Toronto
3 min

Flogged by virtual experts

'Net SM players can be a danger in the real world

LIMITS. They're different on the screen than in real life. Credit: Jennifer Gillmor

Back when I first discovered other SM players, you had to leave your house to make contact, often venturing out to some pretty scary places. My first trip to an SM club was like that. When I walked down the stairs into the basement of the bar in the New York City meat packing district, I was terrified.



Searching for SM on the Internet is easy by comparison. More and more people are meeting in chat and private rooms, developing characters with distinct personalities, new genders and amazing skills.



Or, should I say, amazing virtual skills. It may be too easy for them to jump into the real world. As welcome as they are, ‘net-savvy folk have caused a few problems in the real world of SM.



Those with excellent typing skills and vivid imaginations, coupled with an ability to research the work of veterans on-line, are able to boast having the same experience as the authors they’ve read – authors who until recently weren’t hosting websites or publishing books on SM technique.



The written SM scenes which make up most of on-line play can be very hot. On-line players sit at their own keyboard and monitor, typing away to the other person or people.



“I’m flogging you with my heavy elk flogger.”



“Thank you, sir. Please do it again.”



It can go past typing, though. The top can give the bottom instructions like, “Put clothes pins on your nipples,” and the bottom goes, gets the pins and clamps them on. These scenes can be very intense, even if they’re taking place across time zones or oceans.



But setting up a scene in real life takes a lot more than imagination – and there are safety issues as well.



After a few close encounters myself, I’ve realized what trouble can occur when people who have been playing on-line for years attempt their first real-time scene, expecting to have the same level of skill they have at the keyboard.



‘Net players often come with un-earned names like sir or mistress in front of their chosen nicknames. In real life those titles must be earned and indicate a certain amount of experience that will avoid serious physical harm being done during play. On-line players are able to present themselves so well verbally that they can’t be distinguished as a novice until trouble strikes.



Real life SM can involve equipment like St Andrew’s crosses, slings, padded horses, wrist and ankle restraints, chains, ropes, canes and crops – along with the safety scissors and band aids and paper towels. You have to know how to use it all in order to have fun safely.



But on-line, there is no need for first aid equipment or safety instruction because no one ever gets really hurt. Like in animated cartoons, the players bounce back the next day for a new fantasy.



Because they’re fantasies on a screen, on-line scenes can be more extreme, like having someone suspended by the wrists and dangling for hours, while being flogged with a barbwire flogger. In real life, the person would lose circulation in their hands first, quickly developing permanent nerve damage, not to mention incredible blood loss by having their skin shredded. Padded wrist restraints, both feet on the floor and soft leather floggers would be important considerations.



Which is why I don’t like it when on-line players arrive at real life events believing with their huge egos that they’re experienced players. At one event, imagine my surprise when I watched an on-line experienced player fumble with what should have been novice tasks, like giving a basic spanking or knowing to untie someone’s feet before their hands if they’re bound standing (in order to save them from falling and breaking bones).



Last year at the Black Rose pansexual event in the US, there were many virtual players, easily identified by their name tags which were unmistakably handles from the ‘net. Their outfits were strange, more sci-fi or folk costumes, and they tended to come in couples with coordinated dress. During play sessions, they were often voyeurs who sometimes interfered in other players’ scenes by standing too close or asking questions of the players who were clearly occupied. I guess there’s no such thing as too close in cyberland.



On one occasion at Black Rose, there were four of us involved in a caning scene until a man stepped into the swinging zone. After he was asked to move back, another man came and then another. Then a man walked up offered to help, expecting to be handed the cane to use on the bottom. We were outraged! No one in the real-life scene would hand over a cane to a complete unknown without a word of introduction. These people didn’t seem to understand the need for space, both to swing and for privacy. Perhaps the casual format of the Internet, where people easily come, go, shift and change identities makes people forget that, in real life, there are distances a stranger shouldn’t penetrate.



Dungeon etiquette can be a problem even among experienced players. We all do things that we shouldn’t. But the jump from text play to flesh play can throw a scene or hurt somebody.



Virtual players may have the imagination – the most important ingredient to a great scene – but they require skills and a new set of rules. Because in real life, we don’t jump in and out of other people’s scenes, and we don’t bounce back from accidents like we can on the screen.