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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

It's Sex In the City As The Soho Sim Opens

Well it’s finally open, Soho is now part of SL London and we were given a chance to go in and have a look last weekend. As this is such a big event, a new sim for the virtual Capital! both fellow writer, Hibiscus Hastings and I will be telling you our own impressions of this very colourful area. Because I’m a Londoner I couldn’t wait to go in and see what the SL London Team had made of mimicking the original Soho. Hibiscus and I had a grand tour by Director Das Wade, and one of the builders, who has put so much into it, Menolly Riederer.

Soho today is an extremely popular area of the real London, with a unique tapestry of all sorts of lifestyles, but it is still most famous for it’s sex industry, which dates back to the 1800s. It has a strange history, being surrounded by the most influential neighbouring London Boroughs such as Bloomsbury, Marylebone and Mayfair, it was shunned by the aristocrats in the 1700s and never became a fashionable location for the rich. By the mid 1800s it had a high immigrant population and prostitutes and small theatres and music halls started to appear. By the 1900s cheap eating-houses were opened by foreign nationals and it started to become favoured by the artistic and intellectual set.

So what of SL London owner Debs Regent’s virtual Soho? well the in-world location is largely based on the more risqué side of the real district and I suspect will attract a great many avatars who seek cyber thrills in one form or another. In this, the Linden Labs, along with Debs are taking no chances of under age avatars being able to have access, as the sim will be classified as ‘Adult’ and avatars will have to be age verified, and prove they are over 18 years old, to get in (see Second for age verification procedures).

At the hub of the sim is the Phoenix club which is presently recruiting for escorts, dancers, and strippers, along with other staff. The Phoenix club, with it’s basement location decorated in plush red, somehow exudes the slightly tacky atmosphere that will appeal to clubbers who like nudity and sexual favours with their beer. There are the usual pole dance stages set up all around the club and one elegant feature, in spite of it being striptease, is the giant champagne Bottle and glass where the striptease artist bathes in a shower of champers as she rotates gracefully in the wineglass. One of the SL London Team, Cleo Charleville, gave us a demonstration. She tastefully had a binkini on for her peformance though, but we got the general idea.

Behind the main body of the club there is a room put aside for slightly more sinister stuff, BDSM (Bondage and Discipline Dominance and Submission Sadism and Masochism). There are various instruments of torture (or pleasure, depending on your perspective!) and I suspect this will get it’s share of the traffic, as BDSM sims are quite popular in SL, although I suspect many people will wander into them once or twice just out of curiosity. Hibiscus and I tried some of the pose balls, when no one was around, and found ourselves in fits of laughter, then we got worried that we may get stuck in the poses, so quickly decided to move on!! There are more rooms for private dances behind the main part of the club as well.

There is a cinema a little further along showing steamy films. You can watch real life soft porn movies in-world and there is a list of films you can pick from. It makes me wonder what sort of avatars will be frequenting such a place, I can’t imagine just going there to watch a movie, as I’d be a bit worried about who I sat next to, but then again you have to be prepared for the consequences if you choose to sit in on those sorts of films. Once in the mood, people can choose one of the many brothel rooms, which will be dotted all over the sim. The room that Menolly showed us was actually really nicely decorated with a luxurious bed (with it’s pose balls for various sexual play), a bath, and behind a little screen more BDSM furniture. I am told that these rooms will be private so no one can see what is going on. I would stress here that people will all be over 18 and they have the option of either teleporting out or switching off their computers if they are unhappy with the situation in which they find themselves in.

Das and Menolly took us to a gym, not any gym, but a gym set up purely for the male gay community. There we met the man who built the gym, Aeneas Beaumont, and a fine job he has made of it too. He told me ‘I hope I have made it welcoming, that’s what I aimed for.’ Menolly grinned and said to Aeneas ‘well since it’s the last time us girls will be allowed in here, show us around hun.’ And show us around he did, there is the work-out area with equipment scripted to actually work, plus a massage bed. Teleport buttons that take you to a further two floors. There is a nice pool area where Aeneas says ‘people can relax and hang out.’ And also working showers! I had to have a go! fully clothed of course, and felt really clean afterwards!! Then there is the toilets, a nicely designed block, but with pose balls I’d rather not print about in this column! As the real Soho has a large gay community, I suspect the virtual gym will appeal to many gay avatars.

One thing I loved seeing was Carnaby Street, the focal point for the swinging sixties in real life London, it has been re-created in SL Soho and I am looking forward to the many little shops being filled with trendy SL clothes etc. I noticed that a lot of the shops have been reserved by some of our top designers, Nils Tomorrow has reserved a store right next to the Phoenix, a good business move on her part, well done Nils! I can only think SL trade will flourish in the area as people will come into the sim, either wanting to take part in the sexual side of things or just out of curiosity, so it is a good place to own an SL store.

Lastly one of the areas I really liked was a gathering place in one of the tower blocks. Looking like a converted warehouse inside, it has sprawling sofas and comfy chairs where people can just come and chat. Nothing sexual going on there, but I feel it will get it’s regulars who like nothing better than meeting up and chilling with their friends.

A big thank you to Das Wade and Cleo Charleville for showing us around and also to Menolly Riederer, who along with Rails Bailey, have turned the sim into a simply amazing build. Also thank you to Aeneas Beaumont for showing us his amazing gym. I think SL Soho will prove to be a very
interesting place in the future.


Ed Follet said...

I initially had doubts about the wisdom of this project as it is bound to lead to rl media reports reinforcing the general perception that sl is only about sex and discrediting the good work done by many. However I accept that Soho is a facet of the rl London and that all sections of the sl community deserve consideration. If it results in the removal of sexual objects/furniture/body parts from the shop windows of the other sims it will be a positive benefit. It may also attract the more undesirable elements to our ‘sleepy sim'. It will be interesting to see if an underworld culture emerges. There seems to have an increase in ‘griefing’ and other unpleasantness since the Gossipgirls arrived in Chelsea, this is the gamble being taken.

Janey Bracken said...

Hi Ed,

Thank you very much for your comments which cover many good points! You are right that the media do like to make out that SL is totally sex driven if they can and sex does have a large part to play in a lot of the grid. It's a shame that there is not more made of the arts, education and non-sexual social sites, but they don't cause sensationalism enough for some newspapers. I try to cover everything that is going on, including all the wonderful things people have achieved and created and I think places like Soho also need to be covered as well as they are part of the big picture. I will be most interested to see what sort of groups gather in Soho and how the community evolves. As far as griefing is concerned, I've seen lots of it on my travels and you will always have people who target areas for their own amusement. Some grow out of it and some don't, but in the end they will probably get banned for good as I know a couple of people who this has happened to and they can't even create alts to come back. As it happened I was at the Gossipgirl building yesterday when it was griefed and I will put some pictures on the blog to show people.

Once again thank you for your very constructive comments.

Janey :)

Ed Follet said...

A way to redress the balance in favour of the arts/education would be to put on free exhibitions in the park. Art, scupture, photography, machinima, poetry, readings, talks, concerts. we don't need to worry about the weather in sl. This would attract a section of the wider community 'culture vultures' for which there is very little in sl London at the present.

Janey Bracken said...

Hi Ed,

Yes those things are really nice and the London team do put them on, we had the Arts Festival a few months back and we have Fashion week in September. Maybe with all the work going on in respect of the new Soho sim the focus has had to be on that for a while, but you will see lots of stuff in the future. You have some great ideas and I'm sure the team would love to hear from you, Das Wade has asked people to submit note cards with suggestions so they can discuss any good ideas at the weekly meetings. I doubt they will do much using the park for the venue though, which is a shame I know, but it has to be kept pretty lag free there, but they have used the rest of the sims very well in the past for such events.

Janey :)

ozzie said...

You meet all kinds of people standing on a stage, gripping a steel pole. Sure enough their are those that frequent these places for a more intimate display of sensuality. Quite often you find these type's just nothing more than a one night stand. It tends to be the lonely hearted ones that frequent dance clubs like phoenix, looking for a gentle smile a welcoming ear and for a few moments each day are made to feel important and valued.