This paper explores cultural understandings of virtual sexual ageplay in the online world of Second Life.
Online sexual ageplay is the virtual simulation of child abuse by consensual adults operating in-world with child computer characters (avatars).
The analysis of this talk explores the cultural understandings of this banned behaviour and beliefs about the nature of Second Life which underpin residents’ likelihood to report sexual ageplay and so comply with the Community Standards.
In considering these issues the paper is able to highlight issues regarding the unique cultural position of abuse against children and key concerns which underpin the reporting behaviour of residents.
These tend to not be very prescriptive as that is against the ethos of SL and SL residents, but sim owners and operators have the right to eject any resident from their sim.
Sexual ageplay is one of the only virtual behaviours that are explicitly prohibited across the grid, and sim owners’ have responsibility to report any concerns regarding sexual ageplay and to eject child and child-like avatars and residents from adult-only M sims.
However, although virtual sexual ageplay is essentially the same behaviour but online, it is regarded as much more problematic: as the simulated sexual abuse of children in online environments (Reeves ).
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This is particularly in light of gathering international concern round the anonymity and freedom of the online world which facilitates social networking and the sharing of real and digitally-created child sexual abuse images, as well as the potential harms of viewing fantasy images of such abuse related to child sexualisation as well as the normalisation of a sexual interest in children, which is argued to increase the likelihood of real world offending ().
Consequent to this view of virtual sexual ageplay, there is increasing consideration of the legal status of this online behaviour.