The virtual simulation of child sexual abuse: Online gameworld users' views, understanding and responses to sexual ageplay

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Abstract

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). Second Life is primarily governed by Community Standards which rely on residents (the users of Second Life) to recognise sexual ageplay and report it, which requires an appreciation of how residents view, understand and construct sexual ageplay. The research presented drew on 12 months of resident blog posts referring to sexual ageplay: 263 total, with 91 residents. 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. Key considerations relate to defining online sexual activity and child avatars; the moral status of ‘reporters’, and sexual ageplay as a form of edgeplay; belief in the harmfulness of sexual ageplay and its relationship to real world behaviours.

LanguageEnglish
Pages101-113
Number of pages13
JournalEthics and Information Technology
Volume20
Issue number2
Early online date25 Jan 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

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title = "The virtual simulation of child sexual abuse: Online gameworld users' views, understanding and responses to sexual ageplay",
abstract = "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). Second Life is primarily governed by Community Standards which rely on residents (the users of Second Life) to recognise sexual ageplay and report it, which requires an appreciation of how residents view, understand and construct sexual ageplay. The research presented drew on 12 months of resident blog posts referring to sexual ageplay: 263 total, with 91 residents. 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. Key considerations relate to defining online sexual activity and child avatars; the moral status of ‘reporters’, and sexual ageplay as a form of edgeplay; belief in the harmfulness of sexual ageplay and its relationship to real world behaviours.",
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