Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Second-Rate Second Life: VI. Violence & Degradation (by Sweetie)

Written 8 June, 2009

A Second-Rate Second Life: VI. Violence & Degradation

by Sweetie

This post was written by my Sweetie, who has taken a look at a most serious subject. It was inspired to a small extent by my previous posts in this series and to a larger extent on the article The Big Death in Role magazine —Chey

For the most part, I see people who have selected to enter Second Life as curious wanderers. They tend to be well-educated, seek a connection with others, and basically work and play well with others. Sure, some come in with grand plans and others with no clue, but they come nonetheless with a spirit of adventure and good intentions.

However, whenever people get together, a certain percentage will prey upon others. These will range from residents looking to do serious harm to those who will never do anything more dramatic than beg, be viciously snide, or leave a trail of broken hearts and burned business partners in their wake.

One thing I can tell you is you cannot be neutral about violence. You are either supporting the victim, or your inaction is supporting the abuser. When you witness violence and degradation, you must, as a conscientious person, speak up about it.

However, speaking out can be difficult because of some basic and faulty assumptions:

Assumption 1: No one can physically hurt anyone here... so how violent can it be?

Response: The only type of violence that can’t be perpetrated in Second Life is direct physical violence. People can steal your intellectual property, and they can damage you financially by theft or elaborate fraudulent schemes, and they can make your second life hell by stalking or persecuting you.

Everything is verbal in SL. Verbal violence can range from defamation to straight up emotional abuse. Victims of violence— especially systematic violence— will tell you the physical abuse was awful, but the terror and anticipation of violence, the feeling of loss of control caused some of the deepest wounds.

If the person you are involved with threatens self-harm, knowing you are powerless to stop it, or has your RL information and threatens to defame or harm you in real life, the physical violence can translate from one world to the other.

Assumption 2: Some people come here to experience violence/degradation in sexuality. That is a private choice between consenting adults, so others should stay out of it.

Response: There is a huge difference (and it is all in the intent of both of the participants), between the consensual role play of BDSM and when one person conditions another to be manipulated, shocked into saying yes under pressure, and minimizing their outrage by saying “If you loved me you’d do it,” or “You agreed to the training and we told you it’s for your own good.”

Sexual violence is primary psychological to begin with. When someone you know flashes you with images they know will disturb you or touches you in unwanted ways, it is awful. But the psychological damage, the guilt, the self-doubt that follows conditioning and betrayal by someone with whom you are intimate is difficult to overcome. If you’re on a poseball and your partner has someone else jump on the animation with you and tells you not to get up— is it not a rape, using a sexual violation as a way to express dominance and degrade you?

Assumption 3: If someone is hurting, being cruel to you, or degrading you, you can hit the big X and close Second Life.

There is a point in every relationship when we make the decision, usually subconsciously, that this person who was once a stranger now has my “assumption of trust.” We say we have a good feeling about that person and feel safe to share with them. When you first make the connection, it’s because everything is charming or exotic or interesting or familiar and better than before. You don’t chose a business partner thinking “Oh, I bet in three months they’ll totally rip me off, let’s do this!”

Once a stranger become that friend or partner we trust, there is of course still that off switch, but it becomes a lot harder than you think to hit it. Why?

The only way to function in the world without being completely paranoid is to trust our own judgment. We trust all the time that even strangers, let alone loved ones, won’t hurt us, rip us off, or drive on the wrong side of the line suddenly and smash us to bits.

If an old friend did something awful to you, would you turn you back on them and just walk away? Would you terminate the relationship completely so they never had the chance to do something bad to you again? Ok, you would if it was bad enough? So how bad would it have to be? What if it was just shy of that? What if it wasn’t terrible, just pretty rotten and out of character. Would you maybe get angry and ask for an explanation? Would you accept an apology? How many times? What would you do if, when you decided to leave, you were challenged, “Is that all the relationship meant to you?” by a friend or relative? Would you still go?


If you are having a second-rate Second Life due to violence or degradation, speak out and ask friends for support. You don’t have to trash the life you’ve built in SL to be safe and free from harassment.

If you see someone being violent or degrading, speak out. If you aren’t supporting the victim, your inaction is aiding the abuser.

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