Sunday, 22 August 2010

Does using Second Life for cybersex make you gay?


I am not the first to point out that it is simply not possible that there are so many female to male users in Second Life. The great urban legend is that all the girls in the sex SIMs are really guys. Well given the technical demands of Second Life and the general male culture of the geek world, it seems strange that so many "women" seem to be playing.

Amanda Grainger noted
A few minutes of game play will indicate that many gamers choose female
characters. Female avatars are everywhere. They roam the stores, decorate the
houses, strip in the nightclubs and are available for sex. Second Life’s
self-reported statistics reveal that 58% of Second Life players are male
(Linden). Since a majority of gamers are men, the prominence of female avatars
suggests that the purpose of the female player is centered around the male gaze.

Crossing Gender Lines? Second Life’s Replica of Reality

That is fancy feminist talk for "many of the guys are getting off watching their female avatars get screwed."

Bringing this issue up often makes openly male and openly heterosexual players a bit uncomfortable. The issue of being deceived in to a male on male virtual relationship that would make one gay without knowing it often hangs in the air. People generally don't like to talk about it.

Now personally I find all of this a bit silly. Second Life is not real, its fantasy. Cybersex is not like sex, its like pornography. And the fact that a pornographic movie might be written, directed, filmed, produced, edited and distributed by men with a female actor simply playing the part of pawns or "avatars" does not distract from our sexual pleasure in watching the porn or make us "gay". Maybe in some feminist analysis of pornography it can be seen as sexual exchanges between men using women as tokens, and I can see the point to this. But that does not mean that a man who watches porn is going to start singing show tunes.

Second Life is not some cyberspace in which people assume virtual bodies and carry on like in real reality: Second Life is a place of fantasy production and collaboration. Two men might work together to produce a sexual scene involving a male an female avatar that they both find pleasing. Its more like staging a play or movie with puppets than actually "being there"

For me the issue is not really around sexual usage or deception as much as simple trust. I give my real name and a real life photo of myself on my Second Life profile. The photo is me, though not the least flattering photo I have. People can follow my SL name and easily find who I am in reality. I fail to see the point of having a community of deception. I think this is more the problem, the total lack of real trust that is so built in to Second Life it is almost an ethic. Providing RL information about yourself in SL is so uncommon it is almost viewed as kind of perverted by the community.

Now I love privacy, and if people want to come in SL with their identities hidden sometimes fine, ALTs can be fun. But what troubles me is that you almost never know anything about anyone you contact in Second Life. Almost every 1st Life tab has no picture and a short text saying "you will not know anything". A degree of privacy is fine, but a community where everyone is hiding all details of their identity can not foster the necessary trust to evolve. I think this has a lot to do with the observed flakiness of SL, with people coming and going so fast its impossible to form stable relationships or earn long lasting trust. Avatars in Second Life are just ghosts or drawings, don't mistake them for people unless they act like people in RL.

Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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