Opinion: Public Spaces

by Jessica Holyoke on 17/12/09 at 7:40 am

by Jessica Holyoke

The Swiss recently passed a referendum that banned the building of minarets in their country.  As discussed on Slate, part of this is because the Swiss, like most European countries, are worried about Islamic extremism.  Especially as Muslims in Europe do not integrate to the same extent as Muslims in the United States.  Although you do still see burqas on the streets of major cities in the States. 

While traveling those same streets in the United States, there used to be an ad campaign about spotting people who are being trafficked as sex slaves.  One of the reasons I support at least stopping prosecution of prostitutes is that women and children who are trafficked into foreign countries would not be afraid to seek help from the police. 

By now, you may be wondering what this has to do with Second Life. 

After the Hard Alley protest of a few weeks back, a few comments were made somewhere else about whether or not depictions of slavery, such as by followers of BDSM or Gor, should be allowed in public spaces and reserved only for private spheres.  The fear articulated is similar to the fear articulated by the Swiss, the fact that Goreans or BDSM'ers are in your face or forcing their roleplay onto an unwilling or unsuspecting bystander, even if it is simply the interactions between the Dominant and the Submissive amongst themselves. 

Some of the arguments I see being used against people who use power exchange, a blanket term, are similar to arguments against most hedonists from a stoic standpoint.   It all basically boils down to sex addicts, homosexuals, perverts, goreans are mentally deficient, narcissists who care only for themselves and their deviance. 

The argument raises the question of what is public space.  If I go somewhere and I have to remove the symbols of my relationship, be it cuffs or a leash or having to dress "non-gorean," is that place really public?  Isn't it back to being a private space with rules of conduct?  Remember, we're still all adults here on the other side of our screens.  This isn't a "think of the children" situation. And there is a difference between Adult, Mature and PG and what is and is not appropriate for certain activities, for example wearing something nice to go to a wedding.  But when you say you are open to the public in real life, there goes with it a set of responsibilities with that as well.  You have a responsibility to keep the people who visit safe.  You do not have a right to discriminate so long as you say you are a public space or area.  And to me, part of that responsibility also lies in the second paragraph of this article.

If the people who object to M/s relationships are right about things such as the submissive doesn't really consent to be owned and she, more than likely its thought of as a she, is trapped, then wouldn't having an open public space where the relationship could be seen be important?  For example, I belong to groups that I help out with when someone is questioning their M/s relationship in a gorean setting.  Sometimes its a normal fight, sometimes its alarm bells are ringing, the person needs to get out right now.  (Ask me if you need more information.) 

But not everyone uses or knows about the groups.  If objectors to that lifestyle are really concerned about other peoples' welfare, why would they promote sequestering people back into their private sphere and not be allowed in a public space?  Why should an abusive owner be allowed to hide out in a gated community when the stated goal for creating a public space free of slavery is to protect or help others who are involved in a power exchange relationship?

While the effects of slavery imagery can be debated back and forth, isolating a community where it is practiced only succeeds in isolating people who might need help to escape it. 

14 Responses to “Opinion: Public Spaces”

  1. Persephone Bolero

    Dec 17th, 2009

    How many women forced into prostitution in RL would still be there if all it took was a TP to get out of the situation? The argument that women engaged in D/s are not really consenting to it demonstrates just how much sex negative feminism is feminism’s greatest enemy. Feminism was strongest when it fought for equality in a male dominated world on the premise that women were as strong, capable, and intelligent as any man. And so there was no reason why they shouldn’t have the same rights as any man.

    Sex negative feminists perverted this ideal. According to them, a woman is as capable and strong as a man until her boss calls her honey. Then, suddenly, she is a helpless rag doll with no power to tell him to stop, and only a complicated sexual harassment legal system can protect her. Of course the whole rationale gets messy if she actually enjoys his salacious attention, and many of us women do enjoy it and have no problem telling a man in no uncertain terms when we don’t.

    By the same misguided, schizophrenic view of equality, sex negative feminists take the same view when a woman chooses to use her body in a way that is sexually appealing to men, even if she herself enjoys it. Take for instance the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) crusade against silicone breast implants. They lobbied the FDA to ban them on the premise that women were driven by the media to make themselves more sexually appealing for men, and the implants had such potential medical complications that women should be denied the choice to alter their bodies in that way. Nevermind the fact that abortions have FAR greater chance of medical complications. According to sex negative feminists, a woman has all the intelligence, rationality, and capability to weigh the moral questions and decide whether or not to get an abortion. But if she wants to get a breast implant, she’s no longer a free thinking agent. Instead, “the media” have taken control of her weak and helpless mind and convinced her that she has to be sexy for men.

    In other words, according to sex negative feminism, a woman is quite capable of making choices in her own best interest until she decides to make a choice sex negative feminists disapprove of. At that point, she’s a confused child who saw a commercial that took control of her irrational mind, and she must be denied the freedom of choice.

    This editorial flies by the same ridiculous, contradictory principle. When a woman chooses to engage in an online D/s relationship, she is absolutely making a choice according to her own values, needs, and desires. And she is quite capable of determining whether or not that experience is satisfying and leaving the relationship when it is no longer satisfying. Since any relationship can be terminated by a simple TP and physical coercion is impossible in SL, then all these relationships are completely consensual. And anyone who suggests they’re not is simply not being sincere.

  2. Senban Babii

    Dec 17th, 2009

    As this subject is something I’ve been quite vocal on in the past, I’ll give my thoughts on this.

    Firstly, let me set out where I stand on Gorean activities. While I personally find them distasteful and don’t wish to participate or observe them, I respect the choices of those who wish to observe and participate.

    However, there’s a but.

    Gorean activities of the type that people usually refer to are activities which the majority of society consider to be unsuitable for expression in public places although their expression in private or in areas which are commonly considered to be places where such things go on is fine. For example, to pull in the Hard Alley protests, if someone was at Hard Alley doing Hard Alley type things then that would be considered fine by me. However, if someone came to say, my local infohub and laid out a bunch of ass-rape scripted furniture and began screaming as they graphically raped each other into oblivion, then I would consider this unsuitable.

    However, there’s another but. Not for one second am I condoning wisdom of the crowds or majority decision on what is suitable for society. Society needs counter culture elements and it needs people who are prepared to buck social trends and values on occasion.

    So, let’s say I’m at a public infohub and some Gorean roleplayers turn up. No problem so far. I respect them as individuals just as I respect those of my friends who are furries and so forth. I don’t have an issue with what they might be wearing and so forth. They’re just people in a public place.

    Where my issue comes in is when roleplayers bring their roleplay out of their roleplaying areas and into the public arena. When I’m in a public area, I don’t wish to observe some Gorean slaver carrying on his roleplay with his slave, talking in open chat about things which I find objectionable such as slavery and derogatory sex acts. In the same sense I would (and have ) object to some Harry Potter roleplayers coming into a public area and screaming about ZOMGAWSH VOLDEMORT KILLED MAI PARENTS! It’s okay as a brief event but when it goes on longer then what has happened is that the roleplay has carried on outside of the roleplay area and into a non-roleplay area.

    Which nicely brings me to my next point. Let’s say I’m in-world right now and that I go to a roleplay sim. As soon as I arrive I’m hit with a notecard telling me what the sim rules are, yes? I’m expected to conform to the sim’s rules regarding roleplay and being out-of-character and so forth. Whenever I have visited a roleplay sim, I’ve adhered to those rules as accurately as I can for the simple reason that I am respecting the activities and space of the people who have created the roleplay sim and those who use it. I don’t march into someone’s roleplay sim and start screaming about how I disagree with it. For example, although I agreed in spirit with the content of the Hard Alley protests, I disagreed in the main with the fact that the protests were done in the way they were. That’s perhaps an issue for later discussion though.

    Now, given this, when roleplayers come into a public area, they should extend the same courtesy that they expect from non-roleplayers visiting their sim. When they come into public areas, they should not continue their roleplay activities, especially in public chat and especially if they are roleplaying something that others will frequently find objectional.

    Now, Goreans constantly tell me that such things don’t happen. It does. It happens so frequently that I’ve grown amazingly intolerant of Goreans, moreso than almost any other subculture within SL. I’ve lost count of how often I’ve had to deal with Gorean slavers coming into public areas and acting in character, demanding that women become their slaves and being extremely abusive when people tell them they’re not interested. I’ve lost count of the number of Gorean slaves in public areas who continue their roleplay in ways that sicken me. I find their depiction and treatment of women to be repulsive. I’m not a radical feminist or anything of that nature but I do have an opinion and in my opinion Gorean attitudes are generally repugnant. I respect that some people think differently but I also ask that they respect the wishes of others not to be exposed to their activities.

    As an additional point, I’d add that the problem isn’t limited to Goreans of course and I’ve had occasion to have the same problem with other roleplayers and sex-players. What it boils down to is this. People need to respect the fact that some areas are designed for role play and others are designated as public spaces.

    Now one might argue that there are those who don’t roleplay as Goreans but who follow a Gorean lifestyle. Thus, the question is raised that if something isn’t roleplay, why should it be confined to a roleplay area? And in that regard, I’d have to agree. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t in fact. But there’s a difference between Goreans functioning within a public space, quietly getting on with their lives without pushing it into peoples’ faces and a Gorean roleplayer who has taken that roleplay out of the roleplay sim and dragged it into a public space, demanding that everyone play along.

    My two spacebux :)

  3. Prof. Archie Lukas

    Dec 17th, 2009

    Whilst I hate Gor and all it kneels for….

    I wonder how many illegal immigrants will use SL and get offended?

    Now that’s a pointless project that’s bound to be taken up by the academics of sexual behaviour in California.

    (Yes they have precedent)

  4. Felida Raleigh

    Dec 17th, 2009

    I am gorean. And I have known many, many Goreans in the meantime. There are great people amongst them. People who have a normal RL outside of Gor with no connection at all to Gor or BDSM (Gor often considered as BDSM in “exotic” surroundings which ist not true! Goreans are not sadistic and so the aspect SM does not exist on Gor, or should not exist! If it does, then because people do not distinguish between Gor and BDSM). But on the other hand I have known quite a lot of “mentally sick” people, both masters/mistresses and slaves. People who pretend to be RL-Goreans and forget that they have no RL anymore as they spend any free moment on SL-Gor. Slaves who have in their profile “I am slave in SL AND RL of …” ignoring the fact that this is just an illusion as the master is living on another continent, they have never met outside SL, and – when asked – the master simply says that it is not true.

    It is my opinion that there are more of these sick people on SL-Gor than in other SL-roleplays. Gor is addictive, it is fascinating, it is like falling into a black hole without escape. You have to take care and take a break if it takes too much time, if your feelings are too much involved, if you risk being hurt emotionally by others (this happens both to men and women, to slaves and free however!).

    I am making Gorean RP on RP-Sims. And nowhere else!

    As a summary I would like to say that Gor ist just a sick man’s world! Take it as a game and maybe it will not harm you. Take it as serious … I would be sorry for you!

  5. JayR Cela

    Dec 17th, 2009

    Interesting article and comment’s, at one point in my SL some 4 years ago, I was very much disgusted with the Gorean RP culture. However after a while I came to realize for the most part these people are harmless to me or anyone else, with a stable mindset.
    I do not enter into Gor RP simms, because I choose not too. If Gorean role players inter into a public area where I happen to be at, and continue their RP, in open chat. I simply mute and ignore them. If they enter into my private space “properties I own” and act out their Gor RP, they will receive a warning. If they choose not to comply, I eject and ban them, problem solved.

    JayR Cela :_)

  6. Ari Blackthorne

    Dec 17th, 2009

    Sheesh. The rule is simple: the late comer should be courteous to the ones already there.

    In other words, if you come into a place and some Harry Potter or Gorean role players are already at it, what right do you have to bitch and whine. Just shut-up and move on. But the same vice-versa also is true. If are there first and they come along,. you have every right to bitch and whine about it and ask them to stop or move-on.

    “Public area” = first-come-first-right.

  7. DF

    Dec 18th, 2009

    The only Gorean roleplay I have witnessed in any place outside the gorean RP sims, is a couple of instances of a master and his slavegirl shopping. The only things that told me they were gorean, was the clothing they were wearing, completely PG but clearly gorean, and that the slavegirl(s) were kneeling. So I cant really understand what is so horrible about that…
    The forementioned example of the gorean master trying to recruit more slavegirls in public, yeah I agree on, that’s simply not done.

    It boils down to manners I guess, something that is far too uncommon in Second Life, goreans or not.

    On the minarets in Switzerland… dont they have freedom of religion there? that suprises me, I thought it was a civilized country.

  8. Senban Babii

    Dec 19th, 2009


    “The only Gorean roleplay I have witnessed in any place outside the gorean RP sims, is a couple of instances of a master and his slavegirl shopping.”

    That’s just it though, this kind of thing is fine I believe. In fact it’s great. One thing that has been pointed out to me is that a lot of the instances I’ve witnessed are from people new to Gor and indeed SL as a whole who simply haven’t learned how to behave in a reasonable way. It’s certainly possible that this covers many of the instances I’ve seen (although certainly not all by far). The problem is that Gorean is as Gorean does. So if someone comes to a place dressed as a Gorean, saying Gorean things and with a bunch of Gorean groups etc in their profile, they get viewed as Goreans and thus representatives of that subculture. Now the genuinely reasonable and fair Goreans (I’m sure there are many) then get tarred with the same brush. It was the same with the Vampire roleplayers who plagued SL so much. The genuine roleplayers, no problem at all. But when every n00b on the grid is getting recruited (“bitten”) and told that the way to advance is to recruit more, then we see the waves of vampires descending on every location and spamming people with invitations, often with trickery. Perhaps roleplaying groups who include activities with the potential for disrupting other grid-users need to be more stringent in who they let join their groups and perhaps they can find a way to encourage new members to learn correct ways to behave as part of their introduction to roleplaying? Like I said earlier, when visiting roleplay sims, we all get given notecards saying what is acceptable and how to behave when in that sim. In return, is it not reasonable that roleplayers leaving that sim to enter the rest of the grid should be giving a notecard telling them what is acceptable and what isn’t when entering the grid? Obviously I don’t mean in practice but at least in spirit. Just a thought anyway.

    It basically boils down to roleplay should be kept in roleplay areas, public behaviour kept for public areas. Ari’s comment about public areas belonging to whoever gets there first is so obviously nonsense I won’t even bother to argue the point).

    “It boils down to manners I guess, something that is far too uncommon in Second Life, goreans or not.”

    Again, I’d agree. It does boil down to a simple lack of respect for others and no, it’s not confined to Goreans.

  9. felida raleigh

    Dec 19th, 2009

    @DF: i agree in general to your opinion. But this gorean master you met, was not gorean at all! if he had read those books (famous but really 80% bosk shit), he should know that is not making sense for a slave girl kneeling all the time, when going shopping! That is just an onlineism but not gorean at all! As many other thing … Regarding the minarets: os course, there is freedom of religion in Switzerland but acc to islam and islamic tradition minarets are not necessary at all! (could be compared to the kneeling slave – lol)

  10. Inniatzo

    Dec 20th, 2009

    @felida: just a quick comment, you said:
    “Goreans are not sadistic and so the aspect SM does not exist on Gor, or should not exist!”

    At least you qualified that. You are right, Gor in general, as its done on SL, is less hardcore in bondage and sex than a typical forced fantasy BDSM sim. Which makes senses, as in Gor there is stuff to do between the bouts of wild sex (whether it is interesting or not is another question).

    There are people out there on sl gor running out capping kajira and then pushing them way beyond their limits on purpose. I think there is a desire to remain in character that overides a tap of the tp. Maybe. This may be why I suck at my attempts to be a kajira. It’s a minority of people who are like that, the caste of assholes I guess, but they are there.

    As for your second post about minarets. There have been minarets for a thousand years how long does it take to count as a ‘tradition’? If someone said, Christian churches couldn’t have steeples because it wasn’t required there would be a riot. Since this is Switzerland, a very polite riot, but still.

  11. felida raleigh

    Dec 21st, 2009

    @inniatzo: i know that there are lots of those people you call “assholes” on SL-Gor who cause the bad “fame” of it. It is their own problem (let me call it “mental”) that roleplaying means just collecting kajirae, f…, and other similar things. But Gor is different and I am glad to say that there are still others who know it and who like roleplaying in a different way (btw: same refers to daily combats and raids and female warriors ecc.).

    And reagarding “traditions”: as time goes by, even traditions might change (tempora mutantur et nos mutabimus in illis – times change and we change with them) and despite the fact that i am not christian but pagan (which is even more “traditional” in Europe than christian religion), i must admit that what is considered as “european” is christian! And still Europe is even more tolerant towards other religions than it is practised in arabian or other countries.

    Wish you well! Merry X-Mas or whatever you might celebrate (chanukka or solstice!) and a happy new year!

  12. Felida Raleigh

    Dec 21st, 2009

    I am sorry, my post written an hour or so ago was “eaten” and therefore disappeared. I just wanted to point out that unfortunately there many people on sl-gor of what you call a… caste! You are absolutely right. But I do what I can to avoid that they destroy sl-Gor. Neither BDSM nor female warriors nor daily combats are gorean! But for many people roleplaying means just fighting or f… ! It is that simple. If they left Gor, the image people have of this world, would be much different! And much more positive, too.

    And re. religious traditions: I must admit that I am neither christian nor muslum but pagan (and paganism has a much longer tradition by the way) but I accept any other religion. However, Europe for example is mostly christian and therefore I think the most important word is “integration”. And all European countries I know are far more tolerant towards muslims that are most of the muslim states towards christians or other religious minorities there!

  13. Ranma Tardis

    Dec 26th, 2009

    Well I do not like these groups and fear they will act out their sick fantasies on real people. I am ok with them in SL as long as they stay away from me. A master and slave entering my property risks ejection and perm ban. Remember a pair entering my building. I ejected the “slut” first but for some reason the master kept bouncing back. I played racket gor with him floor to ceiling until he got stuck in the ceiling. He must of made his get away *laughs* In real life if a creep like this should encounter me in his skins and in my home will mean buying a new rug. My automatic will make quick work of him or her.
    Look I do not mind them but not around me. I do not enter their sims and appreciate the reverse. You are NOT VICTIMS so quick acting like it. I reject your lifestyle now and in the future, get over it.

  14. Monalisa R.

    Dec 29th, 2009

    Two things come into my mind here.

    First of all, the comparison between consenting adults roleplaying in a cartoon virtual world with RL trafficking of prostitutes and RL violence against RL women in RL islam is frivolous.

    Second, have you ever done a research on the history of the wedding ring? The original purpose of marriage (and hence the publicly visible wedding rings) is nothing but “power exchange”.

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