How pixels stir passion

One single post definitely can’t do this topic justice, but I did wrestle down a few thoughts as far as what sets the sparks to flying in a virtual world where users regularly partake in 3-D simulated sex via their avatars.

Human connection is a biggie, I think. More specifically, it’s ultimately the bonds that are formed with the people behind the avatars that provide the emotional fodder which fans the flames of impassioned cybersex.

But I don’t think that’s the only reason, considering the fact that there’s also a good degree of wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am going on in virtual environments like Second Life. These types of romps likely have no real emotional basis, but are primarily lust-driven. Maybe the chief aphrodisiac in these instances is the feelings of liberation from the guilt, worry and precautions that could put a damper on things in the physical world.

I mean, in meatspace (aka the physical world), one might have thoughts like, Oh boy, would I be a slut or burn in hell for all eternity if I just jumped into the sack with this person without even getting to know him/her first? Or: I’d love to have anal sex with that hottie, but what if I get HIV/AIDS? So yeah, surrogate fornication via avatar can help people relax a little and enjoy the more spontaneous side of sensuality, rubbing an itch that might go largely unscratched in the physical world.

But regardless of whether they’re shallow one-night stands or encounters inspired by deeper feelings, what is it that hooks us in from the outset? For me personally, a variety of factors come into play, including behavior, as portrayed through means such as avatar body language.

Indeed, I believe there is such a thing — it’s just a somewhat different phenomenon than it is in the physical world (and not all users inside virtual spaces know how to employ it effectively, if at all.)

For example, what type of animations is your digitally rendered love interest using while you‘re trying to chat it up? Are they scripted movements that depict cockiness or impatience? Modesty? Even if no animations are being used, is the avatar expressing restlessness by fidgeting, suggesting a lack of genuine interest?

I also try to get a take on the user’s personality (and intelligence) as it is conveyed through text chat. In addition, I place a lot of emphasis on uniqueness and unconventionality.

And of course, looks are part of my criteria, as well. And as far as males go, I find that I am generally repulsed and/or bored by the shirtless, jewelry-wearing, tattoo-laden types who seem like hyperrealistc hybrids of Fabio (the fashion model.) Simply put, male alter egos spun from the mold of a Ken doll just don’t do it for me. OK?

With women, however, I am much more forgiving, as I do not easily dismiss the ones who emulate Barbie dolls, which is interesting, because this also reflects my standards in the physical world, where I am much more picky and demanding about men as far as what I consider enticing. (Background info: I am bisexual.)

I managed to obtain some opinions on this topic from a few Second Life inhabitants, although I would have liked to have solicited more. Uniqueness seemed to rank high on the scale with which they weighed the appeal of avatars. At any rate, here’s what they had to say:

* Jolie Grant:
“Personally I’m not sexually attracted to SL avatars, nor am I interested in finding an online relationship since I have a committed one in real life. However, I can appreciate an attractive avatar based on good design - well made skin, carefully adjusted body shape, well fitting pretty hair, nice clothes, etc. It’s just that a pretty-looking avatar doesn’t turn me on. I’m also not the kind of person to be turned on by porn or yiff art as they call it in the furry fandom, I prefer the real thing. As far as being drawn to people in SL as potential friends, it’s all about behavior and having common interests.”

* Kara Timtam:
“The most intriguing avatar I have seen lately was a chimpanzee in a tutu, carrying and stroking a small pink pig. Evidence of intelligent whimsy at work! This got my interest faster than conventional prettiness of any gender. I don’t seem to be in the majority of this way of thought, more’s the pity. I alternate between two major avatars, a tall stacked blond ‘Supergirl’ and a short brunette, as much like my RL person as possible … Tall Blond gets MUCH more attention from shopkeepers and folks on the street, not just inside of clubs and such meet markets. Our looks-ist society at work.”

* Solaire Epsilon:
“I have one avatar, a unicorn woman that I created myself out of other avatars, that consistently gets notice. It’s very flattering that somehow I hit on something that seems to resonate with people erotically.

So, that said, here’s what I think does it:

Striking appearance (unique avatar) Something visually different from anything they’ve seen before. Steal from the best and then make it better. For me, it was taking off-the-shelf parts and fixing the problems. I created a color scheme for my unicorn (rich purple) that was accented by each of her elements, from her mane to her tail tuft and her costume.

Tall - My unicorn woman is very big, with Amazon-like proportions and aspects. Yes, big breasts, strong shoulders, generous hips. Not huge - only slightly taller than most characters, but built like Fort Knox. Go for a visual style that catches the eye in a good way.

The costume really makes it or breaks it here too. The costume you wear needs to have the right curves and shades built in to make your proportions work for you, make you stand out in a crowd.

Even then, it helps to be sharp and aware when you talk. Believe it or not, guys like women who are smarter than they are when the woman is also very nice and warm to chat with. Don’t be challenging or arrogant, be witty and charming. Laugh at their jokes and if they’re bad ones, make better ones yourself.

Anyway - to specify, yes, I’m a male, but I know what I like, and I don’t mind playing as her on SL.”

* Chris Senior:
“I do the cybersex thing in SL with a very lovely avatar. She’s my RL fiancé. I’m the one who convinced her to give Second Life a try. You’re probably wondering why we’re cybering instead of doing it in RL. Well, we can’t do it in RL very often. She lives in China while I live in Missouri. I’ve been there to meet her in person and we did have real sex. But until either my next trip to China or her visa is approved, SL is the next best thing. I helped her design her avatar. She’s drop dead gorgeous. I consider her av a monument to the RL woman who sits behind the keyboard, even though she thinks of herself as rather ordinary.”

* Vincent Doctorow (who commented in this post):
“I think… visually speaking, what turns us (or just me? ^_^) on about an avatar is the perfect ratio of real life beauty standards mixed with scandalousness not permissible in reality. Any glance in most places in SL tells you that the standards for bodily beauty that exist IRL are sustained for the most part in SL: large breasts, hour glass shape, long eyelashes, full lips for women, angular faces, muscular torsos for men (being a guy I guess I can say for more women standards XD). But what’s appealing about SL, and therefore about an avatar, is you can dress up this avatar in sexual, sensuous ways usually not possible IRL except in the most private of circumstances. A naked body with only ribbons and leather straps covering the private parts… in SL, you can go almost anywhere in that kind of clothing. I think a lot of people find that sexy.”


  1. Comment by Kelly on July 9, 2006 10:45 pm

    Personality and humor are still number one for me in a virtual world or offline. I appreciate a conventionally good-looking av in SL much the same way I do in the real world: pretty to look at but of no consequence when it comes to sex. In real life I’d take a Steve Buscemi over a Brad Pitt any day, and online I’m also looking for character and uniqueness over traditional looks. You could even say I have a bias against traditionally hot men. I’m not interested in females sexually in RL but am a hugely into femme males and love women’s styles and adornments on anything that moves ;p

    Along those lines I would not be turned on thinking I had an online partner who was a female playing a male character but I would be able to develop attraction to a female (or non-human) av if I believed there was a RL male behind the av. That’s just what attracts me though, and I am comfortable with the reality that you never really know who is on the other end of an avatar-based fling. The “otherness” of male sexuality is very hot for me and it would be slightly ruined if I felt I was playing with another girl (sameness is a bit boring and lacks that mystique for me). So, real life me is pretty similar to online me in terms of sexuality.

    There are definitely people who like more adventurous role-playing (acting out alt sexuality to their RL preferences, such as a hetero male playing a hetero female, etc.), but I tend to want to express my real self through my avatar.

    Also, I must just be lazy, but I’ve yet to find any suitable way to use body language in SL. The interface is just too awkward for me and I rely almost completely on text. My av is quite secondary, if useful only as a bookmark in the world, like a “you are here” spot marked on a map. The default fidgeting/idle movements make everyone’s avs look restless/bored and the only counter is to “pose” which of course makes me feel fake/dorky as hell (hate the pose-based action system). I want to move, and emote, and react, not gesture and pose. But I guess that all requires more flexibility in the UI than SL currently offers. I’m sure they’ll open the UI to modifications sometime and then a better system for av control will emerge. If they stay in business long enough :)

  2. Comment by Noche on July 11, 2006 12:34 pm

    The default fidgeting/idle movements make everyone’s avs look restless/bored…

    True. But some avs (via users) also preoccupy themselves with clicking on objects, turning their bodies to look around, moving back and forth and so on.

    …and the only counter is to “pose” which of course makes me feel fake/dorky as hell (hate the pose-based action system).

    I tend to like to use the poses because they are still more expressive and unique, not to mention a lot more suave than the default movements. I also like using visual strategy when I domme or during virtual seduction. Especially for first impressions, I feel image and avatar body language are huge. It makes for more tempting bait, and it helps make encounters that much more memorable.

    On a related note, Morton Heilig, widely regarded as the father of virtual reality (he invented Sensorama in the early 1960s), held that each of the five senses engrossed individuals according to the following ratios: sight 70 percent, hearing 20 percent, smell 5 percent, touch 4 percent, taste 1 percent.

    …and I rely almost completely on text. My av is quite secondary…

    I think I’m about 60-40, or maybe 70-30 in certain instances, with the stronger leaning toward text.

    I want to move, and emote, and react, not gesture and pose. But I guess that all requires more flexibility in the UI than SL currently offers. I’m sure they’ll open the UI to modifications sometime and then a better system for av control will emerge.

    I hope so!

    I’m not interested in females sexually in RL but am hugely into femme males…”

    * Heart skips beat. *

  3. Comment by Paril Bowie on July 12, 2006 8:13 am

    Like Kelly said, I also have the desire to express my real self through my avatar - however being Transgendered in RL adds a interesting aspect to my SL interaction.

    Though I am a birth male, I do often present myself as female in the real world, and the majority of the time as a somewhat girly boy. In SL, I present myself as a female. I have tried to model my avatar on myself, with a little artistic license here and there. But the end result is relatively normal….most of the time.

    As you can imagine, Life (whether first or second) can get pretty confusing. But in both, I am always attracted to whats between the ears…not whats between the legs. Really, it doesn’t matter the slightest who the other person is; but how they are is the key for my door.

  4. Comment by Noche on July 14, 2006 8:19 pm

    Paril: Yeah, I know what you mean about the avatar customization. My results have been pretty crappy so far in terms of creating a more hermaphroditic appearance. But I’m buying a virtual penis soon. That should help somewhat. :D

  5. Comment by Tess on July 18, 2006 5:16 pm

    I seem to have slipped into two avatars with a total of three “personality types”.
    The main avatar is like the RL me only more so. This one has two personality types, one submissive and one dominant.
    I am not naturally very dominant but if there are a bunch of submissives around and no dominants show up eventually I will “go Dom”. I have several outfits for this. One is a black velvet outfit with lots of diamond bling, a blond up-do and a long cigarette holder. The others are a classic equestrian, a leather clad dominatrix and a nurse.
    My “sub” outfits run from Catholic School Girl to French Maid to Ponygirl. The other avatar I have been having a lot of fun with lately is a Succubus I put together from a bunch of odd bits and pieces. Black “ram” style horns and demonic tail, blood red leathery wings and red eyes. Very pale, almost white skin and blood red hair.
    What I am getting at with all this is that one of the things about SL that really turns me on is a well crafted “sexy” avatar. And I often find that behind a well crafted avatar is an interesting, sexy person.


  6. Comment by Solaire on August 9, 2006 4:32 pm

    Hi Noche, I love the site. I’m on SL a lot more frequently lately, so I’ll try to look you up there sometime to meet so you can see my avatar and see if you think it’s sexy yourself :) This is Solaire Epsilon.

    Say hi sometime!

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