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Vaginophobia

Michael Thomsen | 22 Jun 2010 12:53
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Ducat described the suffering of many of his male patients in terms of a fear of the feminine. "These anxieties have been particularly evident," he said, "in their denial of dependency needs, their inability to sustain intimate ties with women or other men, their preoccupation with holding positions of dominance and control in relationships, and their various sexual dysfunctions."

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At the 2009 Game Developers Conference, Chaplin delivered a rant about "guy" culture as afraid of intimacy, responsibility, intellectual discovery, and introspection. "It's not that the medium is in its adolescence, it's that you're a bunch of ****ing adolescents," she said. She was largely criticized for her assertion by many disparate members of the videogame community, from the designer of God of War, David Jaffe, to Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander but consider the VGA's Game of the Year contenders in light of her observation.

Even the most progressive game of the lot, Uncharted 2, ends with an exchange between Elena and Nathan in which he can't bring himself to be honest about his feelings. Elena asks Nathan to rank on a scale of one to ten how afraid for her safety he had been. He says four, and then suggests he would rank his fear of clowns at a ten. "Clowns over my death?" Elena asks.

"I hate clowns," Nathan says.

They are teasing each other. The scene is sweet and funny; both the audience and Elena understand he is lying. But isn't that Exhibit A in the case for Chaplin's argument? Why would a man feel vulnerable in the company of someone he truly loves? Isn't this a variation of that same fear of intimacy Chaplin was talking about? I was charmed by the scene, but only because that playful shyness on the cusp of a huge connection is so familiar. We instinctually resist this idea with argument and bluster because, deep down, there just might be some kernel of truth to it.

"It is not that there's something pathological about being male," Ducat said in The Wimp Factor. "Rather, the problem is the psychological cost of developing a male identity in a culture that disparages the feminine and insists that the boundaries between the masculine and the feminine remain unambiguous and impermeable."

Samhita Mukhopadhyay of the blog Femisiting, spoke out against the misogynistic imbalance in Grand Theft Auto IV based on a now retracted montage posted on IGN showing Nico killing different women after having sex with them. "If you could kill male prostitutes in the game, then it would be different, but you can only kill female prostitutes," she told me. "It's clearly a fantasy. This is not the real world, and you have the right to fantasize about what you want to fantasize about. I'm more interested in what informs that fantasy. It's not coming out of nowhere."

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