Thursday, December 2, 2010

Women, Violence, SL, and Nonsense (Slightly NSFW)

(Two NSFW images below. Well, they're both avatars - does that really count?)

Some things just give feminism a bad name.

Let me start by giving the obvious disclaimer: actual violence against actual women (or men) is abhorrent. Is cartoon violence - avatar-on-avatar violence - similarly abhorrent? At least one person says yes, and has created an exhibit in Second Life to argue her point. Entitled "Is This Turning You On?", Miss Scylla Rhiandra uses graphic images of violence, often sexual violence, against (principally) female avatars to illustrate the widespread culture of sexually-charged violence within SL.

Illustrations such as the one below, entitled "Gutted," with accompanying text describing the act in intimate detail, show various poseballs and animations. One panel describes the John Norman books about Gor, and the philosophy that "the 'happiest' [women] are those who have been 'collared,' as are slaves, 'kajirae,' because they have achieved their 'natural' place as submissives."

I'll say that this type of roleplay is not my cup of tea. I'd even be willing to speculate, with no evidence whatsoever to support the speculation, that much of the roleplay that falls under the broad category of BDSM involves individuals who are acting out in SL impulses that they repress in real life, and that some of these impulses, if acted on, would be reprehensible. I certainly hope that no typists log off from SL and impale, gut, gore, or crucify a romantic partner, much less roast and eat him or her. Because I don't mind being judgmental, I'm happy to classify as weird anyone who gets sexual gratification from imagining such acts.

However, I'd raise two points. First, roleplaying is not reality. Some sims specialize in other forms of violence, from war games to dark RP, involving gang activity and murder. I'd guess that most of the participants are well-adjusted people who enjoy playing against type. Is this okay because the violence is not directed against women specifically? I find the distinction to be a weak one. Second, the implication is that all sexual activity outside of some generally-accepted boundaries is abhorrent. Would a heterosexual couple who enjoy spanking, or handcuffs play, or anything else that, if done in a non-consensual environment, would be a crime, be similarly condemned as promoting violence against women? Would it matter if it were the man who enjoyed being handcuffed? What if the two were same-sex partners?

Oddly, the first panels that one sees in the exhibit involve kissing (see below) and dancing. I wasn't clear whether this was to be viewed as a contrast to all the yucky, blood-letting behavior of the rest of the exhibit - good sex, not bad sex - or just another form of violence against women (though the kiss involves two women).

Another oddity is that, while the implication of the exhibit is that the violence is always man-on-woman, there is nothing that prevents other gender combinations from engaging in the same behavior. Indeed, on panel acknowledges as much: the poor gent below is being castrated by a lady. (One would think that, the human instinct for self-preservation being what it is, imminent castration is not the kind of event that would lead a man to be sexually excited, though I acknowledge the act itself might be easier were that to be the case.) It may be true that the bulk of these violent acts are, in fact, male against female, but it's hardly a universal truth.

So what to make of all this? Real violence, bad - whether it's man-on-woman, woman-on-man, man-on-man, woman-on-woman, or anything else. Cartoon violence? I'll observe that much of the U.S. prime-time TV schedule consists of crime dramas, most of the crimes are violent, and a high percentage of the crimes are against women. Are these shows bad? Should women avoid them? Or is the evil only if the crimes involve role-playing?

Stuff and nonsense - or, perhaps more appropriately in this context, stuffing nonsense.


HeadBurro Antfarm said...

This may not have had the desired effect on me as that last picture made me laugh quite a lot :)

Rhianon Jameson said...

We aim to entertain!

I'm not sure what the desired effect of that picture was supposed to be. It's gross, cringe-inducing, humorous - but it's hardly arousing, one would think.

And that was my reaction to the exhibit as well as Kathy's: people are aroused by this? Really?

Vivito Volare said...

I try to refrain from passing judgments, as the truth of a matter is usually far more interesting than my thumbs up or thumbs down as a bystander.

Most sex and sexuality in SL (and let's face it, out of SL) looks silly at best. One must have a decent grasp of the absurd, and be comfortable enough to shrug and let hormones take over.

I fully agree with you that many very normal, even boring, people have some... fascinating fantasies. Online venues like SL and Usenet, as well as Clubs and private organizations are wonderful outlets for them.

Then again, there are also some sick puppies who really have no grasp on reality, which is its own issue entirely.

"When there is no stop word, you have crossed the line," an old friend of mine would say.

Kathy Jameson said...

Hello there, Mr. V! I'll confess that I'm no expert in this, and, yes, the reality here is doubtless more complicated than I understand. (And I'm honestly a little surprised I haven't gotten hate mail yet. Well, the month is still young.)

To paraphrase Jesus, the sickos will always be with us. Obviously, one doesn't want to encourage them, but I'd much rather have the lads blowing off steam in SL than lurking in the shadows on some dark street.

I have to think that the vast majority are getting giggles out of the whole thing. And heck, if it keeps the lights on at Linden Lab, everyone else benefits. :)