Originally written by Isabelle Pavlova for mmorgy.com

As sex isn't really a requirement of MMO life, it would follow that fetishes wouldn't be either. Yet, fetishes are seen more that regular, "vanilla" around many MMO worlds. MMOs are places for people to explore new experiences, and fetishes just happen to be an experience many are interested in, but few have the means to jump into in real life.

In the world of robotics, there are three adjectives describe the type of jobs robots are made to replace humans in: "dirty", "dull", and "dangerous". Interestingly enough, these three adjectives could also be used to explain the world of MMO fetish exploration and play. However, most people don't like their enjoyments being described using any of those terms, so we'll use the contractions "wouldn't", "couldn't", and "shouldn't".

"Wouldn't": qDot usually gets motion sick in real life, so Second Life is the only way he can enjoy his spinning bondage wheel fetish Picture taken at Strokerz, Eros (189, 185), Second Life

"Wouldn't" refers to situations and fetishes people are interested in, but may not want to jump into in real life quite yet. "Couldn't" explains kinks prohibited by either cost, laws of physics, or some other limiting factor that the player cannot achieve. Finally, "Shouldn't", either in the terms of the user's life context (prior relationships, community position, etc...), the bindings of the law (fetishes illegal in the geographic area of the user), or "permanent" (those things which can only be done once...). In this article, we'll explore examples of each of these types, as well as the people that play them.


Wouldn't is probably the tamest of all of the descriptors we use when we talk about virtual world fetish play. The most common occurance of this is someone who is new to a fetish or kink. Even experienced players will run into something new every so often, and a virtual world experience in the new type of play might help someone come to terms with whether or not they enjoy it enough to spend the time and money to do it in real life.

A shop like this would be daunting to new players in the real world, but the virtual world provides a level of comfort Picture taken at KDC HQ, Livigno (217, 157), Second Life

As such, there is really no set of fetishes or people that one would find unique to this group, because every fetish will be a part of this at one point or another. Someone will want to explore foot worship through virtual shoes, others will want to experience bondage through their character being tied up versus their physical body. The safety of the Power Button Safeword makes the "Wouldn't" set of fetishes a comfortable place to play.


The Couldn't set gets a lot more interesting than wouldn't, specifically because instead of overcoming personal issues, we now move into a realm where virtual worlds may be the only solution to fulfilling this fetish. There are many reasons that fetishes cannot be performed by their fans, more than we could ever cover here, simply because of the infinite context of player's lives. However, there are a few reasons that are quite common.

Pony play can be a very expensive endeavor in real life, but cheap and accessible in a virtual world Picture taken at TC Stables, Prometheus (65,17), Second Life

Cost and materials is a major limiting factor in a lot of fetish play. For someone who wants to have a bondage scene with cuffs and spreader bars and the whole 9 yards, but lives in a remote area, play like this would mean having to know where to order things on the internet, what they needed, so on and so forth. On top of that is cost. Fetish equipment can easily run into the hundreds (bondage equipment) if not thousands (pony equipment) of dollars. Most people aren't willing to initially throw a new mortgage on their house just to get off, so role playing in a computerized world gives them a way to fulfill fantasies until they have the nessicary funds to own real equipment.

An example of Hypertrophy (From the game Stretch Panic for PS2, not an MMO)

The laws of physics and the limits of the human body are harsh mistresses to those that have sexual needs that need fulfillment, so virtual worlds provide a place where a representation of the fetish can happen outside of the imagination, between multiple parties. Fetishes such as unbirthing (reverse of child birth), male pregnancy, hypertrophy (excessively large growth of limbs or organs), vorephilia (the fetish of eating something/being eaten by something/watching something be eaten, in reference to one or both parties being animal or anthropomorphic) and transformation (human into non-human, be it animal, anthropomorphic, xenomorphic, or whatever the players are interested in) are all extremely difficult if not completely impossible to pull off in real life. Unless a violently wealthy eccentric or group of dedicated people pooling their money is involved, it's just not going to happen. In a world where there're no physics unless the user says so, and actions come in animations made through the user's or developer's decretion, the barriers of reality are removed and anything can happen.


But just because anything can happen, doesn't mean it should. Now we enter the dangerous realm of law or common sense breaking fetishes. Thanks to laws (in some countries, at least) covering freedom of expression through non-photorealistic means, assuming both players are of provable legal age, anything can, and does go in virtual worlds.

Forbidden play can be split into three major groups: Legal, Physical, and Social. The most obvious legal issue would be that of age play. Age play does exist between consenting parties in virtual worlds, but is a highly, highly volatile subject, one that will require more space than I'm willing to give it in this article to fully describe. Other legal issues tend to crop up with the physically questionable fetishes. Amputation, mutilation, and other violent fetishes can happen between consenting adults with no legal charges (due to the "consenting" part, though legally questionable in terms of mental state). They can result in permanent physical alteration, possibly something that could only happen once in the real world. Virtual worlds allow for replaying or editing of situations to the heart's content.

Social issues mirror the other sets in the fact that they relate to the context of the player's life. The gay dad from "Kids In the Hall - Braincandy" would be a good example of this, but for those not versed in good movies, further explanation is in order. People that are currently in relationships but want to explore further than their partner, or are else in some position in the community that would not allow them to publically explore their interests, can use virtual worlds as a veil of anonymity to play. Of course, nowhere on the internet is completely anonymous and safe, but there's something to be said for being caught in a virtual bathhouse versus a real one.

So why would people play these fetishes, when they know they could cause some sort of trouble? This will probably be someone's psych thesis paper within the next 5 years (please reference us if it is yours). Some think of it as therapy, some as an "alternative", some are in the "Couldn't" stage experimentation but have decided to take it to a new extreme. Whether these reasons are justified is probably going to be up to the mind of the reader, as we are only here to explain. Pontification is best left for the forums of whatever world the reader inhabits.