Monday, April 13, 2009

it's only the broken edge of love, it's never the tide

Back in, back in. So looking forward to this being done. May have to go out and wander, manic and wild-eyed, and just snap visuals for a post coming up.

At any rate, Akira Luminos pondered a question:

Maybe I'm way off - but...thinking about the child safety element (whether LL are planning introducing minors or not, but acknowledge that they are here anyway, as we probably all do) - *IF* the end result is to have an adult population 'verified', so they can access restricted adult content (which may well happen), and they still allow unverified accounts in SL generally, won't that result in an easier target for predators than we currently have, where at least they have no idea whether someone is a minor due to the cloak of all the adults with NPIOF status?

There's a point there, a good point. Deserves a good answer. Doubt there'll be one, but nevertheless.

Nany Kayo chimes in again:

Depictions of human slavery should be categorized as restricted adult content.

Slavery is considered extremely offensive by most people. No one should be confronted with images of ongoing slavery without giving their explicit permission.

I'm really starting to dislike Nany Kayo, frankly.

Then Blondin Linden actually responded:

What do other thinks about this? Would others agree that depictions of human slavery would fall on the side of extremely violent?

I'm more than halfway tempted to send him a notecard explaining exactly why Nany is on crack over this, with links and reference photos.

Deltango Vale responded to Blondin:

No, slavery is considered extremely offensive to Nany Kayo. The rest of us will decide for ourselves what we consider offensive.

Blondin responded again (miracula!):

What do you consider offensive in terms of violence?

Which is actually a damned good question. Sexuality, sexual identity, gender identity, it's all fluid, slippery, difficult to pin down. Violence, on the other hand, that's easier.

So what do we consider offensive, from a standpoint of extreme violence? Let me give a brief framework, maybe that will help.

* A collared avatar, kneeling, leashed to a standing avatar: not violent.

* Being slapped in the face: whether it's amusing or irritating, still mildly violent.

* Being trapped in a bear trap (bloodlessly): annoying; mildly violent. If there is particle blood--still annoying; moderately violent.

* Being punched: moderately violent.

* Being stabbed: weirdly, mildly violent, unless it involves particle blood again. Then I'd have to say moderately violent.

* Beheading: If it's carrying around one's own head, weird. Occasionally fun. If it's the head being cut off in an amusing fashion (I'm thinking the Unlucky Chair series of "deaths"), mildly violent (to moderately, depending on amount of blood). If there is a chainsaw involved and screaming, *extremely* violent.

* Loss of limbs: If in a cartoon fashion (avatar limbs folding up), mildly violent. If it's avatar limbs being torn off, accompanied by particle blood and screaming, very violent. If there are viscera dangling and the avatar is made to drag itself across the floor, that's the definition of horror for most people.

* Avatars roasting on spits: Very violent.

* Avatars being eaten by large animals: if it appears relatively painless, then bizarre, not necessarily violent (to me, at least). If it appears painful, if the avatar is struggling, if, again, there is screaming and blood involved--very violent.

So (for certain definitions of, to be sure), we're verging on sex again. So let's go into BDSM:

* Avatars chained: Not violent.

* Avatars dangling from ceiling cuffs: It's wince-worthy, it might appall some folks, but it's not violent, per se.

* Avatars stretched on racks: There's pain, sure, visibly; does that mean moderately violent, then? If there's moaning or screaming, then likely so.

* Avatars flogged (floggers being generally made of softer materials, though admittedly, an RL friend of mine made one from lengths of chainmail chain--which, believe me, having been dared into trying it? Welts nearly instantaneously), to the point of skin blushing, no welts, no stripes: mildly violent, at best.

* Avatars whipped (full cat-o-nine-tails-styled flogger, all the way up to full bullwhips snapped gently), to the point of welting: moderately violent.

* Avatars whipped with devices that cut the skin, or leave scars: very violent.

Beginning to see the definitions, or mine at least? Did I lose anyone?

And is defining "violence" in SL starting to look like it's a case of the Lindens trying to define sexual violence, emotional violence?

Will places like Toxia, for instance, have to move to Pornadelphia? Just because they offer places that might happen to mix pain and sex?

Though I am beginning to get a very dire image of the way Nany Kano's mind works:

Depictions of slavery would be considered objectionable in any public place in the United States, similar to burning crosses.

Wau. Just...wau. How deluded is that? And what does she mean, then, when she says "slavery"? Does she mean BDSM relationships--which is, in nearly all cases, consensual and worked out in advance, even on SL? Does she see a woman in silks, a woman collared, a man with a whip, a woman in tight latex, and equate them mentally and emotionally with lynch mobs and the KKK? That's not rational. That might not even be sane.

Kyle Steig has a detailed list for what he wants to see happen on Pornotopia:

Here's a solution that will leave me a satisfied customer and not one inclined to see what my legal options are:

- Skip the 'age verified' plan and go with 'age affirmed' as an opt-in process unrelated to payment info on file. Get yourself out of the liability business.
- Give me a 'reverse mute' so I can mute myself to anyone who has not 'age affirmed' and agreed to see 'adult content'.
- Give me an additional permissions flag that lets me not sell to or allow anyone to even see any products I make who have not 'age affirmed'.
- Let me apply this flag retroactively or flag content as 'pre and post' rift so I can't be blamed for things I made two months ago.
- Move every single prim on my mainland to equivalent parcels on the Adult Continent. Make it zero work for me or waive 3 months tier so I can do the work myself on land swapped meter for meter to ensure there's no out of pocket for me.

All the current options being discussed involve taking value I have paid and or worked for. This taking is in an effort to move SL to a standard not even applicable to my Cable TV in my home or the internet in general. The above terms let you demonstrate a commitment to segregate the pervs from your would-be investors and the press and they don't mean taking away my value.

We're only 2-4%. You won't miss us. It won't cost much. Be generous.

Hard bottom line there, but one that I think is more than reasonable. If the Lindens want this done, it's maybe the least they can do, really.

Phoebe Hatfield brings this section home:

I can not choose whether to be censored or segregated. I can not choose whether to be forced out of my land because your company is hell bent on alienating its customers. The only real acts of violence on Second Life are committed by Linden Labs. You can choose not to, but will you?

Likely not, all factors considered.

Blondin Linden finally defines something in the forums:

I would consider extreme violence to be things like torture. Can anyone here make an argument where torture would not be considered extremely violent?

Okay. That's a base line I can live with. Torture. Fine. Let's define the how, then.

Torture according to

1. the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.
2. a method of inflicting such pain.
3. Often, tortures. the pain or suffering caused or undergone.
4. extreme anguish of body or mind; agony.
5. a cause of severe pain or anguish.'s definition:

An act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person, for a purpose such as obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation or coercion, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind. Survivors of torture often suffer from physical and psychological symptoms and disabilities. There may be specific forms of physical injury including broken bones, neurological damage, and musculoskeletal problems. Torture may results in psychological symptoms of depression (most common), post-traumatic stress disorder, marked sleep disturbances and alterations in self-perceptions together with feelings of powerlessness, fear, guilt and shame.

So for me? The line between those two definitions is markedly slim. I would have to say, and say positively, that--according to these definitions, as understood--that the submissive/slave relationship to the dominant/Master or Mistress is not torture. And that torture, as defined, is well over the line of what we want to consider as "extremely violent".

Let me say that again, as it seems to be vaguely important: BDSM and D/s relationships are not, in themselves, relationships depending on torture.

Of course there are cases that go beyond the bounds of generally understood concepts. But I believe by and large, on SL, what we are dealing with is a subculture that operates by choice. Pain by choice. Force, in this sense, by choice. Suffering, if we go that far, by choice.

So. Let's move one step farther back. If a relationship is consensual, it is not slavery, under the generally understood definitions.

Let's pull those in as well.

The Free Dictionary defines slavery as:

1. One bound in servitude as the property of a person or household.
2. One who is abjectly subservient to a specified person or influence: "I was still the slave of education and prejudice" Edward Gibbon.
3. One who works extremely hard.
4. A machine or component controlled by another machine or component.
intr.v. slaved, slav·ing, slaves
1. To work very hard or doggedly; toil.
2. To trade in or transport slaves.

And West's Encyclopedia of American Law defines slavery as:
1. The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household.
1. The practice of owning slaves.
2. A mode of production in which slaves constitute the principal work force.
3. The condition of being subject or addicted to a specified influence.
4. A condition of hard work and subjection: wage slavery.

Okay. I'm tired, I'm for bed, so let me wrap up this conversational jog somewhere at least safely off the road. Here's my take on this issue, at present:

1. People like Nany Kayo need to be more open-minded and less judgemental; also a good dose of thinking before they send out such ill-considered idiocy is heartily recommended.

Actually, no, there's a better starting point than that, but damn, I'm just irked enough to let that stand. But let's restart anyway.

1. The Lindens need good working definitions of extreme content, adult content, extreme violence and extreme sexuality.

2. They are soliciting opinions months in advance on how to word the coming documents, but they've already decided a new continent and segregation is the Best Plan.

3. Many, many people chimed in with alternate suggestions. These suggestions were ignored.

4. The Lindens began pushing for definitions again, and what bothered people, both in terms of open sexuality, and extreme violence.

5. The conversation was motoring along (at least as well as a luxury car with sugar in the tank and four square tires can) when slavery and references to Southern oppression were dropped like napalm candies into the front seat.

Now, I realize Blondin did leave the door open, but really--Blondin was asking about extreme violence. At what point does a conversation about the nature of violence in a virtual world even have to mention slavery in the real world? It's not just me, right? Nany is pretty much fifty cards short of a playable deck, here?

And me, personally, I don't care what your stance is on D/s, on BDSM at large. It does not matter. Pro or con, it doesn't even feed into this because Nany so completely overreacted that one almost has to stand back and applaud the effort, just on theoretical points of applied confusion.

It does seem, however, barring other factors--and more information coming past page 78--that the Lindens, or at least Blondin Linden, is trying to link BDSM with extreme violence. And that just doesn't work for me. Label Dolcett violent, fine; vore and snuff equipment violent, fine; label anything that shreds an avatar and bumps the typist off the grid; fine, I have no problem with that.

Gor? "Extremely violent"? The pretty little slave girl in silks, violent because she is a slave? The quiescent prettyboy under the spiked heel of the dominatrix holding the whip, violent because he's chosen to submit to a woman? Strippers, violent because they work in BDSM clubs?

No. Just no. It doesn't pan out, it's ludicrous, and whether it's coming from the Labs or demented social conservatives like Nany, it's a baseless accusation. It doesn't hold up. Logically, this allegory will not serve.

But it does make me curious about what the definitions for the adult continent will be, when the Labs finally release another draft...


Alexandra Rucker said...

Hmmm, are they after Gor RP'ers then?

What next, furries for percieved beastiality?

What's going to be left standing by the time they systematically destroy everything?

Emilly Orr said...

That's what I'm wondering. I mean, public impression is varied, and usually harsh. Furs = bestiality. Dolls = ageplay. SL kids = sick adults. Gor = abusing women. ( is inherently tilted, I won't deny that, but there are good people in Gor.)

None of these by themselves are true; but if there's enough public opinion behind it, the Labs just might be able to push through the BDSM = violence against women angle.

Which is really scary, because even if we're in completely vanilla relationships, there's still personal empowerment, power games, power-over, unintentional or by design...I'm not saying everyone is involved in S&M, but it's part of human nature to try to figure out the pecking order, whom we fall under the control of, whom we end up controlling. It's difficult to be balanced in all things, equal in all things, 100% of the time.

And if we're adults, and rational, we understand this, we play with it, we flirt back and forth, taking power, giving it up, conforming, commanding. It's who we are. It doesn't mean abuse. It doesn't mean "extreme violence".

I'm going to be reading this section of the thread very carefully, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Emilly, I don't think I'm a demented social conservative. And I don't know what else Nany Kano said, or what your personal relationship to her is, but I agree with what you have quoted from her.

I believe slavery (involuntary servitude, to be clear) is not just offensive or violent, but evil. I don't think what Linden Research is preparing to do is a good idea. But if extreme violence is going to be defined and segregated, then I vote to have "depictions of human slavery" included.

And to further clarify, I do not equate BDSM with slavery (and I don't see Nany doing that in your post; you, however, do jump to that conclusion). As you note, BDSM is consensual, and therefore cannot be slavery. You can, however, probably draw the right conclusion about how I feel when people characterize their consensual relationships as "slavery."

Of course, since nothing in Second Life is non-consensual, consensuality has little to do with whatever Linden Research has planned. Everything is appearance.

I'm bemused by the fact that your hierarchy of violence omits guns, tanks, or bombs, and is graduated by the presence or absence of blood and the appearance (there's that word!) of pain. (Is there a way to be relatively painlessly eaten by a large animal? o.O )

Emilly Orr said...

You're not a demented social conservative because you believe in the value of shared experience. You may not be for something yourself, but you wouldn't deny all contact with it--at least in terms of discussion--just because it's been deemed 'wrong' or 'bad' or gods help us all, 'kinky'.

My hierarchy of violence omits guns, tanks and bombs for specific reasons: first, though there are still nukes in SL, they don't work anymore. Guns and war machines do, but outside of specific combat sims (and not damned many of them), they're just not seen in the same light--getting shot, especially on sims that allow damage, can be very annoying, but at best it's cartoon violence, it's not something the Lindens need to pull out all the stops to stop.

Which leaves us with fetishized violence, which is where this BDSM=extreme violence (from Blondin) and slavery=objectionable to all (from Nany) bothers me so much.

Am I for slavery? By the traditional definitions, of course not. But think--there is not one person on SL living the life of a poor sharecropper harvesting cotton. There is not one single person owned against their will with nowhere to turn for support (italics for emphasis, yes, but also, because I feel consent in this light is deeply important). While there are people engaged in prison roleplay (for whatever mysterious reason), again, release from such durance vile is a log-out away.

But if extreme violence is going to be defined and segregated, then I vote to have "depictions of human slavery" included.Okay, but see, which definitions are we going by? Nany's may well encompass everything--from internment camps in RL to anyone wearing a scripted collar. Is that rational? And if we're expanding slavery to include consensual roleplay, then half the grid goes down! That's so far beyond insane I can't even come up with a word strong enough.

You are, of course--anyone is--free to disagree with the descriptions of people--and I'll grant, usually young women--who describe themselves as slaves. That's fine. That's okay. Where I have a big problem, though, is automatically defining any dancing girl carrying a plate of food as extremely violent. Where I have a huge problem is categorizing anyone kneeling in latex as being so beyond the pale, any depiction must be locked away behind age verification, because oh dear gods, the children.

I don't know how I can make this plainer. This is a sudden swerve in the road that goes over the cliff. This is the essence of not good. Ban slavery? Fine. But define it clearly. Involuntary servitude is evil? Okay. Just leave voluntary servitude alone--or you could well lock up fellow Caledonians, along with folks on the mainland.

Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

@Otenth: Yes there are plenty of ways to be eaten painlessly by a large animal - just look at the Tweetie and Sylvester cartoons.
As for slavery, it may be offensive but offensive is not the question the Lindens want to know about. It's whether it's violent. Quite frankly I think far to many people have the misguided idea that they have a right not to be offended. But I don't believe a depiction of slavery, say a subservient kneeling person, is inherently violent. Sure you can add things to it to make it violent but of itself I don't think it is.

@Emilly: Nany Kayo sounds like the sort of person who required California Legislature to remove the Master and Slave terms from computer references "because they were offensive".

Emilly Orr said...

Edward: No one has the right to not be offended. But you are right, they're not asking what's offensive. They're asking what's extremely violent; they're asking what's adult. They want community input on this, but they're already decided to concretize these terms, and employ them.

Chain someone to your wall--even fully clothed, fine, that might be "adult". But "extremely violent"? I can't see it. I do not see what is inherently violent about consensual play.

And yes, even beyond cartoon violence, there's some link I don't entirely understand between cute anime-style furs being eaten by feral beasts--or plants. There's a sense of 'ooh-no-it's-got-me', but it mostly seems to be paired with that quirky sense of fun. While nothing like this could happen RL--one would hope--I guess it qualifies as fantasy on the grid? Though I wouldn't, per se, say "harmless" fantasy, even there.