Online D/s Relationships - A Personal View
Some of the most common questions I receive surround online relationships between “Dominants” and “submissives,” whether they work, and how to go about having one. Before I launch into this I should preface my comments with the knowledge that I am personally in a long-distance D/s relationship that began with online interaction, grew into a real-life relationship, but that due to time and distance is sustained in-part by online interaction. So if at times I sound critical of online D/s relationships please realize that it is viewed through the lens of someone who is in one and is quite content with it. First lets examine what you can and cannot do and accomplish with online interaction.
The advantage of online interaction between a potential Dominant and submissive is that the anonymity afforded by the electronic medium allows people to open up and expose a side that might not otherwise come out in person. People seem to feel more comfortable allowing themselves to be vulnerable than they otherwise might in the perceived distance and safety of online communication. Somehow digital communication does not feel as real or as threatening as trying to approach topics of sexuality and social taboos such as Dominance and submission in person. People feel less judged.
But the anonymity that makes online D/s interaction perhaps more approachable is also its greatest pitfall. The distance and anonymity allows people, whatever their motivation, to be something other than their true selves. Whether it is outright lying about who and what they are or what their life circumstances might be, or just stretching the truth or fantasizing about how they might like to be, online interaction has an element of fantasy to it that can cloud what are perceived to be genuine interpersonal interactions. The obfuscation does not have to be maliciously intended to be deeply hurtful. So while online interaction allows us to be more open with others it also allows us to be something we are not, though perhaps unintentionally, and that hurts people.
Many in the D/s lifestyle look down their noses at online relationships in part because the preponderance of participants have no real experience in BDSM and in part because by their very nature, online D/s is more fantasy than reality. There is no doubt that online interaction between a Dominant and a submissive can be very mentally and emotionally stimulating and indeed the feelings they engender are very real. A person can indeed experience online some of the endorphin highs associated with romantic love and pornographic kink. I can also assure you that the pain of failed relationships or abusive behavior can feel every bit as real online as it does in person as well. People become very deeply emotionally invested in their online relationships and perhaps due to their fantasy nature they can take on an almost addictive quality. This is both the good and bad. One can have an intensely emotional relationship online but it can also be built on a mountain of falsehoods, misrepresentations, and the words of people who frankly do not even understand themselves.
In real life more than 80 percent of all interpersonal communication is non-verbal. We formulate opinions about others and what they are saying largely by things other than their words. In online interaction we remove 80 percent or more of our communication tools and rely only on what is being said without the benefit of tonal inflection, body language, eye contact, and other kinesthesics. Words can be misleading or deceiving, intentionally or otherwise, and it is words we have to rely on in online relationships. More than ever, words really matter here. So online relationships hold the potential for great pleasure and great pain depending on the intentions, honesty, ability and knowledge of the participants. It all comes down to character, but then being a Dominant or submissive is all about character.
Finally, we have to acknowledge that online interaction can only go so far. You can fantasize online with a D/s partner all you want about the scenes and BDSM play you might want to engage in but I assure you that telling someone how you would go at them with that particularly nasty 24-inch cowhide flogger has nothing in common with actually doing it…and especially receiving it! While you can achieve a certain level of submission and devotion through online interaction it is not the same as having a real live breathing person kneeling at your feet and the awesome responsibility carried with it. Trust me on this one. Many can talk about BDSM and pretend to do it online but when it comes to actually leaving the fantasy world and living it in person they find the intimidation to be too much. It is amazing how often I hear that a thriving online relationship comes to a screeching halt when a face-to-face meeting is planned. Being a Dominant or a submissive is both far more rewarding and far more difficult and challenging in real life than online. So let’s be honest, while there is a lot to be had in online D/s interaction, it is a fantasy experience compared to real life interaction, though I assure you that it can at times feel very, very real, both good and bad.
Online D/s is a bit like trying to have online sex really. You can talk about it all day long and even fantasize about it with another person, but nothing in that online communication can compare with the intimacy, vulnerability, sensation and yes even fumbling around of having actual sexual intercourse with a real person. In our online D/s fantasy, the rope is never too tight, limbs never go to sleep, skin is never unintentionally broken, pain is only imagined and not felt, the toys and devices always work, and the orgasms are perfectly timed and executed. Guess what folks? It aint that way in real life. It takes a lot of practice to be proficient in the arts and skills of BDSM and frankly it takes a fair amount of experience as partners together before things really click consistently. Reality is much more difficult and awkward than fantasy.
Okay so all of that said, there is not doubt that online D/s relationships can be a great deal of fun, can be very stimulating, intimate and rewarding, and can lead to a wonderful real life D/s partnership. I am living proof of that. I have never felt more intimately close to a person than I do with my Muse. So how does one go about finding someone who is capable and worthy of such an interaction, especially with so many wannabes, posers, narcissists, users, and even abusers out there? How does one ascertain that a so-called Dominant actually is dominant and not abusive and has some successful experience in the world of BDSM and D/s relationships? How does a Dominant determine that a submissive is indeed submissive and not someone who has been deeply damaged by life events and seeking love and acceptance in unhealthy ways? It is a minefield out there and because of the limitations of the online communication medium it is very difficult if not impossible to get it right the first time, or the second or third. Caution, patience, knowledge and self-awareness are keys to success.
So in evaluating would be or wannabe submissives and Dominants online my suggestion is that you think about how this dynamic might look in person. Approach this as though you were in a BDSM club or at a BDSM munch (non-play social gathering). Think about the types of people in the room and how they might behave and the cues you might use in evaluating one another as potential partners. It is quite similar online really, only a lot more difficult and time consuming to ferret out.
Lets look at finding potential Dominants. Clearly what a submissive is seeking is someone who is in control of and responsible for themselves and has the potential to project that same level of control and responsibility onto an other. A submissive seeks a trustworthy and respectable set of hands in which to place their submission. Someone who is both capable and firm, yet caring, has good social skills, and can empathize with and respect the power that might be handed to them.
So think about the kinds of Dominants that might be milling around the hypothetical social BDSM gathering. Would you go for the Dom who has all the most expensive leather attire complete with studs, body art and piercings who blusters around talking of their conquests and superior dominant abilities? Would you look to the Dominant who without preamble or prior relationship with a submissive begins ordering them around or touches them without permission? How about the Dominant who trundles his roller bag of toys and implements from submissive to submissive looking for a random play partner or unsuspecting newbie? Would you look to the Dominant who already has a collared submissive and seek to displace them or try to be another submissive in the harem? How about the Dominant who already has a submissive with them at the party but trolls around looking for more action? Or would you look to the Dominant who is chatting amiably with other Dominants and their submissives who perhaps looks at you and nods an acknowledgment without interrupting the conversation that they are already engaged in? Perhaps that subtle acknowledgement leads to a plain vanilla chat later in the party or perhaps a conversation at a future event?
In case you didn’t get it, the final answer is the correct one.
A submissive represents a significant investment of time, energy and mental effort on the part of a competent Dominant. They are not going to jump at the first person that comes along, are not going to act at the first encounter, and are definitely not going to respond favorably to a submissive who throws themselves at their feet. They know that such a submissive who kneels without knowing a Dominant will no doubt kneel for anyone. This is not worth having and a sure sign of a potential toxic relationship.
A competent and experienced Dominant will stand back and observe, assessing whether a submissive is worthy of the significant investment they would make. They know this is a long-term commitment and work to ensure that the chemistry, psychological and emotional makeup and desire is compatible, that there is indeed a spark, and that there is potential for the long haul. The method by which they do this will look rather vanilla in its approach. They will want to get to know a potential submissive, talk about all sorts of things having nothing to do with BDSM or D/s. They might even look like a vanilla friendship in the making long before any conversation turns to BDSM. They are sizing a submissive up and determining if there is a match. It takes time, patience, and repeated interaction. That is how a submissive and Dominant come to be D/s partners in real life. It should be the same online.
Looking at the other aforementioned Dominants at the hypothetical party, it is clear that one is a domineering and controlling narcissist, one has no consideration for social norms of the BDSM lifestyle or respect for submissives, one is just a player looking to get his rocks off, and the other displays no loyalty or respect for the submissive they already have, why would they respect another submissive? These are a few examples of the very same types of “Doms” commonly encountered online and ought to be avoided. You can tell them by their manner of communication with followers, other submissives, and how they present their public persona. To those who are experienced in BDSM the signs are obvious and perhaps a little obnoxious.
Now lets look for a moment at the submissives at that same hypothetical BDSM social gathering. As a Dominant would you be attracted to a submissive who sits in the corner unable or unwilling to talk with anyone? Would you be interested in a submissive who approaches every dominant in the room seemingly physically or emotionally throwing themselves at the feet of each one? Would you look to the submissive who goes from conversation to conversation seemingly challenging the leadership or authority of each Dominant or attempting to upstage existing collared submissives in front of their Dominants? Would you be attracted to attention seeking or wallflower behaviors? Or would you look to the submissive who chats amiably and respectfully with both Dominants and submissives, who carries on intelligent conversations on both vanilla and D/s topics, appears at ease and comfortable with themselves? Perhaps that person makes eye contact a couple of times accompanied by a slight smile before bowing their head and averting their gaze.
If you missed it this time, the latter is the correct answer again.
A competent and experienced Dominant is not looking for a dishrag, play toy, sparring partner or show piece. They are looking for a healthy, independent, capable person to develop a relationship with. They want someone whose submission is of value. They want a relationship that is unique in that person’s life; they want to be the One and only One to whom that submissive would surrender. They are looking for a well-rounded and confident person who is interesting and engaging to be around. They are looking for intelligence and well-spoken interaction. They want to be impressed by the person who would kneel before them.
These are some of the hallmarks of successful interactions between would be D/s partners. The key is to forget the kink and potential play time for a while and focus on one another as people first. If someone fails to do that and jumps right to talk of kink or giving orders or promising training and collars and the like, they are suspect in my book as either a Dominant or submissive.
So how does one go about actually having an online D/s relationship? I can only share my personal experience.
The woman who eventually became my Muse approached me with a series of questions about D/s relationships to which I responded. That resulted in some additional correspondence back and forth on the topic of D/s which also strayed into some vanilla topics. The result was some ongoing messaging back and forth about life, interests, family, background, and a whole host of other non-BDSM topics. This went on for weeks and eventually became a daily correspondence. We became friends. After a month or two we eventually opened up with our identities, locations and pictures of ourselves. But at this point we were just friends who occasionally talked about fetishes and kink among all our vanilla conversations. It was a matter of months before any recognition dawned that we might actually like to pursue a D/s interaction with one another.
Once that dawning came for both of us, discussion ensued on how that might happen, how we would proceed, what that might mean. It was agreed that we would try an online Dominance and submission relationship. She physically knelt for me and asked if I would take her as my submissive to which I agreed. We began with small tasks. Things like taking pictures of herself (clothed and partially clothed initially) telling me what she sees in each that she likes most about herself and what she likes least. I would then respond with what I saw. The effort was geared toward teaching her to see herself as I see her, a beautiful and desirable woman, and for her to become more comforatable with herself and with being open and exposed emotionally and physically to me. It was an exercise in building trust.
Next we went on to sharing fantasies and fears. Eventually I had her complete a BDSM questionnaire and compared her answers to my own, openly ascertaining interests, mutual kinks and limits. Tasks were added over time including daily devotion pictures, a monthly video, learning positions and presentations, carrying out domestic tasks, etc. Often the tasks were in written form but physical tasks required verification or documentation in the form of pictures. We established a protocol of activities and behaviors governing our interaction. We corresponded daily and then hourly, then seemingly minute to minute. We became an integral part of each other’s days and nights. The tasks became more challenging over time and more sexually oriented. But underlying it all was a solid friendship and ongoing vanilla interaction that over time started to become something more. A matter of the heart.
Eventually it was determined that we needed to meet face-to-face and see if the chemistry we felt online could be translated into a real-time, real-life interaction. Our initial meeting was a success, and while it was extremely intimate it was in no way a D/s interaction. As with all things, we took our time and progressed slowly and with caution. Eventually, on future encounters with one another we began introducing more BDSM play into our intimacy and the hallmarks of a true power exchange relationship became manifest in the way we interacted, addressed one another, and went about our days. Our power exchange deepens with time, and the level of sophistication of our protocols and rituals grows with it. But everything has come slowly and methodically. We are growing together as Dominant and submissive and our bond grows ever stronger in the process.
Today my Muse wears my training collar and we are on a path of learning and training that it is hoped will lead to a permanent collar some day. But that is a long way off; not weeks or months, years. We have a hybrid relationship now, partially real-time face-to-face and partially online. Time, distance and life complications conspire to keep us in these circumstances for the foreseeable future. There is no preconceived outcome and we live each day with one another with intensity, gratitude and in the belief that we are on a permanent path together. We are loyal and devoted to one another.
That in a nutshell is how I approach online D/s interactions and some of the things I look for in a potential partner. It seems that I could write endlessly about this topic and frankly these are only a few of the high points, but I hope that it illustrates some the benefits and pitfalls of online communication and relationships. I have also written about precautions that should be taken when contemplating meeting face-to-face for the first time in an essay entitled "An Unshakeable Anger and Sadness" and recommend anyone take a look at this before actually meeting that online acquaintance for the first time.
Online D/s relationships can be intimate and exciting to the degree that they are carried out by responsible and honest people. At the same time, they should not be confused with or compared to real life BDSM interaction between healthy and caring adults. There is little comparison. However, in my experience the two can be used together as a hybrid real-time/online relationship that can be deeply rewarding and profoundly intimate. It all comes down to knowledge, character, honesty, desire, and communication ability. It is not easy, and sadly there are more wannabes than true devotees of D/s to be found, but it is possible and very worthwhile when done correctly and with integrity.
Best of luck on your own D/s journey.
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