Far too often I see people jump at feminists who criticize sexist designs on female characters with, “They’re just showing how confident they are in their sexuality! We need more sex-positive women!”
Yet, these characters never in the game ever make any hint of their sexuality, whether it be through flirting, being unashamed of their sexual behavior, defending the sexual choices of others, or wearing revealing clothing as casual wear (i.e. not wearing battle armor that exposes their entire chest.)
Instead, anytime there are “sex-positive” women in gaming that are vocal about their sexuality and confidence in such, they are almost always a villain. Yet, I never see these people defend these characters, or take note that the only time that a woman in a game is confident in her sexuality, it’s because she’s an ~evil seductress~, and the game developers use it as an exploit rather than a character trait.
How about instead of shouting at feminists that point out the needlessly and nonsensical revealing clothing on female game characters that it’s supposed to be because they’re “sex-positive”, you instead take the energy and criticize game developers that everytime there is a “sex-positive” women in gaming, she’s evil and it is instead seen as a character flaw?
I’ve alluded before that it’s possible to create a female character who dresses skimpily to express how sexually liberated and confident about her own body she is… possible in theory, at least.
I mean, everyone and their grandmother brings up Bayonetta and/or Emma Frost as heroic examples of this trope that actually work. Somehow, they’re basically the only two widely recognized heroines like that. And their depictions of empowerment still reek of male gaze all over (and no, unsolicited reminders that Bayo was co-designed by a woman don’t automatically make her impervious to critique).
Also, as I mentioned in my Stafire-design-through-years article, character’s personal affairs DO NOT excuse what costume she “chooses” to do her job in, particularly when that job is FIGHTING.
Especially while warrior men who are equally, if not more, sexually empowered, somehow don’t go around fighting crime in sexy male underwear. And again, a loincloth* on someone like Conan or Kratos is not the same as battle lingerie.
* unless it’s this semi-translucent loincloth
I feel like a large part of the FemShep fandom was that while much of the attire in Mass Effect is questionable – FemShep actually comes pretty close to meeting the “sex positive, not sex toy” criteria. Regardless of the options you pick, she’s competent and complicated.
When she goes into battle she’s kitted with armor, guns, badassery and the potential to be saintly or scary… then when you’re in the safety of your ship you can pick an outfit for her and go talk to your favorite crew member:
Making her vastly more sex positive and personally empowered than pretty much any other female protagonist… even if her outfits are not perfectly equal to BroShep’s and tend more towards hideous than hot.
I also feel it’s worth mentioning here that there is this very strange perception that we receive messages over that suggests by criticizing the outfits we “downgrade” these characters and somehow think less of them. This is absolutely not true, the problem as we see it is that they characters are not being given their due.
Femshep image source (as immature as you’d expect)
(For those asking: We have the explanation for Quiet’s ridiculous outfit, and information on how her character is handled… a post will be forthcoming!)
Definitely time that we brought this one back since there’s still way too much of:
- People pretending that making female villains sexy isn’t some sort of worrying political statement.
- People claiming that fictional female characters aren’t being made to be eye candy for a presumed cishet male audience – they’re empowered!
- People claiming that it’s those who want male and female characters to be treated with the same respect are the real sexists.
- And plenty of men suspiciously like this guy still around:
Ultimately though there’s, sadly, still a long way to go before there’s the general acceptance that since women are diverse and complicated – female characters should be diverse and complicated.
None of that means we won’t have sexy female characters, it just means there’ll be more sexy female characters who act like people rather than one-dimensional fuckbots, and that means they’ll be more interesting.