Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In Which We Dipp into the Dark Side

WARNING: This post contains language and images of extreme violence. To view a Text Only version, click here.

Every once in a while, one runs across a creator so imaginative, so capable of conjuring up worlds and ideas hitherto unconceived, that one's breath is taken away.

And then there are creators like Dipp Canning.

My first introduction to Dipp's "work" was about a year ago or so, when I ran across her "BDDSM Orgasmic Stake," a terribly clever little scripted device consisting of a giant spike upon which to impale a female avatar, with sex balls allowing the victimizer to perform sexual acts upon her. The tag line that appeared on Xstreet with this must-have addition to any torture chamber pretty much said all that needed to be said about the function of this device: "fuck your slave as they die."

Frighteningly, there is evidently a segment of the population who find this idea quite a turn-on. Nonetheless, it is interesting that this item, while still listed on Xstreet, is now "Unavailable for purchase."

In fairness, it has to be said that the "BDDSM Orgasmic Stake" is somewhat atypical of Dipp's usual oeuvre. To judge from the majority of the offerings for sale on Xstreet by this "artiste," Dipp has a rather singular view of women. When she imagines them, what she apparently sees are pretzels. Or, more precisely, women bent and twisted into fuckable, abusable pretzels, and held in bone-breaking, muscle-tearing, and sinew-popping contortions by a variety of chains, thongs, rods, and spikes.

This sort of thing is, in some ways, standard BDSM or Gorean fare: apparently, to many of the aficionados of these particular "lifestyles," a woman isn't sexually desirable until her body has been obscenely twisted into something almost unrecognizable. But to add a bit of variety, Dipp has gone one step further in many of her products.

So, how do you vary pretzels? By sticking things into them. Sharp things.

A case in point is her "DD Spiker," a series of stakes and poles upon which is impaled a female avatar. The phallic subtext of the spike featured in her "Orgasmic Stake" is here even more explicit: the stake penetrates the victim through the vagina, runs through her body, and exits out through her mouth in a grotesque parody of fellatio. This effect is even more marked when the device is viewed in-world, with the animation functioning. The woman's body alternately stretches and contracts on the pole, as she straightens or bends her spine: the result is that the pole slides back and forth within her vagina and mouth even as she remains impaled upon it. Anyone who doubts that the penis can, in certain contexts, be metaphorically conceived of as a "weapon," and the act of sexual penetration as invasive and violent, needs only view this device to have all doubts removed.

Somewhat similar is the "Devil's Prong," which, however, features merely one wound, through the vagina, but Dipp has cleverly recognized that if two bloody and violent penetrations are good, then four must be twice as exciting. With this in mind, she has thoughtfully also made available the "DD Bloody Bitch," in which spikes impale the victim (as near as I could tell) though the vagina, clitoris, and both breasts. (These may actually penetrate through the anus, vagina, and breasts, but I declined the opportunity to look too closely to make an exact determination.)

So, what are the common themes here? Well, penetration is obviously a big selling point, and not always through the vagina, anus, or mouth: in common with much "torture porn," there is an interest here in creating new orifices to penetrate, through "wound fucking." (A new zombie film by Toronto filmmaker Bruce La Bruce, LA Zombie, features a similar motif, and has been banned from screening in Australia because of it.) The entire female body is reduced in this way to the status of genitalia: a woman, in this view, really is nothing more than a cunt. But because Nature has not accommodated this view by making the female body penetrable everywhere, "art" must intervene. And so, the act of intercourse is explicitly re-imagined as an act of invasive, and ultimately deadly, violence. This suits the male tormentor just fine, as that violence establishes his "mastery" and "power." So sexually potent is the male tormentor that the woman literally dies in the act of "intercourse." It is an affirmation of male sexual power as destruction.

Another important element of all of these products is, of course, the utter passivity of the woman, who is rendered completely inert (and in some cases, of course, actually "lifeless") by these devices. Traditionally, BDSM and D/s are founded upon a willing exchange of power between the Dominant and the submissive; the latter willingly and consensually submits to the Dominant. And indeed, any "female" avatar who undertakes the position of victim on these devices has presumably consented to do so by "sitting" on them first, and accepting the animations.

And yet, while the role play may itself be consensual, the depiction clearly is not. The sexual charge that the victimizers (and presumably also the victim) get from these devices derives in large measure from recreating the illusion of force and violence. In the fiction that is spun from the role play, the victims are not imagined as circus performers or talented contortionists: they are not willingly pretzeled. They are instead held firmly in place by chains and spikes. However important the element of consent in undertaking the role play, the experience itself is, apparently, the more enjoyable because it depicts an absence of consent: the male's hard-on here comes from reveling in the pretense of overriding the woman's consent with bondage and torture devices.

The importance of the element of violence and subjugation (rather than mere submission) is reinforced by what is apparently a selling point of these devices: the fact that all of them are "RLV compatible." The "Restrained Life Viewer" (RLV) is an add-on to the SL viewer that permits a Dominant to take complete control of the sub's avatar: in extreme cases, the only way that the sub can regain control is to log off. The RLV, in other words, allows the Dominant to mimic in gaming terms the force and violence being depicted through the role play. Once a sub has agreed to employ the RLV, the Dom doesn't need to ask permission to impale her: he can simply take control of her avatar and do it himself. While it is true that the initial consent from the sub has been obtained, the point of the RLV is to heighten the sexual excitement by removing the sub's freedom of choice from subsequent actions.

Force and violence are, of course, central to the notion of bondage, and so it is unsurprising to discover that they are a central element even of some of Dipp's less "deadly" devices. For instance, Dipp offers for sale not one, but two rape devices featuring "staked" victims: in these, the stakes are more modestly driven into the ground, and hold the female avi in place while she is raped.

Any number of Dipp's other scripted objects might be added to a boycott list focussed upon representations of violence against women. A few additional ones are particularly worthy of note, however. The "K&D Beauty Rest" (pictured above) shackles the female across a table featuring no less that "20 sharp spikes." The "BDDSM 'Hot' Stuff" device binds a woman to a post with her vagina mere inches above a lit candle. Similarly, "DD Inflamed" suspends her, legs pried wide open, directly over a large fire, while the "Honey Roaster" features a woman spread-eagled in front of a fireplace, and impaled through her vagina. The name of the "DD BDSM Barb-B-Cue" more or less adequately describes that device. (Dipp apparently likes her pretzels roasted.)

Many of Dipp's devices are designed to facilitate beating and whipping: the Xstreet ads for "DD Exposed," and the "DD Punishment Bench" show the female avatar with bloody cuts and welts across her body, while the "Rear Hang Whipping Rack" suspends the avatar by her hands, tied around her back, from a scaffold.

So, why should any of this trouble us? Dipp Canning produces pornography, it is true, and particularly violent and distasteful pornography at that, but these are, after all, merely "cartoons," are they not? And if it is also true that all of the victims depicted in the Xstreet advertisements for these products are women, must we not concede that any "female" avatar (whether male or female in RL) using these is consensually agreeing to participate in this violent torture and snuff porn?

It is certainly true that no pixels were injured during the employment of these products; it would be foolish and reductive to equate this kind of role play with real life violence against women. Nor does it follow that any man using these devices to role play, however much it might suggest a deep-seated (and deeply disturbing) predilection for sexual violence, is going to actually escalate his behaviour by attempting to do any of these things in the real world.

The critical issue is that, by catering to a profoundly misogynist attitude towards sexual violence, these objects reinforce the kind of thinking that enables real life sexual violence. Everything about these objects asserts that "violence is fun!" What is more, "it's a real turn-on!" And every time that a female avatar (whether or not controlled by a real life woman) mounts one of these devices, "she" is sending the message that, yes indeed, women find the ideas of sadism, violence, rape, and even murder very very sexy. Given the very real "rape myths" ("She was asking for it! She loved every minute of it!") that permeate our culture, these are very dangerous messages to send indeed.

We complete our brief survey of Dipp's "artistry" with one final product. The "DD TipToed" suspends the naked female on a hanging cross; she is held in place there by her hands, which are impaled by the cross bar, and from which scripted blood drips.

One wonders if Dipp is capable of seeing the irony inherent in this image of woman crucified.

No, probably not.

Note: A notecard was sent to Dipp Canning previous to the writing of this feature, informing her of this review, and soliciting comments and responses to particular questions. As of the time of writing, she has declined to respond.

The SLLU Feminist Network invites you to join in a boycott of all products produced by Dipp Canning, to be maintained until the items listed in the boycott notice have been removed from sale. A good way to make your personal decision to join this boycott more effective is to send a notecard to Dipp Canning, announcing your decision to join in the action.

For a full list of the items by Dipp Canning that have sponsored this boycott call, see the
SLLU Feminist Network Boycott Notifications.

For more information about representations of violence against women in Second Life, see "Gender Violence in SL: FAQ and Some Answers"


  1. Awesome Scylla. Nice to see someone else is bothered by how women are treated in SL.

  2. Agression towards women is as bad as agression towards males, kids, adult, animals, blacks, whites, religious, no-religious or whatever self defined group. For the products been shown in this blog, to me it's very simple. I don't like them so I don't buy them, that easy. Not liking an item for me has never been a reason to start a blog about it, call out for a boycott and/or come up with all sorts of theories why nobody else should buy it or what influence they suppose to have on people. Those theories are simply your personal opinion, nothing but speculation and serving your own interest which is obviously your need to gain power and/or dominate public opinion. Calling out for a boycott is deliberately harming peoples business and thus an act of violence. I oppose to that.

    And to others who read this blog: "Watch out for the moral knights, they cause more harm then you would expect at first sight."

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Annabelle.

    First, let me say that this blog was not started about any one individual item or creator: it is intended to highlight, document, and raise discussion about a whole class of products for sale in Second Life.

    Secondly, the issue is not that I don't "like" these products (although I certainly don't). Second Life -- and real life too -- are full of things that I don't "like" that I feel no need to comment on. I am targeting (and that is obviously the right word) these products because I believe they do harm. Whether they are harmful or not IS up to debate, but please don't mistake the point of this blog, which is NOT about my personal likes and dislikes.

    As regards the boycott call, I would urge you, if you have not already, to read the section "Why are you calling for boycotts," on the "Welcome" page of this blog. To reiterate what it says, briefly, here, I have chosen this approach because I am against top-down censorship (i.e., LL-imposed "bans") on items, and would prefer to use an approach that allows every individual to make her or his own decision about whether to participate or not. Boycotts employ one of the most important mechanisms of free enterprise: consumer pressure. They work within the system, rather than attempting to impose a ham-fisted "solution" brought down from above. If you disagree with the boycott, the solution is as simple as yours with regard to my objections about these skins: don't participate. But calling boycotts "violence" is, to put it mildly, inaccurate and hyperbolic.

    And yes, this blog is full of my personal opinion. Most people's blogs are. You are welcome to disagree with it, as you have, and I am delighted to discuss that disagreement with you, as I am now. That is the function of this blog: to generate awareness and discussion.