This story from the New Scientist reports on a study that male avatars on EverQuest sold more than female avatars, even taking in consideration equal characteristics.
For the full study see Edward Castronova, The Price of ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’: A Hedonic Pricing Model of Avatar Attributes in a Synthetic World. Why doesn’t this surprise us?
What is surprising is how research into virtual worlds could become a form of sociology by reflection. The study of the virtual culture, a study which is easier to do than real field work, substitutes for the study of the real. Isn’t that what we do when we study culture through literature?