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Scylla Rhiadra

"That is not what I meant, at all": How to Connect Respectfully

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Posted (edited)

Having recently experienced a rash of people attempting to engage or connect with me for the first time in a manner that I've found annoying, disrespectful, and, to put it mildly, ineffective, I thought I'd throw together a sort of "draft primer" on how to read people you don't know, and how to approach them for the first time. So, this isn't about just about sex or romance or relationships: it's about the impressions we form of people, and how we respond to those when approaching them.

I thought I'd approach this through discussing how we communicate our relative availability (for simple conversation, for friendship, for romance, or for sex), and, as importantly, how we tend to read those kinds of communications. I talk about "looks" below, but this is of course only one part of the way we communicate who we are. Text, and context, are also going to be vitally important. (Little of this, for instance, is going to apply to someone sitting around at an AFK sim.) This is, of course, just one way of thinking about this issue, but as our first encounter with someone is often (maybe even usually) visual, it seems to me a useful approach.

All of this is very subjective and tentative, and I'm not at all insisting that these are hard-and-fast categories. And, like any set of guidelines or rules, there are always going to be exceptions. In fact, I'm hoping that others will chime in with their own thoughts, observations, and different perceptions or approaches!

ETA: I don't think there is any particular reason why any of this should be gendered. What I've said below should apply regardless of whether you are man or a woman, nor should the gender or sexual identity of the person you want to connect with make a difference.


The "Normal" Look -- "Normal" dress in RL -- by which I mean either casual or professional clothing that isn't intended to communicate "sexiness," but is worn either for comfort or because one's job demands it -- isn't actually a very "normal" thing in SL. SL clothing tends, like so much of SL, to be hypersexualized, so even sweats and jeans are usually at least a little "sexy." Nonetheless, such clothing does exist, and you will see people who have clearly chosen to dress in a nondescript sort of way.

  • General Rule of Thumb: if someone is wearing this kind of clothing, it's almost certainly a deliberate and personal choice. We don't need or want to be told that we would be more attractive if we were wearing something else. We already know that, and we don't care.

 

The "Sexy" Look -- "Sexy" doesn't necessarily mean revealing. Sexy is about self-confidence, and attitude, and an awareness that someone is choosing to share with your their own attractiveness. It can be manifested in a skimpy swimsuit, or in a baggy duffle coat. "Sexy," as I'm defining it, needn't have anything to do with wanting to have sex: it's about self-expression instead.

  • General Rule of Thumb: Don't confuse this with "sexual," below. We may or may not be interested in hookups or romance, but that's not a function of our clothing, so don't assume that someone who is "sexy" is necessarily available. Feel free to compliment someone who looks "sexy": just don't expect that it necessarily must lead anywhere.

 

The "Sexual: Look -- This is my own category, and others may have different names for it. By "sexual," I mean someone who is, usually pretty clearly, advertising their availability for romance or sex. Here, the look (which is most often pretty skimpy) is an invitation to view them as a sexual object, and potential partner, rather than merely as someone who is aware of, and displaying, their own self-confident sexuality.

  • General Rule of Thumb: Just because someone is "available" doesn't mean that they want to be available to you. Don't assume that someone who is visually and textually communicating an interest in a hookup of some sort has surrendered any sort of choice as to whom they want to hook up with. In other words, you are still required to do some work here, and demonstrate that you are an attractive potential partner. And, of course, they still get to say "no."

 

The "Sl*tty" Look -- This is, I suppose, a variant of the "Sexual" look above, but with the addition that the person is communicating an interest in a particular kind of interaction and power relationship.

  • General Rule of Thumb: Although it is a sort of subcategory of it, choosing to represent as a "sl*t" or "wh*re" is not identical to being merely "sexual" and available. Do NOT assume that everyone dressed provocatively falls into this category. YOU do not get to define who is or is not a "sl*t," or even who looks like one: that is their choice and their determination. And, as always, respect and consent are vital from the outset. Establish this to everyone's mutual satisfaction, and then you can negotiate the kind of exchange implied by this role.

 

Key Take-aways:

  • ALWAYS begin with respect. Regardless of how YOU think someone is dressed, or what you imagine that their expectations are, begin by respecting boundaries, and the right of that person to determine for themselves how they want to interact with you. Don't ever "assume," and certainly don't judge on the basis of assumptions: blaming and/or abusing someone because YOU have misread the signals they are sending out is just unacceptable.
     
  • Consent, Consent, Consent. This is the most important expression of respect for the other person, and the foundation for nearly any kind of interaction you have with others. And remember that consent can always be withdrawn at any time. At even the basic level of a casual encounter, that means that no one is ever committed to any kind of interaction with you.
     
  • The person who is telegraphing their accessibility is, by default, always right. However poorly you may think they have communicated their intentions and interests, it's not your job to tell them that they are doing it wrong, because 1) there is always a subjective element to what a particular look or attitude "means," and 2) we, each of us, should have the right always to determine how we represent ourselves, and the significance of that representation.
     
  • Recognize and respect personal space. Don't immediately launch into invasive or overly-familiar emotes with people before you've clearly established their consent. NOTHING annoys me more than someone writing "/me slaps your a**" or the like before I've signaled my willingness to allow that kind of familiarity. This is about personal space and the violation of someone's virtual body: it's only marginally better than someone touching me without my consent in RL.
     
  • AND similarly . . . unless it's been clearly established that the person you're sharing a dance or "couples" animation with is willing to give you carte blanche on the choice of animation, do not unilaterally decide that it's time to switch over from that cool salsa dance you were sharing, to one that involves groping your partner on the dance floor. Ask first, or establish that you've been granted the decision-making power in this regard.

This is really pretty basic commonsense stuff, right? Respect for the other person, a recognition of the importance of consent, and an awareness that, just maybe, not everyone is in SL for the reasons that you are, or, for that matter, particularly interested in you.

Edited by Scylla Rhiadra
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5 minutes ago, Love Zhaoying said:

I’m free, but not easy.

That's odd.

I'm easy, but not free.

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6 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:
11 minutes ago, Love Zhaoying said:

I’m free, but not easy.

That's odd.

I'm easy, but not free.

Are you normal, schmexual, schmexy, or schlutty??

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Just now, Love Zhaoying said:

Are you normal, schmexual, schmexy, or schlutty??

Mostly I'm confused.

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24 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

 

 

This is really pretty basic commonsense stuff, right? Respect for the other person, a recognition of the importance of consent, and an awareness that, just maybe, not everyone is in SL for the reasons that you are, or, for that matter, particularly interested in you.

One would think so! In SL it is not common sense for many people. Thanks for putting it all together like this. Hopefully the people who need to see it will.

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Very interesting read, but you could give examples of what you consider the difference between sexy, sexual, and sl*tty clothing?

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Posted (edited)

Scylla, I like the distinction you made between "sexy" and "sexual" looks.  That really resonated with me.  When I wear things which some might consider sexy (RL or SL), it is because it makes me feel good about myself and how I look - not because I am advertising any interest or availability for sexual encounters.  In a way, it's me celebrating internally (so to speak) my body - what you referred to as self-confidence and attitude.  It's something I do for myself, not necessarily for the reaction of others.  

Edited by moirakathleen
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I have it pretty simple in one of my picks:

"If I am not dressed like a trollop then don't presume that I am one; if I am dressed like a trollop, it doesn't mean I am one. Though I reserve the right to temporarily suspend these principles at will."

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2 minutes ago, Alyona Su said:

I have it pretty simple in one of my picks:

"If I am not dressed like a trollop then don't presume that I am one; if I am dressed like a trollop, it doesn't mean I am one. Though I reserve the right to temporarily suspend these principles at will."

You can’t spell “trollop” without “troll”!!

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44 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

This is really pretty basic commonsense stuff, right? Respect for the other person, a recognition of the importance of consent, and an awareness that, just maybe, not everyone is in SL for the reasons that you are, or, for that matter, particularly interested in you.

With respect, you would think so.  Now was going to do the pillock cleese but to illustrate the concept  at about 6 seconds :

 

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Beth Macbain said:

Very interesting read, but you could give examples of what you consider the difference between sexy, sexual, and sl*tty clothing?

Well, I don't know that I could give examples, because (in truth) I don't think I probably own anything that falls into the last two categories, for the simple reason that I'm not sexually available.

I think, more to the point though, that giving my examples of each would sort of defeat the purpose. I'm not trying to establish hard-and-fast or prescriptive categories here: what you think is "sl*tty" is quite probably not the same as what I think. That's why I focused so much here on establishing ground rules and expectations before launching into anything that might seem too forward. No one should assume that, because I'm wearing a skirt that is slit up to the top of my thigh, I am ready and willing to enter into a sexual relationship with them.

And, as I've said above, some of this is necessarily contextual. The rules are going to be a little different at a moderate-rated dance club than they are at an adult one, and they are going to be very different at the Crack Den. In all case, however, I think that consent should be established, and respect, even if you are a RPing a "wh*re" and pretending that respect is irrelevant, should always at least underpin your interactions.

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Now make a list for people who barge into the forum spouting insults and threats, breaking Guidelines and TOS in-various ways.

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, moirakathleen said:

When I wear things which some might consider sexy (RL or SL), it is because it makes me feel good about myself and how I look - not because I am advertising any interest or availability for sexual encounters.

YES. Exactly.

And you've also highlighted another contextual thing: the difference between RL and SL. I have several outfits that would, without question, be considered "provocative" and "revealing" in RL, but that in SL . . . well, they just look like pretty standard club wear. Outfits like that don't actually mean the same thing here that they do in RL . . . but there are some who seem not to get that, and assume that, because I have a plunging neckline, I must therefore be ripe for a pickup.

Edited by Scylla Rhiadra
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11 minutes ago, Love Zhaoying said:

You can’t spell “trollop” without “troll”!!

Don't be a strumpet. ~snorts~

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3 minutes ago, Pamela Galli said:

Now make a list for people who barge into the forum spouting insults and threats, breaking Guidelines and TOS in-various ways.

Well, speaking as someone who was recently suspended from the forums for 24 hours for "abusive behaviour," I'm probably not the best qualified person to do that.

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2 minutes ago, Alyona Su said:

Don't be a strumpet. ~snorts~

To quote a comic strip: Touchy! (The character really meant “touché”.)

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1 minute ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

Well, speaking as someone who was recently suspended from the forums for 24 hours for "abusive behaviour," I'm probably not the best qualified person to do that.

HEY! Welcome to the club! Now you're LEGIT, BABY!

And for future reference, even the slightest innuendo that anyone can (though aught not to) take personally can be flagged as "I am snowflake boo-hoo" and you get dinged that way, too. :D

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1 hour ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

The person who is telegraphing their accessibility is, by default, always right. However poorly you may think they have communicated their intentions and interests, it's not your job to tell them that they are doing it wrong, because 1) there is always a subjective element to what a particular look or attitude "means," and 2) we, each of us, should have the right always to determine how we represent ourselves, and the significance of that representation.

What if they are telegraphing “I’m available”, they proposition you, and you’re not interested? How are they “right”, and what’s the most appropriate polite response? 

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1 minute ago, Alyona Su said:

HEY! Welcome to the club! Now you're LEGIT, BABY!

And for future reference, even the slightest innuendo that anyone can (though aught not to) take personally can be flagged as "I am snowflake boo-hoo" and you get dinged that way, too. :D

So, does this mean that I'm now a "bad girl"????

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5 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

Well, speaking as someone who was recently suspended from the forums for 24 hours for "abusive behaviour," I'm probably not the best qualified person to do that.

Congratulations! *fist bump* Be careful, suspensions escalate.

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Just now, Love Zhaoying said:

What if they are telegraphing “I’m available”, they proposition you, and you’re not interested? How are they “right”, and what’s the most appropriate polite response? 

Well, they are right about themselves. This cuts both ways: both parties have the right to determine their level of availability and interest.

And the most polite reply might be something like, "Thank you, I'm very flattered, but not interested"? Or something like that?

Depends on the context, I should think. Someone who "slaps" my a**" is likely going to get a somewhat less polite response from me.

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7 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

Well, speaking as someone who was recently suspended from the forums for 24 hours for "abusive behaviour," I'm probably not the best qualified person to do that.

whaaat? I have never seen you be disrespectful!

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Just now, Kiera Clutterbuck said:

whaaat? I have never seen you be disrespectful!

NOOOOO! You're so wrong!!!

I am a BAD GIRL!

(/me hugs her new reputation as a badass tightly to herself)

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Just now, Love Zhaoying said:

What if they are telegraphing “I’m available”, they proposition you, and you’re not interested? How are they “right”, and what’s the most appropriate polite response? 

It depends on the proposition. My favorite:

  • He; Do you RP?
  • ME: RP?
  • HE: roleplay?
  • ME: YESSSS!
  • HE: wanna rp?
  • ME: Well, I like to do wild western, but also sometimes the fantasy stuff, I have an awesome faerie outfit and my Druid gets compliments all the time. But have to say no Gor nonsense because that's a drama-cesspool. So where do you want to go and what will you be?
  • He: [...]

I basically like to play dumb and throw it all back into thier laps.

Just now, Scylla Rhiadra said:

So, does this mean that I'm now a "bad girl"????

Yayess! We need to get some Grease "PINK LADY" Jackets for SL16B, yah-no. I'll be Frenchie and get some pink hair.

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