March/April 2002


by Unknown

Emergence is a term sometimes used to describe the process that many people experience when they 'find' either themselves or the lifestyle of BDSM. In many cases this begins when the individual is in their late 20's (for some women), mid 30's (for most men and women), to late 40's (for virtually everyone else). Often people become exposed to D/s after the break-up of a long term relationship, a divorce or during a 'mid-life crisis'. The internet has become one of the largest sources of D/s initiation in it's very short lifetime. Regardless of the actual trigger some things seem to remain fairly consistent in a majority of the newcomer's experiences.

Emergence is the emerging from vanilla into the BDSM lifestyle, something like emerging from a cacoon. This is a process that takes YEARS. It has been my experience that there are several phases that seem to be consistent during this emerging process. At the onset many people are uncertain 'where' they might fall in this new world and they may have conflicting fantasies which in essence tell them merely that 'things' in this lifestyle seem to address images, fantasies, thoughts, hopes and dreams which have lingered just below the surface of the individual's life sometimes for many, many years. Often if they have discovered this lifestyle through the online rooms they find themselves 'pressed' to CHOOSE an orientation. Too often the individual jumps at what they THINK they might be. Choosing this role helps them fit it. They find they can learn the lingo, talk the talk fairly quickly and be accepted.

There are several problems with an introduction into the BDSM world in this way. One of the most significant is the case of the new telling the new what to do. This is the blind leading the blind. The cyber BDSM world online is composed of several different types of people. There are those who are cyber only - and find the internet a way to have a safe quasi-BDSM experience interactively, with total anonymity and safety. There are those who are not BDSM at all but what the community call vanilla kink, these tend to be people looking for quick, easy, cheap sexual contacts and affairs with that 'edge' of kinky that they cannot find in their vanilla life. There are those seeking to prey upon the new and innocent by promoting themselves as something they are not. These can be sociopaths who enjoy injuring and even killing people, they are beginning to use the internet successfully as a hunting ground. Then we have people who are real life BDSM who ALSO enjoy making friends and contacts on the internet for it is TRULY an excellent resource and way to connect. For an emergent or newcomer D/s person this becomes a very dangerous and tangled web.

Sorting out what is real from what is false can require experiences that are painful, ugly and even dangerous. People have raced to stick 'labels' on people in order to classify them. This is just as flawed as the newcomer leaping to 'become' something before they have any REAL comprehension of what that is. An emergent Dominant may go through a phase of desiring to submit. This is a completely honest and real feeling that can cause that potential Dominant to mis-label themselves as a submissive or switch. An emergent submissive may find themselves with serious combative feelings after the commencement of a relationship with a Dominant. These combative actions can appear very Dominant and lead that submissive into emotions of confusion and distress. Expectations that the individual (regardless of their orientation) can quickly 'become' Dominant or submissive are flawed.

The individual should consider the process one of evolution and change. It is impossible to fully embrace EITHER side without tasting the other side to at least some degree. In addition since many newcomers are just emerging from marriages they tend to have a need or desire to AVOID settling into another relationship quickly. In a new Dominant they may see this panorama of opportunity. Willing submissives everywhere. For many new Dominant's there is a stage in the first 2 years of emergence where they go through a feeding frenzy. Often taking on several submissives at once and actively resisting efforts to commit to any one person. Some try to create stables or houses of 'servers'. For those who translate this into a real life arena they often discover that 'managing' many people is quite difficult. Not only are their skills only marginally developed but often the people they select are newcomers as well who have not 'embraced' themselves fully. In addition a vast percentage of new Dominant's fail to take active steps to educate themselves in the real life BDSM world PRIOR to assuming a Dominant role and engaging the attentions of one or more submissives in the cyber community.

The same can be said for many submissives though in general I find that more submissives actively educate themselves than Dominants. At least in the beginning. Many people will make a contact and engage in a cyber relationship which fairly quickly progresses into a real life meeting. For a new Dominant t his is a terrifying thing, they have no experience in what is really safe or not safe, how to act, behave or respond. Some attempt to bluff their way through by selecting a submissive who is just as much of a BDSM virgin as they are. Again this is the blind leading the blind. This new Dominant if they have NOT become active in the local community may adopt or pattern their behavior upon what they have noted in the online cyber community rooms. This can be absolutely disastrous as many of the role playing rituals so common online simply DO NOT WORK in real life.

A new submissive may make the same mistake. I have had several submissives tell me they are TRAINED - then I discover that this training was EXCLUSIVELY on-line, not in real life. Please note that you can become educated online, you can engage in private scenes that can be meaningful and challenging for you but you CANNOT experience tactile reality without being physically WITH another person.

It becomes especially dangerous when the submissive creates fabrications of safety based on 'how wonderful' this online Dominant is. Many feel it is unseemly to question someone too closely and can even feel that such questioning may appear to be a lack of trust. Many newcomer submissives are afraid to attend local events alone, fearing they will be pounced upon by lurking Dominants. Because of this they may develop a skewed understanding of the real life community. There are numerous safe ways to attend events and demonstrations that do NOT require for either a new Dominant OR submissive to be attached. Many real life BDSM people will voluntarily and willingly HOST newcomers and invite them to attend events as part of a 'group' of people so that they will feel more comfortable. Investigating these options is something a new Dominant and submissive should actively do as soon as possible when they recognize D/s traits inside of themselves. They should also consider joining one of the older WELL established BDSM organizations and read the literature provided BY that organization.

In the 3-5 years after initial emergence the Dominant will generally slow down from their initial frenzied state. Previous habits will often begin to be dropped. Many of these are long term vanilla habits of inter-relating. This takes time and hard work. It requires accepting difficult aspects of the inner self and an acknowledgement of the levels of personal responsibility that are necessary in actively living in a BDSM relationship. Many people in this stage will form longer term consistent relationships though seldom will they successfully transition to a full time relationship at this point. This IS where many Dominant's learn how to be honest, often for the first time in their life. They tend to learn that honesty is no longer OPTIONAL but necessary. They also may begin to become intolerant of deceipt, machinations, and all kinds of underhanded antics. In the later stages of this phase the Dominant will often begin to consider seeking out one special person to share their life with. Some will seek two, though the success of poly relationships are statistically much worse than mono relationships.

A submissive will endure some of the same experiences in the 3-5 year range. Often they will become quite discriminating on whom they will interact with. Many become locally active in community organizations and volunteer to help other newer submissives in their learning processes. A large percentage of submissives will spend a portion of these years exploring their Dominant side fully, either as a switch, a Top or as a full out Dominant. They will learn to become more honest and truthful in expressing their needs both to themselves and to others. Often they will seek to become more centered and healthy. In the later stages of the 5-7 year period the experienced submissive will often reach a stage of peaceful acceptance of themselves. Their desire to be combative will have faded during the processes of removing the habits they had developed from childhood. It is at this point that they find they can reach out perhaps for the first time to offer themselves fully and without fear as a true submissive.
It has been my experience that for a vast majority of people the first contact with the BDSM community to the point of peacefully embracing their inner self is a process that takes about 7 years. For some this is much shorter and for some this never fully occurs. Many people DO find that they have lived with D/s in its vanilla form for the majority of their lives and the transition for them can occur much faster! There are no rights and wrongs to the process itself although education WILL help reduce the risks and bad experiences. There is no rush to 'be' anything and no right or wrong to either orientation. In the end you will find that you will continue to change and grow long beyond the initial stages. What is natural will eventually be the strongest and in that you will find your true self. Try NOT to obsess on the lifestyle, keep other interests and hobbies open and active. Being well rounded is mentally healthy and allows you to make better choices.