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Posts Tagged ‘child avatars’

Child avatars – one of those controversial Second Life issues, which I think was summed up very well by The Candid Camelid’s post on child avs. But hey, now I have a blog, I may as well add my thoughts on the topic!

Myself, I’ve never been able to see the big deal. People go around as animals, as dragons, as demons, as dancing eggplants, why should having a child avatar be such a big deal?

There seems to be a very strong gut instinct in many people that says child avatars are inherently creepy. I suppose I just don’t share it. I’ve never felt the wish to have a child av myself, but don’t see what’s so bad about it if someone else wants to. Second Life is an adults only arena (at least, it’s supposed to be). Why the need to police what avatars people choose to use?

A big part of the argument, of course, comes down to sex. People might use child avs for age play, acting out sex (consensual or otherwise) with an adult av. It’s natural enough that this should make most of us feel at best uneasy, if not outright revolted. But is this a logical reaction? Do we fear that people who fly around as owls or explore SL as a wolf are going to have simulated beastiality sex; and, indeed, would it really matter if they did?

I’ve mostly seen child avs in two situations – playing as part of a family, and as part of groups like New Babbage’s street urchins. Nothing creepy about either of those. The idea that they shouldn’t be allowed because some people might do something distasteful with a child av just strikes me as absurd, and absurdly unfair.

People also protest that a child av might see a sexual situation or be present in some way during one, to which I’m also inclined to say “so what?”, because hello, it’s a collection of pixels, not an actual child.

According to Camelid, Linden Labs has a “zero-tolerance stance regarding child pornography, simulated or otherwise, in Second Life”. So really, this issue shouldn’t even arise. Why, then, is it so compelling?

I wonder if some of it is because we’re so used to seeing children sexualized by our culture, in advertising and shops selling “sexy” panties to young girls, the ever earlier age kids seem to start wearing make-up, the pressures particularly on girls to be sexy younger and younger. We know this is fucked up. Perhaps we find it hard to imagine there are people who’d want a child avatar for a purely innocent reason?

Or maybe it’s to do with how we assess and react to the people we meet in Second Life. Our avs are virtual projections of ourselves – they say how we’d like to look or what we’d like to be, or at least what we find fun (being a dragon, for instance). What is someone playing a child av saying about themselves? Are they “in character”? How are we supposed to react to them?

I think I can understand this. It’s a pre-conscious reaction that could easily make us discomforted by the presence of a child av even if we don’t really know why. And in fact it’s probably a good thing that when we meet even a pixel representation of a child, who we know is played by an adult, our instinctive “this is a child” reaction the visual representation creates causes us to consider modifying our behaviour in some way.

I still find it curious that the topic of child avatars brings up so much passionate disagreement. Even to those to whom they’re objectionable, SL is full of objectionable things. The whole vastly popular area of Gorean roleplay is based on a world in which women are inferior objects for the sexual use of men. Sexism and sexual violence affect huge numbers of real women in the real world, but we accept Gorean roleplay as a legitimate choice of consenting adults, much as we accept bondage and BDSM. Now personally I feel the whole idea of Gor goes far beyond BDSM as it posits a whole society based on deeply vile misogynistic ideals. I find the popularity of Gorean areas vastly more disturbing than the idea of child avatars. And I’d really like to find someone who’s against child avatars but perfectly okay with Gorean RP to explain their thinking to me!

I’m also curious to hear from anyone who regularly uses a child av on SL. What makes you choose a child avatar? Do you feel differently about yourself when you’re using it? Has anyone ever solicited your child av for SL sex, and how would it make you feel if they did?

Well, there are my musings on the topic. If anyone’s reading this, your comments are welcomed!

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