As with every medium since cave paintings, sex is a big part of Second Life. The virtual world is a haven where people can fulfill their sexual fantasies. But it also has a dark side.
She was accompanied by "Midori Akami," an avatar of a pretty brunette woman smoking a cigar -- I was impressed by how realistic the smoke looked.
Akami said she doesn't use visualization or equipment much, preferring to rely on text. "Everybody's the same size in 12-point-type," she quipped. Her avatar, while adult, is half-sized.
In a separate interview, a resident who goes by the name Eloise Pasteur said she, too, prefers text as the main medium for cybering, augmented by some imagery. She doesn't care for the equipment peddled by vendors like Stroker Serpentine and Xcite. They take the avatars through a rigid series of animations with accompanying exclamations rendered in text. The inability to improvise takes a lot of the fun out of it, she said. "They try to take control of what's happening, tell you how your body is responding," she said.
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I asked her if imagery is important to her at all. She said it is. "If, say, we're having sex with me tied to the bed," she said. "then having a pose where I'm also tied to the bed adds to it."
Cybersex in Second Life involving adults playing the role of children has been a controversial part of the virtual world for a long time.
Roleplay in general is integral to Second Life. Avatars appear to be beautiful men and women, elves, dragons, winged fairies, vampires, killer robots, and all varieties of other real and fanciful creatures.
Some residents choose to roleplay as children.
Some of that so-called "ageplay" is innocent, with the simulated children playing on jungle gyms, singing songs, and doing other things that real-life children do.
The interview subject, who went by the name "Emily Semaphore" in Second Life, said she was a 35-year-old librarian in real life, and engages in both innocent and sexual ageplay with her real-life husband, who she met in Second Life. They managed an ageplay club called "Jailbait."
She said ageplay, both innocent and sexual, can help participants heal from the trauma of abusive childhoods. "I was molested for years by a family member. For me, roleplaying in a sexual manner is healing because it allows me to RECLAIM my sexuality," she said in the interview.
A Second Life resident and blogger who goes by the name "Tateru Nino" defends non-sexual ageplahy and concludes by saying sexual ageplay between adults is nobody's business but the people involved.
But Second Life resident Catherine Fitzpatrick of New York, N.Y., said sexual ageplay, like other forms of sexual role-playing involving simulated coercion, is harmful.
"To pretend there is a firewall between Second Life and real life and that one has no effect on the other is infantile," said Fitzpatrick, a Second Life businesswoman who appears in Second Life as a male avatar named "Prokofy Neva."
Fitzpatrick's company, Ravenglass, leases servers space from Linden Lab -- known in Second Life jargon as "buying land" -- and then rents it out. She says she does not allow erotic ageplay on her land.
Chris Peterson, a writer for the satirical Web site SomethingAwful.com, said he's visited ageplay areas in Second Life and was revolted by what he saw: "These were avatars of prepubescent children screaming in babytalk, 'Stop torturing me,' while individuals are doing unimaginable things. They're creating childish avatars that are four or five years old, and the sex acts are in a room covered with children's wallpaper," he said.
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