Friday, September 7, 2007

real dolls vs. avatars

Recently one of my fav bloggers, Violet Blue, blogged about 'real dolls' and I've been hearing a lot about these lovely ladies recently in other arenas. If you're not familiar with real dolls, they're amazingly lifelike silicone sex dolls. Violet blogged that MGM is making a movie about relationships with sex dolls, but what I found most interesting was another post I'd read about an artist using sex dolls in her work.

Because I'm also an artist dealing with sexuality and sexual relationships, I found what Amber Hank Swanson is doing of particular interest. Quoting from an article in the Chicago Reader, "...Swanson began talking to more women and by 2005 she herself was in front of the camera. “Feminism?” consists of ten shorts in which she quotes from interview transcripts while participating in her own objectification. One short, Not a Feminist Way of Thinking: Daddy’s Little Girl, re­creates a scene from Lolita; in it Swanson’s real-life father paints her toenails. Two others, That’s Deep and That’s Deep Again, show Swanson being penetrated from behind—in one video by a man, in the other by a woman—while repeating “That’s deep,” one woman’s answer to her final question. “I was interested in the cultural phenomenon of young women rejecting feminism,” Swanson says. “In some ways I took on the character of a young woman doing so—either rejecting feminism or being naive about it.” ". Swanson's latest project, "... has put Amber Doll to use in a project exploring the interplay between fantasy and reality in sexual relationships. The finished work, which is still untitled, will contrast stills of intimate “partnership” scenes with video reenactments of rape scenes from movies such as Irreversible and The Accused. Unlike “Feminism?” which spoofed sexualized depictions of women in popular culture, Swanson’s latest videos are meant to mimic them as closely as possible—with one main departure. In the rape scene reenactments, both Swanson and Amber Doll will be dressed as the victim in the film. She gets most of her costumes from Forever 21 and H&M, including dresses similar to the one worn by Monica Bellucci in Irreversible. “These places had the majority of the ‘asking for it’ outfits I was looking for,” she explains."

So then I started wondering just how much our avatars in Second Life really function as a 'real doll'. Whether you're into the BDSM scene, or allowing someone to humiliate you, or rape you, or 'use' you in a roleplaying scenario.. how much of that is actually *you* allowing it, or are you in essence doing exactly what Amber has done in her work? Are you using your avatar, as a second 'you' in a sense and allowing him or her to experience those things while giving yourself some 'distance' from the scene, or do you feel a connection to your avatar that negates that distance? Are you able to have these sexual experiences that involve humiliation and torture without logging off with some residual esteem issues?

I think we're all participating and observing in online sex for our own reasons and I think those reasons vary greatly from person to person, but it really is interesting to take a step back once in a while and think about why we do, act, or roleplay certain scenarios and what that means to our 'physical' selves.

1 comment:

Ringo Kawashima said...

Interesting question. And one it is a bit strange to answer, not less so because I have to step out of Ringo.

For me, both sides are true, to an extent - and neither one is, completely.

My avie is my substitute in things that turn me on, but deeply inside where I do not admit them readily, not to others, and sometimes not even to myself (thus far), and would probably never enact them in the Real Life. She experiences things I do not, and I experience them vicariously through her. And in this sense, also, I feel her as a separate character from my own - we're definitely not the same person, although we do share some characteristics. Thus, her adventures also cater to my inner voyeur, as I can take a step back and enjoy what "she" and the other people are doing.

But at the same time, I do identify with her somewhat, and she will avoid the experiences that I actually dislike myself. She will happily sumbit to being used, but she will fight against a rape (even by out-of-character means, like teleporting home). Even if she is submissive, she does not suffer insults or humiliation, and certainly does not permit torture. And although she is comfortable having sex in front of an audience, she will slap anyone who touches her uninvited.

A friend of mine said to me, while she was playing my sub (that was so very hard for me! but I did enjoy it), that I can do whatever I want to her, even cut her open or torture her, because it's just roleplaying... But I could not even think about it. It might be roleplaying, but it's not "just". Not for me.