A few thoughts on the divorce of SL’s sex trade from SL’s fashion world

When I first joined Second Life, way back in 2006, I was one of the many people who earned their Lindens in SL’s then-flourishing sex trade – this is something I freely and readily admit. In the era of system layer clothing, prim shoes, and prim hair, many people who later went on to become major or minor SL fashionistas frequented establishments like the ones I was working at and inquired about our garments and accessories, from shoes to collars and from hair to clothing.

As always, click on the image for the full-size version (opens in new tab).

Then came the era of sculpties, with Stiletto Moody and N-Core ruling the roost w.r.t. heels, and then came rigged mesh. Although I had all but lost interest in SL’s sex trade, I still had friends in the scene and sometimes visited them at work. Problem is, I had already pretty much abandoned system layer clothing and switched to mesh. And many of those establishments had a guideline for escorts and patrons to not wear mesh garments, because some people “couldn’t see mesh” or were seriously lagged down by it. While the latter was true in crowded areas, the former I found ridiculous. Since you’re supposed to be running a current viewer that supports mesh, why are you telling me you “can’t see mesh”?

It turned out that many of those people, including the hosts/hostesses themselves, consciously opted to run SL on very old machinery that was barely running. So, the girls who were working in those places had to conform to a lowest common denominator. As I write these lines, one of my old friends who manages such an establishment still wears system layer clothing, prim hair, and sculpted shoes with invisiprims and no alpha layers; of course, she never uses a mesh body. She insists that she has clients who “can’t see mesh”, even though this is an obvious factual error, as no viewer that is so obsolete can now access the grid. But still…

Furthermore, the lack of mainstream interest in the more specialised outfits strippers need to wear (schoolgirl, diner waitress, French maid etc) means that properly designed, fitted mesh garments are very thin on the ground – nowadays, many SL fashion designers’ output is informed by the BDSM scene. At best, you can find something that conforms to the now-obsolete standard sizing. At worst, you’re looking at going all the way back to 2007, with a crotch prim and a sculpty apron. All in the name of “reducing lag”, even though sculpts (for things like hair and shoes) are geometrically wasteful and actually a lot laggier than a good, clean mesh of the same shape.

It is quite clear that SL’s “mainstream” fashion world has moved on and left the sex trade far behind. Interestingly, many of the “mainstream” fashion brands actually make garments that wouldn’t look out of place in the best fetish photoshoots. But why has this happened?

First of all, it’s true that, thanks to a large number of factors, the RL and SL fashion industry is now influenced a lot by the clubwear and BDSM scenes in RL. So, SL’s RL-informed sex trade is no longer the driving force behind whatever innovation happens in SL’s fashion world.

Second, we must admit that crowded places in SL are laggy, because the way SL fashion designers texture their products is retarded, as they think it’s a good idea to stuff any given product with ten or twelve 1024×1024 textures, which quickly gobble up all the memory that the viewer reserves on your graphics card for textures (512MB if your GPU has less than 4GB of graphics RAM – and I’ve seen houses that have 600MB of textures on them without counting the furniture). And then your viewer starts barfing textures. And then you crash. Badly. I’ve said it numerous times, I’ll say it once again: Using 1024×1024 textures even for tiny little trinkets is retarded. And nowadays, clothing is typically no-mod, which means you can’t retexture it to customise or optimise it to cut down on lag – thanks to the prokanoid morons who have somehow convinced everyone that no-mod prevents copybotting, even though it doesn’t.

So, how do SL sex workers and sex club owners respond to this? They use mesh garments as sparingly as possible. Yeah, but sculpts are, as I said, laggier when it comes to geometry than mesh. Much laggier. And, texture-wise, they’re no lighter, either. But the people in the SL sex trade think they did the right thing in order to reduce lag, but this is a placebo, as it has – at best – no effect whatsoever on lag.

The result is that, in a misguided drive to cater for patrons with 15-year-old machines that can’t seriously run SL at all, SL’s sex trade has pretty much locked itself out of the fashion scene and has stayed firmly in a time capsule and acts as a memento from a bygone era of the metaverse, with the sex workers missing out on a lot of gorgeously-designed garments that would really work magnificently for their jobs. But we have to be fair: The SL fashion industry’s disregard for content optimisation is also to blame for this, as I’ve pointed out.

Can anything be done about it? Well… I honestly don’t think so. Despite the best efforts of some of the most knowledgeable bloggers and Lindens I know (such as Penny Patton), neither content creators nor users are willing to listen – they all believe that, since they are users, they know SL’s technical capabilities, requirements, and limitations better than the people who either make content for video games for a living or develop SL itself. Quite a delusion, actually.


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4 thoughts on “A few thoughts on the divorce of SL’s sex trade from SL’s fashion world

  1. Trends come and go in SL. Fashion bloggers (who drive the SL fashion industry) can take great-looking still photos, but they obviously don’t worry about mesh bodies and clothing contributing to general user lag. Users who frequent the more exclusive pay to join adult sims must either have fantastic computers or only care how they look to themselves, because when 20 or more folks decked out in the latest mesh show up for a dance, most of them look to me like body parts and pieces of clothing floating in the air. I can see mesh, but a crowded room full of people wearing mesh takes forever to load for me.

    I don’t know much about the SL sex industry, but I expect it may favor people with lower-end computers. People who can afford better equipment may be more likely to join the pay to join Adult groups, where virtual sex is recreational for both parties, rather than for sale, or they pay for other forms of online virtual sex which may be more satisfying than the clunky-looking SL looks from before the mesh era.

    I don’t see how anyone who looks at their screen would settle for the old standard bodies rather than beautiful mesh ones, but a combination of nice applier textures and carefully created mesh can make a really sexy outfit without lagging the hell out of people’s computers. Try on mesh demos. Then look at your avatar rendering cost before buying them. It seems to me that the owners of any busy sim or establishment could limit the ARC and scripts on their employees and their patrons, without having to restrict the use of mesh entirely.

  2. Truth be told, it is long gone the times when i visited any of those places where virtual sex is the main goal, but i went to see a live concert on one SM german club and most there where using mesh. I do think the lack of mesh use can also be that mesh is not free and most sex workers are newbies. At least on the XXX Sl movie scene, all adopted mesh asap.

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