Jacki Morie, Nonny de la Pena: “Sexual Harassment, Gender & Gender-swapping in SL”

September 20, 2011 | Oxford, UK

Speaker: Jacki Morie, Nonny de la Pena
Host: A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society

Second Life, as a popular online virtual world, has emerged over the last several years as a fertile ground for researching various aspects of digitally-mediated interpersonal interaction. For example, griefing, a term used to broadly describe how players use functionality within the game to harass or virtually harm others, has been frequently studied. However, few attempts have been made to directly examine if and how online griefing of a sexual nature in virtual worlds overlaps with the concepts and effects of offline sexual harassment. Similarly, gender swapping with avatars has been considered, but how that might affect perceptions on sexual harassment has not been well studied, particularly in virtual spaces. In fact, there has been a relative lack of research on whether females find unwanted sexual encounters more harassing than males in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and specifically in Second Life. Additionally, given that virtual worlds offer a unique opportunity for gender-swapping, the obvious question arises: How do males playing with female avatars feel when faced with similar unwanted sexual encounters?