Second Life: what went wrong?

By James Cook on August 12th, 2013

This article contains sexually explicit material that may be NSFW. 

A journey into Second Life’s adult areas reveals a disturbing hive of graphic sexual content, extreme rape fantasies, and vendors selling webcam sex. All of Second Life’s content is easy to access, and The Kernel has discovered children were inhabiting some of the most hardcore locations.

There is a category on the Second Life destinations browser named “Adult”. Judging by the number of users in each of the adult-themed areas, these are some of the most popular places of the site. The first stop on our journey into Second Life’s adult world was a beach resort that served as an adult mall and sex resort.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 16.17.02 (1)

The first thing that users arriving on the beach resort will see is an advert for a 3-person interactive sexual object named “2HOT2Handle”. Sexual animations aren’t included in the stock version of Second Life: they’re created by users with third-party programs. In order to simulate sex on Second Life, they interact with items that allow sexual interaction to take place.

Around the corner from the spawn area is a stall selling over thirty types of sexual position, flanked by a bronze statue of a man with a giant penis. On the floor of the market stall are two poseballs, devices used to add custom animations to the game. They are labelled “Give BJ!” and “Get BJ!”

Interacting with one of the poseballs gave the expected result: the avatar mimed giving a blowjob.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 16.28.15

As I wandered over to the next stall, a trill ring sounded, meaning that I had received a personal message.

>>gina: Want to fuck?
>>James: How does that work?
>>gina: lol idk :D
>>James: How old are you, if I may ask?
>>gina: 14
>>gina: lol

Receiving this unsolicited message alarmed me. I had made no attempt to contact this user, and my avatar had deliberately been outfitted in a plain business suit. I blocked “gina” and reported her profile to the Second Life administrators, but I couldn’t stop her continuing to browse the sexually explicit marketplace. As I wandered around, I saw her walking up to other avatars, presumably repeating the same conversation.

Around the corner from the sexual animation stall was a billboard topped with “SEX” in large gold letters. “Voice, Webcam, or Text” read the sign.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 16.31.43

Behind the webcam sex billboard was another marketplace stall. This seemed to be advertising a menstrual cycle:

Add to making love in SL the last bit that is missing.
Do not be just a beauty-doll but become a real woman.
Most realistic simulation about the female cycle.
You can use contraceptives (pills and condoms).
No hidden costs for extra tests or contraceptives, buy it 1x and ok.
You adjust the HUD to your being. If you are for example a fox, a horse, a fairy, whatever: alter the cycle details to your needs.

For 899 Linden Dollars, you can buy a functioning penis for a Second Life avatar. This is roughly £3.35. As you can see from the advert below, it is highly customisable and will receive updates.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 16.39.04

On the outskirts of the sex market was a large chair, designed for two. A nude female avatar approached, and began thrusting upwards from it. Seeing this, a giant yellow tiger climbed on top.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 16.58.50

It was time to leave.

Consulting the sexland sex map showed a range of other exotic adult locations: Slaver Bay Kidnap RP, Think Kink! BDSM Superstore, Bondage Ranch… the “sex lounge” up the stairs sounded promising.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 16.49.49

As my avatar ascended the stairs into the sex lounge, a REO Speedwagon album track started playing. There were three poles, each occupied by a cartoonish female avatar performing a crudely-animated poledance. The cavernous dance floor was empty. The soundtrack changed to Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard and I left without tipping the dancers.

Next on the list of adult places to visit on Second Life was the worryingly named “Rape City”. Immediately upon arrival, loud moans issued from nothingness, followed by a slapping noise and a male voice groaning in pleasure. A half-naked female body was slumped on the ground and labeled “Drunk Girl”.

Wandering around Rape City was a strange experience. Nude avatars ran free, sporting bizarrely oversized genitals. The local police station was flanked by people straight out of a YMCA music video, and featured a sex crucifix.

Running for the sanctity of a chapel, I found no solace: it was here that the female sex noises reached a crescendo. The chapel was in fact a sex palace, featuring a “Bride / Groom / Priest” interactive sex table and a “Sinner1 / Priest” blowjob confession box.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 19.11.27

On the wall overlooking an interactive sex car was a billboard advertising “Rape City Pregnant Day”. This is a weekly occurrence, taking place every Saturday. Sure enough, walking past the sign revealed a gaggle of strangely bloated nude female avatars and a giant minotaur attempting to flirt with them in Spanish.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 19.22.44

The central square of Rape City is not fitted with benches, bins or a public fountain. Instead, there are racks, stocks and poles, all of which are interactive sex objects. The floor is littered with porn magazines, featuring photographs of real-life sex acts. Two users were enjoying a rack, their premium genitals kept announcing on the public chat that they were “cumming”.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 19.29.30

As I captured the screenshot  above, I received a notification that someone had given me their leash. “Nefertiti Pearl” had chained herself to me, and by moving around the map, she was dragged around.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 19.46.17

The Second Life community forums contain many posts expressing their outrage at Rape City’s existence. Here is member DarkAusten’s response to Second Life’s rapist problem:

Every few weeks, I strap on my pistol and search places for ‘rape’, with the intention of luring and shooting rapists.

The Kernel conducted interviews with multiple Second Life residents to gain an insight into the adult areas of the game. They shared their experiences of rape tracking, where users pay real world money for special software that allows them to track other users, and rape their avatars. One user told The Kernel that a group of players had been banned for using child avatars as prey in a rape tracking game.

While much of the adult content on Second Life can be considered disturbing, the game’s bizarre community has experienced a renewed interest from the internet. YouTube users like Charlie Winsmore are exploring the eccentric world of Second Life, garnering hundreds of thousands of views. The adventures of his characters like Esteban Winsmore and Chargglez Firecaster have brought an influx of new users to Second Life, drawing attention to the game’s community once again.

The Kernel asked Charlie Winsmore why he chose Second Life for his videos.

“Second Life has a lot of personality. It’s very unique. It functions well for me because the population is different from any other game. They’re not really doing anything. They’re sitting around or dancing in place, which means they’re almost forced into talking to me. In other games it’s easier for people to just carry on doing their thing and ignore me completely.

“The complex level of customization SL grants its users works perfectly for what I do. Where else could a muscular shirtless, orange-tanned, long-haired man with a southern accent break-dance while he yells at me for standing on his virtual stage? It’s just brilliant.”

With Winsmore using characters like Esteban to venture into the more adult areas of the game, was there anything that shocked him?

“Initially, yes. The whole game was shocking. It’s that deep crevice of the internet that everyone knows exists, but wouldn’t dare adventure to. I’ve walked into way too many virtual sex and bondage clubs with real life photos of sex acts I couldn’t even name plastered all over the walls.

“I’ve seen bronies dirty talk each other in the privacy of their cartoon apartments. I’m almost jaded to it all now. Nothing really surprises me anymore.”

With his videos bringing an immense wave of public interest to the game, Winsmore has experienced more than a few negative reactions.

“However the people I’d expect to be fuming usually show up in my comment sections to claim their presence in my video,” he says. “I’m not sure why you’d want to identify yourself as a member of a furry orgy, but to each his own.”

And with the publicity he had attracted, what kind of effect had Winsmore’s videos had on Second Life?

“I think I infused a large amount of trolls to the game, but I’d also like to think I brought in some normal people. Tons of people message me, letting me know their videos inspired them to make a Second Life account. Although Linden Labs refuses to acknowledge my existence, I’d like to think I’ve revitalized the game at least a little bit.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say my videos have granted Second Life more exposure than it’s had in a while. God knows I never thought I could get this far using SL as my platform. So hey, maybe I’ve served some good for the community. I really hope Second Life keeps on. I can honestly say I love the game. There’s nothing quite like it, and there’s nothing currently out there that could serve as a replacement.”

Ten years after its triumphant emergence as an online community filled with boundless opportunity, Second Life has become a parody of itself, and the internet as a whole. Much like the boom years of the internet, the vast world quickly attracted bureaucrats, universities, students and musicians. A glittering universe of culture was promised in the game’s servers.

But it was the lack of limitation that brought about the decline of this brave new world. Infinite customisation, and the entire world as your neighbour, is a dangerous intoxicant. The real world money flowing into Second Life began to dry up as the community spiralled out of control. Universities pulled out. The in-game government outposts fell empty. Fringe communities emerged from their underground sex clubs and took over entire islands. Cityscapes such as London and Paris became showcases of perversion.

Second Life is a hellish, dystopian version of what it once was.

There’s still a community, of sorts. Seasoned users bravely log on every night to decorate their virtual apartments. Whether they’re motivated by a sense of loyalty to the game, or by the thousands of pounds they have invested there, it’s hard to say.

Bemused onlookers, YouTube users and trolls jostle for space with the bronies, internet rapists and sex-seeking users. But while Second Life continues to exist, and new content is added every hour, no longer can it be seen as an online paradise, or as anything approaching a complement to our physical reality.

Nor is it somewhere you should leave your children unattended.