Tuesday, May 29, 2007

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THE ISTHMUS OF SEX

Lillie_yifu
Lillie Yifu in a skybox where she plies her trade

Ziggy Figaro recently wrote a full and fairly unflinching look at the state of sexual expression in Second Life, bringing together many disparate elements in a comprehensive way.  His conversation with Philip Linden yielded a fascinating nugget, which returns us to the ongoing controversy, "Just how much sexual commerce in SL?"  I've speculated it's much less than it's often assumed to be, and this passage offers another nugget for us to work with:

The Lindens, Philip tells Ziggy, "require landowners to disclose if there's mature content on their land by checking a box on the contral panel. As of Thursday, about 15% of the land parcels in Second Life had that box checked, or 18% by land area... Moreover, not all that mature content is sexual in nature... Simple use of swear-words can get content flagged as mature." [emph. mine]

So expressed in terms of landmass, sexual content is significant but narrow.  I use the term "isthmus" in the exact geologic sense, as "a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas"-- an important but narrow channel of experience, in other words, linking far larger economies together.  In particular, fashion and avatar enhancements, on the one hand, and land barons/club owners, on the other. Looking at total landmass is a helpful corrective to the Popular Places display in SL's viewer, which indicates what several thousand of Residents are doing on any given day-- but doesn't necessarily say much about what the hundreds of thousands of other active Residents are doing in-world at the same time.  Though we can made some educated guesses, the variety remains a mystery.

That's the macro view.  A more intimate resply to Ziggy's article comes from Lillie Yifu, whose fascinating blog, 2nd Sex, cropped up in the voluminous Open Forum for new SL bloggers.  A successful escort in her own right, Lillie has valuable insights that only an insider can offer:

I joke that lesbianism is SL's fastest growing religion. RL there are physical barriers, including the processing of scent, to bisexuality. In SL, all the signals that lead to it: lack of good men, physical attractiveness, concern and help, closeness and the need for intimacy, are heightened, and the barriers are dropped to almost nothing. Hence, far more female/female relationships turn sexual. I had a very straight friend of mine point out that on sl, the more subtle forms of touch are not there, so "hot kissing" is what the game offers for women to be physically affectionate.

Much more here.

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