RLV, relay settings and consent

I'll start off by saying that, normally, I wouldn't get involved in inter-blog debates -- it's long been my experience (even before I discovered SL) that they can be a great source of drama and unfortunate falling-outs so, for the most part, I'll read them, formulate my own opinion of the subject and those involved and try and keep out of them.

But the subject I've seen crop up in a couple of places, and which I take to be all related, is close to my heart and one I've thought about a fair bit, on and off.

I just got thinking about it again after seeing this post on Forceme Silverspar's blog. I imagine I'm missing some of the background, but the points raised there are pretty self-contained and reasonably summarise the problem and one take on it.

I also imagine that, in part, it relates in some way to this post on the Brigadoon Station blog too.

My interest in the subject stems from three things. First, and foremost, is that I build and script in Second Life and the vast majority of the things I build and script make use of RLV. Second, I'm an avid user of RLV and have been since January 2010. Third, I'm the co-builder and co-owner of Shackles and Raven Park -- both those locations (the former a public space, the latter a private space mostly open to the public) contain many RLV devices, a minority of which are in trap mode (albeit the sort of trap mode where you have to get on or in first).

With all that in mind: to anyone that does read this I ask that you read it and comprehend it in the spirit it was written: a written record of my thoughts as I read the output of others.

Taking a broad view of the subject it does seem fair to see the issue of relay settings, and consent, as a simple dichotomy. On the one hand an open relay would seem to be implied, perhaps even implicit, consent to make use of the avatar wearing it (and goodness knows there's enough profiles that say as much). On the other hand there is the much finer view of "consent" that would demand that, even if a relay is open, anyone seeking to make use of the wearer should seek direct consent. Both views strike me as fair and genuine views that should be supportable by cogent arguments.

The Brigadoon Station blog post does make what appears to be a very compelling argument in favour of the latter view. An analogy is drawn between seeing an open relay as consent, with the view that (paraphrasing) "dressing like a slut means you're available for sex". After I first read that I thought it was a pretty good analogy that made a compelling argument. But I'm not so sure now.

Where I'm stuck with that analogy is this: while they do have a minority of other uses these days (although the main one -- outfit management -- is mostly taken care of by viewers these days), I think it's fair to say that RLV (the viewer and the API) was designed for, and is still intended for, giving up control to a third party (be it a scripted object or another avatar). The primary design goal and primary use is one of lost control.

For the analogy to hold, for it to remain as compelling and as seductive as it first seemed, it would require that I see some types of clothing in the same light. It would suggest, I think, that I have to buy into the idea that you can "dress like a slut", that you can dress to look like you're "asking for it" because some types of clothing are designed to do that. I'm struggling with that idea. If an avatar comes to me, with RLV active, wearing a relay, and with the relay open, I think it's fair of me to assume that they have that kind of setup in place because they want to enjoy the consequences such a setup implies.

That's not to say that, in a face-to-face situation, I wouldn't be reading their profile, looking for clues that they wish to be captured, generally interacting so as to be sure (actually, I wouldn't be doing any of that, being purely sub myself, but let's ignore that for now...). Of course I would. But I think it's safe to approach the situation from a "they're happy to enjoy the fruits of an open relay" point of view.

On the other hand... I'm not sure that a short dress was ever designed with getting raped in mind and, to make the analogy work, I think I'd have to take that very negative view of women (simply put: attire equals RLV+relay). I can't do that.

And so I'm stuck on that analogy now. I can see why it's seductive, I can see why it's compelling, it works at a superficial level. But, sadly, it appears to buy into the idea that "this clothing is designed to make you slutty".

Now, at the other end of the scale, I don't think it's fair for anyone to just assume that an open relay is an invitation to "play". I'd encourage anyone, when faced with another avatar sporting an open relay (and it's easy to find them, I even built a simple scanner myself), in a location/situation that isn't designed as, or advertised as, "open capture", to make a point of reading that person's profile and getting to know them, getting to know their wishes, ensuring that whatever they might have to offer the "victim" is what the "victim" is happy with.

That just makes sense.

There is, of course, the issue of unattended devices (which is what this mostly seems to be about). Communicating that an area has such devices is tricky at the best of times. I do think that a parcel owner has some duty of care to let anyone arriving on the plot know that such devices exist (I make this clear in the Shackles rules, for example), but it's equally true, if not more so, that an avatar wandering onto a private plot, has a duty to themselves to make sure that they're welcome there, that they're complying with the wishes of the owner and that they are sure about what sort of devices might be active on the plot.

Mostly, though, when it comes to wandering around the BDSM world in Second Life, my instinct seems to sit mostly at the "don't make your relay open if you don't want to suffer the consequences" end of the spectrum. Not because I think an open relay is the same as clothing that indicates that you're "asking for it" (as I say above, that analogy only seems to work if you have a very negative view of women), but because an open relay is designed, from the start, to respond to other devices that are looking for it.

If a real world analogy is needed, I think it's more akin to this: most relays have degrees of openness. You can set them to off, you can set them so they ask you about every request, you can set them so they always "just work" if the owner of an object is the owner of the land, or they can sometimes be set in a "playful" mode (the latter asking permission for any "binding" restriction but just accepting a fleeting restriction -- the latter being things like stripping or force TPing). Simply put, you have control over what requests from the world around you get through.

The best analogy here then would seem to me to be how safe you want to be when you have sex. If you're being very promiscuous you probably want to be using the maximum amount of protection possible. If you have a fairly stable relationship, or set of relationships, you might decide that you need to be less protected (and, hopefully, you do all the sensible checks and you understand all the risks involved). If you're in a single long-term committed relationship you might throw caution to the wind and use no protection -- again fully understanding the risks, doing on the sensible checks, and fully accepting the consequences of any bad choices.

With that analogy nobody is absolving the other party if you catch something nasty, but neither can you claim that you're without blame.

And so it can be said to be the same with relays. It is vital that you understand the consequences of your choices and, while nobody should absolve anyone abusing your choice of setting, you have tools at your disposal to ensure that you are safe and your time in SL is spent safely.

Of course, analogies almost never help to further an argument, so it's best not to read too much into them and, instead, concentrate on the actual issue being explored.

Before I finish off here (sorry, this has rambled a little hasn't it?), having read all of the above, I wonder what you, the reader, think my response to the following situation, which happened just a couple of days ago, should have been.

Funnily enough it involves Brigadoon Station. Because I rent a spot there for a vendor board for some of our products I'm in the group associated with the land. A day or so ago the owner of the group sent out an object as an attachment. I copied the object to my inventory. I rezzed it in world. Initially it was set for sale (to myself, of course, given I was now the owner) so, because it was mod, I unset that. I then noticed it had touch active. So I touched it...

...and without warning, without being asked for my consent, I was teleported to a location on the Freedom Continent. I smirked and teleported back home.

Should I feel violated because my consent wasn't sought before the TP was done? Or should I, as I did at the time, accept that a device caught me in exactly the way I permit via my relay?

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