On the Internet

Ahh, the Internet.

When Obi-Wan said about Mos Eisley, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.", we can think of this as a simple failure of imagination.

What parts of the Internet existed in 1977 were much more civil than the place we all visit so frequently now. Something to consider: the very first SPAM message was sent almost a year after the premiere of Star Wars (May 3, 1978 vs. May 25, 1977), and it was received so poorly that it didn't become a common occurrence until more than fifteen years later.

I digress.

The point (yes, there is one), is that the Internet of today is much like the Mos Eisley of a long time ago and far, far away. On the one hand, people say and do horrible things to each other without any apparent regard for what is right, what is wrong, what is true, what is false, or even what is likely to get them what they want. It's as if most people wander around like drunken, wounded, enraged elephants, bumping and jostling and stepping on anything that gets in their way, including each other.

On the other hand, it's the one place that you know you'll be able to find, well, anything.

If kink were socially acceptable, we wouldn't need the Internet to find each other in the dark. Unfortunately, for most people in most places, being kinky isn't something they want to broadcast, so we tend to congregate on the Internet. It's where we can talk about a whole facet of our lives without having to announce it to our family, coworkers, neighbors, or even roommates. It works because we feel (rightly or not) that on the Internet, we're relatively anonymous.

Anonymity is a double edged sword in the context of a group of people. Collectively, we need it in order to feed this part of our psyches, because that's where we can find others with similar or shared experiences. It also brings out the worst in people: petty squabbles, arguments based on ignorance, and, worst of all, a complete and total disregard or inability to exhibit social graces.

I believe that most of the people that spend their time tripping over themselves socially simply don't understand the consequences. They don't get why they should care, because the anonymity appears to shield them from any bad effects. This behavior is, quite simply, an expression of abject ignorance.

If you have a goal, and you're not making progress toward that goal, you're failing yourself.

If you believe that just having a lack of direct negative consequences is an acceptable state of being, you're failing yourself.

In more concrete terms, for those who are seeking some sort of play: Given 48 hours notice with only the resources at your disposal (and absent deus ex machina), If you can't honestly say that you could be having a scene with someone you found attractive doing the kind of things that you like to do, and you're not making progress toward that goal, you're failing yourself.

It doesn't matter what you look like, it usually doesn't matter what you're into (kids being an obvious exception, and for animals (which I don't personally condone) or scat, I'd be willing to grant an extension to 72 hours). People are out there who are into what you're into, AND will find you attractive, AND will be attractive to you. I'm not saying it's easy, but you can get to that point.

So, would you rather work on making that a reality, or would you rather spend your time pissing off the people who could be helping you with it?

Follow these guidelines, and you'll spend a lot less time masturbating to pictures of strangers, and a lot more time masturbating to pictures of friends. ;)

  1. It's not all about you.

    This one isn't just relevant to kink, but to pretty much anywhere on the Internet. The people on the other end of the wire are people. They have hopes, dreams, egos, and insecurities.

    There are things about them that are absolutely amazing. There are things about themselves that they believe are horrifying. They can say one thing and mean another. They can say something and mean exactly what they said with microscopic precision. They can be fallible. They can be fickle. They can be the best friend someone's ever had.

    The fact that you're looking for someone to do X with body part Y has no bearing on the fact that first, and foremost, the person you're starting a conversation with is a person, and they deserve to be treated that way.

  2. Read, think, write, read, read, then maybe send.

    You're contacting the person for a reason, right? Have you done whatever research you can to determine whether the person is likely to have a positive response to your contact? Have you read his or her profile and/or website? Have you looked for signs that maybe you might not get the response you're looking for?

    Think about what you want to say. What, specifically, is your goal? I'm not talking about your ultimate goal (e.g. "Get in a long term relationship with a pretty, demure girl who likes to suck cock, but will fist my ass when nobody's looking."). What, specifically, is the short term, immediate goal of the message you're writing? Be realistic, but be optimistic. If it's somebody you've never spoken to before, the answer probably ought to be something like, "Make sure that the person will have a positive response to this message, and will maybe reply to it."

    Take the time to craft your message. Be honest about your intentions, but don't over-share. Make sure you greet the person appropriately; it's a simple little thing, but not doing so is a handicap that's hard to recover from. Remember the first rule, and consider the living, breathing human being at the other end that quite possibly lacks any incentive to do anything with, for, or to you, including sending a reply.

    When you're done writing, read what you've got with a critical eye toward tone. Pretend (if you have to) that you have a sibling that you're protective of who you know is similar to your intended recipient, and that the message is one that this brother or sister has received from an anonymous person on the Internet. If it makes you want to cringe or maybe wish violence on the sender, then you've got a problem with tone, content, or both. Fix this immediately, by going back a step or two (quite possibly two), and trying again.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that, if it's an introduction that you're sending, keep it relatively short. Be cordial - hell, go a step further and be personable, but now is not the time to relate your entire life story. In all likelihood, you're trying to get the person to read through your profile (which we'll cover in a moment), which, oddly enough, is a great place to put all sorts of things about you.

    Once you're done editing for content, read the message you're about to send again, and take the time to do your best to fix spelling and grammatical errors. The more effort you put into how your message is written, the more precisely you'll convey the thoughts and ideas that you're trying to present. If you did a reasonably good job during the "think" phase, it can only help you. This is also a good time to double check any facts you're including. If they have a fetish listed for "shoes", is it for "wearing" or "making others wear"? It could make a big difference if that's your thing.

    At this point you should have a fairly short, cordial, fairly well-written to excellently written message. Now you can do one last systems check: this is a person you want to contact, you know why, your message supports your intention, and there are no obvious reasons why you shouldn't send the message. If all systems are go, then hit the launch button, and congratulations.

    Now walk away. Don't sit there refreshing your browser waiting for a response - it'll just drive you crazy. Don't send another message a few hours or days later if you haven't heard back from the person (an exception is when it is both time sensitive, and you know that the person cares that it's time sensitive.)

    Just walk away. A response will come, or it won't. You did your part to the best of your ability, so there's nothing more you can do that will improve your chances of a positive result, and plenty you can do that will decrease your chances.

    This section was written with the implied context of an email or other form of direct message. In reality, all of the above applies equally well to forum posts. Just replace the word "person" with the word "people", and understand the person's profile to mean the group and its rules. After that, the steps are the same.

  3. Ok, sometimes it's all about you.

    For fuck's sake, fill in your profile.

    Write about you: not just the kinds of kinky stuff you're into, but the whole you. The more about you someone can learn from your profile, the more likely you'll also be treated as an actual person, and trust me, that's something you want.

    It's perfectly acceptable to be vague about details of your life - your name, where you live, where you work, etc. What's important to understand is that none of those define you. In fact, that's a whole philosophical topic that you should really examine, but sort of goes beyond the scope of this essay. The point is that you can show somebody the real you without ever telling them anything about those identifying details, and you should do just that on your profile.

  4. Don't be a friend-whore.

    Using FetLife as an example, being someone's "friend" there doesn't really mean you're friends, but a lot of people interpret it that way. That being said, what it does mean is that you want to see everything the other person does on the site, and you want the other person to see everything you do on the site. That's not the same commitment as real friendship, but it does go beyond "this is a person I am acquainted with".

    Sending a friend request to someone you barely know forces that person to make a value judgment on your qualities without first receiving the benefit of a real picture of who you are. That's why it makes people uncomfortable, and that's why it's rude.

  5. Respect the privacy of others.

    This really ought to have been understood as a result of the first guideline, but in case it wasn't obvious to you, this is a big deal.

    The Internet is a very public place. If something is on the Internet, it's available to be seen by more people than if it were broadcast every hour on the hour on every major news channel. Also, with very few exceptions, if something gets posted in one place on the Internet, then it exists somewhere on the Internet - even if it's somewhere else - forever.

    Yes, forever. Think about that next time you post a Facebook status about how hung over you were at work a few weeks ago.

    So, you had a good time at a party, and you decide to post a funny story about how this one guy's mistress made him crawl around with a toilet plunger shoved up his ass, which was fine until he sat up and the plunger got stuck on the tile floor.

    If you choose to self-identify as having been somewhere and seen that happen, that's your right. If it was at a private location, and you say where it was, that could be problematic. If you identify the guy and/or his mistress without their approval, that could be a lot more problematic.

    To be sure, some people won't mind at all, but some people will, and it's not up to you to decide on their behalf.

  6. Respect people's beliefs, kinks, practices, gender, orientation, etc.

    Despite what the state of politics in the US would lead you to believe, you can disagree with someone without being disrespectful about it, and that's a skill that we should all develop and continue to work on.

    When you tell me I'm going to hell because I'm an atheist, or that my friend should die because he's gay, or that my other friend is a fascist because he's a conservative, or that she's a bigot because she's a practicing Catholic, you're not really disagreeing with anyone's position. You're just being an asshole.

    If you can't engage in rational discourse on a topic because you're so emotionally invested in it, you need to walk away and either come back when you've calmed down, or just stay the hell away from it.

    People in the kink community come from all walks of life. The only thing we really all have in common is that the things we do or want to do to each other would generally get us ostracized from society at large, and in some cases arrested. While that's a powerful motivator for us to keep our community together, it also means that we disagree on a hell of a lot of things.

    Regardless of your position, I'm not asking you to keep it to yourself. I'm just saying you shouldn't be a douchebag about it when you voice your opinion.

  7. Check yourself.

    Every so often, take a moment to look at how you're doing. If things are progressing in the way that you want them to, that's great.

    If not though, it's a good idea to try to identify what parts of your plan and/or execution may not be working. Think about how people tend to respond to you. Bad isn't good, of course, but, going back to that whole "making progress toward a goal" thing, neutral really isn't good either.

    You want your responses to be good or great most of the time. That's how you know you're doing well, and that's what you should be aiming for.

So, that's not terribly complicated, right? All you have to do is just keep in mind that we're all people and we all want to have a good time, and, y'know, don't be that guy.