Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I want to be there when you learn the cost of desire

Near the top of page 79, Nany Kayo comments again:

Most people are able to detect the fundamental values of the society they live in without a formula. Rules and laws are enacted for the ones who lack that ability, the ones who can't tell the difference between what is appropriate and what is not.

It must be very freeing, in a sense, to live in such a rigid, constrained, monochromatic world. No ethical issues, no complications, just "YOU'RE WRONG" and "I'M RIGHT" and "DO WHAT I SAY". It would be enviable, in a way, if I didn't have the firm understanding that life is not black or white, bad or good, but multi-hued, multi-spectrum, and possessed of an endless variety of shades of grey--and all the other colors, tastes, sounds, sights and sensations out there.

And I have to pick up on Professor Milos' tip for Xeromag's wonderful definition page for BDSM. I've been in love with Xeromag's site for years because of the polyamorous articles (which, by the way, are a must-read, as essential as breathing, if you're dealing with a poly person--or happen to be a poly person dealing with a monogamous person, and you want them to understand you--just flip that page link up and let Xeromag do the rest). That may help as we balance on that fine line between BDSM, and abuse and violence.

And I had to quote Katheryne Helandale's entire forum post, because I felt it was just that important:

The problem is, contrary to Ms. Kayo's opinion, what one person finds offensive, others might not; and vice versa.

I will not attempt to speak for anybody else here. What do *I* consider offensive? Vocal minorities pushing their social and moral agendas on the population at large. I also find discrimination and segregation offensive. Beyond that, there is very little that actually offends me, particularly if I have the power to simply walk away if I do not like what I am seeing.

Your proposed method of segregating everything generally considered offensive is fundamentally flawed. While it addresses the issue of protecting people who choose not to associate with "adult" content from encountering it, it does absolutely nothing to protect individuals who DO choose to participate in *specific* adult activities but find *other specific* adult activities offensive.

What part of your plan allows ME, a professional strip-dancer, from encountering, say, Gorean activities? What protects ME if my activities require me to locate to the adult continent, if I find my neighbors openly practicing bestiality in their front lawn offensive? Once everything that can be deemed offensive by somebody has all been relegated to Pornodelphia, what is to protect them from each other?

And that is the heart and soul of a lot of the objections on this, and the general feeling that not only are the Lindens shooting their own feet with this, but they're loading the guns and painting targets on each toe. All adult activities are not the same; moreover, they can't just broadly equate adult with unwanted and expect that it will solve all the problems of the grid: happy corporations on one side, pouring funds into the Labs, and happy adult deviants on Pornotopia, arm in cuffed arm singing "Kumbayah" around the balefire.

Sexuality, especially fetishized sexuality (which for many on the grid, is a large component of their SL experience), is tricky, uneven terrain. There are subcultures of subcultures. There are those who embrace their natures willingly; there are those who are embarrassed, afraid, wary of even the breath of agreement. Add into this toxic blend socialization against most sexual expression (at least in America), and our cultural tendency to become hysterical at the slightest glimpse of skin (witness Nipplegate some few years back; or the current hysteria over one of the American Idol contestants kissing another man).

To one culture, two men wearing matching shirts is the height of scandal. To others, women fully covered in burka are scandalous for entirely separate reason. Skirt hems have been debated for centuries--too high, too low, bustle, sheer, and then there's the whole question of pants...and that's just the tip of the obstacle over attire; what happens when the physical self becomes involved?

I'm pulling Katheryne Helandale's comment to further illustrate the point:

I am curious how slavery, in the conventional sense, can even exist in Second Life. Aren't the very acts of creating an account, logging in, and role-playing a specific lifestyle therein entirely *voluntary*? Where is the slavery? Suggesting that slavery by the standards Ms. Kayo is expressing exists in SL is a lot like saying there is [non-consensual] sex among the consenting. It just makes no logical sense!

It doesn't. It purely doesn't. And I have to go back to that point--even in Gor, of all places, in the highly structured male-dominated rigidity of that fantasy realm/lifestyle/relationship choice, there are still choices--one must accept before one becomes anything there. And there are freer strata now and again--the female scribes, the healers, essential city workers and town caretakers that enjoy more freedom of dress and expression, than their kajirae sisters and kajiru brothers generally do.

So where is the slavery on SL? Is slavery objectionable? Is it a violation of human rights? Yes. Is there slavery on the grid, though, is the question I keep circling back to.

I say no. I say by the legal definitions, by the understood standards, there is no slavery, as we know it in RL, on the grid. So. What are Blondin and Nany really worried about? What has them both equating some level of slavery with extreme violence?

I think--and to date, I haven't been proven wrong, that I know--they're both edging into talking about BDSM. In terms of actual human slavery. And that, I have to add as well, I find extremely offensive.

Gavin Herd and Deltango Vale had an interesting point/counterpoint near the top of page 80.

Deltango commented:

You throw around the term 'slavery' without any consideration of how it may be used by other people. Even within the BDSM community, 'slavery' can mean many things. You really must avoid dogmatic statements about lifestyles you really don't understand. I'm sorry for being so direct, but you represent the whole problem with LL's hopeless attempt to classify the wide range of human social relationships into a rigid legal formula.

Gavin answered:

Yes, but don't push the BDSM community in front of you on this because most people even in the BDSM community have the sensitivity to not push shackled, collared, forced to sit postured, strutting chastiy devices, gasmasks or whatever in front of everyone.

And I have to answer: Gavin, you'd be surprised. And this, you see, may well be the so-called "slavery" that Nany Kayo so objects to. Collared submissives led on glittering particle chains. People forced into kneeling poses and kept there. Clubs that have thrones and floor cushions. And all the people who shop in silks, or go anywhere with the coiled whip on their belt.

To be fair? Walk around in most large cities now, in the real world, and you find collars--not quite as prevalent, true, but there. Walk close to gay districts, club districts, in those cities and the number of leather daddies and club bois you see will rise. People into BDSM--just as people heavily into other subcultures, sexualized or not (submissives; dominants; transgendered women; all the way to the other side of the spectrum with Amish, Hutterites and certain Mormon cults)--will dress the way they feel comfortable, the way that makes them feel confident, and they will go out into the world like that.

Any world.

I'm going to tie this up with a comment from Lindal Kidd:

I have a completely non-sexual toy, called "Collider Death". If you wear it and someone bumps you, your avatar falls down and appears to strike her head. A pool of blood spreads out around your "corpse".

Is this "extreme violence"? Is it still extreme, given the fact that I can still talk? Or that if I move my av, she immediately stands up again, ready for the next round?

Blondin, we wore these attachments while ice skating last winter. We had a hilarious time playing "bumper cars" with our avatars.

And I've done the same thing; in fact, I have a copy of this in my inventory as I type. I count it as a fun av toy; we bump into each other, giggle like mad, get up and do it again. At times, it's the one scripted attachment we'll wear going through haunted houses, so at times we can just fall down and blend in with the scenery.

But is that "extreme violence"? Is it cartoon violence, is it just fun, and would it be fun for everyone? Would anyone be offended by it?

This might, weirdly enough, be a core question: who would be offended by such a toy? And are they the majority?


Fawkes Allen said...

I think I'm finally moved to respond, not because of anything particular in the post, but more the need to speak my views on this.

Though loathe to pretend that I completely understand Edward's views on this matter, I do believe he brought up a point in the last post that is rather important.

This is not about being Offended.I won't say it's hard to separate that from the conversation, but it is not really the question at hand. I am involved in many things, some I would classify as Adult, I would not however call them Offensive. No one has the right to not be offended, and in fact we do in many ways have the right to be offended. I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it and all that.

That's not what this is about. This is about the difference between a Mature discussion and dissection of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, versus (Pretending it wasn't banned, which is obviously where a lot of this fear has begun and will continue to be.) actual childplay. Both are, slightly debatably on the first, not PG. However to lump the latter two together is being blind to the difference between the two.

Is that an extreme example? Perhaps, but if we're to put any stock in the 2-4% number, that may not be a bad place to start. The Extreme. And yes, Linden Labs is treating this wrong, start to finish they're making steps forward while also leaving themselves behind.

That however is not what this post is about. It's supposed to be about being Offended. It's going to happen, yes that Stripper in the preceding blog post is going to be offended by Gor, that is the risk we take dealing with people. However, depending how extreme or how public she is with her job, she and the Gorean are likely both 'Adult'. Possibly the Gorean even less so.

When it comes down to it, there is nothing inherently adult about the Gor couple. Linden Labs has already stated that sexy clothes are not 'Adult'. However the stripper is likely 'Adult' because of the actions she performs and the advertising she or her club does. A Gor couple strolling in Caledon would be accepted, more or less, as long as they don't start to flaunt or openly perform adult actions. However a stripper going around giving her prices would be shunned and possibly banned.

And again, offensive as it may be to see a woman degrade themselves like that, it is not by its nature the point. The point is whether it's moved beyond the realm of Mature into that of Adult.

I find many things offensive, Jackass, Fart Jokes, Tom Green, Twilight. However I would not label any of them 'Adult' and I believe that is something the Labs has not stressed enough and people are not realizing. This isn't about what offends you, if it was, well, Emilly has been correct in saying it'd be impossible to gauge that. Judging, however, what is 'Adult' is easier, there are still borderline cases, there always will be, but they will not be these expanses of no man's land that one's opinion of what's offensive would create.

I understand what Linden Labs wants if nothing else, and being a resident of Caledon I don't have an issue with it. They want the mainland to be Caledon in a way, Mature, but not openly sexual. As I have brought up to others before, if Desmond decided to open a Caledon Whitechapel, we'd have no real issue with it and quite a few business owners would welcome the ability to openly advertise their products there.

In the end though, Linden Labs isn't Caledon, we don't have the same trust in them we do in the Guv'nah. Which in the end is the biggest drawback to being a company and not a community, a landowner and not a friend. I still understand what they're doing, and having a way to separate out Mature into R and NC-17 is not something I'm against. The way they're doing it, and the way they are framing it however is just horrible and as can be seen by Emilly's findings, causing more trouble for them then good.

I applaud them for stepping forward and asking community opinion, but without a moderator for the discussion, it's become simply calls for clarification, versus opinions on what is adult, and assumptions it's all about what offends someone. And it's not, after all you have the right to be offended.

Emilly Orr said...

All good points, though I admit I'm still tickled by the concept of Caledon Whitechapel.

Beyond that, though, you're right--and it's a very hard thing for most of us to do, separate out the emotional from the rational, the offensive (or defensive) from the bottom line. This is business for the Lindens; we've long since left the land of Your World, Your Imagination. Even knowing that, how'ver, there still needs to be definite guidelines--and whether I agree with what those guidelines will be, once made concrete, there needs past that point to be enforcement of those guidelines.

That's the part I'm afraid of--that there will be a complete and utter lack of cohesion on the topic, with some Lindens pulling one way, others pulling another, and inconstant enforcement of the policies. Or even worse, language so vague and disconnected from the actual grid experience as we know it that there'll be little definitive way to comply, either for or against!

Rhianon Jameson said...

I don't know about Caledon Whitechapel in particular, but I've long thought that what Caledon needs is a slum. (I've had to write in a slum a few times in my own work. A never-ending string of tea parties isn't dramatically interesting.) Opium dens, houses of ill-repute, drunks lying in the gutter having passed out from rotgut, along side the working poor.

In some sense, Caledon would benefit from a lower ratio of duchesses to working stiffs.

Just guessing that the Guv doesn't find that to be a good business proposition, however. :)

Emilly Orr said...

Well, there is that decided tilt...after all, the default group title is Aristocrat.

It may be long gone now, but that was something I adored when I was last involved with Babbage--that they have (and rather defiantly, at times) an underclass. Not just the urchins, but dockworkers, sailors, simple merchants, down-on-their-luck travelers...and a genuine opium den, redolent with mysterious light and intoxicating smoke.

Would that same sort of grit and temperment work in Caledon? I purely don't know, though I do know that every attempt at a genuine house of pleasure has failed.

Rhianon Jameson said...

Hmm, does that say more about the men of Caledon (uninterested) or the women (too willing)? I'll have to ponder that one for a while.

Sphynx Soleil said...

There was an underground - perhaps under Caledon Victoria City? - that had what appeared to be something simaler to an opium den. Damned if I can remember what region it was now, it's been so long. I remember thinking "Oh cool! Sewers!"

Also, came by to drop this link off that I found via the Massively blog. Mayhap Teh Lab is influenced by that?

Hard to tell, but wanted to bring it up anyway.

(I still think the only reason we need all this "adult only" BS is because they want to officially open the floodgates and let the children in. It's not like they can *sign up* for the teen grid - that particular login page has redirected to the main grid signup page for, oh, well over a year now.)

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson: I think there's definite interest on the part of Caledonian men; I just think there's a definite predisposition with certain Caledonian women to despise ladies of the trade, as well as a...hmm. Disinclination to pay for value given, shall we say? For men in general on the grid. :)

Sphynx: very interesting link. Bit that leapt out for me, though? The part where it finalized all variations of "extremely offensive" in relation to pornography by the addendum that it must be convincingly real.

SL? Is far from convincingly real. Allusion, yes, illusion, likely, fantasy, sure--but anyone seeing an avatar, even in distress, and mistaking it for an RL person?

Not happening.

Emilly Orr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

but anyone seeing an avatar, even in distress, and mistaking it for an RL person? Not happening.*coughs*Ranma Tardis*coughs*

Sphynx, yes the underground is mostly in Victoria City though it extends up into Rothesay and into Lock Avie too. The sewers and opium den in Port Caledon are long gone though.

Emilly, yes the underclass is still there and so is the opium den. There are some Babbagites who try and focus too much towards the grubby end of the stick - I recently slapped someone down on a forum who claimed that Babbage was supposed to be a working class sim. As a founder this was news to me. But I think that attitude goes with an anti-Caledon chip some people carry on their shoulders. Miss Andrews and I are voting for the "Shiny Steampunk" end and forging some sort of compromise. Personally I am looking forward to the Brunel Heights arrives.

As a side note a saw recently that The Pearl, possibly the only successfully long term period Bawdy House is now based in Victoriana.

Miss Jameson, as a former partner in a house of Ill Repute (shocked aren't you) I know that gentlemen wishing to avail themselves of such entertainment prefer something a little more er.. stimulating than the bling and Xcite attractions offered at other such establishments. However weeding out the clientèle who merely wish to "do teh sex0rs" from such highly trained staff is often an endless task. In the end the effort to keep high standards often becomes more work than fun and things then lose their appeal.

Emilly Orr said...

Edward: gad, her. Man, she so needs therapy. And then more therapy. And then maybe Lithium or Thorazine, just a little, to soften around the edges of the fact that she's just lost every shred of perspective in her little universe.

I'm fine with "Shiny Steampunk" but I don't want that to be all there is--I'm too much of the "dark Victorian" to get into the shiny happy workers mentality.

But the Pearl is back? Yay!

(And yes, Miss Jameson, as I was once considering employment in said venture, I know who backed it, and was sad when it fell apart--I still think such a venture could succeed, but it would of necessity be a labor of love, not financial gain.)

Rhianon Jameson said...

It surprises me not at all, Mr. Pearse, that a gentleman would invest in a business venture. :)

Miss Orr - at the risk of assuming my preferences are those of others, perhaps the reason that Caledon has been unable to sustain a house of ill-repute is that many people know one another. I get the impression that such activity is supposed to be anonymous, and that becomes difficult when, say, last night's "date" is the DJ a this afternoon's dance. Do you make small-talk? Do you ignore one another? One can see how awkward it becomes.

Emilly Orr said...

For anyone reading along, which likely includes me later, the "Comment Deleted" in this thread was mine, which posted twice. So nobody--so far at least--is running away.

We move on.

Miss Jameson: Actually, on occasion, that has made things interesting--how does a lady properly interact with those who have been clients? Me being me, I treated them with affection and courtesy, when I met them beyond the realms of work, but there are many women, I will grant, who likely have difficulty, and men who cannot quite figure out what's appropriate to do.