A question of play
Kink on the internet isn't just about recreating a virtual version of kink in real life. After all, a whip swung in Second Life will never hurt. No number of physical upgrades or interactive bits will change that. There must be something else.
The key, perhaps, lies in the very idea of play. In the language of real-life kink, the idea of performance dominates. Participants don't just perform sex acts, they enter into "scenes." Different types of interaction are labeled as "play": cutting becomes blood play, submergence becomes breath play, so on and so forth. Individuals themselves are said to take on "roles," roles that they will discard at the end of a scene, or if a partner utters a safe-word, allowing him/her to stop the performance and reinstate the safety and logic of the real world.
Videogames, too, another center for play, exist on the basis of performance. Virtual environments like Second Life are not mirror images of real life, but an enacted, self-conscious recreation of life: a play. Here, our actions are not real actions, but the performance of actions. We are very familiar with the idea of roleplaying in games, with the innately dual nature of both being and playing through our avatars. We are also familiar with taking on new personas, new personalities, new desires by way of the characters we control. We know that play - whether sexual, technological or both - is not life, but something much like it.
In entering the game space of a virtual world, we also enter the possibility for play. And wherever there is the possibility for play, there is the possibility for kink. Even if we keep our cybersex entirely free from BDSM, from furries, from orgies, from whatever else might be out there, we are still being kinky. Because what is sex in a videogame, in the end, but the biggest kink of all? Any time we engage in sex online, be it vanilla or otherwise, we do not use our bodies to enter into the act, but our minds to recreate it. We play out a scene, with the monitor as our stage and the power switch as our safe-word. We perform kink by playing in the game.
Bonnie Ruberg is a sex and games writer, a MMOG researcher and an all around fun-loving dork. Check her out at Heroine Sheik.