by Alphaville Herald on 02/04/07 at 8:49 pm
by Muffin K. Smith
Ageplay in Second Life has received a lot of media attention ever since early March, when Linden Labs distributed notecards to places that cater to people who seek sex with child avatars. The wording of this notecard, as reported in the Herald, includes the line “Linden Lab chooses not to allow the advertising or promotion of age play or related activities in any public forum — including in-world textures, classified ads, the Second Life forums, or parcel descriptions.” As a result of this rather vague sentence, many people who had child avatars, even those who did not use their avatars for sexual purposes, decided it was a good time for their avatars to grow up and thus ended their SL fling with a second childhood. One major aspect of this story that was largely overlooked, however, is the segment of the Second Life population that does not think that “ageplay” has to mean “sex.”
Second Life children are alive and well, despite the seeming ban on all things involving “ageplay.” A trip to B&R Family Services, Clinic, Foster Home, and Playground (Sunset Beach 105, 206, 23) will usually allow a visitor to find many Second Life children. Kiara Hudson, the manager of B&R explains that the agency enjoys good traffic and is a wonderful place to hang out because “It’s like our own little community, look around, everyone takes care of each other.”
As if to illustrate her point, the agency was then set upon by a couple of griefers who teleported in to heckle and harass the children. In an interesting display of solidarity, the adult avatars hanging out at B&R intervened, and the men were asked to leave by Miss Hudson. When they didn’t comply she ejected them. The whole thing was over very quickly and with little disruption in the discussion. “That’s a good example,” she came back to the interview to say, “I don’t know if you noticed, but everyone came around and helped me, and protected each other. The older kids look out for the younger ones.”
As to why anyone would want to play a child, Miss Hudson explains it very simply. “People play here as children the same reason we play as adults, to get away from RL. Maybe an inner calling, maybe a need to express themselves, maybe just because they miss being kids, everyone who plays a kid will have a different reason but the same basic idea- it’s a way to escape RL.”
Jaelle Akula, an employee of the New Life Adoption Agency (Tajmahal 23, 144, 21), sees the desire to play as a child in a similar vein, but adds that with “being a child in SL you can do child things, like colouring.”
Adoption agencies in SL do a booming business, and a quick search for “Adoption” yields at least 11 agencies that are currently open. Of these, the big three, B&R, New Life, and Family Ties, seem to be much in line with the idea that the words “ageplay” and “sex” have been intertwined in the minds of metaverse residents unnecessarily. “I’m glad the Lindens took a stand,” said Isy Esposito, owner of Family Ties Adoption & Daycare Center, “people do a lot of bad things with children, and what gets missed is that people are doing normal fun things too; hanging out and talking and just enjoying the company of your family.”
Family Ties Adoption & Daycare Center (Porcupine 148, 22, 130) was started by Isy Esposito because she loves kids and has had a wonderful adoptive experience in SL. “My twin sister Ivette (Television) and I were adopted into a wonderful family. We’re two of six kids, and we just hang out and have fun. It’s an old expression that you can’t choose your family, but here in SL you can, and that immediately gives people here a group they can belong to and feel a part of.”
Esposito and her sister are not traditional adoptees because they do not “play young,” they became part of their family as adult avatars. “Our little sister though, she plays a child, and she said it’s a lot of fun to be a kid on SL but there aren’t many places to go play, so I created this place for kids like her, where they can feel safe and have a place of their own.” Looking around the Family Ties lot, it does look like a child’s dream come true with toys and activities for kids. “I’m proud of that,” adds Television, pointing to the “Child Safe” sign on the lawn.
Like several SL places made for child avatars, Family Ties has designated itself as Child Safe and displays a yellow sign, like a traffic sign, on its property. Clicking the sign yields a card that explains its function .” Places with the “Safe” sign are designated as place where you can be a youngster, tiny, babyfur — or whatever — and feel safe. If you find yourself being harassed by a person at a location displaying this sign, just tell the location’s owner: they will take action, including banning the offender from the property as well as filing an abuse report.”
“A lot of adoption places say they’re in business to help SL kids, and a few of them are, but a lot of them are in business to make money. We’re different like that,” says Esposito.
“Yeah, our fees definitely prove that,” adds her sister.
SL Adoption can in fact be a lucrative business. Parents wishing to adopt a child must usually pay the agency that facilitates the adoption. The fee can range from a few lindens to a thousand, depending on the agency. Family Ties, for example, charges 35 lindens to list yourself as a parent looking for a child, then, if you’ve found a match and decide to adopt, they charge you 200 lindens for an adoption ceremony and certificate. The two adoption agencies with the highest traffic, the slightly older B&R agency and the well established New Life Agency, charge significantly more. Parents can list themselves at New Life for either 400, 700, or 1000 lindens. The levels of payment are intended to demonstrate to prospective children the level of interest the parent has in finding a child. At B&R, listing is free, but the actual adoption costs 600 lindens or 700lindens depending on the method of adoption you choose.
For the most part, those who have been through the adoption process seem very happy with the family that takes them in. Mallaien Messmer, a child adopted into a family two weeks ago is very happy with his family. “It’s going good, I got into a big family that all adopt kids, so they’re around a lot. So if my mommy is not around I can stay with my Granpa or Auntie.” Messmer seems to understand the difficulty in maintaining relationships in SL and appreciates his good fortune. “I was lucky that the family I was adopted to has had kids for a long time and are devoted to raising kids but some of my friends are not as lucky. Some of my friends, their parents are around for a while then just seem to get distant.”
This was the experience for Tanzie Voight, who had been recently adopted and then abandoned by her adoptive mother. “She weft me awone at da skool. I don’t want a Momie anymore. They are mean. They dun want to spend time wit da kids da adopt. I dun know why i gotz adopie if den da want me.”
In the notecards given out by the “Child Safe” sign, the following sentiment is expressed. “Letting your inner child run free on Second Life can be a lot of fun.” Currently, thousands of people leave their grown-up real life bodies behind when they log into Second Life and adopt the persona of a child, complete with baby speak dialect and mannerisms. Thousands more log in and become adults that have adopted these children, and they spend their free time as a new entity; the virtual family. As in real life, some families prosper and some don’t. Some people find the families they never had in real life, while some just escape the dreariness of their day by being able to color again. Ageplay? Yes.