Time to stop bashing Second Life for its sexual side

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.

Showing myself in such an openly sexual manner, in a clearly fetishistic mode of (un)dress is generally not advised, if my writings are to be taken seriously by the mainstream crowd.

Showing myself in such an openly sexual manner, in a clearly fetishistic mode of (un)dress is generally not advised, if my writings are to be taken seriously by the mainstream crowd. As always, click on the image for the full-size version.

<i>Do SL marketing campaigns like this detract from its appeal to "serious users"?

Do SL marketing campaigns like this detract from its appeal to “serious users”?

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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8 thoughts on “Time to stop bashing Second Life for its sexual side

  1. BRAVO, BRAVO, Mona! The image is exhilaratingly erotic & beautiful. Great, great, great!
    ‘Itocracy’ (lateral social networking, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxr2YVzXnSg ) is, more & more happily bypassing all the traditional authoritarian top-down structural domination by..
    – governments (starting with arab spring and Occupy)
    – corporations (online shared reviews reputational ‘correction’, direct buying from source, all competitive)
    – religions (don’t ask the priest, ask your friends and browse opinions)
    Part of the ‘religious authoritarian’ collapse is the online freedom of sexuality, where humanity is enjoying exploration of every imaginable kind of sexual behaviour, often with zero intervention by ‘authorities’. Obviously some of that damages some of the vulnerable population, (‘same as when phone arrived, people used telephones to assist crime) but in general it’s a huge liberation away from thousands-of-years rules made out-of-date by the new personally-known realities of fertility control economics, disease awareness.
    Observing all this in terms of VR and SecondLife (the very forefront of the exploration) I’m fascinated to watch the unfolding of understanding of sexuality. ‘Seems to me that in general, we’re just not going to be as enslaved by our sexuality as we always have been. We’ll enjoy it more freely, reduce the mania about it, be able to be objective about what it is, get on with the rest of our lives more contentedly.
    Bruce Thomson in New Zealand (Bruce Thymus in SL).

  2. ~as ye harm none do what ye will~

    no STDs no unwanted pregnancies & no unwilling rape

    no drunken driving ~ reduced carbon footprint from dancing in a digital club rather than driving to a rl club ~ it’s all good & who cares about the censure of superstitious guilt trippin assholes anyway ??

  3. It has come to my attention that several people keep repeating the “SL must go mainstream, so it must not advertise the fact it lends itself to sexual expression, because it won’t bring the ‘mainstream’ audience” argumentation.

    This argumentation is invalid. First of all, as I’ve explained before, neither SL nor other virtual worlds need to become “mainstream”; it can survive and thrive just fine as a niche product. The “mainstream” card is typically played by people like Philip Rosedale who are trying to lure venture capitalists in. Venture capitalists don’t want to invest in niche products; they want something BIG, with more customers than the Earth has humans, ready to pay through the nose so that the venture capitalist will make a ridiculous amount of money and move on to the next gamble.

    Furthermore… Catering to the “mainstream”, “middle-of-the-road” audience has never allowed anyone to progress, politically, artistically, technically or technologically. The mainstream is conservative to the extreme, terrifyingly phobic and always ready to support the worst actions if the perpetrators present them in a way that addresses the mainstream person’s inner coward and bigot: from the Crusades and the Witch-hunts of the Dung Ages to Hitler, from the persecution of the suffragettes to nazi Golden Dawn’s modern (and blessed by the “mainstream” parties and media) pogroms in Athens, it was the mainstream that eagerly followed and gave its blessing.

    Ironically, there’s nothing more “mainstream” right now than Facebook. A company that banned pictures of breastfeeding, but is traditionally terribly slow to block racists’ profiles. A company that conducts the most unethical psychological experiments on its platform’s users.

    And we’re being told that LL shouldn’t advertise SL’s suitability for sexual expression, because it’ll scare away the “mainstream”. The “mainstream” audience, let me remind everyone, uses Facebook. Do you know what Facebook is to its users? A meat market. A place where they seek S-E-X. So, maybe we should turn the hypocrisy down a bit…

  4. Well first of all, when i look at the ad with the 3 persons in swimwear, i have hard time to relate this to an incentement to have virtual sex. If all the ppl hanging out wearing swimwear on a beach must be blamed, so, i think there will be a lot of turists in summer that would be ashamed.
    The text says “make new friends all around the world. Play now”. Where is the incitement for having sex here ?
    Everything we read, we read it with the filter of our culture, eductation, our likes, and so with our mind. I am sorry but i dont see any incitement for sex in this ad.
    I see something that doesnt push ppl for intellectual activities, indeed, but there is a difference between having a lazy activity on a beach, or club, with friends and diving into hard sex.
    Of course, maybe ppl should prefer intellectual activities, serious activities, indeed. But well to each their own and if some ppl prefer not use their brain and only enjoy their life with fun, its up to them. There is nothing to blame here.
    Its about tolerance. Its about accepting other ppl think different then us. Its about aknowleging that we dont own the “unique” good way of thinking. It’s about accepting ppl have different choice. And as long noone tries to force us to make the same choices, as long as ours are respected, its ok.
    And you are totally right, Mona, when you talk about hypocrisy. There is some kind of prude mindset coming from US (speaking of a general mindset, at least how we percieve it from the outside by what US medias show, nothing against US ppl, here, ) but when its about to behave, its another story. Showing that finally, there is an ocean between how national politics and medias want to show their country and how the population think really.

    Secondly, “your world, your imagination”. Your sl is how you build it.
    After having explored deeply the sexual side of SL (and intensively, lol) at my first monthes, i found myself with no longer interest for this kind of things. There is more than 4 years now that i dont even see there is sex in sl. I choose the places i visit, i choose my friends. Noone, or nothing never forced me to see the sex in sl, and honnestly i most of the time forget there is sex in sl. If you dont want to see it, you can not see it. Simple. Of course, if you keep going to escort clubs that will be a hard challenge indeed.
    Yes, i see sometimes pics in the feed. I scroll down. Bet i reach to forget them 1 minute after.
    Yes, they appears sometimes in the search… among tons of other results that are not sexual. Will i throw a baby tantrum bec i saw 2 sex clubs in the list of my results ? NO
    Your SL is what you make it. Think about it.
    As long as noone forces me to do things i dont like, other ppl can do whatever they want. I really dont mind. there is room for everyone. Its all about tolerance, and open mindset.

    Thirdly, i am far annoyed by the bad and horrible taste still existing in SL, You know… those horrible stretch textures, horrible building, horrible clothes, looking like they have been done 20 years ago. Here again, i can ignore them, bec i rarely meet then because i choose the place i visit. But sometimes, they hit my eyes, and its really but really more annoying than when virtual sex hit my eyes.
    And how disapointing, when i saw some of those horrible textures at SL11B. That has been enough for end there my visit and didnt come back. This was meant to show the future of SL but if this kind of texture will still be part of sl in the future, i just want to cry.
    Instead of worrying about the disgrace of having sexual activities in this virtual world, LL should more worry about eradicate all those horrible contents. Worry about educate ppl to good taste from their first day, making arrival arrea built with more good taste, filling the library with better items and toss onto the garbage heap of history those horrible old things (not saying all old things are bad. But they should worry about the bad made ones). Taste is subjective, i know. But i have hard time, everytime i see one of those stretched texture to figure how can someone find this nice. Taste is also a matter of education. It took me long monthes to find that in SL there was better than what i saw at first. Why not display things done with better skills and better taste at the start ? why keeping the new avatars in this horrible environnement (arrival arreas, huge malls with freebies, sandboxes etc) Why are those place finally the best placed in the search ? How is it that when a new avatar arrives in SL they forcelly end up in those places (no surprise if a lot never stay long in SL) ? Its seems that refinement is something that has forcelly to end up at the bottom of the search. While there are tons of awesomely beautiful place existing in SL !

    So well, to finish. Sex is part of life. Real life. I dont see why this should be hide in a second life. I have no problem saying to rl ppl im creator in SL. I mention, there is sex in SL (intelligent ppl know that sex is not baaad, its part of life) and that there are also tons of other sides in SL. And even if ppl wants to think im doing sex in SL i really dont mind, There is nothing wrong with doing virtual sex first. And second i dont feel “guilty” for things i dont do even if ppl think i do.
    (and sorry for my long comment lol)

  5. You blogged a mouthful! Women are usually maligned for their sexual side – mostly by other women. SL is supposed to be FUN. If you can’t come here and do what you want – be it sexual, vegetable, or mineral then why the hell be here? Don’t we have enough restrictions placed on us in RL? Sexuality is a wonderful part of the human bean and I choose not to be a tight ass 😀

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