before me have written on this topic, so I’ll admit right away that this thought is in no way original. Even so, I find myself musing this morning about “freedom.” And since this is my blog, for me to write down what’s on my mind, here it is.

Latex Midnight 2When I came to realize that I am submissive, it meant embracing certain aspects of my personality that are at odds with present-day American culture. I was thinking again about my friend with the balloons and the value he places on freedom. I was thinking about women who don’t want anyone to have power over them. I was thinking about women who complain that their boyfriends are too possessive. And I was thinking about how different I am from these people, and from women in general in 2013. And about how, to them, my preferences are incomprehensible.

How can I explain it to them? How can I make them understand that “freedom” to me is unpleasant? How could I ever explain the depth of my longing for a certain captivity and confinement? How weird is it to actually want a man to be possessive and controlling? What modern American woman in her right mind would want to be owned, and would willingly — no, not willingly, joyously — surrender her freedom, allowing a man to control her and take away her right to make her own choices and decisions?

I don’t mean to say that it’s an absolute. It’s not submission unless it is freely given, and clearly, I had to have some degree of personal liberty so that I could choose to submit, and to whom. He did not take that from me against my will; I gave it to him. But to focus on that element is to miss what I’m trying to say.

For me, in the context of a D/s relationship, to surrender my freedom and give it away to the Master I love and trust is the ultimate thrill. I want him to overpower me. I want him to control me. The more of my freedom he takes from me, the better I like it. The more possessive and controlling he is, the happier I am. I don’t want to be equals. I want to be less than him. I want him to be first. I want him to be above me, more than me, ahead of me. I want him to be in charge of me. I want him to take all my power… except the power to give up my power to him.

The weird thing is that the tighter he holds me, the freer I feel. In fact, I need him to hold on really tight or else I don’t feel free at all. All those years when I was an equal partner, a self-empowered woman, in charge of my own life, I was vastly unhappy, and I felt chained and trapped and confined in a way that I no longer feel. Submitting to my Master, surrendering my control to him, makes me feel happy and gives me so much more pleasure than “freedom” ever did.

I don’t know why I’m wired this way. But I am. Giving up my life to his control is what sets me free.

A Valentine

somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such fine hands

e. e. cummings

I love you, Master!