Falling in

The day that changed everything was early in the spring: a time for new life to begin.

After a month in Second Life, I felt I was getting the hang of it. I had explored many remarkable lands. I had a beautiful avatar and a sexy, fashionable wardrobe. I was becoming proficient at flirting, and attracted the attention of many men. I had bought property, my own private house on the beach, where I entertained friends. In contrast to my reserved and somewhat solitary first life, the libertine version of me was having a great time in Second Life. It was uncomplicated fun.

One day, while sunbathing on my beach, my eyes were drawn to a man looking at a nearby home. I remember thinking: wow. This guy was definitely in a different class from the casual dates I had. It wasn’t just his muscular shape. Every detail of his avatar’s appearance was carefully crafted; the best quality and design, yet relaxed and informal. His long dark hair fell casually around aquiline features, framing the bluest of eyes… oh, those eyes. They seemed to twinkle with a smile.

His name was Jonah. He noticed me too. I wish I could remember his first words to me. I’m not sure it mattered. I was so dazzled, he could have read from the phone book and I would have been enthralled. I do remember that he put me right at ease. He was friendly, flirty, fun… and oh, so sexy. We only spoke for a few minutes, but when he’d gone, I couldn’t stop thinking about him.

Before long, Jonah returned, and we became friends. When I sat relaxing on my beach, Jonah would drop by to sit and chat. He was different from any man I’d ever met, Second Life or first, and I was fascinated. He cared about the visual expression of Second Life. It mattered to him to have an avatar that was good looking, well dressed and well groomed. A proficient builder and designer, he took pleasure in his beautiful home and every detail of furnishing, landscaping and decorating it. He loved the virtual world, loved to play in it, loved to create beauty. His creativity took my breath away. He was charming, funny, affectionate and smart. I found his personality intoxicating: the soul of an artist, with a relaxed, self-confident masculinity, an appealing blend of tenderness and strength that made me go weak in the knees.

What angel sent you to me? I asked him one day. He just laughed.

I think I would have yielded to him any time he wished, but Jonah took his time, and courted me; a long seduction that gradually built desire to a fever pitch. We enjoyed sparkling evenings in a starlit ballroom, and intimate slow dancing on his veranda. There were passionate kisses in a secret cave, under a waterfall cascading into a rocky pool. We sailed across vast oceans, with the wind in our hair and the sound of the salt spray around us. We explored Second Life, and we explored each other. We cuddled on a beach blanket beside a fire, talking long into moonlit nights, growing ever closer, ever deeper. When my desire had reached such intensity that I thought I would explode, Jonah finally took me. Then I discovered this gifted man’s greatest talent. I had indulged in online sex before, but never had I experienced anyone who could do what he did. Urgent couplings gradually lengthened into an extended feast of pleasure, as we spent every available moment together. Dizzy with happiness, I realized that I was in love.

Next: Real »

Anything you want

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 »

Connecting

I don’t remember what I was expecting when I came to Second Life® for the first time. Or even whether I was expecting anything at all. As a rule I try not to have expectations. I prefer to stay open to appreciate whatever comes, without trying to predict in advance what it will be.

It’s a good thing, because I could never have imagined even half of what Second Life would be for me.

Indeed, my initial impressions of Second Life contained little hint of what was to come. In my journal, I wrote, “The thing that has impressed me about Second Life is the solitude and spaciousness. Although it’s easy to find parties and crowds when you want to, you can explore vast territories without ever running into anyone. You can admire unique dwellings, shop in malls, stroll down a beach, watch a sunset while lounging on a bed suspended in the sky, fly over the ocean, meditate in a temple, or walk through a forest, and you might never see a soul.” All that is true, but clearly, at the age of 3 days, I had not yet discovered the essence of Second Life.

As a veteran of online communities. I am well-versed in the psychological, sociological and practical dynamics of forming a connection with unseen others using only typed text. And I have played enough games to appreciate 3D computer graphics. But even I was unprepared for what happens when you combine the two — text-based communication and immersive 3D graphics — and then, let the people who are using the world manipulate it, giving them the ability to create themselves, and create a world to inhabit.

The creativity within SL is truly astounding. Unlike most 3D games, any player has the power to create just about anything — homes, clothing, body parts, vehicles, trees, mountains, water, fire, you name it. Thus, you can be anything you want to be; I have been a beautiful woman, a dragon, and a swirling pile of leaves, among others. And you can see anything you want to see; people create amazing landscapes, cities, atmospheres, environments resembling anything on earth and some not of this earth.

This unbridled creativity astonished me during my first days in SL. And I quickly discovered that it had a big impact on the way that people relate to one another in this online venue. The resulting self-expression was, in itself, another means of communication. When we can be anyone and anything we want to be, when we can choose what kind of world we want to live in, what we choose says something about us. Without saying a word, we can communicate quite a bit about what we want, what we value, what we admire, what we wish for.

And what do we want? What do we wish for?  Some SL newcomers arrive in gaming mode, so they follow familiar fantasy paths, becoming warriors, princesses, elves, dragons, soldiers, vampires, woodland creatures, etc. Others indulge in wish fulfillment, buying ostentatious homes, fast cars, extravagant yachts and so on, and making themselves look like Pamela Anderson or Fabio. But whatever environment or appearance they wish for, it’s usually not long before newcomers grasp that they can interact, not just with a game or a world, but with other people. The beautiful women and handsome men, the soldiers and princesses and even the vampires and woodland creatures, are not game characters. They are the visual representation of real people, who, like most of us, have a deep longing to feel connected to others.

Then the dance begins, and the hidden power of Second Life is manifest. Yes, the creative works can be wonderful to see, and yes, there are plenty of fun games to play. But this is not a video game that you play by yourself. The main game here is the same one we all play in First Life: the search for connectedness.

Next: Anything you want »

Relationships

The internet has enriched and challenged our lives in countless ways. For many, it delivers information, entertainment, and convenient shopping. For me, it has always been a theater for relationships. Since the early 1980s, I have made deep connections with people who, though they may be distant physically, become as close neighbors in the same village. I share my life with them, and they share theirs with me; we are part of each others’ day-to-day lives.

Although my “real” life does not want for close friendships, I am, by choice and by nature, solitary; divorced, I live alone, and have no close family. Various obstacles prevent me from pursuing substantial relationships in real life. As a result, I suppose I invest more into online relationships than some who have other distractions. For the most part, I am content with solitude. But even I sometimes crave connection. Finding it online is both easy and perilous. My curiosity about online relationships is not academic. It is a survival skill.

When I use the term “relationships,” I am lumping together romance, intimate friendships, buddies, D/s, sexual relationships, colleagues, communities and perhaps more. For me, a relationship is any human connection that is deeply meaningful to me in some way. It is “the space between,” the interaction, the interchange of emotions, thoughts and actions between me and significant others. I don’t try too hard to categorize them. Of course, there are relationships and then there are relationships. That “space between” could consist of a few wispy strands of fluff, or glow hot with passion, or run deep and strong like a river. Relationships are diverse in character. And any of them may be topics for this blog.

Next: Connecting »

Living and loving in Second Life

What is it to love someone in Second Life®? Is it real? Or just a fantasy? Does the SL environment, with its alts and animations, affect how we relate to each other? Where is the line between role playing and deceit, privacy and honesty? Is there a desirable balance between fantasy and authenticity in SL relationships? And how hard is true submission… is it even possible in this context?

The world hardly needs yet one more Second Life blog. And I do not profess to be an expert with all the answers. I have no plans to pontificate with any sort of authority. Do I have anything worthwhile to say? I don’t know. I do have questions… and my own experience. So please consider this as nothing more — or less — than a personal reflection on what is, for me, an experience filled with intrigue, heartbreak, healing and grace, dizzying in its possibilities, and breathtaking in its dark beauty.

Next: Relationships »