Monday, February 18, 2013

Sexualization of Men in Videogames

The sexualization of women characters in games has received attention from numerous sources over the years, including media, parents, and academics. However, Brathwaite, in Chapter 1 of Sex in Video Games, offered that women were not the only ones to be sexualized, but that in fact, several characters such as Duke Nukem and Kratos from God of War represent the sexualization of men.

This assertion confused me. I do not consider these characters to be hypersexualized, or even particularly sexualized. From my perspective, these characters are hypermasculinized. They may possess an over-the-top “idealized” body, but the player cannot, for example, move camera angles around to examine a character’s butt the way a player can for Lara Croft. In conversation H made a good point which is that many of these characters are not what a heterosexual woman would find sexy, but perhaps represent what a heterosexual man’s idea of what they think a heterosexual woman would find sexy. It is clear the the over-the-top “idealized” bodies of the male characters are for the benefit of the heterosexual men playing, much like the over-the-top “idealized” bodies of the female characters are for the benefit of the heterosexual men.

So I began to wonder, what would a (hyper-) sexualized man look like in a video game? J and I threw around a number of different ideas. Would a main man character who was dressed in a Chippendales outfit while everyone else was dressed normally count? How about one wearing a crop top and booty shorts? A revealing police uniform? But then we realized we were verging on The Village People territory. A character like the ones we described would be considered silly, not sexy, particularly to a heteronormative audience.

It is impossible to hypersexualize men the same way games hypersexualize women. This is because even if a man is sexualized, there is not a power dynamic which encourages players to view them solely as objects or possessions, like there is for women. Society does not allow for a man to be reduced to the sum of his body parts. There are no cultural narratives in the United States that contest a man’s place in a position of power or state that a man’s sole value lies in his biology, like there are for women.

- A.

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