Recently, Hotspur O'Toole raised the issue of morality in virtual worlds. His comment was in the context of griefers, and I opined that the issue was one of manners rather than morality. Not that issues of morality cannot arise in virtual worlds, but griefing is essentially an offense against the typist, not the avatar. Shooting someone in a non-combat area is an annoyance, unsociable, just not nice - but the purpose is not evil in the way that a violation of one person by another is evil. Putting it another way, consider griefing within a role-playing environment: because the griefer's activities are outside the RP, it must be the case that the griefing is directed at the typists. As such, griefing is an annoyance, not a moral concern.
On the other hand, consider interactions among avatars as avatars, that is, within the context of the RP environment. If Mr. A rapes and tortures Miss B, there is a moral offense. Even though SL requires consent on the typist's side, the fact remains that Mr. A committed an act that offends the human notions of right and wrong. Of course, it is possible to RP an environment where a different sense of morality holds sway, but the fact remains that a human being is making a decision that runs counter to basic human decency.
This musing brings me to Gorean sims. I have read one of the Gor books to see what the fuss is about. I found the writing to be sophomoric, the plot unimaginative, the characters wooden, and the worldview of the author - particularly the adolescent teen male fantasy that men were born to dominate and use women - offensive. The book left a bad taste in my mouth.
(To be continued. Next: Kathy visits the Kingdom of Sand.)