In October 2021, during the Facebook Connect 2021, Mark Zuckerberg exposed to the world his will to change the face of the Internet. During this conference, he emphasized the creation of the metaverse. By his desire to bring people together, he presents this tool as necessary to overcome the geographical limits of the real world. The technology magnate describes this online virtual reality (VR) space as a "more vivid and natural" space where users could be "together in a different world". Zuckerberg's speech that places the metaverse at the service of social connections is surprising when we look at the cases of sexual misconduct in online VR spaces. Long before the launch of the metaverse, Jordan Belamire described in 2016 an experience of virtual sexual groping in the VR gaming space. In 2018, a mother also expressed her horror when she saw her daughter playing Roblox and being sexually assaulted by several avatars considered masculine (Peterson, 2018). Indeed, professionals who study the phenomena of cyber-violence make it clear that where social interactions exist, harassment in many forms can emerge. This finding is not unknown in online RV spaces (Blackwell et al., 2019). The qualitative study Vibing together: Dance Experiences in Social Virtual Reality highlights different user experiences of online VR spaces. Some report feeling safe and free during this immersive experience, while others name a feeling of discomfort with “toxic” behavior of a sexual nature. Ethical, philosophical, and legal questions may then arise as to the legitimacy of regulation in this virtual world where misconduct can occur in the same way as in reality (Strikwerda, 2015; Sparrow, 2019; Dunn's, 2021). Although immersive online VR experiences are discussed under the spectrum of sexual cyber violence in this review, this technological tool could also be used to potentially positively impact sexual health¹.
¹Lapointe, V. & Lafortune, D. (2023). “ Virtual reality as an intervention tool for sexual dysfunction”, on Les 3 sex* website. Consulted on April, 4 2023
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