Saturday, 28 November 2009


Over 50 Av's landed on Hard Alley to protest against representations of violence against women in SL. PRESS - Please use these photos referring back to source (photos by Siri Vita, Ledoof Constantineau and Zoe Parness)


[Snapshots of the Protest are embedded at the foot of the notecard]

As a part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, a series of events to promote an end to violence against women being held in Second Life from 25 November to 10 December, a broad coalition of activist groups in SL staged a performance protest at Hard Alley on 27 November.

Hard Alley was chosen because it is one of the most popular sims in SL featuring animations, poses, and products that depict violence against women, including rape, bondage, and violent physical abuse. Such depictions desensitize users to the violence that they represent; they "normalize" the rape and sexual abuse of women by asserting that these things are not merely "fun," but also sexually arousing. By doing so, they impact upon real life attitudes towards a horrendous social blight that annually leaves millions of women across the world traumatized, psychologically and physically scarred or injured, or even dead. Any activity that trivializes or seems to validate real life violence of women is intolerable. This protest was staged to make it clear that our society should not, indeed must not, tolerate it.

As residents of Second Life, we recognize that role play here is "consensual," and that the simulation of rape or other forms of violence against women is NOT the same as real life abuse. At the same time, however, we also understand that images and behaviours here do impact upon first life attitudes and practices, just as the images in any media, electronic or otherwise do. The media, and in particular interactive and "social" media such as Second Life, have an enormous impact, for both good and ill, upon societal values. Our protest here was both in opposition to the misogyny reflected by the form of role playing encouraged at this sim, and a forceful statement of our own commitment to ending the attitudes that sanction or create violence against women.

Because a founding principle of feminism is nonviolent activism, we chose a form of protest that was appropriately peaceful. We were not there to "attack" the sim, nor to grief it or its users. We did not spam visitors here, nor abuse them individually. We are protestors, not griefers.

We chose to represent ourselves as "meat," because this is the most appropriate metaphor to describe the attitude towards women and their bodies endorsed by the activities of places like Hard Alley. We also chose this means of protest to show that, while we take the issue of violence against women very seriously indeed, we also have a sense of humour and playfulness. The joy of shared laughter is one of our most potent weapons against the sort of hatred towards women exemplified by sims like Hard Alley.

More information on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence can be found online at:

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Anonymous said...

Tell them thanks for the traffic ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the traffic!

- Hard Alley!

Zoe Parness said...

For those who during this action decided not to support it because they viewed the engagement in role-playing rape and sexual violence against women as ‘consensual’, let me make a couple of points.

First of all imagine that I, as a consensual adult, made a child avi and sought out paedophiles to act out the sexual abuse of a child. Would that be acceptable because it was consensual?

Secondly, I would like to argue that the fact that it is consensual actually adds to the danger of this SL behaviour impacting on sexual attitudes and behaviour in RL. This is not just my personal view but is increasing being borne out through research into the impact of extreme pornography. It is entirely possible that the consensual participation in rape and sexual violence role play serves to amplify rape myths and is not merely the ‘harmless’ and value neutral acting out of sexual fantasy.

Plot Tracer said...

Funny way to thank us... kicking us off and banning us. Perhaps we will be allowed back for a longer stay?

Agree completely with Zoe.

Well done everyone who demonstrated at hard alley last night. a real victory for non-griefing political demonstration! Anyone wanting details of tommorrows sllu feminist network meeting please contact ledoof constantineau, zoe parness or siri vita. Glad to be with you, sisters!

Hard Rust said...

As the owner of Hard Alley, I would not have banned you or ejected you for protesting as long as it didn't interfere with the rest of my guests. If you were banned, it wasn't by me.

However, looking past your protest at the causes you support, I can't say that I am opposed to your group remaining banned. While I have nothing against your cause for women, I do strongly oppose your socialist and communist agenda, and your support for terrorists.

You do realise that in a Socialist society, your right to protest and speak out would be the first thing taken away from you, don't you?

It's a pity this wasn't a simple protest without a hidden agenda. It would have been fun to throw out a few barricades and call the cops. We could have had one hell of a riot.

Anonymous said...

Terrorists? What the hell is he talking about?

Whisper said...

Hidden agenda? Nothing was hidden except for what was under a prim ham many of us wore. Terrorists? Really you need to get some factual basis for your accusations.

I don't think you understand what Socialism is either. No rights of free speech are taken.

Finally, we did not come to riot, we did not wish any violence. You can't seem to get past your own lusts for violent acts and see others do indeed live in peace and respect of one another.

I offer again refuge to those in need and all the help to escape your life of violent abuse and may you know peace and healing soon.

Scylla Rhiadra said...

Hard, blaming "communists" and "terrorists" for this demonstration is the easy way out. It's a scare tactic. This demonstration was indeed supported by the SLLU (of which I am a proud member, btw), but it was actually the result of a broad coalition of activist groups, including the SLLU, representing a wide range of political opinion. Pornography and violence against women ARE "Left" issues, but they also are, should be, and in this case were, the concern of anyone opposed to misogyny, violence, and gender abuse.

As for labelling members of the SLLU "communists" and supporters of "terrorists," that, again, is a McCarthyist smear tactic. And as for socialists, if you really plan on banning them, you'd better get busy: you'd (apparently) be astonished how many people outside of the US are proud to support socialist parties and causes.

Citizen Renee said...

Dear Mr. Rust,

There were several groups participating in the protest, and SLLU was only one. There was Stop Violence Against Women, the SLLU Feminist Group, Social Justice, members of Four Bridges, members of Amnesty International, Coalition of Women for Peace, and others. The point is that this was an effort organized and carried out my many different men and women from many different walks of life. And, really, if all these individuals took part and saw a problem, perhaps this may be a good time for you to take a critical look at your region.

Let's move this to another context, please. I looked at your profile and my guess is that you would NEVER (in a MILLION years) endorse a region which promoted racism. I am betting that you would even be likely to protest against it. We view your endorsement of rape as sexism and view this as a hate crime. All be it electronic. It is not anymore OK for you to do this to women that it would be for the KKK to do it to other marginalized groups.

If you were really serious about supporting our efforts I am assuming you would have no issue with placing a note card giver in your region with information about the women's center?


UndoneChaos Enoch

Siri said...

I would really rather not get into a debate about socialism in these comments and think it's a diversionary tactic from the main point here.

What concerns me most about the attitudes surrounding virtual rape is the seemingly endless chorus of people who talk about it being "consensual". Fine, these particular women for whatever reason, have a fantasy they want to RP. What I'd like for them to look at is that in the course of indulging this fantasy, they are fulfilling the fantasy of a rapist. Then positively reinforcing that violently cruel behavior by being grateful that someone is fulfilling their fantasy. This repetitive psychological reinforcement of cruel tendencies will impact RL attitudes and behaviors. The research is there and whereas these women Rp'ers are right, "they" won't be hurt in SL, they need to look at what they are unleashing upon RL. The whole culture of a rape sim is one of approbation for extremely violent and abusive behavior.

i know this isn't a popular view. I know there are those that say these women are vulnerable and acting out because they are hurt in some profound way. I'm sorry if people see this as a condemnation. That is really not my intention. I'm simply asking that people really take look at the ramifications of what they're doing. This acting out will not help anyone through a trauma and is likely keeping them from the help and healing they need.

For those that would say "lighten up, it's just a game", I have to say, wake's got real consequences.

Anonymous said...

I am a rape victim in real a memeber of the phiosophy group I have received the notices about the demonstration that took place at hard ally and although I do not take sides due to I feel everyone should be allowed to voice their opinion I felt that there were a few things both sides were missing.....
Each side has taken a view as someone who has not been violated or abused and each side mentions valid points. But I wanted to add one other view....and I want to be clear this is just "one" persons view....If I choice to go to Hard Alley its a choice I made that I didn't get to make in real life. If I choice to participate in role play as a rape victim ...again I choice to do this one that I did not get in rl. I have spoken with counslars and rape help groups and been through it all with no true feeling of relief nor did I find peace with those groups. But within sl I found strength I didn't have before. In real life the counslar suggested I try taking my frustrations out on her with a foam did nothing but make me feel silly and to be honest I felt like I was being treated like a child. Within SL I actually found someone that believe it or not I met at Hard Ally who actually role played a scene with me that felt very real and yes it took a toll on me the first couple of times but then I started to feel some control over the situation....and as a rape victim I will tell you the worst part of teh rape was not what was done to me physically but the mental side....I had NO control!!! By the way the scene ...yes it began as a rape scene but then I took I didn't beat him or do anything of the sort but I was in control of what happened.
So please try to really see the whole picture when either side decides to speak on what is right or wrong.

Citizen Renee said...


There are points I agree with in your argument, however, I hope you are not encouraging other women to do this to face their rape trauma. It is good that you found peace. The problem with doing this, in Second Life, is that you have an uncontrolled environment. Many individuals attempt to recreate trauma as a way of dealing with it. In doing this they attempt to get the outcome they wanted. The uncontrolled envioronment is not always likely to produce the results a women may want. They are left in a limbo, a survival mode, which may only cause more trauma.

The difficulty with a place like Hard Alley, and your actions, is that you are perpetuating a myth that women mean "yes" when they are saying "no." When I say no, I actually mean it.

Anonymous said...

Hi anonymous. Thank you for making your post on this issue. I think there are probably a number of survivors who go to places like hard alley for all sorts of different complicated reasons. I'd really ask you to be mindful of your safety though as, although your experience may well have been cathartic, SL is not a place of safety to work through such issues. I think we need to ask ourselves why people would want to RP being a perpetrator of rape or sexual violence. I very much doubt their motives are to help anyone in a therapeutic context. Quite the opposite i would wager.
There are lots of vulnerable people in SL and lots of predatory people all to ready to take advantage of that.

Anonymous said...

i just wanted to say that the response to my way of finding strenth in sl both have good points. I also want to say that no i would never suggest to anyone victim or non-victim to ever use sl as a way of finding peace. I believe everyone finds their own peace in some form...for me sl has helped in many ways for others it may not.
As far as it not being a controlled environment well.....I feel that no matter where I go or what i do the environment surrounding me is uncontrolled. Even when in a support group you are never prepared for what others may say about their expereince or even what they may have to say about your own. But within sl I am actually more in control then most would like to think. For unlike real life gives me the option to just log out when ever I feel like it and I can come back when I choose to.
The other point I would like to make is that a majority (I can not say all for there is no way I could ever talk to everyone) of the people who rp at hard ally are men and women who have families and would never dream of doing such things to someone in real life, but in a virtual world and amoung two consenting adults it's a release and in most cases of people I have talked with their rp partner is someone from their friends list. As far as 'no' meaning 'yes' and so forth....again in our little virtual world when rp begins things are discussed most cases you can read about 'limits' in a persons profile. There is more control in role play in sl then there is in a husband and wives bedroom.
i want to state again I STRONGLY do not support violence to women or men! I just wanted to show that in sl there truely is a difference from rl and if anything we need to educate people to understand there is a difference and that it is just virtual rather then argue amoungst ourselves on who is right and who is wrong.
I only have one last thing to point out....with all these wonderful views and the support that seems to be there from so many. Why not go to a rape counseling center and help us out ... we never have the support face to face and many of us feel as if the world is ashamed of us because too many can easily speak over the internet, in a virtual world, or even in front of a tv camera of how much they dispise what we have gone through but can not face us. In the center there is never enough help or support. Words are wonderful but actions always speak louder......

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, many of us actually do or have worked to support survivors in the real world or have campaigned on these issues and often that is why we feel so strongly about places like hard alley and the messages they send out about violence against women. If we want to prevent VAW from happening we have to change the attitudes that trivialize it, that reinforce women blaming attitudes and rape myths and which think it's ok to sexualize women's trauma. I'd argue that there are places in SL, like Hard Alley, which contribute to that problem and that's why I was part of the protest to challenge it.
I don't despise any women who's experienced trauma and is looking for ways of dealing with that. We all need to find our ways of coping. It's of huge concern to me, however, that those who want to role play as rapists will absolutely not be there to provide therapy but to seek sexual arousal at the thought of the violation of women. They will have little concern for your wellbeing and little understanding - or interest - in what will be helpful or what might trigger more trauma for whoever is in the role of victim.
There is no absolute controlled environment but in a legitimate support group or counselling setting there are agreed roles, boundaries, groundrules and responsibilities in place to protect people as far as possible.

keithunder Graves said...

If only SL had the same anti porn policies as Iran or Saudi Arabia then it would be as safe a place for women as these two countries are.

Citizen Renee said...

You know Keith, NO ONE is playing the "censorship" card except those individuals who are being defensive about their right to pretend they are sexually assaulting a women. I have yet to hear one response which was calling for censorship. What we are actually doing is asking people to think about their actions and take personal responsibility for what they decide to let into their culture. AND! Guess what! We have the right to oppose it also. Freedom of speech is not something just reserved for those who choose encourage hate crimes.

What you do or do not do in your bedroom, behind closed doors is completely up to you. However, it becomes public it also becomes subject to criticism.

From a very young age, girls from around the world are taught to shut up and take it. They are told this by media, social structures, and sometimes friend and family. We are told we have to be quiet about this kind of behavior and that “boys will be boys, there is nothing you can do about it.” And perhaps, there is nothing, you cannot change the behavior of another person. But what you damn well can do is change your reaction and your tolerance level. And women, young women, and girls, can see this as inappropriate and that they do not have to put up with this type of village idiot mentality.

keithunder Graves said...

Citizen Renee I am glad that you do not support censorship.

The tone and the kind of stuff being quoted does seen to be leading that way.

This protest seems to me a bit like going to a gay men's club and telling them they shouldn't be taking it up the arse. It might make the protesters happy, but that is all it will achieve.

I had been silent about my sexuality for many years and now I have found a common cause with people of the same type.

I do not share the interests of the particular club being protested about, but I know what my reaction would be if someone told me I should go back in the closet.

If this club was in public you might have a point but it is quite clear what goes one there and you have a choice to enter or not!

Citizen Renee said...

I feel that GLBT pain as well Keith. And I agreed it SUCKS to have someone tell you about your sexuality! Yes, I was also a closet case, and I had to push my butt out.

I guess my argument, without using censorship, is that we need to make an effort to think about what we choose to let into our heads. We also need to work on the self esteem of our young women, and create a venue where they do not put up with any sort of two-dimensional treatment. Our girls, what they inherit is the legacy we create. And really, they deserve a hell of a lot more.

Anonymous said...

As a gay woman keith i object strongly to your use of lgbt rights as in any way comparable to the stance taken here on the sexualization of violence against women. Additionally, your rights as a man are not being violated here, mine's as a woman are. Daily. By an epidemic of violence against women and the images and movies and places in SL which glorify it.
Every time we open our mouths on this issue we are silenced. There is certainly an attempt at censorship going on but it's not coming from us.

keithunder Graves said...

To clarify I am not LGBT my sexuality is that I am BDSM. Many of my BDSM colleagues are LGBT and in many ways they get it twice.

BDSM is not abuse. BDSM is not violence against women. Violence is non consensual. Pretend violence is not real violence.

I don't need to justify my sexuality and I should be allowed to get on with it. Of course some people think that men and women should not have the right to choose what they do with their bodies. I am not one of them.

If you are against censorship then good what are we arguing about?

This is not glorifying violence nobody is arguing that that women should be raped in real life.

I want to see a better society where we can all get on with our lives and explore our sexuality without being harassed by religious nutters and otherwise intolerant people.

If you want people to have more self esteem then telling them that if their sexuality does not fit in with your prejudices is not a good way to go about it.

Frankly I am more bothered about the image of women in the Sun and in the mainstream news papers and media than what goes on behind closed doors in sl.

Anonymous said...

This was griefing cant say any different. It was a business and private sim. Go to Linden land and protest this. Or better yet stay at your own parcel and invite ppl to come "discuss"
Morgaine Alter