Games as Lit. 101 – Sex in Video Games

How does the medium as a whole handle this complex element of the human experience. Turns out… not too well. Let’s talk about it.

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39 thoughts on “Games as Lit. 101 – Sex in Video Games

  1. The women are sexualized because guys are the main players of video games. Shocker! Dudes like hot chicks with big boobs. I know feminist want us think blue under arm hair and piles of fat rolls are sexy, but thats stupid because they ain't. There, i explaind in 3 lines what took you 10 m.

  2. This video is more about sexuality in games, and not the act itself. I was expecting more of a critique on how awkward the medium tends to be when it tries to take the act itself seriously. I'd like to see that tackled on this show, for sure.

  3. I like games with well designed characters with emotions…. and sometimes I do enjoy a bit of fanservice. Every form of entertainment uses sex to sell their product, you have this in books as well as in movies, and it's totally fine, because it's not there aren't any other novels, movies, games or whatever that don't oversexualize their characters.
    Before gaming was that huge a deal as it is today, a lot of women were playing JRPGs, and those are games that pander to men as well as to women, with young and enthusiastic, emotionally scarred men, who, as a bonus, are pretty hot.
    If you want to play games that don'T do this… well, play Last of Us, Ni no Kuni, Doom, Warhammer 40k, Tetris, Counter Strike, Mario, Giana Sisters, BanjoKazooie (well, ignore the Game Over Screen with sexy Gruntilda), most of the Zelda games, Sonic, Mirrors Edge, XCom…… you get the drift….
    Maybe the lack of a mature depiction of Sexuality in videogames is because the mainstream media would lose their shit about it, i mean, they always try to oppose the idea of video games being an art form like literatur or film… the only time when they seem to take this medium seriously, is when they talk about the growing numbers of women playing such great videogames as farmville, candy crush and cookie clicker….

  4. i think you're hitting on something really interesting with the male-charcter-as-power-fantasy/woman-as-objectified-fantasy.

    Men try to emulate these power fantasies, find that others aren't actually attracted to this imagined idea of what an ideal man is, and then blame women and feminism for the idea that they're supposed to be some kind of bronzed, six pack god, when it's really a prison we're creating for ourselves.

    Moreover, if you're buying into these depictions, a woman's relationship with you is based on who you are, rather than who she is- if I'm the biggest badass, she'll have sex with me/ if I'm the most wealthy, the most powerful, the leader, etc etc. In reality though, people can spot when you don't care about them, or when you think that they're just an accessory to your own sense of accomplishment or power. That's what really drives people off- you can't trust someone to be intimate with you if they're in it for their own ego or pleasure.

    one of the ways out is feminism, which tells us that we have to see each other as people, that we have to be able to care about others outside of ourselves, that there is no body type that should exclude you from intimacy or pleasure, that not everything is about you.

  5. Weird to see lots of people in america completely missing the point of Bayonneta and even worse yet missing the entire point of the Sorceress character in Dragon's Crown :/

  6. You know, it occurs to me that the only time there's ever yonic symbolism, it's in horror. Then again, when you take the sexual connotations out, a vagina is pretty gross looking, what with being a fleshy hole.

  7. Now, when I called the video "slut-shaming", you said it wasn't because the characters are fictional and therefore "have no agency." To counter that statement, I am going to use a direct quote from them that their maker Liana K made, because what she says here takes your statement that “These are not women choosing to express themselves sexually; these are fictional characters being created and used by men.” and shows you why that
    argument has no leg to stand on. She said “There is a huge difference in saying that this creator made an attempt to make us question our assumptions about the way a particular woman dresses and saying ‘No, they shouldn’t be doing that at all. Anytime you put a woman in a skimpy outfit, because she’s not real, you’re taking away her agency.’ That’s kind of foolish, because if we do what Anita Sarkeesian does and take movie and mass media analytical techniques and transfer them into video games, we have to look at the fact that one could claim that every actress who ever wore an article of clothing has no agency; the wardrobe department determined she was gonna wear that, but the point is we’re supposed to believe the character chose to dress that way. And that’s a character point. Saying none of these women are real and so it’s not a real person’s decision, that’s a breaking of the fourth wall and a misplaced sociological analysis as opposed to looking at it like a piece of art. That’s not fair. That’s shifting the paradigm that’s moving the goalpost to create the most negative impression no matter what the scenario and I have a real problem with that. I think we have to be consistent in our analytical tools. I think it’s fair to take the reality that a piece of art has created and examine that reality on its terms. For instance, Quiet [from Metal Gear Solid 5] only wears so much clothing because she has to breath. Now the question is ‘Why isn’t she more naked? Why is she wearing those pants on the bottom?’ I’m not sure about that but we can accept that ‘Okay, in this fictional reality, (because it’s science fiction. I mean the whole parasite treatment and breathing through her skin, that’s not something that the average, ‘normative’ woman does) so we have to accept sci-fi on sci-fi’s terms, so, all right. Fine. Here is a woman who breaths through her skin. In this fictional world of Metal Gear Solid, Quiet has different norms. And you can claim that they are silly (and yes, they are) and you can claim that artistically it doesn’t work for you. That’s valid. But this idea that we’re supposed to dismiss the assumption that this particular character dresses in a certain way because she wants to… well… that’s not fair because you can’t then do a deep analysis about what everything else means. Well, it means nothing. If we’re gonna treat these characters like dolls for the sexual stimulation of a presumed male audience, well, we might as well forget about story and forget about emotional engagement, forget about all the interactivity that the game developers bend themselves into pretzels to try to get.”

    In other words, when you say things like, “Fictional characters have no agency, they don't make their own choices.” That’s only technically true because you are looking at them exclusively from a real world perspective which, when looking at fictional media, is the wrong way to look at it. If we were to look at fictional characters from the perspectives of the narratives that they partake in, then yes, they have plenty of agency, they do make their own choices.

    But, let's say you really are criticizing men for "exploiting" female sexuality. Well, I know of a very specific word for that: what's that called? Oh, yeah. Misandry. You see, a while back, a
    feminist named Christina Hoff Sommers said, "Now, men are the main demographic for competitive action games. And many men, not all of them, but many do like images of beautiful sexy women. Why shame them for this? Now traditionally, women, gays, transpeople, they have been policed and humiliated for their sexuality. That… that is wrong.
    Today, at least in some feminist circles, it's open season on the sexual preferences of straight males. That's also wrong." And when asked about the idea of censoring sexy women, she said that it "would be sexist. Against men." And yes, I know you said at the start of this video that you don't encourage censorship, but as far as I'm concerned, you had your fingers crossed behind your back at the time.

    And even if what you are doing in this video doesn't qualify as slut-shaming it does encourage it. You see, ranting about a woman being curvacious or scantily clad in a video game, anime, comic book, etc is only going to encourage people to rant about a woman in the real world doing that as well. So, I think your video here is downright harmful.

  8. can you tell i've been watching your playlist? 😛

    again pretty much onboard with your opinion here but there are a few little nit picks, I feel that causal sex between characters is just as important as sex found within relationship arcs and so is paying for sex, these are real things that happen a hell of a lot in real life and they should be just as valid for games, the idea that women in games are built to turn men on is fine, i would like to see a lot more diversity in body types for certain games to help bring a level of realism that would be lacking if every woman is a model but there is a clear reason why women get this treatment, men a visual creatures and we like good visuals in general, as for the comments about how men are depicted, well i know a lot of female gamers and asking them they all say that what the guy looks like is secondary to his actions, women i know like the power fantasy male protagonist because of his actions, not because he is buff or caring or deep down a sensitive guy but because he takes care of business. but of course i have a small sample group who are all from the same area so it could just be them.

    the idea that bayonetta reveals more of her body the better you do is exactly the same as the Japanese dating games, the only difference is what doing well refers to.

    In conclusion I think that the biggest problem with sex and sexuality in games is homogenisation. Too much of one thing, we shouldn’t be asking for less sex in games we should be asking for different sex, and more of it, One way of looking at it is that Bayonetta was different, very different from your average sexy character in games, she came with a lot of aspects that where deal breakers for some people but in the grand scheme of things could we see this character as the start of diversity in sexual representation n games?

  9. I was somewhat disappointed when those games stacked up on the shelf to the right were largely not talked about. Though I understand it was probably in the interest of time, and even though they're relatively overt I'd still like to hear your analysis of Catherine or Persona 4.

  10. I don't see why sexual exploitation is inherently "problematic," nor how catering to your demographic is an imbalance that needs correcting. Most core gamers are straight men, ergo more things will be directed at them than at the demisexual transgender otherkin. And why is sex for sex's sake a bad thing?

  11. "The bigger deal isn't so much that those problems exist, as it is that those problems are all this medium has to offer."

    I'm so happy you said that. That's how I've been feeling for years, but I just haven't been able to express it well. In fact, I could probably say that about the entire video. Your analysis on this subject is the most well-constructed and thoughtful that I've ever seen. I wish more people were subscribed to your channel so that this video could be shared with a wider audience of gamers.

    I tend to plug the Silent Hill series wherever I go when it comes to game discussion anyway, but this is a perfect time to talk about the representation of sex and death (might as well include death since violence in video games has been a topic for years) in SH2.

    SH 2 is a phenomenal example of using the themes of sex and death in a more powerful, interesting way than abs and titties in your face and people being ripped apart before your eyes. Even if you're not interested in horror, or Silent Hill itself, watching the developer's thoughts on their work is worth your while if you like thinking and talking about the concepts behind video games on this subject. I implore anyone whose interested in such things to take a look at this clip.

    I could go on-and-on about this, but I'll cut it here unless anyone has questions.

  12. When the gaming industry only aims at straight white males, that's the reason no-one takes video games seriously as an artform. There's no creativity there. And if it's not creative, its not an artform. Gaming should be an artform though. The industry has no excuse. Its 2016. Black people and women can vote. Gay people can get married. To each other! I think there's a trans person at my church. Should the gaming industry be this creatively stunted in this age?

  13. Look, I’m quite sure that this whole sex-in-gaming thing is a complete non-issue. I think you’re just acting like one of those feminist SJWs. You’re trying not to, but you’re failing. Complaining about how “problematic” and sexually “exploitive” games like Bayonetta and Dead or Alive are just re-enforces sex-negative opinions and makes it seem as if sexuality shouldn’t be featured in games in any way shape or form as it confuses people on how to approach the topic at all. Besides, sexuality doesn’t affect a character’s character unless it plays a role in it. There isn’t a problem with making female characters titillating and I was disappointed to see you make a problem out of it.

    Also, I have issues with you claiming that the muscular, occasionally shirtless men are a “male power fantasy” because that re-enforces a double-standard. And this only makes this “issue” worse. If being buff is a male power fantasy, then doesn’t being curvy and sexually liberated qualify as a female power fantasy? Because some women, not all but some, like being sexually attractive and even want to be ogled. Don’t characters like Bayonetta and Catwoman use the “male gaze” to their own advantage at times? Doesn’t Bayonetta strip naked as a way of taunting her foes while ripping them apart with her demonic minions? Doesn’t Catwoman not lure her prey into a false sense of security before making her movie? That shows how a busty woman with a delicately sculpted butt can be considered by some to be a female power fantasy. Unfortunately, some feminists don’t perceive it as such for some odd reasons or so.

    Here are two videos I hope you watch and take into consideration:

    With that said, I have an idea for a future Gaming Literature 101: Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee.

  14. Hiya Sam, great video. I have nothing to add to the conversation but a technical comment on the video…
    Love how you phased out jumpcuts by zooming in on the face. It keeps it visually interesting (as opposed to just speaking with pauses) without the distracting, basic nature of jumpcuts.

    My technical comment is about the blue dot on your left at e.g. 6:55. When the camera zooms out (how do you do that remotely by the way?), the blue dot becomes smaller, leading me to think it's some kind of speck rather than a problem with the lens.

  15. OH mAn you're gonna break down legend of dragoon?! YES! my ALL TIME FAVE rpg. THAT moment when you have to tell [REDACTED]'s mom that her [REDACTED] died for their country and isnt coming back home. I stopped playing for a while and stared in SILENCE. I didnt cry but DAMN did I feel survivors guilt the rest of the game.

  16. I think I could see how a sexually-portrayed female character "owns it" but I'm still not convinced that Bayonetta's not gratuity. Yes, it's required by the story. But can't you argue that her character in that story is written to ensure that her depictions are gratuitous? My opinions on this are not very informed. Can you recommend other reading / watching on what makes a portrayal like this either empowering or gratuitous?

  17. Actually definition of censorship is pretty wide by itself. Here's a definition from wikipedia. "Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication or other information which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions."

    And if you read whole wikipedia page, you can find stuff like this "Censorship may be direct or it may be indirect, in which case it is called soft censorship."

  18. I knew you were planning a TLoD video soon and was hoping this was it. However, this was an insightful video none of the less. Personal mindset aside, this subject is a factor in many people's lifestyles. I just wish sex was expressed by our artistic mediums, especially in video games in a more tasteful and cathartic way, rather than overdoing it in explicit and distasteful ways. But hey, you got to find balance in everything.

  19. Does authorial (or in this case developer) intent really matter in this situation? You seemed to readily disregard that when it came to ken levine's statement that bioshock was not meant as a critique of ayn randian objectivism, so what makes a developers intentions matter when it comes to sexy characters? I guess the bigger question would be when does authorial intent matter in the setting of critique?

  20. Thanks for a more levelheaded look at the topic although I think a topic like this is so broad that I think 10 mins is not enough to even scratch the surface of the topic.

    Anyway, the argument about extremely muscular men being male power fantasies is pretty weak. 1) Even if we assume that it's a male power fantasy, that doesn't mean it also can't be a female sexual fantasy. 2) I think this link should speak for itself . 3) Most gamers seem to not care much about what gender or character they are playing as, so I think it's unlikely that it is a male power fantasy or that many people would even care when playing as them.

    Also what do you mean with sexual exploitation of ingame characters? Characters don't have any agency or emotions, so doing sexual things to them can't be sexual exploitation. Or if it can then where does the line end? Can a sexual doll be sexually exploited by someone having sex with it? Sexual doll also looks like a human and also has no real emotions or agency like characters in a game, so what's the difference?

  21. It's important to stress that the problem isn't that the exploitation exists at all, it's the problem of being all there is to the topic. Some exploitation can be okay, healthy even. Just not the only thing ever discussed.

    It's not the matter of shaming people for being perverts. You do you. It's just wanting some more maturity and an even playing field in the future.

  22. I had a strangely difficult time paying attention to this video because of a problem with the video itself, there's a group of pixels stuck on a shade of blue that draws a lot of attention. I confirmed it's not my monitor, it's only a problem with some sections of the video, and it scales in location and size with the video, not sure at what point in the production chain you picked it up but it's very distracting.

  23. when will we see an episode discussing imposed censorship? either self imposed or by the likes of a ratings agency or government. The idea of why people choose to do so to themselves or why it exists and the implications of it.

  24. I dislike the argument that "Oh, that's a male power fantasy." The girls look that way, because guys like it and the guys look that way because the guys like it not because girls find that attractive.
    I have two problems. The first, is claiming to know what all women ever find attractive (that is not aimed at you, but the argument itself, which I have heard many times). Sean Connery was voted sexiest man alive at age 69. Titanic aged Leo was also very popular and I hear Thor has very desirable Biceps. I see no pattern here, because different people find different attributes attractive.
    The second is assuming that being sexually desirable ISN"T a (power) fantasy. I would argue that being sexually desirable to the degree that the opposite (or same) sex want to pursue you can be a powerful position.

  25. If videogames keep being seen as only entertainment this issue won't go anywhere, videogames in a way are underrated and understimated because of this kinda things. If people start seeing it as something bigger then we'll be more critical and wil "punish" people with that mentality but, of course, first videogames have to start to take themselves serious. There's a lot to talk about really, good video.

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