Sources of Law and Modes of Governance: Ethnography and Theory in Second Life

Claude T. Aiken, IV


Belgian police began patrolling Second Life, the virtual world, in early 2007, responding to a claim of virtual rape.[1]  Few crimes evoke as much social revulsion and emotional harm as the powerful forcing themselves on the weak.  But does it make sense to talk about an avatar-on-avatar sexual misconduct in familiar terms (i.e., sexual assault and rape)?  Is it punishable?  Who should take care of the punishing?

[1] Benjamin Duranske, Reader Roundtable: “Virtual Rape” Claim Brings Belgian Police to Second Life, Virtually Blind, Apr. 24, 2007,

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