Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cross Dressing FTW?

You've heard the idea the female toons get better treatment than male ones, right? You know, flutter your eyes and men will give you stuff?

Gender swapped online roleplaying was investigated in a recent article published in Cyberpsychology and Behavior. I ran across it at Shakespeare's Sister, who passed it on from Hoyden.

In short, the study looked at men who play women toons, and women who play men toons, why they did it, and what there experience was. If you read the study you will find, (and not to your great surprise, I'll bet)

  • Women did it to avoid sexual harrassment.

  • Both genders did it out of curiousity, and those switching to male toons discovered that they were treated differently.

One participant said he found that the female character "meant that male gamers treated him far better." One male (age 20) participant said,

If you play a chick and know what the usual nerd wants to read, you will get free items … which in turn I pass them to my other male characters … very simple. NerdBoobLoot.

Another participant, also male, said:

Because if you make your character a woman, men tend to treat you FAR better.

Of course, the women are saying, for example,

Mostly my characters are female, but I think I made my male character because I was tired of creepy guys hitting on my female characters. It's utterly ridiculous, very annoying, and not the reason why I play the game.

But what makes it into the abstract of the article? It says

and it is suggested that the online female persona has a number of positive social attributes in a male-oriented environment.

It doesn't mention the negative social aspects, or the notion that it wasn't just female appearance, but what they authors call "performativity". I think that refers to "If you know what [they] want to read..."

Kind of a disconnect there, don't you think?

Lauredhel, who wrote the post at Hoyden, goes on to say:

This brief, almost voyeuristic gender-swapping by virtual tourists seems to be hooking in to badly erroneous ideas of what it is like to be female online. What it is like to be constantly reminded of your status as a member of the sex class, to be evaluated, to be constantly subjected to covert and overt threats of sexual violence. I wonder how long the “better treatment” assessment would last if subjected to it all. the. time, in every aspect of life?
What happens to women online who don't make themselves sexually available, who don't conform to the patriarchal script? And to some who do, come to that; these experiences aren't constrained to only certain situations, and they aren't caused by women's behaviour. Women get shouted at—"Tits or GTFO!", they get mercilessly harassed, they get stalked, they receive rape and death threats. ...

One of the common responses is to say "put them on /ignore". There's a problem with that, though. Lauredhel, again:

One almost universal response to complaints about online harassment, threats, and simulated assaults? A simplistic, victim-blaming "I don't see the problem—just switch it off and get over it." Reactions to face-to-face harassment complaints and online complaints bear striking similarities. Are they different transgressions? Of course. Should women be forced to make a choice between withdrawing themselves from the online world or tolerating sexual harassment? That's just another way of saying "Tits or GTFO," and I strenuously disagree.

I'm with you on that. And I say that as someone with a longstanding interest in tits. In fact, I've made a thorough study of them. But I never got the idea that I owned them, or that their sole purpose for existence was my viewing enjoyment.

I'd like to consider the contempt of the one male respondent for the "typical nerd". I can't help it, I identify with nerds, I was one once. Ok, maybe that was 2500 of my 3000 years ago, but I was.

What the respondent did was play a female toon for phat giveaway l00t. I'll bet he initiated interactions with male toons, injected sexual overtones into the interaction , and begged for loot. Then he turns around and pours contempt on women AND the men (who he calls nerds) he's conned out of stuff. Just exactly who is deserving of contempt here? This is projection at its finest: "That's what I'd do if I had boobs, so obviously that's what women, the true owners of boobs do all the time."

This is what we call narcissism. The inappropriate behavior here is

  • Unsolicited and unwelcome sexual advances

  • Perpetrating a confidence game designed to shake loose in-game wealth.

  • Begging for generic wealth, which has no place in an online game.

A couple of times I've run into this in-game. A female toon, unknown to me, will start talking to me and playing up to me. My reaction at the time was more or less, "WTF?" Because that stuff just doesn't happen to me.

So here's a word of advice to all nerds. If a complete stranger starts flirting with you heavily, the probability is very high that YOU ARE BEING PLAYED, probably by a cross dresser. It isn't your good looks, because in game, EVERYONE looks that good. And it isn't your charm, because THEY HAVEN'T met you. (My apologies for the shouting, but I'm trying to be heard above the hormones.)

If you really want to see a female toon dance, just make one and make a macro that alternates between /flirt, /dance, and /shimmy. It'll be a lot cheaper.

If you're interested, here's the original post, and some further discussion.

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