Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sex, flirtation and romance on the Internet
The latest moral maze that has extruded from Second Life even made national news in the UK. Second Life, for those of you who don’t indulge (there are over 50 million who do!), is a virtual community where you can live a life interacting with others of similar bent. So, the news story goes, a man logs on to Second Life and chats up some female and his real-time partner, who has warned him once before about having licentious thoughts which find fruition in virtual reality, kicks him out of his real house. But he says he didn’t do anything except flirt. One on one with another avatar. And who knows who that was? It could have been another bloke. It could have been a teenager trying out a bit of slap and tickle with his or her parents’ generation. For a laugh, like. But for her, the thought is what counts. She doesn’t want a bloke whose libido is raised by alter egos in the never never. Even if it could have been the creation of some potbellied redneck loser, dressed as a schoolgirl. She wants a man whose every thought is focused on her.
Are we on the cusp of transmigration of the physical into the virtual, where the Second Lifer carries with him or her an entire moral suitcase, packed by a partner, sworn never to be opened on the other side? If, as some pundit said on Sky News, people’s lives can be so humdrum that they gain their sole fulfilment in virtual worlds, then it is not surprising sometimes that with the freedom to express their deepest desires in this animated Pandora’s Box, comes the sexual tension of being found out in their First Lives. Sinning gains an unholy halo of extra frisson when it crosses the line, drawn in the sand, by a partner’s toe, even when that toe is hypothetical.
Was the woman right to inhabit this moral high ground? Walk along any high street in any country and watch men and women walking together in apparent happiness. Then focus on the eyes. Mmm how they slither this way and that, dragged into focus by the exploding pheromones of a passing male or female! Here in Ghana, the very notion of Second Life for most people would be an activity verging on ridiculous fantasy. The self-indulgent madness of the cosseted. The case, outlined above, would be given short shrift. Eyes are expected to stray. Men are expected to play the field. Sex is not shrouded by the same moral rip tide that washes away western sinners. Romance is not the social ideal that westerners espouse in their relationships. When you are fighting to survive, there are far more pressing issues. Better a relationship that is economically sound than one that is sexually or romantically fulfilling.