I apologize for going on at such length with my backstory. But if I am going to discuss my thoughts about living and loving in Second Life, I think it is only fair to be honest about my background, so that you, the reader, can come to your own conclusions about how my experiences have shaped my opinions (and how they compare with your own). After a few more posts of this, I should be able to start writing about more current thoughts. But for now, I return to my first days in Second Life.

Although initially I thought SL was going to be a game, and that my interaction would be with a game, I soon grasped that it is not a game but a community. The virtual world and the avatars are a medium — through them, real people are connecting with other real people. In some ways, then, it is like a telephone or a chat room. One can use the telephone to communicate with sound, and one can use a chat room to communicate with text. One can do both through Second Life, but there is also a deep 3D visual element. This visual element does not consist of stock images provided by the game; no, all of it, everything you see, has been created by the users (“residents”). When you add this visual expression to words and sound, the result is an incredibly rich medium of communication.

One more factor has a profound effect on the nature of relationships in Second Life: anonymity. Unlike Facebook or other online communities where your identity is known, Second Life is almost totally anonymous. Like traditional text-based online communities, nothing about you is known, except what you choose to reveal. And most residents choose to reveal little or nothing. No one knows your name, or where you are. They do not know if the real you is young or old, male or female, bodybuilder or couch potato. Some aspects of your personality will leak through your typed words, but if you are a good actor, you can role-play an assumed persona, and use visual creativity to reinforce your character, masking your “First Life” self with a new self of your own devising.

So there I was in this virtual world. I looked fabulous, and all around me were other attractive avatars–not game characters, but the avatar presence of real people with whom I could interact. Shielded by anonymity, I could be anyone, I could do anything. What did I want? What did I wish for? What was my fantasy?

To start with, it could be nice to make some friends, I thought. And so I did. Soon, I was having a great time. It wasn’t long before a nice-looking guy flirted with me. Then another. And another. There were parties. There was slow dancing. There was kissing. It was so realistic; the butterflies in my stomach were just as real as if it had happened in First Life. And then there was sex. Oh. My. God. Without being too graphic, just let me say that sex in Second Life is awesome. I remember thinking: this is like making my own personalized interactive  porn movie. And if I stay anonymous, it’s safe. No one knows who I am, and there is no possibility of physical harm. I can do anything, try everything. Yes, virtual sex in SL is deliciously erotic; after all, the biggest sex organ is still your brain, and SL stimulates the sweet spot. It is extremely fun.

In First Life, I am a very reserved person, and I take great care in making choices, in doing what is right. In Second Life, my fantasy was to become an out-and-out hedonist, to simply let go and let myself do what felt good. After all, this world was virtual, and as long as I kept my activity confined to the virtual world, it was pretty safe. So that’s what I did. For about two weeks, I immersed myself in a glorious, consequence-free world of dating, flirting and casual sex. I met a sweet boy, full of fun, and enjoyed dancing and sailing with him. I even tasted the forbidden fruits of BDSM, about which I will say more — much more — later.

Then came the day that changed my life.

Next: Falling in »