Second Life and My Journey From Monogamy (Monotony) to Bliss

December 3, 2008 at 4:55 pm (Communication, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, , )

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“I blame Cinderella.”

That is the first line of Jenny Block’s amazing and courageous book titled Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage. Don’t worry, I don’t take her words personally. But that’s because her book has changed my life.

What’s so fab about this book you wonder? For one, it is a refreshingly honest glimpse into the evolution of one woman’s relationship(s) juxtaposed alongside her critical analysis of our entrenched and long-standing societal beliefs on sex, marriage, and monogamy. But I think more importantly this true story is told by Jenny herself, and she is someone you’d consider “normal” by today’s standards–if you were judging. It’s delightfully refreshing to think about the issues of open relationships and non-monogamy outside the previously more prevalent “touchy-feely, lets-get-naked-and-massage-each-others’-auras” tribe. In essence Jenny’s story is my story, sans Second Life.

Let’s first back up to the year I got married and was still in hot pursuit of my own real life Cinderella Story. In preparation for my wedding I wrote a poem that I featured as one of my very first blog posts on this blog: True Love’s Toes. The poem captures the perspective I had on the meaning of my impending nuptials: the confident promise, the burgeoning possibilities, and the starry-eyed fairytale presumptions all in place. I am certain it mirrors the myriad other marital musings, love notes, vows, etc. captured by countless brides and grooms across the globe as they embark on their own journeys.

Now fast forward 12 years. The scenes that zip by are as familiar any others: friendly gatherings, Grateful Dead shows, interstate moves, death of grandparents, birth of child, Montessori school, job changes, financial gains and losses, and Second Life. Now here’s where the plot thickens or as I like to say, where I woke up. And then my husband awoke. And our lives have been forever changed.

For many years my husband and I had led relatively contented lives relentlessly pursuing the proverbial American dream together. Although it was thankfully (and by our design) way less Stepford wife-like than many others’, our life together resembled the typical fantasy of true love and marital bliss. Yet several times over the years I teetered on the edge of not just contemplating but committing sexual indiscretions. Nearly every business trip to Las Vegas seemed to culminate in passionate flirtatious connections I’d make with interesting men. In every case I didn’t go through with them. But I returned to my life and my husband and was honest about my feelings. And we both wondered why these experiences happened and what they meant.

Second Life is like Vegas on pixelated steroids. There are fascinating men and women everywhere–yet this time Barbie and Ken perfect –just aching to meet and virtually connect with willing counterparts. And after awhile I was no longer able to ignore both the sexual desires and emotional connections I had for people other than my husband. And thus was the true beginning of our open marriage, which started in the virtual realm of Second Life and soon spilled over into our real lives.

In my opinion and experience, Second Life has a tremendous capacity to be a catalyst for us as a culture to question the existing constructs of marriage and monogamy, and to explore in a relatively safe environment what it might feel like to engage in open relationships. Many people, like my husband and I, are for the first time discussing honestly and openly what it means to love more than one person. We are all realizing that opening our hearts to include more people actually brings greater benefits to our existing relationships, rather than having negative consequences. That goes against nearly everything we’ve been taught to believe about adultery, monogamy, and the one-size-fits-all approach to partnerships we’ve been fed our entire lives. As Jenny points out repeatedly in her book, open or polyamorous relationships actually expand our capacity to love, rather than diminish it.

Yet Second Life also has an alarming potential to reinforce the fairy tale fantasies of monogamy and sexual and emotional fidelity that have dominated our culture through literature, movies, songs, religious teachings, etc. for decades. Isn’t there something bizarre and contradictory about many folks’ tendency in Second Life to meet “the one,” fall in love, host a virtual wedding, and expect emotional and sexual fidelity in this world that is primarily comprised of our own brain dramas? In a world where anything is possible, I find this near replication of real life a somewhat sad indication that we still have a long way to go to free our minds.

As I read this post back I realize this is more of a summary of my own journey to this happy place where I now sit. I haven’t included the statistics (like 40 – 60% of married men and women cheat on their spouses). I omitted a discussion of historical and evolutionary data on how fidelitous and emotional love-based marriages have really only taken hold in the last century, whereas prior to that marriage was an economically-based transaction. I’ve failed to include analysis on the riveting topic of the virgin/whore paradox, whereby men and women perpetuate this idea that men want a vixen in the bedroom but a virgin at the altar. And I’ve left out the opinions of countless experts who agree that monogamy is as natural to the human species as eating our young. So in fairness I owe you that next round. In the meantime, if you’re curious on this topic and want to further open your own mind–and perhaps other things–, check out the reading list below:

  1. Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray by Helen Fisher, PhD
  2. Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples by Nena O’Neill & George O’Neill
  3. The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People by David P. Barash, PhD, and Judith Eve Lipton, MD
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Could You Be The Reason He’s Having Second Life Sex?

October 26, 2008 at 6:59 pm (dishonesty, Friendship, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, )

Yesterday was a good friend of mine’s RL (real life) birthday. We were excitedly discussing all the fun things he’d done and I asked him how his birthday sex was. (We all get birthday sex, don’t we??). He sighed and told me of the ravishing way his wife of 25 years had rocked his mind with his birthday sex–I’m kidding. He begrudgingly lamented on how he’d laid in bed for quite awhile waiting for her to initiate (she’d told him earlier in the day he’d be getting some) and finally, following several awkwardly silent minutes, she sniped “well, are you just going to lie there?”

While this scenario might sound shocking to some of you, it is indicative of a stark reality many married couples face today. Ladies, it appears we have locked our legs closed–and in many cases our hearts as well–and in doing so shut our husbands off from the critical intimacy they need to feel connected to us. And it is this lack of intimacy and connection that is causing husbands to flee into the arms–and legs– of other women, whether in real or Second Life.

According to a study documented in a new book by Gary Neuman titled The Truth About Cheating, it is estimated that 1 in 2.7 men will cheat on their wives or partners. The study also found that 92% of cheating men say sex wasn’t the primary reason for the affair. It was an emotional disconnection, brought on by a lack of appreciation for them from their wives, that led men down that often rocky road.

For many men who are having sex with their wives on a regular basis, they often remain the initiators and instigators of physical intimacy. This also dampens the connection felt by a husband for his wife. Where we may have been sexual vixens before marriage and children, many of us wives are now not the sexual dynamos we once were. Our sexy underwear and short skirts have been replaced by comfortable cotton panties and sweats.

Enter Second Life. SL has evolved for many as a virtual dating and sex chat room, complete with amorous avatar animations that might have even the most liberal of us fanning the crimson heat of our blushed faces. But what it really provides is a playground where people can find new and interesting friends. And often those friendships are evolving into romantic relationships. Why? Simply because these new folks are finding the men and women they meet fascinating. And that is a feeling many married men haven’t felt from their wives in…well…what seems like forever.

In addition to these new lovers lavishing long sought after praise on their new online paramours, in Second Life ladies are also playing the part of new girlfriend–donning their avatars in sexy clothing and speaking sexy phrases men have often only heard from their wives in their fantasies.

So what does this all mean? I assert that if we want to create an environment where our husbands won’t feel tempted to try a tryst in real or Second Life, we women have to get back in the game–the romance game. It’s time we start admiring our husbands for all they DO contribute and stop demeaning them for what they don’t. It’s also time that we get our sexy back and woo our partners into the bedroom, whether we feel like it or not.

We should invest in some scrumptiously sexy lingerie to show him we care. If our sexual drive has diminished to a dribble, we must seek professional help. Because it is completely unrealistic for us to expect our husbands to abstain from sex or to be the sole initiators of physical intimacy. That only serves to breed bitterness and boredom.

Am I saying here that men are entirely blameless when it comes to affairs? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that we women must recognize our contributions to the climate and the power we have to help create an environment so savory our loving husbands wouldn’t want to stray.

RESOURCES:
Sex & Intimacy: What Men Want by David LeClaire
The Sex Starved Marriage by Dr. Michele Weiner-Davis
Besides Sex, Other Reasons Men Cheat, CNN

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Is Second Life Shaking up Your Marriage? You’re Not Alone

July 8, 2008 at 6:46 pm (Communication, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) ()

As my blog has evolved over the past year or so, I’ve noticed some remarkable and possibly alarming trends in the search terms used by my readers to find it. Whether this is indicative of my burgeoning bevy of blog posts related to the topic or it’s facilitated by an increase in the preponderance of these personal ordeals, I’ve yet to conclude. But I thought I’d share with you a snapshot of the search terms used to find my blog just today. See if you notice a pattern:

meetup.com wife swapping
the boredom of long life marriages
are you in love with your second life avatar?
husband sl addiction
sl broken marriages
second life divorce
second life friend’s online
believes sl is rl
has second life broken up real life relationships?
polyamory divorce

For those who have followed my blog for awhile, this may seem like review as I’ve written about this issue before in different context. But I was so struck by today’s search terms that I felt it warranted another look. Because, as you can see from the list, it appears to be an epidemic of sorts: Second Life is having a huge impact on marriages and relationships all over the world. And more often than not people do not view the effects as positive.

So what gives? Why are so many people–men and women alike–falling in love online while still married to others in real life?

Now here is where I’m going to get controversial (bring on your contrarian views, my lovelies…all opinions are welcome here). In my [disclaimer: non professional] opinion it is because we have an unrealistic and outdated view of what long term relationships should bring us. I believe this is left over from the definitions of marriage handed down to us by our churches and our families–from an age when power dynamics and earning potential was distributed very differently.

In essence, in days past men were often the breadwinners (read “hunters & gatherers“) while women stayed home to raise the family and tend to the household. This dynamic favored long term commitments and partnerships based more on function than on the fever of infatuation or romance (aka love). That isn’t to say our grandparents weren’t in love. I’m simply suggesting it was a different kind of love based more on mutual admiration and utilitarian constructs than on weak-in-the-knees, heart melting passion.

So how does this tie back to Second Life? Well I think we’ve come to erroneously expect our marriages and long term partnerships to bring us not only functional families, but romance, passion, desire, and amazing sex “till death do us part.” And how’s that working for us? Clearly, it’s not. When we’re faced with alternatives, like the secretary down the hall or that  Second Life honey on the next sim, we are often drawn to options other than our real life partners. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

You may be surprised to learn there is terminology that covers this phenomenon: it’s called New Relationship Energy (NRE). Basically it means the very real, very physical sensations elicited by attractions we have for new people in our lives. In the polyamory community, it is perfectly normal to experience these feelings alongside a longer, more established relationship. But most of us haven’t drank that koolaid yet, although admittedly I have and my marriage–and my self esteem–has never been stronger as a result.

I want to ask that if you’re reading this because your marriage or partnership has been affected by your partner’s romantic escapades in Second Life take this moment to open your mind and really ask yourself what you’re expecting  your partner to bring to you long-term. Have you ever complained that “the romance is gone” from your marriage or that your partner no longer makes you weak in the knees? This doesn’t mean your relationship is necessarily over. It probably just means you’ve reached a new phase and have new things to learn and appreciate about your love.

And if you are the one who has found yourself feeling those stomach flips of a new crush, whether in Second Life or real life, try not to mistake that for an indication that you’ve finally found “the one” and you should toss out your long-term partner as yesterday’s garbage. What you’re probably feeling is simply the physical excitement of NRE and you should feel blessed and savor the swagger it adds to your step.

In summary (wow, I never summarize at the end of a post…must be important), use this experience as an opportunity to openly and honestly communicate with your partner or spouse what you’re experiencing. Try not to judge yourself, him, and/or her too harshly. Because all of these experiences are real and valid. They may indicate more serious and irreconcilable problems. Or perhaps they just mean you need to spice up your sex life and bring back the romance. Regardless, talk to each other. If necessary, find a good counselor to help you through it. Because only through self knowledge are we able to grow–and that’s as true for couples as it is for individuals.

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Which came first Second Life or the messed-up marriage?

April 16, 2008 at 9:34 pm (Communication, dishonesty, Life, Love, Marriage, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, )

Did you hear that? It’s the sound a movie makes when you play it in quickly in reverse. It’s the same sound you heard when you played those old Ozzy and Led Zeppelin record albums (yes, record album…look it up kids) backwards to hear their supposed secret messages. But that sound has a new meaning. It’s now the sound you hear when someone uninstalls Second Life (SL) from their computer. All their experiences–the love affairs, explorations, live music, poetry readings, amazing conversations, drama, and discovery–played in reverse as their virtual world is sucked back into the void. And it just happened again.

Sadly the person who erased the existence of his virtual life this time was a good friend of mine. But I hear the sound more and more frequently as people struggle to come to terms with the ways in which Second Life is affecting their real lives.

Like the story of so many others, one ordinary online day my friend’s unsuspecting spouse stumbled upon his up-till-then secret Second Life romance. Shocked, she stood and stared at the computer screen, mouth gaping, silently soaking in what she was seeing on the screen: the sensuous embrace between her husband’s avatar self and his avatar sweetheart. What ensued, according to my friend, was a spat of monstrous proportions complete with sinister accusations, insufferable demands, and blanket ultimatums.

Sound familiar?

The sad thing about this scenario is that, because my friend was caught in the proverbial act so to speak, he seemed compelled to shoulder the weight of the blame for the state of the relationship he and his spouse shared. But that is just too simple and life is never simple, is it? For there must have been something that led him–and many others like him–to land and linger in Second Life in the first place.

What I’ve found is that people from all walks of life are floundering in uninspired and sometimes even loveless marriages, then flocking to Second Life in search of something to fill the void. Most of them don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing; they themselves foster the illusion that all is well on the homefront. (Ah, if I had a dime for every person I’ve met in SL who, upon first meeting, told tales of happy marriages later fessing up to the reality of their fizzling real life connections.)

My point is that for every person engaged in what many would deem “cyber-cheating,” there is usually an untold tale of marital strife that led them to seek out online diversions in the first place. In essence, it’s the same familiar chicken-and-egg cycle: the relationship is broken so we seek solace somewhere else. Then the virtual adventures cause partnership problems. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

So if you find your partners engaged in online relationships that you don’t understand, don’t simply slam down your gavel and thrust your verdict upon them just yet. Talk openly and honestly with him or her about why they are in Second Life.

And for those of you running from your real life and into the arms of your online loves it’s time to get real. Stop torturing yourself and those around you and make some decisions that will have a positive impact in your real life. It may mean that, like my friend, you must uninstall SL for awhile. Or perhaps you can get to the root of the problem with your partner and patch things up without saying goodbye to all the great things SL has to offer.

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The Ultimate Meetup: Polyamory in Second Life

March 8, 2008 at 4:17 pm (dishonesty, Guilt, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex)

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Let’s just say the cat is out of the proverbial bag. Recent events and media stories have thrust the polyamorous lifestyle back into the limelight. Oh it’s not entirely out of the smoky shadows and dark closets [I love that even the software I’m using to write this doesn’t recognize the word “polyamorous” and tries to spell correct.] But people are talking about it. And I think this is only the beginning.

One recent full-length article in the Washington Post featured stories from polyamorous couples, triads, etc. as they and their families attended a two-day conference in Pennsylvania. Although only 100 people attended the conference, the sponsor boasts a mailing list of over 15,000. Think about that. These are 15,000 people who, in the glaring spotlight of our often pious, puritanical culture–at least in the red-state, religious right-dominated US–have come to terms with the idea of polyamory enough to sign up for a mailing list. For each of them I bet there are thousands more of us who dabble with the idea; many of us sitting “safely” in the comfortable soft glow of our computer screens.

As Regina Lynn pointed out in her recent discussion of polyamory in Wired, the internet has done much to connect like-minded folks who venture online seeking an accepting community of their peers, polys included. But I’d go one step further and assert that Second Life has done more to bring the lifestyle into the mainstream, whether it’s consensual or still framed in the participants’–and their unsuspecting spouses or partners–minds as “cheating.”

The problem with where we are today is that we are experiencing–leading perhaps, if I might be so bold–a cultural shift in the way we deal with relationships. Whereas years ago the folks pursuing poly lifestyles often fit the sensitive ponytail man stereotype, people today who stumble upon these adventures are often what most of us would consider “normal.” Because we are the same people who have come to SL for business or curiosity and were blown away when we accidentally experienced intense attraction–and love–toward other amazing individuals we met there.

As barriers to “meeting up” continue to diminish in this new era of community and connection, and as the divorce rate continues to skyrocket (it is greater than 50% in the US), many of us look around and realize something’s gotta give. And I don’t really see any other option than to redefine how we experience love and relationships moving forward. Self-admitted poly Anita Wagner, as quoted by author Monica Hesse in the Washington Post article, puts it in context below: (sorry for the long quote, but it says it all):

“‘Many of us tried to make monogamy work,’ Wagner says. But monogamy, she says, often seemed to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. Its practitioners would break off ‘perfectly good relationships’ just because of intellectual incompatibility, for example, or because one partner liked ballet and the other liked bowling. Doesn’t it make more sense, polys ask, to keep the good parts of a relationship, and find another boyfriend who likes ‘Swan Lake’?

The compartmentalization of affection: It’s completely at odds with today’s Disney Princess/Coldplay-lyric view of marriage, in which your spouse is your lover, best friend, therapist and Wii buddy, and you also have identical taste in movies.

But as people are increasingly expected to self-actualize clear to the grave, what are the chances that they’ll pair up with someone who is on the exact same path of discovery?”

Thought: Maybe you can have it all. You just can’t get it all from the same person.

In my view Second Life provides a unique opportunity for us to test the waters of polyamory before actually diving into the deep end. In theory we can experience love and compatibility with new friends without bringing the baggage that comes with connections in the physical realm (read “multiple sex partners”). That’s not to say it won’t upset the marital apple cart. But perhaps that cart is rolling down a rocky road anyway.

I realize this is new territory. And, like most attempts to chart new terrain, there exist few maps and guidebooks to point out the pitfalls on the journey. By writing honestly and openly about these experiences–although that could be debated as I’m still writing under a pseudonym–I’m attempting to help us at least come clean and start talking about how it feels to meet someone new who brings something to our lives that our current partner may not. And also how it feels to be the lover of one who is loved by another.

So consider this an invitation to join the dialogue. What have been your experiences with polyamory and Second Life? Is your partner aware of your actions? Have you set up successful parameters that allow you–and perhaps your partner as well–to partake in the previously forbidden waters of multiple romantic relationships?

See my previous post about how my husband and I came to discover polyamory in Second Life.

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Second Life: A Playground for Power Play

February 3, 2008 at 1:21 pm (Friendship, Love, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, , , , , )

 

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“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

This is one of those bizarre sayings that somehow made it into our English vernacular. And like other phrases with questionable heritage, this one sounds weird yet makes sense. But we often seem to lose the meaning behind this particular adage. Ever come across those people with acidic personalities; men, women, and avatars who are quick to judge and even quicker to throw their barbs of negativity in your direction? Logic would tell us–as would our original snippet of wisdom–that these folks who rub others the wrong way would be friendless and forgotten. Not so.

Sadly, we are often drawn to the people who remain aloof and self absorbed. This is probably due our natural human desire to win others over; the more difficult the catch, the more captivating the chase. And I don’t think this tendency is any less apparent in Second Life (SL). I’ve watched from the periphery how glorified, self appointed sim divas attract adoration from an unsuspecting gaggle of devotees. Sure, eventually many of those starry-eyed supporters see through the charade and come to realize the cost of their ardor. But by then the damage is done. And the diva remains unfettered by the loss of the attention and, worse, empowered by her history of conquests.

As I pondered this premise, I began to notice a similarity between this scenario and the power paradigm of the BDSM and Gorean role play prevalent in SL. Thanks to an amazing and patient friend who chaperoned me as his guest, I recently enjoyed an opportunity to visit a Gorean sim to see what this scene was all about. And I was struck by how dutifully the female slaves “played” their roles and how devoted they were to their masters and others who were not of their echelon. Not only that, as a “free woman” I enjoyed an intense power dichotomy: satisfied with my superior status yet simultaneously fearful of upsetting the status quo.

Upon my arrival to the tribe’s home, my awareness was immediately heightened so much so that I physically felt a sense of timidity and trepidation (two terms NOT typically in my vocabulary). Even though I was not a slave, as a woman in a realm where men owned all the power I felt I must tread with tremendous caution and a sincere and meticulous attention to the details of my interactions. This might sound crazy to many of you–especially those who know what a high-spirited double fire sign I am. Yet the experience was exhilarating: I at once felt more alive (yes I see the ironic twist, given this is my avatar’s experience) and developed a deeper purpose to my public prose. This is actually a HUGE lesson for me and one that I’ve needed to learn for years. And it gave me deeper insight into why many people, women in particular, choose this lifestyle both in and out of the virtual world.

Power play–whether organic or deliberate like Gor–is a primary component of our interpersonal relationships. Who has the power is often determined more by our intrinsic nature than by the circumstances that arise. This is one of the things that makes Second Life so appealing: it is a playground for power play. The virtual venue provides a safe setting where we can try on different aspects of ourselves to gain insights into who and how we are. If we’re normally a dominant personality, we can submit for a bit. And if we’re traditionally timid and somewhat shy, we can step outside ourselves and become the life of the party. 

 

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The Sims Are Alive With The Sound of…um…Music!

November 8, 2007 at 6:31 pm (Life, music, Second Life, Sex) (, , , , )

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Many of you who enjoy spending time on Second Life (SL) will probably relate to this scenario: One day your close friend calls and asks where the hell you’ve been for the last several weeks. “Did you meet some hot new lover and are acting out the John Mayer song Your Body is a Wonderland word-for-word? Are you deathly ill and cannot venture out for fear of unleashing your contagious disease on an unsuspecting public? Or did you accept some secret mission from Dwight Schrute and are feverishly removing your office supplies from their jello encasings and preparing to embark on said mission?” It is at this moment you wrestle with how honest to be with this friend and admit your addiction to SL. You decide to come clean and confess what you’ve been doing.

As you tentatively describe that you’ve developed a fever for fraternizing online with animated avatars in a virtual cartoon world, you hear yourself talking and realize how crazy you sound to the uninitiated bystander. You realize then that you can’t be totally honest with this friend and begin to frantically grasp at legitimate activities you can describe doing in SL–things that don’t include sex, BDSM, furries, or pose balls. “But what else is there?” you wonder as you scour the recesses of your brain trying to remember what else you like to do in world. “Aha!” you remember at last. “Music!”

I myself have had almost this exact conversation (sans gratuitous reference to my dear Dwight). And as I began to describe the amazing musicians I had seen perform in world in the last week, I was overcome with awe over the quantity and quality of interesting and impressive music that is being made on the grid every day. From folk and funk to classical and country, musicians from all over the world are finding new audiences through this medium. And, as members of the audience, we’re all able to enjoy it from the comfort of our home office chairs (unless you’re the unlucky one relegated to the laptop in the living room that night).

An expanded audience base is only one potential benefit the new social media, including SL, bring to music and musicians. It is the opportunity for greater musical collaboration over a broader spectrum of musicians that galvanizes me. Recently I decided to get into the act myself, so to speak. I met a “friend” online who is a jazz musician and teacher in real life (RL). We collaborated via email on an updated version of a Billie Holiday tune; he sent the tracks and I sang over top and returned the vocal mix. And, although we’ve never met in person, the creativity and connection we’ve shared through just that one recording experience has us both clamouring to continue to collaborate.

My friend and I decided to collaborate once again when famed jazz pianist and funk father Herbie Hancock recently announced a music contest within SL. He asked musicians to create new pieces using remixes from any of his works, whether classic or new. We’re still in the process of making the music, but I can tell you I’m so thrilled and humbled by the opportunity I am practically speechless (kind of a bad thing given I’m responsible for adding vocal color). I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy…

I won’t go into details on the musicians I’ve discovered in SL. That is an experience I suggest you explore on your own. But one thing I will recommend is that you join a group to keep you updated on the various musicians and venues that are active any time of day (on the world clock) all over the grid. I belong to Live Music Enthusiasts and receive daily, sometimes hourly, announcements of live music happenings in world.

Music is truly a universal language, and one that is spoken in spades within Second Life. The importance and potential implications this medium has for musicians cannot be overstated, imho. And if that’s not enough for you, well music in SL remains a great cover for all that virtual sex you might be having!

Ok folks…contest entry is posted. Check here to listen. Feel free to vote for it if you like it.

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Let Yourself Go

October 5, 2007 at 4:33 pm (Life, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, , , , , , , , , )

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Ever been to a live concert? I’m not talking the symphony or that traveling version of Cats you took your nephew to see. I’m referring to a real live rock-n-roll show, complete with clouds of pungent pot smoke and that posse of pierced pre-pubescents. Now, remember those annoying people in front of you who refused to sit down and quietly watch the performance? They spent the entire concert on their feet dancing, drinking, and generally enjoying a grand old time. Well, I hate to break the news to you but I’m one of those people. I find it physically impossible to sit still during a live concert. And I’m violently unapologetic about that.

To fully enjoy most of my extracurricular activities, especially entertainment, I tend to give myself over to the experiences entirely. I prefer to lose myself in the activities and become a participant rather than an observing bystander. This is true of concerts, movies, and even Second Life, where one’s experiences are enhanced the more he or she is able to suspend disbelief and go with the flow of the fantasy.

I’m aware of those out there who struggle to release their white-knuckled grip on reality and slide into the sensational spectacle that is Second Life. Sadly, some even stand in judgment of those of us who do delight in delving into this dream world. I recall a recent conversation where a friend categorized a Friday evening spent in SL fantasy “funk land” as pathetic (ya’ll know how I feel about that word!!). Yet I wonder, would this same friend feel as sanctimonious toward an entire evening spent watching Sex in the City reruns or even perusing the plethora of internet porn sites? I think not.

For some reason there remains a lingering social taboo around Second Life. Normally light-hearted, fun-loving folks–people who boogie their butts off at RL concerts and marvel at movies even– seem reluctant to venture into the fun of the game by enjoying things like dancing, relationships, role-play, and sex. Even gamers, who have a rich history of playing just for the fun of it, often scoff at those who find pleasure in SL. And while this may seem merely the minor musings of a fantasy-averse few, I argue it is indicative of a larger issue.

Forgive my soap box here, but what I see is group of self-appointed cultural “experts” who hold other people to their own subjective standards of the merits of certain forms of entertainment over others. This smacks of the argument between the value of “high art” vs. “popular culture” and to me is no different than the societal elitists of yesteryear–eloquently captured, for example, in books like Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence–who relish in their role of determining what’s ok or not for society at large. But who gave any one person or group the authority to decide what is trash and what is treasure for the rest of us?

I don’t mean to rail against anyone here. I merely want to suggest that we all challenge our assumptions and let down our inhibitions once in awhile. So I’ll take the gloves off now and extend an olive branch over the chasm that divides those of us who fully experience SL and those of us who do not (realizing, of course, this is subjective too). I think we should all join hands, let down our guards, and find the fun in the SL fantasy. Let’s fling off those chips on our shoulders and let our hair down together. I promise if you join me at funk Friday, you will have a rockin’ good time. Who knows, you may even be compelled to jump up from your chair and boogie your own butt off!

Funk Fridays are held every Friday night from 7:00pm – 9:00pm (LT) in Second Life at the MMAC, a cultural arts center devoted to cultural arts of all flavors.

Check out this killer tune by Trowzer Boa featuring the shenanigans of a familiar cast at Funk Fridays.  

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Is The Grass Really Greener?

September 25, 2007 at 11:19 am (dishonesty, Divorce, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex)

When I was a kid I possessed an active imagination that colored my life almost perpetually. It was as if I looked at my atmosphere through a fantasy lens that cast my rainbow vision in different directions like a crystal prism. One of my favorite games was to squint my eyes at night, especially on rainy nights, and view my backdrop as a twinkling, blurry dream scene.

Second Life is a remarkable adult version of this sparkling dream world. For the grown girl whose imagination has been lost under the weight of mortgages, taxes, and the daily grind of real life, SL provides a fantastic virtual playground with the power to help her rediscover her connection to the wonderful world of make believe. And lest you forget, that is exactly what SL is: a world of make believe. For, despite what it seems on the surface, reality in SL is just as blurry as the one I viewed in my childhood game.

I have a sad fear and sinking suspicion that a large number of the people who “play” SL are missing this point. Alarming stories abound of people who’s real lives are being cataclysmically and irreparably disrupted because of the growing prominence of their fantasy online relationships. Just yesterday, for example, I learned of yet another woman who had decided to dissolve her RL marriage in pursuit of the promise of illusive paradise she feels she’ll find with her SL love.

So what’s the big deal, you say? Why shouldn’t she toss out the old and trade it in for a newer model if she’s convinced it will bring joy to her RL? Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to begrudge anyone the opportunity to pursue happiness. My struggle here lies not in the pursuit, however, but in the faulty foundation upon which these new realities are being built.

You see, when we meet someone in SL, we are only exposed to the person they choose to share with us at any given moment. It’s like he or she wears a metaphoric mask to conceal characteristics he or she desires to keep hidden. We don’t realize this because–perhaps subconciously–we all too often fill in the gaps we have in the image of our lover with features we project onto them. In essence, we mistake the idea of our lover for the real person themselves and become captivated by this new hybrid of who they are and who we want them to be.

A RL lover has no chance in this unfair fight. Since we live with them day in and out, we experience first hand the good and bad attributes our RL partners exude every day. From flatulence and fevers to pimples and PMS, our real life partners are just that: they’re real–complete with unsavory idiosyncrasies and all. But at least when we construct a foundation of a life with real lovers, we do it with the full knowledge that the grass, however green, will not always be a bed of roses.

So before you cast aside your current partner for that captivating Casanova or hair-raising Helen you met in SL, consider some of these staggering statistics:

  • Divorce rates among those who married their extramarital lovers is 75 percent. The reasons for the high divorce rate include: intervention of reality, guilt, expectations, a general distrust of marriage, and a distrust of the affairee. source
  • One-third of divorce litigation is caused by online affairs. source
  • 60% of remarriages end in divorce. source

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The Unscratchable Itch

September 14, 2007 at 1:59 am (Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex)

The question on whether it can be called cheating for a married person to enjoy Second Life (SL) relationships with people other than their partners has been tossed around the internet airwaves nearly ad nauseam. Articles in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and even a recent blog post in Wired tackle the subject of fantasy vs. real romances in SL. All this chatter points to the fact that, despite what Dr. Laura might like to believe, SL sex and romance is a persistent and pervasive practice.

I’ve written openly about my own professed penchant to cultivate love affairs with men online while enjoying a loving, committed, and completely open relationship with my real life (RL) my husband of 11 years. Most of my SL relationships grew organically, sprouting from the seeds of mutual fascination, sexual curiosity, and palpable attraction to the way that person made me feel about myself. Never did I embark on these journeys with the intent to meet and marry my next man.

So what then is the destination that I, and the thousands of others like me, traverse toward? When we jump on this train to tryst town, just where do we expect to get off (Freudian pun intended)?

Sadly, many of the married friends I know who pursue SL relationships are merely groping for a happiness that does not exist in their real life marriages. Several feel obligated to stay in these unfulfilling relationships to provide a comfortable and secure environment for their children. Others simply haven’t made the effort to fix what’s broken and turn to SL to give them what they’re missing instead.

Interestingly, most SL friends I know don’t realistically aspire to meet their online lovers in real life, given the myriad constraints that exist. This is especially true of those who foster flames from afar, as I did when I cherished a beau from Europe who lived a minimum of nine hours’ time difference away. And sure, we may all fantasize about taking our erotic avi sex to the realm of the Hilton at that conference in Halifax. But few of us actually do it. So you gotta wonder, why do we willingly–vociferously, I might add–engage in the pursuit of a plan that prompts us to feel an itch that will never be scratched?

The only explanation that exists for us to find friends we’ll never physically feel, love online partners we’ll never pursue, and make virtual marriages we’ll never consummate is that the adventure in itself feels so damn good. Because we all know in the backs of our minds that these relationships rarely have a chance at surviving beyond a certain point. I argue, it’s not their survival we strive for. It’s just the joyous journey that we seek. And, when that trip is over, we’re first in line to take the next tour.

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