Second Life allows us the choice to present ourselves as a gender different from our own, and while this may not tell us what it’s really like to be the opposite sex, it does make for some thought provoking experiences.
When I was new to SL I created a digital representation of my actual self. Yes, it was an idealized version, but still quite a bit like the real life me. I’m content to be “myself” in the virtual world, but I have made other avatars for practical reasons.
The first time I logged in as something other than myself was when I made Rotten Spitteler. Some of you may remember him. He camped for lindens and rarely spoke, but on the rare occasions he did open his mouth he only used futuristic slang. For a joke, I made Rotten look like a villain, so he wasn’t a typical avatar.
Though Rotten rarely spoke, he received some extreme reactions, and how he was treated usually boiled down to what gender he was dealing with. Female avatars seemed ok with him, but males usually wanted to kill him. “Whenever I look at him, I just wish he’d have a heart attack,” a friend of mine once said – and they knew full well it was me! Another time, without provocation, a sim owner chucked Rotten into ban-line abyss. He then IM’d to tell why, the gist of which was “We don’t want your kind ’round here!”
I know this hostility had less to do with Rotten being male and more to do with his villainous looks and name, but it’s interesting how women had a much different reaction to him. My experiences are not a reflection of how regular men in SL get treated, but it does show differences in how people can react based on what we look like.
By current standards Rotten was ugly. Even back then he was mediocre at best; and yet he attracted “female” avatars. In fact, they propositioned him in shocking ways even though he did not really speak. I was truly surprised at how forward women in SL could be because I did not experience this behavior from men when I logged in as myself. I do believe if the tables were turned and men behaved as some of these women did, they’d be accused of sexual harassment.
I just used Rotten for camping back then, so my experiences as an SL male are limited. I will say I’m glad to be a female though and that as a woman I’m treated nicer.
These days Rotten Spitteler no longer dresses like a bad guy. I upgraded his appearance so that he could model suits for the Subculture clothing store. Yes, that’s him there in the picture! Apart from that I never log him in, but I do have his pixels to thank for showing me another side to SL.