I guess you haven’t really arrived as a Second Life blogger or commentator unless you’ve reached the point where you frown upon “pixel sex”, openly sexualised avatars, or the “skanky” nature of female avatars’ attire in SL. It seems to me that coming to view your in-world romantic and sexual escapades (if any) with feelings of shame actually gives you bonus points. And the sooner you’ve denounced your desire to explore your sexuality in-world, the more respect you’re going to garner. Apparently, your opinions can’t be taken seriously if you’re viewed by others as a sexual person.
So, there is a lot of pressure on the Lab and its user base to somehow prove that SL is “serious” enough for academics, RL professionals and the much-coveted “mainstream crowd” to use it without feeling ashamed of it. In her critique of this particular campaign, Jo Yardley certainly didn’t mince her words, and was joined by others as well. One of the main arguments, and I’ll get to it later, is that, besides reinforcing the “X-rated smear“, such marketing campaigns distract from the creative and artistic potential SL offers.
Let’s get back to the revealing nature of the clothing on offer in SL. It’s a fact of Second Life that the majority of clothing that’s being marketed to female avatars ranges from “smexy” to full-on “slutwear”. I think I wouldn’t be terribly inaccurate if I said that many virtual couturiers’ catalogues look like they’ve copied what’s on offer at websites like Wicked Temptations and other vendors (online or not) of clubwear, gothwear, ravewear, fetishwear etc.
Don’t expect me to deny having ever bought from such places, either in RL or SL. I won’t. In fact, I’ll openly and without hesitation say I have done so in the past, whenever I could, I’ve enjoyed what I bought (in some cases I still do) and will gladly do so again, given the chance. I’ll also openly say that – shock horror – I prefer sunbathing and swimming topfree on the beach, I wear thongs and g-strings (both as underwear and swimwear), and I practice nudism whenever possible – at home or on the beach. I’m pretty sure quite a few people must have been shocked by now.
Ella Brightside pointed out something really important on this subject:
“In RL, I just noticed a pattern this past weekend. I was getting ready to go to a cocktail party on Friday. I often will put on a sexy dress at home, feel wonderful in it, but ultimately decide to change into something less overtly sexy before leaving for fear that I’ll be judged as ‘not serious’ or ‘trashy’ or something of that sort. It feels socially unsafe to show myself fully in public. It could be just me, but since I’ve had the ‘is this too short/tight/revealing’ conversation with many a girlfriend prior to going out, I’m thinking it’s not likely an isolated issue of mine.”
It’s not an isolated issue at all. This “is this too short / tight / revealing” conversation is one I’ve initiated with my RL fiancé numerous times, even back in those carefree days when we were dating; I was anxious about whether my clothes would be appropriate for the occasion. Ella also asks a very important question: “Why are we hiding our beauty? Our gorgeousness? Our femininity?”
Society teaches us to censor and de-sexualise ourselves in order to be “acceptable”. Merely being a woman is a sin. We’re taught to cover up (i.e. hide our gender and nature) to be “taken seriously” and avoid getting raped. Tertullian‘s misogynist rant in De Cultu Feminarum, section I.I, part 2 still informs Western thinking (and don’t even get me started on the other two Abrahamic religions):
“Do you not know that you are Eve? The judgment of God upon this sex lives on in this age; therefore, necessarily the guilt should live on also. You are the gateway of the devil; you are the one who unseals the curse of that tree, and you are the first one to turn your back on the divine law; you are the one who persuaded him whom the devil was not capable of corrupting; you easily destroyed the image of God, Adam. Because of what you deserve, that is, death, even the Son of God had to die.” (trans. C.W. Marx)
I am not going to get into theological debates as to whether Tertullian’s rant is heretical and blasphemous or not, as he essentially invalidates the Redemption that was granted to humankind by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. This demonisation of women (which goes way back to the beginnings of patriarchal societies; Tertullian isn’t original here at all) has led us to the rape culture. In order to survive in this “culture”, we’re required to hide ourselves, to deny our beauty, our existence, our thoughts, our desires, our needs.
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