Sex and Second Life

Here I am, dressed like a street prostitute with black and purple hair and a belly piercing, lying on my back on a table in front of a Latin American "baroque" building. I'm wearing a skimpy black bandeau top that exposes the bottom of my breasts, and a magenta skirt; the strap of my magenta undergarment rises above my skirt. My feet are adorned by magenta-coloured 8"-high exotic dancer shoes; at the bottom of my right calf, a "Queen of Spades" tattoo can be seen. On my right ankle, there are two ankles can be seen; the bottom one has the four letters of the word "SLUT" hanging from it.
Tulum Township, August 2021 (Rated: Adult)

This day marks a cumulative fifteen years in Second Life for me – around two years on my first account, and thirteen as Mona Eberhardt. However, my rezday isn’t the starting point for this post. I’m not interested in boring you with yet another “I’ve seen this development and the other in SL” retrospective. The main reason for the current post is my previous post, where I mentioned that I’ve spent a little over four of these years working in-world as an escort / exotic dancer. I think this is about as good a time as any to share my thoughts on that time in my SL.

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Here I am, dressed like a street prostitute with black and purple hair and a belly piercing, and leaning against a streetlight. I'm wearing a heavily cropped black tank top that exposes the bottom of my breasts, and a magenta skirt; the strap of my magenta undergarment rises above my skirt.
Tulum Township, August 2021 (Rated: Adult)

On both my first Second Life account and my current one, I worked quite a few years (October 2006 to June 2008, on my first account, and September 2008 to May 2011, on this one) as an escort and exotic dancer to cover my in-world expenses, or part of them. However, even in those early, heady years, an SL escort’s job wasn’t easy.

It’s always been a job that requires pretty serious role-playing and emoting skills, and substantial, regular investment in your appearance and equipment: clothes, shoes, skins, hair, accessories, sex-related avatar components (genitals, nipples, and the like). An escort needs to look the part, and sound (or read, if s/he prefers to avoid using voice chat) the part, if s/he wants to get hired.

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I’ll be blunt: The majority of the media coverage of Second Life has been sub-par for far too long. It’s been a combination of an overhyping and dismissal as a “failed project” rollercoaster, and gossipy sensationalism focusing on the virtual world’s sexual aspect in a scandal-mongering manner. Another problem with much of the coverage SL has seen in its eleven years of existence is the attitude of many journalists / pundits: they don’t let facts get in the way of their story.

Marlon McDonald
Marlon McDonald, prolific contributor for Moviepilot.com, wrote yet another scandal-mongering article on sex in Second Life.

One would probably expect something better after all these years. But, sadly, cut-throat clickbait competition for notoriety and / or ad-generated revenue makes the gossipy, sensationalist, scandal-mongering, stereotype-milking approach every bit as attractive for web-based outlets and columnists as it’s ever been for their “old media” counterparts. So, I’m not surprised to see the same old stories get regurgitated ad nauseam by pundits new and “established”. A recent example of such a pundit is Mr. Marlon McDonald, prolific contributor to Moviepilot.com. In his quest for page views and notoriety which will get him featured on the website’s homepage in his chosen category, he wrote yet another article (archived, as Moviepilot has bitten the dust long ago) in which he presented Second Life as little more than a cesspool of debauchery, pornography, virtual prostitution etc.

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The much-criticised "bikini babes" ad.

The much-criticised “bikini babes” ad.

In my previous posts (here and here), I discussed – belatedly, I admit – the “bikini babes” banner ad that was used by Linden Lab to promote Second Life. There has been much criticism and outcry from all kinds of sides, for all sorts of reasons.

On the academic front, Liz Falconer, professor of Technology Enhanced Learning and Director of the Education Innovation Centre at the University of the West of England (UWE), said that this sort of marketing plays to a stereotype (the young male gamer) that is not attractive to the academic world. For more details, please listen to the 15th installment of The Drax Files Radio Hour podcast, where she was interviewed along with Stylianos Mystakidis, e-learning manager at the Library and Information Centre of the University of Patras, Greece.

Jo Yardley pointed out (rightly) that this ad, by being a campaign on its own rather than part of a more inclusive campaign, gave a skewed and one-sided view of Second Life to the public at large. Others said that such ads present SL as a sex haven, which presents problems for other parts of its user base – for instance, it’s been claimed that, because of such marketing, users with child avatars are more vulnerable to being wrongly accused of being paedophiles. There are aspects of these criticisms that still need to be discussed, and I intend to draw upon a comment posted here by Trinity Yazimoto, and upon discussions I’ve had with various people since I posted my first post on Saturday. So, I’ll dwell on this matter a little bit more.

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In my previous post, I discussed an attitude that tends to portray Second Life as a whole in a negative manner simply because there is a strong sexual side to it – what I have called the “X-rated smear of Second Life“. In that post, I touched upon the general culture that lies behind this attitude and targets mostly women, aiming to control and censor them. Today, I’m going to turn my attention more to the proponents of the “let’s appeal to the mainstream” line of argumentation, through the academia and its attitude towards SL that is largely driven by the same factor.

The Drax Files Radio Hour, Show #15. Image courtesy of Draxtor Despres.

The Drax Files Radio Hour, Show #15. Image courtesy of Draxtor Despres.

In the wake of the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 2014 Conference, the 15th installment of The Drax Files Radio Hour podcast was dedicated to the usage of virtual worlds (and Second Life in particular) in education, and featured a joint interview with Liz Falconer, professor of Technology Enhanced Learning and Director of the Education Innovation Centre at the University of the West of England (UWE), and Stylianos Mystakidis, e-learning manager at the Library and Information Centre of the University of Patras, Greece. The interview provided some important insights for anyone interested in understanding the relationship of SL and virtual worlds in general with the educational sector.

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