Avatar Sex – the Joy of the Not-Real

Peter F Wardle


The simulation of sex within social virtual worlds such as Second Life, distinct from any accompanying emotional intimacy which may exist between the avatars (via their operators in the actual world), is generally achieved by means of a pre-scripted animation in which two (or more) avatars participate, not unlike if the operators had chosen to have avatars participate in a pre-scripted animation of them dancing together.

Wardle (2015) used the Lacanian terminology of the Symbolic, Imaginary and Real to create a framework to typify the behavior and interaction of avatars; Symbolic avatars who behave in accordance with a pre-defined role, Imaginary avatars which serve as persona masks for the operator and Real avatars in which the complex mutually interactive relationship between operator and avatar leads to the emergence of an autonomous symbiotic unit.

This essay applies this terminology to examine the factors which have led to the simulation of sex becoming such a major element of avatar behavior within social virtual worlds such as Second Life.


Second Life; avatar; sex; gender; Lacan

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4101/jvwr.v11i1.7292

The full website for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research can be found at http://jvwr.net