Posted in General, Opinion, Second Life

Child Avatars – does a rose of shorter height smell as sweet?

Seeing double, originally uploaded by Becca Ashbourne.

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 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.

5 thoughts on “Child Avatars – does a rose of shorter height smell as sweet?

  1. “In fact I suspect that the number of people whose avatar is exactly like their RL self is very small indeed.”

    I believe I would fall into that small sliver. My avatar looks very much like my real life self, and I base any modifications I do to the shape on my own photo (shown in my profile).

    When it comes to height, people within the virtual space of SecondLife are basing their “normal” height on the default height which is around 7 foot tall. In this conditioning, 7 foot tall has mentally taken the place of 5 – 6 foot as the average, and anyone under the 7 foot tall size is considered a bit abnormal and “very short”.

    I proved this to somebody awhile back, when they told me my avatar looked like a teenager compared to all of the “normal” sized avatars, and I calmly replied “No, my avatar is actually average height – 5′ 11″ while your avatar is actually over sized around 7′. You might want to look into that, it could be a pituitary problem.”

    They of course laughed, but when I brought out the scripted Height Detector, and checked my height in front of them, they were surprised. Especially when they checked their own height on the detector.

    What makes it funnier (and more surprising) is that in real life, I’m actually only 5′ 6″. The reason I chose to give my avatar a few extra inches in height was to find a better balance between the “normalcy” of 7′ giants which roam SecondLife and a middle ground height while still representing that I am a real life average height.

    Concerning the inner fear of “child” avatars in SecondLife, I can somewhat understand the mentality. Child avatars have consistently been associated with nefarious and sexual acts on the grid, and while this is the most common thing people think of when they see a child avatar on the grid (or teenage), we must consider also that this is merely conditioning.

    Being in a child avatar or teenage avatar does not automatically mean that there are nefarious things going on. A few of my friends have child avatars and wear them (not all the time) but when I encounter a child avatar or teenage avatar, I first consider the context of intent before I make any conclusions.

    Being “average” height based on RL standards in SL gives the impression you are much younger because compared to the “average” height of SL, you look like a child dwarfed by their 7′ pituitary monstrosities. However, over the past number of years, I have been noticing a subtle shift toward realistically based heights in SL… as well as realistic proportions of the body.

    To me, a child avatar is about 3-4 foot tall. But even then… what if the person is representing themselves realistically? What if they have dwarfism in real life and really *are* 4 foot tall?

    I think the conditioning is what is throwing people for a loop… and you’re right… it’s probably fear stemming from guilt by association.

  2. I understand your motivation in wanting to be realistic sized but having seen you at Lars, you certainly appear to be more child-like than adult. If you were wearing an outfit as in the above picture, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed you. However, the overly young looking outfit and AO to match, does make one wonder what your real motivation might be….Just my observations.

    1. Funnily enough, the shape I was wearing was a copy of my normal one that is simply 6″ shorter, and the outfit I was wearing was this one [link] which is just a simple autumn dress. I think you have proved the point of my entry and your interpretation of it being child-like says more about your preconceptions than it does about my motivations.

      1. As I said, what you were wearing AND your AO made you appear not just small but young. I asked several other people there and got the same response. They thought your av was a bit too close to the line. Being that Lars is an area for “older men/younger women”, it seems to me as if you were just testing the boundary between what is allowed and what isn’t. Again, this is your right but don’t be surprised when people take your appearance the wrong way. In another setting, your av would be quite acceptable. At Lars, questionable.

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