Which brings us back to online communities. From full-fledged dating services to online groups only incidentally offering a social outlet, online spaces are the perfect environment for breeding wants and needs. In most online communities it takes only weeks, if not days, for the first amorphous hints of an adults-only romper room to take shape, leading to all manner of sexual experimentation and fulfillment. Some communities are even built from the ground up explicitly for sex. And sometimes, online community members act like Mr. Bungle, attempting to satisfy their basic Maslowian needs (for sex, or even control) through coercion or force.
The Rape Switch
"This game contains sex, politically incorrect behavior, blasphemy, and lots of other things which are not acceptable to many people," says the Sociolotron website. "This game allows you to bring out your darker side, but it also allows the same for other players!"
Just what exactly the makers of Sociolotron intended by the phrase "darker side" is a matter of subjective opinion (and a matter most of us won't feel the need to investigate too thoroughly). Suffice to say, Sociolotron is a place where anything goes; up to and including most things we simply would not tolerate in normal life - including rape.
"I'd prefer something with a violable elegance to something that appeared open to all takers," said Sociolotron user Dominic, speaking to a reporter for adult game site MMOrgy.com. "Ultimately, I want to explore something that is resisting and I want that resistant thing to break for me."
MMOrgy describes Dominic as "one of" Sociolotron's rapists. Scenes from a menagerie of horror movies come flooding in. But before we get too carried away by moral indignation, it's important to note that the ability to be raped is a character option in Sociolotron - users can turn it on and off at will. This is, after all, the place where anything goes. If only there were a switch for turning off sociopaths ...
Again, from the Sociolotron website:
"Don't yell for help to the game masters! ... There is some supervision by game masters and we will interfere if people behave in a way that disturbs other players' gaming experience beyond the normal level but other than that we leave the players to settle their own disputes."
The phrase "beyond the normal level" is compelling to say the least.
"And if she doesn't resist ... at the initial capture? Does that lessen the pleasure for you?" the MMOrgy.com interviewer asks Dominic.
"Part of the art is to create resistance," he says.
"How do you do so in one who willingly goes with you?"
"There are always spaces of distress if your mind is subtle enough to find them."
What Sociolotron users may get out of willingly submitting to an individual like Dominic is anyone's guess, and perhaps intangible. At any rate, it's most definitely a higher order Maslow need, somewhere in the area of Love or Esteem. Sometimes, however, sex in the online space is more clear cut. Sometimes it's all about the Benjamins.
In World of Warcraft, players buy items and animals with in-game gold. This gold can be earned through various in-game means or, if you have more money than time, purchased in out-of-game auction houses. But what if you have neither in-game gold, nor out-of-game cash? Well, they don't call it the oldest profession for no reason.
"I need 5000 [World of Warcraft] gold for my epic mount," proclaimed the level 70 night elf Druid, known colloquially as "Epic Slut." "In return you can mount me."
Phone sex lines have been doing gangbuster business for decades, so the idea of someone talking dirty for money isn't all that new. But until recently, outside of a small circle of gamers and philosophers, the idea of breaking the fourth wall and offering one's physical self in return for in-game favors seemed a taboo too far. Epic Slut may not have changed that perception, but she, like Mr. Bungle before her, did challenge the belief that it "doesn't happen here." And she isn't alone.