An inconvenient reality
So, what is it really that shocked the two interviewees? Was it, as they claim, that “nobody is real, everybody is fake, everybody is pretending, SL is just a game”? Or rather that they saw what people are really like when their RL masks of conventions, smiles, politeness, pleasantries and good manners are removed, when social norms are discarded because they’re pointless in SL? We often say that SL is a fantasy world – it is, but it goes far beyond than that: it’s a way to unleash our deepest, hidden, innermost feelings, urges and desires, the ones that we try to keep in check in RL. In SL, we can be pretty much like MC Hammer described the Addams Family: do what we want to do, say what we want to say, live how we want to live, play how we want to play, dance how we want to dance. Indeed, in SL we can act and behave in ways we’d love to be able to act and behave in RL. We can say things we’d love to be able to say in RL. SL, with the level of privacy it affords its users, is truly a liberating force, but this is actually a double-edged sword: certain people often (and openly) abuse this freedom in order to mistreat others and be deliberately unfair to them. And they mistreat others in SL (and make no excuses about it, instead they brag about it), because pulling such stunts in RL could get them in serious trouble with those around them, or even with the authorities. But that’s another story, that doesn’t really belong here.
So, I believe that Aria’s interviewees were shocked by seeing the true side of the people they interacted with. I think these people were actually naive, believing that they lived in an RL where everybody was nice, polite, compassionate and caring, and that they’d find the same thing in SL. For them and many others, to even think that people are not nice, polite etc. is devastating and can ruin everything they believed in, their entire worldview, and also the whole system they use to classify people – literally, it can run them aground, tossing them on sharp sea rocks and, if they survive, they’ll be castaways in a veritable terra incognita where they’d have to redefine everything in order to get their heads around things. Because they can’t find it in themselves to understand the fact that, in SL, peopleexpress what they really are like, they say that everything in SL is a pretense, that it’s all a fantasy and that everything in SL revolves around sex. Well, from that perspective, it does look that way.
Only in Second Life?
However, as I have explained before and also reiterated, to some extent, here, sex is everywhere: on the internet and out of it. Facebook, MySpace, the old Yahoo! chatrooms and groups, IRC channels, dating sites (duh!), they’re full of sexual imagery, sexual narrative, sexual promise and sexual hope – and this also reflects part of the human psyche. To say that only Second Life is “all about sex” is, to say the least, delusional and hypocritical. Just as delusional and hypocritical as the old claim that “the internet is all about sex” (does anyone remember it?), in fact. And even the real world is full of sexual imagery, narrative, promise and hope. As a matter of fact, the internet (and, with it, Second Life) is full of sex, because the real world is full of it and because, well, we humans dedicate so much of our time, thought and energy to it, even though we pretend we don’t.
You see, we pretend to not care so much about sex and be “above it” in RL. But, if we were really “above it”, then why is it that men try to make more and more money? Is it merely because they want to be able to afford more luxurious accommodations and more refined food? No, it’s also (if not mainly) because they want to attract more women (and more beautiful). If men didn’t want to be more attractive as sexual options, they wouldn’t try to gain more power and authority over others. They wouldn’t be hankering after (and preferring) cars from companies like the Quandt family-owned BMW (which some people translate as “Brings Me Women” – and the Quandt family is guilty as fuck of using slave labour in WW2 and has gone practically unpunished for this atrocity and still tries to keep its nazi past under wraps), or Mercedes-Benz, or Porsche, or… If sex was not so ingrained and so deeply rooted in people’s thinking (especially men’s thinking), it wouldn’t be so heavily exploited in advertising.
So, really, it’s the “real world” that’s all about sex. In SL, we’re just not forced by societal conventions and requirements to pretend otherwise.
This, of course, paints a rather unflattering picture of SL and its users, right? Not really. It’s just facing the facts about the world in general. We all have sex drives, we all have sexual desires, we all want sexual and romantic partners. Of course, not all of us look for sexual gratification online; not all of us think that the internet is only for finding a romantic or sexual partner. Some don’t bother with it at all (the interviewees thought they fell in this category, but they were obviously fooling themselves – and still do). Some are like “eh, if it comes along, fine. If it doesn’t, never mind.” Some use SL – perhaps extensively – for sexual gratification, but also have other interests to keep them satisfied.
Animal lust and our drive to procreate with partners that have better genes or are more likely to provide for us and our offspring may be a major factor in the hunt for obscene wealth, but it’s not all there is to life – and that’s what makes humans capable of creating cultures and civilisations. Yes, there are people out there who think with their loins. You’ll find them in RL, you’ll find them on various chatrooms and forums, you’ll find them in SL. Their thought span ends at the next hot date, the next shag, or even the next person to play malicious mind games on. But these are not the only people you’ll find in SL.
Please use the numbers below to navigate between the article’s pages