Collars: Before and After

Continuing the re-posts from F4L (only one more after this, I promise!)… Unlike the previous ones, which are almost verbatim copies edited only for minor clarification, this combines two separate and nearly opposite reactions to the phenomenon of collaring.  First, a gut-reaction rant written in ignorance; second, a return after learning.

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[Rant warning…]

I think collars are sexeh. Collars as “jewelry”, that is… as an item of personal decoration. I have a lot of trouble with collars as a symbol of ownership or control — and even more with scripted collars in SL that provide a means of control, not merely a symbol. Yeah, I know it’s RP… and in these oh-so-tolerant worlds we live in (both real and virtual), whatever floats your fleet, right?

Thing about role-play, though… what motivates the player to assume the role? Mere curiosity, a sense of adventure, or — as with all things that have a sexual connotation — something deeper?

Folks, let’s get real: we’re talking about slavery. Ownership of another person, no matter the apparent species. Haven’t we fought enough wars, staged enough protests, seen enough good people assassinated, and passed enough laws to convince people to not want slavery — in any form, not even as fantasy?

A recent SL girlfriend bought a collar while we were out shopping. Silly me, I presumed it was for decoration… then she put it on and declared me as its — and therefore her — owner. I said, simply “No. Take my name off that thing.” Fortunately, she did… and then gave ownership to someone else. Meh.

[Rant ended]

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No rant this time ~~ but I do have some ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy.

I’ve said this before, and I say it again for emphasis: Despite my real age, I am relatively new to furry. I don’t have the same advantages many of my fellow Second Life furs do — the ones who developed characters and roleplay skills in venues like FurryMUCK, Furcadia, and elsewhere. I am still discovering aspects of the lifestyle I may have read hints about before, but not experienced directly. My first blog about collars [see above] was written with an incomplete and very one-sided view of the issue.

The first exposure I had in SL to the master/pet relationship set my reaction to all other exposures for a long time. It occurred in a club called The Feline Conspiracy, and involved the treatment of a pet by his master in a humiliating and demeaning way — in Local Chat. That is, within the ‘hearing’ of any- and everyone else there. Mind you, TFC’s popularity is (or at least was at the time) based on the very notion of public ‘kinkiness’, so the behavior was not out of place. That in no way made it more palatable to me. Unfortunately, rather than accepting it as the way those two individuals wished to play their roles (though wishing, for my own comfort, that they had kept it to themselves in IM), I jumped to the false conclusion that all master/pet relations were of the same kind.

The second exposure, which turned my general distaste into the anger expressed in my first “Collars” blog, involved a human friend. That relationship was abusive to the point of it extending outside of Second Life — for example, the master had access to my friend’s account, and would regularly log in and delete names from her Contacts, to control with whom she was allowed to associate. I understand: It is not possible to do that unless passwords are shared, which means that my friend permitted the abuse. In fact, she has attempted twice (that I know of) to break the relationship, and twice gone back to it. I may never understand, but it seems that some individuals have a need to be abused, denigrated, belittled, and treated like slaves. Thinking about it in the months since, I conclude that a good part of my anger was at her for being one of those.

I probably should also mention Gor. This is a series of books begun in the late 1960s and early ’70s, to cash in on the fad popularity of ‘barbarian’ adventures that began with reprints of books written in the 1920s by Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Tarzan, Mars and Venus series, etc.) and Robert E. Howard (Conan). Gor is the name of the fictitious planet where the stories take place, and the Gor books, sleazy as they might be, still have a fan base 40 years later. In Second Life, there are Gorean roleplay sims where one can act out fantasies in the context of the culture(s) invented for the books. There are all kinds of fantasy roleplay sims in SL, based on all kinds of scenarios — that’s not the point. Gorean society is based on slavery and the subjugation of women, and otherwise appears to suffer from a simultaneous overdose of both steroids and testosterone.

Clarification: I am no less angry now than I was four months ago that such behaviors exist. In my idealistic (naive?) worldview, no one should want to take on the roles of abuser and victim. The fact that, like my human friend, many people have a psychological need to behave in those ways only adds a deep sadness to my anger.

Small wonder, then, that when I was offered the ownership of a collar by a girlfriend of the moment (mentioned in the first blog), I reacted with abhorrence. What I did not mention before, however: this same girl had already asked me twice to “marry” her (i.e., declare each other as Partner in the SL way of such things), evincing a need for dependence I was unwilling to fill. The collar, in that case, was merely one more attempt.

BUT:

I posted a new photograph of myself in my [F4L] profile this morning before beginning this blog [9/9/09]. Look closely. I’m wearing a collar.

In the four months since writing that rant, I have become close friends with furs who are pets, or are master or mistress of pets — I even know furs who are both pet to one and master/mistress to another! I have learned much from them, but the two most important points are these:

[1] The scripted collars in Second Life which can be used to control the wearer’s actions remain ultimately in the control of the wearer. What this means is: episodes remain consensual at all times, and can be ended at any time for any reason. That also applies to the relationship itself. In short, “pethood” is not slavery.

[2] Not all master/pet relationships are dominant/submissive, either sexually or otherwise. Many — most? — are, but that is neither a necessary condition for entering into one, nor a valid generalization about them as a class.

I have also become gradually accustomed, ‘in parallel’ so to speak, to the tendency for many furs in SL to form adoptive families, often quite extended: mate(s), parents, children, siblings… and pets. There’s a continuum of emotional bonding across these categories — as with everything else I’ve described, and with everything else in SL generally, each relationship is as unique as the the people participating in it. In this context, becoming someone’s pet, or adopting one, can be one of many ways to express a bond that goes beyond casual friendship.

To conclude: There are collars which are decorative items of fashion only; there are collars which can be, and often are, used to control their wearers in a dominant/submissive pairing.  In between, there are collars that symbolize a relationship of mutual care and affection — rather like a wedding ring in real life — which might not otherwise be ‘acceptable’, except by the altered and expanded mores of the furry lifestyle, in and out of SL (see also: polyamory).

Mine falls into the last category.

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2 responses to “Collars: Before and After

  1. A lovely and brave post! It's always nice to see someone grow in public :) and admit that things they said once may have been wrong, or from a limited perspective. (I've always considered myself very open-minded, but it took quite awhile for the cognitive dissonance to settle down the first time I encountered someone (in SL) who was both a sub and a mistress. Consider the possible implications! What if the tree were to develop a cycle?? omg!)

    Some people definitely have a need, or a strong tendency, or *something*, to enter into very asymmetrical relationship where they end up abused (in some sense). What should the rest of us do about it? Help them get out? Insist that they get out? Forbid the display of such relationships (in public, anyway)? Or help them try to find relationships that meet their needs without the abuse? Or what? Very very hard questions.

    On the other hand, if a buncha cool people want to form a big consensual family and sometimes wear each other's collars, I think that's wonderful. :)

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