Nothing really changes between Karl and me until 1996, two years later. That’s when I first connect to the internet and discover a whole world of dominance and submission, sadism and masochist, power exchange and slavery. Instantly, all my fantasies are within reach. With brilliant, if belated, illumination, I finally figure myself out, I finally understand the source of my bizarre desires, I understand the reason I seem frigid and asexual, suddenly I can claim an identity and have the words to articulate my needs.
My epiphany is simultaneously angry and joyful. Angry, because I am middle aged, 52 years old, angry because I have been so stupid for so long, every step of the way I failed to recognize signs that could have pointed me to self-knowledge, my submissive fantasies, affairs with power figures, my strange arousal watching the power exchange in Kiss Me Kate. I am angry because it literally never occurred to me that there could be people out there who felt the same way I did about sex.
But at the same time I am joyful, because it is thrilling to finally realize where my sexuality lies. Just talking to people like me is a vindication and a validation, knowing that I am not always the odd woman out or a lone crazed neurotic is joyful. Who cares if I am part of a strange fringe minority. The difference between being in a minority and being all alone is enormous.
I don’t react in a very logical or sensitive way to my new knowledge, I don’t stop and think about consequences. I hurtle headlong in every direction I can find. As far as I am concerned, my world is transformed and life owes me, owes me big time. I am in no mood to apologize for anything. I plunge into a sexual maelstrom on the internet that will last for the next three years.
Sex on the internet is the scourge of politicians and the religious right. For me it is more than pornographic text or dirty pictures, it’s interactive eroticism taking place online, in real time, intellectual, literary, unbridled sex. The requirements are simple. You have to type fast, have a good vocabulary and superior descriptive powers, and want more or different sex than is available from the girl next door or the husband upstairs in bed. I know all this because I gather my information first hand, up close and personal.
In the late ’90’s cybersex scening or playing takes place 24 hours a day, seven days a week on an array of sites within the Internet Relay Chat network or IRC, accessible worldwide. I immerse myself in a subculture within cybersex known as the BDSM or D/s community, standing for Bondage, Domination, Submission and Masochism, and Dominance/submission.
People who scene online are just one part of internet D/s. Many dominants and submissives use a computer to meet others in real life so they can form relationships, using it like a dating service. Others aren’t looking for an actual connection, but just want to talk dirty and masturbate. But people like me can sink deep into the typed word so that it becomes reality and changes their outer life to match their cyber life. If you have ever been so immersed in a book that you forget who you are, so intoxicated with words that you become the character, so that you feel you are actually living the story, that’s a little like I feel. If you can’t or choose not to do that, if there is always a part of you that stands back and is objective, if words just stay words, it’s impossible to explain. I turn out to be the kind of person who can lose herself in words. And I do, I lose myself and I find myself, I experiment with an abandon that takes my breath away.
The internet provides me with a gigantic playground to explore my sexuality and I plunge in pell-mell and heedless. My sense of entitlement is overwhelming. Although Karl is leery of my mad enthusiasm, he hesitates to put up any barriers. Not that I would notice anyway. I think to myself that whatever arcane desires I am now expressing are ones that he is unwilling to fulfill. So he watches nervously, and hopes that this interest of mine turns out to be a passing fancy which will fade soon. He humors me. At first.