Finding a partner through networking sites is not new. But have you ever thought of taking your date out to a club in cyberspace… or of buying her cyber-gifts and then having cyber-sex? Kathryn Fox talks to a modern cyber-lesbian about her virtual existence, where she lives it up with over five million users on simulation site Second Life.
Second Life (SL) is a virtual reality cyber-world now enjoying planet-wide popularity, it’s an alternative reality and it’s free. Created by Lindenlabs and known as Lindenworld, players adopt a fantasy persona or ‘avatar’ which they can modify as they improve their skills, choosing clothes, skin, hair and accessories – such as wings or antennae.
Needless to say, SL’s lesbian community have carved out their own space within those worlds. Online, I met a veteran lesbian player with much experience. She has a real-life lover and a Second Life lover. Isn’t it the same as being unfaithful?
I asked Swiss born 26-year old ‘Sari Choche’ (SL name) for her views.
“Sari is the name I have chosen for my avatar. I didn’t join SL to find a girlfriend, but I have found an SL partner. In real life (RL), I am living in Austria with my girlfriend of several years and we are still in love. Sex in SL is quite common. Two avatars, and sometimes more, can manipulate each other. This is what most people do: Jump on some pose-balls (the device that allows this movement) to animate your avatar and type things like “Oh yes, aaaaaaa, oooo,” in the chat whilst looking at your screen. You can buy dildos and bizarre sex machines. You can touch, kiss and have oral sex with the avatar, writing emotes in real time, expressed in the third person if you want: ‘Sari bends over the table and parts her legs.’ And then there is really a deeper kind of sex in SL, without any animations/poses/pictures, by writing the fantasy as a story you create together. The feedback you give keeps your partner writing in the manner that turns you on. It’s really amazing and can take hours… wow! All you use is your brain, the most erogenous zone. It can be a nice mix with sound-effects, and animations are great too. But the main thing is your mind.”
You might think that a girlfriend would be jealous of such an outpouring of sexual feelings that weren’t directed at her but Sari states they have agreed to never allow her RL and SL lives to cross over: “She knows, but she was never as interested in SL as I was. And we don’t know each other as avatars. I’m not looking for another RL relationship but I have heard it happen for some. All she asked me was that SL won’t ever touch our RL, and I developed strict limits to keep this promise. My SL partner knows this and accepts and supports me in this.”
All of us know that there are men masquerading as lesbians in cyberspace but Sari seemed to have a very open mind about this. “I can never tell if a female avatar is a male in RL. Everything could be faked in the end, but I think that the more I become known to an avatar the more I can tell if it is really a man. But I try to take avatars as they appear here in SL. Just as creatures. Not human. The lesbian community online is very large, because although many are real women, some lesbians are men in SL. A stranger to SL may find this incredible, but I am not sure it matters… it’s an alternate reality. In RL, men and women are only different by one chromosome. I know quite a few girls who tried lesbian love in SL for the first time… or practise only here because some are married and don’t dare in RL, living in a small RL community.” It is well known that online interactions can sometimes cause problems but Sari has a strong view about cyber-safety: “Be careful about your RL data. Don’t share e-mails, photos, names; SL love can be intoxicating and compulsive… don’t get overwhelmed with emotion. Find out who you can trust and most importantly, don’t forget you have a RL too!”
SL is fascinating and complex. It offers romance, fantasy and a forum for the unbounded imagination. Those who use it help to build it, buying sites and property (called sims), building the worlds they wish would exist in real life (RL). Sometimes RL can merge with SL, for example advertisers such as Renault have a car showroom there, the lesbian TV programme L Word had an advertising boards for their TV show and Stella McCartney hosted an anti-fur demo last year.
Second Life hit the news last year when paedophiles were found to be using part of the site but Sari explained this was no longer the case. “Some players had taken the form of child avatars to have sex with other child avatars in clubs and bars they created. Lindenworld sunk the sims they were on and deleted these worlds. The avatars were ejected and banned. Now, any underage avatars are barred from most clubs. Sim owners have God Tools and can zap and eject in less than a second, dragging, trapping and crushing the avatars by overriding their controls.“
So what exactly could a lesbian new to the site expect in the way of facilities? “All kind of styles and possibilities. I have my own home; I visit homes of friends, sims for dancing, meeting people. I still love to explore SL: The Isle of Lesbos, the Black Rose Roma Estate for dancing and swimming; Residential High Fantasy RP Isle; Amauera for walking and relaxing in nature; Rome: Era of the Gods, to walk in ancient scenery. A great new sim is Enchantment Island. The terra-forming and marine work is some of the best in SL. The sim owner adds features and changes it all the time so it’s always more fascinating than before. Amazing. Come see for yourself.”
Sari explained that, although it seems a strange way to conduct a relationship, often the fantasy partner provides friendship and comfort in a strange cyber-intimacy. So, should we keep our SL romances as a fantasy or should avatars try and meet in RL and continue an affair? “The romance between two avatars is a romance between the persons in front of their screens. And that’s real too. What comes out of that romance depends on their needs and wishes. For some, the romance stays in SL, some try to continue in RL. I have heard of disasters and a few SL matches that have transferred to RL and been good, but I would say these are in the minority. It’s usually a mistake to mix the worlds. My SL partner is so much fun, so full of love, such a wonderful person. But she accepts that our love only exists in SL.”
Cyber-lesbians are probably less given to petty dramas, so maybe we should all have a cyber-babe. “Yeah, perhaps it’s a little more relaxed in SL, as most people drop in when they have free time; they don’t have to be here! One thing is true… slamming doors or throwing crockery is rather rare here.”