Virtual women reveal more skin, regardless of body proportions

Dec 26, 2012

In the virtual world of Second Life, female avatars expose substantially more skin than males, independent of their virtual body proportions, according to research published December 26 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Matthieu Guitton and colleagues from Laval University, Canada.

The human tendency to cover up stems from climatic, environmental, physical and cultural constraints, so measuring people's propensity to reveal skin can be difficult in the real world. To study human behavior free of at least some of these constraints, the researchers analyzed how male and female avatars in the virtual, 3- dimensional world of Second Life dressed. offers users options to choose the gender, appearance and attire of their virtual avatars, and users can select clothing from several items created in this virtual world, rather than being restricted to a predefined costume.

They found that out of over 400 virtual people studied, 71% of male avatars covered between 75-100% of their skin, while only 5% of females did. In contrast, 47% of the virtual females they studied covered between 25-49% of their skin, compared to 9% of males. The amount of skin covered was independent of traditional gender-specific measures of for virtual avatars, such as waist-chest ratios for females. According to the study, "These findings have implications for understanding how sex specific aspects of skin disclosure influence human social interactions in both virtual and real settings."

Guitton adds, "Virtual settings provide a unique tool to study human behavior unhindered by physical and environmental constraints.This tool enabled us to find a dramatic gender difference in the propensity to disclose naked skin."

Explore further: The nostalgia effect: Do consumers spend more when thinking about the past?

More information: Lomanowska AM, Guitton MJ (2012) Virtually Naked: Virtual Environment Reveals Sex-Dependent Nature of Skin Disclosure. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51921.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051921

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User comments : 11

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jscroft
2 / 5 (18) Dec 26, 2012
I'd love to know what this earth-shattering result cost the average Canadian taxpayer.
sirchick
4.4 / 5 (7) Dec 26, 2012
We assume all female avatars are in use by female players... I doubt this is 100% the case.

But my only guess is women that don't feel sexy in real life do it to feel sexy in their virtual life??? I find this SL a strange hobby some people considered it a real second life to their main first one... to me its just a interactive chat site.

I've never considered SL an accurate way to study people's behaviour.
GrizzlySol
4.5 / 5 (8) Dec 26, 2012
I'd love to know what this earth-shattering result cost the average Canadian taxpayer.


Ever heard of privately funded research?
its crazy i know but... it actually happens all the time.
ValeriaT
3.7 / 5 (9) Dec 27, 2012
We assume all female avatars are in use by female players... I doubt this is 100% the case
Even if we admit, many female avatars are in use by males, this finding reveals, it's just women, who exert the pressure for public nudity, not "sexist" and "dirty" men. This research has lead into similar conclusion: even the little girls prefer the nudity in social competition spontaneously.
kochevnik
4 / 5 (12) Dec 27, 2012
The deal is that in person women draw attention to themselves and become accustomed to this advantage. On Internet prospect of sex is absent so women are compelled to restore the attentive advantage they naturally have real situations by whatever means available.
Husky
2.8 / 5 (5) Dec 27, 2012
kochevnik, agreed and may i add that it is less risky for women to reveal skin on SL then on the street, the worst can happen is your virtual character get raped, akin to the many male keyboard warriors that run a big insulting mouth on the internet.
Sinister1811
1 / 5 (4) Dec 27, 2012
How ironic that there's an advertisement for IMVU (another virtual reality thing) on the side of the article. There are plenty of half dressed female avatars on there too.
sirchick
5 / 5 (5) Dec 27, 2012
How ironic that there's an advertisement for IMVU (another virtual reality thing) on the side of the article. There are plenty of half dressed female avatars on there too.


Thats not ironic thats how adverts work.. based on keywords in articles. But i imagine its the same on IMVU as SL.
antonima
not rated yet Dec 29, 2012
I'm surprised the study doesn't mention any statistics on real world skin cover, I'm sure the trend is similar.
cyberCMDR
not rated yet Dec 29, 2012
Clothing for women is not the same thing as it is for men. They usually must cover up more of their bodies (men don't worry about going topless), and in many societies must cover up completely. Avatars allow them to choose their own limits on coverage, and if "proper" clothing is felt to be imposed on them in real life, they can ignore those taboos in SL.
sirchick
5 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2012
Clothing for women is not the same thing as it is for men. They usually must cover up more of their bodies (men don't worry about going topless), and in many societies must cover up completely. Avatars allow them to choose their own limits on coverage, and if "proper" clothing is felt to be imposed on them in real life, they can ignore those taboos in SL.


If you go to nightclubs in UK even middle of winter women are out in barely anything, how they don't end up with hypothermia needs another study in itself :P