British residents of Second Life are prudes
…Or so one of the results of my latest analysis suggests. I asked 621 people for their beliefs about sexual activity in the virtual world – had they experienced it? did they think it was OK? would they do it with a virtual stranger? did they think there were any risks involved? – in an online survey available between April-December 2006, and it seems that attitudes towards sexuality can be predicted by real-life gender, avatar gender, age and country of residence.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise to see that younger people (i.e., below 33) or men are likely to think sex online is ok and that it’s perfectly acceptable to get hanky and panky with strangers online. I was surprised that being female online had a similar predictive quality. But the biggest surprise of all was that the only country of residence which cropped up as a predictor was the UK – and that the relationship was negative. In other words, if you’re British and in SL, it’s likely you’re more conservative about sex.
Other predictors of attitudes towards sexual activity in the virtual world were personal experience of sex and the perception that your mates were having sex (even if you weren’t). And a whole lot of people think their mates are at it – 80% think their close circle of friends are active, even though the actual reported sexual activity falls significantly below that.
It seems that even in the virtual world, what you think people get up to has influence over what you think and what you do.