Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Boardwalk Empire and Sex

My wife and me are currently watching Boardwalk Empire on DVD. That is a TV series from HBO which is all about the prohibition, showing how the official interdiction of alcohol led to the rise of organized crime while not really having a big impact on alcohol consumption. Then I was surfing some gaming forum where somebody had linked some game-related image and the stereotypical discussion broke out whether the female characters in that image were too sexy. And I couldn't help but think that there are some parallels to the prohibition here, just with a lot less crime.

Attitudes towards how acceptable it is to show images of naked women in mainstream publications vary over the globe. An American visiting England and buying a regular newspaper like the Sun might be in for a shock when he sees the topless girl on page 3. But the globalization of media and the dominance of the USA in media markets have led to a global general trend of less and less naked flesh in films, TV shows, print publications, and yes, games.

But just like prohibition just ended alcohol consumption on the surface, the consumption of media showing naked flesh, sexualized images, or just plain porn has not diminished. People, including teenagers and children, have unprecedented easy access to porn today. The global porn industry has been estimated to be a $97 billion business, of which around $12 billion are in the "prudish" USA. An estimated one third of all internet traffic is porn-related. And attempts to filter the internet and make porn inaccessible to teenagers have just plain failed. If your teen can't find porn on the internet there is probably something wrong with him. While the effect of that is disputed, the net exposure to sex certainly has gone up: The stuff that is removed these days as being too risky from mainstream publications is pretty harmless, while internet pornography these days is a lot more obscene than your daddy's Playboy magazine.

Unlike prohibition or the war on drugs there is very little evidence of pornography leading to a strong rise in violent organized crime. And so while prohibition ended in 1933 and "legalize drugs" campaigns are clearly making progress, there is very little chance that the drive to ban sex from mainstream media is going into reverse. But while female characters in mainstream games will become increasingly dressed, the porn industry will just branch out more and more into gaming. Both by producing gaming-related porn (there is a number of World of Warcraft porn sites), and by making an increasing number of games ranging from sexy over erotic to pornographic. The demand clearly is there, and if public morals prohibit mainstream game developers from fulfilling that demand, somebody else will. Just like prohibition, I'm not sure that driving sex underground is actually helping.

I think you misunderstand the situation. The problem isn't with nudity or even "explicit romantic scenes". It's exploitation and objectification. A couple enjoying themselves has nothing wrong with it. A female game avatar dressed as a stripper in a combat situation for the pleasure of the player is very problematic.

As a player who enjoy "being immersed", my automatic emotional reaction to see such avatar (in BDO what I play) is pity and sadness. Poor little avatar barely has any protection from incoming damage because her master cares more about watching her flesh than protecting her from getting hit. It's irrational (the stats of the bikini armor are the same), but still, that's how I react.
I don't think it changes anything if you just consider objectification and exploitation. I don't believe internet porn is about "couples enjoying themselves". Just like the chain mail bikini is mild nudity and porn is hardcore, the chain mail bikini is mild objectification and porn is hardcore objectification and exploitation.

That is actually where I consider that if pornography has any harmful influence on teenagers, the danger of such harmful influence has gone up. I don't think there is much harm in those page 3 girls, but teenagers looking at extreme porn and believing that this is normal sex might well be harmful.
I don't see any problem with female characters wearing skimpy outfits in games. I see problems with anyone forcing me to accept their standards. And forcing game developers to cave in to those standards of a whining minority (otherwise, the adult industry would be a lot less developed).

"I cannot do it. It is against my religion". OKAY

"You cannot do it. It is against my religion". TOTALLY NOT OKAY!

What's objectify? No idea. People are supposed to procreate and feel good while doing it, otherwise, procreation will stop at some point.
How about "You cannot do it. It insults me!"? I think the political correctness brigade has more or less stopped to use religion as an argument. It is more a question of your freedom to swing your fist ending where the other person's nose begins.

Now personally I would think it would be great if people in general would be less concerned about what other people say. But that over-reaction is not one-sided. The political correctness brigade howls loudly every time something that could be interpreted as sexist or racist is mentioned, and then the freedom of expression extremists react even more violently to that criticism, up to and including death threats. Which is pretty much how that battle for freedom of expression was lost.

Note however that game developers are not *forced* to cave in those standards. It is far more subtle: They are told that if they don't comply with those standards, they can't distribute their games vie certain distribution channels, for example the Apple app store or Walmart. If they cave in it is more because they would rather go for the big bucks of the mainstream than using their freedom of expression to a smaller audience. Nothing prevents you from designing a video game with topless girls, you would just have to find other distribution channels for that game.
@Alexf: what's objectifying? When someone does NOT feel good while in the act or in the auxiliary acts of procreation, just serve as a tool of someone else's feeling good.

The game relevance: you surely wouldn't feel good if facing a big bad monster only in underwear, would you? Yet a bunch of female avatars are doing just that for the pleasure of the male, heterosexual player. Sure, you can say that avatars aren't people and feel nothing, but they serve as role models for human interaction and teach people how to view genders.
There always have and always will be extremists in anything, which is itself defined relative to that culture's norms. Saying "extreme" porn is harmful to kids is the same as saying Call of Duty or guns or cars or rock music is harmful—i.e., it's not. It's not the car's fault that the madman ran into crowds with it; likewise with fantastic depictions and those who can't separate fiction from reality.

>female characters in mainstream games will become increasingly dressed
Where are you getting this from? All the internet uproar today is about feminists' complaints of them becoming less dressed (while the feminists themselves want as much raunchiness and little sexual responsibility as possible, the latter an actual cause of harm), and minor changes to the odd Japanese import, which has been happening since the 90s. The rise of the pc in Japan came entirely on the backs of explicitly erotic games, and more of those are being brought overseas every year. When things do get censored, it's because the increased sales are worth upsetting the vocal minority, as the really hardcore (no pun intended) fans will have already bought the Japanese versions anyway.

As for the porn, the reality is far from what alarmist publications would have you believe. The most watched and bought porn comes from tame amateurs. The large industry players have been toning themselves down to match the demand, and extreme producers have actually served jail sentences. If anything, the opposite of prohibition has been happening, despite certain European government's attempts to curtail its growth.

To objectify is to bring an abstraction to a concrete point. In this case, the idyllic conception of "woman" being turned into "a thing to have sex with." Note, however, that same objectification for "man" is perfectly acceptable.
You my be interested to know that this post is flagged and barred as "Inappropriate Content" by the WiFi system where I work.
I just had to link to Avenue Q. Sorry. ;-)

@ AlexF

People are supposed to procreate and feel good while doing it, otherwise, procreation will stop at some point.

We were procreating long before the advent of computer games and we will continue to do so long after they fall out of favor with the masses. The issue at hand is one of "Identity Politics", and the narcissistic personality traits of those involved in these movements give rise to what we see today - total and unapologetic acceptance, or else.

I love watching female beach volleyball matches. That might make me sexist in the eyes of some, but it sure as heck doesn't make me a sexist video gamer. If the causal link between video game violence and real life violence continues to be debunked with each passing study, what right do the SJW's have in claiming that enjoying scantily clad or beautiful women in video games makes me a sexist gamer? There's a double standard at work here, and it needs to stop. In the past, I was a gamer because I liked to play videogames, regardless of issues such as race, religion, sex or gender. I know how to procreate and I know how to love and respect the woman in my life. Video games neither taught nor influenced any of that.

Video game developers should be free to portray their own vision and tell their stories as they see fit. Yet they find themselves constantly being attacked by the Political Identity brigade, where mobs of online activists demand that they adhere to their specific, and often neurotic standards.
Video game developers should be free to portray their own vision and tell their stories as they see fit. Yet they find themselves constantly being attacked by the Political Identity brigade, where mobs of online activists demand that they adhere to their specific, and often neurotic standards.

...and exactly the same from the other side as well. There have been numerous recent cases where developers changed something in a game and you had people crawling out of the woodwork angry at them despite the fact that the developers themselves were the ones who chose to make that change of their own free will. It's incredibly hypocritical to throw this attitude on "identity politics" when it's both sides engaging in a war.
@noguff: violence is illegal. For a normal person, a piece of media is not enough to push him over that boundary. Similarly, no one claimed that sexist avatar cause anyone to turn a rapist.

Sexism on the other hand is legal and not distinct (you are or not) but a scale and cultural effects can push you on that scale.
@Jens Fried
Let me fix your link
Much better!

As for the rest, I can only see one issue: some people are unable to operate at different levels of consciousness and have a hard time distinguishing between virtual reality and real life. This is why their subconscious objectification or something translates to real life.

Never had a problem having different attitudes towards girls in games, girls in porn, and girls in real life.

If people think too much about what other people say from the sexist or racial point of view, the Western civilization will definitely get something like thought police. Sooner than later. Shit like mansplaining is already afoot. Look too closely at a girl to get sued. Too much care is being taken to avoid hurting other person’s feelings. Everyone is so touchy as if they were in primary school or something.

From Soviet Russia with love I tell you, sexy people: grow some thicker skin, will ya? :)

PS: Glad to hear I may be worrying unduly.
@ Sine

despite the fact that the developers themselves were the ones who chose to make that change of their own free will.

Ok, and? If gameplay changes are made that affects the installation, play-ability, balance or other standard "gaming related" issues, then feedback is expected and warranted. No where in law is it codified that game developers are required to make changes based on religion, sex, gender or race. The SJW's know this, and Identity Politics is the only mechanism they know how to use, and it's sad. The logic falls short in saying that "it's both sides engaging in a war", when one side(developers) existed long before the antics of Identity Politics. Buying, supporting or playing games that someone else finds offensive does not make me part of "their" war, and in no way does it make developers "the other side" in a war that only exists because OF Identity Politics.

If a developer feels the need to make changes to a game because of race, religion, sex or gender issues, then good on them, I say. But they also have the right to make any game they want with any content they want, and all the Political Identity folk need to stick to the tried and true method of advancing social agendas with their wallet. Each and every mainstream, well cited and researched report continues to debunk the notion of a causal relationship between violence and sexism and videogames. What's inside someones head does not make something an issue, or a war.
I remember reading something about a study years ago that found that access to pornography actually might be associated with a drop in sexual crimes. I believe the thinking was that letting people have their fantasies and act it out to a certain extent lead to less interest in forcing themselves on another person. Granted, I read it on the internet, and studies you read about on the internet aren't anymore valid than any other poorly conducted study.

For me scantily clad characters in video games is really only an issue if it illogically represents the majority of such characters. For instance bikini clad girls in a beach volley ball game seems normal. Every female character in Skyrim wandering around in lingerie just strikes me as being ridiculous.
When I was a kid, All I had to look at for pictures of boobs was back issues of National Geographic.

Let me tell you, those are NOT quality pictures of boobs. Kids today have it easy!

Have the rates of abuse skyrocketed since I was a kid? No? If anything, they've probably gone down, but you wouldn't really know for the lack of reporting back in the day.
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