Do boys make passes at avatars with glasses?
May 17, 2009 1 Comment
The papers this week have been reporting the results of a study done at King’s College in London, which apparently shows that intelligent women have more satisfying sexual relationships. The headlines, which have all been some variation on “Smart girls have better sex”, are actually misleading, since the measure in question is not global intelligence, but the rather different concept of emotional intelligence. The findings are not really very surprising; one would expect people who score highly on a scale designed to measure, among other things, the ability to manage the emotional aspects of interpersonal relationships to also do well in areas of life that benefit from such skills.
What I found more interesting was that many of the publications that carried this story chose to illustrate it in the same way; with a picture of an attractive young woman wearing glasses (though some were more subtle than others). The use of spectacles as a visual shorthand for cleverness is well established of course, but the image also conjures up another potent male fantasy; that of uninhibited sexuality lurking beneath a prim exterior. This owes its popularity to its ability to contain the threat to the male ego presented by articulate, confident, intelligent women by reducing them to objects of sexual desire – or, if you want to be a bit more analytical, it can be seen as a reaction to the feminising/emasculating effects of civilisation, as represented by, say, librarians. The use of this archetype, as well as the general tone of the reporting, turns the message of the study on its head; instead of worrying male readers by suggesting they are not the most important factor in their partners’ sexual pleasure, it reassures them that those scary brainy chicks are really just sex kittens at heart.
I haven’t seen a lot of girls with glasses in Second Life – but then “repressed sexuality” doesn’t inform too many avatars’ wardrobe choices, female or male. Olivia has a nice set of frames, but she tends only to wear them when she wants to look serious in a photograph. I’ll have to ask her if she gets more attention, and what kind of attention, when she’s got them on.