“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval
by Buttercup Thursday
My loquacious friend, whom I’ll call Flicka (get it?) once had a torrid SL love affair with a gentleman I’ll call Mickey. In RL she has a 14-year old daughter and a 16-year old son. He: 46 and divorced. They didn’t partner but met almost every evening, rarely in the day, though that would have been convenient for her. His job demands were too severe, he told her. His “job”, as it turned out, was attending high school. You can imagine her surprise when the person she had been so intensely intimate with, had been frequently pixel naked and sexually adventurous with (RP, anyone?), turned out to be a year older than her son. Imagine her fury and embarrassment. Imagine the ICK factor.
And then there is “Marta”, young and pretty in both worlds. She found romance with the fierce and manly “Manfred”, of the long flowing locks, studs, and leather. She confessed that in RL she was still in college. He confessed he was approaching a RL fifteen year wedding anniversary. Imagine her surprise when she learned the fifteenth anniversary was actually the fiftieth. Imagine her fury and embarrassment. Imagine the ICK factor.
We all have our little secrets, be it size, color, sex, marital status or the fact that we watch ’Big Brother’.
Okay, I know SL is a fantasy world, where everyone is young, beautiful and healthy. A place where reality can be a sketchy concept. Where tall dark and handsome might disguise short, pale and balding. Where the sweet lovely woman of your virtual dreams has a half-dozen alts and at least one gullible man for each. Or the professed RL brain surgeon cleans toilets for a living. It is pleasant when friends and lovers are honest with you, but we are all aware of the pitfalls. We all have our little secrets, be it size, color, sex, marital status or the fact that we watch ’Big Brother’. We all make our own decisions about what matters to us and what we choose to believe.
But the age thing…now that is serious. For many females in SL, it has the equivalent potential for off-the-charts ICK factor as the nightmare of most SL men (that the buxom blonde damsel you are dancing with and long to lure to lascivious pose balls might really be a hairy guy). Who would want to expose themselves and their secret thoughts and cravings to a boy who has barely outgrown armpit farts? Or feel suddenly like the victim of an old perv, cackling as he convinces a young thing that he is the opposite of the leering, exploitive creep that he is?
In short she feels manipulated and humiliated. By a kid.
In conversations with Flicka I got the impression that she mistook Mickey’s quietness as contemplation, his skill at role play as maturity, and his horniness as adult affection. She still harbors what she calls nightmarish thoughts… for example, what if Mickey had his young friends come over to watch and laugh as they went on their private virtual dates? In short she feels manipulated and humiliated. By a kid.
Marta feels exactly the same. Like Flicka, she almost left SL when she learned how callously she had been used. What makes Marta cringe is the idea of this elderly man, fifty years her senior, sitting at his computer and smiling as he talked her into revealing her most personal and intimate thoughts. “I like older guys, and who knows, maybe I would have been okay with someone that age if he’d been honest about it from the beginning,” Marta says. “He’s a perv because he lied to get what he wanted and cared nothing for me as a person, not because he’s old.”
So how to avoid becoming a victim of the age ICK factor? Some of the same precautions the menfolk use to avoid sexytimes with another man, like talking in voice, might be helpful. But ultimately, there is no way to protect yourself completely from predators in SL, whether they are underage, or conmen, or sexual perverts, or cheating lying ratbags. But we can watch for the signs, we can listen to our instincts (instead of burying them under a blanket of I-wish-it-was), and we can remind ourselves that we inhabit a world where nothing, truly, is as it seems.
For slum magazine