Tuesday, April 28, 2009

blood makes noise, and I can't really hear you in the thickening of fear

Tateru Ninu goes more into the 'secret word list'...which is so very much not a secret at this point.

Though this is morbidly amusing at present.

We're going on another small journey today. You are free to wander on with whatever you're doing, rather than read from this point.


On page 230 (I'm starting to skim...honestly, my sprint ran out long ago, and my long-haul endurance reading is not getting me anywhere I need to be...I think it's just dogged stubbornness that keeps me pushing through this), Kator Bergson had a very very long post going over what he, personally, finds "beyond the pale". The first thing he listed?

Stepford. This is from their official rules handout:

You also agree that should any situation within Stepford take you out of your own personal comfort zone, become upsetting, or disturbing to you, then it is your responsibility alone to remove yourself from that situation - and you should either leave Stepford or move away from said situation. You absolve the Town of Stepford, its owners, management, staff and affiliates of any responsibility in this matter.


This--along with the rest of their rules--sound remarkably rational. How'ver, this was Kator's direct response on the forums:

Take Stepford for example (yes I'm singling YOU out... There are some extremes that I won't even tolerate.. and thats saying something) that on a search for Adult and City I stumbled across this place (to be honest I didn't look completely at the description first so I can be to blame for that yet this is a perfect example) I didn't even know what the frack "Dolcette" was till I looked it up on Wikipedia. I was completely appaled, granted I and a bona-fide defender of freedom of expression but DANG... seriously. I don't see how anybody could like that stuff. That and I swear I could feel my eyes bleed.

I didn't correct any of the grammatical oddities in that post, but on the other hand, I'm not entirely surprised by this, as the keywords in Search:

Dolcett sex death rape snuff murder hanging choking strangling impaling beheading executions meat--

--well, really, do I need to go on? That makes it really, really clear what they do. And for many people--and I'm included in this--there are lots on that list I don't like to do, or occasionally, even consider. But the rules notecard--which is handed out upon entry--is extremely well written. They may be extreme, but they're polite about it, rational, calm, which is...well. Phenomenal, when one considers the subject matter. Refreshing, even, in a sense.

This bit, from their rules handout again:

Second Life, let alone Stepford, is absolutely not for children. Anyone who might be offended by graphic visual images of extreme sex and violence, or the language pertaining to such activities, if anything in the description of Stepford, above, could possibly offend you, please go no further and leave.

Which, again? Remarkably rational.

Stepford is mainland. On the other hand, that section of sim is surrounded by very high walls, and what little can be seen from surrounding locations is...pastoral. Comfortable. Pretty, even.


I do admire the owners for one thing--if you pull up Tissela on the SL map? Stepford's section of it is marked by a large red and white A. (The "Adult Scarlet Letter", made by Tumbleweed Loopen, is free to copy and hangs above the sim, visible for system scans.)


But let's not kid ourselves--the barn beyond the cornfield is rigged for very adult play, the butcher shop stocks human meat. These are extraordinarily dark concepts for nearly everyone. Stepford is, I believe, without doubt in anyone's mind, the definition of "adult" content.

So why am I bringing it up?

Let's break it away from the fetish realm, because let's face it, even the most rational and logical amongst us can go buggy where sex and fetish is concerned. Let's break it down to...hmm, allergies are fairly safe. Let's say...shellfish, even.

You (RL) cannot eat shellfish. Horrible reaction. Worth your life, even, trip to the hospital for half a curled shrimp. You know this; you sigh over it, because you like the taste of shrimp (just not enough to go on an IV drip for one).

Then SL arrives. And sure, it's not perfect, the smell, the actual taste isn't there...but you can eat oysters. Clams. Crabs, even, perfectly primmed out on plates. And all non-lethal. It's a fabulous dream.

Anyone not getting the concept?

The reason SL has so much of the darker fetish moments is not because SL is populated by "sick freaks". The reason is actually two-fold:

1. People are curious. "What is that like?" they wonder. So they try it out. All of us have curious moments, in a lot of different ways. It's how we're wired, it's normal, and it doesn't show any signs of changing.

2. Remember that non-lethal thing? Some individuals--mostly women, I'll grant, but a surprising number of men, as well--like flirting with self-destruction. The smart ones realize it, and for them, SL is safer--they can lose limbs, they can bear scars, they can endure horrifying things--on occasion, they can engage in roleplay in which the point is that they will not survive--and the next day, they get up, they move around, have coffee, have breakfast, go to work--in a sense, RL becomes the ultimate reset switch.

In this light, SL becomes therapeutic, in an odd sense--granted, an extreme sort of therapy, and I do believe not a form all are designed to benefit from using--but imagine, for a moment. Imagine you want something that could damage you. Could be anything, it doesn't have to be sexual. Sky-diving, say. Or holding your breath underwater for ten minutes. It certainly doesn't have to go up to the point of being gagged with an apple and braised with garlic butter--trust me, that's extremity past most extremity, even on the grid.

But imagine. You want it. Whatever "it" is. We can even go back to the the shellfish example. Second Life--any virtual world that offers a wide spectrum of things--can be seen as a way to have what you want, in SL, that you cannot have in RL.

Now--are there things which are socially distasteful to want? Of course. Are there things which are harmful, or at least granted as harmful by the definition sets of most people? Absolutely.

And do not mistake me: now, currently, in place, there are things you cannot do on Second Life, things which are considered criminal, considered illegal, and I'd say rightfully so. There are ways around everything, the mind is endlessly inventive, and some people live for new rules to break. But even without such things, it has to--it must--come down to, who is actually being hurt, here?

While Couldbe Yue did backpedal and apologize for this, this was her initial response:

I always thought that SL had an element of people who should be heavily sedated, now I know for sure. If this is what LL are really looking at when they talk about the 2 - 4% then I'm with them.. put these guys on their own grid and don't ever let them near other folk again. I'd rather be locked in a room with Nany than this lot.

Tolerance be damned.

And see, that's the thing. For me? I'd much rather talk shop with a group of folk who like fantasizing about killing and torturing women, than spend five minutes with Nany Kayo. And I do mean that. At least with the heavy edge roleplayers on SL, they are mostly polite, they know who they are, they know what they want, and they take no for an answer--because without my consent? They have nothing to play with.

And there, right there, is the difference, as Couldbe retracted and rewrote in her forum post:

edited to add.
I wish to apologise unreservedly to those who participate in vore/dolcett activities only in second life. One of the strengths of second life - and the thing that separates SL from the rest of the web is tolerance and consent.

I admit that after checking out a couple of different Dolcett forums and probably reading a couple of dozen stories about women (always women - not one man as victim) being abducted, sexually assaulted, decapitated, dismembered and then eaten, I was feeling pretty unhappy.

BUT. in here you have to give consent to being non consensually attacked. That's the difference.

[ ... ] In here it's different because there is consent and encapsulates the whole problem we have. How do you protect people from things that are outside their experience yet allow everyone to enjoy their second life?

More to the point, how do you "protect" people from consenting to things that bother you? That's the core issue, it really is, and everything Linden Labs is choosing to do--especially Blondin, with his cack-handed and stupendously clueless move of "If it mentions sex, it's 'adult'" thinking--is just muddying the waters and distracting people from that core issue.

Do I believe there are people who cannot handle unrestricted content? Yes.

Do I believe there are people who should not be exposed to all content? Yes.

Do I believe that extreme content, id est, the force/capture sims, the cannibalism sims, the very dark roleplay sims, should have warnings on them? Yes.

However--and this is big--do I believe that they require the implementation and development of an entirely separate continent, in addition to being labeled adult? NO.

Moreover--and this is bigger--do I think every strip club, every brothel, every latex store that uses "sex" or "sexy" in their description, every Gorean business and sim, every escort on the grid--should also be packed off to Pornotopia with the true "extreme content" providers? NO!

Maybe it's just me, but paying for an hour of time with a pretty girl for purposes of personal gratification--whatever that means to the individual--is not equal to asking a similar pretty young girl to be displayed, bound, and chopped into sections. But it's still asking. It's still consensual.

None of the toys on the grid, no matter how lethal their effects are, can harm those outside the grid. Even if you're like me, and the mind writing deeply in the body results in some...interesting situations, at times...even then. Even then. If I (voluntarily, again) choose to walk into an oven, and scream and thrash, and die....first, it's my choice, and second, it doesn't touch the flesh that's not clad in avatar skin at all.

No weapon can truly harm you. At most, you'll be orbited and have to disconnect from the grid, and log on again.

All virtual pain is yours to experience as much as you choose to--walk into a wall? You can say ow, but it's your choice to do so. Walk into a knife? Really, if it's your choice, you can keep walking.

(And yes, yes, I know, the irony of me saying these things, my little wandering self that gets so easily captured by roleplay...it's not lost on me. But someone has to say these things.)

So why are we here again? Could another piece of the puzzle be that someone, somewhere, in the Linden camp is so deluded, that they think that dangerous toys really can hurt people on the other side of the screen? Could that be part of the issue?

At this point, I just want something solid. So many people--including a roommate (RL) who stands to lose her business, thus losing the ability to pay rent, thus potentially costing us shelter, refrigerated food, power, water, garbage, and internet--stand to lose everything they've built up to this point.

Yes, it's changing the rules, and yes, it's like that, the Labs have every right. But they'd best be anticipating a serious amount of wreckage along the way.

And that wreckage? Will not be consensual.


Lastly, I'd leave you with two things. First, this interview from 2007, which is still unsettling today, on pros and cons for open ageplay in SL.

Second, is this one of the single most stupid suggestions that has ever been entered on the JIRA? Or is it just me?

Think it through rationally for a moment--it's not going to, but what if the Lindens agree to change the coding to allow this? We'll end up with three effective search databases, over the proposed two--one unfiltered "all content" (Mature), one filtered "restricted content" (PG), and one filtered "Adult" content...and I'm sorry, that just makes no sense to me.

The fact that the Lindens are caving to whomever they're caving to, and setting up this ridiculous continent, with the commensurate tearing and gnashing of hair and teeth on the part of their residents, is bad enough; now they want to destroy all mixed-content businesses? Because really--the makers are supposed to maintain two separate ads for all of their products? Even maintaining two separate categories of ads for large businesses is cost-prohibitive. Let alone the difficulty in finding businesses that are mixed-content providers...

It's...insanity. Sheerly. Start to finish.


Alexandra Rucker said...

OMG I recognize the title quote. *falls over in shock*

Emilly Orr said...

*cackles hysterically*

You know, I know *some* of my music is obscure, but I didn't think all of it was!

Whee for Suzanne Vega! :)

Alexandra Rucker said...

Well, to me, 99.99% of it is obscure enough I don't recognize it. That one I did because I semi-know the words after hubby had it on a car CD for a while.

Emilly Orr said...

*snerks* Well, the song does mention blood...