Wednesday, March 27, 2013

now what I hold are the memories we barely made

A friend tipped me to this mesh piece on the Marketplace; it's attributed by its "creator" (and I use that word very, very loosely) under a "Creative Commons" license.

The problem with that? This is the Witch character from the Left 4 Dead games, in a Santa hat. Even the outfit she's in is directly ripped from the game.

And perusing the rest of his store, I am left with the inescapable conclusion that if there's anything there that hasn't been ripped from a major entertainment or game studio, it's only because it's been ripped from someone else, in world. He's a thief, pure and simple. It's still depressing beyond words that people feel the need to do that for whatever limited gain it gets them.

In other news, a friend of mine came across a 2012 study documenting the amount of virtual exposed skin on avatars in Second Life. What remains most compelling to me is that they excluded nearly all roleplaying sims (more on that later), and excluded all avatars who were over ninety days old.

If you're interested in the breakdown percentages, I highly recommend reading through the study, but I am going to mention the final tabulated results from the captured images (which were captured between 2011 and 2012, respectively). The amount of covered skin, on average, for male humanoid avatars, runs about 71% (with an additional note which indicates that 71% figure relates to a covering of 75% to 100%, excluding head and hands).

Considering that most avatars, from first day in to three months in, are still subsisting on a diet of freebie clothes and shapes, that actually makes sense. Excluding furs (who tend to wear less overall), and most roleplay sims (where more skin might be revealed), that pretty much indicates the standard population of any travel hub.

That female avatars of the same age range do not do the same is expected; but what's interesting (to me, at least), is how that change is demonstrated. There is not one single block of coverage, as is generally seen in the male figures (71% nearly covered, 19% two-thirds covered, 9% half-covered, and a slim 1% nearly naked). Instead, it's split nearly in half--female avatars, on average, waver between exposing up to 74% of their skin (38% of all female avatars observed), to exposing nearly half of their skin (47% of all female avatars observed), and that makes up the bulk of their total percentages. Only 15% remains, with 10% revealing nearly all skin, and a narrow 5% covering up nearly all skin.

We all fall prey to it from time to time, it's just easier in a virtual setting. Women dress how they dress not to impress men, generally, but to feel attractive themselves. Thing is, for most of us, "attractive" defaults to showing cleavage, or long legs; wearing heels instead of more comfortable shoes; wearing makeup instead of just cleaning our face and having done with it.

We do these things not because we necessarily feel they're important, but because we've been socialized to do these things. Our mothers told us how to dress, just as their mothers told them how. Our friends, instructed by their mothers and grandmothers, teach us as we teach them.

Be feminine. Stand up straight. Be coy, shy, inviting. Wear perfume. Wear makeup. Make sure your breath is fresh. Say yes, not no. And throughout all these messages, the one overwhelming one emerges--that women must be pretty at all times, if they hope to "snare a man". It is no surprise, then, that this melange of rules and restrictions seep into the virtual spaces we find ourselves using.

In Second Life, particularly, this is telling--because, while we, ourselves, have choices on the skins we wear, the shapes we wear, the clothing, for the most part we are buying what others have made. Which means we're literally conforming on a basic level to everything we were conditioned to believe before. There are virtually no skins, for child avatars or adult ones, that come without makeup. There are very, very few hairs that don't look like they've had some product, or gel, or mousse, used on them. There are few fashions (that are not specifically designed for roleplay, medieval sims, or neo-Victorian ones) that are not short first, or that don't expose a great deal of cleavage.

So, making these choices, wearing these clothes, wearing these shapes, and eyes, and hair, and adornments--we fall right back into the conditioning patterns. We understand why men dress to wear clothes that do not expose much skin. But most of us don't bother to understand why women dress to expose skin.

(Back to that roleplay sim. The single roleplay sim they did examine was one of the Star Wars roleplay sims, though they do not say which one in the study. There--and there alone--captured images of avatars were compared directly with stills from the Star Wars movies, in particular the "prequel" trilogy, with head and hands excluded from analysis. In this separate observational study, they also excluded furs, but retained their restriction of no one over ninety days old.)

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