101: Will Bobba for Furni

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Blaxton:
Virtual rape may be the dominating term, but it forces people to categorize it improperly in my opinion. It aggrandizes the severity. Virtual rape may be very frustrating, confusing, and painful, but it isn't the same as being physically raped and it isn't close enough to warrent the comparison.

I have to ask: what do you mean by severity? Being unable to leave one's house--as happened to the blogger I linked to--sounds pretty severe. That's not a common signifier: that's a common level of damage.

I have to say I'm in awe of how much intelligent discussion has centered around this piece. Thank you all so much for giving it so much thought.

Blaxton:
What happened to the virtual rape victims and the physical rape victims is a world apart. If I was Jung Na-Yung I would be angry to have my experience compared to that of people whose avatars were manipulated online without consent.

I understand what you're saying here, and how the link between the events described may seem tenuous. Let me first address the subject of whether or not Miss Na-Yung would be offended by her story's inclusion in this retrospective.

For starters, none of us will ever be Jung Na-Yung, so speculation of this kind of meaningless. However, it wasn't my attempt to suggest in any way that the rape of a real girl, in real space, is in any was as severe, emotionally or physically, as a similar even happening between avatars in a game. Yeah, sure, there are parallels, and as legba's story suggests, virtual rape can be pretty traumatic, but being trapped and physically assaulted by someone you trust is in a whole other universe from that kind of thing. So, while the two events may have a number of similarities (from motivation to psychological effect) they're just not the same thing. To suggest my intent was to proclaim they are is to miss the point entirely.

To address the (perhaps valid) critique of how the article was structured, allow me to suggest that we look at the events described, not as the assemblage of similar circumstances, but rather as complimentary events, building a case for the acceptance 9or not0 of sexual interaction in an online world, which then spills back out into the real world.

Dibbell's tale of the rape of legba describes one of the first instances of online sexual assault, an event that punctured the innocence of what we (at the time) believed was our safe place away from real life assholes like Bungle.

At this point, it's important to read the section on Maslow carefully (and the source material if you have time). This describes why and how we, as people, express our needs for things, and suggests why, when we move into the virtual world, our desires go with us.

Which leads us to the discussion of "willing rape" on site like Sociolotron, where people log in with the sole purpose of satisfying their seedier needs. It's an example of the online space conforming to our needs, not, as in the case of legba, the other way around. And from there we look at cases of people taking advantage of the needs of others (for sex) to satisfy their own needs for items, good and/or services.

Epicslut and Rob Conzelman both whored themselves for virtual loot, Rob posed as a femal and cybered for picket change, while Epicslut broke the fragile membrane and went all the way, as they say, in the real world, with a complete stranger for a bucket of coin. Two people who both recognized that people will always want sex, and, in the true spirit of entrepreneurship, capitalized on that need, using the virtual world as the meeting place to arrange sexual encounters paid for in virtual money. This is akin to the frontier women, tired of being raped by the local miners, banding together to form brothel. It's everything we've always found fascinating about the online space and more, regardless of whether or not you agree with the morality of the situation.

And so, if Epicslut and Conzelman can do it, why can't the kids of Habbo Hotel? The story of Habbo kids babboing for furni illustrates that it does happen; kids do cyber for game loot. It's a bit vile to consider, but then again, so are sweaty encounters amongst teenagers in middle school bathrooms, and on the jungle gym, but that happens too. And guess what also happens? Teenagers taking their spirit of entrepreneurship offline to score vitual loot, just like Epiclsut.

How does Jung Na-Yung's story fit into this? As I said in the article, the game Audition, unlike Habbo and other kid-centric sites, does not actively discourage this kind of behavior, which many think ultimately led to Jung's rape. The game profits from the desires of folks who use it as a singles bar or worse, and in allowing this to go on under the guise of being a kid friendly game, thereby (allegedly) encourage sexual activity between minors and adults, and in the case of Jung, the rape of children.

So, in basic terms, is Jung Na-Yung's rape similar to the rape of legba on LambdaMOO? No, not really. Except it is. And if we can accept the fact that online spaces are capable of being adapted to service our real world needs, then we have to also accept that they will be used by folks who are out to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others. Just like Bungle did to legba. Just like happened to Jung Na-Yung.

Now then, if someone wants to go ahead and suggest that if I need to write a 1000-word defense of my article in the comments, then perhaps I should have done a better job of writing it in the first place, well, I can accept that. but the events described all lead directly to Jung's rape, and the use of online spaces as real world sexual gratification engines. The writing has been on the wall for some time, and now we're beginning to see it actually happen. The question is still: what are we gong to do about it?

CP, I can see how I am misunderstood in that section, the wording is unclear. I'm not supposing that online harassment or sexual assault is something easily shrugged off. I think that people that have seen it first hand may very well have been strongly affected. I'm not trying to say that the victims don't deal with severe backlash, but rather I'm saying that the term rape causes us to inflate that severity.

I wish I had some studies to look at. It would be nice to know for sure either way. But, from the evidence that we have right now there is no definite answer. From my perspective, so far, the gravity is different.

Russ, I believe I did perhaps misplace the direction in which the comparison was meant to go. I appreciate you clearing that up for me. Essentially, that was my problem from with it. From my reading of the article the use of the word rape (and some of the other language) immediately brought me to a wiring where the link was meant both ways (as a comparison between the acts and the concerns that these actions raise about online interaction). If you use the term rape becuase the sources that you used utilize the term then I can respect that, but I do disagree with it.

I wanted to clarify my point because in my first post I feel I was a bit too frank. This is, after all, an article and debate focused on something quite heinous and I feel pretty strongly about it, so I jumped to very hard stance.

Blaxton:
CP, what I'm saying is that the two things are vastly different, and though I have seen a breakdown of rape types I would be willing to bet that the things you enumerated would yield similar consequences for the victims.

I'm...betting it wouldn't. I know that's totally politically incorrect to say, but, I think it's true. However, it just doesn't matter to me because I'd call them all rape--if I thought we should call things rape in the first place--anyways, so.

Blaxton:
CP, I can see how I am misunderstood in that section, the wording is unclear. I'm not supposing that online harassment or sexual assault is something easily shrugged off. I think that people that have seen it first hand may very well have been strongly affected. I'm not trying to say that the victims don't deal with severe backlash, but rather I'm saying that the term rape causes us to inflate that severity.

I wish I had some studies to look at. It would be nice to know for sure either way. But, from the evidence that we have right now there is no definite answer. From my perspective, so far, the gravity is different.

No no, don't worry: I never thought you meant to say it wasn't severe at all, just that it was in a different qualitative class of severity. My question was meant in this way: what exactly would those studies clear up? Each individual victim experiences an individual level of severity. Why should we deny someone the ability to call their experience rape if it turns them into a basket case, and allow it to another person who experienced a real life assault but is dealing with it better?

In individual cases, how does it 'inflate the severity' to call two experiences rape, instead of calling the less severe experience rape, and the more severe experience by some other term, all because of some general trend among other victims?

If I have sex with someone while they are asleep who clearly would never consent to sex if they were conscious--even if they never know about it and experience no effects from it whatsoever--everyone would agree 100% that that is a form of rape, right? So...if rape is about the severity of the damage to the victim, isn't it 'inflating the severity' to call both that and the 'stranger in the bushes' experience by the term rape?

I think...a lot of the difficulty in this discussion is because there are a bunch of different ways of deciding how to 'classify' something. To me, it seems we can classify experiences by:

1) the average amount of damage it does to an otherwise psychologically sound person--basically what you are talking about, right?

2) the maximum amount of damage it can do to an otherwise psychologically sound person--basically what I'm talking about in this comment, and in a couple of others.

3) How easy it is to prevent an attempt--kinda what Bongo Bill was talking about

4) How much it says about a person who would make an attempt--kinda what some people have been saying.

5) How much it damage it does on a societal level, i.e., when a boy and a girl really like each other both want to go to third don't go that far because she's vigilant about going to the kinda private places where that could happen because that privacy also means it'll be harder for her to get help or get away; or if women stop using the more public areas of the internet the way they've stopped using the public areas of the real world after dark--what I've been saying.

I think #2 & #5 are way more important than #1. I say that because I think the gravity of the crime of rape--maybe more than any other crime--varies widely between individuals, at least based on the victims I've known. And because I think #5 is more important if we're talking about something on a more general scale than the individual. I feel like the most important effect of rape as a general phenomenon is how it changes the lifestyles of *every* person who winds up with a rational fear of it happening to them, whether it has happened to them or not.

And that's a big reason I don't see calling both of these things rape diminishes the gravity of one or the other. In both cases you have a big slice of the human population changing their lifestyles because they live in perpetual vigilance. At least when we talk about real life rape, people still go out during the day or with friends or along well-used jogging paths. When we're talking about the internet, we're talking about people restricting their behavior every hour of every day--it does no good to post one's blog only during the day or make sure it's never the only female blog on a website or that the website gets a lot of traffic or something.

Which...is kinda why I've always thought we should just get rid of the antiquated, sexist term rape in the first place, and just call it all sexual assault.

I think you're right, CP about assuming I have been more concerned with you're first listed item. I have been thinking in general trends. Exceptions and extremes are often unpredictable, and while I don't want to say we should ignore them, I do believe that the greatest good can be done when concentrating on the mean and mode.

I'm also concerned with the second one. But, again, I feel that the maximum is most probably higher for physical rape victims than it is for virtual rape victims. But if we get too caught up in the individual cases, it's hard to say any crime is any more destructive than any other. If a person is verbally insulted, they may, in a very very extreme case, take their own life. I'm not talking about continued verbal abuse, just simply cracking after hearing something insulting. It's not likely but still possible. But to say that calling someone a name and doing something else, something like rape, has the same damage potential would be looking at the extreme and unreasonable maximum. I know it's an extreme example, but thats the point. When you get to the outskirts of any curve you start to see some very confusing things.

The last three items I have been aware of, but I have neglected them. I think they raise a couple questions I need to think about a bit. I'm getting caught up in the debate, which wasn't my original intention of posting my (supposedly, but apparently not really) clarifying statement. I'm going to have to go through the rest of the posts to get a bearing on things.

Blaxton:
I think you're right, CP about assuming I have been more concerned with you're first listed item. I have been thinking in general trends. Exceptions and extremes are often unpredictable, and while I don't want to say we should ignore them, I do believe that the greatest good can be done when concentrating on the mean and mode.

Even if we are talking about exceptions or extremes here--and I don't think we are--I have to ask:

While the "greatest good can be done when concentrating on the mean and mode," how does it unjustifiably "inflate that severity" of something that won't give us a high rate of return on investment by using the same term for it as something that will give us a high rate?

Would you "be angry to have my experience compared to that of people" if the difference between you and those other people is just that your case is more common, if the difference is just that "the greatest good can be done when concentrating" on cases like you instead of cases like theirs?

I get exactly what you're saying, and in fact agree with you--if our goal is harm prevention it's important to classify things by not only the harm they cause but how effectively they can be prevented. However, what I'm asking is how this is relevant to your original point that: "[w]hat happened to the virtual rape victims and the physical rape victims is a world apart." Your original post and your criticism of calling this rape didn't seem to have anything to do with harm prevention, but with whether real life rape was being trivialized in calling something that happened online by the same term.

I think it's relevant because it realigns the normal. The weight of the term rape decreases when we add in lighter crimes under the title.

We are a species that relies on categories and generalities. Inflating the severity of a thing by use of a common term may trivialize the severity of another with that same common term. Learning the usage of the term rape when applied to virtual cases may throw off the subconscious reaction of disgust ever so slightly.

From a cognitive psychological approach, learning new connotations will prime the brain for different responses. While we can all step back quite easily and say "rape is an awful crime" I don't think it's as easy to say that, when adding on new definitions to the term, we will continue to default to the sentiment to the degree that we are doing now. That is why I feel the term needs to be separate. Placing the term rape and the experiences that go along with it on a different level is important in keeping people aware of the evil it has connected to it.

That is the more scientific explanation, I suppose.

My very first original post was based mostly on empathy and how I believe someone would feel in a situation like this. I can imagine feeling very wronged if someone were to suggest they understand my trauma becuase of something similar that happened to their avatar. To think that the situation is at all the same, or that the person could possibly understand the things that I had gone through would be violating in it's own way. I don't think people like to be told that they are being understood when they know they aren't, its frustrating.

This is how I have felt about it, but it's not a good argument for debate so I've tried to steer away from it since I got involved in actual back and forth about the issue. I don't think I'm really being honest, though, in trying to debate in the logical format that we are doing.

As Russ stated: For starters, none of us will ever be Jung Na-Yung, so speculation of this kind of meaningless.

He is right. I don't _know_ how Jung feels, but as a human being I have constructed a mental model of her in my brain the best I could manage, and I came saw a revulsion to the comparison. It's a complete loop in logic, to try to understand someone for the sake of arguing that it's impossible to understand them without going through their experiences personally, but as a empathetic person I'm going to try anyway.

In my method I was upset about it, enough to write up and post a response saying so. I may be wrong from a logical point of view, but I don't think it was wrong to feel the way I did. I wish I had written my first post more clearly and less abrasively(which is what I intended to do in the second response I wrote in this thread) but I don't believe that being offended was the wrong way for me to feel. Also, with the way Russ explained, I felt eased about it and that I was seeing something unintended.

So, in response to your second question, my motivation for anger was rooted in what I just described. It has less to do with the greatest good, less to do with how and why virtual and physical rapes differ, and everything to do with how I felt the person I was feeling would react to the comparison.

I probably sound pretty crazy, but that's pretty much the bottom line and where I started in this thread.

Blaxton:
Placing the term rape and the experiences that go along with it on a different level is important in keeping people aware of the evil it has connected to it.

Trust me, it isn't ;-) In fact, it makes one even more aware.

Personally, I don't see the value of "the subconscious reaction of disgust." I see a lot more value in calm, considered, sympathetic reactions. When our subconscious reactions influence our positions on things, we're just asking for trouble. That's why spousal rape and date rape went under the radar for so long--it just didn't create the same reaction of disgust as the 'lurker in the bushes with a knife' did. Really, it still doesn't, does it? It is also why we don't take the problem of prisoner rape seriously to this day. So...I am perfectly fine with taking our level of disgust completely out of the issue. I just don't see the value of a pissing match over who is more disgusted, because calm sympathy is way more useful than angry disgust.

Blaxton:
He is right. I don't _know_ how Jung feels, but as a human being I have constructed a mental model of her in my brain the best I could manage, and I came saw a revulsion to the comparison. It's a complete loop in logic, to try to understand someone for the sake of arguing that it's impossible to understand them without going through their experiences personally, but as a empathetic person I'm going to try anyway.

Any reason why you didn't construct her as an empathetic enough person to consider the experiences of the two victims of Mr. Bungle similar to hers?

Blaxton:
I probably sound pretty crazy, but that's pretty much the bottom line and where I started in this thread.

No no, not at all--in fact, it's a better, clearer version of what other people have been saying, so. No, I don't see anything wrong in you feeling what you're feeling; I just question using those feelings as the metric for deciding questions like 'what is rape'.

Cheeze_Pavilion:
Personally, I don't see the value of "the subconscious reaction of disgust." I see a lot more value in calm, considered, sympathetic reactions. When our subconscious reactions influence our positions on things, we're just asking for trouble.

I wonder about this statement. On the one hand I like to completely agree with you CP, when I normally talk to people and form arguments I try my best to form mine from a logical base when I've had a chance to consider my point of view. The other hand says that if we assume we have an unbiased perspective because we've rationalized our point of view and taken a calm reaction we have failed to consider the other half to our bodies. There is an evolutionary drive to feel and empathize, and ignoring it is like making assumptions without using all your senses. Part of what makes up common sense is that most of us just know when something isn't a great idea. We get that not through a logical calm progression, but through our emotions and feelings. I don't really have a point to make with that, just trying to get my thoughts on it out here to see why you feel that way.

To the ongoing discussion: I don't feel that rape in any of it's forms where it will cause OTHER people to feel afraid for themselves due to the actions on another can be ignored. If we want to argue about the semantics and which is worse that's fine, the real issue to me though is "how do we prevent this?" Do we enforce chat logging and having people sign up using their verified real world information and invade the privacy of others? Much less than deciding the punishments for these various actions - how do we stop them? Should we stop them? Is this just natural deviation and changing so that if rape becomes a better option for survival we'll still be able to go on as a species? Does that excuse it? There are a lot of questions, some with easy answers some with not so easy answers that I have. Do we want a monitored (safer, but still not SAFE) online virtual world, or a unmonitored one that might let a few more deviants through the cracks? What's the right answer here?

TomBeraha:
There is an evolutionary drive to feel and empathize, and ignoring it is like making assumptions without using all your senses. Part of what makes up common sense is that most of us just know when something isn't a great idea.

Problem is, that drive is designed to feel and empathize with people who are like us. Allowing that drive to dictate how we assess things is basically just like asking 'how does this benefit me'.

Also, I think that gut feelings and common sense are usually at odds with each other. Coffee lady is a great example. Our gut feeling is that 'omg, she got a million dollar payday for being a moron' when really, it's common sense that what's safe to hand someone over a counter might not be so safe to hand someone through a car window. That handing something to someone who at most will go sit in a booth and can grab the Mountain Dew the guy at the next table is drinking and pour it down their pants is different than handing something to someone who is sitting in a small bucket seat strapped in with a belt who is going to wind up in traffic without any easy access to cold liquid to flush the area down.

I wonder how different we'd feel about the responsibility of McDonald's if coffee lady spilled that coffee on herself while driving in traffic, and lost control of the car and plowed into a bunch of school kids, and the parents of a bunch of dead children were suing.

Speaking of the children, don't people who are gamers regularly criticize people who think the answer to regulating games is their 'gut feelings'? Should we be throwing stones when we're living in that glass house?

(To digress for a moment on the subject of gut feelings vs. common sense: I think a lot of the 'what about this children' arguments aren't really about the children. They're about the parents. About protecting the parents from other adults judging them because their kids are playing a game with boobies. I mean, if I'm above the age of consent but below the age where I can by porn, it's okay for someone to show me their boobies in real life, it's okay for me to *touch* their boobies in real life, but it's not okay for me to look at digital boobies of a fantastical species in a video game?

Personally, I think the leather bikini tops the Tauren females wear in WoW is *more* disturbing than just showing the boobies. Shouldn't they have a udder sack in the first place?

Now, maybe it's not okay for someone to *market* boobies to me if I'm below a certain age, because I might be ready for sexual content, but not for the commidification of sexual content. However, that's not what the ratings system says it's about. Because...it's basically about pandering to insecure parents who vote.)

Not to mention, common sense is usually dead wrong. To answer your question as to why I feel this way, I'd say just look at those links I provided Bongo Bill with earlier in this thread, or take a look at the Milgram experiment. The problem with common sense is that it makes its decision, and then never follows up to see how that decision turned out.

TomBeraha:
If we want to argue about the semantics and which is worse that's fine, the real issue to me though is "how do we prevent this?"

I think the argument over the semantics is in part about how far we go in preventing it, if we decide to try and prevent it at all. You're right that all the questions you ask are the important ones of making the call when safety is in balance with freedom. I think though that part of the issue is that we're not all in agreement about how how important that safety is.

For instance, if virtual harassment turns out to be not so bad in terms of its psychological effects--but still bad enough that it drives women off the internet or into anonymity--does that justify more or less monitoring on the interent, sacrificing more or less freedom on the internet for safety than if something had worse psychological effects but wound up driving less women off the internet?

I still completely disagree with the McDonalds case, I don't see how we can hold them responsible in any way shape or form. If they had given her a cup that exploded when she started to take a turn and it caused her to have said accident, maybe there is an argument. She still is the sole person responsible for her pain, no other person's actions save removing the coffee from her would have stopped it. A label warning her of the danger of hot coffee would certainly not have kept the fluid inside the cup and off her lap. It's not a gut-reaction here, it's a common sense answer. They aren't one in the same - the knee jerk is the reaction to the headline, the failure to obtain information, common sense is knowing to find out all you can, and then making a decision case by case knowing the spirit of the law. Did McDonalds intentionally make their cups less structurally sound in an effort to cut costs, can we prove this, and does this make them liable? We have to be intelligent thinking people, I'm not in any way suggesting this is likely to happen.

The videogame version of this goes - Kids who killed people played video games. People who commit crimes play video games! People who play video games are criminals!

It's all knee jerk - not common sense. I have never and will never advocate that type of reaction / thinking, I suggest instead that we should have judges who go "Lady - you spilled your coffee on yourself, it sucks, but I'm sorry thats not McDonalds fault." It's completely biased, doesn't work in our system, but Hey, I wasn't trying to say it did.

You make an interesting point, and my disinterest in having every case spelled out in law is why I don't care for the semantic argument. Whatever people decide to call these things still sounds irrelevant to me, define them as detailed as we can in the actual law and then update as needed.

If someone breaks into your home and steals a painting that they thought was valuable, but was in fact the only remaining thing that you had left of your deceased child, the pain and hurt is much more than if they'd stolen an ordinary painting. I don't suggest that the criminal is somehow deserving of a bigger punishment unless they knew it's value to you. If we decide to punish someone for making unwanted advances against other people online, then we should and could do that, in many ways it's easier to prove. But let's not get caught up in whether or not it is as bad as rape or unwanted advances in "real life". It becomes kind of irrelevant to me because last I checked we weren't making punishments fit the crimes anyway- at least, not in balance with other crimes. The people in charge certainly aren't saying "Now wait a minute, telling a child she's being fined 4 million dollars for stealing music seems a little absurd"

TomBeraha:
She still is the sole person responsible for her pain, no other person's actions save removing the coffee from her would have stopped it.

See, that's completely untrue. If the coffee wouldn't have been as hot, she wouldn't have been burned as badly as she was. There's a difference between being 'responsible' for your pain, and the inability of any other person's actions to prevent that pain, right?

Now, like I said, maybe we say 'the dangers of serving people hot coffee are worth the risks, precisely because her actions could have stopped the chain of causation' but we shouldn't fudge the facts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proximate_cause

Even if we decide McDonald's making the coffee hot isn't a proximate cause, let's not rewrite reality and deny that it's a but-for cause. Even if we decide that her ability to not be a spazz means the risk of McDonald's serving hot coffee is nullified for purposes of legal liability, we shouldn't pretend that there was no risk to begin with, right?

TomBeraha:
The videogame version of this goes - Kids who killed people played video games. People who commit crimes play video games! People who play video games are criminals!

Umm, you're gettin' a little far afield here, don't you think? I mean, comparing the argument that hot coffee causes burns to that of the link in causation between video games and crime?

That's what I mean--you keep saying 'common sense' but you don't use common sense in your arguments. I don't mean that to be insulting, just that I don't think you see that your behavior doesn't match your ideology.

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