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I became interested in avatar rape after I read an account in Gawker Media, titled “Second Life: Rape for Sale.” The post noted how users could indulge in rape fantasies (options: Rape victim, Get raped, or Hold victim) "for a trifling 220 Linden dollar things." Diana Allandale (not her real name) shared her experience with avatar rape in response to an online article, “How exactly does ‘virtual rape’ even occur in Second Life?

” Her incident happened on a beach — a typical landscape as avatars interact with each other on "islands" — when another avatar invited her to go skinny-dipping.

"As the saying goes, the thought is written in water, and the deed is written in stone.

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But you can monitor the types of offenses and where they occurred in Second Life by accessing its community incident report chronicling the 25 most recent infractions and resulting penalties. 28, 2009, five of the 25 infractions concerned "indecency: broadly offensive content or conduct"; three, sexual harassment; and two, intolerance.

Most penalties included warnings with four one-day suspensions and one three-day suspension.

So we opted for a snail mail version with a disclaimer: “A risk of participation in this survey may arise if some may find your opinions in the free-response section at variance with their own.” My research assistant wondered how a survey measuring opinion about avatar rape could have more potential for harm than participation in a virtual environment in which such a digital act could occur.

As it turned out, only one respondent out of 43 provided comments for this essay.

He had never heard of the virtual world, so I opted to show rather than explain it to him using my office desktop. Within the first few minutes, we observed one nude male avatar violently rape another clothed male avatar drinking a pixelated martini at a boardwalk bar. Now I was reading hate speech so vile that I cannot summarize it here. I was thankful that audio was not available on my desktop at the time.