A few days ago, I narrated (and explained) in as much detail as is reasonable my background as a latex fetishist. For most of my existence in SL, this fetish of mine was not prominent; it was something reserved only for my “private time” and I had not yet allowed it to become a dominant characteristic that would define my identity, even though I actually wanted to. There were various reasons for this; some had to do with my own consumerism and some had to do with my own fear of others’ attitudes towards “taboo” topics, such as fetishistic attire, even if such attire is often shown prominently in today’s mainstream pop culture (such as the ballet heels featured in the video of the White Stripes’ song “Blue Orchid“, or the combination of latex and ballet heels worn by Beyoncé and her accompanying dancers in the video for “Green Light“, or the combination of ballet heels and a gothic-style outfit worn by P!nk in the video of her song “U + Ur Hand“).
The occasional “let’s go clubbing” latex catsuit was something I’d often wear on a night out in Second Life, but, although it did go someway towards suggesting a side of me that I wanted to express by being here in SL, and I would occasionally wear the almost “standard issue” combination of ER Fetish Doll Hood, a set of ER single- or double-tail hair, a catsuit bought either from ER or from powers of creation, a waist corset from Salid Sewell’s *KaS* store, along with her ballet boots (all of them excellent products, but their immense popularity and the fact that this combination is practically the “default” outfit for any SL latex fetishist has disenchanted me a bit, as it is now almost a uniform), but I had never seriously played with the idea of being 24/7 in latex. I knew, of course, that there were (and are) people whose only sort of SL attire is a full-body encasement in latex and ballet heels, but I was also fully aware of the fact that many of these people were living pretty much in a “cut-down” version of SL; they did very little exploring, didn’t go to happenings outside the BDSM/latex realm, avoided visiting places that were not specifically made for people who shared similar desires, and also oftentimes had very few, if any, friends outside SL’s BDSM community. The people I’m talking about avoided going to places that were not openly and explicitly specified as BDSM/latex/fetish-friendly places, simply because they didn’t want to be a nuisance to the “vanilla” crowd.
The hypocrisy of tolerance
This, of course, brings us to the “virtue” called tolerance, a “virtue” that is celebrated so much here in SL and touted as one of its community’s main qualities. I’m putting the word “virtue” in quotes simply because I don’t think that what it represents is a virtue; tolerance, at least in the sense in which it is understood and expressed by the majority of people, does not promote the understanding of others and coexistence with them. Before the refugee crisis, during which he started expressing misanthropic views about people less fortunate than him, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek (“the most dangerous philosopher in the West”) hit the nail on the head in an interview featured in Megan Erickson’s article “Why Tolerance Is Not a Virtue“. In his article “Tolerance as an Ideological Category“, Žižek points out that tolerance, which is basically the “if you stay in your own little world, away from my own little world and don’t even think of getting close to me or expressing yourself and/or your concerns, I’ll consider not attacking you, at least openly” mentality (that’s how I’m summing “tolerance” up and how a true, accurate dictionary should define it), is always promoted as the panacea and universal cure for everything that’s wrong in the world; not emancipation, not political struggle, no interaction at all – in the (neo)liberal mindset, political struggle can lead to armed struggle and violence is wrong (unless this violence is perpetrated by far-right thugs and racist vigilantes or by ridiculously heavily armed riot cops wielding weapons that they wouldn’t be allowed to use in a war).
Tolerance is a post-political ersatz and is promoted as an end. Do you know why? Because the cult of tolerance basically propagandizes the rejection of politics as a domain in which conflict, contrast, disagreement and discourse can be used productively:
The retreat from more substantive visions of justice heralded by the promulgation of tolerance today is part of a more general depoliticization of citizenship and power and retreat from political life itself. The cultivation of tolerance as a political end implicitly constitutes a rejection of politics as a domain in which conflict can be productively articulated and addressed, a domain in which citizens can be transformed by their participation. — Slavoj Žižek, “Tolerance as an Ideological Category“
Says Žižek: “Did you notice how almost automatically we tend to translate issues of sexism, racism or ethnic violence, whatever, into the terms of tolerance?” Recently, the SL part of the “One Billion Rising” campaign was slagged off by a misogynist (and, quite possibly, pro-rape, if I judge from his vehemently anti-women comments, according to which women have “reptile brains”) troll on someone’s feed, as a campaign that “condones violence against men”, “tries to take away scarce resources from appropriate areas of concern and tries to allocate them to inappropriate areas of concern”, “removes people’s attention from the fact that more men are likely to be victims of violence and rape than women” (sic), draws attention to a “fictitious drama” (that’s how he sees rape) brought up by “hysterical feminazis” etc. This “man” also went on to insult every woman he found on that person’s feed. Yet, the owner of the feed (a woman who is a friend of this “man” and should be ashamed of herself, if she has any trace element of dignity, which I highly doubt after that debacle) had the nerve to (a) give the women who were the targets of the misogynist troll a lecture for being insulted and not letting his flames and insulting spam, (b) tell us to tolerate the sexist bastard.
Here is a prime example of why tolerance is not a virtue: Women who support an anti-rape campaign are being lectured to tolerate a sexist moron who tries to sabotage and trash the campaign.
I’m going to give the true definition of tolerance once again:
Tolerance: A mentality that makes someone say “if you stay in your own little world, away from my own little world and don’t even think of getting close to me or expressing yourself and/or your concerns, I’ll consider not attacking you, at least openly.”
The misogynist’s attack on the “One Billion Rising” campaign was a clear example of tolerance according to the definition above: Women dared to express their concerns, so he had to attack them, their campaign, their cause and their right to not be brutalized and raped, their right to dignity, their right to not be discriminated against because of their gender (because rape, a crime whose victims are predominantly women and girls, is a product and an expression of sexual discrimination). Had we remained silent, had we “minded our own business” after the barbaric, brutal, cowardly and hideous gang rape and murder of that 23-year-old girl in India, had we considered this incident to be “normal”, he would have been nice to us.
And yes, we were chastised for not “tolerating” this person who “has a family in RL, a daughter, a son” and is such a “fine man” (who is so pathetic that he puts “Love” – my.secondlife.com’s equivalent for Facebook’s “Like” button – on his own comments).
Tolerance and latex fetishism
Despite the fact that its active population is rather limited compared to platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, SL is pretty diverse in the communities that have found a home in it: Tiny, Gorean, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Furry, you name it. One of these communities is the one consisting of latex fetishists. Out there, in the open, you can very easily see tinies, goreans, steampunks, furries etc, even robots, walking around, shopping, going places, always in their chosen personas – but where’s the latex crowd?
It’s… “tolerated”. You’ll see them in their own sims and regions, but not so often in other parts of the grid, for fear of the “tolerant” others who have an itchy AR finger. I’m not saying it should be A-OK for latex-encased female avatars to show latex nipples or chastity belts or sexual attachments in public in “Moderate” regions, even though it’s not uncommon for female avatars to reveal a lot of skin (for instance, by wearing completely transparent clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination) in such regions. What I’m saying is that, because they’re tolerated (in the sense I mentioned earlier), they feel intimidated into secluding themselves in regions and establishments that are made specifically for them.
This is what had made me avoid adopting a latex life form persona for so long. Eventually, there were certain blog posts that inspired me to take the plunge. I’m not going to get into technical details here; I believe that anyone with a working knowledge of working with individual prims within a linkset and texturing individual prims’ faces should be able to create their own unique latex look. What I will examine is what happened afterwards: after I encased myself in latex, decided to be 24/7 like this and came out to those I knew here in SL.
Last November, I had blogged about what I had experienced as a result of my coming out as a latex fetishist. As early as then, I had noticed that, for some people, I had become a pariah; a weirdo; a creep. Never mind that I was the same person they knew in their social circle; never mind that I had tipped them generously at the clubs where they danced and/or DJ’ed (I want my money back, by the way). For them I had become an outcast, even though I wasn’t swinging a penis at others or revealing skin. Even acquaintances (I can’t call them friends, because we rarely spoke, and it was always initiated by me, not them) that had all but forgotten me, when they saw I was encased in latex, considered it to be their duty to lecture me on my desires, my attire and everything – they practically came out of nowhere, out of the blue.
Suddenly, for some I was the “pervert” – at worst. The “weirdo” – at best. Suddenly, the fact that they were OK with having friends who had openly expressed (much to my chagrin) the desire to have sex with animals (in RL) and were even into sexual ageplay (for crying out loud) became a non-issue; my own fetish, which involves only consenting adult humans practicing the well-regarded and accepted SSC and RACK principles [both of which require that all parties involved are (a) humans, (b) adults, (c) capable of consent, i.e. with an age at least equal to their jurisdiction’s age of consent, and mentally capable of making informed, educated decisions] was deemed worse than fetishes involving animals and/or rape (tentacle demons and tentacles in general), i.e. worse than fetishes revolving around purely non-consensual sex.
Even though I do not technically belong to a different race of the homo sapiens species (both in RL and SL I’m a Caucasian female), what I experienced since I decided to make my public appearance fully encased in latex was similar to the extremely interesting findings of Quark Static, a reader of Hamlet Au’s “New World Notes” blog (article by Hamlet Au: HERE, original comment: HERE), when he created two alts that portrayed humans of non-Caucasian races (one was black, the other was Asian) and shared his experiences in the form of a comment to the article titled “The Skin You’re In“, in which Hamlet Au documents what Erika Thereian experienced when she switched from her usual, blonde Caucasian avatar, to a very attractive African American one for three months.
Both Quark and Erika experienced prejudice – racial, in their case: Some of their friends shied away. Others treated their new selves (even if Quark hadn’t let others know that he was the operator of the black and Asian avatars) in a bigoted, racist manner. Some others were more subtle (and I think some dear friends of mine have dealt with this too): “[L]ike, when [are] you going back to being you?” – they either didn’t like the idea of hanging around with a black lady or they couldn’t accept their friend’s idea/desire to be a black woman for any period of time in SL. In my case (and in the case of some of my dearest friends), prejudice and discrimination had to do with sexual/sensual taboos. The roots may be different, but the fruits are the same: harsh, bigoted, rude treatment, as if the persons that received this sort of treatment had harmed others in any way.
It is appalling that as societies we haven’t really progressed: during the recent Olympics in London, “athlete” Voula Papachristou, girlfriend (or fianceé or whatever the hell) of “Greek” neo-nazi
thugMP Ilias Kasidiaris (and member of the neo-nazi party herself), was rushed back to Greece for a deeply racist comment she made on Twitter – one she deleted shortly afterwards). We like to boast about how “progressive” we are, yet we’re ready to reject our friends (some friends we are) on grounds of their race or their sexual desires, even if these desires are entirely harmless to others.
Is it all bad, then?
No. My experiences gave me an opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff; they gave me an opportunity to categorize (as harsh as it may sound) the people in my friends list in the following categories: (a) acquaintances, (b) friends, (c) close and dear friends, (d) trash. Thankfully, not many of the people in my friends list were bigots; most were quite accepting, understanding and even nurturing and empowering. This all gave me more strength to proceed and immerse myself deeper in SL, living out my fantasies and desires in a more effective and rewarding way, even if this way does not usually involve pixel sex; the mere visual aspect of it all, the mere fact that I can now see myself on the screen just the way I fantasize I could be in RL is worth it. What makes it even better is that I have now learnt:
- Which friends of mine are true friends
- How to better assess and evaluate friends and acquaintances
- To be more secure of myself, my choices, my desires and my ideas
These are all extremely valuable lessons and I’m glad I’ve learnt them. “No pain, no gain,” they say, if I’m not mistaken.
The good stuff
Like I said earlier, I now have a better circle of friends than before. Also, even though I no longer use an avatar that looks like my RL appearance, I feel more like myself; I identify with my avatar better, because it now reflects not (more or less) what I see in the mirror, but the way I see myself in my dreams, my daydreams, my fantasies, in the scenarios I often create in my mind and (sometimes, when I feel I’ve given them a coherent enough form) discuss with my RL fiance, in the little notes that I sometimes scribble on paper or begin typing in LibreOffice Writer and (usually) don’t finish. This, by itself, makes my SL experience far more rewarding than it used to be, as I’m now what I dream of being.
Furthermore, now that I feel my SL existence and experience is more rewarding than before, I feel more encouraged to engage in various creative projects I’ve thought up over the years; projects that I’d been putting on hold for far too long. One of them is this blog: even though I had started various (three, so far) SL blogs over the years, I had abandoned all of them pretty soon. The first one because I soon grew disenchanted with SL and closed my first account, the second one because its scope was far too narrow and what I was back then, along with my almost complete lack of interaction with the outside world because of what I was back then, didn’t provide me with enough material to write about… And the third one was an abortive attempt to become yet another SL blogger in a crowd that forms an over-saturated market. Third time’s a charm, they say – with me, the saying should be “fourth time’s a charm.”
Finally, I now have a much better social circle in the virtual world than I once used to – this is extremely important, as it encourages me to proceed with all that I want to be and do.
Now, I acknowledge the fact that some readers may feel a bit disappointed. “Where’s the sex?” they might ask. Well, although this blog does belong to a D/s practitioner who is also a latex fetishist, I never promised that it’d revolve around sex. It’s a personal blog, in which I write about my thoughts, experiences, desires, loves, ideas and projects. Romance, fantasies etc are part of my existence in SL – they don’t make up all of my existence. So, once again, no “hanky-panky” is yet to be found in my posts.
The bottom line
These four months had their ups and downs and they put me, my social relationships and friendships in SL, and even my determination, to a proper stress test (unlike the utterly pathetic “stress test” of European banks that too few – in Greece, the ones belonging to the biggest supporters of the German-owned “government” – failed; it’s a well-known fact that most European banks have been insolvent for years because of their reckless gambling). It wasn’t easy, and I did receive some stupid drama. But I pulled through, because I found out who my real friends are; I made new friends; I identified with my avatar more than before; I opened up to a new group of people that I’d heard of, but had been reluctant to approach until recently. And now I can engage in my SL activities in a more thorough manner, with greater determination and passion.
What would I say to someone who wants to be like me? Well, first of all, figure things out for yourself; decide what you want to be in SL. And be it (provided you’re not harming others). It’s your SL; it’s your ideas, your fantasies, your desires, your little dream world that you are trying to create. You will certainly encounter people who will treat you badly for what your avatar is. Don’t let them drag you down. Don’t let them dictate what you’ll be and what you want to be. They should mind their own business, instead of trying to run your SL. Will you lose friends? Well, you’ll lose “friends”. You’ll have to remove some people from your friends list. You’ll separate the wheat from the chaff, like I did. But, in the long run, it’s for the better, because you’ll end up feeling stronger, more accepted (by people who actually care about you and not about their idea of what you should be) and your existence in SL will eventually be a lot more fulfilling, empowering and rewarding. Remember, you’re here to live out your fantasies and develop and express your personality – no one else’s.
Mona (formerly slutrix)