My So-Called Second Life

I stepped into this virtual world and found a lot of sex--and a guide named Cristal

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After giving me a tuxedo, Cristal changed into a gown and a blond updo and teleported us to a ballroom, where we clicked on a button to dance salsa. All these graphics were impressive, but they really serve--like the stuff at any decent bar--as an excuse to talk about something. Once we typed to each other about how cool the dancing was, I learned a lot about Cristal's real life: her husband, her Peruvian background, her recent move to Holland. She called me "hun" a lot and LOL-ed at all my jokes. She seemed so smart and interesting, I felt pretty sure she was a 25-year-old guy living in his parents' basement.

We also talked about sex a lot. Having sex in Second Life just requires selecting a series of buttons, but it's the instant messaging where the action is. This can get so serious that some people have virtual boyfriends they reserve their virtual sex for--which seems tender until you realize they are doing this in virtual sex clubs. And on the computer.

While we were walking around the ballroom, I learned that Second Life is aggressively heterosexual. Male avatars would not talk to me for more than a sentence or two. In fact, when I tried to talk to a dude who looked just like the Predator, he wouldn't even say hello. This may be because I opened with "Dude, congratulations. You're the biggest dork in Second Life."

I spent the next 4 1/2 hours with Cristal as she took me to a waterfall, a snowy Christmas scene, a shipwreck and a sex club. At some point, she offered me a free penis. Much as I didn't want to take it, it's damned hard to tell even a fake woman that you don't want the free penis she's giving you. So I thanked her. And I realized how incredibly nice she was and how--even in Second Life, where anything is possible--I wasn't really any different than I ever am.

Four days later, I went back to Second Life and found Cristal. After embarrassingly having to remind her who I was, she gave me her real name, Marita, and her Web address. It turns out, Marita is not only a woman but an awfully pretty one, who seemed to have a full life, just as she did on Second Life. It would have been a lot more exciting to know before we fake made out. But, I asked myself, would that have ruined the purity of our bodiless relationship? And also, should I have dropped $5 for a really sweet penis?

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