What Scares Me In SL?

by Alphaville Herald on 04/12/07 at 6:47 pm

Players who treat others as toys

by Aurel Miles

dancing in fear

When I came to SL I assumed I was not afraid of anything here. After all, it never gets cold, you can’t starve to death. You can look as you please, go where you want and nobody can injure you. Play lemming as many times as you want – not a scratch. The worst thing that can happen to you here is that you might have someone push you or get hit-up by some noobie jerk begging for money. Even if you die, you just get sent home. And you can fly. 

So what’s scary in flatland? There’s the “I am Legend” sim where you can run around gnashing your teeth as an infected zombie/vampire or run around trying to avoid getting killed by packs of roaming zombie/vampires. There are the capture sims, where consenting adults do things to each other that I cannot bear to think about but that apparently give them pleasure. There are the diaper sims that scare me out of my wits and the kid themed sims that raise my hackles and turn me into a would-be Joan of Arc.

There are mazes and shooter games and possibly overspending. As a person who has a rule about bringing money into SL I wouldn’t know about that but I have heard a few stories. And then there’s sex.

I have been writing about SL sex long enough now that he thought of two people describing whatever they can imagine to each other over instant message no longer holds any mystery for me. Ditto the idea of cartoon avatars shagging in every position physically possible (and a few that surely aren’t.) The act itself no longer raises an eyebrow with me.

I took a long walk around SL late one Friday night. I went alone and I went to the scariest places I could find.

So I’ll tell you what scares me in SL. It’s You.

Death looks good for the holidays in SL

See, You are a person in your raw state here, you are all mind and imagination you are the you that might have been if you were the supreme ruler of your own private universe. You could be anything.

“So what?” I hear you saying; “you can be anything too” That’s true but I have made it my task to look as closely at you as I can. I do this not to see who you might be in real life nor to pass judgments on what you do here but rather to see where our society, our culture is headed. I do it to catch a glimpse of the raw heart, mind and soul of humanity. Sometimes what I see can be inspiring. Just as often it can be terrifying.

In the time I have been writing for the Herald I have learned that sex and power are the same thing to a lot of people. I have made peace with that and am somewhat comforted by the fact that the submissive partner in the BDSM dynamic seems to have an equal share of power despite outward appearances. My short dip into the Mistress pool proved that to me. Mistresses spend a ton of time working out what their submissive partners need and how they can best meet that need while still keeping their partner safe and convinced that they are somehow exposing themselves. It is a difficult balance to maintain and subs are, for the most part, there to be taken on a ride. They do not shoulder any burdens in a place where they can choose to show up and play or stand up and “crash” whenever it gets too slow or too intense.

But You are something else. You can shop till you drop. You can build houses that look exactly like the houses we see every day in reality. You can put red fences around anything you choose. You can decide to express yourself by enacting detailed scenarios of sex, death or distraction. You can choose to play deception games on a one-on-one basis. You can kill.

city of angels

You can also make art that defies gravity. You can share music and make music together across three or more time zones. You can raise money, awareness, consciousness or controversy. You can teach. You can discuss. You can comfort a grieving friend.

There is a lot of talk about SL as a template for the future of the web. (Check out the open architecture wiki if you want more insight into that.) Many of the people I know here are artists experimenting with new ways of discussing reality and human interaction. Some are educators working on computer applications and human interaction. Some are communicators. Fewer and fewer are anonymous players here to explore their inner sex-maniac.

I talk to a lot of strangers in the course of a week and fact is, they get more and more interesting and less and less strange. Still, I notice a huge number of flatland players who are here only as players. They don’t want or care for anything but getting their personal rocks off and they treat other residents as toys.

Sure, the universe revolves around each one of us – that is always going to be the truth. Whoever you are, you will only ever see the world with You at the centre and there is poetry in that – thank God for that. If you can’t see the world as something that is there for you then how would you ever understand how anyone else can see it as being there for them and how will you ever love?

Love is that leap of faith that unites the two fields and creates a new world. Love makes sex sacred, it makes it possible for us to grow and change even here. Love annihilates fear.

Today I want to tell you I have seen sex here and I have seen love. Love is better, even at its most minor and in its most meager form. I don’t know how to tell you how to distinguish love from another part of the game so I am telling you this; I walk into your lives here because you scare me and because I want to understand you, I want in some small way, to love you. I want to do that even if you are the scariest thing I ever saw. I want to know that somewhere under all that fur, or fantasy or all those straps and leather – there is a human being.

searching for light in Christmas Mall

Part of everyone’s reason for being here is curiosity and although it is sometimes expressed in destructive ways, curiosity is never a destructive impulse. We want to know because we thirst for understanding and once you understand a person, assuming they are not Adolph Hitler or Attila the Hun, it is difficult not to love them at least a little. SL is changing, less and less of it is a game and more and more is about intimate social connection. Sometimes that can be a little scary, maybe we should think about why it is that way.

We are walking into a new world. Facebook, Twitter and the rack of new sl-style virtual realities poised to launch into competition with this world prove that. Anyone who is interested in the future of the eworld is here or on their way. So what do we do now?

Consider this a call to action – it is time to start talking. It is time to start telling your story and listening to the story of your neighbor. The new service agreement is leaning toward non-anonymous interaction. Linden Labs has the capacity to see what you are doing. Be brave. Do something you will be proud of. If you are into an alternate lifestyle start talking about why that is and how it is not only harmless but also helpful to you. Stop leaving your stories to people like me and start speaking your truth. Do things you can live with at the least and are proud of if at all possible – bear witness. Be brave enough to look into your own heart and ask yourself why you are really here. Embrace joy. Be a light in the darkness.

making friends with mortality

Chanukah starts this Tuesday, like Diwali, it is a celebration of light in the darkest time of the year. Like Christmas, it is a reminder that hope can be born in the humblest place and in the darkest hour. But unique to Chanukah is the idea that it does not matter if you fail in the end. Failure, shame and disgrace do not diminish the value of a sincere effort. The effort is what counts. The effort is what is remembered.

Facing your fear is what matters. Telling your story is what matters. The miracle of Chanukah is what is asked of you here – in any venue, on any sim. Allow yourself to strive, be a human being not just an observer. Take hold of the things that make you want to hide, look at your shame – do these things because here you are invincible, here, nothing can hurt you. Walk into your fear face first, look at yourself and look at each other and talk about it honestly and without trying to make sure you are invulnerable. We are all vulnerable, we are all scary, we are all here together. And that is what matters.

Happy Chanukah


a.m. 2007

One light in the darkness

30 Responses to “What Scares Me In SL?”

  1. Tony Zadoq

    Dec 4th, 2007

    Happy Chanukah!

  2. Darien Caldwell

    Dec 4th, 2007

    A thought provoking piece. Good to see something non-sensational written here for a change. Encore!

  3. DJ Cure

    Dec 4th, 2007

    Much to agree on here. Thanks for the thoughts.

  4. anon

    Dec 4th, 2007

    That or..you know..it’s a game. Hurr.

  5. Angel

    Dec 4th, 2007

    > “and the kid themed sims that raise my hackles”

    Hmmm, Why? What have the Kids done to you? Or are you just assuming things?

    Have you even been into and spent time in a Kid themed or targeted region?

    If your views on sex or whatever can be just cartoons humping in every position imaginable then why can’t you see the innocence and harmlessness of Kids dancing in club or RPing scouts or building amusement parks?

    The kids are not there bonking and sitting on poseballs like the Adults in SL are, with their strip clubs, escorts, yiffing theatres, BDSM Sims, Bukkake stores, nude beaches, free sex clubs, newb cawks… et al.

    The kids don’t have this, they have bubble gum and roller skates. BMX Bikes and skateboards.

    Or are you one of the close minded fundamentalists who refuse to take the blinkers of their own putrid and rancid minds and assume that the Kids are doing what they themselves would like to?

    It takes innocence to be a kid, innocence that sadly so many of the adults in SL fail to have.

    Before YOU preach the message of Channuka why not go and practice it.

    Blessed be.

  6. Rape-Ape

    Dec 4th, 2007

    goths/emos = fags


  7. Proteus Hand

    Dec 4th, 2007

    Angel, that’s quite a bit of reading you did into a sole, possibly cursory sentence… I don’t think the meaning of the article as a whole was aimed in that direction – more towards a comical aspect… a bit on the maternal side, aren’t we?

  8. Penny Sautereau

    Dec 4th, 2007

    Rape in your name = Misanthropic knuckle dragger. Discuss.

    Nice to see Aurel is capable of using her brain after all.

  9. BlueGumTiger

    Dec 4th, 2007

    What scares me is how you, and so many others, can say this:

    …”but rather to see where our society, our culture is headed. “…

    ‘our society’ – singular.

    ‘our culture’ – singular.

    It scares me to realise that so many of you believe that there is only one culture on the whole planet – yours.

    It also saddens me.

    SL is full of incredible diversity simply because human beings and human societies themselves are incredibly diverse!

    Oh, and since Chanukah is a celebration of a victory in war, albeit an ancient one, it’s ‘no thanks’ from me!

  10. Angel

    Dec 4th, 2007

    > “Angel, that’s quite a bit of reading you did into a sole, possibly cursory sentence.”

    To (overquote) the very article…

    > “Consider this a call to action – it is time to start talking. It is time to start telling your story and listening to the story of your neighbor. The new service agreement is leaning toward non-anonymous interaction. Linden Labs has the capacity to see what you are doing. Be brave. Do something you will be proud of. If you are into an alternate lifestyle start talking about why that is and how it is not only harmless but also helpful to you. Stop leaving your stories to people like me and start speaking your truth. Do things you can live with at the least and are proud of if at all possible – bear witness. Be brave enough to look into your own heart and ask yourself why you are really here. Embrace joy. Be a light in the darkness.”

    I am a Kid, the story of Kids in SL (my use of capitalisation BTW is to define a group of people in SL as opposed to a RL child) This paragraph calls for me to start talking, to discuss my point of view. It *is* an alternate lifestyle in the greater scheme of things and I’m sick and tired of people like Aurel rubbishing it and equating it with lowlife gutter dwelling predators.

    I am following the paragraph I copy/paste here, yet she is not herself. You can’t rubbish a group like Kids saying they “raise your hackles” and at the same time preach tolerance and pride. That is hypocritical.

    I still hold the author should explain her dislike of Kids that caused it, or, herself prectice a little understanding. She is not, or those few words would not have been necessary or would have been phrased differently.

  11. Big Dave

    Dec 5th, 2007

    Why do you have a problem with SL kids? Most of the kids have families and act like children. This is a chance for them to connect with their childhoods, and in some cases change the outcome. In other cases it is just a chance to relive part of their lives that may have been a happy time.

  12. The Grid Live

    Dec 5th, 2007

    Second Life News for December 5, 2007

    From: Second Life Blog Super cool new WindLight First Look Viewer! Quote from the site – So. I think you’re really gonna like this one. I mean a lot. You know all that jira reporting we’ve asked you to do? You know all those votes you’ve been giv…

  13. yvette tzara

    Dec 5th, 2007

    This was a very well written and thoughtful article. And the article never once mentioned “Kids”, so why do people take the opportunity to blast aurel for her position on kids? “Me thinketh they protesteth too much.”
    And because you asked, this is the problem with Kid roleplay. There are a people in sl who engage in kid roleplay in a sexual manner and this is wrong. Sexual interaction with children is one of the worst crimes imaginable because it takes something away from a child that never ever can be replaced. In its place the child is given serious psychological problems that remain with the child/teenager/adult for the rest of his/her life. As a result, their problems become their spouses problems and their childrens problems. The impact of the crime keeps on spreading.
    In that regard, it is unlike most any other crime that can be committed. As a result all societies provide for serious penalties for those who engage in sexual relations with children. And a person should stay as far away from that as possible. So don’t even try to waive the flag that aurel is “intolerant” or a “fundamentalist”. You are either extremely naive or you are hiding something that you dont want others to know.
    If you had any sense and innocence at all on this matter, you would run away from child roleplay as fast as possible because of its proximity to criminal – a universally recognized criminal – behavior.
    For the children, abandon and renounce all kid roleplay.

  14. Kid

    Dec 5th, 2007

    EXCUSE ME kids in SL play just that kids. My kid was very upset when an adult male tried to pick her up. She is a child, and the next time she went to back to the place which is supposed to be child safe, she went with an adult AV. She also filed an AR with the dialog, and I assume Linden took the appropriate step and kicked him off the grid. SL kids behave like kids, we have families and are addressing the inner child issues in us. NONE of these are related to sex.

  15. DF

    Dec 5th, 2007


    Just to point out, this article DID mention kids, e.g. ageplayers.

    The mistake you are making, which is a common one, is assuming kid AV = pedophile.

    Which Angel pointed out in his first comment, is texactly also Auriel’s mistake.

    Take her advice to heart, and talk to some ageplayers, with an open mind and ear. Then you’ll see that what you assume about kid AV’s, couldnt be farther from the truth.

  16. Eddy

    Dec 5th, 2007

    Why is it so hard to understand that some people might enjoy letting go of their being adult IRL, and simply enjoy being a kid again?

    Not having to go to work, just playing games and hide and seek and building with Lego’s all day long, not a care in the world other then being able to find that one red brick for your lego project…

    I wish I could have stopped growing up at ten. I don’t think any kid would want to grow up when they know what it really entails…

    work, rent, relations, horror stories on the evening news, politics, insurance, need I go on? I definately can go without.

    Bring on the model trains, lego and skateboard please!

    Peace to all.

  17. mj

    Dec 5th, 2007

    Oh yea, that makes sense.

    So lose all male avatars in SL because some males are criminals… and there’s a largish subset of SL males that RP criminals, too, sexual and otherwise.

    Lose all female avatars in SL because some females are criminals in RL and likewise RP illegal acts in SL, sometimes sexual.

    Lose all beautiful skinny avatars in SL because they model an outlook/behavior in SL that has RL cross-over in the form of body image and the self-abuse necessary to get close to that SL image.

    The list goes on and on and on….

    If SL Kids are an issue because *some* subset of them may engage in sexual behavior with an adult avatar, ban the adults – if we were talking actual pedophilia here, it isn’t the kid that would be punished for it. Oh wait… no kids are involved here, so crash boom, there goes your entire argument.

  18. Pie Psaltery

    Dec 5th, 2007

    What difference is there between us, save a restless dream that follows my soul but fears to come near you?
    Kahlil Gibran

    For the record, I’m still exploring my inner sex-maniac.

  19. Izaea Qinan

    Dec 5th, 2007

    Yvette, my name is Izaea. In secondlife, I am a prostitute; I sell my services of text-fucking for a premium. In the real world, where I live and most everywhere else in my nation, this is a crime. Should I be banned for doing it?

    I also serve as a high ranked member of a military, operating with a non-governmental group that declares war upon and kills those whom it deems a threat. In the real world, this kind of behavior would be labeled not only as murder, but also treason and insurrection. I would likely receive the death penalty.

    In my free time, I play in many different roleplay cities. In one of them, Nexus Prime, I play a drug-addicted mutant from the lower city. My behaviors would seem to advocate an activity universally accepted as unhealthy, and widely illegal, the use of illicit pharmecuticals. Given the jursidiction of the state in which I reside, I would be jailed for a number of years.

    I also hang out in clubs from time to time – I’ve wandered over to the ark, and engaged in illicit actions with a member of another species… several members of several species, as a matter of fact. Were these actions committed in the real world, there would be no house in any industrialized nation that would take me in.

    There is, of course, a difference. I am not selling sex; I am selling the time it takes for me to help write an erotic story, which is perfectly legal. I am not shooting a man in the head; I am playing a video game that involves violence. I am not actually having sex with a skunk, horse, or dragon; I am having an adult chat with the person at the other end of the internet cord.

    And while I have never engaged in Ageplay as a sexual action in SL, I would not be having sex with a child. I would be engaging in a fantasy with a consenting adult of legal age by means of a textual and animated interface.

    I’m not an ageplayer. I am, however, disgusted by people who want to remove them from the grid. Do furries go next? Escorts? Militaries? Gays or Lesbians? Goreans? Distopian roleplayers? Dissidents?

    And then… who’s left?

    I think Captain Jean Luc Picard said it best, as it is with so many things.

    “With the first link the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.”

    When you start slicing off members of the population that you deem deviant, you start to find that -everyone- is deviant to someone, and that everyone engages in actions every day that someone somewhere finds abhorrant. Because of this, you have to use a very libertarian viewpoint when it comes to personal behaviors.

    So here’s the litmus test.

    Does it hurt anyone?

    And honestly now – does the online portrayal of two consenting adults acting out a mutual, previously held fantasy, actually and seriously damage a single person?


    Let it be.

  20. Tycho Beresford

    Dec 5th, 2007

    “bear witness” – excellent advice.

  21. A Nonny Mouse

    Dec 5th, 2007

    The only reason I don’t like kid avs is because all the ones I’ve ever encountered insist on conversing in that annoying “cute” baby talk. “Oh pweeze daddy buy me pwezzie! I wike dat dwess, daddy!” Do people who play kid avs actually know any RL children?

  22. Wendell Holmer

    Dec 5th, 2007

    Thanks for a thoughtful, well-written, inspiring piece. I wish I had written that.

  23. Proteus Hand

    Dec 5th, 2007

    What Izaea says is true, and should be heeded by those marching through the media, like outraged mothers, attempting to bring some sort of banishment to anything, “grossly offensive.” Everything offends someone, but just because something is offensive to you, doesn’t mean it hinders your ability to continue existing the same way you always have.

    Once again, Apathy is the universal anesthesia, and cure-all.

  24. Izaea Qinan

    Dec 5th, 2007


    And a fine merry christmas to you, Proteus. S’good to see that my status as a member of the AN doesn’t make me incapable of talking sense.

    Seriously, though. Peace, love, joy, all that holiday rot.

  25. Enderby Burgess

    Dec 6th, 2007

    Aurel once again uses that prism that she has, views the pixelated interpretion of out there in here, and in her gifted way analyzes that spectral spray. You can argue her points, debate the ideas, and that is good, it should be done, I will not do that here.

    This is the first thing I did this morning, I cut and pasted this article into my word program of choice, and did the ancient thing, printed it out. Yes, I think this article is that important, it positions SL now, at this moment. I wanted to have this reference, this view of this thing SL, kept in a way that is permanent, and that is on paper.

    There are writers that have assigned mileposts to the linear spew of events that become history. Their thoughts become how the future sees that time, aur has done that with this article. At any given moment it is possible to turn around and see where you have been, and plan where you might end up. Some moments are better than others, this is a good one.

  26. VeryDull Razor

    Dec 6th, 2007

    Not sure I completely agree with the article… anonymity is what allows people to express themselves in an unrestricted way… to venture into a world where RL restrictions are no where to be found. Yes, there are some caveats to this, but the majority of SL wants to keep these restrictions out. There are things I would never do or say in RL, but in SL I happily play in my fantasy world.

    I mean how else would a night like this happen?



  27. Maria Leveaux

    Dec 7th, 2007

    I wouldn’t get to Down on Aurel because something “Raises her hackles” I’m an extremely Liberal person myself, I live and let live, If i give ither people advice on life it pretty much Follows that vein, But i will also Freely admit that there ARE attitudes, and Practices that Upset, disturb, Alarm or Anger me. I’m a Human being, I am unique, and i am Not going to like or dislike the same things as Literally Everybody else. Tolerance is not about Loving everything, it’s about Accepting Differences, Acknowledging their equal validity to my own Ideas, Ideals, and Beliefs.
    I haven’t yet received my certificate of perfection, so I’m not in any Position to tell the rest of the world what is right or wrong, I can Only tell them what is right or wrong For Me. The rest they have to work out for themselves.

    Aurel stating that sthere is something she Dislikes doesn’t make her Intolerant, it only makes her honest, How she chooses to ACT on those feelings determine whether she is Intolerant or Not.


    Post Script:
    A word on “Tolerance”. To be honest, i dislike the word and rarely use it. To me “Tolerance” Suggests that we are grudgingly allowing the existance of something that is patently Unacceptable. There is an Arrogance about the word as though In Tolerating something we, against our better judgement, deign to allow to exist something that Has NO right to exist.
    While this MAY reflect the attitudes of Some, it doesn’t accurately describe Mine. I prefer terms like “Open” or “Accepting” They reflect more properly that the subject Is a reality, it is a fact of existance, and i can Choose to partake of it, or leave it alone but whatever I choose, doesn’t Impact Other peoples Freedom of Choice.

    I’m Fussy about the language i use. it’s a Powerful thing, the ability to Convey ideas, and I think it Wise to always strive to make my Meaning and intent Clear by Choosing my words carefully.


  28. Mistoffelees66 Fimicoloud

    Dec 8th, 2007

    yvette tzara made the following post, “EXCUSE ME kids in SL play just that kids. My kid was very upset when an adult male tried to pick her up. She is a child, and the next time she went to back to the place which is supposed to be child safe, she went with an adult AV. She also filed an AR with the dialog, and I assume Linden took the appropriate step and kicked him off the grid. SL kids behave like kids, we have families and are addressing the inner child issues in us. NONE of these are related to sex.”

    Now, while it may be true of her daughter, it is not true of all minors. A 15year old just applied to work as a stripper at a club a friend of mine owns. She sent him packing immediately upon learning he was a minor. There is also the fact, that yvette is in the wrong allowing her under 18 years old daughter play on the grid. The grid is supposed to be for adults only. There is a Teen grid for the minors [between 13 and 17, inclusive], and that is where she belongs if she’s of age.

    From http://secondlife.com/corporate/tos.php

    “2.2 You must be 13 years of age or older to access Second Life; minors over the age of 13 are only permitted in a separate area [Teen Grid], which adults are generally prohibited from using. Linden Lab cannot absolutely control whether minors or adults gain unauthorized access to the Service.”

    Now, there was the comment about it being ridiculous to shield children/minors from adult content, and that it is really the parents’ responsibility. I agree that it SHOULD be the parents’ responsibility. However, the fact of the matter is that not all parents are very responsible when it comes to their children and their online activities. So, if the parents won’t do it, it becomes necessary for outside agencies to do so. Part of the issue is legal anyways, not just dealing with parents who don’t take the time to do the right thing by their chilren when they are online.

  29. Mistoffelees66 Fimicoloud

    Dec 8th, 2007

    Now, for something more personal that ties directly to the article…

    I am a Domme. I have a large number of “pets”, three of which are slaves. Yes, slaves. I even have contracts that were witnessed where they signed their SL lives over to me. Do I engage in sexual activity with them, most definitely. They expect and desire it. Past that, I learn about each of them, and I learn how they tick, what excites them, what arouses them, what they fear and more. I take that knowledge and understanding and use it to provide them with the experience they crave. I am loved by, and I love, My pets. I keep them happy, and vice versa. Nothing that happens between Me and Mine is done without consent. My girls all can stop Me if they become uncomfortable, not a one has to date, they all trust Me to stop before they would stop Me.

    But they’re only pixilated avatars, how can you love them? What about those stories of men playing women, what about them?

    Like the author of this article, I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. There are things that some people engage in that I disagree with on a personal level. As long as it is between consenting adults I’m fine with it, even if it is not something I want anything to do with it. And I’ve seen nearly everything.

    I don’t purposely judge others for their lifestyles and most choices. I do My best to accept people as they are. That includes the men being women in SL. Truth is, I’ve had pets who were men as women. And they were lovely pets, and I’m still fond of them. I accept everyone as they present themselves, so long as they stay true to that image.

    And love… Love comes from knowing the person, not the avatar. As Domme, I really get to know My pets, and they get to know Me. There is a level of trust that is built up between a Dominate and submissive that most of you non BDSM’ers will never understand. And with that trust comes Love and devotion, in both directions.

    Mistress Misto.

    Note: I have so many pets that I don’t need more so don’t come looking for Me hoping to become Mine. But, if you want to talk with Me and get to know Me and perhaps become friends, I’m fine with that.

  30. Izaea Qinan

    Dec 9th, 2007

    For the record.

    The issue is not “the kid themed sims that raise my hackles,” suggesting that a particular thing does not appeal to her.

    The issue is “the kid themed sims that raise my hackles and turn me into a would-be Joan of Arc,” which suggests some kind of action against the sims; actively protraying the action as wrong, and seems to advocate action against it.

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