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Tuesday, October 04, 2022


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Jules Catlyn

Ironically i still get hate regularly from the "curvier" avatars. Calling me "skinny minnie" and other derogatory names. So i think the hate comes from both sides with one side feeling that they being discriminated justifies lashing out to others without consequences. I have no hate towards any group. I just find it ironic.


They can take the form of an image of one's real-life self, as often seen on platforms like Facebook, or a virtual character that diverges from the real world. Often, these are customised to show support for different causes, or to create a unique online representation.


It's a shame we don't have actual statistics to go on here. In my own experience, this prejudice has always been present in SL, at least since I joined in 2005. I used to know someone who, originally, had a wonderfully curvy avatar but was body shamed into adopting a thinner look. And that was like 15+ years ago. Oddly enough, I think they would have gotten along fine now as curvier bodies seem to have become the norm.

Also, SL definitions of "curvier" and "skinny" seem extremely skewed. You seem to be able to get away with being as skinny as you like as long as you have breasts as large as your head, but drop to a B or even D cup and suddenly people start warning you that you might get banned for making your avatar look "too young". Even that aside I've noticed a world of difference in the way people interact with my avatars based on my chest size alone.

And it's not just women, look at how nearly all men in SL are 8 feet tall because of social pressure (real or imagined) to be "big and manly". Of course that topic has always been a hot button issue in SL. Again, long before avatars became "more realistic". Although, I have noticed that while still an issue, it's somewhat less of an issue in anime and furry communities which are of course far less realistic with their avatars. So you might be on to something.

In any case, I'm convinced someone studying the topic could write multiple books by looking at SL alone.


Curvy avatars are in style now, but if you think they're realistic, you haven't looked at them closely.

I think having a greater variety for mesh body choices is actually helping diversity in SL. Some folks like realism. Others prefer the exaggeration of certain body parts. Often this ends up as either the Barbie doll look with extra long legs, or the big butt and breasts with a small waist look. There are other options for female avatars, but those 2 extremes are the most common.

I don't know if those with male avatars like the Hulk look, or if they just don't know how to reshape their avatars to make them look more realistic.


Random notes: For how long can one individual body shame you after you block them? On an active airport runway, I once had sex with a 4-meter-tall woman wearing a green lizard avatar. She was never body-shamed. SL is precisely like watching TV. Don't like what you see or hear, turn the channel. Close chat, block haters, TP away, and don't engage. What difference is it to anyone how tall, short, fat, thin, lifelike, unreal, big boob, no boob, slutty or fab? Humans have already proven we are petty little critters willing to ignore our shortcomings and point out the same ones in others. We will never resolve our petty grievances over great-looking mesh avatars of all sizes, shapes, and creations with Lego-looking avatars. The problem is people. SL is 100% virtual, and as Phil once said, "Here, the future is yours to create." How about we build a new virtual future where the hypocrisy, narcissism, and desire to pick away at other people's thoughts, speech, desires, and habits are less than how we are in real life? After eighteen years in SL, I remain unbothered by anyone and don't bother anyone. It's not real; it's virtual life with a block and a TP button. Random notes end.


Congratulations for being featured in the CNN article.

Sadly, it's true.
Also it's more than just being fat or slim.
I had messages from guys commenting on the physical appearance of my avatar (i.e. various body parts) and my outfits too, grumpily and selfishly comparing that with their own personal tastes, like if the only purpose of women's avatars (and I suspect also the purpose of women in real life) were to please them.
That "no fat chicks" sign, too, was indeed targeting women: nobody cared if guys were fat or slim. I don't mean that guys have no issue look-wise (as Penny says, the height for them), but there is a lot of pressure on women in terms of what they look like.

Although I usually receive compliments, my avatar has been bodyshamed for my thighs being "too fat". Someone else bodyshamed in a very paternalistic way my same avatar for being "too much skinny".
Therefore, besides being selfish, is also foolish, because beauty standards are so subjective.
But it is worse than that.

If you make your avatar based on your real life appearance and you have little self-esteem already, that social pressure and comments don't help and you may end up looking at yourself in the RL mirror, feeling insecure and wondering how much obese or anorexic you look, even though you are neither. When you are exposed to this in real life, some girl ends up actually anorexic. But even if it's only a virtual world, it contributes, especially if your avatar is like yourself. Another drop, and another drop... So it's also toxic and can have consequences.

Since it's silly, you can ignore that, right? It's not so simple.
#1. It shouldn't be normalized and told (explicitly or implicitly) "it's your problem if you are affected [by this very mean thing]", "if you don't like that, just move away". That's what the abusers usually tell, to have a free pass to continue to abuse, also to blame the victim.
#2. Everyone has a different sensitivity (or a bad day too). If you are desensitized, it doesn't make it ok for kids to watch horror gore videos as you do, nor to tell those who have experienced trauma and PTSD "don't be silly! Just shrug off the next abuse". It's not that simple and however it's a fact that you can affect people with bodyshaming. If you behave in a mean way anyway, that only makes you a mean person, with no understanding and no empathy; not because of them. It's your fault for not caring.
#3. The article is right. More you look like a realistic woman, more that happens. You are less bodyshamed if you are a tiny possum or giant blue snake woman, than a realistic woman (curvy or not and everything else dudes wants from women). There are also the exaggerated bits and the uncanny valley effect that triggers, but that's not exactly what I'm talking about.
#4. You are interacting with other people, not watching TV. Virtual, fantasy, sure. Still SL isn't like watching TV. Whether it's bodyshaming or any other toxic behavior, muting and teleporting away may work when it's just you and a random dude encountered in a random place that you don't care of.
If you are in a group and in a social place that you like and you want to keep doing the activities you enjoy there (let alone if you are the hostess etc), you have to deal with more complex social and group dynamics.
If people around you are generally supportive, the situation would improve, else eventually you would give up and leave. It is not so automatic and simple.

And if that happens often - and for women in SL it's pretty common to deal with guys hitting on you, at first pretending to be nice, but caring only for your (virtual) body, that has to be in a certain way to please them, even when them themselves look just like newbies, let alone showing up naked where you less expect that, but noob-with-a-super-detailed-and-expensive-bit - eventually it's not so awesome on the long run.

Would SL be better with LEGO-like or cartoonish avatars? Maybe. I myself sometimes think of using a tiny avatar etc. It feels more relaxed. Guys expect, judge and wants less from me. On the other hand I feel it like not wearing miniskirts for fear of being raped.


As Persephone pointed out above, "Curvy avatars are in style now, but if you think they're realistic, you haven't looked at them closely."

Some are pushing the limit of the shape of a living human, but still within the realm of the possible. Some are so over the top with the T&A that no human could possible be shaped like that and still walk, sit, or get up after falling over. I can't imagine what virtual sex with an avatar like that must be like.

Robbi Nova

It's not just a certain shape or appearance, it's what the commenter sees is outside their "norm", their comfort zone.
In RL, I'm a body builder. Not one of those huge ones, I have never taken steroids or HGH at any time. I like my femininity. I am a tall woman (5'11") with muscles.
I created an avatar in SL that looks like my RL self. I felt it would make it easier to invest myself in the world and interactions. It's 6'4" in SL measure and well muscled and realistically proportioned.
I get comments all the time from people. The overly curvy ones usually just talk about how unnatural I look. The thin, more Barbie styled ones, call me gross and say muscles are ugly. And then there are the guys that accuse me of trying to be a man or a dyke.
I think it's that people come into SL for a fantasy and if anything steps outside of it, the bravery of anonymity, being behind an avatar, allows them to say things they would never say in RL to someone's face.

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