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Michael Thomsen | 22 Jun 2010 12:53
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In a culture where men predominate and in which violent aggression is considered a necessity for "fun" gameplay, there are a surprising number of instances in popular games where a distinct fear of the feminine is manifested. In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (a game which spelled out the word "SAVIOR" in bright red letters on its back cover), the characters Meryl and Johnny decide to marry without ever having so much as kissed. During the actual ceremony, Johnny hesitates to kiss the woman with the trepidation of a first date.


In Gears of War 2, Dom kills his wife in an alien prison because she would be a burden. One chapter prior to this event, two characters, one of which is the player, are forced to carry a box of explosives in tandem down a hallway, slowing their movement and limiting their aim. Dom's wife gets a cut scene, but she is given less gameplay impact than a trunk filled with explosives.

More recently, EA released b-roll footage of the Lust level in Dante's Inferno, featuring a female enemy that has a retractable spike emerge from the vaginal folds of her crotch. A boss later in the stage is a topless giant who shoots a stream of demonic wasps from her nipples. The footage has, as of this writing, not been posted anywhere save a subscription locked video roundtable on Gore and graphic disfigurement are regularly celebrated in videogames, the only unique element of the Dante's Inferno footage is the close association with female genitals. Why should a tentacle popping out of a woman's crotch be less acceptable than a tentacle popping out of a man's neck in Resident Evil 5?

"Our secular culture produces all kinds of fear, including fear of the female anatomy," Janet Jakobsen, Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women, told me. "If you watch any horror movies, like if you watch the Aliens series, the chances are whatever is horrible has to do with vaginas, pregnancy, childbirth, wet stuff. It's just all there."

Freud popularized the theory of the "vagina dentata," a vagina with teeth that became symbolic of his theory of male castration fear. In The Joy of Sex, Alex Comfort said the vagina "looks like a castrating wound and bleeds regularly, it swallows the penis and regurgitates it limp." In contrast to the beautifully assonant vaginal imagery of Georgia O'Keeffe or Virginia Woolf, it is always the concept of bloody folds of flesh in videogames that exemplify the worst horrors for the player, from the sexually charged enemies of Silent Hill 2 to the labial portals through which enemies spawn in Dante's Inferno.

When sex does appear in games, it is almost always connected to phallocentric displays of male prowess. In God of War 2, Kratos beds two women in a show of pure virility. In the sarcastic world of Grand Theft Auto IV, sex is not an act of mutual exchange of affection between two people, it's a waiting game. Nico takes women on dates, listens to their conceited monologues, and then chooses to "push his luck." If you'd rather not participate in the formalities of dating, you can skip the bother of connecting with another person and pay a hooker to grind in Nico's lap. Sex in videogames is either the product of being good, getting lucky, or an exchange of money.

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