This is a guest post by Mistress Steel. It was part of her Steel's Chamber Scrolls which is now defunct. Shared with Permission.
In many ways this seems like a contradiction in terms. However, it cannot be overlooked that the advent of the Internet has opened the access into the BDSM community in ways completely incomprehensible just a few years ago. Along with this new technology has come new issues, dangers and problems. In many ways the community itself was completely unprepared for this onslaught. People resist change and push away from things they don't understand. There are generational traditions and elitist attitudes that separate the 'seasoned or experienced members' from these 'upstart newbies with their upstart ways, ideas and formula's'. Within this formerly unified community we have created a sub-community. One which many people speak of in disdain or contempt.
As with all things the cyber realm has two faces. One positive and one negative. We, as a community cannot ignore this new child among us. Nor can we impose upon it rules and standards that no longer work with the efficacy of the past. We have to accept that we too must change, adapt and overcome the problems. Seek new answers and find ways to welcome the newness instead of isolating them from the assistance and information they too need.
With many people access to the Internet is the only fantasy outlet they have. They can step inside its pixel dust and plastic walls and be anyone. They can shift gender, orientation, size, appearance all in the 'wink of an eye'. That puff of magic slides through them to release all their dreams and passions of the past. Their fear and shyness fade away, they can be that Knight, swagger as a Queen or cower as a slave. Everything is possible. They are invisible and visible both. It is like entering a giant interactive play where your true identity is never known. For the first time they can write their own life story, their own personal fairy tale, and it is innocent and fun and the fulfillment of lifelong dreams. In its purest form there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Yet for many the fantasy takes on form and shape and color, and at some unnoticed moment the pixel dust fades away and people who were illusive whispers at your fingertips take on names, shapes and forms within the spaces of your life.
For those that forever remain within the bondage of the medium, antics, rules and concepts of fantasy role play are as they wish to construct them. However, enough people transition into the real life BDSM world from the Internet that it becomes increasingly important to step forward into the fantasy role play and indicate that much if not all that they do here does not translate well into real life. To expect it to is irrational. One does not 'train' online. Interaction between a Dominant and a submissive can occur and does but the level of reality is limited by the medium. One can, may and should educate themselves. One should meet people, explore topics and see how they feel about things. One should be 'wary' of falling in love. Friendship and interest are fair game. Respect should be given to the office of love, commitment and relationships. Distance, space and contact can make the entering into such a relationship easy to do but one should never underestimate that upon conversion into reality physical chemistry, and all of the things which exist in the real world have to be factored in. Many people believe it is a way to have a relationship without all of the costs of one in reality. One should understand that a cyber collar is not worth the fabric that constructs it. It is rather like creating a 'make believe' wedding ring to wear. It lacks substance and in many ways belittles the real thing. Which is real, exists in physical form and is exchanged from one human hand to one human neck.
Many people long to separate from alignment with the cyber community because of its reputation for promoting inaccurate behaviors, injuring innocent people who are too eager to believe in those who profess expertise and for portraying relationships in functionally impossible ways. Labels are hastily thrown upon anyone whose opinion varies from theirs. A wannabe or a cyber this or that. This is ignorant and dangerous. Among the cyber population is a growing number of predators. Those who seek to find the vulnerable, exploit their dreams and pervert those dreams into ugly episodes of brutality and cruelty. And there are those who have discovered a way to find 'free' people to use for sex or servant. They have landed amidst the herd of the unsuspecting. The only way to combat these people who are not 'of' our community but 'using' it for ugly purposes is education. The more a person learns the easier it becomes to spot those who have suspect motives. It is certain we will find other and better ways as we become more adept at using the medium to work for the community instead of against it.
We must accept that a significant percentage of those people online who are actively exploring the BDSM cyber community will at some point take the steps necessary to experience some aspect of this in real life. Therefore they cannot be considered fake or illusions or 'cyber'. They are merely people who have not get experienced a real life exchange or D/s relationship. The inaccuracies of the 'fantasy role play' have to be addressed or faced where they are flagrant.
It is not our business to evaluate cyber kink. It should be considered merely another kink or fetish much like rubber, shoes or bondage. It is our business to offer real life, functional information to anyone who asks. To direct people toward real life organizations and resources which they can use to educate themselves if they find their interest is moving toward reality. For those who can only ever explore themselves in the cyber realm we can and should ask you to indicate your fetish so that those who are interested have correct information to use when considering interacting with you.
Written by F.R.R. Mallory - also known as Mistress Steel. This article may be excerpted from Extreme Space, The Domination and Submission Handbook, Safe, Sane and Consensual, Dangerous Choices or other books by F.R.R. Mallory and shared here with her permission. Please click on the book title for information on how you can order a copy of these books and others by F.R.R. Mallory.