A Fragile Balance: Too Much Of A Good Thing

by bob harris

Do you remember when you first started looking for the lifestyle? What was it that first piqued your interest in BDSM? What were you looking for or expecting to find?

What did you think living the lifestyle would be like? What features did your image of the “perfect” Dominant include? How many of those initial drives and images centered solely around the idea of hot, wild, kinky sex? How often did you fantasize about getting abducted, stripped, blindfolded, strapped in a sling and left there to be used for whatever by whomever? How often do you still have that fantasy? i know i still do. Often.

Let’s face it. Most of us are first drawn to the Scene by our sexual fantasies. Chances are your first introduction to BDSM was a fantasy story, book, or scene in a porno flick. You probably found yourself getting really turned on as you envisioned yourself as the one being restrained, out of control, and turned into a sex toy. Your excitement grew as the typical dialogue about subs being worthless and just being big sex pigs began. It continued to increase as the dialogue was punctuated with an occasional “suck this!” or “take that, you asshole” and peaked as the references were made about turning someone into a slave, locked up, naked, and constantly ready for “use.”

Most likely, those initial images and turn-ons included little, if any, pain–perhaps some light nipple play, CBT or a few slaps on the ass. Getting smacked with a flogger, cane or single-tail is usually not something we start out dreaming about. Neither is anything about wanting or having the desire and need to serve–other than sexually, of course, which, since you really ARE a big pig, is not exactly a sacrifice.

Unfortunately, when your first exposure to the world of BDSM comes in the form of a one-handed reading story, an erotic novel or a movie, you get a distorted image of what this lifestyle–and especially relationships within the lifestyle–are about. Real life in the BDSM world is nothing like a story from Drummer magazine and it does not follow the plot of Story of O, either. Very few Masters could ever live up to the ideal of Mr. Benson, and there is a lot more involved in being successful than just putting on leather and having sex.

And then there is the Internet. Talk about presenting a twisted image! It’s unbelievable what comes out of some chat rooms and email list groups. How many times have you heard someone talk about being in a chat room full of clueless wannabe’s? Pretending to be lifestyle experts. they spread all kinds of erroneous information, much of which could be dangerous if actually followed. If you want to find some really bizarre fantasies and misconceptions, spend a little time checking out some the listings for Scene-related e-mail list groups. i find amazing the number of people willing to believe that even the most horrifying images are true and who are actually out looking for it.

Intrigued by its name, I decided to temporarily monitor a listgroup devoted to the discussion of extreme slave torture. Much of it was downright scary. There were “slaves” advertising their desire to serve a “master” who treated them brutally. There were “masters” trolling for “slaves” who would accept that they were worthless and would serve anyone in any way, even accepting mutilation if the “master” so desired. The “slaves” often discussed their desire to be kept permanently locked away in a cage; their only purpose in life would be to be available so the “master” could inflict extreme and brutal “punishment” whenever he felt the need to tear into (or tear up – literally) some worthless creature.

Apparently, much of what transpired on that particular list was an extreme form of role-play. At least i hope so. How else can you explain someone writing about being kept in a small room, with no electricity or furniture, barely big enough to turn around in?

One person claimed to be the slave of a husband and wife doctor team whose goal was to disfigure every portion of this person’s body. Fortunately, it didn’t take long–even for those who adamantly insisted that their desires for brutalization were totally valid–to question the reality of this particular account. The question that brought them up short was: if this slave really did live in such conditions, and had indeed had several fingers either surgically altered or removed as claimed, how then was he able to gain access to a computer, much less the Internet, and send a perfectly typed e-mail to the list?

Nobody had questioned the sanity of this person. When he claimed to be thankful for the privilege of being subjected to such conditions, no one raised an eyebrow. In fact, there were some who praised the correspondent as the ultimate slave, even expressing jealousy that someone was lucky enough to be the source of so much pleasure for the owners. No, the only thing they found unrealistic was that a mutilated slave would have access to, and be physically able to use, a computer.

That was just too much for me! i stopped reading after that.

Then there’s the story a friend related about wandering into a chat room where four female cyber-subs were discussing the thrill of being cyber-singletailed? Each one expounded on their ability to absorb a heavy cyber-blow. Each were convinced they knew exactly what it would be like to feel the real thing. After a few minutes of cyber-eavesdropping, my friend broke in and asked if any of them had in fact, actually ever seen, much less felt, a real singletail. All four admitted that they had not, but were still convinced that they had a total awareness of the actual feel. Sure they do.

Imagine their surprise if they should ever walk into a real-world dungeon and present themselves as experienced in various forms of play, including singletails!? They would find someone who took them at their word and, at some point during real-play, would actually use a singletail on them. Wonder if they would still believe they have an accurate grasp of the real-sting of a real singeltail?

Granted, these last two instances are a bit extreme. Still, i find them fascinating. They are completely at odds with what most of us, i hope, would agree to be reality, yet they are at once both humorous in their excesses and tragically sad in perpetuating foolish myths about our lifestyle. It’s no wonder then that much subtler misconceptions about our lifestyle continue to persist and, in many cases, shape our communities.

i often wonder how many inexperienced submissives have been injured because they were unaware of the hidden dangers inherent in many of the forms of SM play? How many ran from the Scene after hooking up with a “dominant” whose only “training” was reading fantasy stories and decided that tying up and beating someone could be a real turn-on? How many submissives have become trapped in abusive relationships because both they and their dominant actually believe the “submissive is shit” concept? Considering how many newcomers continue to fall into those traps, it is very fortunate that there are not a lot more cases of serious injuries or abuse.

It is equally frustrating for a knowledgeable sub to find nothing but dom wannabe’s out there–the kind who either have no clue that being a dom requires more than being a sexual top dressed in leather, or who believe that being a dom means they have a license to abuse.

When you see how often lifestyle relationships are portrayed as void of any caring or emotional bond, it’s easy to understand how many in our communities do not understand that D/s relationships, including Master/slave relationships, are based as much on love as they are on any other characteristic associated with such arrangements?

On the Dom side, there are other frustrations. Encountering an endless stream of subs who think they are supposed to act like children, who constantly have to be told what to do and how to do it, and who provide service only if it means getting sex in return, has driven many good Dominants out of the lifestyle. They grew tired of looking for submissives whose need to serve was at least as strong as the desire to be “done.” They became disillusioned with submissives who entered the lifestyle as a means of escape from the pressures of life, believing that it was a Dominant’s responsibility to totally provide everything for the sub. They are fed-up with subs who, when the Dom starts to “cruelly demand” that they contribute to the household or care for themselves, go off crying about being abused.

Fantasy, when used consciously as fantasy, can greatly increase the enjoyment on both sides of the Dom/sub fence. When fantasy is used as a model for real life, though, it can only be destructive. The sub faces inevitable disappointment, which may cause them to give up entirely or to feel that they must “settle” for whatever is available. They will never be truly happy. Something will always be missing for them, unless they finally realize that what they are looking for simply does not exist.

We can only hope that the cyber-dom wannabe’s quickly find a clue as to what “safe, sane, consensual” stands for, and that they take the time to learn what the lifestyle is about before they seriously hurt someone.

Otherwise, we can only hope, that unable to find real life people who are as willfully ignorant as they are, they will return to the cyber-world, harming only their computer keyboard while cyber-beating their cyber-subs in the cyber-fantasy-scene where they belong.

copyright bob harris © May 2000
(No portion of this article may be reproduced without the written permission of the author)