In Second Life, if you never had the experience in First Life, you will get to have a lot of up-close and personal time with Asperger's patients. You can study about the condition here; there are many other sites that provide a great deal of knowledge and research on the subject, and even a range of views as to how to treat it or cope with it, for those who suffer and those who endure the sufferers.
The chief feature we learn about Aspergers' -- other than than it has mild or severe versions -- is that the patient exhibits a lack of empathy for other human beings. Whether because of a mechanical inability to read facial clues or tones of voice, or an inability to learn and store and retrieve the patterns of complex tangles of inflection and meaning that human use to signal each other and make up their cultures, Aspergers' patients miss this most vital of the human characteristics -- the characteristic that sets man apart from animals and machines: empathy.
In SL, we're taught, the fact that everyone is stripped of the ability to access inflections and other cues that would come with face-to-face meetings, makes an Aspergers' patient on equal footing with everyone else. That is to say, *everybody* is made Aspergers' patients while they are logged on to SL -- or so that dubious theory goes (uravnilovka). Whatever the case, we're all to step lightly and on tiptoe around this condition; if we were seen to be questioning the received wisdom about all this, we'd also be a hair breadth's away of being intolerant or discriminatory to the disabled. Or the differently-abled; another thing we're taught is that Aspbergers' patients or autistic-spectrum people are brilliant -- and in the realm of SL, that can mean better -- able to obsess and spend lots of time coding mathematically-complex programs; able to enjoy brilliant hues and contrasts, and other artistic and scientific traits that make for genius. There's a high percentage of Aspergers' people in SL because there's a high percentage of geeks and artists; they overlap significantly and have had a tremendous influence on SL as we all know.
It's in this wholely empathetic and well, *scientific* way we're supposed to understand something like Tateru Nino and her frequent and very public interventions into our world. With her pulpit atop the SL Insider (the AOL-sponsored blog with among the highest www.socialmedia.com scores for an SL-related site), the many articles feting her persona in SL, her incessant and obsessive posts about everything under the sun, but mainly whatever "progressive" thing that actually fits the conservative Company line, with her cult-like following, Hamlet blessing, media-feting, and all the rest, it's hard to escape her heavy influence.
That's why she thinks she's on safe ground white-washing ageplay in the most preposterous way -- an act that is either a) a function of her self-described condition of Aspergers', which involves lack of empathy or b) a function of her quirky, nerdy contrarian posture in the FIC avant-garde style of SL, always trying to find some avant-garde even-more-Linden-than-Linden form of expression (the two reinforce each other).
Imagine, Tateru Nino not only finds something positive in ageplay; she picks up the topic and looks at it not only through the wrong end of a telescope; but through a kaleidoscope, mixing up the brightly-coloured bits to make her own mosaic.
Her ageplay justification goes like this, touching on all the usual propaganda techniques enjoyed by the masters over the ages -- but for which she gets a pass being a) Aspergers; b) FIC and c) on an AOL-sponsored blog:
o All of us make ourselves a bit younger in SL, knocking off 5 if not 10 or 20 years. We aren't 50, but 30-somethings or even 20-something with our buffed-up avs. Therefore, we're all age-players (sic!).
o Starax, somebody who is a famous icon of SL, revered and awed by everyone more because he left SL than because he stayed, used to have an avatar that hugged a teddy-bear; he was an innocent artist making statues, even if he was sarcastic and gruff, and wasn't "about" pedophilia; therefore, ageplay is OK.
o Many people dress up as child avatars just for fun, engaging in utterly innocent activities of their personal bygone eras, like swinging on a swingset. Lots of people make families in SL and even have babies; then they want the babies to grow up, so they have somebody RP the child; it's all in good fun.
o "There are parks, theme parks and rides in Second Life where child avatars gather, and adults relearn their sense of simple fun and wonder, doing all those things that hundreds of thousands of people spend millions of dollars getting therapists to help them try to figure out how to do. That's ageplay in Second Life in a nutshell." See? There are thousands of people who are "in the right".
o Sure, some of the people who do this engage in sex, but then, they're adults with adults, and it's none of your damn business.
o People who scorn others types of RP are oppressive Puritans; they have no business inflicting their values on others; why, if we let them have our way, they'll even shut down SL.
o If you have a problem with any of this, *you* need therapy!
So -- all the usual propaganda tricks, used by Stalin or Goebbels or anybody interested in totalitarian control or just plain influence of mass awareness:
o make everyone feel as if they are implicated in something that is universally bad, so that they can't possible find it to be bad, or they, too, would be wrong;
o take a famous personage (Tom Cruise serves this function for Scientology) and have that person's reputation raise the boat of the controversial topic with his tide;
o describe a mass, innocent version of the bad thing, selecting one minority feature of it, that you'd have to be nuts to condemn;
o link that mass, innocent activity to any other mass activity that no one at all could ever complain about (getting therapy, including "play therapy" in this case)
o and when you are done setting the stage, stress how few people out of the many millions of masses are really doing the bad thing, and anyway, how wrong you are for judging badness.
o turn the tables on you and find something to guilt-trip you about, to distract you from your original impulse to condemn something that we all know to be bad
Meanwhile, it's helpful to remember -- after you've been through the Ageplay Room 101 on the Blingsider -- that the main reason people get angry about ageplay is because they have children they care about -- their own, their relatives', their schools, society's at large. They want them to be safe. They want their innocence protected. They don't want them to be harmed or hurt or forced into adult activity too soon, even if "of age" in some societies. They think that simulating that hurt is more than curious or offensive; it's likely criminal in some states.
They don't like it that some people are willing to actively simulate that harming and hurting -- which at any rate is a *crime* if not a social taboo in the overwhelming majority of societies in the world.
With a rash of serious media stories coming out with the ever-vigilant Dutch ready to get on the anti-ageplay band-wagon for political reasons, or the discussing of ageplay now finally on a major mass media outlet, Fox TV, the spin-cycle has to go into overdrive. Without even getting a special memo from Catherine Linden or Aimee Weber, Tateru knows what to do; spin, spin, spin, which is easy for her to do because very likely, she really has no understanding in any visceral way of the hatred and condemnation this topic incites. She imagines herself to be oh-so-cerebral, avante-gard, and Internet-y -- and way above these common passions of mortals below in meat-world -- saved from experiencing the usual and legitimate reaction to the shame of ageplay if not by her personal condition, then by her meta-condition in the FIC and the Blingsider columnists' roster.
After all, she has had the moral bar set very low on this one by the Lindens. The Lindens have decided to look the other way when it comes to ageplay -- as they did with everything else, from BDSM to Gor to other non-sexually related offensive blight like the Bush Guy and sign extortion.
And you cannot blame the Lindens for that at one level; they don't have the ability to police it, and if the service, once said to be for adults, is no longer verifiable, and they absolve themselves of responsibility for the age of those entering, it's up to those who run various types of clubs or private homes to police their doors. After all, they can set the lot to "no unverifieds" and only admit those who
have access to their moms' credit cards possess their own credit cards.
So far, the comments on Tateru's column are all self-justifying and all applaud her quirky and illegitimate take on things.
What is the position to be had about ageplay?
I believe like BDSM and Gor, ageplay is intellectually and morally indefensible, on many grounds, and is to be condemned. I think a moral climate of condemnation must be sturdily maintained around it. I think it's more than fine that people like Desmond Shang bar ageplay from their sims.
I personally don't bar anything that the Lindens do not bar because a, I can't check thousands of parcels any more than they can and b) to try even to do spot-checks would involve a degree of intrusion into tenants' privacy and homes that I don't think would be appropriate.
What people do in the privacy of their own homes is not our business; to make it our business means to sign up for an instrusive nanny state that will also take an interest even in the books we read or the comments we make on blogs.
But while recognizing the sanctity of the home and private property, we can still create a moral wall of shame so that the unacceptable "lifestyles" do not bleed out into the public commons; it's especially important that the moral white-washing and lowering of standards in order to justify the unjustifiable doesn't acquire force.
Tateru has no feel or intuition for the boundaries between what must be permitted privately, and what must not be celebrated or justified publicly -- or rationalized, as she has done, into some fake tiny slice of a pie chart in which 95 percent of the people are merely building neat sculptures, swinging on swingsets, and shaving 10 years off their RL selves, and only five percent are doing that bad thing. I suppose it is inherent in her condition.
I hope all the anti-ageplayers out there bombard her site silly; I hope they write to the chairmen of the board; I hope they do whatever they need to do to protest this hugely visible AOL-sponsored SL site to counter the viral spreading of this hideous mind-meme that ageplay is sanctified. Everybody knows ageplay in Second Life isn't anything like what Tatero says; she is perpetrating the Big Lie.