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.

Victorian store: a Painted Lady

I decided to try Victorian…! We wanted to make our new shopping area reminiscent of New Hope, PA and other small towns where the original Victorian houses have been converted to funky, eclectic shops. I made most of them fairly simple, but on this one, I got inspired to go full tilt. As they say, if you stood still for 5 minutes, the Victorians would try to decorate you… so the last thing a Victorian house should be is simple!

It’s loaded with highly detailed authentic features, including a wraparound porch, turret tower, sculpted balustrades and spandrels, fretwork, decorative shingles and “Stick” detail. The interior was painstakingly textured to match the Victorian styling. The double hung windows even work!

I took my inspiration from various Queen Anne style houses in New England, and the famous “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco. I had a lot of fun researching the style, and planning the materials.

This is one of those “only in OpenSim” builds at 985 prims (no problem, we’ve got plenty more). A residential version will be forthcoming soon, with authentically styled interior. I might try to do a somewhat less primmy version for SL.

The store is offered rent-free. Land ownership is included, also free. We want to encourage content creators to share their creations with our residents by offering them free space to do it. If you’d like to move in, contact Walter Balazic or Camryn Darkstone inworld in OSgrid.

Come see it on the Littlefield NE sim in OSgrid.

See more of Littlefield at our Flickr page.

In Remembrance 9/11

9/11 memorial in Littlefield

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 I built this replica of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC that opened today.

Members of the Littlefield community gathered here at 8:46 a.m. to be with each other, and remember and reflect together.

9/11 memorial in Littlefield

Death is not extinguishing the light.
It is putting out the lamp
because the dawn has come.

–Tagore

The next chapter, wherein I colonize a new planet

Last summer, Walter began to worry about the future of Second Life in the face of growing evidence of the financial struggles of Linden Lab. In particular, he worried about how we would keep our family together, if Second Life should suddenly tank. He decided to work on a backup plan: building us a second home, in another virtual world. Not to leave SL; but to establish a beachhead, a fallout shelter, a Plan B.

After a few months of experimentation with various virtual worlds, he decided that we would build in the OpenSim world of OSgrid. One attractive thing about it is that there is no TOS, and no restrictions on “adult” lifestyles. Also, it is incredibly cheap. For less than the cost of a single homestead sim in SL, we could have 24 full regions, each one with no less than 20,000 prims, some with much more. Unlike SL, we are connected to OSgrid but our regions are hosted on our servers; that gives Walter full control over our world. No overlords; no being at the mercy of someone else’s poor business decisions. For Walter, and for our family, this was perfect. Walter was really excited. I think this is something he was born to do.

Walter’s imagination saw the possibilities, not only for our own family, but for the whole BDSM community on SL. Linden Lab is, to put it charitably, increasingly less hospitable to the BDSM community. But having our own grid would put us in charge. We would not need to conform to someone else’s rules. We would make our own rules, and protect and celebrate our way of life. So Walter hatched a plan to create a virtual world, not just for our family but for the whole BDSM community. And thus, Littlefield was born.

“Our hope is that Littlefield will be a safe, fun, and rewarding environment for the BDSM/Adult/Fetish community. We hope this community will bring together like minded individuals who will be able to create, interact, and have fun with very limited cost. We hope to offer some clarity and education about the BDSM/Fetish lifestyle to help anyone who is curious or wants to learn about the practices of BDSM in RL.” –About Littlefield, by Walter Balazic

As good as that sounds in theory, I will admit that at first I was reluctant. I love Second Life. It has been my home for four years. I love the creative people and the amazing builds and artworks they have made. I love my friends. I love the visual splendor of the world. I love being able to explore strange and wonderful new environments and experiences. I marvel at what people are to pull forth from their minds.

My first few visits to alternate grids did not reassure me. I love Walter very much, and I believed in his vision. Yet, at the same time, my initial experience was unappealing. For one thing, it was lonely: 5000 sims and I rarely saw more than 80 people online in the whole grid. Then there was my appearance, of which I am very conscious in Second Life. I am not a fashionista by any means, but I do love looking good; I have taken great care selecting skins, shapes, hair and clothes and I really appreciate the artistry that goes into making them. Alas, upon arrival in OSgrid, I looked like a 2006 noob; and even worse, the only skins, hair and clothes I found were freebies from that same era. I couldn’t find an AO so I was stuck walking like a duck. The buildings and landscaping around me were amateurish, lacking that spark of design sophistication that makes SL so appealing. I got very depressed over it. What would my life be, here? Yes, Walter would be in the new world, but the prospect of disconnecting from everything else I loved in SL seemed grim beyond words.

So I sat down to think things through. As I often do when pondering a dilemma, I begin by reminding myself of that which is most important, the sine qua non. And that is Walter. He is the most important person in my life. I may live in a virtual world, but my home is in him. He is my center, my ground, my reason for being. At my collaring, I made a vow to stay with him, to follow him to the end of all things. And I will, even if it were to mean forsaking everything else.

Having established that, I began to ponder my dilemma. Staying with Walter was a source of happiness. So what was making me unhappy? I focused on two things. My avatar looked terrible; and the world around me looked grim. Well… what if, instead of just lamenting the problem, I tackled it head on? Could I fix those things? Would there be a way to procure good skins, decent clothes? Instead of accepting as a given the uninspired world I saw, could I build something better, a world that was visually pleasing?

The more I thought it through, the more I began to see myself, not like a refugee, but almost as a character in a science fiction novel–a pioneer on a spaceship sent to colonize another planet. If we wanted something, we would have to find a way to bring it with us, or, more likely, make it ourselves; there would be no stores where we could just buy things. Could I do this? I was pretty sure I could make buildings, but could I make my own trees, my own clothes, my own hair… my own skin?

I thought about it for several days. Then it was time for action. I had to build just one thing, something simple, something that could reassure me that other things eventually would be possible. I sketched out a simple plaza, with fountains and planters and benches. When my friend VonGklugelstein Alter gave me permission to use his textures in our new grid, things suddenly started looking up. I built a few stores. They didn’t look half bad. Inspiration hit, generating ideas for a community center. I experimented with making a tree. I bit the bullet and started to learn Photoshop. I found clothing templates I could work with.

I’m not sure exactly when the transition happened, but somewhere in there, I went from being dragged reluctantly into what seemed like a prison, to voluntarily spending almost all my time there, because it’s so much fun.

There are a LOT of challenges. But now, instead of depressing me, the challenges energize me, and even entertain me. If I need a building tool, I can’t go out and buy it. I have to make it. (But it’s not such a bad thing, is it, to learn how to do it myself?) There is no fashion world on OSgrid; no other designers, no shopping, no couture, no skin makers, no hair makers. But some makers of clothing templates in SL will license their content for other grids; so I can make some cute outfits, and we have one person in our family who is really good at making clothes and shoes. I found a free skin on the internet that’s really good. Hair is still a challenge, but we are working on it. Animations are another, but we now have one pioneer who is applying herself to that trade. My avatar now looks almost normal.

It is a different way of being. My SL has been, not so much about creativity, as experiencing and appreciating the creativity of others. It is a somewhat passive experience of consumption. On OSgrid there is not much out there available to be consumed. Whatever we want to consume, we must make. The experience of Littlefield is proactive, one of creating, colonizing our own new planet, building a world that we’re in charge of, for the benefit of our family, our friends, our community.

Walter was right about this. He usually is right. I am learning to trust that.

I am still in SL–I don’t see myself ever leaving SL–but pixel by pixel, the Littlefield part of my world is coming into focus. It stimulates a different aspect of my mind and heart. It is a place of limitless possibilities. A place that is all potential, all promise, all vision, unrealized as yet, but well on its way.