From the infamous Custer’s Revenge to the celebrated NieR: Automata, time and time again there has unfortunately been a firm element of sexualization applied to any character bearing the identity of female within gaming. Certain men just can’t seem to get enough of computer generated lady bits, whether it is the female target of Custer’s pixelated and racially insensitive lust, or the existence of a fan created nude mod for NieR: Automata’s already scantily clad heroine, 2B.
With blatantly sexually charged gameplay and nude mods clearly being driven by nothing more than sexual fantasy, the subject of sexualization of females within gaming can encounter a certain grey area when it happens to portray, for example, the aforementioned scantily clad 2B with an empowering “I don’t give a damn” personality. This raises the question of what separates the difference between positive portrayal of female characters within games, despite the fact that they may be somewhat under-dressed, and what constitutes as cringe-inducing sexual objectification?
An experience from a number of years ago that I can recollect is playing the 2011 Mortal Kombat with a friend of a friend. Upon discovering a revealing bonus costume for Mileena, he proceeded to (almost literally) drool over it. “Isn’t that a little bit strange?”, I inquired, having never fully understood the sexual appeal of fictional characters. “Well, when you’re single you take what you can get”, he responded confidentially. As a single person myself at the time, I still failed to see his argument, but I moved on regardless, realizing there are better subjects to converse about than the slightly visible butt crack of a Mortal Kombat antagonist. However, it was quite clear that there was a prevalent element of sexual frustration to not only his tone of voice, but his response too. This can be casually observed in many other instances of our lives, whether it’s our one friend that tends to like/share fetishistic photos of anime girls on Facebook, or our other friend that secretly reads sexually charged Overwatch fan fiction. As odd as it may seem, it is in often cases nothing more than people harmlessly relieving their sexual frustration via various outlets. This sensation of needing to quench our lust is experienced by the overwhelming majority of humans within their lives, and in some cases the antidote for certain people just happens to take shape within the medium of games.
As odd as it may be to witness the fantasy orientated manifestations of individual’s outlets for their sexual frustration, it potentially holds no ill will against females. Provided that each and every individual can distinguish firmly between fantasy and reality, and as a result not apply whatever fetishistic mindset about Lara Croft’s breasts that they may have into real life, their indulgence in fantasy driven lust is, although at times bizarre, essentially harmless.
This same rule applies to pornography too, of course. It is also arguable that those seeking sexual relief from indulging in fantasy is far less problematic than the more common means of seeking sexual relief from friends with benefits and/or one night stands, as these can potentially hurt the emotions of a second party in the event of a misunderstanding (e.g. “I thought you loved me, but you just wanted to use me for sex?”). Of course, whatever your weapon of choice may be for relieving sexual frustration, from staring at Mileena’s buttocks, to cuddling a hentai covered body pillow, to pornography, to casual sex, it can all be entirely harmless and innocent provided that it doesn’t impede your ability to create and nurture genuine relationships with others.
Whilst the stereotype of seeking sexual satisfaction in fantasy oriented outlets sets its crosshairs most commonly on men, there are exceptions. I distinctly remember going on a date with a girl once upon a time which resulted in her describing to me her passion for Yaoi, which is manga and anime depicting men being intimate with one another, at times sexually.
The moral of the story is that we all like to sexualize from time to time, regardless of gender. Men aren’t sexual objects, and ladies aren’t sexual objects, but we are all pretty damn sexy at the same time, so let’s celebrate that with respect and love for one another!