For those of us of a certain age and who had early Internet access Mrs Silk was a revelation and a pioneer. It’s seems that her achievements were rather accidental as she never really capitalised on them. That’s often the way with pioneers, they start something but it takes others to really make it a success.
Mrs Silk ran a dressing service around the back of Euston Station, probably not uncoincidentally far from the Beaumont Society and the centre of what passed for trans resources in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Her genius vision was to spot the Internet and to create a website for her business. Today that doesn’t sound very radical, but in the mid 90’s she was the very first real web site that catered for CD/TS/TV interests and it was an eye opening find for people like myself.
The site rapidly changed from just advertising her shop to being an interactive hangout for like minded people. In the days when your home connection was a 19,200 modem, the idea of a site with a chatroom was truly revolutionary. It was quirky and quite cosy in there as well as being totally free form.
It was an environment you couldn’t even imagine today. There was no security, you could pick a fresh name each time you entered the room – lots of potential for wind-ups as well as mischief. The limited number of concurrent users, I think it was 25, meant that even with different aliases it was hard to be unrecognised.
Etiquette was minimal unless Mrs Silk was in the room, as she often was in the early days. Silk herself could be quirky and stroppy, there was a famous time when she got the hump and pulled the plug on the room. I was actually a witness to it, I was logged in from a hotel in California and saw the row building as a couple of newbies challenged whether it was the real Mrs Silk in the room and took the mickey out of her. To prove it really was her she said she would kill the chatroom and proceeded to do so – leaving it down for the best part of two weeks. I always felt sorry for one well-known member who was in the room at the time and quietly chatting with Mrs Silk, s/he was famous for being irascible and was blamed for several years afterwards for being the one to upset Mrs Silk.
That place provided me with some valuable lessons for later interactions, online and real life.
It was the first place I found myself being accosted by a “dom” and accused of not being a true submissive because I wouldn’t obey orders from someone with a capital letter in their name. It sounds so simple from this distance in time, but as a newbie struggling to understand lots of suppressed ideas and feelings, that sort of accusation really cuts to the quick.
Silk’s chatroom also provided a salutary experience that is still incredibly important to me today and colours my online behaviour. Because the room didn’t require an actual login you could enter your usual name and find it rejected because someone else was using it – either innocently, or more likely, pretending to be you.
I logged on one day to find myself immediately accosted in private chat by someone in very deep distress. When people first came across Mrs Silks site they were usually nervous, confused, stressed and coming to terms with the horror of being gender fluid and thoughts of being submissive – I know I was.
This person who accosted me was brand new and had just been subjected to a long sadistic mind-fuck by someone impersonating my user name. They had done so in a tag team with someone else. This poor newbie was so worked over and distressed that the only solution they saw for themselves was to commit suicide !!
It took me several hours to talk this person around and it was a very intense experience. I later made it known to Silks and the room in general as well as tackling the perpetrators. These scum were exceedingly pleased with themselves and only expressed disappointment that the victim hadn’t gone and killed themselves.
As the years roll by we often forget what it was like to be a newbie gathering the courage to enter a new world. We’ve heard it all before. To this day I remember this experience and will make the time to talk to a newbie in difficulties, to hopefully show them how to cope and avoid such pitfalls.
Despite that I have lots of fond memories of Silks. It was there I met the first person I would call Mistress. It was also where I had the fascinating discovery that dommes were actually real and normal females. I had several domme friends in there and often the last thing we would talk about in hours of chat was kink. Intelligence, humour and character were what they were really interested in and it was a good lesson to learn.
Despite being an early web pioneer, Mrs Silk failed to grasp the opportunity. The site remained unkempt and was rarely updated whilst the competition moved in. Mrs Silk herself rarely bothered with the place any more.
My big gripe with the site is that Mrs Silk herself died in March 2006 and to this day it has never been acknowledged by those left to own and run the site. I find it disrespectful and upsetting when I see they have released a “brand new” photo set of Mrs Silk. The poor woman died in her mid 60’s, today she’d be approaching 80. As good as she looked in her 50’s, I don’t think it does anyone credit to have those 20/25 year old pictures constantly photo-shopped. It’s dishonest to the site members that think it is the real Mrs Silk and continue to express devotion.
The fiction appears to be that she’s moved to Florida and trains US sissies, as the flag in this picture alludes to. This is a fairly recent photo shoot added to the site. She looks great. The problem is that this must have been taken at least 10 and probably 15 years before she died – so the best part of 30 years ago.
The website is now very much a niche footnote in the annals of kink on the Internet.
Yet it should always be remembered, along with Mrs Silk, as to how it pioneered not just kink, but a place for the vulnerable to find support from others when questioning their gender and sexual identity.
Every March 6th I raise a glass to the woman who fundamentally set me on the path to what I am today.