Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Dichotomy of Anonymity: Porn by Any Other Name

Russ Pitts | 5 Feb 2007 16:00
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imageMaybe it's just that time of year, but lately I've been thinking a lot about breasts. I get the feeling I'm not alone in that.

I also get the feeling this isn't a seasonal thing, but the time of year, the impending arrival of that bastion of red cellophane romance that is Hallmark's contribution to the American social scene, Valentine's Day, certainly doesn't help. The profusion of grocery store teddy bears, flower vending madmen and sucrose-infused corpuscles of love tends to put the mind in the mood for explorations of the human form. Or parts of it, anyway. And even though breasts, as they say, are merely the titillating tip of that iceberg, in the gamespace they would appear to be the alpha and omega of the entire kit and caboodle, the mountain-cum-molehill that flavors all social interaction amongst gamers.

"Does she have breasts? Are they big breasts? Have you seen her breasts? Will she rub them in my face, move them closer to the camera or send me a picture of them? Can I touch them or ... do things to them?" This, believe it or not, is the entire contents of a man's mind in the first five seconds (and every five seconds thereafter) upon discovering a woman who plays games; which is, I dare say, to be expected. Unfortunately, it's what also tends to come out of his mouth. In that vast arena that is everyday life, such thoughts are often put aside if not outright ignored, in order to allow for more civilized interaction. Women need not fear that every other word out of a man's mouth will be in reference to her boobs. Addressed to them, maybe, but not necessarily about them. So why can we not expect the same amount of decorum in the game arena? Women inhabit approximately 50 percent of the meatspace on this planet, so why do so many of us act as if we've never seen one?

Anonymity definitely plays its part. Once one's name - and the weight of responsibility for one's actions - is removed from the equation, one tends to feel freer to act on impulses one might otherwise ignore. This has been well-established, and flogging that principle will serve no purpose here, but it does bear mentioning that part (perhaps most) of the blame for the juvenile treatment of women in the gamespace lies at the feet of the men perpetrating it, and that they do so because they believe they can get away with it, not because they don't know better. But there are two sides to this problem, and following the scientific principle that it takes two to tango, I'm going to, at the risk of being hoisted upon my own petard, suggest that women themselves are also to blame for the fact that they get such an unfair jiggle in the gamespace, or at least some of them are, and for similar reasons.

Some of us ... work hard to try and make people understand that we just want a place to play without being harassed every five minutes and that we'd like to be taken into consideration when creating games/game characters. ... For companies and developers and even other gamers to start taking us seriously, we need to start acting like we belong.

So says blogger Sara N, aka "Dirty Diva," about the current blight on humanity affecting the game industry, The Miss Video Game Contest. MVG is supposedly a beauty contest organized with the goal of showing the world what videogame chicks are really like. "We're looking for an ambassador," says the organization's website, and since the contest has opened it has attracted scores of attention-seeking ladies from the world over, each hopeful of being proclaimed Miss Video Game. The problem? Many of them don't even play games, and in recent weeks the site has turned into a mini-gallery of outright pornography, some of it of underage girls, which, unfortunately, was no surprise here.

What is surprising is another blogger's reaction to all of this. A girl gamer, no less, and former contestant, who made a big to-do about entering the contest a while back, supported the contest's ostensible goal of assisting "in the proliferation of females in gaming genres of all types and [helping] raise awareness of the female gaming audience among game publishers and advertisers. [Making] the gaming industry take women gamers seriously and to treat them with respect as equals," and proudly consented to have her photograph pasted up on a website for the viewing pleasure of anyone with an internet connection. It would seem, however, that upon further consideration, the lady in question has decided to pull her support for the contest. Not necessarily because it's a thinly-veiled, pornographic popularity contest, but because that part about it being in support of the gaming community was apparently a double-D size lie.

"How can you have a contest to find a female gamer spokesperson, but not require them to play video games? ... As a gamer I like to see new gamers join our community, but how can you expect a new gamer to represent a community they have only been a part of for a few days? ... I cannot in good faith promote or be involved with such an event or company."

We applaud her decision, although we have to question her motives. The blogger in question calls herself Faith Naked, which, who knows, may be her real name, but it's a perfect choice of moniker for someone looking to draw attention to the fact that she's a female. Her decision to drop out of the MVG contest speaks volumes for her earnestness, but not necessarily of her judgment, since, after all, she did apply to be a (role) model in the first place. Even if the contest was above board, and open only to actual gamer chicks, they'd still be collecting pictures of girls and picking the hottest one. What kind of woman goes for that sort of thing?

"I, myself, have been supporting [MVG] fully due to my love for pageants and drive for competition," says Aktrez, on her blog. "I also feel that fun events like this CAN be legitimate and fun for the female (and maybe even down the road - male) gamers in our community!"

But fun for whom, is the obvious question. For the girl doing the "submitting" or the men who will be enjoying their submissions? Perhaps both.

Faith Naked continues her attempt to dissect MVG in a recent follow up post:

Nudity is great and I don't judge people for taking their clothes off. My only problems with the lewd pictures on the site were the fact they weren't supposed to be allowed on there as stated in the company's own rules, and the fact that this was a contest to find a suitable role model for young gamers. ... Even I work in at a strip club, and was concerned in the beginning that I would be removed from the contest for my job or would face problems from the media if I advanced into the finals."

Emphasis mine.

If you've got it, the old saying goes, flaunt it. Obviously Ms. Naked is a disciple of this conventional wisdom, and one can hardly blame her. If swinging one's breasts around in a crowded room didn't attract attention and earn women like Ms. Naked what they were after, one would have an easier time suggesting they cut it out. But it works, and when one's physical assets are all one has, it's hard to blame one for using them. Besides, even nice girls like to feel sexy from time to time, and nice guys sometimes (nay, always) enjoy having breasts pushed in their face. It is, after all, how we're wired. It's a mad, mad world, and we all have to get ahead somehow. Like I said, I can't fault a woman with no other way of making a name for herself for using her body to get ahead. What I can do, however, is respect all the more the ladies who don't have to or simply refuse.

"It's great to be confident," says Sara N. "It's great to feel you're beautiful but if you have the brainpower to achieve a goal, why not use it? I don't know many people that take women seriously when they strip off their clothes."

I couldn't have said it better myself. The difference between women like Faith Naked and those who don't put their best breast forward, so to speak, is not necessarily their desire to be admired, but by whom they wish to be admired. As Miss N so aptly suggests, very few women will be taken seriously by exposing themselves to get ahead, at least not for more than a few minutes, anyway. If we're looking for a woman to be "an ambassador," I say we start with women like that, otherwise, we're not actually looking for an ambassador, we're just looking for another pinup model, and we've already got plenty of those. I'm sure you already have them linked.

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