“Nice butt,” the DPS comments on seeing that one of the raid is a chick. “You can lay your hands on me any day,” the tank states to the woman healer. “I’ll happily follow YOU around. Rowr,” is what the female character hears when she tells others to follow her.

“…FYI I’m a dude RL.”

“…”

Dat ears… (all rights and ❤ to PA)

To anyone aware of the rules of the internet, female characters can and often are played by males real life. Less known, but still surprisingly common are females playing as men. This practice (for either sex) is known as gender-bending and it happens way more than you may realize.

Why, though? The concept is a fascinating one, with deep sociological implications, and academic studies have actually been done to explore the thought process behind it. Most simply, many players state that they’d prefer to watch a female toon versus a male one, if they are going to be playing the character for hours on end. However, in MUDs there aren’t graphics display for your character – and gender-bending still happens a lot. What other reasons are there, then?

– Treatment: many people state that they get treated better by others if they are a female. Whether that is being helped out with getting equipment, bashing up those levels, or being “protected” from PK, studies show that there appears to be a distinct bias to helping out small female characters over helping out newbie males.

– Expected repayment: On the flip side of this extra attention, many female characters have reported that they see expectations for the help they receive, usually in sexual favors. Even something as mild as a requested peck on the cheek or a hug, no matter how innocuous it may seem, is still technically considered sexual trade, and is one factor in driving female players to play male characters. Many female respondents have replied saying that they feel as if they are taken more seriously when they play a male character, and that if they are in a leadership role, their directions are more readily followed.

– Roleplay: One reason cited for playing the opposite gender is for roleplay. Players want to challenge themselves sometimes by playing a character directly opposite from who they are in real life – including gender. Some find that playing a toon of a different sex from their own creates a unique and inspiring concept to tackle, and enjoy the creativity involved in building up the psyche of a person completely different from who they are.

Exploration: Interviews and studies have revealed that one surprising reason for gender-bending is exploration of gender identity. Some players who are questioning their own sexuality may swap genders to explore, through roleplay and online personas, what it actually means to identify as the opposite sex. Those familiar with the Kinsey Scale may find this sort of exploration interesting, as it is a strong underscoring for the concept of sexuality as a variable, versus a fixed x or y.

I, personally, always play as female characters. And not just female toons – often outrageously sexy women, dressed in far-too-skimpy-to-actually-mitigate-damage armor females. Even when I am playing completely imaginary D&D (yes, I made the DM let me cheat on my armor class, just so I could wear a chainmail bikini). I am rather shameless about it: if I’m playing fantasy, I want to be fantastic. I don’t see how that’s so horrid, but my costume choice is a topic for another day…So – out with it! Have you been hiding boy parts behind a female facade? Is your burly knight actually played by a petite woman? Share your stories of how you’ve blurred the lines and why!

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