Saturday, August 22, 2009

paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep

In a meandering way, Warren Ellis brought my attention to the Sex Work Awareness site. They've got a PSA now (that's short for "Public Service Announcement", if you're not cognizant of the term), as well as a couple of audio files for linking or tossing into podcasts. And there's also a mention that leads to a blog post dealing with the tragedy of Julissa Brisman, which can be extrapolated to the tragedy of working in a profession where few people offer respect, understanding, acceptance, or even barely tolerant incivility.

Why am I bringing this up? Because certainly on the grid, in Second Life, sex workers don't run the risk of death, infection, inability to attain civil protections, having to conceal what they how is it relevant?

I'll give you an example. Of the kind of thing I hear about every other day or so, or watch unfold personally.

There's a group I'm in--and it really could be any of my groups, it happens so often, but let's just say for reference it's a scavenger hunt/lucky chair/freebie group--where every few days, someone asks how to make money in SL. (I say this happens a lot, and it really does--in Caledon, in texture groups, fashion groups, on the street in main chat....I mean, it happens a LOT.)

And there are always two replies in the flood of answers that they'll get.

1. "You should strip for a living, those girls make a lot of money."

2. "You shouldn't do that, man, it just leads to bad things."

Understand I am broadly understating here. The first one pretty much references cheap clothing, "dressing like a hooker", bling, and "looking cheap", for the most part. So on the one hand, the money incentive is there in the offer--"dance, you'll get paid well"--while at the same time, dismissing any positive value in dancing--because you'll have to look cheap with oiled skin and microskirts and masses of big wavy blonde hair and big fake boobs to do it.

(And really. Come on. It's SL. By strict definition, all boobs are fake. So is the grass. So are the trees. So are the dance poles.)

The second, of course, is the trap. "Dance and you'll make money"...but no one will respect you. "Strip for a living"'ll pay rent but you're now the lowest of the low on SL. "Do some pole work"...but for the sake of all you hold holy, get out before you really get hooked into it.

Because "everyone knows", you see, the woman who's willing to strip? Is willing to prostitute herself in all ways. And it's just two small steps from hooking, to being chained to a bar in a cage naked, and being told what to do. And--even by some women who wear collars--this is universally seen as the worst of all fates on SL.

This strikes me as akin to the gay marriage = marrying goats argument. "If we give people gay marriage, then ANYTHING can happen! People will want to marry their dogs! People will want to marry their END tables!"

Right. Because dogs, goats and end tables are recognized worldwide as having the same exact rights citizens do, and can thus enter into legal and binding contracts with people. (Which is, by the way, all that a legal marriage is, it's a binding legal contract. Period.)

It's that same sort of hivethink with dancing--dance with your clothes on, you might as well strip. Strip, and you might as swell screw guys for money. Screw guys for money, and you might as well just get collared already. The slippery slope? In the case of many women on SL--and a surprising number of men, whether they patronize escorts or not--the slippery slope has been oiled with the negative expectations of fully 80% of the avatars around that young woman seeking work.

That, and the other trap inherent in the statement--because all you have to do is jump on a pole, right? The animations do everything else. It's like you have to push a button every five minutes, that's not work.

And no, that's not work, but there's more to dancing than just the animations. There's making them flow together smoothly for yourself and the viewer (harder than it looks--that one takes practice, has a learning curve, depending on the pole, to know which dances work together and which don't). There's working out how to climb the pole while taking one layer of clothing off (*again* harder than it looks, believe me). There's emoting to the crowd. (And no, not talking about the emotes you see that go roughly, "SexiiSindii licks the pole and thinks about some hot guy in the audience she wants to lick, too".) It's even the little stuph, like remembering the people who tipped you, and thanking them for tipping. To talk about the muscles in legs and back, practice the perfect sinuous arch of muscle and tendon--at best, difficult with the avatar mesh. Not only that, but if you're dancing and hosting--something that some clubs still make their dancers do--then you have to keep track of who comes in, and welcome them, who leaves, and wish them well on their travels, and all of that while thanking folks who tip you and remembering how the dances work!

And all of that is if you're just dancing, not stripping or escorting. Stripping or escorting is harder. It's not a cakewalk.

And keeping all of that in mind, at any given moment, plus coordinating for event nights (which means serious Linden investment in costumes and skins), themed nights, plus being cheerful and having fun, which some nights, really is harder than it sounds...without adding in the complications of escorting on top...

...and knowing that at the end of the day, you may have men who want you, but few who really love you; you will have women who hate you, because of what you do. And no, it's not a knife in the belly, it's not getting a client who wants to strike out rather than slide in, it's not getting arrested or getting hooked on drugs...

...but women, women have so many struggles with self-worth, and it's yet another example of the more things change, the more they stay the same. People make a virtual world, and they can be, can have, the best of everything, if they're willing to improve, put in the effort, show the grid the face they want to live behind...and so few seem to realize that, dragging in all that excess baggage behind them, like anchor weights chained to their frontal lobes.

And the biggest baggage of all still seems to be: Sex sells, and the money's good. But if we catch you at it, we'll never accept you for it. You'll never be anything more to us than a cheap whore.

Welcome to the new world.


Dale Innis said...

All true, sadly and maddeningly enough. I'd like to think, though (pollyanna that I am), that in SL the fraction of people who make the slippery-slope argument, or for that matter who look down at the women at any given point on that slope, is significantly and importantly lower than in RL.

I have seen, and been in, groups where someone who asked that question would get the dancing / stripping suggestion, and wouldn't get the "if we catch you at it, we'll never accept you for it" part.

Because, after all, there are women in the group who have done it, and are still accepted just fine. My shopping group has current and former dancers and strippers in it (/me raises hand), and I think also current or former escorts. So anyone saying or implying "ew, that's skanky" would be being rude at the very least, and would be gently corrected.

And I think (without being certain) that such groups are more common in SL than in RL (as many good things are more common in SL than in RL), and that therefore we're doing better, we're gradually improving.

Despite the continuing bad things that you, quite accurately, point out.

Rhianon Jameson said...

When offered a chance to opine on how one can make money in SL, I tend to reply, "Contract killings."

It's an odd question, isn't it? One sees all the exciting things that cost money - clothes, houses, animations, weapons, skins and shapes, etc. - plus all the services that people charge for - from being a land baron to photography to DJing to, yes, dancing and such - and they still ask the question? Criminey.

Emilly Orr said...

Dale: I hope you're right. I know that in that hunting/chair group I'm in, in the textile group, in land groups I've been in in the past, and store groups I'm in now--not to mention Caledon's wide and varied chat--the question arises, and that exact reaction plays out. "Strip/escort, you'll make tons" (not true, or at least, no longer true; these days, it's a lot harder to make 3K a night stripping, let alone escorting), followed by "Who wants to be a skanky ho?"

Or in the parlance, "eww you'll be a ho lol"...mostly.

Miss Jameson: To their credit, the askers of the question, I will say this: Search has changed completely. Three years ago, it used to be fine to pull up Classifieds and search for "employment" and find things. Now? That's not so easy. Plus, I know I'm an elitist, but a lot of the time, the folk who have the question? Are not, precisely, thinking on their feet. It almost never is, "So, how does one gain needful employment in Second Life?". It's nearly always "how u mak money her?"

To which I struggle mightily, every time I see something like that? Not to say "Charge per letter."

Dale Innis said...

Can hope that at least some of "eww you'll be a ho lol" is an ironic nod toward an attitude that is fading rather than a statement of actual belief.

Yeah, when people say "how u mak mony her?" I usually advise them to buy it with RL money. Really it's the most efficient way. Especially if you're clueless. :)

Emilly Orr said...

Most of them are serious, which is sad, but I will say this is group observation, and main chat observation, place to place, and while I travel widely, I am not everywhere. So this may be the last dying vestiges of the attitude.

One would hope.

But yes, that's started up too. "So, do you have a credit card or a PayPal account? Get Lindens that way." :)

Magdalena Kamenev said...

1) "Google's hiring avatars in your area!"

I was pretty clueless about earning lindens for a very long time, in part because I was clueless about lucrative skills for the longest time. Luckily, I started pursuing DJing around the same time I was getting tired of being a trivia shark. And I do run into people who ask, "how hard is it to DJ," for which the proper answer is quite easy when the stars align and fiendishly difficult when they don't. And I consider that MUCH easier than working in Photoshop and don't talk to me about sculpties.

2) Low woman on the totem pole?

You are a wider traveler of the grid than I am, Miss Orr, but are collared women considered the most extreme/debased/pathetic? Perhaps I am part of an outlier crowd, but I haven't noticed that on a regular basis. I have seen people in collared relationships that were subtle and respectful of the milieu the couple lived in, and I've known collared women I've been personally jealous of, based on the level of care and attention they've received. Perhaps I just don't get out enough. Or I've been hit with the Pollyanna virus ...

Emilly Orr said...

In reply, Miss Kamenev:

1. I think the bulk of the confusion is, and on this I'm also going to come off as unbearably elitist, due to quality of education before Second Life. If we're dealing with people who have common sense, who are intelligent, who can think through problems--give 'em two years, three years on the grid, they have a thriving business doing something, whether it's on their own or freelancing for someone else.

Note, I'm not saying college-educated, per se--many, many college degrees only offer you the opportunity to ask "Would you like fries with that?" in a variety of languages and pentameter.

2. It's specific cases I'm thinking of. The people who follow the true Gorean way, f'rinstance--their highest goal, for females, is to allow them to be beautiful, gracious, the pinnacle of any man's desiring, and women in this position are honored, and highly, by the men who so favor them, love them, cherish them.

We're not talking about them, and they're not widespread on the grid, anyway. We're also not talking about committed BDSM/D&s relationships, where everyone knows the rules, and it's about power exchange, not power over.

We're talking about the Velcro collar crowd--the girls (and I can think of no more descriptive term) who come in, and on their second day they're in a set of white silks with a collar looking for someone to beat them and lock them up. Or the boys (and again, same thing) who come in, and immediately start looking for someone to abuse, because they have no power in their own lives.

These people are not interested in the multifaceted nature of dominance and submission; they're just looking for kicks on either side. And they can pull back their collar on either side at a whim; one week it's "girl belongs totally to MasterHungBig Oh and loves him 4eva will do anythin for him", and the next week it's "girl belongs to MistressSexiiBytch ILU ILU ILU!!!"

And that is what the bulk of the grid understands as both Gor and lifestyle D/s; not the people who are intelligent practioners, so to speak, but the clueless wonder-bozos who wander in for the thrill of it before they get bored and jump. And that crowd is what the women (nearly always, women) who respond to the "wat can I do heer" requests respond to: that sense of sniping, "Do what I want, NOW!" followed by "Bored now" and wandering looking for a new slave, or a new Master, to be bored with in another week.

Dale Innis said...

<3 "the Velcro collar crowd". :)

Emilly Orr said...


I haven't found a better term.