December 22nd, 2005

Today over at Wired you can find an article of mine titled “Cyberporn Sells in Virtual Worlds.” Sounds all newsy and everything. The piece talks about a pornographic magazine mentioned on the site a few months back called Slustler, which is being produced and sold through Second Life. It also features some memorable quote from MMOrgy‘s Isabelle, and sample images from the magazine, thanks to the lovely Marmela, whose SL boots I still totally covet.

Tags: Blog

12 Responses to ““Cyberporn Sells in Virtual World””

  1. Bonnie Says:

    I’m particularly interested if anyone has any thoughts (or wisdom from personal experience) on what makes virtual pornography more/less/as attractive to us as real-life pornography. I think Isabelle brings up a good point about the realization of fantasies, but personally I feel there must be something more involved. Thomas mentions that there’s an appeal in being able to actually see the models in real (virtual) life. Maybe that same principle acts on you; maybe there’s something exciting about you being able to be the model, about the way you can shape yourself to an image of pornographic perfection, about you getting off on yourself, but a form of yourself that could never exist in the real world.

    Which, I guess, brings up a whole new question: Would we be turned on by our own pornography? People make home videos, right? Why?

  2. Lake Desire Says:

    One objection to pornography is often the exploitation of the models who may have been forced into it. There could be an absence of guilt.

  3. Bonnie Says:

    Hmm, good point. Are you saying there would be an absence of guilt if you were watching virtual porn? Or your own porn? Or maybe both? Then again, in a sadistic/masochistic way, isn’t that guilt in and of itself attractive?

  4. Thomas Says:

    Sorry for the blatant spam, but I commented on some of these questions here

  5. Bonnie Says:

    Hey, Thomas, no worries, I was really interested to read what you wrote. First off, so glad you like my work :-). Second, as to why some of those (excellent) questions you raised weren’t addressed in the article, the answer’s simple: word count. I’m new over at Wired, so I was capped at 500. But, hey, that doesn’t mean that discussions can’t happen elsewhere…

    So let’s look at the points you mentioned. Female customization: I think you’re right here. It’s not really about options (There are just as many male options as female options.) it’s about “good” options. That, of course, is linked to what we consider inherently sexual, namely female forms. It’s a bit like seeing sexy women in men’s magazines, and the same sexy women in women’s magazines. As a consequence of our one-gender fascination, the manifestation of all things sexual in virtual worlds has become female (Think only female nude skins, and the fact that both men and women play as women).

    Next, are we attracted to the avatars, or the people behind them: You know, I don’t know. I tried to get more revealing quotes here, but I think, at a certain point, if you’re deep enough in virtual communities, it becomes harder to tease these ideas out again into the real and the virtual. Personally, as I was looking at these images, I underwent a shift. At first I thought, How interesting; I wonder what these people really look like. After a while though, after I personally signed up for Second Life in order to research the article, I began to care less and less about the people, and become interested solely in the avatars.

    Lastly, is this an extreme form of objectification because it moves so entirely from the integrity of real forms: Yes, and no. On the one hand, it reduces real human bodies to polygons — easily manipulatable, easily taken for granted. At the same time, it represents the presentation of bodies that cannot be objectified because they are already objects, already not real, and what’s behind them isn’t real human flesh but a willful, human subjectivity that chooses to place them there.

    It’s a complicated subject. Personally, I’d love to hear from more people that find themselves attracted to this sort of stuff. How do you they feel, I wonder.

  6. Thomas Says:

    I figure word count was the reason you left them unanswered. I know that feeling.

    “After a while though, after I personally signed up for Second Life in order to research the article, I began to care less and less about the people, and become interested solely in the avatars.”

    Interesting, but do you mean that you were interested in the avatars as if they were the “real” objects, or that their status as objet d’art became more prominent?

    The fact that they are already objects is a good point. But does that mean that they can’t be objectified? I wonder. I feel like the avatars are meant to be symbols standing in for something else–perhaps when someone looks at them, they’re “embellishing” them in their mind, removing the rough edges of a crude-compared-to-reality presentation.

    If you manage to get a follow-up opportunity with people who are consumers of this material, I’ll look forward to reading it.

  7. Bonnie Says:

    Hmm, I don’t know. Sometimes it’s harder to access your own reaction than other people’s :-). I suppose as art objects, not as “real” objects within the context of the world – as creations that translated human sentiment on such a literal level – a combination of art object and conduit. Also, in all the role-playing (both textual and visual) going on, I began to sense an earnestness that was, put simply, both baffling and endearing. Of course, I’m still very, very new at SL. I’m sure there are many layers I’m not aware of quite yet.

    Are people substituting images of real women to transform these polygons into attractive images… again, I don’t know. I would say no. Real pornography is amazingly accessible; why go to the trouble. Unless there’s something in that process that’s attractive.

  8. Kelly A Says:

    Firstly, congratulations, Bonnie, on getting published with Wired! I’m not sure if its your first time there- I’ve not been keeping up with your posts lately (shame!).

    I’m not “into” virtual pornography: not due to any distaste or what have you, I just haven’t seen anything worth spending my attention and time on. But the things that might attract me to the genre would be the ability to experience “virtually” physical forms that might not exist elsewhere. Humans are sort of “dull” to me, I guess. I’m not a “furry” exactly, not in the convention going, dressing in strange costumes sort of way, but I guess I do find the animal side of things intriguing. A world where people could build their own highly-varied non-human forms…that might just attract my attention.

    Honestly, though, I’m not sure whether the “porn” part of it would really appeal to me even then. Too much of a sexual nature in virtuality becomes just crude and disgusting in the hands of a certain percentage of the audience. Naturally, what constitutes “crude and disgusting” varies by person, but all it takes is a small percentage of people to turn an otherwise appealing experience into something to run and hide from.

  9. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Kelly, I think one of the things that speaks to your comment is the fact that Thomas (the creator), from the discussions I’ve had with him, doesn’t seem to really consider Slustler pornography; he considers it art. So perhaps he sees things in the same light as you.

    Also, thanks for the congrats! It is my first. Here’s hoping for more :-).

  10. Thomas Too Says:

    Just for the fun of it i did a research on how Bonnie’s article in wirednews spread slustler on the web, and I’m pretty amazed –
    specially on how much thought and (mostly pseudo-)psychology this theme has brought up. When I started it, it was just for fun… I think I forgot to mention that in my answers in the little interview for wirednews.
    However reading this threat – yes I like avatars. I couldn’t care less if the person behind the sweet image that the avatar shows is an 18 year old girl or a 52 old male. They are what they want to be.
    Best wishes
    Thomas (Slustler Editor)

  11. Bonnie Says:

    Hi, Thomas. So what kind of stuff did you come across?

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