(Content warning for video: sexualized violence, self-mutilation, sexual assault, rape)
Hey it’s another video! (Thank you to everybody who submitted this to me.) This one is by MMO Attack contributor Joe Plork and is about hyper-sexualizing in video games, and how this is actually a really immature and superficial take on “sex” because actual sex, sexuality and sexual encounters are not actually often in games, and it’s just “hey look at the boobs while she beats somebody up or kills somebody or is killed. Look at the pornface while she’s shooting a gun or being headbutted!” and what not. It also goes to something that was said in the comments on this blog recently, that when people say “sex sells” about this stuff, that’s actually not true, because no sex is actually being sold. We’re selling sexualization of women, but generally, not actual sex OR sexuality.
As Jimquisition talked about in a previous video, developers have been told by publishers to actually not have their female characters have straight sexual relationships because it’ll turn off the straight male audience. We want women in games to be sexualized, but not sexual. We want female characters in porn poses, with orgasm faces, curved spines indicating lordosis behavior, skin showing, battle bikinis, angles that show butts, close ups that show boobs, etc, while she’s fighting, or getting beaten up, or captured, or falling, or etc etc etc, but not actually having sex. And we end up with stuff that just ends up being ridiculous with the battle bikinis, Ed Benes butt shots where it looks like everything is being drawn from the perspective of a gnome, and women who look like they’re orgasming or posing when they’re supposed to be injured or dead. And even when they’re drawing stuff that’s meant to be sexy, like a woman in a bikini, there’s still often issues like breaking her spine because you just have to get as many sexy bits into the scene as possible. It’s like everything is drawn as if the audience or creator might never see another sexy woman again, and we better make sure that every panel there’s a chance to get boobs and butt, we do it. And it hurts storytelling and characterization.
Plus, as my friend always says: if everything is sexualized, then nobody is actually sexual. If all female characters are always swaying their hips, in boobs and butt poses, in revealing outfits, with the same faces, expressions, lipstick, eyeliner, etc, whether they’re fighting, eating, or injured, then it’s really hard to convey that any of the female characters are different, especially if you want to convey that some of them are sexual and others aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with a character being sexual, but often they aren’t actually being sexual, they’re just being sexualized while doing non-sexual things.
It’s like a Michael Bay move: overusing CGI, explosions, rapid scene cuts, etc, doesn’t create an effective action movie, it creates a giant mess that’s hard to follow, takes away from telling a story, and can take viewers out of the movie. Just like use of action can be gratuitous or effective, so can use of sexualization, and sex. Having everything explode all the time and huge CGI battles may make a movie “action packed”, but not necessarily a good movie, having battle bikinis and boobs and butt fighting poses may make a comic or video game “sexualized”, but does not necessarily make it sexy or sexual, and can be just as distracting and harmful to storytelling as overusing CGI or explosions.
Relevant commentary on the huge difference between sexualization and sexuality in games (and by extent, other media).
It’s surprisingly hard to find an image that shows how a fully-protective armor on male transforms into a bikini/lingerie/S&M gear on a woman in MMORPG.
Not just warriors; I’ve seen huge difference in gear for male versus female mages as well 🙂
That is true, yes.
Though our blog focuses mostly on warriors and related classes, because there’s no excuse for jumping into a fight in a bikini.
It’s marginally more understandable when you don’t take part in a close-range combat and have magic to protect you.
Obviously, no explanation is valid when absurd clothing is based on character’s gender instead of class.
For any guy that responds to women’s objectification in any media (yes, this video pertains to video games specifically, but it still applies to all other forms of media.) with “well men are objectified too!”, sit the fuck down and watch.
Reblogging this because I’ve had this video submitted to me a bunch, and I conveniently saw this on my dash. 🙂
Jim makes the important distinction between idealization and objectification. Male characters are idealized in some ways, but as a power fantasy, are much more varied, and are created for straight cis men to see themselves as. They are idealized, but as the subject. Mainstream gaming is still typically created by straight men for straight men. It doesn’t mean there are never any problems with the way that’s done, how characters portrayed, or that that can’t be addressed, but it’s still an important distinction.
Female characters are made for men to want sexually, to look at, fantasize about, and to be attractive to the male gamer, even if they’re the protagonists. They’re meant as objects for the straight male audience. An example of this is when Jim pointed out in a previous video that publishers don’t want developers to have female characters in straight relationships because they’re meant for the (presumed to be straight male) player to think of as a potential girlfriend, and they fear the players would be turned off if she has sexual agency of her own.
Absolutely excellent post. As a viewer, I’m absolutely distracted (by the mostly nude man), but there’s no way that I’d be facing him on the battlefield going “and now I’ll just wield this polearm and … oh no, he’s hot!”
By far my favorite point is that there is a difference between telling a realistic story and a naturalistic story. A naturalistic story tells a story that is completely plausible in our world. No wizards, no dragons, no secret vampires, no alien invasions. Telling a realistic story is telling a story that is logical and consistent and makes sense (even if the setting is in a fictional world or in a reality very different from our own).
PS: About the chainmail bikinis, specifically? Don’t say “oh okay but what if she were wearing it like a joke and then ended up being stranded somewhere in that,” because then it’s clear that, as a writer, you’re just using a “crowbar” to force your character into a bikini. Same thing if the bikini armor is somehow magical and sufficiently protective—it’s obvious and awkward because you obviously just wanted an enchanted bikini in your story.
There are plenty of opportunities to make characters wear less clothing. For one thing, people in the privacy of their homes tend to wear less (and everybody loves a good in-the-room shirt-change—they’re almost mandatory on supernatural dramas). Also, an kind of shape-shifter who does much more than swap faces is going to have a clothing problem. Unless you are using fairytale/Harry Potter magic where clothes transform, too, most versions of werewolves are going to have issues with their clothing. Same thing for someone who turns into a hawk or vapor or a fire golem or a giant squid.
But if you’re telling a story about a fantasy world and you want a warrior man or woman who is under-dressed, consider other things. Take Young Justice (the recent television series). Superboy often ends up with his shirt partially or completely destroyed, because while he is all but invulnerable, his shirt is made of cotton and does not take as well to being slashed at by claws or set on fire or hit with a blast from an energy weapon.
An invulnerable warrior would not necessarily have invulnerable clothing or armor, and if there were some rare material that was nearly as invulnerable as the warrior herself/himself, it might be expensive. I think that it’s a bit of a cheap move, but someone who is invulnerable and on a tight budget might spend the money on “modesty” armor that can survive a blast of dragonfire or being gnawed on by a pack of wolves. After that, you keep the story engaging and stakesy by deciding upon that unbreakable warrior’s vulnerabilities (drowning, starvation, suffocation, inhaled or ingested poison, magic, telepathy, kryptonite, whatever).
But even if you got yourself a dragonscale loincloth or a diamondmail bikini, you’d still wear clothing of some sort over that. And it probably wouldn’t be skintight. You don’t have to be ashamed of your body to not wear a catsuit—you might just want to be comfortable or not stick out like a nothing-to-the-imagination thumb in the middle of a crowd.
(You needn’t make such a character completely indestructible — there are a lot of superpowers that make a person not need actual armor, including unbreakable skin (which leaves you immune to cuts, not to bruises and crushing attacks) and regeneration (like a vampire or Wolverine), though most regenerators would probably want armor anyway)
Great response! simonjadis makes some really good points!
mod note: best parts bolded for emphasis