True power

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.

Our Collaring Ceremony

On 14 July 2010, our first anniversary, Walter formally collared me in a beautiful ceremony. I thought I would share that ceremony here, for those who have never experienced one.

A collaring ceremony is in some respects like a wedding. It signifies a permanent commitment between a Dominant and a submissive. The “ring” went around my neck instead of my finger, and the nature of the promises is slightly different. But like a wedding, the Dominant and the submissive make vows to one another, promising their love and support. The collar symbolizes their mutual consent and the vows each has made to the other.

I dressed carefully, wanting to be elegant and pleasing but simple, to signify that I would be letting go of my personal power and consciously, willingly, joyfully handing it over to him. It would not do to dress like a princess or in any way that seemed ostentatious. When a collaring ceremony is private the submissive might even be nude, as a symbol of the consensual power exchange at the heart of the relationship. But for this occasion I chose a simple Grecian style white gown by Nicky Ree, with long flowing gauze draped from the shoulder. I carried a single white rose, the traditional symbol of submission.

With joy in my heart, I made my way down to the ceremony pavilion on our island. The path wound through the trees and down the hill into a sheltered valley. As I emerged into a clearing, I saw the rustic pavilion, surrounded by trees. It was generously adorned with hundreds of white roses that seemed to burst from every beam and rafter. Master waited on the pavilion, by a small table that held a jeweled box. An intimate group of family and close friends greeted my arrival. I smiled, unable to contain my happiness.

Camryn Darkstone Collaring Ceremony“Camryn, would you join me please?” Master called.

I stepped onto the pavilion and went to him. “It would be my honor, Master.” We both smiled. Then he spoke with solemnity.

“Camryn, it is my intent to offer you my collar as a sign of your submission to me. Are you willing to accept my collar?”

My heart leapt with excitement. “It would be my greatest joy, Master… yes!”

Master turned to the table and opened the box. I gasped with delight as he removed a collar that he had made especially for me. Bright silver, engraved with a Celtic design and sporting a gleaming sapphire, it sparkled in the sunlight. It seemed the loveliest thing I had ever seen. 

Reaching out, Master placed the collar around my neck, but did not yet close the lock. He looked into my eyes with love and made his vow to me.

“Camryn,” Master said solemnly, “with the placing of this collar around your neck and your acceptance of it, I vow to do everything I can to be worthy of you. I promise to hold you and keep you safe, to stretch you and give you flight, to respect the needs of our relationship above all others, to love you, honor you, support you in all things and be sensitive to your needs and desires . I acknowledge the trust you have placed in me and the responsibility that goes with my acceptance of that trust. I will never violate or even threaten to violate that trust. I acknowledge and accept with all my heart the gift of submission you have made to me. This collar will be a symbol of that which we already know: that you are mine, and by wearing it you will always be safe to be everything that you are.

“Do you accept this collar in the spirit by which it is given you?”

Looking on my Master, and hearing these words, I felt my heart fill with love and happiness such as I had never known. Without any hesitation, I spoke clearly and with conviction.

“Master, of my own free will, with clarity of mind, heart and conscience, I surrender my life to you, submitting to your will in all things.” I had difficulty holding back tears of happiness as I spoke from the depth of my heart. “I accept your collar as the outward and visible sign of my deepest joy: that I am yours. I gladly accept your authority and trust you to guide me on the right path. I vow to honor you with my every thought, word and action. I promise to stay with you, support you and fulfill your needs and desires as you allow. You are the center of my universe, the light of my life and the love of my heart. I give you my love, my heart and myself, now and always.”

I knelt, in a traditional posture of submission. He reached out and locked the collar firmly in place around my neck. As the lock closed forever with a satisfying click, my world seemed to fill with light and love. I am his! At last I am become who I was meant to be. I have found my heart’s desire. I smiled up at my Master in utter devotion.

“Camryn,” he continued, “I will never forget the responsibility that I have undertaken here. I am charged with your well being in all you do. My decisions will affect you in every way. Your life is literally in my hands and I will never shy away from that responsibility, but use the power you have given me wisely. I will never consider only myself. I will always remember that you will follow wherever I may go. I will not lead you into danger and I will be mindful that you will look to me in all things for guidance and teaching. I promise to learn from you what is good and safe for you, and be prepared to give as much, or more than I receive from you. The Master’s hand is a double edged sword. It can give pleasure and it can punish. I will never forget that, and will consider every facet of any situation before using that power. It will never be used in anger, and will always be justifiable.

“Thank you for giving me the gift of your submission, Camryn,” he said softly. He took my hand and helped me rise, and we kissed, through my happy tears as our friends and family showered us with congratulations, warmth and love.

Get over it

Dear world:

Yes. I am a strong, intelligent, secure, capable, boringly normal woman in a D/s relationship. Get over it, already.

Don’t call me a doormat. I am independent and self-sufficient and there is only -one- person who gets to tell me what to do.
 
Don’t call me weak. My way of life requires a reserve of inner strength you only wish you had.
 
Don’t call me passive. I made a carefully considered decision, of my own free will, with clarity of mind, heart and conscience. Our life is a mutual, consensual choice.
 
Don’t call me a bimbo. I have exquisite taste and I don’t wander around SL dressed like a hooker. My sex life is as private as yours, and probably no kinkier. 
 
And p.s. It’s none of your business anyway.
 
I have been given the gift of submission, the freedom to surrender, the grace to trust, the privilege to love.
 
If that bothers you, I’m not the one with the problem.
 
Everyone should be so lucky as me.

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 »