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Kinky Demographics of SL BDSM Community

Commentary The following is extracted from the Second Life Herald, a publication devoted to the online game Second Life. It is posted here to reflect one person's opinion with regard to the differences between cyber BDSM and what they see as the "material" world of BDSM. It is provided solely as the opinion of one person with regard to this topic

Kinky Demographics of SL BDSM Community

Why do virtual Doms accumulate a fleet of subs?

by Victorria Paine

To the consternation of some residents, alternative lifestyles featuring some element of what falls under the umbrella term "BDSM" are very common in SL, and much more "in the open" than in the material world. While the presence of this community, and its visibility in particular, has created controversies among SL participants, as someone who has had experiences in the material world community as well as the virtual one, it's been very interesting to note some of the differences and distinctions between the two communities. It's helped me to understand some of the real benefits of the virtual alternative community, as well as some of its serious dysfunctionalities. One of the first things I've noticed that the two communities have in common is the rather skewed demographic of the community. How this plays itself out, however, is very different in the online and offline contexts. Generally speaking, in the offline world it's conventional wisdom that the D/s community in gender/role terms splits in the following order in terms of numbers of people: male dominants, followed by male submissives, followed by female submissives, followed by female dominants.

The implications of this should be fairly obvious: namely, that for male submissives in particular (most of whom are straight), there is a demographic imbalance that works against the male submissives in particular, and female dominants are also very much "in demand" because they are the most outnumbered of any group.

The way that this demographic imbalance plays itself out in the two communities is reflective of some of the core differences between them, however. In the material world, it is not unknown but also not terribly common for a dominant to have more than one, perhaps two, submissives. Paired relationships are very common, if not normative in a community that generally eschews norms to begin with. The reasons for this are unclear, but perhaps they are related to the same underlying reasons that non-D/s material world relationships tend to be paired for most demographic groups.

In the virtual world of SL, however, pairing is not common at all in fact, it's very common in SL for a female dominant, for example, to have a substantial number of submissives (or slaves, depending on your preferred parlance) - perhaps even as many as 5 or 6 or even more -- at the same time. I suspect that the reasons for this are to some degree a combination of the demographic pressures, on the one hand, and the more relaxed attitude towards relational pairing, on the other, that one generally sees in SL. But the interesting question is whether this trend in SL is a good one.

I don't think it is. I've met more than a few submissives who've told me that this or that previous dominant had a "fleet of subs", and that they were very disappointed by the experience because they did not get any (or at least very little) one-on-one time with their dominant. Many of them are so unhappy that they leave that situation and decide to forego having a relationship with any dominant, or otherwise leave the SL's D/s community altogether. There obviously hasn't been a scientific study done relating to this, but the anecdotal conversations I have had with many submissives in SL reflects a real dissatisfaction with this demographic trend, and the impact which it has on their ability to enjoy their kink in SL

I think to some degree this stems from a difference in approach by the dominant part of the community in the material world as compared with SL. Many people are very eager to hide behind platitudes like "you can't apply the same approach to online and offline D/s", but the reasoning behind this kind of statement is often left unarticulated or is sloppy when articulated at all. What's clear is that many submissives are not terribly happy. The response to the effect that "then they are just not submissive enough then, it's about what I want, not about what they want" is not only laughably inaccurate, but, more fundamentally, reflects an understanding that is oceans divorced from what many participants articulate in the material world

In the material world, D/s relationships are often seen as a kind of yin/yang relationship: two parts, dependent on each other, to make a whole - different yet complementary. In SL, what you often see is a pyramid scheme, with a dominant at the top surrounded by a household of submissives - no longer a yin/yang, or at the very least a very imbalanced one. There really isn't any relationship paradigm that fits this SL practice, and as a result, it's not surprising at all to me that it is dysfunctional for many of the submissive household. I can't help but wonder whether this relates to the fact that many participants in SL's D/s community are not participants in the material world D/s community something that, from my perspective, is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

The advantage is that SL provides a platform for people to explore these kinds of kink in an environment that is reasonably remote, anonymous and safe. The disadvantage is that many of those with whom you are co-exploring, whether they are dominant or submissive, are also "green" when it comes to D/s in general, and have no clue about what makes a successful D/s relationship tic. So it's very much a case of "caveat emptor" for the newcomers to D/s who are using SL to explore their kinky fantasies: what they may experience might be very divorced from the reality of what they could experience in the community in the material world, simply because the people that they are "playing" with also have been formed solely by virtual world experiences in these areas.

And so I would offer a cautionary note to prospective submissives and other curious people who may be thinking of exploring their kink in SL. In a nutshell, it pays to be picky, in SL as it does in the material world. Taking a longer time to find a dominant who knows what she/he is doing is far better than joining an over-extended troupe of submissives, in terms of your own experiences.

Try to be patient, try to be careful in seeing how the relationship model works for a dominant, before committing (something which happens all too quickly in SL in general anyway, but that's a topic for another article altogether!) to something that may end badly. I've met too many submissives in SL who have been burned badly by either inexperienced or simply mean dominants. You can do better. Be picky, be careful, and you will probably have more fun.

[note: In this article, I've confining myself to the non-Gorean D/s community. The Gorean community is an important subcommunity that raises issues that in some ways overlap with what I am discussing here, but which in many ways are substantially different.]


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