• Men look different, Women look like submissive supermodels

    by  • March 11, 2013 • Design & Art • 1 Comment

    This is the follow up to the previous article Men wear armour, Women wear sexy-time lingerie. Here I address issues of how men and women are pictured in games, beyond what they are wearing.

    We will try to answer the this two common questions that often arise in discussion:

    “What is wrong with pictures with sexy women in sexy poses?”

    “What is wrong with pictures of submissive and passive women? And dominant and active men?”

    The answer to these questions is that the problem isn’t sexiness, nor is the submissiveness, dominance, passivity or activity. The description becomes sexist when the traits is predominately applied to one gender.

    Let’s turn to our hypothetical example of the fantasy game “Wyrms and Warriors”.

    How do characters look?

    Role-playing games are often about wish fulfilment. We want cool characters, we want them to look cool. So let’s look at the pictures. Perhaps the male characters look something like this:

    Pictures of male characters:
    ~ 30% : Conventionally handsome sexy dudes

    ~ 20% : Elvish androgynous beauties

    ~ 20% : Muscular guys that look like they can wrestle bears

    ~ 15% : Ugly bad-ass mother fuckers

    ~15% : Average everyday looking dudes doing cool things

    Looks pretty cool to me. If I want to create a character I have a lot of different looks for character can inspire me. I can be inspired to play beautiful characters or ugly characters and a lot of other cool looks.

    Then I take a look at the female characters:

    Pictures of female characters:
    ~ 40% : Female supermodels with a E-cups

    ~ 30% : Female supermodels with a B-cups

    ~ 30% : Female supermodels with a GGGG-cups!

    Wow. My cup size can vary! I feel inspired! Or… Perhaps not. While many of the male characters type was attractive in different ways, there was a lot more variation to them the size of the bulge between their legs. The different looks and body types expressed something about the character.

    How do you fix this?

    Well. Perhaps you could try something like this:

    Pictures of female characters:
    ~ 30% : Conventionally handsome sexy gals

    ~ 20% : Elvish androgynous beauties

    ~ 20% : Muscular gals that look like they can wrestle bears

    ~ 15% : Ugly bad-ass mother fuckers

    ~15% : Average everyday looking gals doing cool things

    Just saying. It is a bit more interesting than cup size. Here is a great site to help you: Athletic Body Diversity Reference for Artists.

    What about that passive/active, dominant/submissive, and sexualised/non-sexualised images of men and women?

    Here’s the thing. There is more to images of characters then clothes and body type. It’s about their attitude, situation and pose too. Let me try to explain.

    Active/Passive
    Active: Someone who is active in the picture is doing something, making something happen.
    Passive: Someone who is passive in the picture isn’t doing much. They might just be standing, sitting or laying about.

    Dominant/Submissive
    Dominant: The one that dominates in the picture is the one who is in charge, or has control and power, or is self assured and look to be in control.
    Submissive: The one that is submissive in the picture, is the one that doesn’t have power, or has less power and is vulnerable, or insecure or at a disadvantage.

    Sexualised/Non-sexualised
    Sexualised: If someone in the picture is shown in sexualised way they try to hint at sex in some way. They can be posed in way that focus on sexy body parts, or be undressed, or show sexual cues like hard nipples or hinting of an erect penis.
    Non-sexualised: If someone is shown in a nonsexual way they are simply shown in a way that doesn’t try to hint at sex, be sexy or show sexual cues.

    While nothing is wrong with any of this things on their own, they are often expressed in a sexist pattern. Men are more often active, dominate, and non-sexualised in images and women are more often passive, submissive and sexualised.

    An example would be that there are more images of brave, powerful male knights fighting a monster to save the the weak, submissive but sexy princess then the opposite with female knights and princes.

    It’s pretty boring if everything fall into that pattern. It’s also an easy trap to fall into. Mix it up. Let men be sexy, and let women be active sometimes. Let the prince be the one that needs saving sometimes, and the dominating monster be female.

    How to fix it?

    Count the images. If 60% of the men in the pictures are active, let 60% of the women in the pictures be active. If 30% of the women are submissive, have 30% of the men be submissive. If 50% of the images of men are non-sexualised, have 50% of the images of women be non-sexualised.

    Assuming that you can count, it is pretty easy.

    Closing words

    As you can see, this discussion isn’t about banning things. It is about variation, not just for the guys, not just for the girls, but for everyone.

    Thanks to St. Dymphna for help with editing.

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    About

    Elin is from the north of Sweden, she has been LARPing and playing roleplaying games for 12 years. She have organizing 20+ LARPs, been in the board of number of gaming clubs, been storytelling tabletop games on cons and at home for many years, playtested a lot of Swedish indiegames, and she appears regularly on the podcast NordNordOst in Swedish and English. She is also an digital and traditional artist.

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