In some ways, it’s lucky that I have the ability to find fulfillment in internet sex. Playing online is safer than meeting strangers in a dark alley, I say to myself. Words are a sterile outlet and the potential for damage is limited, I think. I didn’t anticipate the internet’s emotional power. Although you can’t get a sexually transmitted disease from the computer, you can love and hate and feel passion with just as much transforming energy as if you were on the street. The line between words and reality is not so clear cut.
Online D/s, like D/s in the real world, is not monolithic. Hundreds of different approaches and bents exist, an endless variety of fetishes and special interests and weird predilections. The advantage to the computer is that you can find them all in one place, you don’t have to travel to Arkansas to meet the person who shares your particular desire. I didn’t have to fly to Munich to meet Volker.
Think of IRC as a street lined with ten or twenty tall skyscrapers. Each building, really a “net”, has hundreds or thousands of rooms or “channels”, filled with people. Some rooms have only one person in them and others are auditorium size and bursting with hundreds. Each building, and indeed all the buildings, share a few basic elements. You can choose to talk to everyone in the room at once, or you can whisper in another person’s ear. Or do both at the same time. Each room has a name over the door and a topic, to give newcomers an idea of the kind of place it is. Inside, there’s a list of occupants so you can see at a glance who is home that day. Nobody uses their real name, but their nicknames tell you something about them. You can visit multiple rooms and have multiple conversations simultaneously. Confusing, and it can mix you up, but possible in IRC world.
Anyone can create an IRC room with a few strokes on a computer keyboard. Once you have founded a room, you choose among your friends for people to run it. Those people are called ops, and they have the power to kick rowdy visitors out, make rules for the room and enforce them, and generally keep order among the inhabitants.
You can, if you are not sure which room you want to visit, get a list of all the channels in a particular net along with the number of people inside. It’s a very long list, more than 10,000 on some nets. As I said, each room has a name, and the name indicates a theme. Bandung has the most people in it, almost 900. Almost every Asian country and city is represented by multiple crowded rooms. Sweden has 60 people visiting, Gay Penang has 54. A Christian room has 50 members. Soccer and football rooms have 40 each. At 6:00 a.m. today, cybersex has 41 people inside, Sydneycafe has 31. My old room has 45 people inside. There are probably 150 different D/s rooms in the IRC net I spent the most time in, all geared to appeal to a slightly different but overlapping segment of the kinky population.
When the internet first comes to my town, IRC is one of the programs the local access provider installs on my machine. It is easy to connect. The first room I visit is called Over 50. I am over 50 and have a good time chatting with folks from all across the country. Nothing serious, just fun drinking my morning coffee and talking. I even have lunch with some other Vermonters I met and Karl and I eat a lobster dinner with a nice lady and her daughter when we visit Maine.
After awhile, I explore further. I wander looking into various rooms, staying a few minutes and moving on. Raunchy sex channels are easy to spot, and scare me, so I stay far away from them. One day, I visit a room called Boar’s Head Tavern which makes me think of a medieval inn. It isn’t. Followers of the writer, John Norman, have created the room. Norman is the author of a series of science fiction books about a fantasy world called Gor, a barbarian society of master and slave. Men are natural masters and women are born slaves.
The first Gor book is generic science fiction replete with rocket ships, and contains only vague descriptions of the social system, but each subsequent book is more elaborate, painting mythical Gor in minute detail, replete with philosophical underpinnings, an invented language, and hot sex scenes. A cult arises and is made manifest in the IRC universe. I had always been a science fiction afficionado, but never heard of John Norman or read a Gor book.
This is precisely when I get kicked in the head by my epiphany.