• Using Your Words – Parallels Between Porn and Gaming

    by  • May 28, 2014 • Essays • 1 Comment

    I’ve been listening to a lot of Dan Savage’s “Savage Lovecasts” recently at the gym. There’s some great listens in the archives, it’s interesting to hear discussions about sex and gender from 2012 as compared to now. There was a great one from that era where he interviews Cindy Gallop about her site Make Love Not Porn, which is fabulous in and of itself. Cindy’s mission is to point out the differences between the “fantasy” of porn and the “reality” of sex. I agree pretty wholeheartedly with everyone in this discussion, because sex education is so terrible right now, and we can’t have conversations about sex as part of the everyday human experience, young people are learning from the only resource they have: porn. Porn is heavily biased toward making money, not realistic, gender equal representations of sexual relations in the bedroom. It’s a hard argument to make, being pro porn (as I am), but realizing how much porn is harming young people and their conceptions of sex and gender. It’s that lack of a counter argument, any discussion happening anywhere to counterbalance the overwhelming influence of porn as our sexual resource, that makes porn the only discussion out there.

    Savage and Gallop both talk about the troubling position this is putting young women into more and more often. Women have to advocate for their own pleasure in bed, often when they don’t know how to ask for it, or haven’t been educated on what that pleasure even looks like. The predominant male gaze in porn leaves us wondering… how does a woman cum? What does her desire look like? Where is her camera perspective on her partner? So women have to work extra hard to even begin to imagine what that is, and create from a blank slate. It’s doing double extra work just to get off, or just to educate her partner how to get her off, because it’s just not common knowledge.

    I was also recently in an online discussion about making Interesting Characters with Indie+ on Google Hangouts. Part of that discussion became about how to communicate at the table about things you want to highlight in your character when roleplaying. For a lot of us, it came down to y’know, just asking people to do it. “Use Your Words”, another famous phrase from Mr. Savage. Sometimes the best way to get what you want, is just to ask for it. Asking for it is hard though, you have to work at getting what you want out of your roleplay experience, and because roleplaying is collaborative, you have to figure out how to ask the people around you to help you get there.

    This made me think of how women interact on gaming social media, and at the gaming table. A lot of times (my experience) I see women not speaking up as much on internet threads unless they’re specifically invited to do so. Or speaking up more if that discussion is led by a woman, because the understanding of how that discussion can go is implicit in the gender of the discussion starter. I know this is more of a trend in culture, and there’s a very real dynamic for women to be more passive in mixed gender conversations. I see this prevalent, however, not just in the g+ gaming and geek communities, but also in real life gaming communities I participate in. If there’s a gaming table with mostly men, women will be more silent. Just like those articles you’re always reading about women in corporate culture… it’s the same. It’s embedded into our social brains, it’s hard to rebel against. The dominant view in gaming is a male view, just like in porn.

    I see these parallels between how young people are getting their false sex education through porn, and how people in tabletop gaming communities have an absence of the female view. The male view is also dominant in gaming, and so in order for a female view to exist it has to be fought for. It’s not as though it’s entirely purposeful, although the act of not changing it is. Women have to do work to shift the gaming culture, so that we can be heard, so that we can get a chance to speak like everyone else. We have to advocate hard for ourselves, and our fellow ladies, and do it consistently until there’s a culture shift that’s visible online and at the table. Even then, when someone new enters your group, you have to start all over again to re-educate. Trends in whose voice can be heard and who has the power to lead discussions lean toward the masculine of the species.

    So there’s this difficult position women are in – in sex, and in gaming – where we’re put in this trap of constantly having to ask. Ask for anything, really. Women have to train ourselves to be aware of cultural dynamics, educate those around us how to see them too, advocate hard for ourselves and other women, and work hard to be consistently asking for what we want. When what we want is simple… just the same thing that everyone else wants. The trouble is, asking is sometimes viewed as being pushy, aggressive, naggy. It can even be seen as too feminist, with a negative connotation, that all you’re concerned about is women’s issues, and what you want. People can see it as selfish. As many people have said in the past, ultimately, it’s a lot of extra work that’s put upon us to do. It’s a big trap.

    I think what makes this easier for me is if all genders are aware this is happening. With awareness can come extra help on that work. Sharing the workload, really, is so comforting to me. If I see someone else in my community, group, whatever, going the extra mile to ask what I want, to do the research, to invite me to speak when I’m fighting for a word, that’s one more piece of work I don’t have to do. I think that’s one of the best ways to be an ally to women (which I work hard, myself, to do). Highlight our voices, make sure we’re being heard, create spaces where people can’t talk over us or interrupt us, enforce our ability to express ourselves.

    Shift the perception of the fantasy of equality in tabletop gaming “But of course women are welcome here!” to the reality of gaming “We have to work hard to be inclusive, all the time.”

    avatar

    About

    Game player, gypsy traveler, cyborg, and designer of enameled jewelry. Check out my jewelry at Anima Metals and for sale at Anima Metals on Etsy and on facebook at Anima Metals Facebook Page

    http://hardcyborgfemme.tumblr.com/

    One Response to Using Your Words – Parallels Between Porn and Gaming

    1. avatar
      MickBradley
      May 29, 2014 at 16:53

      What are some ways that we cis-male folk can proactively help women express their voices at the table? I hope this doesn’t come off as a Feminism 101 type question, forgive me if it has been covered before. I guess what I’m more specifically wondering is, if I notice that a woman at the table is being more reserved than the guys, is it appropriate for me to directly ask her questions and try to give her space to be more vocal, or does my doing so come off as me giving her some sort of permission – as if I have the authority to “permit”? What can I do to help make a friendly safe space for women to fully interact at the table without coming off as some sort of white knight?

      Thumb up Thumb down 0
    Comments are closed.