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Friday, November 26, 2010


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DMC Zsigmond

No. It is not a turn on. In fact, it's deplorable.

ColeMarie Soleil

I think you all need to eat ice cream and watch some porn. For real. There is nothing wrong with having an edgy and roughed up looking character. There can be many many many reasons for this but for real. Have you never read an adult graphic novel or comic before? Sheesh calm down.

Nine Warrhol

Very eye opening exhibit. I've known Scylla here and there for roughly 2 years. She is very passionate about this issue and her display reflects that.

She is bringing focus and its not in a hit you over the head kinda way. Very well done Scylla.

Scylla Rhiadra

Well, I'm not sure who this "Scylla Rhiandra" chick is, but I like the way she thinks ...

Hamlet, I want particularly to echo what you say here: "It is possible to support free speech and expression while also advocating social pressure against hateful content." I'm always puzzled as to why some can't see this essential point: liberal western democracy is *built* on the premise that one can fundamentally disagree, and explore that disagreement through dialogue, without wanting to censor the opposition. I doubt that many Democrats would support the banning of the Republican Party, however much they might abhor what it stands for.

The other point I need to make, which is missing also from Honour McMillan's otherwise superb post, is that my exhibit is in fact only part of a much larger and frankly more important event unfolding in Second Life right now, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. The Second Life observance of this parallels the "real life" event, which is coordinated through Rutgers University. The SL 16 Days features dozens of artists, musicians, academics, and activists in live performance, on panel discussions, or giving presentations and papers; the vast majority of the focus is upon highlighting the "real life" incidence of gender violence around the world. The site for Second Life's 16 Days of Activism, with a schedule of events, can be found here:


Hamlet Au

Deleted that wayward "n", Mz. Rhiadra

Talia Tokugawa

RL gender violence (not including self harm) is for the most part non consensual.
In SL it's that persons choice to right-click wear that bruised up skin. It's the players choice to right-click sit on the poseballs. Even with RLV active they still have safe words and the ability to turn off rlv/second life. There are so many "outs" to doing something in Second Life that wouldn't exist for a RL situation.
These activities are also covered in CS/TOS in that if you stick to a PG sim then there shouldn't be any chance you come across this stuff. Basically if you go look for this stuff you can find it but you actively have to look, ie, type "bdsm" or whatever into the search engine.. whilst having an adult (neither pg or mature return any results) activated account.

Very Very big difference.

Even looking at other virtual environment/games, take Red Dead Redemption, there is an Xbox achievement for hog tying a nun and then leaving her on railway tracks. Or maybe the GTA series where there are mini games with achievements for beating prostitutes.
While I do not agree with non-consensual violence on any gender, race or religion. I don't think blanket censoring of anything based on what is in actual fact a minority group, thinks. (check feminist as a search term in groups, 14 hits with no group with more than 150 members. Scylla was happy to point out how many "extreme groups" there are in her original post.)
Personally, I'd be more worried by the clean or perfect avatars. It's not like having the majority of avatars being the idealistic perfect people is any better. Far more dangerous people pretending to be something they can't be than experimenting with something in what is actually a "safe environment".
How damaging is this "ideal society". You have psychological issues where people can't make their bodies into what they imagine which can leads to eating disorders, depression, self harm.. etc etc. This is a well recognised issue with media.
I guess this is where the hypocrisy starts. Scylla and Honour, if you don't mind my saying, you both have good looking avatar. Scylla, Your also perfectly happy to post a topless shot of your avatar for all the world to see. ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/scyllarhiadra/5019957043/ ) Would you be willing to post RL pics? RL topless pics? I'd assume the answer here would be no. So there is a difference between SL and RL. You have different boundaries in SL and RL. You are willing to go further with your SL than your RL. Surely this is the same thing as people experimenting with the extremes?
Another point here. About the difference between a topless guy and a topless girl. If a girl places her hand on a guys topless chest that is no big deal. Roles reversed and the guy could be brought up on charges and is considered improper conduct. I am not saying all topless female shots should be banned. All I am saying is that there is a difference.

heheh sorry

Scylla Rhiadra

Thanks for your comments, Talia. I'll just respond briefly, if I may. Your point about the consensual nature of this kind of role play is, of course, entirely correct (although "consent" can be a more tricky concept than you concede: "consent" produced through coercion and emotional blackmail are proscribed by any RL BDSM group I've ever run across). The notecard introduction to the exhibit makes it clear that I understand this, and that I am not making any simplistic or reductive equation of RP and the "real thing."

And of course there is sexualized violence in other games and media. These are of concern as well.

Your point about body image is well-taken, but not entirely relevant in the sense that it is a rather different issue than violent interpersonal role play. I do have friends who go to pains to produce "unattractive" or monstrous avatars to make a point. My own SL name, "Scylla," was chosen deliberately because it is "monstrous." To flip your point around, however, I'd like to suggest that I shouldn't have to have an ugly avatar to be a "feminist." Modern feminism does not try to efface female sexuality: it simply wishes to make sure that it is controlled by women. A final point on this: you might perhaps have contextualized my "topless" shot by pointing out that it was part of a protest against LL's guidelines rating topless women "Adult," while topless men are apparently "General." There is nothing intrinsically “obscene” about breasts: that is a cultural and social determination, not a “natural” one.

With regard to censorship -- I have not, and will not, be calling for that. And yes, there are more users of hardcore porn in SL than card-carrying feminists. But the group Stop Violence against Women, one of the mainstays of feminist activism in SL, has over 1000 members. And my guess is that a majority of SL users, be they “feminists” or not, would be as shocked and horrified by snuff, rape, and Dolcett RP as any feminista.

brinda allen

Yay! @Scylla.
Heh Heh Ice cream my butt =^..^=

If no one evers says something is a problem socially... nothing ever changes. No one is calling for a ban... just sayin' let's raise awareness that something culturally OK may not be where the human condition needs to remain.

Trin Trevellion

Oh, I have to check this out.

Did some post-apocalyptic survival skins in the past and sometimes people asked me if I might add more gore and other creepy stuff. Never did that of course but I think a bloody violent av can make a cool impression of a fantasy heroine who likes to kick butt. And it's the nerd's wet dream. I don't think we'll undergo a Zombie apocalypse in real life soon so why not? I think about all the women who spend hundreds of dollars a year for beauty products. That's the real sick society. It's not much of a modern feminist stance to say: the appearance of a beaten up male av is cool and fine but a beaten up female av is a crime. Virtual self-expression cannot be taken seriously with the lack of real causation.

Personally, I find the realistic violated appearance of all avs awkward. All I say is that it can be well-grounded in an artistic way as much it is disgusting for Gor like roleplay or this other very weird stuff. Well, I dislike Gor but fortunately it takes two to tango and it's not my concern what other people like to do with their real or virtual body. After all, Second Life is a sandbox environment, a virtual experiment, mostly fictional and we need weird encounters (not talking about unethical delicts) to figure out who we are. And we have something to talk about. There is no enforcement in virtual worlds, only stupidity. Also, the sort of male users who live out their violent fantasies about women can't get a hard-on anyway, as soon as they figure out that your IQ is at least 50 points above them.

Talia Tokugawa

Another thought here is that I maybe desensitized to a hell of a lot in SL.
I have over five years in SL now. I assume that Scylla is your first avatar and therefore you have just over two years.
SL has come a long way in the time I've been here in respect to this topic. If you'd logged in four years or so ago then there wasn't a filtered search and there was regularly a location called "Hard alley" in the top of search. This was a similar location to what your against. It was very easy to find and was practically pushed in your face. Since then we've seen the introduction of age verification and the pg/mature/adult split for parcels and search. So as I pointed out before it does make it so you actively have to search. For me Second Life seems tame compared to the earlier times.
My points about the photos and comparisons to real life really are trying to show that for the most part Second Life and Real Life are two different things. What people do in Second Life and what they do in Real Life are separate. While you are happy to have photos of your virtual self without a top on spread around the internet the case is not the same for your real self. Likewise with snuff (Can you die in sl?), rape (Is it rape if it is consensual?) or Dolcett RP (Dolcett is practically unheard of in the real except for an underground series of comics) these are all things that the vast majority of people just play around with in SL cause they wouldn't ever consider it in RL.
As the tag line goes, "your world, your imagination." Can you honestly say you've never been stood on a railway platform and just for a second wondered about pushing someone in front of an on-coming train.. or something similar?

I am really not sure what your trying to do with this exhibit. It's a good exhibit, makes you think, but what's the endgame? You say you don't want censorship? What else is there? Evoking a horde of angry residents with pitch forks to storm Gor castles?

DMC Zsigmond

I am huge advocate for free speech and expression.

However, the fact remains that any depictions of violence, male or female (especially female), which makes its way out of SL onto blogs or the world wide web 'is' going to ride a very fine with the mainstream public - particularly rights groups & lobbyists who are going to have a field day with this kind of visual and/or symbolic material.

The risk that this content may be interpreted completely differently (and/or even negatively) from the way the original artist intended it is extremely high.

Personally, I wouldn't bet my business producing this kind of digital content due to the risks involved. It's just a bad business bet. If I'm going to spend my time making something, it would need to have a degree of certainty.

Are creators defending free speech with these products or are they really defending profits while they capitalize on the morbid curiosity of the darker side of human nature?

Ultimately, I am afraid to say, it is impossible to distinguish the violence issue from artistic or sexual freedom of expression movement in this case. Changes and regulation in SL have proven that Linden Lab and therefore Second Life, is still subject to real life common laws, and in the real world, these kinds of artistic images are rarely tolerated -- and might I add for the reason that people's lives and/or welfare is at risk in the whole context of, and in situations of domestic violence (between Adults and/or including adolescent or minors).

LOL, there is no middle ground here! This is not 2003 anymore! This is 2010-2011.

SL cannot join the ranks or club with Facebook, Twitter, and other leading social media brands as a longstanding Silicone Vally Service Provider without making making sure its content is more accessible. If we want SL to survive, and we accept the idea that SL must grow, then we must accept the loss of some freedoms in order for the SL service to be considered socially acceptable for the promotion of it and the subsequent influx of new people.

For residents who cannot accept this, I suggest OpenSIM actually may actually provide a better alternative environment to explore this content.

Second Life isn't an Island - pardon the pun.


With regard to censorship -- I have not, and will not, be calling for that

If I remember correctly (and I may be wrong) you were calling for Curio to stop selling skins you disagreed with because you felt they glorified violence against women when that was never the intent of the creator nor were they ever marketed that way.


We should ban violent television as well, including Friday night football and boxing, and violent computer games, and photos of people with bruises.

They all desensitize us to violence.

I'm a big advocate of free speech and free expression, by the way.


Responses to Scottish Government consultation on extreme pornography:

"Engender holds that this legislation is needed
to reduce the potential for broad cultural harm and address the demand for extreme pornography, which has led to the proliferation of rape
pornography, in particular across the internet... these sites contribute to a culture where rape is not only condoned but validated.
Our objections to extreme pornography are based on cultural harm and its abusive and degrading portrayal of females and female sexuality and not simply on its sexual content or explicitness. In extreme pornography, sex is presented as abusive and violent towards women and sexualises their abuse, systematically exploits and portrays them as objects to be abused, degraded and bought. It perpetuates the
myths that women are sexually available, can be persuaded or forced to have sex and are subordinate to men.

Pornography’s presentation of violence and sexual abuse can support an environment in which the perpetrators of rape are rarely convicted (according to Scottish Government figures for 2006/07 only 2.9% of rapes recorded by the police led to a conviction). Pornography perpetrates myths about rape exist which can
make it hard for sex offence victims to be believed or seen as credible and makes it
more difficult for them to come forward and be treated with fairness."

Rape Crisis Scotland:
"We believe that it is a missed opportunity to not include non-photographic representations of extreme acts in the bill. This means that the provision in the bill will not cover depictions of extreme pornography on virtual worlds such as Second Life or games online or other digital platforms, where the pornography is violent, extreme and interactive, but where the
images are not photographic. Similarly, we would like to emphasise that there is still a need to enact similar legislation in relation to child pornography, as proposed by the Scottish Executive in early 2007."

Advert for the Glass n stone rape and torture club in SL:
"A group for all you sadists and extreme masochists. If you like things brutal this is the group for you. No limits beating before dragging the broken slut into the darkness for sadistic torture and savage rape. Leave your inhibitions in real life. This is your worst fantasy come to life."

Extreme pornography is on the legislative agenda in the UK and no doubt elsewhere and the reasons for this are as stated by the anti violence against women organisations quoted. As Scylla said, what is needed is further debate and broader awareness raising on this issue.She asks the fundamentally important question as to why violence against women is acceptable masturbatory fodder for men. While people have been quick to criticise her for things she hasn't actually said, no one has actually begun to try to answer that question. We need to ask lots of 'whys'. Why is there such demand for these images and role play in sl? Why is there such a huge demand for violence against women and the degradation and humiliation of women in first life pornography? Why is it seen as free speech to publish and profit from these depictions but censorship when feminists speak out to challenge them?

Object! states:
"CEDAW has since repeatedly identified (9) the links between the portrayal of women as sex objects by the media and sex industry with attitudes that underpin violence and discrimination against women.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) has also repeatedly highlighted (11) the sexualisation of women in the media and popular culture as a 'conducive context' for violence against women and has called for action to tackle this."

It is this conducive context that we have to consider and the cultural harm that the proliferation and legitimisation of representations of violence against women contribute to and help to sustain. I think it's more important to to push for answers as to why
we've come to find it acceptable or just a case of individual preference for representations of violence against women to be one of many options on the menu for what turns you on than it is to uncritically defend the right to a man's guilt free wank.

Scylla Rhiadra

@Beatrix - My objection to Gala's Battle Royal skins was not that they were "intended" to depict abuse, but rather that she failed to contextualize them as combat RP skins. That they were ever intended as RP skins is a bit foggy, as this is something she herself has never articulated. The skins are still sold alongside all of her regular skins, without a word of explanation or intent, effectively aestheticizing the signs of abuse that they feature, and turning the skins into fashion accessories and "abuse chic." My concerns that this was so were born out by virtually every fashion blog that covered the skins: nearly all of them included images showing the skins, not on avatars in combat gear, but rather wearing club wear or flouncy "ultra-feminine" dresses.

As for censorship, I did not AR the skins, nor did I call for LL to ban them: instead, I called for a boycott (which applies the natural pressures of the marketplace) in the hope that Gala would either make the purpose of the skins as RP accessories clear or, failing that, remove them voluntarily from sale. She has done neither: the skins remain for sale alongside all of her other regular fashion skins, with not a word to suggest that they are anything other than normal fashion skins.

Scylla Rhiadra


1) No one here has called for the banning of anything. Why do you raise this issue?

2) Watching a football game or violent movie probably *does* desensitize us to violence, but the impact is relatively minimal because they are entirely passive activities. The psychological and emotional impact of interactive, interpersonal role play, on the other hand, is much more pronounced. This is, in fact, why people role play in the first place: it is a powerfully affecting experience.

3) If you are seriously trying to suggest that there is any but the most remote similarity between watching a football game or boxing match, and role playing the slitting of a woman's throat and the sexual violation of her corpse, then I can only say that you have a very very skewed sense of proportion.

Honour McMillan

Dear Hamlet - one quick thing :)

"But because human sexuality is a complex, deeply intimate, and intrinsically intense subject, it may be impossible to fully distinguish and separate out what is truly hateful from what is a matter of personal taste and preference (no matter how inexplicable it may be to others.) "

Rape is not sex. It is classified as sexual assault - with the emphasis on assault.

Torture, mutilation and murder are not sex.

Just because somebody has had an orgasm does not mean they or their avatar had sex.


I understand that you're not calling for anything to be banned, Scylla. My rather sarcastic comment was directed at DMC's: "we must accept the loss of some freedoms in order for the SL service to be considered socially acceptable."

I have a friend whose roleplay characters are constantly bruised or bleeding or stitched up. It's nothing to do with sex and everything to do with story-telling, drama and the imagination.

She's also a feminist with a huge social conscience. The idea that she's going to be desensitized is nonsense, because she understands very clearly the difference between fantasy and reality.

That said, I don't have a problem at all with what you've done or said. Even if I disagree with you in some ways, it will never hurt to raise the issue of violence against women, or indeed, violence against anyone.


Hamlet Au

"Rape is not sex. It is classified as sexual assault - with the emphasis on assault. Torture, mutilation and murder are not sex."

Honour, rape fantasies are actually fairly common among women. According to several studies, roughly 4 in 10 women have them regularly:


As for torture, mutilation, and murder, many women in the BDSM scene enjoy rolepaying scenes with those elements -- even scarring and other forms of light mutilation, extreme pain, threats of murder, etc. So I'd caution against making blanket statements about what constitutes sex. Clearly some women do in fact find it erotic and consent to incorporate it into their sex lives.

Arcadia Codesmith

There is a huge gulf between rape fantasy and rape. Rape fantasy is a paradox -- it is imagining a situation where you have no control in a context where you have absolute control.

Freed of responsibility, you can break any number of taboos with no guilt or shame because, after all, you were "forced" and are therefore not responsible.

Actual rape is the polar opposite. You're not ceding control for the purpose of erotic exploration, you're having control ripped from you unwillingly. Rape isn't a crime of lust, it's a crime of power and domninance, a violation of another person's body by a diseased predator intent on boosting their own shattered ego on somebody else's terror and agony. It's an crude assault on your fundamental sense of security, dignity and self-determination.


Hamlet, I think it's important to also be mindful of what might constitute a 'rape fantasy'. My take would be that it doesn't exist in the way you are perceiving, in fact it can't really exist, as rape is about taking away our choices and our control and our power and our humanity away.

Further, I'd very much doubt that the fantasies outlined involve anything in the way of what actually happens for women when we are raped and are much more about the way that we're trained to view sex. Men as dominant, women as submissive etc. Imagining yourself being 'taken' by a big beefcake in some forbidden setting does not equate with rape.

For anyone who might have a fantasy that involves actually being dehumanised, victimised and degraded in the way rape actually happens, it is perhaps likely that they have experienced some kind of trauma that may have impacted their sense of self and sexuality. Either way, to posit a 'rape fantasy' as erotic is problematic.


While much of the fantasy sexual roleplay seems to involve violence committed by men against women, it's hardly limited to this - indeed, one of the pictures in the exhibit shows a man being castrated by a woman. To the extent fantasy violence is of concern, it's hardly a "feminist" concern.

But is it a concern at all? It's hard to see how one can equate fantasy sexual violence against avatars who may or may not have women behind the keyboard with actual violence against women. The argument has to go something along the lines of: fantasy violence that focuses on women abused by men fuels actual violent sexual behavior against women. The connection may exist, but it's not obvious, any more than people who play violent video games are more likely to commit violent crimes.

The feminist movement has faded into irrelevancy by focusing on perceived slights rather than on actual problems. If feminists cared about violence against women, they'd organize boycotts against societies that practice female genital mutilation, or stone (female) adulterers, or practice rape as an accepted tactic of war. Violence against women is real and wrong, but going after poseballs and bloody skins isn't tackling the real problems.

Arcadia Codesmith

In the real world, there are any number of feminist groups working to end violence and discrimination against women worldwide. There wasn't enough room at our secret HQ for everybody to focus on the pronoun issue.

Hamlet Au

"Imagining yourself being 'taken' by a big beefcake in some forbidden setting does not equate with rape."

Read the link, the studies actually factored in that distinction:

"When asked about being 'overpowered by a man,' 52 percent said they'd had that fantasy, the situation most typically depicted in women's romance fiction. But WHEN THE TERM WAS 'RAPE', only 32 percent said they'd had the fantasy. These findings are in the same ballpark as previous reports... Rape fantasies can be either erotic or aversive. In erotic fantasies, the woman thinks: 'I'm being forced and I enjoy it.' In aversive fantasies, she thinks: 'I'M BEING FORCED AND I HATE IT.' Forty-five-percent of the women in the recent survey had fantasies that were entirely erotic. NINE PERCENT WERE ENTIRELY AVERSIVE. AND 46 PERCENT WERE MIXED." (Emph. mine.)


Those still don't address any of the complexities of which I was speaking Hamlet.

jhf, your comment bespeaks so much ignorance about feminism it's barely worth responding to. I'd encourage you, however, to do some research about the issues you refer to. You'll find innumerable instances of feminist work, organisations, campaigns and activism all over the world. Examining the context in which violence against women is legitmised is also part of our work and this is where representations of vaw come in to play.


led, rather than addressing my point that energy spent on poseballs could be better spent on actual violence, you resort to ad hominem attack and make vague references to "campaigns."

Arcadia Codesmith

False dichotomy. There's no constraint against addressing both.

Ginette Pinazzo

An anecdote to add to the proceedings:
When I produced ZEXPO 2011 this year (LL's convention/festival that takes place on the adult mainland), we had a show policy that disallowed any depictions of non-consensual acts such as rape. There was minor backlash during the event's initial marketing from a few disgruntled residents (a slim minority) who could not stop equating freedom of expression with rape depictions. There really is a percentage out there (in SL, specifically) who haven't figured out the difference between consensual acts and the depictions of consensual acts. Let me elaborate…..

Of course, every resident in SL is acting with some level of mutual consensus. We know this. But that's not the point at all. If two adults willingly engage in an act that DEPICTS ageplay, for example, it is the depiction that is the transgression, In a virtual world, all you really have are the depictions, so to speak, so THAT is where the line gets drawn in Sl. Sure, you can consent to 'be raped' in a virtual world. But that depiction, especially being transmitted to the rest of the world in any way, is the degradation. It doesn't matter how much you have consented. You are still transmitting content to the world that is analogous to REALLY doing it in RL.
SL is a world of depictions. It is that realm that must be respected as well as any other.

It becomes quite alarming (though no one should be too surprised) that the misogyny that flourishes in SL not only gets a free pass, but even gets promoted under the guise of 'Gor' and other such code names for rape and kidnapping. Scylla and her work should be applauded for shining more bright light on this serious issue.

PS - and before anyone starts in with 'well, femdom places are just a gender reversal of the same problem'….eh, no. The Matriarchal movements I know in SL for the MOST part, are loving passionate and respectful movements. Full consensus is usually part of the culture. Even in the 'violent' style actions, full consensus is often depicted. In other words, we let the men beg for it!

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