Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Ballooning Vulnerability

I don't consider myself to be a particularly weak person. I have my soft points, but I think anybody who knows me would probably agree that they are not easily got at. This morning, I was made to feel more uncomfortable and more vulnerable than I have ever been in Second Life.

The worst part is that the person who IM'd me and landed their hot air balloon, uninvited, on my skybox roof this morning was not unpleasant. At no point did he insult me, nor make any stupid sexual advances or comments. He sent me a message saying he was in the sim, had seen me on the map, and was saying hi. He told me he was in a hot air balloon, and was coming to find me. Was I in my skybox? I was? Cool. He was coming for a cup of tea. He did ignore my attempts to point out the weirdness of him inviting himself into my virtual home, but I wasn't especially insistent with them.

And why wasn't I? Whilst this was happening, I was relaying the chat to my friends sian and Norah, and they were equally weirded out. Norah was especially uncomfortable, and began to talk about the way girls are taught to be nice in the face of awkward and unwanted advances of all kinds.

She's right, of course. But this is something I am aware of, and something I have seen in my own behaviour and tried to moderate. It isn't that we shouldn't be nice to people because we should, whether we are male or female, but where and how do you draw the line? How do you make the switch from nice to firm? To nasty, even? 

With obvious provocation, it's easy. I kept expecting this guy to sudden realise I was trying to repel him and break out into insults. I expected to be a 'stuck up bitch', or a 'slut', or some 'prudent' combination of both, and had he begun down that path, I'd have had no trouble drawing the line in the sand and linguistically annihilating the bastard. 

But the insults never came, and when he landed on my roof, he still didn't understand that I didn't want him there and that I wasn't about to invite him inside. He stopped just shy of coming in of his own accord, but had my skybox possessed an obvious door, that wouldn't have been the case.

I had thought, as I could see him getting closer on the map, that he would get lost on the way somehow, or that he would get bored and go away. I thought he would get the message and stop. I considered, laughingly, moving the house when he got close by - but that wasn't a particularly practical notion. I also considered teleporting out of the sim and going somewhere else. I'd vanish from his map, and then maybe he wouldn't even be able to find my skybox. 

That's when the vulnerability set in. I had been told when I moved in to this sim that people could only access it if their names were on an 'accepted people' list, and I dutifully gave my friends' names to my landlady so that she could add them to that list and thus they would be allowed to come to visit. The security system in place stops people on the list from teleporting into the sim - but it doesn't stop them walking in, or, say, flying in in a hot air balloon. I have no system for ejecting someone from my house, and I seriously considered leaving it because of somebody else.

That annoys me. The idea of giving up my own turf for fear of somebody else annoys me. And yet, even with that realisation, I didn't know how to make the transition from being nice to telling this guy where to get off. I was afraid of judging it wrongly, of being, ultimately, impolite and/or more heavy handed than the situation called for. 

If it had been sian or Norah, or any of my other friends, faced with this situation, I would have had no qualms about stepping in and telling this guy where to go. I wouldn't have had a single one of these worries. It wouldn't have mattered.

...What is that about?!


  1. There are two kinds of nos - soft nos and hard nos. Soft nos are vastly more common, from both men and women, and they are understood by both men and women. Men just have a history of ignoring when they don't like the "no" they are receiving from women, and in general everyone blames the women for "not being clearer" instead of blaming men for deliberately ignoring soft nos.

    This guy was ignoring your discomfort and your nos because he wanted to - because what he wanted to do was more important than your comfort or respecting you as a person. I find that viewing it that way - that the person ignoring your soft nos is already being impolite - changes how I respond to them.

    1. Deirdre, thank you for this comment. I think that's a really clever, succinct way of explaining and looking at the situation, and a helpful one, too.


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