Men are 3-5 times more likely than women to gender-bend in MMORPGs. The demographic that is most likely to gender-bend are men over the age of 25. We know that 85% of MMORPG players are male, so if you do the math, at any given moment, half of all female avatars are actually being played by men.

There are many compelling explanations for why men gender-bend so much more often than women. The most pragmatic reason is that female avatars are treated better and more likely to receive gifts and help from other players (who are mostly men). In other words, men gain a functional advantage when they gender-bend whereas women lose that advantage. Another pragmatic reason is that in games where third-person perspective is used, men prefer to stare at a female body rather than a male body. This is tied closely to the Laura Croft Syndrome - the appeal of being able to view and, more importantly, control a female body that is sexy but deadly. Feminists have argued that male gender-bending is really just a new way for men to dominate female bodies. In other words, avatars such as Laura Croft are appealing to men because it gives men the satisfaction of dominating a powerful female body.

Players who have tried gender-bending oftentimes talk about how the experience has changed their understanding of gender roles. Men who have tried gender-bending describe the tension between being treated better and being treated as inferior. Many of them feel that female avatars are viewed as weaker and less capable than male avatars. Women who have tried gender-bending often realize how differently men are socialized - that they should never ask for help or show weakness. As one player describes,

I used to think men had it easy! Now I know they have issues too; they are socialized to be more independent and not ask for help. That has to be tough. [f, 37]

External Links:

- Gender Swapping On The Internet by Amy Bruckman


The Daedalus Gateway - The Psychology of MMORPGs

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