Thoughts on Popularity, Maturity, & Porn in Second Life

New Gallifrey (adult)

The recent SL Drama disturbed a number of residents for a variety of reasons. One group, that was quite rightly offended in my opinion, were the owners of Adult regions which DO NOT contain content which could be considered porn, and don’t host extreme or violent sex.

While it’s true that if you want to display any or all of those three aspects of life you must have the Adult maturity rating, it does not follow that you will. People can decide to label their islands Adult for lots of reasons.

A search on the posts in this blog will show you that I often visit Adult sims – I never share locations that are pornographic and I won’t stay somewhere which allows/encourages/permits extreme or violent sex. A quick check of the sim’s rules (or even the region description) is usually enough to make up my mind.

New Gallifrey (adult)

Today’s location is, for example, rated Adult. New Gallifrey is a Time Lord role-playing destination which permits observers at ground level. If you’re not in the story you can’t venture above 500 m. It’s always possible that the Gallifreyans are having wild sci-fi orgies up there, but I didn’t get that impression. It was more that some of them also have their homes in the sky and would prefer not to be a tourist attraction.

There’s a lot of confusion about Maturity Ratings, in part because they aren’t overly detailed. I don’t think anybody wants to have the job of maintaining a comprehensive list in each category of what you can and cannot do.

Leading teams of Greeters at events has given me a bit of experience in trying to explain them in simple terms. With the caveat that things could have changed, let me give you a simplified overview.

New Gallifrey (adult)

If you land on a region which is rated General, do not expect to see or hear anything that a Southern Baptist wouldn’t say or do in front of their grandmother. 17 year olds can access these sims and you don’t want to be responsible for a lawsuit against Linden Lab because some preacher’s daughter saw a nipple or heard a swear word.

It’s a surprise to many that nudity is actually allowed on a Moderate sim – although owners don’t have to permit it, they can. Think about Burn2 – there’s often nudity at that event and yet the regions are Moderate. You can have stores with sexy clothes, clubs with strippers, and even arty pics. The fact that it is allowed does not mean you are expected to disrobe.

What you cannot have is photo-realistic nudity, sex in public (or even the back rooms of clubs), or pokey-bits. In other words – nothing erect.

Adult sims can host pretty much anything (there are still Community rules against child sex play etc.,). This does not mean that they do. Just because you see this maturity rating do not assume (as Hamlet does) that the location is “pornographic”.

New Gallifrey (adult)

Way back in the dim distant past, when I bought my first 69 sq m of land, I was surround by billboards advertising hard-core sex clubs. A big one flashed a giant vajayjay at me everytime I looked in that direction.

The creation of the Zindra continent meant that it was the only area of mainland where Adult content was allowed. My view improved markedly. :)

Note that allowed does not mean mandatory (even on Zindra). If you do have Adult content, it does not automatically mean it’s pornographic. Sex exists in Second Life. Fact. Having a popular Adult sim does not make it pornographic. That is also a fact.

As a last note, – Grizzly Silversmith made a very good point in a recent podcast. Translate “the most popular regions in Second Life” to the notion of “the most populated areas in real life”. Now try telling somebody that all of the UK is like London. No?  How about New York and California tell you everything you need to know about the United States?

The idea that you can extrapolate the essence of Second Life based on a list of popular sims is just plain wrong. Not understanding the difference between porn permitted and porn required, not checking to see if popularity is based on bots, or if porn is present, well all of that is a journalistic fail. :)

New Gallifrey (adult)

Living in a Second Life Bowl full of Perverted Monkey Sex

Life in a Bowl by Cica Ghost (moderate)

Cica Ghost’s latest beautiful creation is Life in a Bowl. Residents of a tropical island have placed sea creatures in giant aquariums – within sight of the ocean, which seems unnecessarily rude.

The good news for them is that the build is temporary and I’m sure they’ll be released back into the wild soon. I hope!

OK I’m going to stick my nose partway into the latest SL drama. One aspect of it has, over the years, made me very curious.

It all started when Eric Grundhauser wrote a wonderful article about Second Life on Atlas Obscura. He expected “to find a dying world of outsiders and bronies gleefully recreating pornographic impossibilities”. What he found instead, thanks to the guidance of Ziki Questi, was “a fascinating and vital world that is constantly changing and pushing the boundaries of what a virtual space can be”.

Life in a Bowl by Cica Ghost (moderate)

You’d think this would be a cause for universal celebration, wouldn’t you? A writer who finally saw what we see and didn’t let the usual rumours or preconceptions blind him to what’s on the grid. Not so much.

I’ve often thought that if we had ever started a drinking game which required us to down a shot every time Hamlet said Second Life is Dying – we’d all have cirrhosis of the liver. Well he did it again – in response to the aforementioned article he wrote (and has since edited) that it was just Ziki’s expert and tightly controlled guidance which gave the author a distorted picture of our reality.

His proof, which he uses frequently, is that the most popular locations inworld are “pornographic”. By this he means that they are rated Adult and that translates to “extreme sexual and violent content”.

Life in a Bowl by Cica Ghost (moderate)

I don’t think anybody will dispute that there’s sex in Second Life. Some of it is extreme, and disturbing, and violent. This is also true for real life. I know it’s hard for some people to accept, but there’s sex in San Francisco too. In fact, pretty much everywhere in the world.

However, much like the real world, we don’t see it unless we want to. Which brings me to that list of the most popular sims on the grid.

In my experience, and of course I am not nearly as knowledgeable about these things as Hamlet, just labelling a sim Adult does not make it pornographic. However, if perversion is the primary focus of our world, and those are the destinations with the most visitors, I thought I should go see what I’ve been missing out on.

Life in a Bowl by Cica Ghost (moderate)

I used the list he posted yesterday. The first location had no porn, and none of the bots I encountered (62 of them) were having wild monkey sex. If anybody had been acting perverted and weird, those bots would have been like the fish in Cica’s landscape – unable to do anything but look on in envy.

I went to a few places and I am sorry to report I saw no porn, no sex, no ugly underbelly of the virtual. (I don’t count nude volleyball as porn btw.) All of that exists of course – it’s just not proven that SL is first and foremost a place for “outsiders and bronies” by the maturity rating of the most popular sims.

I’m sure Hamlet has much more experience with perversion than I do. However, if he got out of his SL bed (or dungeon) and actually explored a bit more, we might not have to buy yet another round of Tequila shots. He should really pay the bar tab.

Life in a Bowl by Cica Ghost (moderate)

Thoughts from Second Life on White Privilege, Shame & Responsiblity

France Portnawak (moderate)

Every now and then I write about issues unrelated to the escape that is Second Life. Forgive me, today is one of those days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about White Privilege for a while now, and it’s time for me to try to articulate a few conclusions. What I keep forcing myself to acknowledge is that privilege comes with responsibilities – and I’ve been ignoring them.

Now, I don’t have any secret sources of information, or special analytical abilities, or a magic wand. I also don’t hold myself solely accountable for the state of the world – being white in today’s society breeds arrogance, but I haven’t lost all reason.

I do have a voice though – one of the many things White Privilege (among other advantages) gives me. So I’m going to speak my thoughts as they stand today.

France Portnawak (moderate)

You know what White Privilege doesn’t give me? The ability to truly understand much of the world.

I don’t have the experience of an Indigenous Woman in Canada – knowing, as she does, that she can be beaten, raped, and murdered and her fate will be ignored by all but those who loved her.

It doesn’t give me an understanding of what it must be like to be a young black man in America – knowing that you can be shot in the back for pretty much any reason. From the outside it looks like hunting season is open and you’re the prey. I doubt you were asked for your agreement to that though.

I don’t have the visceral sense of fear and desperation felt by those willing to gamble their lives by trying to escape hell on a small boat, operated by the dregs of humanity, aiming for shores filled with people who don’t care and don’t want you.

France Portnawak (moderate)

White Privilege comes with a cellophane wrapped basket of cringe-worthy attributes that, unfortunately, many of us insist on exercising as rights.

One of the most obvious is the need to tell other people how to fix their problems – problems we haven’t experienced, don’t comprehend and, in far too many cases, have at best enabled. (At worst? We created the situation.)

We can’t get our own sh*t together. How very patronizing of us to calmly explain to everybody else what they should be doing. This is particularly unhelpful when we’re just trying to prevent their problems from impacting us.

France Portnawak (moderate)

There is one responsibility of White Privilege that I believe we have seriously neglected. This would be holding the pasty-faced, entitled individuals we choose to be our standard bearers (and de facto spokespeople) to account.

This would include; a Government Minister or RCMP Commissioner announcing that most Aboriginal Women are murdered by “their own people” (to which the sane response is “So? Their lives matter no matter who takes them.”); talking heads who state “they understand the problem” of inner city residents because they’ve seen it from a train; media outlets who not only allow people to exercise their right to free speech but actually pay them to be loathsome; and every white official, police or government spokesman, rich person, supposed journalist, or academic who points fingers and escapes any blame.

Personally, every time one of these racist, sexist, infernally oblivious @ssholes opens his or her mouth, I’m ashamed. They shame me.

It gets worse when one of them says that “these people” need to take responsibility for themselves. It reminds me that we white people are responsible for the idiots speaking.

France Portnawak (moderate)

I can’t offer anything to the people whose experiences I don’t understand. What can I do is tell the people who represent my race that they’re screwing things up and I won’t take it any more.

It’s time for them to understand they have these positions and power only partly because of the colour of their skin. They hold those positions and power because the rest of us white folk allow them to stand up there and act on our behalf. We can decide to withdraw our support.

If our silence makes us complicit (and it does) then it’s time to speak up. We have the responsibility to call them out when they represent us in a way we don’t condone.

This is my message to them. Stop shaming the rest of us. Stop being a dick. If you can’t get your head out of your @ss long enough to recognize that there’s a problem with you (or us), we’ll replace you with somebody who can. It’s time the world started changing for the better and being white doesn’t mean I should stand for anything less.

France Portnawak (moderate)
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