I have a wonderful habit of running into people at random times and places. Much of the time, I never see them again, usually due to a total lack of chemistry. Other times, I meet a mind that is intriguing and intelligent and full of amazing and independent ideas. When I was IMed by Echo at The Chamber, I was immediately charmed by her forthrightness and humor. Later, when I learned more about her experience in BDSM, I was interested in her views and ideas regarding the BDSM culture in SL. What follows is an interview-cum- discussion that gives deep insight into the minds and trials of the SL submissive.
October: What first drew you to get into the BDSM culture in SL?
Echo: I met someone in RL that drew me into it.
October: What was your first impression?
Echo: Um... I'm not sure how to answer that. At the time all I did was for them. It didn't occur to me that what I was doing was something more... structured? I didn't know it was a 'thing'. I thought it was ours.
October: You talk about "we". Can you describe the relationship?
Echo nods a little. "It started out we were roommates. She had just graduated college. I... was kind of exploring coming out of the closet about being bisexual when my parents threw me out. It was a really complicated time in my life. I needed a place to stay and she offered me somewhere to go. To clarify, my parents are very traditional. My bisexuality was the issue. I came home and all of my stuff was in the lawn. I haven't talked to them since, except once, after Sendai happened. When I moved in with her... it was mostly out of need. She was an Indian exchange student at the time. She got her green card a year
October: Ah, okay. So how did your friend get you into SL?
Echo chews her lip. "I never really thought about it before. By that time we were in a full blown relationship. It happened because she was hopping video games. We were tired of WoW. I remember I started SL, didn't understand it, then took it more seriously last spring. I guess the short answer is I was going wherever she said go."
October: Are you still with her?
Echo: No. Something happened. I don't know. One day she was in my life. The next, gone.
October nods. "So what made you stay here?"
Echo laughs, "Curiosity I guess. At first? Friends, but there's so much here to learn about. Scripting, building, ... SL can really be a place to learn valuable skills. I've been trying to learn everything."
October: It keeps you busy...or it can. So tell me about your first BDSM experience here in SL. We don't need the gory details, but just kind of on overview and how you felt about it.
Echo nods. "My first experience with BDSM in SL was watching friends. I'd seen it in RL. I didn't know before I came to SL it was a 'thing'. I'd had hints, but everything I'd done had been very private. Here everyone is almost in your face about it. It's like someone rushing up to know your blood type. It's startling, amusing, then kind of weird. The weird stayed, then curiosity replaced it. I guess it is like a part of identity for many people in SL? 'What are you? Domme, Sub, Switch,' and it's a very serious thing. I mostly felt... confused.
October: You are often forced to pick a side, so to speak. For women, they are expected to be a sub. What did you end up gravitating towards, if anything?
Echo: That's a tricky question to answer. I ... I was pretty fast shuffled into a 'submissive' category. That's the shortest answer.
October: Most women are here, I find. I am not even asked anymore, and it is met with derision when I say I dont feel like being a sub. How has your experience been with masters/mistresses?
Echo: I would say the majority of my experiences have been frightening, hostile, or simply ignorant and bitter. I empathize with your feelings that people respond with derision if... my vocabulary is lacking... It's like people have this template worked out in their heads and if you don't fit on it then watch out...
October: Have you found any BDSM outlet in SL that agrees with you? I know that can be difficult.
Echo tilts head back and forth. "Yes... and no. Capture roleplay ... um CARP ... and what aspects of D/s come out in that. It's not favorite form of situation, but I've found the people there seem... the most respecting? Scenes are short lives, maybe three days to a month or two at most, but the friendships last.
October smiles. "Some of the best people I have ever met, I met in sex sims of some kind. If you could, what kind of environment would you create for sexual expression?"
Echo chews and thinks, then blushes. "Can you clarify? 'Sexual expression?'"
October: It's difficult to find that "special place" in SL that is friendly and caters to your specific needs. When it comes to BDSM, how would you create the best environment for yours and others enjoyment? Who would it cater to?
Echo chews again, takes a breath out, then says, "I am a really passionate person. I mean, I will really devote myself to someone if we enter into something like D/s, BDSM, S&M, etc. For me, It's like a kind of reverence I am feeling when I am doing this. I want to live in a state of worship for them. So I enter the situation first with love. I try to move slowly. Sex... isn't so much important. It's the devotion. Letting them feel that I am reverent to their existence. I know... that all sounds really intense, but it doesn't have to be. I feel like most people here rush into something, get their fix, and disappear like a vampire in the night. There isn't any willingness to build a connection, nurture it, enhance or vary the details, and generally be 'together' in any way. So... that really is my answer in one way. Realistically, it seems like SL people are shallow. Being in a capture situation is... counter-intuitively a more intimate... safe place... to get to be with someone in SL than a vanilla or BDSM relationship. The Domme has total control. It's going to be a wild ride, but at least you are going to really get to meet each other. There's a chance chemistry might be recognized and built upon. So I suppose my second answer within this is that I'd want someone to take me completely, with love and reciprocated devotion and reverence throughout.
October nods slowly. "That, in my own experience, is the true definition of BDSM and the idea of give and take. It is a deep commitment with deep trust and love. Many subs here walk in on thier knees and want to get a fix of love, or whatever. There is a lack of seriousness to the relationships here. What would you tell a young sub starting out here about how to avoid the usual "collar and kick" practices of the BDSM culture in SL?"
Echo nods vigorously! "Yes! Absolutely! Do NOT let someone put a collar on your neck. I mean it. If someone even tries before a year is up, get away from them. That might sound harsh, but this is not a reality. SL isn't a place, it's more like a weird quasi-successful communication medium. If you offer your heart to someone here they will tear it to shred and hand the bloody bits back smiling gleefully as if they've just given you a precious gift. If you don't bleed out afterward, maybe they have, but there is a gentler course.... Don't get involved with D/s in any serious way on SL for a least a year. Sure, hang out around it, maybe maybe flirt with it... and by flirt I mean keep your clothes on... because the moment you put out don't expect anyone to be there for you after. The relationship probably ended right there. That's been my experience. People here use you. You really need to be able to see who these users are. Unfortunately that still means getting in the water with them and trying things out. I don't know if there is any way to avoid that, but that's not to say being 'brave' and taking some 'risks' here isn't worth it. It is, be brave but use your head. Think. Other women especially with attack you for this, but over the long term I feel your self-respect will be preserved a little better... maybe. SL is very hard on people just coming in. Very, very hard. This should really be a topic unto itself.
October: I think people have tackled that subject several times since the beginning. Relationships here are meat-grinders. But risk is always a component, no matter what. I think its a matter of being thick-skinned and realizing that your are, no matter what, a human being that deserves respect.
Echo nods, "Your profile alludes to that in a fair way."
October: Oh, I am a real cunty bitch when it comes to respect and how people should be treated here. If I may ask, what is your current status when it comes to Dom/mes and scenes? Do you still play or have you taken a break?
Echo frowns a little heavily. "I'm struggling. I don't think I will ever quit playing the scene completely. At least, not until I'm out of my twenties. I have a long time before that, but ... last Spring really messed with my heart. I gave a lot into that relationship, but I feel I was mostly lied to the whole time. I am not trying to get into details. I am... trying to find a way to talk about communication issues. In SL it seems as though there is a very common belief that BDSM, D/s, and S&M are either all the same thing or very distinct things. In the same manner, all of these things are um... how to say... the are all... everyone I have ever talked with seems to have a very structured idea about what these things are that does not agree with even their own definitions. If you point this out to a dominant they'll usually fall apart or have some kind of mental episode. Really. On the other hand, if you ask questions trying to reach some kind of idea about what you want... prepare yourself to be thrown out. Submissives are supposed to be brainless sluts I guess... I don't understand my place in all this as SL culture is currently."
October: Questioning the authority is never allowed, hehe. I experienced this recently. And as we are intelligent women, it is difficult to carve out our own place in this world. We are as we are, we do as we wish, and fuck you if you don't like it, you know? It's not very well accepted. This rings true in RL as well.
Echo smiles appreciatively and nods. "Especially if you don't have an iron jaw and look like Brienne of Tarth."
October: Hey, she is a sexy woman! In fact, she was a model and looks good when she isnt covered in blood. But I digress...
Echo smiles, "Can I digress us a moment?"
October: Please do.
Echo chews, "This is brings up a topic that's been bouncing around in my head on and off as we've talked. This is slightly getting personal so please forgive me, but since this is text I want to mention something that is visual? You, to me, appear Russian. I appear and am in fact, Asian. For you, your nationality (just from appearance) comes with certain privileges. You are universally a figure which speaks, 'sex' and if you have the Russian accent many people adore it. I'm Asian. I'm constantly self conscious, quiet spoken, prone to wearing earth tones... You are given a kind of free pass toward iconification as someone empowered. My racial stereotype spells me as 'intelligent' but 'submissive'. I find this to be an incredibly difficult struggle daily in SL. It has a very... 'white' culture'. There are hidden mine fields."
October: Oh, I totally get that. There is a certain amount of "white privilege" in SL, no doubt. I have been other races here and I have seen it. And it extends to those who are transgender or furries or anything beyond the norm.
Echo nods. "It seemed something that really needs mentioning. SL can cut you to pieces if you come here as yourself and if yourself includes a race other than white... it's hard. It's really hard."
October: Given that I am a white female in RL (thought I look more Irish), I can't say for certain what I might look like here if I were not a white woman. But people are not taking real advantage of the lack of...how do you say...I guess the lack of knowledge of who or what a person really is. Its mental interaction, that's all. Who cares what gender or race they are? It should be a place to dispose of cultural prejudices. But alas....I saw someone refer to themselves as a "nigger slave" and I squicked.
Echo facepalms! "SL can be shockingly vulgar too. I suppose it's just for plain fun though. People should try that more. It's healthy."
October: I agree. I don't mind saying that I am honky-ass white. A healthy dose of non-PCness is good and can explored here, as well, as long as you are good with it being thrown back at you. It's that thick-skinned idea.
Echo smiles and nods a bit. "Yeah, it is hard to find that balance at first though. You kind of have to have had an experience first time find. At least, for myself I needed to have a few experiences that were that way before I learned to enjoy them for what they are."
October: It's like being a child again. You have to learn the right way to walk. Are there any other ideas you want to express before we wrap up?
Echo: Maybe a couple... I'm struggling for the right words.
October: Take your time
Echo: I know... this is hard for a lot of girls. I say girls because I don't think of myself as all that old yet. I'm saying my age, by the way! But! That is a good place to start. Identity and cornering. That's something that should really be talked about. People are very ignorant about those issues in a negative way.
October: Explain what you mean by "identity and cornering".
Echo nods and thinks. "Identity is really complicated, but in saying that is should be intuitively simple. Maybe it is for some people, but usually people don't give this enough though. I am an introvert. If you gave me an IQ test I'd be in the top percent, but that also makes me 'weird'. I see things others don't, presume that they do, and jump to conclusions that probably leave where they are. At least, in social situations this is very true of me. This is NOT my 'identity', but it is a piece of my 'character'. People... can really break with this or presume too much about you. I believe it's because people believe everything in instantaneous in SL. Remember, all of the information they are getting is really just them reading and seeing a computer screen. They are never going to get to meet 'you'. They probably won't try to hang out with you. The most they will do is 'friend' you, and then perpetually sit on your friends list waiting for you to IM them. Despite this, they will usually try to say that the few random things they've met about you so far is 'you'... I call that cornering. It's part of how i ended up doing Capture Roleplays. I was happy with a light vanilla experience. Really happy with it, but because I was nervous people thought I wanted it 'rougher'. The nice people started to isolate me to protect me. I wanted to try a scene so guess who was left?"
October nods. "Dealing with the projections put upon you. And if after they get to actually know you and find that you aren't what they projected, they act like it's your fault. Very frustrating. Sometimes, its easier to have a few moments with someone in a "light and fluffy" roleplay, rather than attempt a full-on relationship with someone who may get mad at you for being who you are.
Echo nods seriously. "This is slightly tangential, but in the 60s I think it was, there was a study called ... um... shoot... Deviance in the Dark. I know, hilarious name. Anyway, they put a bunch of people in a dark room to see what would happen. The people actually were really sweet and even kind of um... sexual with one another. Each decade the study has been repeated. Do you know how people are today? The last study everyone moved equal distance apart and barely talked till it was over. People are not as used to 'genuineness' any more. They see it as something threatening."
October: Yeah. Being blunt isn't polite, I guess. Cultural and societal norms are exceedingly important now. Deviation is frowned upon, even as we embrace diversity. We are scared of being open for fear of offending, I think. Dent touch that person because they might not like it and get angry. We can't be ourselves because we might be "wrong", if that makes sense. And to bring it back to SL, we embrace diversity here as well. But at the same time, we have a cultural norm to deal with. And when it comes to BDSM, women are submissive, sometimes dominant, but they MUST fit into a predetermined hole or be considered an outcast.
Echo laughs a little. "I forgot about this, but that brings up one of two more tops I really wanted to get to talk about. It was kind of what got us together to do this though... Predetermined holes... Girls... watch out for these these. They will other girls and old women you would never expect it from will shred you to pieces on these. I know last spring, what messed me up so much was that I was doing everything my Domme told me to do when suddenly it was wrong. It was wrong because I deviated from a social norm. She was German I am a mixed nationality. Her expectations of me were NEVER informed of me. One day everything simply was not okay. I tried to ask why. I tried everything I could think of to find out what was wrong. Then her older submissive, a refuse to call her a sister, went basaltic on me. I've seen this pattern repeat itself three times now. I'm really convinced this is an issue of virtual having cultural expectations bleeding through from RL. All I want to say here is that be careful of hidden expectations because there are nationalities and diverse life experiences mixing her which should not be presumed are any way easily associable or intuitive.
October: Come with an open mind, yes. Desire to understand, not push into your own mold.
Echo nods! "Yes, exactly. I guess I'll slip over to the last thoughts before I forget and let you finish up questions?"
October: Feel free
Echo : Getting into D/s, in real life or SL, is very challenging. It is like 'coming out of the closet'. I have very little self-confidence. Experience over the last year has really helped me with this, but it's really easy to have that confidence torn down. I don't think people realize how much bravery it takes for most women to go out and do something independently. Especially men, I feel, don't understand this. Boys, we're not dressing up for you. We dress up for other women. We dress how we do because of other women. Really. So, when other women attack what we are doing, it's a really serious thing. Especially if you are only just independent of your parents. The most vicious things in our lives are usually other women. So coming 'out' and 'open' about being into anything is also leaving ourselves vulnerable to subtle attacks and quiet isolating condescension from other women. If you don't know what I'm talking about you probably shouldn't be anywhere near women yet or possibly ever. If you are another woman that can't comprehend this... you have god powers. For me, simply trying D/s was a huge growth in my sense of self empowerment. I discovered that actually it is only because of other people's actions that there is anything 'wrong' with being nude. If I could I would stay nude, all the time. I hate wearing clothes now. Clothes are only a utility. They are not 'me' and do not define 'me'. Sex and sexuality is this way as well. When I am deliberate and when I am genuine... these are things that are 'me'. That is what I have discovered from D/s. Everything is is coloration and tone. I don't feel most of us (women) are encouraged to discover things on our own. Whenever I become interested in something I never share it with other girl friends. We are not generous in the way men naturally seem to be. We do not respect one another as people. We see one another as competition, as a source of conflict. I blame this hurtful attitude so common to us on older women. Women do not live in the same world as men. We are demanded of... there are expectations forced on us that do not exist for me. We almost never have our own lives. Because we are sensitive and because we feel so much for everything we are possessed of an inner climate of feelings that I do not believe men have. We need time to metabolize our experiences. That's why we get together with other women and chat about things. When something upsets us we need time without upset in our lives, equal to that stretch of time we are trying to process and then some, or its impact on us will not abate. This is why we are so evasive about all that we do I feel. We are trying to get away from all the things impacting us so it doesn't adversely color our personalities and mess us up. Maybe this is a biological thing? Maybe in the same way that we are often physically attractive we are also frequently emotionally attractive. We try to safeguard both. Older women are jaded. Younger women are cruel. Together both will tear away at your character and force false impressions on your identity trying to make your existence climatized to their needs.
As a young women looking for adventure and sovereignty over what we do with our lives I feel our greatest challenge is other women. Our feelings are always wondering, tagging new things, and transitioning. This is the atmosphere we breath 24/7. It puts more information into an experience that just a stretch of time. There's so much information that we lag a little bit. We need to talk to someone else for perspective. That's where we get into trouble. Other women have their own options, but no generosity. We have to contend with this while dealing with our own inner atmosphere of feelings and desires.
When I say generosity I'm not talking about compassion or empathy. A woman or a man has equal potential to give compassion. That's how I feel about it. Empathy seems to be a thing more pronounced with us. We feel and have internal feelings not representative of the world around us. It lets us resonate with our immediate context. So, generosity is not either of these things. A man seems to possess generosity though. Men are always offering physical gifts. I don't think they can help themselves. It's hardwired. We don't do this. We may try to offer climates, emotionally pleasantries, but we will not physically do anything for another person unless we are in a relationship with them usually. I feel this is possibly why we end up being so vicious to one another and those around us. We don't have the instinct to consider doing something for another person's physical existence. It doesn't resonate with us. We don't have any awareness for it. In D/s this becomes extremely problematic. If we go to another women for help, especially those older than us, she may empathize with our feelings, but she will not care to do anything about them. In fact, usually, we're treated very badly. We may be called a slut casually or discarded from friendship as we are inferring with her climate of imposed serenity. I believe this is why most women simply don't know what to do when we want to discover something for ourselves. We have no avenues for support. We're alone in this.
Thank you to Echo for her helpful and enjoyable insight.