From our sister site, Metaverse Health:
For many, the Christmas / New Year period is a time when there’s more regular social contact with people. It’s certainly been the case for me and it’s emphasised a well known virtual world conundrum – personal boundaries. Over the past month I’ve had the occasion to discuss virtual worlds with a handful of people who have no experience with them at all. In each case, the issue of virtual sex would arise – no surprise there. What did surprise me in its regularity in being raised, was the belief that real-world personal boundaries shouldn’t apply in virtual worlds.
One friend, who’s got a postgraduate education, said to me “if you can’t get immediate and free sex in Second Life, why would you bother?”
It’s not an uncommon opinion by any means. It actually sits on the opposite end of the continuum from “virtual sex is wrong / funny / worthy of ridicule”. In the middle is a limited amount of work being done by health professionals and educators on promoting sexual health, particularly in Second Life. Until there’s further work done in the area of establishing the ‘normalcy’ of sexual expression online (with the usual caveats around unacceptable behaviour / child pornography / extreme sexual violence etc), opinions like my friend’s will continue to hold sway. Some would argue that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and there’s still not enough evidence to determine whether acceptable online sexual expression if harmful, beneficial or both.
There’s obviously some appeal in a different set of personal boundaries, it’s just defining the groundwork for alternate approaches that’s challenging.