Second Life – Down the Rabbit Hole

secondlifelogoBeing a Ready Up writer sent into Second Life to investigate was, to me, the equivalent of the first time a news reporter goes to a war zone. Second Life is a cost free MMO world, run by the community of users with the ability to create outfits, items and even gestures for your avatars. Some people create these items simply for fun, but there is also a deeper side to SL with people creating a real life income from selling their creations.

Having never even experimented with any Second Life-esque games, I had little idea what to expect and the vague expectations I did have seemed to evolve around “things that you always wanted to do in the Sims but couldn’t”. I had no idea of the etiquette and rules and I couldn’t even get my character to look sensible. My mission: to find out exactly what goes on in a place like this. I was lost and terrified and knew nothing of the world I was about to leap into but it had to be done so down the rabbit hole I went.

When I first arrived I appeared in a bland meeting area and my early attempts to introduce myself to others were thwarted when nobody would even glance my way. Okay, my clothing was ridiculous (although I had the option not to, I chose to start out as a penniless nobody to make my time there as realistic as possible) but everyone was in tight little cliques and seemed to have little or no interest in newcomers. After standing around aimlessly for a bit, wondering from what angle I would investigate this gigantic virtual world, I was sent a location by someone. They were probably just trying to get rid of the n00b, but it gave me a place to start… and where else would you send an innocent looking newcomer than to a red light district (I’d say “the” but there are many incorporated into the world)!


As a place where people can say and do whatever they want, it really is no surprise to find Second Life teaming with prostitutes. At the end of the day you can be whoever you want to be but as I started to explore my surroundings I found attitudes to be shocking. Approach a group of prostitutes and most will ignore you completely. If you’re not well-dressed and of the opposite sex it is next to impossible to get some attention. Even a conversation is out of the question, because as they say, time is money, and in Second Life it really is (for anyone who doesn’t know you can get US dollars exchanged to Second Life “Linden” dollars but you can also get it changed back, which is how some people are able to make a living from a game!). It became obvious to me that even a conversation was probably going to cost me so I started searching for a job and stopped at a group of people for some pointers.

Finally, as I stood there desperately trying to get attention a man introduced himself. Loco (name changed for purposes of this article) had been a member of Second Life for some time and seemed to be a real charmer, convincing me to go on a virtual date with him in minutes. Loco, although interested in SL sex, had also discovered many beautiful places that you could really imagine being in awe of in real life. Over the course of my SL stay he took me to a geisha garden, which had a members’ only club, a wonderful safari with ride-able zebras and a gorgeous secluded beach. Over this time we had many great conversations but it was obvious that despite all of the “romance” it was all done to lead to one thing. Being curious by nature I realised I couldn’t write this article without seeing what the fuss was about and obliged. Leaving the area afterwards, feeling more bemused and amused as I had made my character throw herself into all sorts of ridiculous poses, I still could not understand the fascination. Was I the odd one out, or maybe I just hadn’t immersed myself enough? It was time to go deeper and talk to some more people.

Having a cuddle on my "date"

Talking to Adeline Blackthorne, a helpful avatar who had dabbled in prostitution with a different profile, I explained that surely as everyone were just pixels the concept of such varied sex being available in SL was bizarre. Apparently after a while people get past the pixels and it becomes the same as a long distance relationship, seeing the person rather than their avatar and building a relationship (or just engaging in sex if that is your wish). You can do anything you would with a real partner, with some people choosing to voice chat during the sex in order to make the experience more “real”. Apparently the industry closest to sexual work is easily the booming wedding industry with real life people up and leaving their families to be with someone from their SL life and marrying where they met!

Seeing a bar quietly tucked off to one side I thought I would venture in and see if anyone would give me some job-seeking hints but what I found in there was quite a surprise. This bar was no ordinary bar. There was a girl dancing on the table whilst other players tipped her. I approached and sat down and after a brief chat I discovered that the girls in the bars were much friendlier. Instantly I had a job opportunity. Posted to the wall was an application to employ female and male dancers with any extra “private” work being their choice as an escort room was on the premises. Atty Yokosuka was kind enough to explain how she had ended up dancing on tables for Linden dollars, although she did tell me that as her character progressed, she had now moved on to escort work too. Like me, Atty had come into Second Life and discovered sex to be “the predominant matter” with SL seeming to stand for Sex Life with many people. Taking the job, a steady income soon started to come in allowing her plenty of freedom and money when she was “off-duty” to make the most of other areas of the experience. Joining in 2008, Atty believes that Second Life has becoming increasingly sexually orientated but with the main difference being free sex places where generally anything goes, except the money to the girl’s or guy’s pocket. This is having an impact on Second Life’s jobs and means more “specialised” jobs have to be taken. This means giving people what they want, regardless of the consequences… after all, it’s just a game, right? That’s when I was informed that some people have been stripped of Linden dollars as a new “specialty” is making child-looking avatars available for sex. People have even been known to upload the pictures online of their avatar having sex with a childlike avatar, although the clip grabber is no longer available in SL.

escorts anonymous

Thinking back to the words of Adeline and the way people start to see through the pixels, taking sex as seriously as in real life it becomes apparent that although SL is on the surface a wonderful experience in which you can do what you want, you don’t need to scratch very deep before you are forced to remember that “what people want” is not always wholesome. With protests occurring on SL last year about so called “child play”, Linden labs were quick to act in shutting down any paedophiliac groups that they could find, but as in real life, that doesn’t mean the problem is stamped out. Thankfully, as most people do take SL seriously, “child play” is seriously frowned upon by most of the community.

When you join SL you have to verify whether you are over 18 and therefore a consenting adult, but surely a consenting adult willing to be as childlike as possible in order to let another player engage in virtual sex is as wrong as being the person who indulges? Some people feel very strongly about the removal of this sickening practice. Even with my original feeling that this was just another game, the thought of this made me feel physically sick. Instantly I had found the trigger that turned this experience from pixels into a lifestyle choice. Some ask what’s wrong with two consenting adults conducting themselves in this manner but surely those who see this game as serious and wish to participate are only slightly removed from paedophiles that we see on the news… and this is something that is heatedly debated on SL even now.

So, how did this all start? How did sex become so readily available in any form? I was told by numerous people that the answer lay with Stroker Serpentine, the so called “sex tycoon of SL”. Not entirely sure what sort of person I would be meeting, I was quite shocked to find a friendly, intelligent man at the head of the sex empire. Claiming his success is down to good listening skills, Stroker claims to have “identified the needs and desires of adult enthusiasts” within SL. As the first person to create a bed to enable players to have sex in SL, Stroker’s name appears to be synonymous with sex, and indeed he devotes his whole career to “virtual erotica”. The original item came from creating what he wanted as a player as well as recognising a gap in the market, although as he did confess, with many talented designers hanging out in SL someone was bound to do it. When questioned on the sexual freebies market, Stroker did not seem impressed stating clearly that said products and services were substandard and he could only hope people would not be disappointed and would seek out quality. However, that’s when the conversation turned. After discussing the openness of sex, Stroker himself wishes for more stringent age verification and believes many content providers are unaware of the ramifications of their products. Apparently exposed to “child play” in other platforms, Stroker was very disappointed when it appeared in SL as well and has never condoned anything similar in any of his areas, much to my relief.


So, even with the man who began sex in SL as it is today fighting in the corner to stop “child play” it appears to be something that deserves a great deal of thought in order to cement your morals. When does a game cease to be just harmless fun? I will never be one who agrees with statements such as “game X made someone kill” but I instantly switched from feeling SL was harmless fun that was somehow maintaining popularity to feeling my stomach churn at the idea of child-like avatars being used. From my point of view, SL sex was pointless and a bit of silly fun but throw in children (whether they are controlled by adults or not) and I was instantly repulsed and the pixels melted away to expose a world that was just as twisted as the one we live in. Somehow it seemed that SL should be more naive, with people enjoying the freedom to create beauty away from our crime ridden world but over time even virtual worlds bend to what the majority want; that seems to be a chance to sate their everyday desires in peace. When phrased like that the game goes back to harmless fun but when you are confronted with the fact that not everyone’s desires are so light-hearted, it must be the gamers themselves that clean up these virtual worlds by policing and reporting any incidents.

In SL it’s not just sex that sells, as shown by Anshe Chung, the first of many millionaires whose wealth has come completely from online real estate and brokering. Anshe had played many similar games before but was attracted by the ability to convert funds into real money, and decided to see if she could support a young boy in a developing country with her Linden dollar earnings. Earning funds from five different careers ranging from teaching to a fashion line, Anshe finally made her money buying up land and renting it out to those eager to have a place to call “virtual home”. Keeping the money to invest rather than spend lead to a flourishing career that has apparently earned her over $2m so far!

Anshe Chung

Virtual worlds should be a way to have fun, not a way to satisfy your illegal urges, especially if you consider the consequences in real life. If the urge is there, then surely it is only time before it spills from the computer to real life, if it hasn’t already. The opportunity to experiment in these sick ways needs to be eliminated in order to keep fantasies safe enough for those around us. Let’s clean up these games for everyone’s sake and get back to games being just a harmless release from reality.

“I think we all yearn to express our fantasies in ways that real life prohibits.” – Stroker Serpentine

Many thanks to all those who stopped to answer my questions and allowed their quotes to be used in my article, despite the controversial issues broached. All names are Second Life names only.







7 responses to “Second Life – Down the Rabbit Hole”

  1. Kat avatar

    Fascinating blog Zoey 🙂

    I wish I could say I’m surprised at what you found there but as well seasoned internet user, sadly I’m not 🙁

  2. Dave G avatar
    Dave G

    Seconded (no pun intended), a great article. I’ve read bits about second life before but they’ve always been written from a “how weird is SL” stance and don’t really probe any further into it.

  3. Oboreruhito Gabilondo avatar
    Oboreruhito Gabilondo

    There’s a lot more to SL than the sex, though it’s nearly impossible to find it if you don’t already know someone who keeps up with that sort of stuff.

    You can follow Dancing Ink Productions about live journalism events in SL, Therese Carfagno writes interesting articles about art and destinations in SL, as well as exposes on its seedier misogynistic parts.

    And of course there’s New World News and Alphaville Herald. Alphaville has a story up today, actually, about your Stroker Serpentine’s sex toys all suddenly failing to work because of a glitched SL ban.

  4. Jamesbuc avatar

    XD Ive actually been a member of SL for about a damn long time now, over 2/3 years maybe? XD haha

    Im suprised there hasnt been any mention of SL here beforehand.

  5. Jamesbuc avatar

    But yeah, it is more than just sexsexsexsex. There is a lot more on it XD

  6. MrCuddleswick avatar

    I very much enjoyed reading this, it’s fascinating hearing your accounts stepping into the Second Life phenomenon.

    Personally, I’ve never spent more than a few minutes with it. I have enough trouble keeping up with my first life.

    Regarding the avatars that look like children, I don’t see what those who make this sort of game can do, other than deleting content and accounts as and when it pops up, and then banning users. The Internet lets people get up to all sorts anonymously but publicly, and I guess all that can be done is to catch people and punish them when they break the law. Of course, it’s not just a problem for Second Life, it’s a challenge facing everyone who wants to use a safe Internet.

  7. […] I’m increasingly enjoying reading Ready-Up, a fast-growing blog with a focus on experiential stuff within games. This is a bit before this week, but it’s fantastic, so I link anyway: Zoey on her first-hand encounters with sex in Second Life. […]

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