Friday, April 17, 2009

if you think that it's washed up, rinsed out and spun with--well, not quite

There's another layer I'd like to add in to the adult content debate--and that's Google. More to the point, whomever at Google is currently caving to the inane moralists, and how that relates to Second Life.

Posit: Second Life's attempt to restrict, reclassify and relocate adult content on the grid could be a result of the deal they struck with Google, to provide search services in-world. In other words: just as Wal-Mart made Magic: the Gathering cards self-censor, or risk being banned from Wal-Mart shopping shelves, Google could be using the same sorts of sneaky, underhanded pressure on Linden Labs to make them comply with whatever it is this week that Google thinks is out of line.

It's something to consider.

And back to the forums...

Couple pages back, Professor Milos popped up with this comment in a larger forum posting:

(IMO) nothing in SL can be seen as inherently 'extremely violent' - it's pixels, binary 1s and 0s - it's a graphical representation - but this is a huge, I mean HUGE ongoing debate online, that LL won't be able to solve. This is ethics. This is intent and effect stuff.

Blondin Linden caught that and responded:

Intent and Effect. Interesting. I can wrap my head around the idea of intent but with SL being both an individual and social activity, how can 'effect' be measured? Intent to illicit a desired effect would make sense to me. Thoughts?

I think he means "elicit", but I'll let it go, because he seems genuinely curious. Okay. Intent and effect. Milos is right, this is huge, and if you don't understand why, let me try to make it plain.

Intent (with regards to sexual or violent content): images, text or moving media that is designed to elicit a response in the viewer: arousal for sexual images, horror for violent ones (there are other responses, but hey, I'm trying not to get bogged down).

Effect (with regards to sexual or violent content): images, text or moving media that, as a result of content, can or does cause a response in the viewer (in terms of arousal, or horror), but is not intended to do so.

The biggest plainest example of this? The difference between Penthouse and a nudist colony magazine. Penthouse is designed to inspire sexual thoughts: the nudist colony magazine is published to chart their doings--recipes, interior design, different hedge plants and their hardiness in different climes, whatever--and they'll have images of naked people, sure, but because it's a nudist colony. That's an important difference.

So. Let's go over to the side of the offended people. Offended people normally find blatant pornography very offensive. (And hey, some of it is, but for me, I'm offended when something could be better, richer, deeper, and just comes off as tacky--I'm not offended just because I'm watching someone onscreen having sex.) But some offended people also find simple nudity offensive, and this is where the debate gets intricate. Is the naked body, of itself, extreme sexual content? I say it's just nudity. Some people agree with me. Others, how'ver, cannot see a naked body and divorce that naked body from sexual thoughts--and thus, they become offended by seeing it.

Why? Because they think everyone thinks like they do. And that, friends and neighbors, is the problem.

SL conventions: I see a demon on the grid, I think, "Oh, hey, demon on the grid." Others might see that same demon and immediate conjure up dark parlors dripping with blood and sadism, exotic and alien sex practices, whips and chains, dark evil chanting in the background. Who's right? Who's wrong?

This is a big issue for a lot of people. If they think it, and if they're offended by what they think, then they generally take that one step further and want to ban it--because of their own thoughts, not the demon on the street corner.

Matthew Dowd brought up an interesting point, in response to another comment from Blondin:

is this a image of real violence in RL? I would [find] this offensive if this image was being used to incite or otherwise glorify real violence in real life, on the other hand if this image was being used to illustrate the horror of RL violence than I would not find it offensive

e.g. a museum depicting the horror of the holocaust is not offensive, a museum celebrating or glorifying the holocaust is offensive - however the images in both might be the same.

He has a point. Glorification of, objectification of, is one layer; historical reporting is another; but the images might be the same in both cases, so who decides which one is out of line? Because if "extreme violence" is a guideline, then the SL Holocaust Museum might have to move to the adult continent along with the Love Nazis club, and that would open a whole new ethical can of worms.

Ceera Murakami's whole post is worth reading; but these two paragraphs hit me as important to quote:

Maybe, for some sheltered individuals, the sight of any human voluntarily wearing a collar or cuffs is a shocking and vile thing. But in a lot of this fair nation, Freedom of Expression trumps such narrow views. That sort of individual does NOT speak for all of America when they so loudly decry any public depiction of "slavery" in the USA. No more so than the fire and brimstone street-corner preacher speaks for all Christians when he rants his extremist hate speech against Gays, Pagans, [Muslims] and anyone else who doesn't believe in just the exact same interpretation of Christianity that he does.

I don't find it offensive at all to see someone peacefully shopping while dressed as a pleasure slave, or walking happily behind their Master or Mistress at the end of a chain leash. I would not encourage that same D/S couple actively engaging in graphic sex in the open, but the mere fact that they have on the clothing and attachments that show their D/S relationship does not bother me at all. Don't want to see it? Stay in PG-rated sims. Most D/s people won't go there, and if they do, very few of them will engage in anything more actively "displaying slavery" than the wearing of their collar and leash while they shop.

That's an important point, too. To me, the sight of someone in a collar--in any world--is not an issue. (Of course, the sight of someone with seventeen piercings is not an issue; my limits are not everyone's.) The sight of someone on a leash usually amuses and does not offend. The sight of someone wearing revealing clothing does not offend.

My values are not in question, though. The decision seems to be, where is the common denominator in all of this? Where is that lowest bottom point where the hysterical quadrant stops shrieking, and the rest of us can cope with everything below that point being restricted? It's a challenging thing to try to define.

Of course Nany Kayo had to respond to it:

Do you see anybody wearing that stuff at work on a job that pays more than minimum wage?

Nany? I'm restricting my first response--bite me, intolerant weasel--for the more constructive one: yes. I have seen people in collars, people pierced, people with interesting hair colors, in jobs that paid more than minimum wage. I have seen people wearing everything from thin D-ring collars to formal metal-and-jewel neck corsets, in careers that pay very well (and not in the sex industry--I'm talking insurance, for one example, and I have others).

I will admit, I have never seen someone with a visible brand--by visible here, I mean visible in normal business/workday attire--in a higher-than-minimum-wage position. But one never knows, depending--there could be branded people in these jobs, the brands artfully disguised by clothing.

The point is, if everything on the grid was to be restricted to just what Miss Kayo wants? We'd be in pioneer gowns and trousers that only closed with buttons. We'd be riding horses around, no cars, no motorcycles, no space sims. We'd be going to church on Sundays if we logged into Second Life at all and I can honestly tell everyone reading this: SL would die on that day, and never return. Far too many people would walk out and never log in again; and that is not the point of the exercise.

Nany needs to grow the hell up and realize it's a wider world. Does she have to accept everything out there? No; she's free to not be offended in the privacy of her own home, on PG sims. But if she's hanging out in Mature rated sims and the mere sight of someone in a collar is sending her into this level of frenzy?

Well, first, therapy, there's a grand suggestion, and past that, maybe prescription drugs--but as far as avatar to avatar, she needs to accept--and all the rigid moralists need to accept--that even the Lindens won't set the bar this low. They want to find a median acceptable line, they don't want to burn the servers and walk away from the whole project.

Even if the world the Lindens decide on isn't the world we had, the world we wanted--it won't be Kayo's version of the world either. That's one good thing from all of this, at least.

I can't quote even one bit of the response Argent Stonecutter gave in response; you'll just have to read it yourself. (And if you can't access the forums, do let me know; I'll capture it on notecard and send it out. It is that priceless.)

Argent also had a cogent question for Blondin, and huzzah, he finally answered.

Argent's question:

I'd like YOUR thoughts on intent, actually.

Getting back to the difference between a home or a house and a public place.

Isn't the difference the intent of the landowner. If they intend that a place be personal (I won't say private, since SL doesn't provide privacy) then does it have to look like a house?

Blondin Linden's answer:

My thoughts? I would be inclined to look at content and make a judgment in terms of how the creator/owner intended it to be used. If you walk into a brothel, the intent is quite clear. A sex bed in a residence is intended for personal/private use. Does this residence have to look like a house? Not necessarily if we are defining Adult in terms of intent.

A-hah! So, "homes" do not have to be four-walled structures with locking doors; "homes" can be defined as any private space wherein one makes said home. And if we are defining Adult in these terms, then yes--a sex garden, f'rinstance, that is advertised as one openly, would be Adult--but a garden with discreetly tucked-away equipment for use by the owner of the parcel, and/or selected friends/family, would be a private residence.

Now if they hold to this, I'll be happy. Because not all of my "homes" on the grid are houses, either.

Ciaran Laval had a comment on this, too:

This is where it's going to get tricky defining things. Many a lady of the night will actually have their own apartment that they invite people back to. Now how do you define that? Business use or personal use?

I don't know how any other escorts handled this; I know that many, while they will take clients back to their parcels, they have a place beyond their personal home set up just for those clients. I'm sure some do, have and will take clients back to their own homes on the grid.

I can only speak about my experience, and in my experience, most of my clients were conducted to a separate skybox, not even connected to land I owned, wherein all my work toys were kept. On those occasions where I worked out of clubs, I worked in their workspace rooms. On all other occasions, I went to the client's home, or wherever the client told me to go.

I never once took a client to my home; it wouldn't have occurred to me. Though a skybox above my home, say, I might have constructed if I hadn't had other options.

Ceera Murakami responded to a second debate thread on use of the Labs' "G-Team" to resolve adult content disputes:

Originally Posted by Blondin Linden
The G Team would be an obvious choice as they've had the most experience doing it.

And who could we appeal to if the arbitrary decision of the G-Team seems dead wrong? Like their arbitrary decisions to restrict depiction of child avatars at the SL 5th Birthday celebration, where they went so far off the deep end as to declare in inappropriate to display an image of an SL mother and daughter, both dressed toes to ankles and wrists in formal Japanese Kimonos? Merely because they decided, on a whim, that "No image displayed at SL5B shall show a child avatar and an adult avatar in the same image, in ANY context whatsoever."? Sorry, the G-Team already flunked the test at least once for being able to make rational and reliable decisions on what is and is not appropriate content in-world.

The above is an image the G-team found "Objectionable" at SL5B, until massive public protest forced a policy reversal. Sorry, I want someone else arbitrating "intent" for adult content in-world. The G-team is incapable of it.

She has a point. She has a definite point. Let alone the problems Caledon ran into with that same broad-spectrum edict--that not even an artistic drawing of Caledon residents who were all adults could be shown, because Miss Cornelia Rothschild, perched on the shoulder of Iason Hassanov, looked child-sized.

Sindy Tsure commented on the debate in progress:

Well, they did suspend that notorious trouble maker Carl Metropolitan for an hour..

Yeah. Carl Metropolitan, the fellow behind the concept of New Citizens Island/Nova Civis. One of the main founding influences behind the new Caledon Welcome Center. Banned by the G-Team. I still don't even know why; that it happened at all is sheer insanity.

And these are the people who would "most likely" handle adult content disputes? Hmm, maybe we're back to being doomed.

Lylani Bellic again had a wonderful post that I encourage folks to read; but this was what I tried to pull out for relevance:

I wear a collar like you might wear a wedding ring, it is MY sign to the one I love that I am committed to him with my body, mind and soul. You [don't] want to patronize me and my friends because you don't share the sentiment of commitment? Fine; but do not expect a civil response from me.

...If you want to discriminate against me because I wear a collar (which btw isn't a play collar made of leather or anything big and fancy, mine is a simple metal band) instead of an engagement/wedding ring then it is you that I find offensive and you that I find to be an example of the vileness humans are capable of.

Nany Kayo's response was simple, blunt, and completely wrong:

Sorry, I'm not interested in your sexual preferences. I would rather you not advertise them to me.

Okay. This is where she's wrong, this is how she's wrong, and you are welcome to disagree, but on this, unfortunately, without deeply compelling evidence to the contrary, my mind is closed:

* A collar, or paired cuffs, or an ankle chain, or a ring: these are all symbols of commitment. It has little or nothing to do with sexual preference; it has everything to do with loyalty, honor, emotional bonds, and the strength of the individual relationship. These:


are all commitments to another person, be it by ring, mehndi and the elaborate preparations (both cultural and physical) that go with it, life collar, or tattooed chain--every one of these images is representative of something people have chosen, for themselves, to represent their deep, emotional bonds and connection to each other.

Out of world, I am married. (I haven't gone out of my way to advertise this, but it's not a secret, either.) I do not wear a wedding ring. When I finalize the design, I will be tattooed--my choice, and it will either be a ring tattoo, or a wrist tattoo, I haven't yet decided. My partner has chosen to design something that will rest on her left shoulder, eventually. (We are patient people; we've been working out designs for the better part of eight years now.)

Is my commitment less because you cannot see a wedding ring? What about in those cultures where wedding rings are not worn?

In world, I am committed. (I make no great secret of this, either.) I have more than one love, that I love deeply, and support as much as I can. To one of them, I have chosen a deeper commitment, and--though I do not wear a collar, for a variety of reasons--I do have a token, and wear it frequently. It's not a marriage--I have no partner name in the partner field, somewhat by personal choice, somewhat by desiring more than one name to put in--but it's much more than just "hanging out". At this point, in fact, I feel somewhat bereft without it, and only take it off if we're going to be on a high-lag hunt, or I'm going through the endless variety of clothing/jewelry/attachments I tend to collect, and trying things on rapidly as I cycle through, assign labels for keeping, box up what I don't want, and throw away what's no transfer.

There are some really odd wedding customs out there, too.

My (likely long-winded) point is, it's not about sex, it's about commitment. Being upset at seeing someone's collar makes as much sense as getting upset at seeing someone's wedding ring. For many people, it's the same meaning behind them.

Selkit Diller also has an intriguing response to Nany. The entire post again is worth reading, but these two paragraphs I want in this entry:

-- We companies do NOT WANT censorship of this degree. It hurts the userbase we're here for. It destroys people's incentive to want to use SL on their private-time and therefore impacts business-time heavily. Furthermore, we have no inclination to believe that Linden Lab will effectively police any new policy, and will in fact repeat past mistakes with inconsistent enforcement.

-- We will not be benefiting from this action. Our campuses are already Mature. We have no intention of making them Adult or PG. PG deadens the freedom of expression of students, the range of curricula that may be taught within TOS, and Adult is bowing to censorship; Some of our teaching topics would most definitely be "adult", as some of them do involve photographic depictions of bodily trauma, simulated bodily trauma, possible imagery of textbook-drawing genitalia, surgical procedures, and other topics likely to be highly sensitive. There has been little indication that these topics will not be search-censored alongside other broad-spectrum search censorship.

I would actually be very interested in knowing which of the "businesses and universities" mentioned early on actually insisted on this change. Because it seems to me that this is the prevaling opinion heard in and out of world: "Whoa, don't blame us for this, we don't want this to change!"

(And I would add the note--I didn't quote these two paragraphs in support of their mention of "censorship"--there is no censorship in SL, there can't be, because it is a private environment owned by a private company: thus, zero censorship. But we digress.)

Part of Nany Kayo's response:

In my particular situtation, it is a deal-maker or deal-breaker. My constituents will not use SL until the porn is screened off more effectively.

...Wait, you mean, if we keep the porn, Nany goes away?


*coughs* Sorry, got carried away. At any rate, we've skimmed to the shores of page 92, which is close enough to my goal to suffice, and I'll just have to push harder and quote less on the rest, I guess...I want the rest of my blog's life back!


Alexandra Rucker said...

Part of Nany Kayo's response:

In my particular situtation, it is a deal-maker or deal-breaker. My constituents will not use SL until the porn is screened off more effectively.
"Constituents"...Wait. Is Nanny-Netnanny a POLITICIAN???

That explains a lot of the cluster-fsk.

Emilly Orr said...

You're not overall wrong, but shift it over a bit--I'd be willing to bet anything she's a lobbyist for some concern, especially considering her semi-obsessive focus on her SL profile.