Scylla Rhiandra, "just another left-leaning bleeding-heart urban socialist pacifist feminist," has created in Second Life a powerful and personal exhibit about how gender violence is depicted and re-enacted in the virtual world. Her central question she asks of the viewer is "Is This Turning You On?"
Her exhibit of images and textual musings are graphic and eye-opening, even to a virtual world veteran like myself.
I've of course known that various sexual proclivities, orientations and fetishes existed in the virtual world, just as in the real world. But the scope and diversity of simulated violent sexual activity was still somewhat shocking. For example, according to Rhiandra, there are over 400 Second Life groups devoted to rape, snuff and "Dolcett role play." These groups range from a few members to "almost 1200." Woah.
Beyond just images and text, there are a few pose balls present so you (and a consensual partner) can engage in some of the disturbing simulated acts she talks about. That's one step beyond what any real life exhibit could possibly expose a visitor to.
This is being officially launched on Sunday, November 28, as part of the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence" happening in the real world and Second Life from November 25 to December 10.
Click here to teleport and of course NSFW and possibly triggering for those with special sensitivities to depictions of gender violence. Rhiandra's description of the exhibit follows after the jump...
This exhibit asks a very simple question about role play that simulates gender violence in Second Life. This question, reiterated in slightly different ways throughout the exhibit, is directed most particularly at those who assume the role of abuser, rapist, or killer, in the course of role playing sexual violence. Most starkly expressed, it is this:
Why is it that you are so turned on by the thought of violence?
It is a very personal question, relating to my own visceral responses to my encounters with representations of sexual violence in SL. This is why I have chosen to use my own avatar, undisguised, in the images here: I wish to highlight the degree to which this is, for me, a highly personal issue. And what I hope for, insofar as I hope for any response at all, is an equally personal answer. I don’t need to be told about the psychosexual pathologies of an erotic attraction to violence. I have already been “informed,” on many occasions, that some people are putatively “hardwired” to be aroused by this sort of thing; I also read in academic articles and elsewhere that such predilections are the product of evolutionary pressures, or, alternately, the effects of exposure to media depictions of sexualized violence.
I have my own opinions, which are more or less well informed, about these answers, but they are not really answers to the question I am asking here.
What I most truly want to know is how a person role playing the abuser, rapist, or murderer feels about becoming sexually excited at the prospect of hurting, violating, or killing someone. How does one justify gratifying this side of one’s self? How does one come from an acknowledgment that one *does* feel this way, to an unapologetic indulgence in it? *Why* does pretending that one is inflicting pain, trauma, or death, feel *good* to you?
I don’t know that I expect answers to these questions. Perhaps it is enough that they be asked. From a personal perspective, I do know that it has become vital that I give them voice. This exhibit is the result.