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Friday, December 1, 2017

Can You be Raped in Second Life?

Every now and again, this question comes up.  For example, there's a thread with exactly that title on the SL Answers forum, Can You be Raped in Second Life .

In a similar vein, another resident started a very long forum debate about whether LL should continue to allow very violent and explicit activities.  She was specifically concerned about a group whose purpose is to roleplay "snuff" sex, scenarios in which a victim is slowly killed during the act of sex.

There are a number of very dark scenarios that can be played out in SL.  Slavery, rape, murder, kidnapping and torture, involuntary body alteration, even Dolcett (an innocuous term for the rather horrid practice of sexual cannibalism.) 

But the only form of kink that LL explicitly forbids is "sexual ageplay," situations in which an adult avatar has cyber sex with a child avatar, or an avatar with a childlike appearance and manner.

There are two schools of thought in any debate on these matters.  One school says, "It's only pixels on a screen.  It's roleplay.  People can use it to explore their darker sides without harming anyone, so maybe it's even beneficial."  In short, they are on the side of maximum freedom of expression for everyone.

The other school of thought says, "It's like a gateway drug.  Repeated exposure to horrors makes us indifferent, when we should be outraged.  Those who indulge in such things on screen may go on to commit actual crimes in Real Life."  They are in favor of establishing some sort of moral code, and not permitting behavior that violates those moral principles.

Early in my Second Life, I was "raped."  I had just discovered how to edit attachments, and I was standing on a pose stand in a public location, making some tweaks to my jewelry.  Suddenly, another avatar jumped on my back and started humping me, all the while whispering filthy statements in my ear.  I was paralyzed with fright...what was going on!?  After a short time, he jumped off and disappeared.  I finally remembered to log off, and I shook for what seemed like about an hour afterwards.  Of course, it was only pixels on a screen.  There was no physical harm done.  Nevertheless, I felt violated.  I felt shame, and helpless anger.

Whether or not you see a situation as "just pixels on a screen" or it arouses deep feelings in you depends on your sense of "immersion."  Immersion is the term we use to describe the feeling that many people get in virtual worlds like SL, a sense that you are really there, that you ARE your avatar.  Gamers, for example, while they may be intensely concentrating on game play, are generally not immersed.  If their character "dies," they don't feel devastated...just a bit frustrated at the need to go back and re-do that level again.  On the other hand, when I was "raped" I was immersed.  It produced a real reaction...not as strong as if I had been raped in Real Life, but still.

Experienced Second Life residents develop an ability to turn this sense of immersion on or off at will.  If they are in a romantic situation with a partner, immersion is good; in fact, it's the thing that makes cyber-sex so popular.  If they're dealing with a griefer attack, they un-immerse; they stand back a bit emotionally and deal with the situation.

So yes...in a sense, you CAN be raped in Second Life.  You can be affected emotionally by things that happen to you in a virtual world, at least until you develop the ability to separate yourself, to step away from what is happening and remember that "you" are not really there, you're sitting behind your monitor in your room.

Does that mean that we should prohibit rape roleplay, or any of the other kinks I mentioned at the start of this post?  I don't have the answer to that.  It must be one which we, as a society, reach by consensus.  Generally, I am in favor of the most freedom for the greatest number of people, so I would probably say, "no, we should allow it" even if some of those activities disgust me.  But those who argue that such things desensitize us, or make it more likely the participants will go on to even worse things also may have a point.  The most I can say now is, if everyone would work harder on developing their own better natures and wrestling their own inner demons into submission, we'd all probably be better off.

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