Living with Conflict

I have a dear friend who simply does not understand my affinity for BDSM. Despite countless in-depth conversations, in which I do my level best to explain it to him, he persists in his belief that submission is demeaning and that everyone really prefers freedom.

Believing himself to be an open-minded person, he has constructed an illusion in which he does support submission. He does this by re-defining, in his own mind at least, what submission is; or by inventing a complicated argument that submission is in fact dominance. By clinging to this dubious construct, he can appear to agree with me, while never actually changing his beliefs.

He doesn’t get it. He probably never will. And I must live with that.

The illusion works for him within the limits of a conversation about abstract thought, when his ideas are not put to the test. But inevitably, something concrete will happen that forces the abstraction to materialize into action. Then, his actions do not bear out his conciliatory words. The curtain is pulled aside, and his true beliefs are revealed. And the truth is that he just doesn’t get it. He probably never will. And I must live with that.

It pains me to be at odds with my dear friend over this important aspect of my life. I would love to share my joy with him, but I can’t, because he doesn’t believe in it. While painful, conflict in a relationship is not at all unusual. I think we all find ourselves, at some point, having a major difference of opinion within the context of a close relationship. When it happens, must we choose between winning the argument and preserving the relationship? Is it possible to prove your point without hurting the other person? Is it necessary to capitulate, to keep the friendship intact? Or must we avoid conflict at all costs, agreeing not to mention certain issues, or pretending that the conflict does not exist?

We are genetically more invested in winning arguments than in thinking clearly.

These questions become even more complicated when we consider the fact that humans are inherently irrational – even the ones who most adamantly claim to be rational. Scientists have demonstrated that we are genetically more invested in winning arguments than in thinking clearly. It has been proven countless times that facts usually do not change our minds. We – all of us – experience something called “confirmation bias,” a trait that is hard-wired into our genes. It means that we all tend to embrace information that supports our current beliefs and reject information that contradicts them.

Furthermore, we also have a trait called “cognitive immunization” which means that the stronger our beliefs, the less likely it is that facts will sway us… no matter how true the facts are. The person you are arguing with probably will not be swayed by logic, reason or facts that contradict his or her beliefs. In fact, it is more likely that he or she will just become more entrenched.

Given that this is true, when two people have conflicting beliefs, it seems to me that arguing is pointless.

Given the choice between proving my point, and preserving the health of a relationship, I choose the relationship. Every time.

Given the choice between proving my point, and preserving the relationship, I choose the relationship. Every time.

So, I must let go of my disappointment that my dear friend does not share my understanding of submission. My dear friend is very important to me, and I want him in my life. I find great joy in submission, but I do not wish to wreck a friendship by insisting on winning an argument.

I also suspect that if I chose to associate only with friends who agree with my beliefs about submission, that would be a form of confirmation bias. My friends have many shades of beliefs and opinions about submission and BDSM. It is quite a varied tapestry. Total unanimity on this or any point probably cannot be achieved. And a circle of friends who all think alike could be a little boring.

So, I will accept the presence of the conflict and learn to co-exist with that tension. I will stop trying to convince anyone of the truth of my beliefs. Living with conflict is not comfortable. But there are many, many other things about those relationships that make them totally worth the effort.

Never Again

Aging, in many ways, has caused me to look at myself with wry amusement.

The creaks and groans. When it takes longer to rest than to get tired. When children I taught have their own kids going off to college. When pulling an all-nighter means not getting up to pee.

For most of my life, I was younger than everyone else around me; always a year younger than others in my grade at school, the youngest of my cousins, younger than almost everyone else in my graduate school class. Now, in many situations I am one of the oldest, if not the oldest person in the room. This amuses me. In the classic three stages of womanhood — maiden, mother and crone — I have become the crone. I honor and embrace my crone-ness.

Advancing age has brought on what I have called the “Never Again” effect. It’s a moment when you come to the realization that you have probably experienced a certain thing for the very last time in this life.

It’s not so much about deciding not to do something ever again. This is more about the realization that you will never have the opportunity again, even if you wanted it.

We all have a private bucket list of things we want to accomplish or experience in this life. “Just once before I die, I want to…” My bucket list included, among other things, five musical works that I wanted to sing at least once. It didn’t seem an unreasonable goal, as I was a member of two professional vocal ensembles that might have done any of those works. But age eventually got the better of my voice, and my singing career ended before I was able to sing any of those five works. No amount of effort or determination will restore my ability to sing. Physiology is what it is. Aging happens. I realized one day that I will never again be a professional singer. I will never again have that opportunity. That was hard to accept. I had spent most of my life in pursuit of, and immersed in that life. It was not easy to think back on the hopes and dreams I had in grad school in my twenties, the energy and optimism with which I embraced the journey, and to realize that now, whatever was going to happen, has already happened. That life is finished. It is over now.

That is just one example. There are many others. A few of them, in the past few days, have been very painful. The number of endings in my life is beginning to outweigh the number of beginnings. I am by no means unique in this. I’m guessing it happens to everyone. But in this journal I can only speak about my own experience.

In young adulthood, with decades ahead of me, the future was an intriguing mystery. With the arrogance of youth, I felt that anything was possible. I could select any path I desired, and pursue it with confidence and hope. Now, in my seventh decade, some of those paths are forever closed to me. I have been blessed with intelligence and ability and have always had a lot of drive to accomplish my goals. It has been extremely difficult to accept that some of those goals now will forever remain unmet.

Sometimes, I say “never again” with a sense of relief. About certain things, I think, thank goodness I never have to do that again. I grow increasingly aware of the things that are a waste of time and energy, and as I grow older and my supply of time and energy shrinks, I’m unwilling to spend any of it on pursuits that ultimately mean nothing.

A few things escape the “never again” effect because no matter how old one is, one can never be certain they’ll never happen again. Who can say for sure that one will never fall in love, or never witness an astounding event? In June 2014 I was pretty sure there would never be another Triple Crown in my lifetime, but the very next year, I was proven wrong. Sometimes you just never know.

But the list of assured “never again” grows longer with each year. It’s increasingly unlikely that I will ever be wealthy, own a nice home, have children, travel to far off lands, learn to sail, buy a new computer, etc. etc. My limited resources, my dingy little apartment, my solitary life, my physical limitations… this is it. This is what I get to have now. Whatever I have now, is what I’m going to have from now on. My ability to change it has diminished.

Should I mourn? Or celebrate?

There was a time when I had ambition. I had the vision of a hopeful future, and the energy to make it happen. Gradually, life’s defeats and disappointments took their toll.

Now, where once I had vision, I have understanding. Where once I had ambition, I have acceptance.

These are not bad things.  Perhaps they add up to that elusive quality called “wisdom.”

I can no longer chase a bucket list of accomplishments I will never achieve. But I can love the people who are given to me to love. I can no longer sing as I once did. But I can embrace moments of joy and laughter.

I can’t escape the storm of passing time. But maybe I can learn to dance in the rain.

dance-in-the-rain

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!

SOMA: sensual pleasure on Bondage

Friends noticed me in SL a lot more for a few weeks, and I want to share a bit about the project that I just completed there. Stop by the sim Bondage and have a look at SOMA.

SOMA is not easy to describe. They are a group of friends who share an interest in the pleasure of intellect, erotic sensuality, art and myth. At first glance, one may wonder whether it’s a sex club, an art gallery, a dance club or a temple. The answer is yes.

In ancient mythology, Soma was the drink of the gods, the Hindu equivalent of the Greco-Roman ambrosia. It is the elixir that celebrates the divine character of life. SOMA is a group of passionate friends and thoughtful lovers. Or is that lovers of thought? SOMA hosts discussions, dances, art exhibits, erotic parties, rituals, theater, concerts and more. SOMA is a pleasure feast of body, mind and spirit, a celebration of art and sensuality, of wild and tender passions.

SOMA began as one small building on a small parcel, and grew rapidly without much planning. When they finally took over the entire sim, they asked me to come and help them expand in a more thoughtful way. I retained their original Asian building and helped them expand into a large Roman area and a Celtic-themed area featuring a stone circle.

SOMA now has a blog, “Ambrosia” and can be found on Twitter @SomaSecondLife. Inworld, join the group Bondage Soma to receive notices. Below is a quick photo tour of SOMA.

One arrives at a central plaza that leads to all the various venues. Yes, that is an Egyptian god in front of a Roman villa. That type of convergence is typical of SOMA.

Soma Roman Villa

The group enjoys weekly dances in The Pleasure Dome. Love the Alchemy Immortalis “Haute Suite” chairs.

Pleasure Dome

Sculpted deities by the amazing Ryusho Ort are featured in the central plaza.

Soma Statues Hindu Egyptian Gods

Prometheus Theater overlooks the plaza and is a setting for concerts and dramatic productions.

Prometheus Theater overlooks the plaza and is a setting for concerts and dramatic productions

Villa de L’Arte is currently showing the work of the fabulous Bachi Cheng, a successful RL artist whose vibrant, colorful images celebrate life and love.

Villa de L'Arte is currently showing the work of the fabulous Bachi Cheng

A small Roman peristyle garden offers a bit of serenity in a quiet cloister.

A small Roman peristyle garden offers a bit of serenity in a quiet cloister

Artwork and logo by my wonderful friends Stephen Venkman and Seren Dawes.

Artwork and logo by Stephen Venkman and Seren Dawes.

Bacchus Pub, furnished with Max Graf’s excellent Rustica pub set.

Bacchus Pub, Rustica pub

The villa has several nooks and terraces for intimacy and romance.

Soma Romantic Terrace

Flute Alonzo’s furnishings have gorgeous textures and top quality animations.

Soma Flute Alonzo Furnishings

One private room has a Gorean dance pit and a setting for small group gatherings.

Soma Private Room

The sim is named Bondage. That said, it is not primarily a BDSM sim. But there is a small, elegant, intimate dungeon, the Temple of Bondage, well-equipped for sensual bondage play.

Temple of Bondage

The Temple of Bondage has a lovely public room and three private rooms equipped with dozens of the finest BDSM toys from BFE, Deviant, Dictatorshop and Nihil.

Temple of Bondage Dungeon Rooms

The Temple of Zeus and Hera provides a setting for pagan rituals and… well, other things.

Temple of Zeus and Hera

The Serene Meditation Garden is a lovely place for Tai Chi or just sitting, when you need to breathe.

Serene Meditation Garden

This Stone Circle is the setting for a popular weekly discussion group. I landscaped the oak grove around the group’s slightly kludgy standing stones to which they have grown sentimentally attached.

Stone Circle Oak Grove

Other features not pictured here include an elaborate undersea mer garden, tree house, beach house, and Japanese pleasure palace.

Be sure to stop by SOMA on Bondage and partake of its many pleasures.

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.

The Backwoods Cabin

It has been awhile since I posted. I want to put up photos of some new things from the other grid, and of course the Chinese Garden. But first, I will just take a moment to share a quick skybox I did for some friends. The assignment was to create a backwoods cabin with a certain… um… atmosphere that tells a story. Let me explain… (click thumbnails for larger photos)

You’re hiking in the wilderness, two days’ walk from the nearest road, when you stray from the trail. You try to You stumble into a clearing, where you see a small, run-down shack.make your way back, but the forest only gets thicker. You start to wonder just how lost you are, as night begins to fall. Suddenly you stumble into a clearing, where you see a small, run-down shack. Hidden in the deep woods, nearly obscured by tall grass, it’s unlikely that anyone would know it was there unless they were looking for it. At first, you think it must be an abandoned hunting cabin. But there is a thin wisp of smoke rising from the chimney, and a faint flicker of firelight warming the windows. Someone has been here recently. But who would live in such a remote place?

Something tells you that you should just leave, but your curiosity gets the better of you. You walk up the rickety front steps onto the porch. You hesitate a moment, but then you knock. The heavy wooden door swings open with a creak. You call out, but there is no answer. Stepping inside cautiously, you find yourself in a small kitchen. The furnishings are spare; you realize that this place is so far from civilization that any supplies would have to be packed in on foot. The old fashioned hand pump at the sink, the kerosene lantern and the pot-bellied wood stove tell you that this cabin is way off the grid. Still, there are neat stacks of cans and sacks of food, and a few simple, clean dishes. Someone is definitely living here.

The warm glow of a crackling fire in the large stone fireplace draws you further inside the small cabin. The sparse decor is limited to a few well worn rugs, an old armchair, solid woven curtains, and… That’s when you are startled to see the block and tackle hanging from the massive beam overhead. The heavy equipment looks out of place in this tranquil setting. What could the cabin’s occupant need to hoist? Beneath, metal cleats are bolted to the floor. Nearby, an odd-looking wooden crate with doors stands in the corner; a tattered blanket lies rumpled inside, and an empty old bottle is on the floor beside it. So very strange… What goes on inside this dark little cabin?

Certain now that you are alone in the remote backwoods cabin, you slowly open the single bedroom door and peer inside. At first glance, it seems spartan but normal. Illuminated by the glow from two old fashioned oil lamps, a soft brown blanket is draped over a worn but clean mattress on a sturdy steel frame. It’s only when you notice the objects on the dresser that it all begins to sink in. A coil of rope. A tube of some substance. A black scarf. A glint of metal in the open drawer… was that a knife? Handcuffs? A chill runs down your spine. It’s time to get out of here.

You race down the path, away from the creepy cabin and into the darkening night. The tall pines that just a few moments ago towered with majestic beauty now seem to hover threateningly, concealing dark secrets. You wonder how you will ever find the trail again, to take you away from this place. Through the trees, you see a waterfall, and you rush toward its cleansing sound.

Water cascades down the granite cliff in sparkling streams. The natural beauty, hidden here in the wilderness, leaves you awestruck, in such contrast to the dark scene you just witnessed. Then you see her. A young woman, quite naked, is bathing in the pool at the base of the waterfall. Her long blonde hair and wet skin glisten in the moonlit night. You can’t help but stare; she is beautiful, and splashes in the water as if she had no cares. But you see the rope knotted tightly around her delicate wrists. Images flash before your eyes: the ropes tied to the rafters… the crate… they must be meant for this beautiful captive. Yet something is strange; if she is a prisoner, why does she seem so content? Where is her captor? You wonder, but realize, then, that this story, whatever it is, is not for you to know. Silently, without disturbing the girl, you turn and leave, to trace your path back to the world.

About the build: This was wicked fun to do. I completed this entire build in less than two hours, using a cabin I’d made before, and the wonderful Wild Mountain Pine materials from Heart Botanicals. The whole landscape, on a 100mx100m platform, consists of pre-made arrangementsmatching grasses, and off-sim islands (which work great as a surround for a skybox/platform) and it was done in minutes. For the scripted furniture that needed to have… er… certain animations, a little astute shopping led us to Dirty Deeds and then to the block and tackle which is the inspired work of Britt Halberstam. I built a few things, then completed the environment with atmosphere pieces from Rustica, Alchemy Immortalis, Dutchie and Shade. Two hours of dark fun! It may have been quick to build, but the owners have many hours of rich RP to look forward to…

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.