Saturday, September 27, 2008

Club Store on XLStreet

I am setting up a store to distribute free stuff and sell stuff made by members on (login to or select Uncensored to see most items). If any full member wants to sell stuff through this, then I offer this as a free service - I will pay them 100% of what they get in sales. Stuff has to be vaguely relevant to D/s or BDSM, of reasonable quality, theirs to distribute and at an accessible price. Contact me in-world if interested.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why Submissives Take So Much Time

by Eloise Pasteur

NOTE: I'm writing in the singular throughout this, because that's my experience. The same principles seem to apply if there are multiple dominants in a long term relationship with the submissive, or several submissives, or several of both. Similarly I'm writing with female pronouns throughout, but it applies to men too to the best of my knowledge.

It's a truism of the D/s world and the BDSM world that a submissive always wants more time with her dominant. It doesn't matter whether she is a slave, a pain slut, a bondage babe, a maid, a pampered pet, or whatever other labels for types of submissives you know, they all (and certainly including me) want as much time with their dominant as possible. You might be able to find one or two out there who don't follow this general rule, but if you're a dominant you're going to need to seriously think about your time, and how much your submissive will take. It seemingly applies to anyone with the submissive attitude - if you know a masochistic top who likes controlling their pain, it might not apply to them, but they're not submissive.

Although I've known about this for some time, I've recently started wondering why. It is such a universal feature that I tend to think it's tied up with the submissive make-up - it's part of the package that goes with making us submissive. That package includes the desire, some would say the need, to give control to another as it's defining feature - giving up control like that is what makes a submissive after all. It isn't immediately obvious why this leads to desire for time, but I think, with a little effort on your part, I can explain to you why and how it does. This will lead to some suggestions for ways you could, whether you're the dominant or the submissive, change things so both parties are happy with each other in the long term.

In an attempt to explain what the time and attention of my dominant feels like, I came up with the metaphor of taking a drink. We all have drinks, tea, coffee, water, juice, whatever. We take those drinks because we want, and at some level, need them. (The survial adage of 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food might be a simplification, but it's a clear indication of just how much we do need those drinks.) But think of those hot days when, for whatever reason, you don't get a drink for a few hours. Remember how good it feels when you finally get a drink, even if it's just water? That's the closest thing I can think of to how it feels when there's time with my Mistress after some time apart - it's that essential, that visceral and that good and it neatly encapsulates the idea of needing time frequently, just like we need a drink every few hours.

The first place we need to look is not at time and submissives however. It is, rather, at a different, strong, human need: the need for attention. You see attention seeking behaviour everywhere: from a baby crying, to the pretty young things dressing to impress, to the desire to be a star, to the drive to succeed, to the stereotypical old biddies sharing gossip about their neighbours - gaining attention because they've got juicy news. We all have this to a greater or less extent. Being an exhibitionist at heart, I have some aspects of it quite strongly and expressed that way, even if in many other roles such as organising events, I'm more than happy to do the work quietly in the background. Writing is another way in which I express my desire for attention - you're paying attention to my ideas and how I think if you're reading this after all.

There can be passive ways to achieve attention too. I'm showing both my age and my musical tastes if I talk about Dave Vanian and The Damned. They were a British punk band of the 70's and 80's in the main, although still touring in the 90's and around into the noughties, although with a different line up. Dave Vanian is the lead singer. Unusually for a lead singer he didn't really want to be in the spotlight - the guitar player Captain Sensible took and still takes that. But, Vanian quite routinely appears in pubic in a gimp mask, hardly behaviour to make you fade into the background even as you hide your face. If you are into pony play or fornophillia (the fetish of being furniture) you might recognise this passive attention seeking behaviour.

I'm not saying that we all have the same degree of drive for attention, nor even that it's a single clear-cut drive: we can want attention for our minds rather than our bodies - Germaine Greer might be a good example; or we can claim we want attention for our singing rather than our bodies whilst acting in a way that makes the rest of the world think it's more about the body - Britney Spears (like her or loathe her) springs irresistibly to mind!

So, let's take as given that submissives in general, like everyone else, have some desire for attention. But, they're often not really forceful about reaching out for it - in fact they're often downright shy and reluctant to take the spotlight even when deserving. However, submissives in a D/s relationship do have at least one person with whom they can have their needs met, even those needs they're sometimes reluctant to express, or in extreme cases those needs they're incapable of expressing. That person would be their dominant. Stop and think about it a moment - whichever side of the D/s divide you're on, one thing that is strongly expressed in the relationship, however short term it may be, is attention to the other.

The submissive listens for orders, strains to use her ears whilst blindfolded to try and work out what is going to happen next, dresses according to the orders of the dominant and so on. She pays attention to every whim of the dominant. At the same time the dominant pays attention to the submissive. Has she changed her clothes as instructed? Has she knelt in the right way in the right place? When in bondage, are her extremities still warm so blood is circulating? If you play in a sexual fashion, the dominant will often play the submissive's body like an instrument - whether that's bringing her to orgasm after orgasm after orgasm in an uncontrollable succession or bringing her to the edge and keeping her there, then bringing them down, then back to the edge and down and so on there is an incredible amount of attention being paid to the submissive at this time. There is also an incredible amount of attention being paid by the submissive to the dominant, at least until the release makes paying attention impossible.

The sex-related times are, at least if the sex is good, not unique to the D/s crowd of course. But the attention the rest of the time by and large is unique to the D/s crowd, at least in the long term.

Think about your last long-term vanilla partner. At first you would notice everything about her, and her about you. As time goes by, that changes - you still notice sometimes of course, like when you're dressing up to go out, or you're planning to seduce her, or she's seducing you, but when you're in a rush to get out to work, do you stop to notice what she's wearing? You might sometimes, you might tomorrow after reading this, but it becomes a routine and you don't really notice: you don't entirely stop paying attention, but you stop paying attention every minute of every day.

That reduction of attention from every minute of every day happens in D/s relationships too, but here the power imbalance can keep the attention levels much higher than in a vanilla relationship. For example, there have been times Mistress has to work, but has tied me to the bed. She has sat next to me working, to some extent leaving me there to stew, or shiver if her pleasure today is more towards ice cubes. But these times occur when the work is lots of short bursts - reading RSS feeds, answering emails or similar; and in between emails she will turn to me and pay attention to me. It might be a pat, a tug on a nipple, a drink of water, slipping another ice cube into me, a quick chat or similar. Although it's not continuous attention as the pressures of everyday life and work interfere with that, it's more attention than I would expect to get in a vanilla relationship after over a year - rather than being tied there at Mistress' convenience I'd be reading, answering my own emails or similar, and whilst we might be in bed together, our attention would be apart despite our physical closeness.

Does this desire for attention entirely explain the situation? Nearly, but not quite. A dominant is in a wonderful place to, amongst everything else, satisfy much or all of her submissive's need for attention. She gets, in return, a different but complimentary return to her own need for attention. But that doesn't quite explain why a submissive craves so much of her dominant's time. There is, even when the submissive is involved in a range of other activities and gets reward and even attention from those activities, some very powerful way in which only her dominant will do.

Why might this be? Here a slightly different process comes into effect. Whilst to some extent you could argue that anyone's attention should do, that's not really true. This is borne out by the experience of longing for the dominant and only the dominant that is so often seen in D/s relationships, but is not unique to D/s relationships. In fact most of us, submissives or otherwise, don't crave random attention, that is attention from strangers (actors and pop-stars being obvious exceptions), we prefer attention from those we know, and more particularly those we respect, love and trust. In a healthy long-term D/s relationship the dominant will occupy a prominent place of respect, love and trust from her submissive. This is the crux of the situation - the dominant is almost certainly one of the strongest if not far and away the strongest embodiments of each of respect, love and trust for the submissive - it's certainly hard to submit if you don't respect and trust your dominant, even if you can submit to those you don't love. Because of this the dominant is almost always the person whose time and attention is held in the highest regard by the submissive, and when combined with the unwillingness to overtly seek attention from others thanks to the submissive nature - possibly her dominant is the sole person who can give satisfying time and attention to the submissive - and so the submissive wants this as much as possible.

So now you have some idea why your submissive might come to expect a lot of your time. There really isn't that much they can do about it either. We are talking very powerful drives of human nature here. There are more powerful drives - to breathe, to eat, to drink - but the drive for human company, for attention is very strong. If you are going to have a successful long term relationship with your sub, you will have to learn how to cope with this.

There are, of course, some simple steps for the D/s couple.

Perhaps the most obvious, but in some ways the least useful: the dominant can just tell the submissive that she is unavailable at certain times. Whilst this is an option, bear in mind that for many D/s relationships the only real punishment is denial of contact so here, if not for anything else, it is worth explaining why you are doing this. If your submissive understands what is going on, she will accept it much more happily, at least most of the time, than if you just tell her, at least for this sort of issue. I am not suggesting you explain every order - speaking as a submissive there is joy in just obeying and there is certainly joy in not knowing what is happening in a scene. But this isn't about a scene, this is about the long-term health of your relationship and that is worth an explanation even if your power-dynamic is such that you don't have to explain. Although I think this is probably the least useful option it is, however, still good for short term, occasional things - remembering to give that explanation. If you tell your submissive that you're doing a demonstration to your boss at work about working in Second Life, the submissive should understand and happily leave you in peace without feeling neglected.

You can also consider ways your submissive can be present, but not interfering. For example, if you work in Second Life in a situation that is not really D/s friendly you could introduce a "best behaviour" rule where your submissive must be decently dressed, not wearing any bondage wear beyond collar and cuffs, and she must stand and chat with you by name rather than kneeling and talking by title. This may not work in your relationship and doesn't in many, but can work well in some of them. It can particularly work in relationships with a strong real life element - because living and working in the real world requires these kinds of compromises anyway - it may not be unknown, but it's uncommon to see a couple at work where one continuously kneels to the other and calls her Mistress after all. The submissive, even if not overtly submitting, is still with you and getting some of your time and company which makes her happy. In Second Life you can, of course, IM them and keep a side channel in which she acts properly respectfully to you, unless your boss is leaning over your shoulder in real life!

Alternatively when you are working on something where you want peace and quiet you can do things like set reading or allow your submissive to attend but stay silent. If you set reading, consider setting a quiz at the end and reward her if she does well. She will quickly strive to learn for you and to gain the reward which, depending on your relationship, could be as little as a kiss. You might also consider things like letting her choose her own clothes for a day, or the choice of the piece of bondage equipment you will tie her to tonight, or reward her with the knowledge that the next time you play you will let her orgasm.

Consider too how you can build time into the day for your submissive. It doesn't have to be much, remember the sips of water metaphor from above. Five minutes here, ten minutes there can help quite a lot. Log in and if you have control of her clothing tell them to change and what to change into. Get her to do a slow strip for you and then you dress her, or chain her or bind her in a yoke or whatever until the next time you can be with her. It's attention, and you can tell her what you're going to be up to. Then, on a day when you're not at work, you can go and spend all the time you like, and she needs, with her.

Remember too, that although you may not have the time and energy for a scene, you can do other things. For example, taking your submissive shopping can be a lot easier on the mind and body than running a scene with them. Most submissives, at least if you allow them to get dressed, enjoy shopping for clothes, and most of them enjoy shopping for new toys too - and even get a thrill from seeing toys for fetishes that they don't like and being asked to hop on them in the store. This gives them that little thrill of "OMG will she really make me do this at home" mixed in with breaking taboos in public, plus the belief that you probably won't start a scene in a shop but it is attention as well as some form of active submission which is just the ticket, even if only for a couple of minutes in the shop.

If you do go shopping, and you have the time, there is always the ritual of showing what you've just bought her too. Depending on where you shop, even one outfit may take some time - I recently bought an outfit with about 35 different items (and not just the same items on different layers) - demonstrating all the combinations of that to find the way Mistress liked it best took over an hour in which all her attention was on me, but she was just sitting back, watching me change clothes and discussing which bits she liked the best. I'm fairly sure this is lower effort on her part than an intense scene, but it made me feel great and gave me lots and lots of attention. If this had been mixed with play, and it can often lead that way for us, it could have taken hours if not days.

Another alternative would be to set her tasks. For example, say you'd like her to find certain types of places, and then spend the time required to go to the places she's found. Want to display your submissive in public, in bondage? Have her search for places that allow or even encourage this. Want to train her as a pony girl? Have her search out a few schools. If you keep your submissive in a kennel or cage routinely, letting her have a day free to explore like this can be a reward in its own right of course. Exploring half a dozen new sims or clubs to find one that you like can easily take quite some time, but it's time where you're not constantly as focussed as you would be in a normal scene so it is less draining on you, but your submissive will love you for it.

Or consider having her do things for you. Want to have a new bed and have a submissive who can build, or who can design textures for when you build? Set her to it. When it's done examining, and then testing, the bed can be a great spark for some play too - you're asking her questions about design decisions, functionality etc. and you're paying attention to her creative work which is always a great place to give her attention if she's inclined that way, and it can give you fun ways to praise, mock punish and otherwise lavish attention on your submissive. Be warned though: if you have a submissive who hates building, this isn't such a good thing to do, but you can almost certainly find something that they will like doing that it useful for both of you.

Being in the presence of the dominant is not quite the same as having their attention. You could be lying on your bed reading, with your submissive kneeling quietly in the corner, watching you carefully from her lowered eyes. You pay no attention to her, at least until you are done with your reading or you need a drink or whatever. This doesn't do the same thing as paying attention, but can be still be deeply satisfying in a passive way for the submissive.

Why? Well some of it is tied up in being with the one she loves of course. Some of it is that she is actively submitting and demonstrating her submission - you have told her to kneel in that corner and keep quiet and even if you're not paying attention in particular you're aware that she hasn't moved away and she's doing what they're told, and she will know that. Some of it is that hope that you will comment and give attention at the end of the time. Some of it is that hope that you will finish what you're doing and lead directly into a scene. But even when you don't, you started with some direct attention - you gave the order, she has carried out your wishes in a way that she knows you've noticed at some level, and you give her another order at the end, that she can go, at a minimum. If I'm with Mistress, she might or might not focus her attention on me - but if I'm not with her she can't so being with her is always better.

From the perspective of a submissive, you can also make intelligent choices about you and how you get what you want in terms of time and attention. This isn't always in your control, as your dominant may change things on you of course, but in general you can have some input.

First, and this is going to sound like a really odd one especially coming from another submissive, put yourself first for a little while. Think seriously about what you need from your relationship to keep you happy. Consider how, in the boundaries of the relationship, you can express that need. If you or your dominant work outside of Second Life, and most of us do, will an email on work days do? Do you want to give your dominant control over your clothes and dress they way they choose every day - which only takes a few minutes on their part after all, but which can be a continuous reminder to you of your submission and can also display it to others depending on your Mistress' choices. If your Mistress can get into Second Life for that time, you can strip out of today's clothes and dress in tomorrow's clothes with her: a short, but incredibly satisfying way of spending time together if you play that way. If you use the Restrained Life Viewer your dominant can even be reasonably sure that you're staying dressed, or undressed, as they chose.

Consider the dominant next. If your dominant works 14 hour days, she may well not have five minutes for you. Most of us don't work 14 hours days on a regular basis, but recently I had to travel for work on two days in succession and the days were actually 16 hours long. If Mistress had been around that evening I would have tried to be there for her, but I would have been really tired - if it was Mistress doing the long working day, realising that she wouldn't be there for me and accepting that would have been only reasonable.

Remember too, there is always going to be a tension between your life needs - work, shopping, etc. and your emotional needs - time with your dominant, love, attention, sex, etc. Whilst as a submissive you are, to a larger than normal extent about giving up power and control, you are still an adult. Sometimes as adults we have to take responsibility for ourselves. Even if you're in a total power exchange relationship you will have an opinion and will probably be allowed to express it about the balance of your life and career. Talking about these things with your dominant makes sense: they probably know your situation better than anyone else after all. But in most relationships, certainly those solely or predominantly in Second Life, the decision to go for that promotion or that new job is up to you. Or, to return to a shopping context, you know that you're running out of coffee and need to go shopping tomorrow. Your dominant has those same tensions of course, but won't necessarily find it any easier to make them than you do and if you're in Second Life only they can't send you to buy the coffee for them. But, because you are the one making the choices, you should be making choices where you are prepared to live with the consequences.

It may sound odd to switch from talking about huge decisions like changing jobs to talking about the time you spend with your dominant, but we're talking about something that could be long term and have a direct impact on your happiness, and through your happiness on your health. This is a big decision with the potential for real consequences. You should be able to expect your relationship to increase your happiness, and to some extent that will always mean you wanting more time and attention - although after a particularly intense scene or series of scenes you may temporarily feel the need to recover outweighing that!

Having done all this thinking, and planning on a grand scale, let's think about the day-to-day. It's OK to want more time and attention, it's certainly OK to indicate, however you can within your relationship, when you are feeling neglected. However, you need to consider this carefully. Are you being neglected, or are you wanting more of a good thing? There is no harm in wanting more of a good thing but if you seek more attention at a time when your dominant doesn't have the capacity to readily give it to you simply because you want more, you aren't really considering her and her situation. Although you may have to be selfish at times, you should normally expect to put the dominant first. If, on the other hand, you wait to indicate your need until you are feeling so neglected you have become miserable, depressed or angry, you have waited too long and you are risking damaging the relationship which is also not good for your dominant. You may like to consider code words, like safe words, that you can use to indicate how this is going. "Longing for time with you," could be the first warning that you're starting to feel neglected. "Yearning for you," could be the second warning, and "desperate for time with you," becomes the emergency signal that things are really bad - a bit like green, amber and red if you use the traffic light signals in a scene. You can, of course, choose words and phrases that suit you - but make sure your dominant understands them too. And, when considering this, think carefully about your need - you may want time today, time tomorrow, time every day, but if you accelerate from "love you" to "longing for you" to "yearning for you" to "desperate for you" in a matter or hours or a couple of days on a regular basis, I wouldn't believe you and your dominant probably won't either. You're in a situation a bit like the boy that cried fire from the poem - he did it so often when there was a fire, the people walking by simple mutter "little liar" and so he burnt to death.

It may be you, rather than the dominant that has the time issues thanks to Real Life - or both of you of course. It can be very hard, particularly if you are a slave rather than a sub, to negotiate ways to spend not so much time with your dominant. This would be a time to step out of role and honestly, but respectfully, discuss what you can do and what you can't do for her. Can you find 20 minutes a day to spend with your dominant? Can you find an hour a couple of times a week? This is probably not ideal for both of you, but maintaining the relationship takes some time and effort. When you do have time, you should expect to be wholly at your dominant's mercy, even more than usual, because she will have indulged you around your work time. If you really don't have time to give to the relationship, you should consider leaving it or changing the nature of your relationship to cope. It's not always the dominant that can't give the time - and the dominant may well not be too impressed if the only time she sees you, you are totally desperate for her attention even above her desire to control you.

It is almost certain given how universal this desire for more time and attention is that you can't, whether you are the dominant or the submissive, get rid of it. Hopefully the thoughts, ideas and experiences above have at least indicated if not convinced you this desire for time and attention is probably incredibly intimately tied to being a submissive and the nature of the D/s relationship - so if you work hard on removing this element of the submissive character traits you might well destroy what makes them submissive too - which is not really the goal of anyone who is likely to be reading this. You might be a submissive who doesn't want to be, but dominants tend to need submissives to let them express their dominant nature as much as submissives need dominants to submit to.

Given that you seriously need, in any relationship you are in that is going to last more than a scene, to consider how much time you have to give as a dominant, and how much time you need (as opposed to want) to have as a submissive. If there is a bad mismatch here, just as much as if there is a bad mismatch in the limits and interests of the partners, you might consider this a bad sign for the long term stability of the relationship.

As a submissive, you should consider how you can change to accommodate your dominant, and be understanding of the fact that she has other demands on their time. As a dominant you may wish to consider how you can change your activities in a way that doesn't significantly inconvenience you, but lets you give your submissive more time with you - remember simply being in your presence may help - and how to give her the attention that she needs in a way that you can afford personally and professionally.

If you can't change, either of you, then you may well find that the relationship falls apart. Whilst relationships have a natural life span which may well be shorter than a lifetime if your relationship is good in other ways, small changes like this may well be worth considering for the sake of the happiness of all concerned, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Joie has left SL

Sad news... Joie has decided to leave SL. She said in her note:

"I wanted to send this out to everyone that I know on s/l. I have decided to delete my account. In fact, the cancellation is allready in, and time's a bit short.

Nothing is wrong, nothing bad has happened in r/l. I have simply thought about it, considered, and decided to spend more time with r/l, walking away from s/l. I will allways think about the time I've spent, and the poeple I've known and loved on s/l and smile. Thank all of you for every moment."

I wish her well in her future life. Although she played being a bit of a brat, and obviously craved attention, she did care for those around her. I will miss her playful presence.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

D/s and Abuse in SL

by San Mauvaise (with contributions, corrections and editing by others including Eloise Pasteur).

This is a piece about emotionally abusive relationships in the context of SL and BDSM. It may be that some of this is also useful in other contexts but was only written with this one in mind. Comments and suggestions of improvements please!

Short Summary

D/s (Dominance/submission) relationships can and should be free from abuse. Just because you are submissive by nature and have given control to another does not mean you don't have rights. A D/s relationship should (overall) satisfy both partner's needs and enhance them as individuals. If you are very unhappy in a D/s relationship then consider the bulleted "Indications of an abusive relationship" and "Indications of a healthy relationship below". Talk to other people in the same situation as you are, and see what they think of your relationship -- consider especially if when you do this you tell the truth or feel obliged to cover up facts. If it is abusive, it is not your fault and you have every right to leave, regardless of whether you screwed up or what assurances/commitments you gave.

Personal Prolog

I was in a relationship in SL, which I now (finally) recognise as abusive. I was lucky in that I was saved from it and myself by the love of people I knew. Even after it had finished I continued to make excuses for her behaviour for months afterwards. Compared to some relationships this was not grand abuse but nonetheless it was real -- it made me unhappy for a sustained period of time, caused me to significantly hurt some of my SL friends and wasted months of my life. There were times when I left SL crying or hid in my bed. This is despite the fact that there were wonderful times, that I loved her and she loved me. Although I endlessly forgave her for what she did to me (I still do) I later discovered that she had seriously hurt others as the result of deliberate deception. Although at times she did recognise what she had done, the habits of reconstructing memories and justifications reasserted themselves after a period and she has hurt at least one other person since. I have been so lucky in the steadfast love I have received since then which has enabled me to rebuild myself. If this notecard goes anyway to prevent this from happening again or reducing the impact of such people, it will have been worthwhile.


BDSM and D/s can be neatly characterised as *playing* at abuse for the mutual gratification of the participants. However BDSM and D/s are *not* in themselves abuse. The point of BDSM and D/s is to enjoy playing without it being abuse. In other words, to give an arena for the playing out and experiencing of otherwise taboo sensations and emotions but in a safe way that enhances rather than diminishes the participants. Yes they often involve aspects of interaction that are also used in abusive relationships, but although some of the forms are similar, the content and context are different. BDSM or D/s is no more to do with abuse than paint-balling is to do with killing people. However, as in every other walk of life, there are abusive people in BDSM and D/s. Moreover the techniques and technologies used in BDSM are well suited to exploitation by an abuser, and a D/s context can be used to mask an abusive relationship.

Of course, in a way the problem of abusive relationships in SL is much less of a problem than in RL, because of the relative ease of walking away. In RL walking away can be a complex, difficult and personally costly business. In SL is often sufficient to simply making it clear you dont want anything to do with an abuser anymore, removing them from your friends list and moving to different locations is (if they stalk you it is a different matter -- for this see the appendix below). However doing this can come at *some* cost - the cost of the relationship itself, the loss of friends and locations one likes, the loss of items and (not least) the feeling of failure. These potential losses can make it difficult for someone to leave an abusive relationship -- hence the need for this notecard. Just becuase one can consent to an abusive relationship does not stop it being abusive!

What is an abusive relationship?

What is an abusive relationship? Basically it is a relationship where person exploits another in a relationship for their own goals or due to their own nature. Thus there is a basic asymmetry of satisfaction between the partners -- one person is basically miserable and oppressed whilst the other satisfies their own needs at the expense of their partner's happiness and sense of self. Outside of a D/s relationship this may be externally indicated by physical abuse, emotional abuse, humiliation etc. to maintain that asymmetry of satisfaction, but the thing that makes it abusive is the same in both D/s and vanilla relationships.

Within a D/s relationship there will usually, probably often, be elements that appear to mimic physical abuse (bondage, spanking and so on), emotional abuse ("We're going shopping, no, stay naked and crawl after me.") and the like. There is an inherent asymmetry of D/s in which there is a controlling partner and a controlled partner, but the controller acts in a way that brings significant satisfaction, joy, self-worth and rewards to the controlled. The asymmetry of D/s is of control not of satisfaction and joy.

No relationship is perfect

Of course, no relationship is perfect and will have aspects or times when one or other partners are either miserable or feel oppressed but this is a mile away from an abusive relationship where this is the norm and the abuser acts to stop the oppressed partner rectifying or changing the situation. In normal relationships it is usual for there to be down periods, but firstly the other partner is usually concerned to rectify this, secondly this period results in communication about and/or adjustment of the relationship to rectify the situation (or else the relationship ends) and finally these periods are the exception rather than the norm. In D/s relationships there may be elements of play which temporarily cause feelings of misery and oppression -- most subs will choose to endure these (and then ask later never to do that again please!) - safe words exist to give you an out if it gets too much. Occasionally getting it wrong (so the sub feels oppressed and miserable by the play) will probably happen if you experiment regularly in play (and the Dominant doesn't get it quite right) but can also happen because D/s play is often deeply affecting so that subtle changes in other parts of your life can make things you liked last week intolerable this week. The same can be true in vanilla relationships where trying something new, or a disturbance in other parts of your life affects your mood at home even if you are not directly aware of the cause.

Abuse affects Dominants too

Although a submissive is obviously much more vulnerable to abuse, Dominants are not immune to it. I have known D/s relationships where the demands of the "submissive", accompanied by emotional blackmail and tantrums have made their life a misery. However, this way around is much rarer as a Dominant will often simply reject such submissives when they try to take over control of the interaction. One thing you should be aware of if you are new to being a Dominant: submissives will, usually quite passively, take up as much of your time as they can. They will want to be with you and this will almost certainly strengthen over time. This is in contrast to many vanilla relationships where an initial, infatuated phase often moves into a phase where you love each other deeply but do your own things too. Controlling this demand for time in a D/s relationship can be very difficult particularly if, as is quite often the case, denial of contact is one of the few genuine punishments you have available.

Indications of an abusive relationship

How might you know you are in an abusive relationship? There is no single infallible criterion that will identify an abusive relationship, however there are a series of indicators that, taken together, give a pretty good indication. However a common feature of abusive relationships is the self deception practiced by the victim. Thus the unfortunate truth is that if you are in an abusive relationship then you are probably making all sorts of excuses to yourself and others to justify the actions of your abuser. Facing the personal failure and loss implied by an abusive relationship is often harder than enduring the next bit with the hope that it will all be better in the future. If more than one of the below is true of your relationship then it may well be abusive - if several are true then it is almost certainly abusive.

  • Do you normally have a feeling of dread when about to meet this person?
  • Is there a huge *release* feeling of relief if that person seems to be kind to you this time.
  • Do you often leave that person feeling dreadful with feelings of depression, failure, self-reproach and hurt?
  • Do you often leave SL in RL tears?
  • Do you often seek to run-away from that person, hide from them, or avoid going into SL when you know they are around?
  • Do you feel better at times when you know they will not be around?
  • Is there a cycle of leaving them and then returning to them?
  • Does the person never seem to understand or appreciate your point of view, so that you spend a lot of time trying to justify your actions in terms of their view of things?
  • Do recriminations and blame seem to go on for ages, with old faults of yours continually brought up and gone over?
  • Does the relationship *only* act to satisfy the needs of that person and not yours (except your need to please them, make them happy, care for them)?
  • Is that person jealous of any friends you may have, however innocent those friendships are?
  • Do you find that you avoid seeing friends because you are afraid that this will always be misinterpreted by this person?
  • Is it effectively impossible to talk *about* your relationship with them at all? (for example if you do the discussion quickly becomes unpleasant).
  • Are guilt, fear and their needs the primary drivers of you staying with them?
  • Do you find that you are often defending the actions of this person to yourself and others?
  • Does the relationship tend to cycle around the same patterns again and again, where each crisis occurs but then nothing changes until the next one?
  • Do you lie about aspects of the relationship to friends in order that they might not think bad of this person?

Two D/s context specific indicators:

  • Does the Dominant regularly play in ways that make you feel miserable or oppressed? (this might not indicate abuse: you could be a badly matched couple, but it could be abuse)
  • Does the Dominant ignore use of the safeword by you?

Indications of a healthy relationship

In the other direction signs of a healthy relationship are similarly complex and difficult to capture. Relationships differ a great deal and it is often impossible to judge from the outside of a relationship whether it is meets the needs of those in it. In particular you can not tell in a BDSM or D/s context what the relationship is like by going by common social norms. Thus just because someone is always in chains or being 'beaten' does not mean that it is abusive (whereas this would be a clear indication outside of a BDSM relationship). Thus, as above, the criteria below need to be taken as a whole and not in isolation or generalise from a single instance.

Thus in a healthy relationship you should find that many of the below are true for much of the time.

  • That you look forward to seeing that person, meeting them is something you desire.
  • The times when you are in conflict are the exception rather than the times which you are in rough harmony.
  • That the relationship routinely makes you feel happy, satisfied, peaceful
  • That you are enjoying the relationship most times in the present and not relying on the hope that it will be better in the future.
  • That you are proud of the way your partner treats you -- even when in private (does not mean you would tell anyone these, but that you are still judge them as something worthy of praise).
  • That you comminicate with fair frequency *about* your relationship without being effectively discouraged in any way from doing this.
  • That the relationship changes slowly over time, adjusting to your needs at times.
  • That your partner encourages you to grow in aspects outside your immediate relationship, to develop and maintain other friendships, projects, skills and hobbies
  • That your partner shows substantial trust in you (e.g. to behave when not with them).
  • That when things go wrong they are quickly addressed and rarely if ever repeated.

Things that do not show a relationship is free from abuse

Things that do *not* prove a relationship is free from abuse include:
  • that the person loves you,
  • that they need you,
  • that you consent to the arrangement,
  • that you are in love with them,
  • that you care about them obsessively,
  • that they have good reasons for being as they are,
  • that they cant help being as they are,
  • that at times they are aware that they act badly,
  • that they often regret what they do,
  • that you are not perfect in terms of your care for them,
  • that they sometimes make you feel wonderful,
  • that you are not a worthy person for their love,
  • that you frequently make mistakes.

ALL of these can be true and it still be an abusive relationship.

Healthy D/s relationships are possible

Clearly it is my (and many others') view that healthy D/s relationships are possible, where the participants are able to express their submissive or dominant sexualities whilst fostering the mental flourishing and joy of both partners. In fact, it is my view that, accepting that some people do have submissive or dominant sexualities is important, in exactly the same way as accepting lesbian, gay and transsexual people is important. Whatever a person's sexuality, they have a right to express this in ways that are mutually pleasurable with other consenting adults, without that having *any* effect on their rights and responsibilities as an individual. Thus, for example, people should have the right to be a sexual submissive without that stopping them being high-flying managers in their job, or to be a dominant in SL whilst being the office cleaner in RL. Our sexualities are powerful forces inside us, they can lead us to do things that otherwise we would not contemplate -- hence they need to be expressed only where this does not involve abuse of others -- i.e. where such interaction is to the mutual satisfaction of those involved. One can no more cure/reform a sexual submissive or Dominant than one can cure/reform a lesbian or transsexual -- one can only accept and even celebrate their existence. All sexualities should practice safe and consensual sex and mutually satisfactory relationships -- D/s is no exception to this.

Avoiding an abusive relationship

Trivially the best way to avoid an abusive relationship is not to get into one in the first place. From a submissive's point of view this involves looking for a good and responsible dominant, a topic which is covered in a seperate notecard (Finding a Dominant). It is impossible to avoid all chance of this occurring as abusive types will often hide their nature in the early stages, being romantic and passionate lovers or caring and attentive Dominants. However there are things one can do that can make it more difficult to be taken in and easier to escape. Most importantly is maintaining and even developing friends, interests and contacts that are seperate from the relationship. Such social networks help in many different ways, they give a perspective on what is normal and acceptable in terms of behaviour, they can lift your mood and hence make you less amenable to oppression and they provide social recourses for when you need help. Secondly is deciding and sticking to a set of personal standards which determine what one would and would not do for anyone (including the person with whom you are relating). Simply refusing to go beyond these gives you an area of your life over which you retain control and limits the damage an abusive relationship might do. Finally the simple step of not giving out any identifying RL information is the most basic safety tip, this allows you the confidence that whatever occurs will be limited to SL. If you want to get to know them in RL go *very* cautiously and gradually -- wait 2-3 months after you have got to know them in SL, use safe email addresses (such as specially created yahoo or gmail accounts) to write, exchange photos, use voice/skype to talk, meet in the RL *before* you have given them your RL name, address and phone number!

Other reasons why a relationship may make one unhappy

If you are very unhappy with a relationship, this may or may not be because it is abusive. It is entirely possible to be very unhappy in a relationship in which there is no abuse at all. On the other hand, if the unhappiness is largely one-sided and ongoing, you might consider the above criteria as an indication of whether it might be abusive. The opinion of friends is often a better guide to this, but it is easy to dismiss the opinion of friends as having a particular viewpoint and easier to persuade friends that things are alright. However, if you do have any doubts in your mind as to whether your relationship is abusive, then do talk to someone about it. It is worth saying that any relationship which makes you very unhappy, particularly if it does this often or regularly, whether or not it's an abusive one, is a relationship you should seriously consider changing or ending.

What to do if you think you may be in an abusive relationship

If you want to leave a relationship at times but the person effectively prevents this (by stalking you, using threats, tantrums, emotional blackmail about how hurt they will be, socially embarrassing you, threats against your friends, simply not giving you time to think etc.) then you should seriously consider that this relationship is now abusive (even if it was not to begin with). You have a complete right to leave a relationship - doubly so for an SL relationship which will have little impact in the real world. You have this right even if you feel that it was you that you that screwed the relationship up or you who were at fault!

If you decide to leave such a relationship then, in this order:
  1. mute that person
  2. ban them from your land (if you have any)
  3. send them a 1-line IM saying only that the relationship is ended and you do not want to hear from them again (nothing else)
  4. remove them from your friends list (4) remove them from any personal groups
  5. remove yourself from any of their groups
  6. (if possible) move away from places you used to frequent togther.
  7. In a D/s context reset all scripts, remove all owner-permissions etc. on any attachments (collar etc.) you have used with your former partner.
  8. avoid any discussion with that person, especially those where you feel the need to justify your actions.

If the person stalks you or tries to make you SL life unpleasant then consider some of the steps listed below.

Steps to escaping an SL stalker

Stalking in Second Life, after you have muted the person, removed them from your friends list, banned them from your land and so on is still possible. It is, however, relatively hard.

That said, there are tools that you may have granted them the right to use that can do this. For example, many collars carry tracking devices. They will only report your location to a registered owner though, so clearing the owner list and resetting the scripts as discussed above should prevent this continuing. However, if you have ever given your former partner items for them to sort out for you, particularly if they are adept at scripting, they may have hidden scripts that continue to work after a reset. The first stop could be to compare the scripts in your version of your collar, cuffs etc. with the version in a friend's. Are there new scripts, or scripts with different modify dates? If you're not sure about this, it is probably safest to throw them all away and buy new.

If you find you are continuously stalked at home the chances are there's something around that's reporting your position. Return anything that belongs to your ex-partner (if you haven't already). If it continues seriously consider returning everything, even your stuff. Most houses are copyable, but you might need new furniture, or to find a friend that scripts and can check your furniture has nothing odd in it. If, after that it still continues consider moving. There are ways to check from your neighbors if you're there, but only if the neighbors will let them. This probably means your ex is friends with the neighbor so whilst you could ask if they've got anything there, simply selling up and moving is quite easy in Second Life.

You should remember the Abuse Report tool from the Help menu. Linden Lab staff are reluctant to get involved in personal disputes, but if you demonstrate that you politely ask them to leave you alone and they persist in verbally or otherwise pursuing you, or you can demonstrate that they are using scripts to stalk you, then this does constitute griefing and they will take action, up to and including banning the account permanently. Whilst your former partner may have scripted something to track you that doesn't get reset, it is unlikely they will have done so for a new alt they are forced to make if they get banned.

Some other information

Other notecards from the Cellar:

Emotional Abuse:
BDSM, Abuse and Safety:
(The below is mostly aimed at RL BDSM and online chatrooms, but contains much material relevant to SL D/s)