Friday, May 01, 2009
Virtual gender and sexuality
I totally skipped the Noblegarden event in WoW, because camping colored eggs and trying to click faster than the other players camping it doesn't hold a lot of interest for me. But apparently the event contains a lame sexist joke achievement, attaching bunny ears to female players over 18 (levels), and some feminists are up in arms about it. Meanwhile in a completely different game, Ixobelle ponders the question whether playing Free Realms will turn you gay. And on the forums of Star Wars: The Old Republic there is an uproar over a community manager comment that "gay" and "lesbian" "are terms that do not exist in Star Wars.".
For me virtual worlds are very asexual places. In a famous survey on Everquest it turned out that half of the female avatars were played by men. Ixobelle uses a female name for his blog, and plays female avatars, but is a man in real life. The only problem that causes me is one of grammer (do I refer to Ixobelle as "him" or as "her"?).
There simply isn't any real sexuality in virtual worlds. Avatars aren't born by a female avatar having sex with a male avatar. Any perceived sexuality in virtual worlds is just a projection from the real world. Attaching bunny ears to an avatar in WoW, or running around as a fairy in Free Realms, is very rarely an expression of sexual preference, it is just an element of gameplay. Of course there are both heterosexual and homosexual players, male and female, playing these games. But a statement that homosexuality does not exist in the lore of Star Wars, World of Warcraft, or the Lord of the Rings for that matter, is just a statement of fact. You can complain that Luke Skywalked didn't end up in bed with Han Solo, but that complaint has to be directed to George Lucas, not the Bioware guys. I am pretty sure that there will be no sex at all in SWTOR, neither hetero- nor homosexual. And if you use this or any other virtual world as platform for cybersex, you obviously aren't limited in your choice, neither by gender, nor even by species.
I would even go as far as saying that many cases of projecting sexuality onto a virtual world is a sign of immaturity and sexual insecurity. As Ixobelle says, "if you're that close to the cusp that you're afraid this game will affect you, you need to just go kiss a guy and get it over with." People who are grown up and 100% sure they are heterosexual tend to have LESS problems playing a fairy or female character than those who aren't. It's if you only ever can play hunking males that you should start to ask yourself what's wrong with you. ;) Me, I'm playing a fairy. :)