I’ve recently started playing with a shorter version of my shape. As you can see from the picture, the skin and hair are the same, just the shape is shorter. It’s not a permanent change – I still consider the taller shape as my “normal” one.
I’ve found peoples’ reaction to be quite intriguing. Guys seem to find the smaller shape quite appealing and “cute” and I get chatted up a lot more. But they also seem to think that I’m younger.
This raises some very interesting questions about perception and attitudes. What has changed here? I’m still the same person in Real Life, my SL profile is still the same, so are my Groups, my Picks, my RL profile and my web link (which actually links to SLProfiles.com and gives a much more full profile, photos, links to this blog, and the like). In short, ample evidence that I am not purporting to be an underage or child avatar when wearing that shape and yet there is a perception that I may be. In fact, a DJ at a club recently took it upon herself to IM me and imply that I was indeed underage and might be banned from the club. This was despite me being a semi-regular there and having had no problems before. I managed to talk to the owner of the club later on and he confirmed that he had no problems with me in that shape and with that profile.
So when did height become the sole indicator of perceived age in Second Life? We already know that SL has a bit of an issue with avatar gigantism so perhaps my smaller shape coming in at 5ft (152cm) tall is short, yet in RL that is the height of singer Kylie Minogue. My RL grandmother was even shorter.
There seems to be an almost pathological fear of any suggestion of youth in SL. People genuinely role-playing children (which I am not, as I have already stated) are viewed with deep suspicion and many places have signs up saying “No Child Avatars” in much the same way as places in 1970’s Britain had a sign saying “No dogs, Blacks or Irish”.
Sure, it makes people uncomfortable and question why anyone would want to present like that but you could equally pose that question about furries, vampires, werewolves, animals, transgender people (whether that be guys in girlsuits, or genuine transgender people expressing their ‘true’ gender), robots, or any number of ways in which a person’s avatar does not match their real life. In fact I suspect that the number of people whose avatar is exactly like their RL self is very small indeed.
It seems incredibly blinkered to assume that peoples’ choice of avatar is solely sexually motivated yet this is the brush that very much tars anyone below a certain height and I think that this is the crux of the matter. With the media screaming that every singleton man is a paedophile, and that the internet is awash with child pornography, and braying crowds wanting to lynch paediatricians (don’t laugh – I really do think that some people are that stupid), it’s probably no wonder that people are fearful of guilt by association.
So, where does this leave my experiment in shortness? I don’t know right now. I’ll continue to investigate, treading carefully in order to avoid any suggestion of wrongdoing as I have invested far too much time and money in this avatar – it’s my 3rd rezzday next month. And perhaps I will report back in a subsequent blog entry on my experiences.