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Jan 16, 2006



It’s hard to feel pain in virtual worlds; in fact, it’s downright impossible. Simulate any other facet of life – love, childbirth, the perfect pair of shoes – but experiencing physical pain is out of bounds. No amount of roleplaying can recreate it. Real-life pain requires a real-life body, one thing virtual worlds just can’t provide.

OK, but I mean, you cannot feel ANYTHING in virtual worlds because you aren't in them, so why this focus on pain? Collections of data aren't capable of feeling and your real-life person always remains in the physical world. The only reason your real-life person can hear music is because your computer contains an output device to deliver sound. All that's required for pain is an output device that delivers pain.....such as, say, this: http://www.wired.com/news/games/0,2101,50875,00.html

"Simulations" of all sorts of physical sensations, from sight and sound in picture-less and sound-less text MUDs to pain to sexual pleasure to taste to smell are as old as virtual worlds are. There's nothing fundamentally special about pain: Most users just lack an output device from it, much like they lack an output device for pleasure or for taste.



Remove the physical, and there still exists the possibility of pain. Remove the appliances, and there still exist means of control.

I suspect quite a number of people engaging in virtual BDSM are actually involved in reverse role-play. Their fantasy is control because they lack it (or the willingness to take it) in real life. And the idea of inflicting even virtual pain may provide some catharsis from various kinds of RL pain - most of which is probably mental.


Uh, simulate childbirth? No way - you can simulate the idea of it, sure, in the way you imagine it before you're in labour, or in the way you remember it afterwards, but the sheer pain of it - uh uh.

Of course, that's your point in the rest of the post, so I'm nit-picking here - I just don't think childbirth is a particularly good example of what can be simulated...


Quoting csven:
Their fantasy is control because they lack it (or the willingness to take it) in real life. And the idea of inflicting even virtual pain may provide some catharsis from various kinds of RL pain - most of which is probably mental.

Entirely possible, yet one must remember that there is a huge, broad element of "reverse-roleplay" to virtual worlds in their current incarnations, with Second Life being the most acute example currently (from my exceedingly limited experience). Many people enter these worlds to experience a reversal of their real selves, to explore "that other half", if you will. This does not necessarily presuppose negative mental conditions in RL which drive this kind of behavior.
One of the core aspects of BDSM besides control is often reversal, a shift of normalcy as percieved by the participants. Im not sure I would equate this desire to "reverse" as an indicator of RL pain in any general or even limited sense.



Matt, what makes pain important is not its absence (like you said, many other things are lacking - the one that stands out most in my mind is physical sexual stimulation) but the importance placed on it. There are no kinks (that I know of) based around smell or the sound of music. Also, there's a fundamental difference in the types of devices you mentioned. You're talking about players experiencing pain by proxy; I'm talking about the impossibility of pain inflicted in-world. Perhaps a slight difference, but an important one, I think.

Csven, I'm not sure if people switch in-game, but I will say, from my own personal experience with a number BDSM-ers, that people often switch in kink itself. For example, I tend to be a dominant person in normal life, yet I'm a sub. Whether or not there's a screen involved, BDSM allows for a release from normalcy through role-playing and separate space.

Sorry, Jill, didn't mean the pain of childbirth, just the act. Which, like you said, is the point. Looked at that way, you can't really experience any of those moments. Even the perfect shoes will never hurt at the end of the day...

Lanky, that's one of the reasons I love Second Life - because it's called Second Life. It's the inversion of real life, right down to its name.


It seems to me that there are two purposes to physical sensation in sexual dominance play:

1. To put credibility behind the top's assertion of control.

2. To provide physical feelings that the players desire.

Virtual worlds can't provide the second, but I imagine there are ways of interacting that serve the function of establishing credible control. Anything that one party would not like to have happen, but that the controlling party can nonetheless do, establishes control with credibility. If one person were given access to the other's account, things like involuntary public exhibition are possible, or slow destruction of created works, limiting access and movement, silencing, and systematic altering of reputation. Maybe these things hurt more, and longer, than physical acts. But now I guess we say that actual touching is SOOO 20th century....


How timely, just recently I was reading some literature on the subject of "Abusive Male Power" and why most women (and a significant minority of men) are attracted to men who treat them as inferiors and/or poorly.

At the end of my informal studies I come away with the impression that common denominator is a need for "Control, Cruelty, and Contempt". Psychologists would chime in at this point with, "Ahhh think of the children and your relationship with your mother!" Then I'd balk at them and tell them that, "Freud aer 4 teh n00bz".

For those that are drawn to relationships of this nature, a virtual outlet will hopefully help them to understand their needs and wants... and decide better which to act on in RL. So how can the VWs being used in this manner (such as SL, Sociolotron, and apparently even WoW) help people fully explore these relationships without the benefit of some sort of teledildonic-bull-whip? I suspect that it would require an implementation in the VW that allows for users to exploit other users in the manner I have described.

Control: Perhaps some mechanism to "Slave" an account to another; perventing action or causing limited actions to occure at the will of the "Master" account.

Cruelty: Tricky... I don't think sending my WoW Warlock's Succubus to whip your toon for 50 damage will really convey much cruelty. This is probably an element that is better left to players to RP themselves with the aid of Control and the arrogance of...

Contempt: "Bwhahaha, I ownz0r your hawt Human Priest. Now you will heal me or suffer my wrath!" and other RP elements that derive in-game benefits for the "Master".

I would go one step further and make the "Slave" account owned and paid for by the "Master" so the GMs don't get bombarded with "Ahhh my Master won't let me move!" since the Slave account is then just being borrowed by the player.

Hell I'd play a game like that just t o see how the dynamics worked. It would be fascinating to see a Raid of 40 toons, some of whom are slaves being carted along to aid their Master in battle; as we have historical evidence for in RL.

(My SO, whom I just read this to and has more experience with BDSM communities and literature, points out: what I am describing would only appeal to people interested in Power-Exchange relationships. BDSM (BonDage & SadoMasochism) activities require kinetics by their very nature, and will not be satisfactorily replicable in a virtual space. Those that are into “D/s” (Dominance and Submission) should be able to play any game in their roles without the addition of contrivances or mechanisms to achieve control or dominance. There was also the discussion of “Topping from the Bottom” and “Attention Whores” at this point but I believe it went beyond the scope of TN and would potentially be offensive.)


All of which brings up a rather sensitive boundary in BDSM as we know it/perceive in in society today: the boundary between physical pain and emotional pain. These extreme instances of control could certainly cause emotional pain, but -- while physical S/M is slowly being recognized as an okay thing, as long as it's safe, sane, and consensual -- emotional S/M is barely ever considered a legitimate possibility, let alone a right. Detritus, you mention for example people who can use in-world experiences to help them steer toward more "healthy" real-world lives. But who says what's healthy?


If i could simulate anything in a VW, it would be temperature. A warm glow, a chill, a cold wind up the spine.

As it is, we're reduced to tricks with picture and sound to make that happen and it doesn't work on everyone.

But that would be the best thing we could possibly invent, to my mind. If we could do that, Tatooine would be uncomfortably hot, blisteringly dry, Ratchet would be a Carribean paradise, etc etc etc.

And EVE would be.. probably exactly as cold as it already is.

(No offence, i love EVE but it's metaphorically freezing).


Lanky said: "Entirely possible, yet one must remember that there is a huge, broad element of "reverse-roleplay" to virtual worlds in their current incarnations..."

Understood. After posting I was aware I neglected to sufficiently qualify that portion of my comment you quoted. It would be more accurate to say "For some, the fantasy is control..."


Patrick Crogan presented an interesting paper at Digra dealing, inter alia, with two experimental gaming interfaces which inflict pain on participants:

Tekken Torture Tournament is a one-night event combining the latest video game technology, untapped public aggression and painful electric shock. Willing participants are wired into a custom fighting system – a modified Playstation (running Tekken 3) which converts virtual on screen damage into bracing, non-lethal, electric shocks. The Tournament has been run at a number of venues from 2001 – 2004.
The Painstation 1 and 2 consoles allow for single or two-player contests in a tennis game modelled on the early console classic, Pong. Pain is administered through both electric shocks and a small whip that is mechanically activated to strike the player’s hand when the player loses a point. The Painstation 2 boasts increased flexibility in pain administration, whip varieties and the inclusion of “different bonus symbols [that] appear on screen and result in multiplied pain, multiballs, shrunk bars [paddles], reversed directions etc.” [Crogan 2005]
While such interfaces might not be practicable as distance BDSM devices, Crogan's discussion focuses less on the pain itself than on the performance elements of the gameplay. I think to at least some extent the pleasure in the online (and offline) BDSM scenes may also be related to the performance aspects of the interactions as much as to the physical pain per se, as several comments above have mentioned, and which may explain the online appeal despite the lack of actual pain or control. At any rate, the paper is also worth reading for those interested more generally in serious games.




This made me think about the discussion in Ted's book about VR focusing on the senses and VWs focusing on the imagination. Make the world engage the imagination and you don't have to worry about fooling the senses. Use a virtual world to create a powerful magic cirle filled with rules of heirarchy, power and control which engages the imagination and you don't have to worry about real pain and real bruises.


Bonnie Ruberg wrote:
Matt, what makes pain important is not its absence (like you said, many other things are lacking - the one that stands out most in my mind is physical sexual stimulation) but the importance placed on it. There are no kinks (that I know of) based around smell or the sound of music.

There are definitely kinks based off smell. Sniffing armpits, body odor in general, etc. And surely pain pales in general importance to people beside sexual pleasure and music.

Also, there's a fundamental difference in the types of devices you mentioned. You're talking about players experiencing pain by proxy; I'm talking about the impossibility of pain inflicted in-world. Perhaps a slight difference, but an important one, I think.

But there's no possibility of ANY sensation being inflicted in a virtual world because you're not in it to begin with. The world can communicate data that might lead to emotional pain or, in the case of the proper output device, physical pain, but everything you experience is experienced entirely outside of the virtual world.



Bonnie Ruberg: Detritus, you mention for example people who can use in-world experiences to help them steer toward more "healthy" real-world lives. But who says what's healthy?

I didn't say, nor would I, anything of the sort.

I said:
"a virtual outlet will hopefully help them to understand their needs and wants... and decide better which to act on in RL"


Thus far Matt Mihaly: But there's no possibility of ANY sensation being inflicted in a virtual world because you're not in it to begin with. The world can communicate data that might lead to emotional pain or, in the case of the proper output device, physical pain, but everything you experience is experienced entirely outside of the virtual world.

There's a strong strand of philosophical thought that says exactly this about the non-virtual world. All it sends us is sense-data - what that data means is entirely up to us. The virtual world adds an extra filter layer, but I don't think it makes more difference than that.

On another note, several people suggest coded controls for the dominant over the submissive's account - that seems odd to me, giving the dominant player control over the submissive avatar, rather than player-over-player or avatar-over-avatar, and liable to break the mood.

I think that you'd have to have a great deal of identification with the (controlled) avatar already, for experience without direct involvement to work... and it'd also be much more of a kick, for me as a dominant, to know that the control lines went through the other player, rather than cutting them out of the loop. One of the most interesting dynamics in this sort of thing is that virtually, there is no possibility of actual enforcement, without quite complicated and generally unofficial workarounds, so it takes a very light rein to keep things on track.

Sociologically, I'd think of this sort of thing as a perfect example of McLuhan's "cool media", lo-fi things that make your brain chase to catch up, fill in the blanks, strive to get more and more involved and dig out every scrap of illusory sensation.

Then again, both sex and virtual worlds are a lot like that normally.


First off, love the post.

BonnieRuberg > In that case, what does virtual sadomasochism offer but control over ourselves?

Lots of things.

First off it’s titillating - one gets a chance to be part of or at least associated with a community thought of as deviate, sexually deviant. You get a taste of being the other.

It seems safe – people might not want to go to an S/M club or as their SO to hurt them or if they can do some pain infliction themselves. Virtual BDSM is an entre into this world. I’m not saying that it’s a good one or that it is safe, but that that’s how its perceived.

It provides some of the aesthetics of BDSM – these leak into mainstream culture all the time, but if you want to look like and be perceived as a classic Dom then there you have it.

Yes, control – I’ve wondered a little about why the Gorean culture is so well represented within SL. I feel that this is for a number of reasons, yes there are the cultural trappings – you can really be in Ar etc, but more than that it is role play that is very very broad encompassing all types of control and ritual. I was once present when a new slave tired, over and over again, to leave a room within the virtual space. First the did not ask appropriately, then wrote in short hand, then got the capitalization wrong – after 10 or more minutes of exchange, finally they learnt to leave following all the codes – that was painful, achingly painful and I was merely a bystander.


Why not create a device that allows you to control someone else's avatar (if that avatar consents to the use of the device) for simulating the experience of being controlled and helpless?


FYI: qDot / Kyle is working on all kinds of SL / teledildonics integration, so SL action to RL pain is of course possible, but I think that that is a seperate discussion.


One of the biggest disappointments I found upon entering SecondLife for the first time was the realization that, when left to their own devices, the population seems to resort to porn. I don't mean to seem prudish, and if you knew me you would know that it's not an accurate term to describe me. I enjoy the occassional erotic material, but I don't like the extent to which the denizens of SL "wave it in your face". I guess it really doesn't bother me all that much that it's there, but moreso that I just don't "get it". Sure, I understand fantasy and all that, and no matter what your reason for playing ANY mmo you are playing out SOME sort of fantasy, at least to a degree (generally speaking). But, with regards to fantasies that seem to revolve around an arguably tactile experience, porn in virtual worlds is pointless to me. Yes, I realize that self-stimulation can come into play and "round out" the fantasy for some people (maybe many), but it seems like a LOT of work to go to just to get your rocks off. I don't know ... just my 2cp.


Let's not forget that there are two device industries waiting to merge:

Haptic game controllers


Erotic stimulators

Without doubt, there will be devices that inflict pain. And of course you'll be able to transfer control over the device to someone else over the network.

Jane Pinckard's extraordinarily forward-looking essay on the rez trance vibrator points to this corner of the future.


Dr C> Erotic stimulators

Yes, that's exactly what qDot etc do (see above).
see: www.slashdong.com

>Jane Pinckard's extraordinarily forward-looking essay on the rez trance vibrator points to this corner of the future.
Indeed, though I think that game stuff and vibro stuff have been going on for quite a while, especially in the techo-erotic geek community.


Peter, I've been reading up on the Painstation project, and it's certainly a provocative example of pain in games, but it seems to me somehow different than being able to inflict suffering in-game. It doesn't let you know have a direct impact, you know? It requires a medium that takes some of the "act" in act of violence out of the thing.

Also, great point about BDSM as performance. I hadn't thought of that, but it's very true. Even in real life, S/M (as with many things "queer" and "kink") is highly performative. We call BDSM actions "scenes" and interaction "play"...

Matt, there's a difference between an attraction and a kink. Certainly, people find many things attractive. But I can't think of a sexual orientation based around smell... Also, you're right, no sensation can be felt. Again, what makes pain different is that people act (whether consciously or not) as if it can.

Detritus, my apologies, I read "better" as having a somewhat moralistic overtone.

Sam, I agree - you lose something when you cut the sub's agency out of the loop. What makes S/M S/M isn't force, it's a subjectivity that willing takes part in being forced. BDSM not only creates but necessitates power of the submissive.

Ren, apologies also. I didn't mean to imply that was the only thing virtual BDSM offered; sorry, it's just a somewhat confusingly-structured sentence. As for Gorean culture... I've been reading what I can find, but I admit it remains something of a mystery to me - mostly in it's formation and popularity. Why here, why now, why this?

Chip, you're right, people always go back to sex. My question is, what happens when sex is the given (as in sex-based MMO), what springs up in the background in the place of sex? Hopefully I'll get a chance to explore that topic more a bit later, when these games have had more time on the market...

Re: pain simulators, and qDot's work. Nothing against q, but there really seems to me to be a difference, philosophically at least, in causing pain in-game and experiencing it by proxy in real life. Also, in game pain would be experienced by a toon, proxy pain by the player. Bringing those two together through physical sensation as if they were one... It's fine if it's what you're looking for, but the experience of the one doesn't mean the same thing as the experience of the other.


Bonnie > My question is, what happens when sex is the given (as in sex-based MMO), what springs up in the background in the place of sex?

Excellent question (like you needed me to tell you that) -- It seems to me that more sex would pop up in the background. Or perhaps "niche-sex". I doubt we'd see any sort of swing to, say, Bible-study or something.

I guess I consider sex a fairly private matter and that is likely why I am not too keen on seeing it in the virtual world(s). That said, however, it would be interesting to see what would happen with an MMO version of something like "Singles: Flirt up your life".


Thus far Bonnie: My question is, what happens when sex is the given (as in sex-based MMO), what springs up in the background in the place of sex?

My guess would be "a different kind of sex" - but then you hardly need me to tell you that sex can mutate and change and eventually become nearly unrecognizable. Virtual worlds seem to encourage this sort of thing, in my experience - the sign taking over from the act, and so on. Fetish, in the technical sense. I wish I could find my copy of Slavoj Zizek's Plague of Fantasies.

Assuming the world's code supports it (and even if it doesn't) then you get economic tails and support infrastructure developing (someone has to make all those exciting new kinky boots, after all - and if every porn star doesn't have to be her own entire studio, a lot more of them can manage it) and then you inevitably get politics. I've seen quite a few virtual working girls discussing fees and unionizing and bitching about management, and they weren't roleplaying it, either.

Parenthetically, I have to wonder whether any sex-based MMO would support those sorts of features - player designed content and crosscutting social organization. Certainly, most of the current ones don't.

A lot of what happens on the fringes of sex, though, would almost certainly involve waiting for sex, and the sort of OOC displacement activity people always indulge in. (Talking about cats is generally popular.) It seems a little odd to use 'OOC' in this context, but you know what I mean. OOB, perhaps?

Chip, out of curiosity - what makes sex a more private matter than killing? There are certainly more sex-based clubs and parties around these days than there are gladiatorial pits, after all, and people flock to watch PvP matches.


Chip and Sam, all good points. Niche sex is a definite possibility. Even if the game doesn't support player developing, interesting things could grow - shaped into kink groups according to what's available. It's interesting though that you mention the economics and politics beneath sex. Normally, these interactions are considered the surface - sex the literal underbelly. When sex is the surface though, economics and politics become the undercurrent. The question is, is one of these things real? In MMO's as we know them now, is sex some underlying truth, or are the other human interactions more than a mask/facade, a simultaneously meaningful system...?


Sam>what makes sex a more private matter than killing?

Good point, Sam. But I guess since I engage in sex in RL it is something "real" to me, whereas I do not kill (in the criminal sense) in RL so it not something in which I have a personal stake (other than actually not getting killed -- I fervently hope).

The idea of me killing or being involved in armed combat in real life is such a stretch for my (RL) character that it remains (thankfully) pure fantasy in the VW's I frequent. Sex, on the other hand, is NOT (thankfully) such a stretch of imagination for me in real life (although a newborn baby in the same room has put a bit of a damper on things), so I guess that compels me to consider it something to keep private. Which, I admit, is somewhat silly given the anonymity provided by a virtual persona.

It's also somewhat culturally/socially imposed -- burned into my ROM as it were. Which, again, is a bit silly, I suppose, because when you get down to biology, our only real reason for existing is to have sex.

Bonnie, regarding player interactions as masks: That's great food for thought. What immediately comes to mind is that *most* interactions between players in *most* MMO's are fairly casual events, understood as "public" and are very much "intended". Sex in these worlds (as it seems to be in RL) is still a fairly elaborate contract ... In other words, you can walk up to anyone in an MMO and start a conversation. You CAN'T walk up to other people and just start having sex with them. Well, you could ... but even in VW's this still seems a somewhat offensive behavior.

It strikes me a little funny that, early on in my SL wanderings, I happened upon an avatar "couple" that was busy ... er ... "coupling". Cyber-genitals and all. I was too shocked and amused to be even remotely aroused, but I gawked nonetheless. Like any good video of a skateboarder getting a handrail to the crotch, I just couldn't look away. Most shocking to me, though, was that they were offended! Livid, in fact. They quickly clothed themselves and called a GM (or Linden or whatever) to deal with me. So even in the very "public", wide open spaces of MMO's the Av's have an expectation of privacy! So if I am odd (and nobody here said I was) for keeping sex to myself and not participating in VW sex, then what does it say about the players who do it out in the open where they know everyone can see and yet they expect privacy??

It's even more odd in WoW where the amorous types cuddle in their cartoon undies.


On the subject of masks, it's probably worth considering that they work both ways - it's something you put on to conceal your normal identity, but it's also a good shorthand way of signalling who you want to be tonight to someone who's never met you before. (And usually work both ways at once, of course.) Given that it's pretty easy to go where nobody knows your name in a virtual world, there's a lot of opportunities for masquerade-play, DID-as-a-way-of-life, and so forth. This might just be my postmodernist sense of humour, but I'd seriously question the idea that there was a core underneath the layers of overlapping masks, or anything more than the naked desire for alterity.


It's very possible to experience real physical pain playing in a virtual world, or Counter-Strike, or Super Mario Bros. Go on a 16 hour gaming binge, I guarantee pain. ;)

Genitorture won't kill you, but three-day Starcraft binges have, on occasion...


Sam, so true: is there such thing as core/real identity, or are we only layers of masks? I have no answer, but it sure is fun to think about.

Chip, the thing I forgot to mention earlier when you were talking about sex and privacy in virtual worlds is the idea of sex as performance. This plays in here in two ways: first, online sex is often a public display for other viewers(as in the cases you described - although I'm not sure what to make of the pair who thought they'd get privacy); second, online sex is not sex, but literally the perfomance of sex. It's an act, not the real act, if you get my drift. Performance necessitates audience. I think it's that aspect that makes online sex (normally) public domain.


It's a long thread so I might have missed someone's comment to this detail but it seems most people are assuming that the players coming together in the world do not have pre-existing relationships. We anticipate a decent number of players who come to RO with their distance partners (either in a long term relationship or just separated temporarily due to school, business or other travel... maybe even in the same area but just not able to spend every night together and playing from their separate homes). In any event there is a strong market for couples games and couples erotic experiences online. I can go in SL with my partner and further our intimacy that way when real life proximity is an issue and we can explore things in-world that we fantasize about but have no real-life interest in trying (hard BDSM could be an example).

For a real life BDSM lifestyle couple the online world be an extension of their relationship to a safe and convenient public audience. It goes beyond what you can do by simply posting your slaves images/words online- you can actually *share* your slave without introducing jealousy, disease, or real world risks. For non-BDSM couples, the same bonus is available for swinging and forms of exhibitionism/voyeurism that are NOT available realistically through other means of adult entertainment online. These experiences are bonding experiences for couples and I expect them to be VERY popular parts of Rapture Online's game play.

We have a number of play features that are "hotseat" compatible for couples who are physically close but want to interact virtually with singles or couples somewhere online. It's a way to retain monogamy but explore fantasies.

Basically, I think erotic 3D-avatar-based play is in its infancy and we won't be in a position to really appreciate its potential until we see the release of dedicated erotic game clients with features catering to the specific needs of this type of play. To question the efficacy of BDSM in worlds not designed for specifically for BDSM play is kind of jumping the gun. You can race things in SL but is it the same racing experience you get from a console title designed 100% for racing play? Probably not. BDSM has its own language, culture, and play paradigms. As someone pointed out already you could augment BDSM relationships in satisfying ways by allowing subs to relenquish certain in-game controls and features to their doms and so forth. People are using their imagination to create great scenes now, but there is a lot more that could be possible if the tools were there in-game.

I think that questioning virtual BDSM's lack of physical pain is really just an excuse to make a catchy headline and talk about BDSM. All virtual sex play lacks the definitive physical sensations of the acts and recasts the player as voyeur and puts the fantasy on center stage- the senses of sight and hearing replace touch as the primary receptors and all that you contribute, you contribute by proxy. You talk about what you are doing and click a button to gesture- and every action is translated to a symbol to communicate the scene from your brain to your partners. This is no big change! The brain is your biggest sex organ.

Virtual sex still engages the single most important body part involved in sex in all the right ways. Questioning what thrill BDSM can have with only brain "contact" is missing the reality of what makes BDSM thrilling. As an illustration imagine the difference between walking down the street and having some guy smack your ass with a paddle randomly. Are you aroused? Even if you love it in a sexual context your brain will surely say "hey- that felt the same but it IS NOT the same" so you will react differently (most likely, there are exceptions obviously). Point being that the mental context of the whole thing is what makes BDSM work- physical sensations are pretty much incidental.

A surprising amount of sex works that way. A smile from the right person with the right mental "cues" going off in your brain can turn you on instantly but the same sort of smile from someone your brain lacks these "cues" for (or refuses to process them) will have no effect or worse on your arousal. In a most extreme example, there is the way the physical body reacts to rape- some women have become wet and even orgasmed during what was surely a horrible unenjoyable and unerotic rape. It was not sex to them- it was rape, but the brain was the only body part that could make that distinction. It's the only part that matters in terms of practical sexuality and eroticism, imo. Hell, sometimes you are so in love with your partner there could be a java game with falling pineapples and if he typed to me in IM: those pineapplese are falling because I'm so hot for you... well, I'd probably smile and get warm fuzzies looking at the stupid pineapples. Sex is mental... literally!


Hi, Kelly. I really appreciate your extensive commentary, but I'm sorry to hear you think the post was put together for the sake of catchy headline. It's nothing of the sort. I had been working on an article for The Escapist on the seeming paradox of inflicting/experiencing pain in virtual spaces, and had originally included a section on virtual S/M. When The Escapist decided they'd rather not bring sex into the issue, it was shaped into my first post here. Personally, as someone who is involved in RL BDSM and a RL BDSM community, I was just fascinated by the way that this kink tranfers to a sensationless environment. This piece merely attempts to explore that issue.

I think you raise a good point about pre-existing couples who play together online to push/strengthen/experiment with the boundaries of their RL interactions. Thanks for mentioning it; it's something I'm not involved in, and thus it often slips my mind.

You say, rightly so, that the brain is the biggest sex organ. You also explain how sexual arousal is the result of context. I don't disagree at all. BDSM in virtual worlds, as all acts there, have specific attributes that make them what they are. My point isn't that this is in any way lesser than RL BDSM, or that's it's ultimately baffling or strange. I apologize if, due to my language, the intent of the post is unclear, but what I mean to do is simply start with the question, How does something so often closely linked to physicality as BDSM transfer to virtual worlds?, and explore the possible answers. No judgement calls. Just curiousity. I've offered a few of my ideas. Other people have offered others here in the comments.

Also, in response to your note in the Sex SIG mailing list, that talking about pain seems arbitrary when you can't feel anything in virtual worlds, I would say that, 1) I would be interested in seeing thoughts on the implications of the lack of other senses as well - pain just happens to be what interests me, and 2) that pain is different because, in traditional S/M at least, it's reception is an important part of arousal. Despite the fact that the pain is absent in virtual worlds, the arousal is still present. It's just, for me at least, as a masochist who hasn't been able to find a satifying, virtual world equivalent, a fascinating topic.

Thanks for discussing!


What an interesting thread.

Without repeating lots of other stuff that's already here, I add:

* Suggesting that BDSM requires physical pain is incorrect. BDSM, more than anything, is a relationship of trust. The acts can take many, many different forms. Torture can sometimes be the absence of touch, rather than any touch at all. The concept that BDSM requires pain is a huge simplification of a relationship that involves two radically different behaviours. Physical pain is not an essential part - though it is absolutely a common part - of the BDSM experience.

* Pain associated with BDSM is certainly possible within virtual worlds. If you can hook a controller to a computer, you can hook entire machines to computers... machines specifically built for various purposes. Several people have mentioned the mad scientist, qDot, here. He is the forefront of this whole wave, but there are many, many kinky others working on similar things.

* A single person's experiences in BDSM aren't reflective of the community as a whole.


By welcoming Bonnie Ruberg into their midst, and essentially mainstreaming and tacitly approving the ideology of BDSM, the Terra Nova ludicians have crossed out of the old boundaries of the old civilizational norms that served pretty steadily in the last century, and crossed into a Brave New World that has no ready indication that it's going to be especially wonderful or especially free.

It's not about tolerance of people's "lifestyles" (or deathstyles) on their own private property, in their own homes, in their own spaces. God knows, that is the Sacred Communion of Second Life, that I get to do WTF I wish on my own land! God bless it!

But if this lifestyle and ideology can be promoted throughout public spaces, then the rebuttals to it can also be tolerated : )

BDSM and Gor have vast popularity in SL and other worlds because people like having some ready-made template to fit into, and they like being told what to do. There's always a smaller percentage of people who enjoy bossing others around. It's pretty simple.

Gor and BDSM, in their most virulent promoters, have achieved in very short time what totalitarians of the 20th century were unable to achieve even with decades of assiduous work, including mass murder: a *rationalization* and a *justification* for violence, slavery, taking power over others, and limiting their freedoms.

The Nazis or the Soviets or Pol Pot would say that when they used violence or slavery, it was for an end justifying the means -- a better world, equality, freedom from want or poverty, glorification of the state -- whatever. It sold, albeit with difficulty, and continues to sell.

BDSM, Gor etc. have a brand-new innovation on the old theme: claiming consent, and claiming freedom. Briliant! The freedom to be enslaved, the freedom to have pain inflicted on you, and the freedom to violate the norms that would normally make infliction of pain and enslavement a crime, by invoking consent.

The invocation of consent will henceforth become the ultimate weapon of totalitarians everywhere online -- and who is going to be able to check if it is true or not?

So then we have very little choice (in keeping with the doms need to subjugate). We can try to claim that even with consent, such a culture is wrong. We'll be bludgeoned to death by rabid BDSM practitioners, of course, who get really hateful and vicious at the *slightest* questioning of their "lifestyle," and we will of course be hoisted on our own petard by our own liberalism, if we have it. We'll be told that we're intolernt, haters, we'll be told to get a life, get laid, and a thousand other put-downs. Many people feel more than a little uneasy at the proliferation of slavery lifestyles in SL, but they resign themselves to being victims of their own liberalism and try to quell their uneasiness.

The other path we can take is to impugn the consent issue. We can try to demonstrate that some of these groups have all the features of cults, use all the typical methods of the ESTs and so on (it's not uncommon for a sub to ask her SL dom if she can go to the bathroom in RL, etc.) We can try to prove that young and impressionable people, even if they are of age, or gullible and needy older people, even if they might know better, are drawn into these networks and secretive groups with awful authoritarian personages because they don't have the inner resources to resist them, for whatever reason.

But even if we can bring forth many such cases showing that the consent is taking place in a climate of coercion and lack of accountability, even if we can raise serious questions about the broader public space being taken, we'll be constantly nailed to the wall by the need to deify consent and WTF-I-do-on-my-property.

People spent decades fighting against slavery, trying to end violence, trying to end the subjugation of one race over another, trying to create and sustain equality between men and women -- in particularly the last 50 years. All of that is turned on its head, indeed shoved in your face as proof of your *coercion* to accept the lifestyle -- by the BDSM ethos.

In the week Martin Luther King Day was celebrated, TN decided to promote BDSM by mainstreaming and inviting in as a commentator and member an open practitioner and advocate of BDSM who indeed so far has triviliazed the violence to the spirit and the psyche that can take place by pointing out the obvious, that you can't feel a burn or a lash online with an avatar.

I just thought the record should show a key and public moment when this very serious erosion of the civilizational norms took place, here and now. They were sustained in our "meat world" for so long, and the rush to overthrow them in the virtual world was too casual, too callous, too cruel.


I just co-authored (with Shaowen Bardzell) a short paper on Second Life BDSM, which we will be revising into a full paper soon. The point we raise is that BDSM is not merely a sexual practice, and D/s is more than a lifestyle; it also constitutes an aesthetic (which, of course, one might violently reject, but an aesthetic nonetheless). By aesthetic, we mean to include forms of beauty, a sense of transcendence, and a community of people who find transcendence in those forms of beauty. We believe that while Second Life BDSM obviously cannot replicate RL BDSM for the reasons mentioned in this thread, it can offer participatory access to its aesthetic.

It might seem odd initially to refer to BDSM as an aesthetic. Yet it is easy to defend the claim. Fetish photobooks (e.g., from Goliath) have been available for decades, showcasing leather and latex, artistic bondage, costume play, and so on. As looking at a typical KDC vendor in SL makes clear, BDSM has an instantly recognizable visual aesthetic.

A literary aesthetic is also well in evidence, displayed most spectacularly in the beautifully written, if periodically hair-raising, _Story of O_ as well as in the lesser (from a literary standpoint) Gor novels. In addition, the theatrical nature of both the BDSM "scene" and the carefully elaborated roles that dom(mes) and subs play within those scenes (in RL and SL alike) as well as the quantity of narrative BDSM erotica clearly gives the BDSM aesthetic a literary dimension. The sizable libraries in Gor and at Perilous Pleasures contain, in addition to pragmatic articles on the finer points of female ejaculation, no shortage of poems, recounted events, and short fiction, in which the values and icons of BDSM are embodied.

In the paper, we also propose a new digital interaction aesthetic for virtual BDSM. This covers the design and operations of computer-based toys, from crops that can interact with virtual genitals (e.g., Xcite!) to toys of mass automation, such as the slave punisher. We remain somewhat critical of this new aesthetic--interacting with penises through dialog boxes really foregrounds the "cyber" in "cybersex"--but it is, after all, quite young compared to the visual and literary arts.

It may be that Second Life does not yet enable sensual massage or the distributed application of pain, restraint, and so on. It's true that no sub can literally be dominated quite the same way she or he can in RL. But SL gracefully (and inexpensively) enables participatory interaction with its aesthetic along several dimensions: visual, literary, and interactive. In a way, participation in a Second Life BDSM relationship and scene is an act of artistic creativity in a sexually taboo and thrilling domain. We think the exclusive focus on the sociological and physiological aspects of BDSM, while important, obscure one of the key attractions of virtual BDSM: for some, it's compelling art.

If you are interested in seeing the paper or talking to us, feel free to contact me.

Jeffrey Bardzell, School of Informatics, Indiana University


Jeffrey, describing BDSM as more about the aesthetic than the literal sexual practices is very useful, because in fact what is more compelling are the rituals, beautiful builds, immersive villages with their dark slave quarters, the specialized language, participatory practices rigidly defined, etc.

These features of BDSM you describe are exactly the same sort of things that make, oh, Russians participate in the Russian Orthodox Church and its dramatic, colourful, and stylized rituals. Or any religious ritual. In a world where the impulse toward the divine, and reaching the divine through rigorous practice and ritual, is routinely stepped on by secular humanists, it begins to manifest itself in this way, I guess.

Just because BDSM appears to be about a "higher" aesthetic, however (and this is the beligerent argumentation you get inworld from even the slightest eyebrow-raise about this spreading culture), doesn't mean it is *better*. And yet that is the philosophy propagated by its practioners -- "we are better".

If they celebrated the same liberal ethos as we, that there must be tolerance for all, and anyone can do what they wish in their space, it might be one thing. But they don't. And they'd like to take over and make the whole world in their image. It's the same probably anywhere a democratic and open system also makes way for the very forces that would like to close the system and make it non-democratic.

If you think this is just a game and it's not serious, take a look at the Second Life voting page, which in a page right out of the dom-sub book, lets you make proposals, but does not let anyone else vote "no" on them. Using this highly flawed system, the Goreans in SL were able to flash-mob the voting system, get all the subs to do the bidding of the doms, which they were only too happy to do, and post some 370 votes "yes" for p2p installation -- something that ever after, the Lindens proudly presented as "the democratic voice of the People." It wasn't that, and their highly flawed system, and the propensity of their liberal world to be taken over by anybody with even a glimmer of a totalitarian idea, is exactly what's wrong with it at the core.

I've answered Urizenus Sklar's claims that I am "dogmatic" in my critique of BDSM here:

In fact, because there is no actual pain or risk -- you can, in theory, log off any time (although people *don't* and you have to examine *that*), it doesn't mean that there's no issue here. There is. The mere virtual idea and virtual practice of BDSM and its most cult-like form, Gor, is enough to spread, without any of the meat-world realities -- and thus spread further, and become more compelling, and become more mainstreamed -- and take over more minds.

And I would invite you all to consider the consequences, in virtual and real life, of having ideologies that enslave people, celebrate violence, and hew to rigid hierarchical rituals and arcane belief systems.

Trust me, if it were the Catholic Church or Islamic Jihad doing this, you'd have a lot more trouble with it.


"These features of BDSM you describe are exactly the same sort of things that make, oh, Russians participate in the Russian Orthodox Church and its dramatic, colourful, and stylized rituals. Or any religious ritual."

As a Russian Orthodox I have to say that this comparison is pretty apt. I have always been rather amazed by the willingness to sublimate the individual and corporate wills to an organization so corrupt(in the case of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Vartholomaios, infinitely and perfectly corrupt)and so quick to sell itself to the highest bidder in return for a little influence over its perceived rivals.
The hierarchical relationships, fancy dress and titles and the(commonly found)inward looking and paranoid xenophobia of the BDSM community in SL are exactly like those of the Orthodox demimonde as dictated from Moscow.
One thing that I have noticed rather clearly is that people who have satisfying, healthy and happy relationships outside of SL do not, as a rule, get involved even peripherally in any of the various power exchange communities.


Prokofy, your antipathy towards the BDSM community is well known, and I'm concerned that an interaction with you might descend into a flame war. But I'll risk a reply, because although I disagree with you in many respects, buried in your hyperbolic rhetoric are some legitimate questions that deserve serious consideration--more serious consideration than they typically get from your detractors.

I will start with some disagreements, mainly to get them out of the way. Your comparison of the SL BDSM community to 20th-century fascism is a cavalier argument from the particular (in this case, an ideological parallel you perceive) to the general (a massive geopolitical movement with earth-shattering consequences). It would be better if rather than sensationalizing your critique with Nazi metaphors, you instead took a closer, more concrete look at the ideology you are critiquing (and its in-world embodiments). I also disagree for similar reasons with your over-generalized comparison of the BDSM aesthetic to that of the Western Catholic or Russian Orthodox churches. Both of these churches are world-spanning communities with thousands of years of history behind them; moreover, as religious institutions, the truth-claims each makes are dramatically more generalized than anything the BDSM community could ever claim (both claim to speak universally of all humans that have ever lived, the true nature of the cosmos, and the eternal relationships between the human and the divine). They are operating at such different levels of discourse that it is, I believe, unreasonable to make the blanket comparisons you make. (This does not mean that no comparisons between their particulars is possible.)

Having said all of that, there are some aspects of your argument that merit serious discussion. Rather than trying to bury these issues in a critique of your rhetoric, as your critics are wont to do (replicating the very mistake they--and I--am accusing you of), I want to try to tease them out and take them seriously.

One claim you make is that the "live and let live" attitude has a drawback, and that is that it becomes difficult if not impossible to avoid encountering this community in-world; there is no reasonable way to opt out. This is a fair point. Whether as citizens of a virtual world we have the right to avoid all contact with communities we don't like is a very different question, and on that count, I suspect I disagree with you. But I do agree with you that the "what I do on my property" argument is disingenuous for the very reason you cite: it seldom stays on one's property.

Another important claim you make is that the "it's just a game, it's not serious" argument doesn't hold water. I don't know many SL residents who think of it as just a game. But even more importantly, even if it were "just a game," it wouldn't exempt it from serious ideological implications. The Marxist critique of romance novels, for example, is that their depiction of docile femininity creates real-life docile women. As Lisa Nakamura has shown, virtual worlds propagate racial stereotypes at a speed and on a scale never before seen. Games reflect, articulate, embody, and impose social ideologies, whether anyone (designers, players) consciously wills them to do so. (For a look at the cultural seriousness of games and play, see Huizinga's classic book, "Homo Ludens.")

This brings me to the third interesting claim you make, which is that we need to be suspicious of the notion of "consent." The very concept of ideology is predicated on the notion that people consent to doing what is not in their own interest because they have bought into belief systems propagated (often unconsciously and non-deliberately) by the ruling class. That is, deliberate consent often amounts to unconscious violence to the self. The notion that BDSM (or anything else) is purely consensual is problematized by a century of of philosophy and critical theory, which argues, compellingly in my view, that the "liberal human subject" presupposed by Enlightenment rationalism is a construct, a projection of science, and not a reflection of human reality. As psychology, feminism, queer theory, colonial theory, postmodern theory, phenomenology, structuralism, and post-structuralism have all shown in their own ways, "rational consent" is at best greatly exaggerated as an explanation for human agency. This is not the same as saying that Gorean slaves are actual, literal slaves--far from it. All it means is that consent is a messier topic than many acknowledge.

Finally, you make the claim that subs vote according to their dom(mes) wishes. This is an empirically verifiable question, but you have provided no evidence to substantiate it. There is nothing wrong with making the hypothesis that submission extends to voting in Second Life (and then claiming that this is anti-democratic), but presenting it as a fact without evidence is not enough. My own interaction with SL submissives is that they are highly intelligent, independent thinkers; of course, I am not claiming that my own social networks contain a representative sampling. I am merely offering a counter-hypothesis, which states that most SL submissives will vote as they feel is right, and not exclusively as their dom(mes) feel is right; any correlation between the two votes could be explained by the fact that they are both members of the same community. Now, without proper study, it is impossible to state which (if either) of our hypotheses reflects the reality of Second Life, and any agreement with your versus my hypothesis at this stage is vacuous partisanship.

Now, I offer this response not because I agree with Prokofy overall about BDSM--I very much do not. But the issues he raises are serious (even if not always seriously articulated), and if we ever want to get beyond puerile flame wars and consider whether the spread of BDSM in virtual communities offers a new avenue of self-actualization (the claim of the BDSM community) or a new avenue of oppressive ideology (Prokofy's claim), a combination of the two, or something different entirely, we (all) need to study these issues with some integrity.

Our own study started with the realization that the claims of self-actualization found in BDSM writings in Second Life seemed to parallel Foucault's theory of power as a productive system encompassing institutions, knowledge, and people placed into roles (see Foucault's _Discipline and Punish_). Our goal, rather than to evaluate or validate these SL BDSM community claims, was to understand the logic that made their articulation possible--and valuable for a given community. This is what led us to perceive Second Life BDSM as a participatory aesthetic. Now that we see it that way, we wonder what the broader ideological implications are for BDSM, for Second Life, and for virtual life in general. This question is too important to leave to entrenched advocates (on either side) to spew on about.


Brenda, you mention that BDSM doesn't require pain. I totally agree. However, 1) we commonly perceive (even in the BDSM community) that it does, and 2) acts of pain infliction, without resulting pain, are being performed in virtual worlds. This introduces a higher complication that simply the presence or absence of pain. You also mention peripherals, which, though certainly valid, I still believe address a slightly different issue. Lastly, you mention that one person's experience doesn't speak for all: very true. My point was merely that my own experience is what led me to be fascinated by the question of BDSM in virtual worlds. This curiousity then led to looking at other people's experience, and finding the ways that online BDSM works for them.

Prokofy Neva, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Occasionally people such as us, who spend a considerable amount of mental and physical time in an open-minded, intellectual environment, need to be reminded of the existence of people such as you.

David, what a fascinating paper, and an absolutely astute observation! I would love to take a look at it, either before or after publication. I think you're completely correct that online BDSM highlights an aesthetic, althought I would add that that aesthetic is also present, if to a lesser than also an integral degree, in real-life BDSM. I'm thinking specifically of practices such as rope-binding, which are highly aesthetic as a well practical. I'm wondering though, do you see a power play involved here? Personally, I would link aesthetic appeal more closely with the submissive party. How do you think this interplays with the larger power dynamic?


Sorry, a correction: the third part of the last comment was directed to Jeffrey.

Jeffrey, to the question of consent as both a form of agency and one that unknowingly reinforces the existing regime... Perhaps this is what you're saying, but I would make the claim that consent, and in the case particularly submission, has exactly the opposite impact. Consent to receive pain represents a stepping outside of the boundaries of social logic - it puts power in the hand of the one who has consented, an innately subversive power. Masochism is a self-contained system, the rejection of societal self, the ability to rebel through personal existence.


Bonnie--I believe you were responding to my post, not David's, about the BDSM aesthetic paper. We certainly agree that the aesthetic exists in RL BDSM--at least as much as in SL. Our point in the paper is that the two BDSM aesthetics (RL and SL) are different. They share cosmetic similarities (latex, rope, etc.) but their cognitive operations are fundamentally different, because of the computer mediation (for reasons that have been spelled out by others in this thread--and we add a few of our own). We reviewed some of the BDSM rituals in SL (collaring and rites of separation) and found that their computer-mediateness threatens to undermine their ritualized power (read a Gorean transcript of a slave's execution for a rather absurd sequence of events, in which the now dead slave is not only still present but stands around arguing with his executioner about whether the punishment was just).

As for power and play, they stand at the center of it all. Our point is that the power relations must be embodied somehow, and in SL, that means through the images and interactions available in-world. These mediating embodiments transform the nature of power and submission. A blindfold attached to my HUD is hardly the same as actually blindfolding my physical person. But these in-world embodiments themselves cohere for their community in a special way; our name for that special way is the virtual BDSM aesthetic.


*gets popcorn and a camping chair, sits down to rack up some Lindens and watch the bloodshed, staking a "Impeach Bush, visit http://www.mmorgy.com to do so!" sign in the 16m^2 next to his chair*

I like you people. You're siiiiiiiiiiiiiilly.


>> I would make the claim that consent, and in the case particularly
>> submission, has exactly the opposite impact. Consent to receive pain
>> represents a stepping outside of the boundaries of social logic

On a conscious level, I agree entirely, and not just receiving pain, but more generally submission to the power of a dom(me), which can manifest itself in a myriad of ways, many of which may be beyond the control or expectation of the sub.

But I was talking about unconscious promulgations of ideology, which might manifest themselves in the dissemination of deep cultural codes that happen to be embedded in BDSM practice (e.g., the Victorian teacher/wayward student scene incorporates cultural codes that go beyond BDSM). But understand here that I am speaking at a very abstract and philosophical level, and I have not specifically reflected much on this issue with regard to BDSM (in RL or SL). It is not intended as a critique of submission or BDSM, but rather a very general critique of the notion that conscious rationality is the sole source of human agency, because that assumption seems to pop up--uncritically--a lot in the debates. This issue is not discussed in our paper; Profoky brought it up, and I felt that he was at least correct in observing that consent is more complex than it is made out to be.


This thread has degenerated somewhat into something I call mindwanking (aka misappropriation of book knowledge) where one takes an intriguing concept (usually theoretical and often only understood in its most superficial sense) and applies it cleverly to another concept which is only tangentially (or metaphorically) related. The results of these activities are typically conclusions that one can only reach by way of too many college courses and not enough real world experience with at least one half of the subject matter being mindwanked. While it is interesting to discuss possible correlations between oppressive religious and political movements and a sexual fetish "community" (that is in no way a literal cohesive community with a singular point of control as with the Catholic church, or other religious or governmental analogies so creatively presented for us to all mindwank to), it is also painfully arrogant.

BDSM is practiced by individuals in dramatically different ways. All human sexual, sensual, and social practices are often played out in dramatically different ways even by those who have the same "codified" social norms, cultural influences, and so on. To speak of Gor as if it's somehow even remotely indicative of mainstream BDSM behaviors is just laughable to me. There is no BDSM Vatican. There is no BDSM "ritual" that everyone knows. Just as there is (unfortunately) no Gay Vatican explaining when and where it is actually fashionable now to wear your shirt collar up (they need this, imo).

There are certain fields of study which people enjoy viewing the rest of the world through, even when it's a bit of a stretch, as it suits their hobbies (for example, people who really dig "women's studies" will view everything and the kitchen sink through a false dichotomy of male/female and constantly be vigilant for "gender" issues where they are hardly relevant to the crux of the matter... it's for the love of that field of study). If you're very interested in politics, it would serve your imagination well to look at BDSM through those paradigms of "power" even when forgetting somewhat that most BDSM practitioners are only exchanging power in the most playful and pretend-game sense of the word: temporary, localized power exchange as sex play (topping from the bottom, imo, is the NORM anyways). Hardcore BDSM lifestylers who are living master/slave relations 24/7 are not as common as the casual sex play folks. I feel that the thread is losing touch with the kinds of BDSM play that are actually the norm both in real and online play.

Also lost is the possibility that many people do have a decent construction of reality vs. fantasy play and Second Life is just a game. The relationships are real, and the time and money you spend is real, but the world is a world apart. You can "leave" SL when you log off. I can be part of a master/slave role-play experience for fun online for a short time (as I have, though not in SL) and then get bored and never have it sink in my real life any deeper than my Tom-Welling-is-my-pet-Catboy fantasies. Seriously, there is a lot of fantasy role-playing online that has ZERO correlation to people's real life goings on. I've cybered medical fetish stuff, all sorts of stuff I have no interest in just for kicks and giggles (or for my partners online). This BDSM community that is being spoken of as if it's a serious religious presence in people's life is but one kind of "game" people play with BDSM. And one that I suspect is played far more commonly online (in a pretend world) than in the real world. Which isn't to say that no one is taking it seriously, because obviously some are... but until I'm presented with some hard numbers I have to rely on my life's experience thus far which tells me most BDSM players are more into the "kink" and superficial aesthetic than the "spiritual" or philisophical potential in BDSM sex play.

I think the serious discussion is wonderful but it's also important not to loose touch with the reality of fantasy play. Too much mindwanking can obfuscate the real issues and actually damage comprehension by filtering subjects through other subjects which are only metaphorically or peripherally related.

To all: a note on pain play (the masochism side)... people self-inflict. This ought to illustrate the most basic point that pain endorphins (to some, in proper context) feel good. You don't need a complicated social structure to codify the desire for self-pleasure into people. ;p If it feels good, people will do it (emotional "good feelings" included). Putting self-directed behaviors (such as sexual urges) into political context has dubious value *because* you then have to cast the masurbator as both the oppressor and the oppressed. Even in a fantasy sense the whole thing is a conceptual mess of impossible contradictions. Maybe I'm speaking as a switch here, but damn, this isn't a black/white issue. BDSM roles are not clear cut at all.


*jumps out of camping chair, spilling popcorn*

Oh SNAP. Kelly, OMG, you WENT THERE and like, didn't even STOP after you got there.

This thread just got /SERVED/.

*realizes he's no longer making linden while standing up, sits back down with more popcorn, propping up on his sign as rivers of blood stream under the chair*


As we've found from voluminous debates on this subject over at www.secondlifeherald.com over a year ago, one of the things that cultists do is constantly put you in the wrong. You're always out of step, always out of sync, and can never understand enough. This is the way to constantly try to tripwire your guilty liberal conscience, or to make all you sincere and caring impulses go on overdrive -- nobody would want to be guilty of mixing up genres and mindwanking, would they? Always in the wrong...and never, ever able to EVER undertsand *enough* about this arcane, complex, deep, rich, etc. thing.

Well, baloney. No sale. LOL. Sorry, but you're not grasping a simple fact, that even if people log off, even if they keep SL and RL separate, there is an impact, to a greater or lesser extent. For some people, it can be very consuming and very compelling. For others, they switch it off, and keep a firewall. To say that this SL in which so many people spend hours-days-weeks of their lives, having real emotions and complex and intense relationships is somehow "not real" is no longer tenable as an argument. It doesn't help explain the power of the virtual merely by trying to dismiss it as unreal.

You have to account for people's time...and their feelings.

Re: "To all: a note on pain play (the masochism side)... people self-inflict. This ought to illustrate the most basic point that pain endorphins (to some, in proper context) feel good."

There. We've positioned you on the "my concept is not only legitimate, it's *better*" spectrum. Thanks for sharing!


>Thanks for sharing!

You're welcome. It was good for me too.

I think that if this thread continues people ought to try to define "BDSM community" as the entire premise from top to bottom rests on some amalgamous kink community that is nowhere near as homogenous as some people evidently percieve it. I would never say "my concept is not only legitimate, it's *better*" but you know what... the prevailing concept of BDSM here is simplified to the point where I'm not convinced everyone on the thread is aware of the broad spectrum of behaviors and kinks that make up what can be collectively called BDSM play (most of which is also part of other sex, even vanilla sex... the control/dom/sub issues of BDSM ARE NOT EXCLUSIVE TO BDSM). Which is why maybe it's better to learn about the nuts and bolts of human sexuality in the corporeal sense before you try to get all metaphysical on the subject. :D


"BDSM roles are not clear cut at all."
So true. But it can't hurt to explore what they might mean, or what they mean for us individually. I'm certainly open to disagreement; contradictory answers are equally true, and therefore that much more meaningful.

To the point that BDSM is not "some amalgamous kink community" - again, so true. My apologies, Kelly, if I over-simplify. Unfortunately, generalization is something of a necessary evil in the analysis of human behavior. But your point is certainly made.


I think that if this thread continues people ought to try to define "BDSM community" as the entire premise from top to bottom rests on some amalgamous kink community that is nowhere near as homogenous as some people evidently percieve it.

Yes, we're endlessly aware of all the endless nuances. And we're endlessly in the wrong, and can never, ever EVER know enough about the catechism and dogma of this highly stylized, ritualized, arcane body of knowledge and practice.

Where are the Jesuits when we need them?

Yes, we're in the wrong, endlessly, and can never, ever EVER comment on, much less criticize, anything we find troublesome about this erm large and amorphous and ever-so-nuanced-and-varied *thingie*. No, never. We could certainly never EVER find it morally, legally, politically, spiritually suspect or inconsistent or worrisome in any way EVER because, well, we can just never understand it, fools that we are.

It's special. And...we're not. :)


The thing is, commenting on or criticising the BDSM culture/community/industry/amorphousblob as a whole is pretty much analogous to criticising the sports culture/community/industry/amorphousblob as a whole.

That was an example picked more or less at random to play with, though there're a lot of similarities - Kelly's note about endorphins feeling good, for instance, and a lot of the tribalistic aspects are very similar - but you can say that about most communities-of-interest. Angling, for instance - a lot of sitting peacefully around waiting for a bite, and chatting or thinking about nothing in particular, then a bit of quick complex activity and some mess. Most online BDSM play can be described much the same way.

There's obviously something analogous about sports and online BDSM, though - people skip work to play or even watch, people spend a great deal of money and go miles out of their way, relationships are forged and lives changed, marriages break up over it, there are horrific accidents, people are traumatized or even die, but a lot of them also learn good and valuable things about themselves and their own capabilities and their ability to relate to the world and the people around them. (Oh, it looks like we're back on another perennial TN theme, the Hero's Journey.)

Then again, I'm not a sports person myself at all, I'm not interested, but it doesn't mean I don't feel left out, out of step, missing something, when people around me obsess over it.

It's special. And... I'm not :)


Kelly >"To all: a note on pain play (the masochism side)... people self-inflict."

A lot of teenagers cut themselves. I'm told that this is much more common among girls.

Kelly >"This ought to illustrate the most basic point that pain endorphins (to some, in proper context) feel good."

Apparently, when teenage girls cut themselves, a different point is illustrated. Evidently, there is a lot of self-hate involved.

Kelly >"If it feels good, people will do it (emotional "good feelings" included)."

A lot of times, people do things because they feel bad, not because what they are doing feels good.

Look, I'm no psychologist, but I find it deeply disturbing when people willingly inflict themselves in painful ways. I find it disturbing when teenage girls cut themselves. I find it disturbing when adults do similar things, whether drinking kool-aid, strapping on bombs, or sticking sharp objects where they don't belong.

If this makes me a moralist, then guilty as charged, but I just don't think these sorts of things are indicative of healthy behavior. Of course, I'm not particularly tied down by liberalism, since I think it fails inevitably at Arthur Leff's "Grand Sez Who?"


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