Thursday, March 18, 2010

or the time she kept spraying me with the seltzer bottle, until I obeyed her every command

I was waiting at Blue Blood for their Wonderland dress boards to hit my letter. (There are seven dresses: Rust, Green, Gray, Baby Blue, Pink, Blue, Purple, and Red--there's also a Yellow variant, but that's either the group gift this month for the store group, or the profile pick gift, I can't remember.)

Lady in silks comes up, Miss ravenmuse Rexen. Above her head was one of those "I am Master's girl" tags, you've seen the type--usually because she's in that particular Master's house group or RP group.

Owned by Master Zalain Sterling
I am not a Gorean slave @)~

This one caught my eye. Not a Gorean slave; but later on, it lists what she can do in Gorean spaces, including serving, bathing, and massage.

I take only commands/orders from My Master
Only My Master is Allowed to discipline me

Another standard clause, and in the right hands, a good one: in other words, the only discipline of slave Whomever comes from one set of hands, one mind; there is no confusion. I tend to be somewhat jaded when I see this particular clause, not because it doesn't have meaning for that particular person--or her dominant--but because it can so easily be misused.

Any questions or issues with me are be to taken up with Him I have been told to not to answer offensive or abusive IM's/openchat
by speaking with me You're consenting to IM/chat logging.

And I have to admit...this used to hit me as the most incredible form of blind arrogance, but four years into life on SL...this is basic survival, here. Whether or not Miss Rexen's master is good or bad, in this, he is absolutely right:
* If someone is offensive to you, and you have no good reason to continue talking to them: do not answer them. This is not RL; you can do this.
* If they persist, and you have no good reason to continue listening to them: mute them. This is not RL. YOU CAN DO THIS.
* And, if for some reason you cannot do this, for whatever reason, and you have a dominant: they can tell you to do this. And what you wouldn't do on your own for self-preservation, you will let them do for you, because you've given them the power to tell you what to do. This is pure genius, in a sense.
The chat logging thing is new, it's just started popping up in profiles this year. Most people keep the chat log button checked most of the time, anyway, whether or not they ever check the logs. I'd love to know how that one started.

At that point I was hooked, and just started reading bits from her profile at random.

A good woman, any good woman, will challenge a man. She will test her boundaries, push and nudge. Sometimes she is obvious, sometimes she is subtle. But she is ALWAYS tugging at her leash. She needs to feel the resistance, to know that the leash is held, because it makes her feel safe. If you let the leash go slack, she will slip away. If you yank it too hard, she will choke and die. It is a simple, constant tension, that defines a man as a Master. It is not empty vapid threats and stomping off like a child. It is the passing of a look of disapproval, a subtle graceful thing that a Master does as an act of love. When she yanks hard, he does not yank back as hard as he can. If anything he shows her in his calm grasp that he is merciful and could do worse. If he punishes her, it is not out of revenge, but out of love. Desire not to see her suffering, but her learning. To comfort her with his strength, with her boundaries. That she will feel safe and become the caregiver she is bred to be.

I like this. I like this a lot. I don't think it holds true for every relationship, but I think it's a very powerful statement.

Just as there are several different fetishes on the grid, and several different species if it comes right down to it, there are also several different choices in the BDSM community. And I'm not going to say this happens with every submissive and dominant pairing out there--honestly, if there's any common thread in SL, it's the descent chain--where a dominant owns a submissive; then that submissive is Master or Mistress over a submissive of their own--but this, also, is a good paradigm.

I would say the only always true bit of that statement is in the first line--that any good woman will challenge a man. I believe this is true: at least, for those men in whom she has interest. In point of fact, a woman, good or otherwise, will challenge anyone she's interested in, man or woman; and anyone she perceives as being in her way, regardless of gender.

But in this, in this specific that relationship between a dominant and a submissive...Put specific genders aside for a moment. What most people looking in from outside see as a D/s relationship, Dominant/submissive, is sex, and if they're of the mindset where sex for sex' sake is a bad thing, humiliation. And while I will grant that at times, these things come into play (for some pairings more than others), that is not the core.

The core is, the core always is, power exchange. If one is submissive and one hands power over and then complains that bad things happen...I will not play the card of 'she should have known better', or 'well, that's his fault, innit?' But I will say that if a submissive hands over their power to a dominant who does not honor it; to a dominant who will use that as an excuse to harm and abuse; ultimately, if xie hands zir power over to a dominant xie does not know...then if xie does not stand up and take hir power back then xie is culpable, on some level, for what follows. If what follows is bad, which whatever happened is the fault of the dominant, xie gave away zir power and xie must own that that act was the start of things going wrong.

(Brief explanation of xie/zir/hir as terms can be found here. Mostly using them for personal convenience, not precisely stylistic integrity.)

Conversely, if the dominant and submissive talk things out in the beginning; if they move from a place of safety into further explorations as a pair, and always function with the knowledge that that place of safety remains; if, ultimately, the dominant knows and understands that their actions take place within the framework of their submissive's granted consent...then the pairing is strong and unshakable. This, then, is the dominant Miss Rexen speaks of: the dominant who knows xie has a seeking, alive mind and heart at the end of the leash, and that xie is allowed to leash that heart and mind because that heart and mind need to learn things one can only learn in this type of relationship.

To put it another way: for certain people, in other situations, this would be termed Mentor and Apprentice. Or Teacher and Student. And that testing would be to prove the strength of the bond, to prove what restrictions there are, what restrictions there need to be. Education is a process. Training requires discipline, after all.

To be a true Master,One must be able to Master themselves before they Master the life of another.
A true Master does not hide behind words, but enforces his words through actions.
Masters do not take submission lightly. They treasure the gift, as they treasure the one giving it.

This one, for all it's somewhat poorly phrased, is also true. And I'd say it's the one thing on her profile that extends fully beyond BDSM. To be a true dominant, is to know one's own strengths and limitations, to know and trust them, where that person shines and where that person falters. It takes an honest appraisal of self, without ego, to gain this understanding, and it's invaluable for anyone, in or out of a BDSM perspective.

What are our strengths and weaknesses? Where are our tender spots? Can we point the searchlights of our souls inward, and honestly, truthfully look at who we are? Who will we find when we do?

The second part of that is also true, in my opinion. If one considers themselves a dominant of any stripe, and they do not understand the gift of submission that is offered them--they do not deserve to be in charge of any submissive. Period.

Dominants, are people who are born naturally to this predisposition and who grow in their natural dominance to become Masters/Mistresses. Not just through their own self importance, but through experience, dedication, love, & determination, to be the ruling hand. Do not mistake this for a gate to become a Tyrant or someone so full of themselves that they forget the ones at their feet who make them who they are & who they continue to evolve & become.

I don't necessarily disagree with her conclusion that dominance is inborn, not nurtured. Myself, I do tend to think it's actually closer to both--that strong determined spark that starts the quest for dominance, but having to tend it, keep it from raging out of control, training it, tempering it. Letting that natural drive teach us, listening to what it says. Reminding ourselves that it is within us, and of us, but not all of us.

In Gor it is said that a slave must always speak the truth to his/her Master/Mistress. Well in Life, this is true but also in the opposite respect. A Master/Mistress/Dominant must always be truthful, first to themselves but to their slaves/subs as well. To not is to lose their trust & respect.

And I believe in this, as well, through a non-Gorean filter. On SL or in RL, a dominant must find their own path. And while it is essential, even vital to the survival of the D/s relationship to be truthful to one's dominant--for how else will they know the hearts and minds of those in their control?--it is also essential and vital for the dominant to speak truth to the submissive. Truth strengthens the bond. Deception weakens it. It's a simple thing.

Of course, none of this I said to her, you see. Which is part of why I'm saying it here. It stayed with me, while I was waiting for the lucky boards to cycle around, and reading various and sundry things on the web. I found more truth in it than subterfuge, which believe me, is rare in SL.

This, also, for the confused, is part of what draws women to Gor in SL. Not the male domination, not the tilt towards male power over female will. One thing that is emphasized, over and over again, throughout Gor, is never the line one expects to see, the line from Norman where he said that women simply were weaker, and could never have power of their own; that they were designed to serve under men, and had no other purpose. To me and to other women, that is and remains offensive as hell.

No, what draws women in is a sideline: the line that states the ultimate responsibility for any kajira is to be beautiful in all things. Beautifully dressed, beautifully coiffed, beautifully polished. To be perfect in Gorean society is to be admired--to have mastered the arts of proper service, the arts of dance and sensuous, sinuous motion, the arts of conversation and the arts of the bedchamber.

In this end, silks serve a defining purpose: simple for 'common' girls, moving towards ornate fabrics and ornamentations for those who have been selected to serve one master. And in and amongst all the other scrawls on the culture--Norman created a pervasive world but he was not, if you'll forgive me, a good writer--he came back to this point time and time again. Everyday working women, city slaves, slaves to certain castes, all were dressed in common colors and simple fabrics. The dancers, the highly trained kajirae, they wore better, finer silks.

And in SL, the silks can get very, very fine indeed.

Just as an everyday woman's working kimono is of simple fabrics, stripes or solids, simple construction, so too an oiran's working kimono will be a fantastic, embroidered, brocaded thing. Flowers will drip from her carefully coiffed and pinned hair; her feet will bear geta that will raise her six inches to a foot from the ground. (Some oiran went up to three feet, with attendants, one on each arm, to guide her carefully down the streets.) Her neck will be painted and carefully perfumed; the back of her kimono will be constructed so that dipping down over her shoulders, revealing the demarcation line of paint into skin, is actually what it's been designed to do.

And even women out shopping, who will sneer at the pampered creature, thinking she is likely moving from some dissolute man in a teahouse behind her, to a perverse man in a pleasure house in front--they will stop, and some small bit of marveling will go on. Because the oiran is so beautiful. Because the artifice is so precise. Because never in a million years of working and saving and toiling could buy them that rich a kimono, nor would they have a use for it. Envy and desire both follow the oiran through the city streets, and not just mens' eyes follow her.

So too the Gorean kajirae, if they have pride of place, of service; if they hold to these ideals. And so to the women that are drawn to it. For women will put up with oh, so very much to feel special, to feel unique, and beautiful, in the eyes of the ones they love.

I'm not saying I could not have had this conversation with Miss Rexen. She seemed intelligent, and she's obviously thought these things out. I'm just saying I didn't. And I still haven't won the Rust dress in the Wonderland set!


Anonymous said...

Question referring to this paragraph:
"* If someone is offensive to you, and you have no good reason to continue talking to them: do not answer them. This is not RL; you can do this.
* If they persist, and you have no good reason to continue listening to them: mute them. This is not RL. YOU CAN DO THIS."

Why can't you do this in RL? Not precisely as you do it in SL (it's not as easy), but the principle is the same. Did you mean that you can't do these things as easily in RL (would that we could eh?) or did you mean one can't walk away from abuse in RL?

Tangential question: Do you think people who have trouble shielding themselves from abuse in RL could learn it in SL, where the threat is not so close, personal and dangerous? That would be a grand thing, wouldn't it?

You gave me some things to think about today. You've given me more understanding for those who accept dominant and submissive roles (and no, I do NOT judge it), but where does the need for these roles come from? I've lived long enough to know that there probably isn't a man on earth who could get a leash on me without having his arm torn off, even if it choked to do it. You post made me wonder why I am as I am and why others need and/or enjoy either a dominant or submissive role. Or is this one of those things "you either get it or you don't"?


Emilly Orr said...


I know I have at least one letter that got lost in the overage of IMs and emails--I need to dig it out and answer you back! :)

Far as this, while it can be done in RL, it is more difficult. Someone calls you and harangues you; you can hang up. Someone comes to your home and attacks you; you can get a restraining order against them. (Though in many, many cases, 'restraining order' has come to mean 'we'll be burying this one later' in a lot of larger cities.) But the attacks can still happen. The calls can still happen. Whomever it is can stand outside your door, off your property, and yell vile things until you call in a complaint on disturbing the peace--and he can come right back and do it the next night.

If someone annoys you in SL, on the other hand, you don't have to answer. It's a choice, always. If someone abuses/harangues you, you can mute them. You will not hear from them again save for those rare group chat glitches; even then, you can mute them after they come unmuted. You can't even see them; they're a solid outline of grey. The most a muted avatar can do is to bump into you; and even that is solved by porting off.

(Well, there's griefing, but again, AR that avatar--and LL will eventually take care of the problem for you.)

I think people who have trouble dealing with abusive situations will fall right into those abusive situations in SL. Can they learn enough to step back from the abuse? Absolutely. Will they? That's the difficult one. And support is scattershot--there's a whole sim developed to mental health in general (SupportforHealing), and one for suicide attempts (and unfortunate successes). There isn't as much assistance for "people being abused in BDSM relationships", because for a lot of people outside BDSM, "abuse" is all they see. And even for those of us in the life, as participants or counselors, it can be a fine line.

I will be honest: after some years of being out of the lifestyle entirely, I'm back in it, and in a position I never thought I'd be in again: submissive to a dominant male.

But, this dominant male accepts and honors my other commitments; accepts that my attention will divert elsewhere (I'm part of caregiving support to my wheelchair-bound partner, after all; her needs come first); and is not on SL.

And, I admit, that may be part of why I'm not like most of the other submissives on the grid. I do not bow and scrape to anyone who hasn't earned it. I do not automatically sit on the floor unless I want to. I do not automatically dress in silks or wander around collared and leashed.

Am I submissive because of damage in my past, or because I know this is a gift I can offer, to this one soul, and freely, that I know helps him? Is my submission less because I know that it is by my will I serve? No; in fact, I think it's more. But do I want this because of abuse, or because it's what I am?

I have also been dominant, with some lovers, I tend to go back and forth.

Do I think everyone is like this? No. Submissives; dominants; those who seek equality; gay; straight;'s a wide diverse world, and we are diverse creatures in it.

I don't have solid answers, but at least the questions are interesting!

Irismi said...

Hello. Google sent me here when i was looking for information on dominant/submissive relationships. I loved you post and i'm going to see what else i can find on your blog.
Lovely design, by the way.

Emilly Orr said...

Hi, Irismi! And thanks. I had fun designing it, and miracle of miracles, I still like it two years later.

There's not much else on this blog about D/s, specifically; most of the blog deals with SL, virtual worlds and online games, technology and music. Relationships in general. And a ton on Second Life.

I'd recommend tracking down Forceme Silverspar's blog--it's recently come back out of hiding, and she's funny, witty and smart to boot.

Anonymous said...

Well, here's a cute story for you in the wake of my comment, above. When I was typing my response to you,I copied my sentence "I've lived long enough to know that there probably isn't a man on earth who could get a leash on me without having his arm torn off, even if it choked to do it." to move it ... and a few minutes later I sent a notice to one of my groups and that sentence ended up being copid into the notice, which I sent without looking. The notice I'd intended to copy from my notecard didn't "take" for some reason and so now everyone in that group knows how I feel about leashes. Did I laugh until I fell off my chair when I realised? Oh yes, I did!

I have another question, though ... which I feel less awkward asking since you switch roles. Do you think the role of the submissive is attractive to women (or men) who have been abused? And if so, is it because it's safe, protected and turns a sense of powerlessness into a gift to someone else? Is that the idea that you were weighing in your mind?

I used to volunteer at a place that tried to help victims of abuse with shelter, moral support, counseling, and every other kind of help we could think of. All the unanswered questions pertaining to the dynamics of abuse still haunt me and always will. That is what underlies my interest and my questions. No offence intended to you or anyone else.