Rant: Second Life’s Revealing “Secret”

As a surprise to no one scientists and people living under a rock, female avatars in Second Life expose more skin than their male counterparts.

“The human tendency to cover up stems from climatic, environmental, physical and cultural constraints,” say the researchers of a Canadian study, “so measuring people’s propensity to reveal skin can be difficult in the real world.” So they donned their lab coats and tripped around an unreal world called Second Life for awhile, scribbling in their virtual notebooks and measuring with their virtual.. skin measurers.

Their exact findings?

…out of over 400 virtual people studied, 71% of male avatars covered between 75-100% of their skin,  while only 5% of females did. In contrast, 47% of the virtual females they studied covered between 25-49% of their skin, compared to 9% of males.

Also: “The amount of skin covered was independent of traditional gender-specific measures of physical attractiveness for virtual avatars, such as waist-chest ratios for females.” Translation: “the fat ugly babes showed as much skin as the big-boobed barbie dolls”. Presumably because females are wired to show more skin, no matter what their physical appearance.

See that ubiquitously sexy, skimpily-dressed, slut-kitten?

So the researchers are poised to declare that this is a natural propensity. “This tool enabled us to find a dramatic gender difference in the propensity to disclose naked skin,” said researcher Matthieu Guitton.

I call bullshit.

First, they wandered around Second Life; you know, that place “without cultural constraints”. I have no idea how they formed the notion that SL is without cultural restraints, since we all drag into our pixel world the standards and norms and structures of our real world, no matter how much we resist or how much we are trying to escape. We can’t help it. (It’s “hoom nature”, as my 4-year old once said.) It doesn’t turn SL into a mirror of our real world, not at all: but it certainly mirrors the cultural ideals we carry around with us, for better or worse. Just like Hollywood movies do, or women’s magazines. They promote impossible bodies and impossible relationships; they sell a dream.

marilyn sepia by CB

Second Life is populated by a cast of thousands trying to live out their Hollywood dreams. Well, maybe not their dreams. The dreams we have been taught to pursue. The perfect body, and perfect life, and lots of “things”. Give one minute’s thought to how women are portrayed in Hollywood, on TV and in ads and commercials. See that ubiquitously sexy, skimpily-dressed, slut-kitten? Right there is your typical SL female.

Or I should say, typical SL female avatar, since at least half* of the females in Second Life have a penis in the real world. Did this factor at all into the study?

Science or “science”?

I would like to emphasize that there are also thousands of educators, artists, and generally fascinating people in Second Life who do not pursue the Hollywood slut-kitten dream. To each their own is, if anything is, the motto of Second Life. Which is why we don’t care if the women show skin. Or the men. But we (I) do care why, if specious reasons are put forth as to why it is done.

Evolutionary psychology is one of those bullshit offshoots of science–it’s almost like a real science except their researchers are unable to escape their own “cultural constraints”. Here’s a behavior: women being sexually objectified. Here’s a reason: evolution! Here’s an excuse for unconscionable behavior: evolutionary psychology. Well done, “scientists”. Carry on eating your own tail.

*By my estimate, and I grant that others would say less or more.  There are no reliable numbers for this, but the percentage would be significant enough to affect a legitimate study.

By Buttercup Thursday for slum magazine.
Source: Eurekalert

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