Saturday, June 23, 2007

Streetwalking in SL

A good deal of what fascinates people about second life is the demi-monde, the shadow world, of creativity, of loosened boundaries, and therefore of a different kind of sexual politics. We've had a discussion about the middle, the clubs that is, and to some extent about why the top of the profession does as it does, but we have not talked about streetwalking, which is one step above orgy rooms.

I went to three of the most common places to find street whores in sl. Some were girls clearly fresh spat out, hoping to find a first job to get a skin, some hair, anything. Others were at the 300L worth of barbie. None were better than that, though in fairness, they could well have been alts of more established avatars out for a night. The rates? 300L for :30, I was offered 800L ... for 1:00. That's $3 USD for an hour of typing interactive pornography. Even if someone did 8 a day, 7 days a week, that is $168 USD. Third world wages. It may be virtual sex, but think on what people are being asked to do as entry level work in sl.

This is a giant theme park, only people are asked to do much worse than put on mouse costumes and run around in the sun. And the people running it are trying to get very rich on not paying the people who create that content.

I fished one newbie looking girl out of the pond, took her back to Yedo where she grabbed the skins and shapes... I won't tell much of her story, except to say that this was a new character because a male client was stalking her sl, and trying to find her rl. Those are the risks girls run, that everything no transfer you have may go.. pooof out of your life... because of men stalking you. Note that there is no way to get rid of these men from sl. Next time I give people attitude about the atrocious quality of government in Second Life, you'll know why, it isn't the first, second or third time I have heard this story, and it won't be the last either.

The quality of sex you get in such places, at those prices, is terribly low, but for a guy interested in no more than having permission to pump himself off, what else is needed. I saw a girl who had a "verified girl" group tag, complete with links to her, not unattractive, rl picture. She got 400L for :30. Given a bit of work she could have commanded much more.

Another girl charged rates similar to mine, and sold rl pics. However she also belonged to a group that had this description:

Rate Whores will do anything for your positive ratings. We fuck, suck and degrade ourselves for your pleasure, and it only costs the 25-75 lindens to positively rate our Appearance, Behavior or Building skills.

Why do we do it? Just for the satisfaction of another notch in our belt: the higher the ratings, the bigger the whore. This is an ongoing contest for members and the only rule is you can't pay people to rate you.

Ratings were removed just as I was coming on to SL, so I don't know what they do now.

Some other girls clearly had more skill, both in dressing and in working, and could at their top command rates that are about my bottom rate. Not bad for not having your own place, even if it is because of a lucky day.

What was also present was the sense of sisterhood. We talked, compared notes, swapped fashion tips. My heart goes out to any girl who has to stand there and wait and hope for someone to come along, and then have to bargain down to what ever pocket change he wants to throw at him. Think about it, virtual sex, personalized, for the price of the quarters someone can dig out of a sofa... And running the risk that some love struck client will decide to try and find their rl, and show up one morning at 3am screaming out what she did virtually the day before...

So why do it. Well what else is there for entry level access to Lindens in sl? 400L for :30 may be less than $2USD, but if you don't have the ability, or don't want, to jump through hoops to get Linden, then what else is there? For some people this is a fantasy, and they want to do it, but be given a bit of something so they can afford the barbie fantasy as well.

Even at the low end of sl demi-monde, the rl web pornography world, itself saturated, is coming. Since the market for escorts is also saturated, and the prices are plunging, the outside will flood and swamp the sl sex trade at every level. This isn't good or bad, it simply is. Like the web itself, demand for pornography is a vast subterrenean world.

Which touches on an issue. I hear a great deal of chanting for "bottom up." Well there is a huge demand for "bottom up" abuse of women. I don't blah blah blah patriarchy blah blah blah phallocentrism much, but it seems to me that anyone who thinks that bottom up anything is the salvation of the world has a serious blind spot about what the single largest bottoms up demand is out there. What that means to me is that for all of the chanting about how bottom up is the salvation of society, it is really a fight between two groups of men over who gets to exploit women's sexuality for their own pleasure and profit.


  1. "That's $3 USD for an hour of typing interactive pornography. Even if someone did 8 a day, 7 days a week, that is $168 USD. Third world wages."

    It is the same in every creative field of second life. And yes, escorting is a creative business , at least if it is done good. Only activity that is not in "third world wages" category here is land business. We are living in feudalism.

  2. Except for a very few at the very top. Yes. Agreed.

    And we have to change this.

  3. I've discussed jobs in second life before on the LL forums and really their are people in every field within SL who make acceptable money (what could be considered a 'living wage'), but they are the top 5% or less of each field. Everyone else makes pocket change. It's not helped by being able to class every job in SL into 3 categories: Entertainment (Clubs, 'Brothels', streetwalkers, and more), Content (any object from clothes, scripts, and skins to Houses and custom designs), and realty (The buying and selling of virtual land).

    I did a bit of 'streetwalking' before getting a club job as a dancer, but I work in SL only when I wish to. I never let myself feel I need to be on SL working, because I can make far more in RL working than I can on here...

  4. What always fascinated me is why there is such a limited number of "low-pay" jobs. Let me give you an example. In mid-2005, it was clear to me that a lot of people didn't really want to be escorts or dancers to earn a few L$ (based on what they told me, of course), but have no choice since they had no talent or skills for creating content (in the sense of building or making clothes or programming) and didn't want to spend time on camping chairs/dance pads but enjoy moving around SL and talk to people.

    So I tried something out. I sell a handful of items (PG animations-scripted gadgets and attachments) but I'm a terrible salesperson, and not interested in investing in massive advertising and building shops and the like. I thought to get newbies as "travelling salespersons". I gave them a 50% comission on any item sold. They didn't even have to buy the items themselves; they had a "portable vendor" which would do the job, and enough documentation explaining how each item worked — the sales pitch was up to them. So here was a way for someone to roam the grid (fun), talk to people (fun), make contacts (helpful in the future), look how the SL society works so that you can place the products better (even more helpful to get more contacts), gather a reputation (important — who knows, you might earn enough money to open your own shop), and still earn a comfortable income in L$ (cool!).

    In about two years, only 30 people applied for the job. Just one has ever sold an item. The record of remaining in that line of work was about two weeks; some never lasted more than one day; and these days, people still see my ads, contact me, I send them the notecard with the overview, and they never even talk back to me.

    I thought back then that I was basing my expectations on a completely wrong set of assumptions. I did naively believe that new users in SL, finding themselves unable to apply technical skills in content production, would fall back to the only jobs requiring social skills — escorting and dancing. So I imagined that providing a similar sort of job would help them out. The answer, however, is "no". A Travelling salesperson looks too much like "real work" I guess. There is no glamour. Nobody will come to clubs to see you at work. So people complain about the lack of more jobs, but the truth is, they don't really want them.

    The alternative to this, of course, is scamming, which makes SL look more and more like the black market in Russia. Scamming is so easy — and you can tell all your friends about it! — and there is no "police" or "legal system" (Abuse Reports do not cover frauds and scams), so there is no responsibility to take, and who cares about reputation anyway if you can create a new avatar as soon as you cashed out on LindeX? SL, for these people, is a criminal's paradise — there is only crime when there is a law. But if you don't have a criminal mind, and are not willing to do something that looks like "real work", well... what are the options? People turn to what gives them a spot in the limelight for a few minutes, and earns them some L$...

    Frank Koolhaas tends to claim that SL doesn't have a middle class — you just have the super-rich (a few thousands) and the super-poor (several millions), and there is "nothing" in-between. It's true. I'm not for giving away money for free; but I was seriously disappointed about the notion that people are, in fact, not willing to work (in the sense of doing non-glamourous things for a few L$) in SL. They want "instant gratification".

  5. Hmm, I think the problem is with the sales model. On SL, with bad search and credibility problems, a newbie with a box is indistinguishable from, well, a scammer. Now ask yourself which is a better sale, selling yourself for 80% or 100%, or selling something else for 50%.

    For the buyer, buying from a wandering newbie doesn't work: nothing at risk, no sign of permanence. How much do you buy rl from door to door sales people?

    When I sell things for others (and not always getting a commission) it is because I have credibility. It's an escort tool, or hair I wear. The people you can sell for don't need to pay commissions, they have word of mouth.

    One set of sl jobs that are relatively entry level is doing support for large products, such as SexGen. But that requires the seller to take the risk of paying.

    Remember, if you aren't taking a risk equal to what you are asking others to take, then they won't trust you.