« Steam OS Scorecard: Great News for Oculus Rift, Bad for PS4 & Xbox One | Main | SL Not On Steam Due to "Complications", Says Linden Lab »

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Dividni Shostakovich

Here's one way Linden Labs could estimate RL vs SL gender: run the names connected to people's credit card numbers against lists of the first thousand common male and female first names, and then link the results to their avatar's gender. Easy-peasy. Most likely few people give payment info for their alts (why bother, you can just send them money), so those wouldn't be much of an issue. You would have the problem of people who don't file payment info at all, but you'd get a fair estimate. Besides, these days Google knows what picture books your mom read to you when you were three and Facebook knows you have dishes waiting to be cleaned, so anything's possible. (By the way, the phrase you're looking for is "caveat lector.")


"run the names connected to people's credit card numbers against lists of the first thousand common male and female first names, and then link the results to their avatar's gender. Easy-peasy."

Y'all are assuming here that everyone plays one gender, when I happen to know in fact that isn't at all true. Myself included, I know multiple folks who play male, female, and androgynous. To accurately answer the question you would first have to use the close-minded broad assumption that everyone in RL and SL is either only male, or only female.

Once that's done you'd also have to take into consideration - are you going to count RP alts or not? I do have payment info on file for my alts, and my RL gender is female, however not all of my alts are female. Good luck estimating that.

I think people should stop worrying about defining gender so much.

Dividni Shostakovich

Those are good points, but I didn't say you'd get perfect results: you'd get an estimate, no matter what you did. How many people *mostly* use alts rather than their main av? Even 1 in 500 sounds high, scarcely enough to make a fair estimate impossible.

I basically agree with you about the ridiculous and often closed-minded worrying about people's gender. I don't give a hoot what gender(s) individuals play in SL, and I think it's nobody's business but their own. But I can imagine that Linden Labs would find it useful to get overall numbers in order to tweak marketing or for some other business reason, or they may want to cooperate with academics studying certain aspects of virtual world activities. In fact it could be very encouraging to know that (to imagine some figures) 50% of RL males usually play females, but only 5% of RL females usually play males (or whatever figures you want to plop in there). It would be *fantastic* to learn that many people value playing a different gender, even if we have no idea why. There are legitimate reasons why aggregate data could be useful. In contrast, utilizing data about individuals (without their permission) would unquestionably be an invasion of privacy.


The situation you're describing -- e.g., collecting all users' RL names from our credit card information just to compare with avatar gender -- would be so blatantly against LL's privacy policy that it would probably incur a response from the FTC (which comes down pretty hardcore against companies that do shit like that).

The six-out-of-ten statistic probably comes from one of the many voluntary surveys taken of SL residents, many of which are done by universities, wherein respondents are asked their real life gender and the gender of their main avatar. If you haven't been asked to take a survey like this, you probably just haven't been paying attention, because they come around pretty frequently.

Keith Morris

I am indeed out of the Air Force (since 2007), but I don't think playing a female avatar would have violated the Don't Ask Don't Tell rule of the day. Also, Meghan's last name has never been Sheehy. That would be her mom's married name. You can just call her Meghan Morris now. ;)

Tracy RedAngel

I really couldn't care less about anyone's RL gender. I have friends who are female in RL who play on male avatars, and friends who are male in RL and play on female avatars. They simply want to experience Second Life as a different gender.
Maybe I'm being a little dismissive of the issue because my SL husband is also my RL husband, and well...I don't date in Second Life. But if someone is that worried about being 'hoodwinked' by someone of a different gender, well they can always ask to hear their voice or Skype. And don't tell me about those voice scramblers...they're not convincing l

Emperor Norton

"Morris real-life married another Second Lifer, Coreina Grace (real name Meghan Sheehy) in 2009. "

Pretty much sums it all with the men playing women avis.

Keith Morris

"Pretty much sums it all with the men playing women avis." I'm interested to know exactly which part of that sentence you're generalizing across all males who play female avatars. And are you limiting your inductive reasoning to the Second Life context alone, or does that include men who play Tomb Raider as well?

Keith Morris

It must be that I got married. All men who play women get the ladies because we understand them better. ;-)

Lani Global

Most of us who create avatar content, create scripted content, or do RolePlay in SL have a variety of alt avatars of all genders.

Does she, or doesn't she? Only her NSA agent knows for sure.


Ok, Wrap your heads around this concept:
Among many other freedoms, Second Life provides users with complete gender choice, so users can behave and interact in a way that is unburdened by social bias and restrictions that accompany socially imposed gender stereotype.

This should be promoted as a strength of Second Life, giving people from many oppressive and conformist societies a freedom they cannot have in their day to day lives. Critics of this gender freedom fail to see beyond the confines of their own culturally inflicted gender bias.


I have one male avatar and three female. Ohh and one fantasy being. In SL we still have the freedom to speak and do what we want. I can be whatever i want and i can write what i want and not being censored. Or thrown out. Some well known places do not allow that. More freedom on the net!


Ung says it all!

CronoCloud Creeggan

It's the usual thing, some tech-journalists seem to be upset by SL's appeal to women because they wanted it to be THEIR playground and not "Barbie dreamhouse EXTREME" so they try to minimize that by saying things like "All the SL women are men".



You hit bullseye. One of the main reasons why techies and the tech press is so hard on SL is because there were too many women. And because of women, SL didn't turn into the dystopic, hackerish copy of Snow Crash that they envisioned.

Its hilarious this is the group that screams when game platforms have no girls/women. Then when faced with a platform that does, they then scream girl cooties.

Arcadia Codesmith

Nottingham Trent University published a study in 2008 finding that 70% of women and 54% of men in the sample played the opposite gender in games.

The small sample size renders that study statistically unreliable, but it's interesting that it corresponds roughly with the Linden comment.

It's also interesting that the number of women who play cross-gender is significantly larger than the number of men. It might be a different story for virtual worlds, but then again, it might not. It does challenge widespread preconceptions throughout much of the industry.

I play all along the gender spectrum with different avatars and sometimes with the same avatar (Second Life being one of the few worlds that lets you switch at will). Gender is a subject of some interest to me, but the more I delve into it, the more convinced I am that human biological dimorphism has only slight behavioral ramifications compared to the artificial construct of socialized gender roles, the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology notwithstanding.

Be who you want to be. And I'll do the same.

Achariya Maktoum

In the world of fashion blogging, I know several male characters who have female players. Four at least. No, five. All of them prefer to be known by their character's gender, and keep their real life details private.

Three female/gender-neutral friends of mine are played by men, and two are quite open about it.

Still seems skewed toward women playing men, for the most part...

Pussycat Catnap

"Its hilarious this is the group that screams when game platforms have no girls/women. Then when faced with a platform that does, they then scream girl cooties."


How sadly true.

Look at how they've reacted to Anita Sarkeesian.
I swear sometimes living and working in the Silicon Valley, I end up wondering if this is Taliban controlled territory...

The level of both racism and misogyny in the tech and gamer industries is shocking. It makes the GOP seem like a lesbian party in the hood...


What's gender?

Joe Clark

Surprised that no one has yet mentioned the fact that gender binarism isn't even a fact in RL. It's not an either/or choice.

I did a pretty exhaustive lit review on gender-crossing for my "Virtually Queer" fictional autoethnography a couple of years ago. Some readers might find the research surprising: http://www.academia.edu/300310/Virtually_Queer_Subjectivity_Across_Gender_Boundaries_in_Second_Life_-_revisited._Southern_States_Communication_Association_Memphis_April_2010.

Mitch Wagner

I just discovered the original article and loved it. I found myself nodding along as I read. Very little journalism done by non-SL-natives captures the good and bad of SL so well.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Making a Metaverse That Matters Wagner James Au ad
Please buy my book!
Thumb Wagner James Au Metaverse book
Wagner James "Hamlet" Au
Bad-Unicorn SL builds holdables HUD
Dutchie Evergreen Slideshow 2024
Juicybomb_EEP ad
My book on Goodreads!
Wagner James Au AAE Speakers Metaverse
Request me as a speaker!
Making of Second Life 20th anniversary Wagner James Au Thumb
my site ... ... ...
PC for SL
Recommended PC for SL
Macbook Second Life
Recommended Mac for SL

Classic New World Notes stories:

Woman With Parkinson's Reports Significant Physical Recovery After Using Second Life - Academics Researching (2013)

We're Not Ready For An Era Where People Prefer Virtual Experiences To Real Ones -- But That Era Seems To Be Here (2012)

Sander's Villa: The Man Who Gave His Father A Second Life (2011)

What Rebecca Learned By Being A Second Life Man (2010)

Charles Bristol's Metaverse Blues: 87 Year Old Bluesman Becomes Avatar-Based Musician In Second Life (2009)

Linden Limit Libertarianism: Metaverse community management illustrates the problems with laissez faire governance (2008)

The Husband That Eshi Made: Metaverse artist, grieving for her dead husband, recreates him as an avatar (2008)

Labor Union Protesters Converge On IBM's Metaverse Campus: Leaders Claim Success, 1850 Total Attendees (Including Giant Banana & Talking Triangle) (2007)

All About My Avatar: The story behind amazing strange avatars (2007)

Fighting the Front: When fascists open an HQ in Second Life, chaos and exploding pigs ensue (2007)

Copying a Controversy: Copyright concerns come to the Metaverse via... the CopyBot! (2006)

The Penguin & the Zookeeper: Just another unlikely friendship formed in The Metaverse (2006)

"—And He Rezzed a Crooked House—": Mathematician makes a tesseract in the Metaverse — watch the videos! (2006)

Guarding Darfur: Virtual super heroes rally to protect a real world activist site (2006)

The Skin You're In: How virtual world avatar options expose real world racism (2006)

Making Love: When virtual sex gets real (2005)

Watching the Detectives: How to honeytrap a cheater in the Metaverse (2005)

The Freeform Identity of Eboni Khan: First-hand account of the Black user experience in virtual worlds (2005)

Man on Man and Woman on Woman: Just another gender-bending avatar love story, with a twist (2005)

The Nine Souls of Wilde Cunningham: A collective of severely disabled people share the same avatar (2004)

Falling for Eddie: Two shy artists divided by an ocean literally create a new life for each other (2004)

War of the Jessie Wall: Battle over virtual borders -- and real war in Iraq (2003)

Home for the Homeless: Creating a virtual mansion despite the most challenging circumstances (2003)

Newstex_Author_Badge-Color 240px
JuicyBomb_NWN5 SL blog
Ava Delaney SL Blog