Based on the belief that There Are No Girls on the Internet. Some forums, particularly male-dominated ones, will be the victim of a special breed of Troll who will pretend to be a girl just to rile up the boy nerds in the community. They display obvious Cam Whore traits and may even steal photos of attractive girls off MySpace or Facebook and claim that they are them.
In other cases they may copy photos of their sisters/daughters/nieces/female cousins off photo CDs or the like, especially if said females are of or close to the age of the online persona.
For gaming otherwise, it's also common for video games featuring Character Customization and fancy clothes to have fashion enthusiasts creating and playing as opposite sex characters for aesthetical purpose. See Third-Person Seductress for more details.
Female forum goers have a tendency to get a lot more attention, just by being girls, so many male attention whores use this to their advantage so that they get the attention they crave. They will play and flirt with the male members who may become tickled pink that a girl is talking to them this way. Sad, but true. In the case of online video games, particularly MMOs, this may be done with the intention of wringing free in-game money and/or rare items out of desperate, lonely male players who are only too happy to fork over such gifts as Favors for the Sexy.
Will ultimately lead to The Reveal where they show their true colors as blokes and laugh at the incensed regulars. Or a regular will wise up to his shenanigans and unmask him, causing everyone to point and laugh at him as he slinks away with his tail between his legs. Could also be a practical joke played by a regular to which everyone will simply have a good laugh. Most cases tend to end in the second case, which brings up the question of why such trolls even bother doing it since the risk of being exposed far outweighs the potential gain. Note that not everyone who's biologically male and presents as female online is trolling; see Cross Player, Transgender.
If you think this is bad, though, be grateful your Unseen Pen Pal isn't an evil supernatural being.
In the end though, it all leads to actual women on the Internet using male or neutral user names and fudging personal details specifically to avoid this trope. Or to mess with people.
This is often inverted on many female dominated forums, such as LiveJournal, where the default identity of new posters is assumed to be female and a guy who acts normally but doesn't explicitly mention he is a guy can go for a long time without anyone asking or realising, leading to "You're a guy?!" moments 6 months down the line.
Largely on the way to becoming a Discredited Trope, as the internet becoming more accessible in the 2000s and the rise of social media in the 2010s has made it much more likely that the person online is the actual gender they claim to be. Not to mention the rise of awareness of Transgender people from the 2010s as well, which has made accusing people of this trope much more likely that you'll be the one being ridiculed/called out for being transphobic.
- As with many online games, .hack features many Cross Players.
- One of the major twists in .hack//SIGN is that Tsukasa is actually a girl in real life.
- Saburou from .hack//Roots. She actively claims to be female and states that she simply acts like a boy because many boys act like girls in the game when called out on it due to her male name and male way of speech. Of course, she is male in the real world. It's even pointed out on her character design for Link where her head band is adorned with the male symbol.
- And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?:
- Inverted with Schwein and Master, who play male characters in Legendary Age but are girls in real life.
- Nekohime admitted to Rusian after he confessed to her that despite being a female character, she is an older guy in real life. Subverted when its revealed that Nekohime actually is a woman, Hidekis teacher.
- Referenced in Codename: Sailor V, when Minako, who was already going at the arcades when they still were men-only places, beat the record at a game and the previous record holder accused her of being a guy in a really convincing disguise - and demanded she took off "his" disguise, ending with a kick in the face.
- Like any prepared troll, Izaya poses as a girl on the internet.
- Inverted by Celty, who poses as a guy. This is subverted in the Light Novels in that everyone in the chat had caught on to the fact that "Setton" was actually a girl since pretty much day one, and just didn't think enough of it to point it out until she mentioned a male roommate. Celty's not a terribly good liar.
- Discussed in vol 9 of the Light Novels between Bakyura and a new member, who's probably doing this, too: "she" is hinted to be Aoba. The kid's taking after Izaya fast...
- Flunk Punk Rumble (aka Yankee-kun to Megane-chan) inverts this for comedic effect.
- In Ghost in the Shell 1.5 Batou is net-dating a hot young woman who's actually a ninety-year old man.
- During one of the RPG Episode in Gintama, Gintoki choose to play as a female character. He do so because he know that they will need help to find the aliens who turned their body parts into screwdrivers, and think others players are more likely to help a girl. Kagura invert this by creating a burly male character.
- In Log Horizon, there is Tetra. Most of the namesake guild knows, but Naotsugu remains oblivious.
- Inverted with Akatsuki, who is a girl in real life but played as a male Assassin. After everyone gets trapped inside their own avatars, her first appearance is her begging Shiroe and Naotsugu to bring her a rare potion that will allow her to transform her avatar so she can be a girl again. Afterward, she swears her undying loyalty to Shiroe as a way of repaying him.
- In Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Mayu's classmate creates a blog to post Mayu's racy drawings and names it Mayumayu's Blog. Mikoshiba finds the blog and assumes that it's a girl's blog and tries to contact "her"; but because he doesn't want to seem like a creep, he uses a female alias, Mamiko. Both guys then start contacting each other regularly, believing they're talking to a girl.
- The protagonist of My Dad's the Queen of All VTubers?! is a big fan of the #1 Virtual Celebrity of the setting... and then finds out that behind the scenes, his waifu is actually an old man. His own father, no less. Cringe Comedy ensues.
- At the beginning of Nyotai-ka, protagonist Manaka Makoto is a nekama, a young man who, frustrated by his inability to attract the interest of women, masquerades as one on online dating sites for amusement. Hilarity Ensues when a goddess intervenes and suddenly, it's no longer just an act.
- The main character of Only Sense Online suffers from an involuntary case of this. In real life, he's an extreme example of Dude Looks Like a Lady, so when the console for the titular virtual reality game scanned his body, it assumed he was actually female. As a result, he was assigned a female avatar. In the game itself, everyone aside from his sisters, childhood friend, and class rep think that he's actually a girl, despite his protests.
- Recovery of an MMO Junkie has a double whammy, with protagonist Moriko Morioka joining the MMO Fruits de Mer as a male character named Hayashi and becoming good friends with the ludicrously adorable Lily, who's played by a male office worker named Yuta Sakurai. Hilarity (and romance) ensues. Their guildmaster Kanbe is aware of both their true genders, but keeps silent out of respect for their privacy.
- Their guildmate Himerelda is an example that everyone is aware of: she's a housewife playing a male elf but she doesn't adapt her behavior to her character's gender at all, making Himerelda come off as the guild's Gay Best Friend-slash-Cool Big Bro. Her husband is the guild's sub-leader Pokotaro and she'll occasionally log onto his account; she acts the same way as she does with Himerelda, which weirds out the rest of the guild since Pokotaro is a Big Fun type normally.
- A scene in episode 1 of Sword Art Online has a Mirror item reformatting all of the player's VR avatars to reflect their actual selves from real life. One quick scene shows a crowd of girls suddenly revealed to be mostly men using female avatars, and there is a minor Running Gag of a specific couple composed of a cute girl revealed to be a skinny man and a lean boy revealed to be a pudgy man who remain friends despite the shocking reveal, and later reunite after the end of the Incident in real life as friends.
Pudgy guy: You're a guy?
Guy in women's clothing: You lied about being seventeen?
- This happens to Kirito in the fifth light novel (where season 2 is adapted from) — officially, his VR equipment is supposed to scan the user's brainwaves to correctly determine gender, however Kirito apparently counts as "close enough" to female that he was granted an extremely rare effeminate male avatar in Gun Gale Online. Consequently, a lot of people in-game mistake him for a girl. He is understandably annoyed by this, but when Sinon makes this mistake, he plays along with her misunderstanding because he's desperate and believes (correctly) that she's more likely to help him if she thinks he's a girl.
- This was, of course, parodied in Something Witty Entertainment's Sword Art Online Abridged: "So anyway, for all of you guys who wanted to play as girls, and you know who you are, I've got a surprise for you!"
Pudgy Guy: "You're not a girl!"Skinny Guy: "And you're not seventeen!"Pudgy Guy: "I'm okay with this!"Skinny Guy: "Me too!"Off-screen Guy: "LOVE KNOWS NO GENDER!"
- For the most part, though, this is defied, as some VRMMO games, like the aforementioned GGO, players are not allowed to play as the opposite gender, in order to avoid adverse side effects on players' mental health. Sinon would prefer to hide her status as a female player, but this system doesn't give her any choice.
- Referenced in Welcome to the NHK where the beautiful Cat Girl healer in the RPG Episode turns out to be Satou's neighbor Yamazaki, out to teach him a lesson.
- Happy Heroes:
- In episode 6, Doctor H. wants to go to Peach Garden to meet Miss Peach after learning from an e-mail that she's there, only to discover it's actually a male robot who goes by the e-mail handle "Peach" and dresses like her, as well as sells actual peaches there.
- In Season 2 episode 9, Big M. plays an MMORPG with a female character and has no problem flirting with someone with a male player character, not realizing the player is Happy S.
- Shows up in Runaways, where a guy cross-plays as Invisible Woman and The White Queen. Made rather obvious, since he was playing up the Stripperiffic costumes. Also inverted with the only real girl among them playing Daredevil.
- In Ultimate X-Men, Beast gets into a relationship with a girl on a chatroom... who is actually the Blob, one of Magneto's henchmen, pretending to be a girl for kicks (a mutant genius supermodel, no less). Then Henry accidentally blabs about how Xavier brainwashed Magneto. Oops.
- In the "People Can Lick Too" segment from Campfire Tales (1997), Amanda's chatroom pal Jessica is actually a guy who has been stalking her for the last few days. And now he knows that she'll be alone tonight.
- In the film Closer, Dan tricks Larry into thinking he's a girl, and they have cybersex.
- In Fanboys, everyone guesses that Rogue Leader, Windows' online girlfriend, is a guy. When Windows heads to a coffee shop in Austin, Texas to meet Rogue Leader in person, he realizes, to his horror, that Rogue Leader is actually a 10-year-old girl.
- In Gamer, Kable's wife, a character in Society, is being controlled by Gorge, a topless and terribly obese home dweller.
- Peter guesses this will be the case when he starts chatting with an unseen woman in Me And You And Everyone We Know, but his brother takes over the chat and goes to meet her anyway. Turns out she's a real adult human woman... the brother she meets is six.
- Out Cold has two men who pretend to be lesbians meeting each other in a chatroom. Naturally, they have cybersex.
- In Surrogates, Among the first victims of the OD, the operator of the seductive, female model surrogate at the nightclub that got fried, turns out to be an old, fat man. The characters don't treat this "revelation" as unusual or noteworthy in any way, implying this happens a lot.
- Discussed in Vlog. Brooke says that anytime you see a hot image of a girl claiming to be a lesbian, it is really a guy. She relates a time when someone posted "You make my pussy so wet!" in response to one of her post, but had logged into wrong account, with his profile showing him to be 51 year old man from Texas named Frank.
- A variant: In Animorphs, a mission requires hacking the identities of people on an apparent anti-Yeerk website. While doing so, Marco takes an extra moment to look up his online girlfriend, who turns out to be a seventy-three-year-old retired postal worker.
- Exploited in Nickel Plated. Kid Detective Nickel pretends to be an underage girl (or boy, which he actually is) to catfish online pedophiles and then blackmail them into sending him money. Then he sends the screenshots to the FBI anyway.
- Inverted in Otherland, where Salome Fredericks pretends to be a guy online in order to avoid There Are No Girls on the Internet.
- Ready Player One inverts this with Aech, who is in reality a Sassy Black Woman. (Making the page quote very ironic.)
- Trilby and the Ghost, a short story by Yahtzee taking place in the Chzo Mythos 'verse, involves Trilby discovering a ghost who can't pass on to other realms because he's never met his japanese girlfriend Nariko face-to-face. Predictably enough, 'Nariko' is actually a southern gentleman named Frank, which only makes Trilby's job more complicated.
- This is weaponized by the rebels in Victoria, where Christian uses a female online persona to play mind games with an enemy officer.
- In The Big Bang Theory, Wolowitz meets a slutty troll in an MMORPG. It's the creepy janitor at the University. Among the main group, Raj plays as female characters almost exclusively.
- In an early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Xander expresses suspicions about Willow's new cyber-pal, Malcolm. His suspicions turns out to be correct as "Malcolm Black" is actually the demon Moloch the Corruptor.
Xander: I mean, sure he says he's a high school student, but I can say I'm a high school student.Buffy: You are.Xander: Okay, but I can also say that I'm an elderly Dutch woman. Get me? I mean, who's to say I'm not if I'm in the elderly Dutch chat room?
- On Catfish: The TV Show, this has happened several times. The show, based on the documentary of the same name, follows Nev Schulman as he profiles people who are in extensive online relationships with people they've never met.
- Flash Point: A robber with an anti-capitalism bent is desperately lonely when he meets a sympathetic girl online — she even sings a song for him. It turns out "she" is a teenage boy who really, really, really hates his stepfather and is using the robber to murder him by saying "she" is being abused (no one's being abused, he just hates his step dad that much).
- Invoked in the second season finale of Friends where Chandler has been talking with a woman and finding himself falling for her, causing Phoebe to point out that there's a chance it could be a man. Chandler attempts to deny the possibility. However, it turns out he's right when he finally meets her in public - and it turns out it's none other than his ex, Janice.
- An epic example in Gossip Girl. The titular blogger turns out to be Dan Humphrey.
- Played for drama on Home and Away when Spencer is targeted by an online predator, posing as a teenage girl, who lures him to his hotel room.
- Zig-Zagged in one How I Met Your Mother episode. Ted dated a girl he met while playing World of Warcraft. Ted was playing a cute night elf, while the girl was playing a burly warrior.
- Played for laughs in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where Frank plays a girl on an MMO and whores his character out for various in-game and real-life perks despite the fact that his in-game avatar still has his face.
- In The Teaser of an episode of The John Larroquette Show John goes to an internet lesbian chatroom pretending to be a woman.
John (typing): What are you talking about?Girl 1: [something mundane]John: Sounds hot.Assorted girls: MAN IN THE FORUM! LOG OFF!! LOG OFF!!
- An episode of Malcolm in the Middle has Craig give Francis a tip for free travel. Pretend to be a girl in a chatroom, flirt with a random guy from the location they want to go and then ask him to pay for a plane ticket so they can meet up. The last scene of the episode shows Francis getting off a plane and saying "Thanks" to a guy holding a flower and a card saying 'Debbie'.
- In the British sitcom My Family it's mentioned that this has happened to Nick, and most of the others think the same of his current online girlfriend. A Subverted Trope as she turns out to be a genuine... lesbian. Nick himself was the GIRL.
- In an episode of NCIS, McGee develops an online relationship with a girl who turns out to be DiNozzo playing a prank.
- At the end of the episode, Ziva tells McGee the truth, but since Tony had grown sick of the prank, McGee takes revenge by playing along just to mess with DiNozzo.
- In a prior episode, DiNozzo admits to having cybersex with a person called HotJugs24. The name probably should have been his first clue.
- Subverted in the 1990s Jerry Springer parody Night Stand, where two straight guys met online pretending to be lesbians revealed themselves to each other... and decided to date anyway.
- Psych: Shawn and Gus pretend to be a woman in an online poker chatroom and arrange to meet one of the other players. The guy from the chatroom laments, "Man, all hot women on the Internet are guys! Only you're two guys, which is weird."
- An episode of Scrubs had an intern talking to a girl online only to find out it was a man. In response, he created a new account, pretended to be a girl, and got him to arrive at the hospital.
- On the Israeli sitcom Shemesh, the title character, having recently discovered the internet, pretends to be a woman on a women only chatroom, mostly for the thrill; he stays there for the more honest intention of learning how to relate to women. Hilarity Ensues.
- The Twilight Zone (2019): In "Downtime" Michelles original user in this virtual world is really a man named Phineas who has a heart attack while playing the game and fell into a coma.
- "LOL, Internet" by Jakob Bienenhalm is about a loner who finds an attractive woman by the username of melli17 on a dating site. When he invites her to his home in real life, melli17 turns out to be a man.
- After setting up a date with a girl he met online, the protagonist of the song "On My Knees" by Heaven's Gate finds out she's actually a man.
Hello champ, my name is Jack!
- In the song "Chiksilog" by the Filipino band Kamikazee, one male Ragnarok Online player was distraught when he discovered that the "girl" he met online turned out to be Camp Gay.
- This is the idea behind Frogg Marlowe's song "Ain't No Women":
I got the "ain't no women in Second Life" blues.
- In the Noel Paul Stookey song "Virtual Party," the protagonist enters a chatroom and soon has someone who goes by the name "Mata Hari" (whom he later finds out is his wife) trying to flirt with him.
She says her name is Mata HariAnd that she's particu-LAR-lyFond of older men.Maybe so, maybe not, maybe she's a guy who's got this urge to pretend.
- Any player of any online RPG may cite that their acronym aptly describes their population: Mostly Men Online Role Playing Girls.
- These days this has been somewhat muddled, as close to 50% of the MMORPG players in recent times are women (apparently they are among the most popular "real" video games among the female populace), but often play as men due to either sexist character designs or horny teenagers hitting on them. There is a portion that plays male just to be in a hot guy's body, but we don't talk about those.
- Played straight and subverted in one of its oldest forms. On the Original TinyMUD, back in 1989 there were only male characters. Then within about 3 weeks, a bunch of women showed up. about half of them was a single, actual teenage girl, Claire. Almost all the rest were played by guys.
- In Fate/Grand Order, it's revealed in the final stage of the first story arc that "Magi☆Mari", the virtual idol that Dr. Roman Archaman constantly consults and is completely obsessed with is none other than Merlin, who runs the site from Avalon. Roman is utterly dismayed at this fact.
- Overheard in a city chat on World of Warcraft: "Welcome to the internet, where the men are men, the women are men, and the children are FBI agents."
- A common variation on the quote goes: "Where the women are men, the men are boys, and the boys are FBI agents."
- A study from the Daedalus Project shows 45% of female WoW characters are actually played by females.
- Interestingly enough, even though women make up about one-third of the playerbase, the number of male and female characters in-game is almost exactly fifty-fifty. The reason for this is that approximately one-third of male players use female avatars, whereas only ten percent of female players use male avatars.
- In the comedy column "Ask A Faction Leader," someone asks Chronormu (whose model in-game is a female gnome) about her masculine name. Chromie responds by explaining that she is actually a he in his dragon form, and only uses a female form to interact with mortals because "if you had to spend multiple hours each day running around performing thankless corrective tasks on Azeroth, wouldn't you want to do it as something fun?"
- This is used as a joke in Hearthstone with the Master of Disguise card, which shows a female blood elf. The flavor text?
Master of Disguise: She's actually a male tauren. People don't call him "Master of Disguise" for nothing.
- Fallout 3: Dr. Stanislaus Braun, an old man whose physical body is extremely decrepit from spending two centuries on life support, takes the form of a little girl named Betty in the Tranquility Lane sim.
- In Goblins, Drowbabe is one according to Minmax.
- In this Penny Arcade comic strip, Gabe explains to Tycho how he is being "paid to infiltrate forums and regurgitate press releases as a trusted source". He informs him that he is posing as Shelly Yu/Missfit<3, a "tween" who enjoys games, making friends and "just having fun" and trusted member of the IGN Boards.
- There was also one strip in which Gabe where he warns against "roleplaying" with others to Tycho's niece, mentioning that he'd done some odd things with night-elf ears during such.
- Francis from Pv P plays a female character named Catfight in City of Heroes. When asked why, he says, "If I'm going to be staring at an ass in tights all day, it might as well be a nice ass."
- Much earlier in the story, Francis also pretends to be a girl called Sasha online.
- Jade was once a member of an "all-female" gaming group, when she went to their first face-to-face meeting she learned that literally every other member was a man.
- In Megatokyo, this is used - in a rather twisted fashion - during a flashback. Piro plays an MMO with a male character, starts chatting with him outside the game, and eventually starts to wonder if 'he' isn't actually a girl... eventually, he seizes on an opportunity to ask him for a picture. He gets it, and sure enough, 'he' is a cute girl, whom he starts to fall in love with. Then she dumps him by revealing that she's actually a guy, the picture was fake, and she was just playing with him for kicks. The twist? The picture was real, and she really IS a girl. Exactly why she pretended to be a G.I.R.L. is, as yet, unknown, but Piro is still pissed at her for pulling that stunt...
- Also, Piro himself is cross playing, and out of the flashbacks, Miho tells him that she sometimes believed he was really a girl.
- This strip in The Noob has quite a few of them.
- Both inverted and played straight in Something*Positive. Branwen manages to convince an entire forum that she's a man, causing all the female forum-goers to fall in love with her. Upon learning of this, Davan decides to further troll the forum by pretending to be female and posing as Branwen's male persona's lover.
- Although this seems like a major Jerkass move, it also helped those women to move on, rather than pine for a relationship that could never be. Some of them had been waiting for years for Branwen's male persona to return.
- In Sequential Art, Art tells Pip the girl he met on his fave MMO can't possibly be a real girl, because There Are No Girls on the Internet, see? It's lampshaded in that "Fern" actually is a girl.
- The somewhat well known Team Fortress 2 comic 19/F/Medic◊.
- Before the first Tomb Raider game came out, the main developer gave this as the reason why the main character was made female.
- Interestingly enough, Brian Clevenger from 8-Bit Theater also once said the same thing in regards to the same game almost word for word.
- AFK: Steven is male, but online plays a female character. Blows back on him when the Game becomes real and finds himself in the body of his avatar. Also inverted with Maybel.
- In Brazilian website chargesdotcomdotbr, there was a story featuring a character nicknamed "Espinha", who entered a chatroom for lesbians and scored a date. When he went to talk to a friend for an advice on how to tell his date the truth, he learned his friend (also a male), was his date.
- Harry Partridge's animated musical fan video, "Back to Tamriel," ends with him settling down with a gorgeous, well-endowed "elf mademoiselle." As The Stinger, he asked her if she's a woman in real life, to which she replies, in the most masculine voice imaginable, "Yes."
- HotDiggedyDemon, the guy behind Jerry, quotes June from another series of his on his Newgrounds bio, giving off this impression.
- Discussed in 'Let's Drown Out Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood', where Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw encouraged the viewers to go on a chatroom and be someone completely unlike themselves, such as a pregnant teenage black girl, to see the exciting side of roleplaying. This was also implied when Gabriel wondered about the time when Yahtzee was scamming players in World of Warcraft by pretending to be a lady.
Yahtzee: It's surprising how many people haven't figured it out.
- Ian plays a female character in the Statless and Tactless group's RP sessions. It's presented as harmless.
- Got a nod in the joint That Guy with the Glasses/Mystery Science Theater 4000 riffing of the Chinese Dragon Ball movie. "Oolong" shapeshifts into "Bulma" to get the "Dragon Pearl" from "Roshi"; the riff is "You know, this is an accurate depiction of most Internet relationships: one's really a guy, one's really a really old guy."
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Tricking people into cybersex by pretending to be a girl is one of Yami Bakura / Florence's hobbies. Then he ends up doing it with Marik completely by accident.
- Robotbox And Cactus: In "The Internet", Robotbox proclaims Cactus's cybergirlfriend to be, in reality, a fat 43-year-old virgin man.
- Following the Ashley Madison dating site scandal, it became known that a huge percentage (in the range of 90%) of the alleged female users looking for infidelities in their site were actually the company employees creating false profiles and sending fake messages to attract the money of hopeful men.
- A recurring gag (and sometimes basis of mockery) among the Virtual YouTuber community is the notion that the "girl" behind the anime avatar is a middle-aged or old man using a voice changer. Examples of this do exist, mind you (often called "babiniku", with Mari Tomari being perhaps the most notorious case), but the jokes about it make it sound as if it's true of every cute anime girl streaming.
- Fan Fic writer and former internet troll Monica Gilbey Bieber is this. His real name is James.
- The (male) creators of a neural-net evolutionary-algorithm checkers-playing program wanted to test their software against real players, so they created an account on Microsoft's online gaming portal The Zone. To make sure they'd get plenty of responses, they used the account name Blondie24.
- Football player Manti Te'o had an online relationship with a G.I.R.L. posing as a (fictional) Stanford University student named Lennay Kekua; in real life, "Lennay" was a gay man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who could convincingly imitate a female voice.
- A basic tactic used by internet police to single out and target potential pedophiles on the internet forums and chat rooms (see "Jokes").
- Love scams are commonplace on social media. Ivory Coast in particular is infamous for its "brouteurs".