Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Falling Between Worlds

Today I received nasty notes from two sides of teh world. It reminded me of a truth conveyed by one of my professors, that noise, not discourse, dominates the passions of the moment. It may not quite be nothing that is signified by this sound and fury, but it is the comments of those who are detached from it, or whose position is enclosed by art an irony, that end up being of the most interest to a waiting eternity.

The first was from someone whose sim I posted about here. It was of that genre that I was first introduced to long ago, that out the outraged club owner attacking a bad review. A parcel full of lies, and then attacks against the reviewer for not understanding the great contribution to humanity that running the sim creates. One reason, I think, LL does well, is that while ego driven meglomaniacs may be a dime a dozen, many of them are good for $295 a month in sim fees.

From the opposite side of the world came a broadside from Stop Violence Against Women, which as become the Bowdler Society of Second life in it's anti-pornography campaigns. On one hand I can understand victims of abuse becoming harpies about anything which might trigger their own deeply embedded agonies. I do not think men begin to understand the prevalent fears of unwanted pregnancy and sexual violence have in the minds of our gender. However, Stop Violence Against Women has passed from protecting people from triggering pains, and into the realm of doing violence themselves. They are not going after people who force their fantasies on others, but to try and block the working out of fantasies entirely. The patriarchy laughs, by multiplying repressive anti-sexuality, it pits woman against woman.

It is hard, again, to express the powerful sense of being watched that most women have laid upon them by their mothers, and other figures of authority. It is we who must say "no," and be the guardians of the economic and social relationships that are attached to procreation. It is not that our desires are less, but it is that our burdens are greater, that we enter into the world of sexuality with a heavier sense of our place in it. It is absolutely essential to liberate ourselves from the burdens, without losing understanding of the risks. And doing this requires claiming our sexuality. This often involves transgressive fantasies, and transgressive actions. Men transgress with permission, we envy this about society.

Often this involves pornography, partaken of alone, or shared with a romantic partner. One could stuff whole libraries with books that a woman offered up to a man, hoping he would see her secret self in it. Fantasies of being forced grow out of this, they strip away the responsibility of saying no, of beign the guardian of reproduction. They elevate the very brute aspects of masculinity. Rape, slavery, force, kidnapping, ravishing... all play some part in the fantasy of being stripped of agency, and in this, finding it. Finding a focus on personal pleasure, uncoupled from that bearing pressure of our mother's eyes squeezing at the back of the skull. It is a palpable physical sense.

SVAW has chosen to be antagonistic, and even more so, violent in their language to those people, including me, who they do not approve of. If Hard Alley is doing violence to women, so is Stop Violence Against Women, which, instead, chooses the sub-feminist and anti-feminist narrative. This narrative is the narrative of sanitization, that every centimeter of the world must be made safe for the sickest. In doing so, they would kill the healthy. They also promote an unhealthy fear of what is, in fact, feeble.

I've walked, often enough, through various rape and forced sims. I have never had anything all that bad happen to me. In fact, the reality of rape sims, and most of the men who partake of rape porn, is that they are weak and under confident in their sexual fantasy role. One time I went looking for rape role play, to see what the state of it was, and found myself having to entice and tease a man to be up to playing it. Rape roleplay is almost the reverse of the sign of a true sexual predator. Instead of being the play ground of the sexual predator, it is the province of men who really feel as bound up in their own guilt and weight of restraint as anything else. Before they can release, the need a woman who is not merely helpless, but almost vamping them from the chains.

It is not that there are not sexual predators on Second Life, there are. However, they do not, in general, put themselves in any one kind of place. Instead, abusive sexuality, and abusive use of it, are all over. In dance halls, malls, escort houses, orgy rooms, businesses, both rl and sl. I've been pressured for sex talk by Linden Lab employees, and by employees of known rl businesses, just as I have been pressured for sex at job interviews at Fortune 500 companies. It is not rape play which creates, or even houses, sexual predators more than any other. Thus protesting a sim which abides by the adult content rules, and is this known only to people who are expressly looking for it, goes against the need to create spaces which are civil, and civilized, by creating spaces that are expressly for transgression. We need our closed doors, and our carnivals, as much as our intellectual spaces. It is inappropriate for a male to enter into a group for, for example, public affairs, and then begin hitting on the builder of the set that a show is filmed on. Yes, this happens. Who is being more problematic? The guys who hang out in a seedy room hoping for a consenting partner? Or the man who inflicts himself on a woman during a book discussion?

But it is harder to go after the later, less fulfilling of gastric upset, less violent.

Let me tell a tale: I went to a sim with one of the leaders of SVAW. She was almost shaking with fear. I do not know, of course, whether this was real, or merely what she projected to get her point across, but it is how she presented. I was unafraid, and told her that in reality, there was little to nothing that anyone there could do to her, except say mean things. SVAW is composed of cowards, and is led by cowards, and preaches cowardice. Courage is not protesting the unpopular, but instead facing it, and facing it down. Pushing it back from the center stage, and reducing its acceptability. SVAW does not do this, and does not fight the tangle every day of the male dominated world of techies. Instead, they act as if street theater on a sim is some noble calling.

I say this is a sub-feminist narrative, I should, I think, explain this. The feminist narrative is simple: nature and society place upon us certain weights, and we demand that we be liberated from them as excuses to hobble our free participation in our own lives. We are feminists not to escape our gender, but to celebrate it, and, at times, places, and in ways acceptable to us, I don't pretend consent is truly the reality of entering into the erotic, express our gender. A feminist believes, and must believe, only two things. That our gender does not define us, and that we have a right to our gender as part of us.

The anti-porn crusader is engaging in an age old exchange: suppressing the freedom of women, in return for a power granted by men and other subfeminist women, to engage in oppression. Stop Violence Against Women in SL, has become Start Violence Against Women in SL. It's violence is embedded in the ideologies, and fears, of its founders. From that fear, they would deny, and indeed attack, people who have aided them and helped them. They bite the hands that hold them, they hate the people who help them.

It saddens me, because it tells me what I have read: that power is so seductive, that even those who would do good, are ensnared with it. As a nobody, writing nowhere, and for no one, these hollow words into empty airs fall, as I feel I am falling between the cracks. But it is the bellowing of those who have their pornographic needs, SVAW, is panic porn, and is everything it's founders say they deplore: anti-women, anti-feminist, committing violence of mind and spirit.

It is essential for people to claim their sexuality. As feminists, we have to accept that the process of doing so is like a journey into the wilderness, or the dark abyss, or the lands of the dead. It is a place fraught with monsters, magic, and mystery. Within the murk of the tangled forces of the erotic, including the desire to engage in that dangerous journey which is bearing and raising a child, are images and narratives that are not pure white and wedding. But only by facing, and encompassing, our darkness, can we be whole again.

I have walked through my darkness, and in doing so become a more whole person, I would wish that the leaders of SVAW would face, rather than run, from their inner fears, and rather than attacking women who are claiming their lives, learn that they must embrace the inner dragon which gnaws at the roots of the soul.

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