The distinction I make here is a simple one. A character is sexual when one could actually picture them having sex, as in, placing themselves in a position of vulnerability in order to enjoy a moment of strong emotional intimacy with another human being. A character is merely 'sexualised' if they have extremely prominent sexual characteristics but seem completely unwilling or incapable of doing anything with them. The classic example being the armoured bikini woman who is offended or contemptuous at the suggestion that someone is daring to have sexual thoughts about them.

Sexualisation is part of the same obnoxious attitude in today's entertainment media that has come to redefine the word 'mature' to mean 'violence and tits depicted with the giggling red-faced attitude of fourteen-year-olds.' And part of that attitude is an ambivalence towards sex; the hormones want to be able to look at sexy bods, but at the same time, the act of sex itself is something frightening and to be kept at arm's length. It represents a part of the adult world that a fourteen-year-old mind is still reluctant to join.

Hence sexualisation, something to be ogled from a distance but not touched. Look at an armoured bikini and ask yourself: Is its intention really to protect against attack, or merely to prevent access? The armoured bikini is just a more economically-designed chastity belt, the very symbol of sexual repression. On the flip side of the coin you have characters who embrace their own sexuality because they want to use it as a weapon, something still rooted in the idea that sex is something to be frightened of. Bayonetta would be the Ur-example there.

But it's not just female characters. The male equivalent would be a hero with the physique of a love interest from the cover of a racy romance novel aimed at lonely housewives who seals himself inside a suit of armour lest he be shamed by his unclean flesh, and who is constantly clutching a massive penis surrogate with both hands. The kind whose love interest gets murdered so he is free to go kill-crazy out of equal parts RAAAGE and massive relief that he will no longer be called upon to touch her icky bits or take the padlock off his giant cast-iron jockstrap. So, yeah, not dissimilar to the 'macho' archetype. But I'd say it is possible for a character to be both macho and sexual. Kratos springs to mind; he got his little deicidal nob on on a daily basis. And it says something that that was probably the most stable aspect of his personality.

You see, a character who is sexual is mature with the true meaning of the word. They have fully grown into their bodies and are at ease with themselves. A character who is merely sexualised is riddled with insecurities, terrified of an aspect both of themselves and the very nature of humanity. So ask yourselves, reader, next time someone's trying to get you to suck their cock in a men's toilet, who are you really afraid of? Big John, or perhaps... yourself? Well. Big John, probably, that was a bad example.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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