Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Gender Blogs: XII. Virtual Sexual Orientation

Written 2 September, 2008

The Gender Blogs

XII. Virtual Sexual Orientation

So, what do you call it when avies of opposite virtual sex hook up. Heterosexual? Homosexual? Or something else entirely?

When one sees a sexually stereotyped male-female couple in Second Life—he muscular and masculine, she curvy and feminine—it’s heterosexual on its face, but there’s a great deal of subtext. Is the male avie’s typist really male? Is the female avie’s typist really female?

If in fact the male avie’s typist is male and the female avie’s typist is female, the virtual couple is heterosexual and the real-life couple is heterosexual. Hooray! Gender norms go unchallenged and repressed Republicans everywhere can sleep comfortably in their double beds.

But when both typists are of the same real life sex, it all goes gender-wonky.

Let’s suppose both typists are male. Is what they’re doing in any way gay? Think about it: one guy in Minneapolis and another in Milan, sitting at their keyboards in their skivvies, making sex talk and sporting hards-on.

But the answer, I’m convinced, is no. I would argue that while it’s not exactly heterosexual, it’s in no way homosexual.

And why? Because, I would argue, it’s a new type of human sexual experience and doesn’t fit comfortably into our existing infrastructure. It’s difficult to categorize the relationship in the heterosexual-homosexual binary because neither term adequately classifies it.

If we don’t look behind the mirror into real life, the pairing is heterosexual in nature. If we’re in the real world and can’t see through the mirror to the virtual realm, it’s a homosexual pairing, the Minneapolis-Milan thing.

In truth, the relationship is both heterosexual and homosexual, and so it’s neither.

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