Beautiful – part one

by Pixeleen Mistral on 05/05/07 at 1:18 pm

by aurel Miles
Aurel_miles_2In the Round World we have a hundred different sayings about beauty – what it means; “Truth is beauty and beauty is truth” – what it is; “Beauty is only skin deep” How it behaves, “Beauty is as Beauty does” and where to find it; “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

We think about it, sigh after it, try to nurture it and go to increasingly elaborate lengths to restore it once we think it’s lost. If we have it, sometimes we hate it and if we don’t, sometimes we tell ourselves it doesn’t matter. You can’t just a book by its cover after all. And actions… well, you get the idea.

But unlike the round world, here in flatland, the world of thoughts made flesh; those sayings are even more hollow than they sound. In Second Life you are exactly what you think you are.

This week I’m writing about beauty as a visual part of Second Life sex, next week we’ll drop a little deeper down the rabbit hole and talk about the Beauty Sims but it’s the job of a reporter to begin every story where it starts. Since I’m a relative beginner, please be patient as we start at the relative beginning.

As a result of the Post Sixxx Grrl spread, I attracted a few admirers last week. One felt compelled to send me a gift of a photo shoot with an in-world photographer. Once I had confirmed I would have control over the final product, I jumped in. (In keeping with the all-yes-all-the-time philosophy, there really was no other answer.)

A few days before the shoot I explored the photographer’s studio. On the walls there was the usual assortment of triple-exposure cheesecake shots with female avatars posed to look both coy and alluring. The names of the avatars were written in a highly decorative font at the bottom of some of the portraits. Others showed couples caught in the midst of perfectly posed and perfectly presentable sex, no odd angles, no explicit poses. It was a world of soft-core, marshmallow sexuality, after the first few shots, they all looked the same.

Undeterred, I arrived at the studio with my eight required outfits at the ready. The “photographer’s first question was about my skin, where did I get it? What had I done to it? Now, I’m not much for details, once something is mine, I hardly give it a second thought and it may be strange but, unless there is a practical purpose for the inquiry, I’m offended by explicit questions about the brand names of things like my skin because it’s all part of how I put me together. It’s not there for someone to look at in isolation, much less pick apart.

Suffice it to say, the shoot did not go well. I failed to see how this exercise could be considered art and the photographer could not get beyond my indifference. In the end we ended up with half the pictures my admirer had hoped for. And none of them, in my opinion, worth looking at.

Since then I’ve been thinking about Beauty. Most avatars here would be drop-dead gorgeous in the round world. Most don’t look much like their “typists.” I have met two people here who have gone to elaborate lengths to make their avatars resemble their RL selves, both are men.

Still, many of us feel more comfortable in bodies that more closely resemble our own. I was surprised to find out a few things about myself here and maybe you were too – my figure does not suit the ideal, dresses are all but impossible for me here but a “dress shape”? No thanks. It just doesn’t feel like me. That’s lesson has been a gift. I no longer apologize for the junk in my trunk because on some level I know I prefer it that way.

For an equal number of SL residents however, the further away from reality the better: take, for example, the Furry community, or many of the artists here, some of whom go around hardly looking human at all. There are demons and aliens and even avatars that look seriously wounded. Everybody has a statement to make.

Last week I met a woman who wears an avatar that looks like a giant spider with a woman’s torso attached. Frankly, she scared me but after we spoke she seemed like a really nice person. She likes to photograph herself, is afraid of spiders and – perhaps not surprisingly, says she’s a SL virgin.

A friend of mine has a very quick and effective way of answering potential lover’s questions of “why do my looks matter?” She has an avatar that dissolves her statuesque beauty into a wizened 100 year old hag with long dangling appendages, a massive pot belly, slumped shoulders and too much lipstick. Anyone who wants to have sex with her immediately gets the point.

This is a visual medium. To a certain extent so is the round world. We wear the clothes we think will best enhance our looks in both worlds. Some of us put on weight or slim down because we see it as a deeper reflection of who we are inside, some of us tell ourselves it’s all accidental. The difference between the RW and Flatland is simple; in SL it is immediately possible to be whatever you feel.

Some of you have written comments asking why I would want to know your opinions on the subject of sex. To answer your question; I’m not looking for guest columnists and I don’t want anyone to write my column for me. I like this job but I am interested in hearing your opinions and your questions on the subject of SL sex and intimacy. I’ll take them as assignments and search out the answers. Together, we can all make this virtual world more interesting and hopefully more fun.

A little bit of knowledge, as they say, is a dangerous thing but danger has always been part of the spice that makes sexuality so interesting in any reality.

Thanks for your comments. This week, I received only one letter:

Hi Curvy Girl,
Do you know the name of some place where I can have sex on SL??
I just find romantic places there, where I can just kiss…
Thank you
- er.

Dear er,
Do you know where to find your zipper?
Thanks for playing. Go back to the Kid-grid.

- C.G.

Letter-wise, I think we can do better.
See you next time

If you have any questions comments, ideas, complaints, suggestions or stories you’d like to see, please email me at

14 Responses to “Beautiful – part one”

  1. NigrasOnMyLawn

    May 5th, 2007

    Fuck this shit, you guys got to do an article on the Justice League, or whats left of them after the raep amirite?

  2. Artemis Fate

    May 5th, 2007

    I believe it sort of shows the advertising indoctrination of the country, we often resemble what we see in advertisements, fake beauty based on fake beauty. Another interesting thing on this subject is that I sometimes “smoke” in second life, because essentially I think it looks cool, but in real life I hate smoking. So why would I think it looks cool, the same reason why I think the unrealistic thin beauty looks good, because 22 years of being told in advertisements and movies “this is good, this is cool, this is pretty”, but I wonder, even though that this is a calculated media tactic, that if it isn’t still a part of who a person’s nurture is.

  3. Angel

    May 5th, 2007

    OK, Smoking in SL, of all the weirdness and possibilities in the grid this is the one that has me stumped.

  4. Jennifer McLuhan

    May 5th, 2007

    Women are often judged by our RL society according to our looks. If we are too beautiful we are bimbos who have gotten where we are by our looks, or worse. If we aren’t considered attractive, we can lose promotions because of it or get passed over in pay raises. Is it any wonder that women want our SL looks to meet what we think of as the ideal?

    Then there are the men typists who play women. I understand that many men want a beautiful avatar just so they can look at themselves. For them, I guess it is the ultimate in girlie magazines?

    BTW – I thought it was an interesting and thoughtful article.

  5. Flack Quartermass

    May 5th, 2007

    I smoke in SL, and I smoke in RL. I tend to smoke a (tobacco) pipe more than a cigar IRL, but I see it as yet another subtle visual reflection of me that I convey to others.

    Not everyone is out to be ‘different’ or ‘cooler’ than RL. Some of us are content with a visual similarity to augment our textual (and soon to be vocal) personality expression in SL.

  6. marilyn murphy

    May 5th, 2007

    im with artemis. some cultures do not define thin as beautiful. all sorts of cultural variations exist defining beauty. i am quite sure my preferences and my definition for beauty has been defined by my culture, led by madison avenue and hollywood.
    ahem, don’t bring up the unrealistic angle. for goodness sake we create avatars.
    secondly, so what? so my definition of beauty was coined by my culture and what i saw as i grew up. the same is true of the ancient greeks or romans or parthagenians or u name it. we all are a result of our culture and upbringing.

  7. Prokofy Neva

    May 5th, 2007

    I find the expression “in the round world” to be awfully cloying and cuteside. SL isn’t flat, and is round, too.

  8. OneBigRiver Stork

    May 5th, 2007

    Actually, I am male. I have a female avatar mainly for the purposes of shopping. I spend a lot of time shopping for my “normal” male/victorian avatar, and it gets really depressing really quickly. Some times it is nice to have a “doll” that is easy and fun to dress up!

    It may sound strange, but I’ve never actually seen my female avie naked. Maybe I have a few loose toys in my attic. :)

  9. Dave Powell ("Times Sands" in SL)

    May 7th, 2007

    Smoking is just one of the RL things for which I don’t understand the attraction in SL. Eating and drinking are others, as (I’m ashamed to say) is virtual sex.

    But we all have priorities there. For me, it’s exploring; finding mysterious, wonderful places (even if they are gorgeously romantic); and (eventually) building things and doing business. But a virtual shag on virtual shag (or a pixelated martini) just doesn’t make much sense to me (especially if it costs).

    But I do have a followup question for Marilyn Murphy, who posted above. How do you know that SL (like the Earth) is round? The fact that one can see a curved horizon, when one is “at altitude” doesn’t necessarily make it so! Technically, in a round (spherical) world, one would be able to fly straight along a fixed latitude or longitude bearing, and return to one’s starting point without ever turning back.

    And if this is really the case in SL, then I’d love to know how far one has to travel to return? And even if one could, it still wouldn’t mean that the “SL Universe” is itself round. It could (for example) be negatively curved, and would then be a torus. In that case, you could still fly in one direction, and return to the place from which you started…but only after traveling in either of two directions: parallel or perpendicular to the torus’s equator.

    This may sound like an impractical issue, but it isn’t. It’s precisely related to how Linden Labs defines the “topology” of SL in its server network. If they actually permit one to (say) fly off SL’s Eastern boundary and immediately find oneself flying back into SL across its Western boundary…and if the same applies to the North and South boundaries, then their world is probably toroidal. But I haven’t seen this happen; when I try to “cross the boundaries,” I just run into gray walls.

    Has anyone seen the other side of these walls? And if not, where’s a virtual Einstein when we need one?

  10. HoJo Kilda

    May 9th, 2007

    Live and let live I say. Indeed our perceptions of beauty are shaped by our culture, but like Marilyn said, “so what” indeed. I based my avatar, partially on a RL woman who I think looks beautiful and partially on myself in some regards. I’m not stick thin and I’m not fat, I’m perfect in my eyes and that’s what this fantasy world is for to me, to be exactly what I want to be. Sometimes that means being a wind up doll, a robot, a demoness, an alien… whatever. That’s the beauty of SL to me. I can hang out and have a conversation with someone who is half spider! I love it!

    In fact I tend to be drawn to people with interesting looking avatars in that regard and certainly not to people who are Hollywood’s vision of beauty. My girlfriend for instance is rather short and very shapely. Actually shape and size is of little difference to me, it’s a person’s expression of style that catches my eye. For instance, I found myself striking up a conversation with an older, rather portly looking human male avatar the other day because I enjoyed his rather interesting style of dress (very 1950′s Hawaiian/lounge style).

    Anyway, feh. I don’t think too deeply about all this stuff and I’m always happy to tell people where I get my skins, hair or anything else. Just a question? What did you expect from the photo shoot? I’m curious. The only time I’ve had a professional shoots done in SL, it has been with friends of mine, so it was done pretty tongue in cheek and I enjoyed the experience.

  11. Moody Loner (MoodyLoner Korobase)

    May 9th, 2007

    Huh. I just had a photo shoot and it couldn’t have been more different.

    Admittedly, the photographer’s a friend of mine. Admittedly, it was for a club that some other friends of mine are starting. Admittedly, I’ve had my “what the hell am I doing?” crisis and my family and SL and RL friends have all pounded through my thick skull that I shouldn’t waste my body-modesty or concern on a video-game avatar.

    I found it relaxing – I didn’t have to do much, the photographer just posed me however and pinged me for costume changes. I read a book, got caught up on my surfing and webcomics, and that was it.

    As far as how my avatar looks – about as far away from me as possible, mostly due to gifts from my SL friends. I kind of thought that was the point.

  12. yvette tzara

    May 11th, 2007

    The sl world is all about self expression. And there are many valid ways of doing so. The only ugliness I have encountered in Sl is viewing those who do not engage in discovery and who achieve a status quo. This is the place to put in all of the chips.

    We are cyber pioneers. Relish every moment. Legends are being made.

  13. HoJo Kilda

    May 12th, 2007

    *smiles* Here’s to that Yvette. Very well said.

  14. Apap w codeine elx.

    Jun 29th, 2009

    Brain and codeine.

    Codeine source of. Codeine. Side effects of codeine.

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