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Submitted on
June 1, 2013


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That Tropes vs Women in Gaming Part 2 video sure has brought on a lot of serious discussions hasn't it? I don't mean to keep wading deeper into all this, but one question begs another and this is something I'm really curious about: What's the difference between objectification... and just being sexy?

For me this is a really tough question to answer. Speaking as a heterosexual male it's a bit of a double standard. On the one hand, objectification of women and the constant sexualization of women in the majority of media around us is, I think, overwhelmingly bad for us as a society (and I've talked at great length about this subject in the past). But on the other hand there's absolutely nothing wrong with being attracted to women or finding them sexy. Speaking from a male perspective of course, this concept can be applied to how both men and women see things.

I think our tendency to over simplify things is why so many people don't take feminists seriously, because there's this belief that all feminists want to get rid of sexy female characters from media and replace them with ball-busting angry women. And that's not true. Sexy characters are used to damaging affect against women in real life, but being sexy is not a bad thing in and of itself. It's ok to be attracted to women, while also acknowledging the very real problem of women being overly sexualized and presented as objects for men to gawk over. I know that seems like hypocrisy, and maybe it is, but it's a very real truth.

Here's one thing I know gets brought up a lot. You don't have to have women presented nearly naked to be attractive. Women can wear clothing or armor and still be considered "hot." And it doesn't need to be form fitting either. The way in which a piece of clothing is worn and expressed by the person is what's attractive. This blog on tumblr is one of my favorites because it shows how women in the industry are presented, vs how they could still be viewed as attractive without making them half-naked all the time. I strongly recommend you check it out:

And I think that's ultimately what this comes down to... the way in which sexuality is used. A very good example that MovieBob made involves Ivy from the Soul Calibur series. For the most part she dresses ridiculously with absurd outfits and an over-proportioned body to boot:… But that's not inherently objectification as ALL the characters within the Soul Calibur series are ridiculously over stylized to the point of extremes. That's kinda Soul Calibur's weird little universe it's created, and there are often different more modest costumes you can pick and chose if you desire.

However, this advertisement campaign… for Soul Calibur 5 is objectifying because it reduces Ivy to nothing but her breasts. Her face is intentionally cropped out and the snake leading into her chest is obviously meant to be phallic shaped. There's no other subtext to this advertisement other than "imagine your dick here." That's degrading no matter who the character is suppose to be.

One of the problems with the complexity of life is that we can't blanket statement everything. Exceptions always exist. But we also can't explore every exception, because that just takes up too much energy and brain power to comprehend at times. So we're kinda stuck in this in-between realm where with one breath we can be standing up for women's rights and denouncing those who don't, then in the next breath fawning and appreciating the attractiveness of women. Here in America it's kinda a taboo, but we shouldn't be afraid of sexuality.

I'll be honest. I have no answer for this. Like I said, it's a ridiculous double standard and even slightly hypocritical at times... but there it is. Women can be objectified, but they can also be very attractive and sexy. What are your thoughts? What defines the difference between objectification of women (or men), and finding women (or men) sexy/attractive? Is there a middle ground or is it just extremes on both sides? Is there a solution to this problem? I am very curious to know what you all think about this subject because I haven't yet formed a solid enough idea myself and would love to hear from all sides if possible.
  • Reading: The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia
  • Watching: Doctor Who
  • Playing: Minecraft: Nerdcrafteria
  • Eating: Yes
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ForgottenDemigod Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
"However, this advertisement campaign… for Soul Calibur 5 is objectifying because it reduces Ivy to nothing but her breasts. Her face is intentionally cropped out and the snake leading into her chest is obviously meant to be phallic shaped. There's no other subtext to this advertisement other than "imagine your dick here." That's degrading no matter who the character is suppose to be."
Weird, I see something completely different. Face is cropped to bring focus to her mouth, which obviously symbolizes "Command".
Serpent symbolizes "Power" just as red colour.
Weird fur clothes symbolize "Wealth".
The mouth shape indicates cruelty and decadence.
Exposed breasts also indicate sexuality.

Looking at the poster, it's obvious to me that it's a (platform?) game, where the player plays a flashgordonesque character that is imprisoned in a castle/dungeon where he has to perform various heroic tasks and is subjected to sexual abuse and torture for gratification of the person presented on the poster.
mortalshinobi Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2014
yeah, have to agree with you more than preston on this one.  that snake isn't a dick as it's directed towards her boobs from her neck, and the fur clothing is a status symbol of power which is also expressed through her skin exposure as flaunting what she has. the snake would also symbolize wickedness, corruption and cruelty, all traits fans like to place upon ivy. not necessarily true but a way fans like to see her.
R501 Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2014
Dear, Mr. TomPreston.

As much as I'm usually hesitant to come into these kinds of discussions, I was glad to stumble upon this journal of yours, because you really do sound like you want to approach this topic with a more understanding and open-minded view than most people I've encountered. Like you, I don't claim to know the answer to this overly complex issue, because I'm just one person in a world filled with billions of different opinions and viewpoints. To respond to your first criteria, you are correct; there is no requirement that a woman needs to be half-naked in order to be attractive or sexy, even if those things are what I do personally like regarding women. As someone whose doing his best to be sex-positive, I'm am doing what I can to promote and encourage the increasing diversity of body types, character designs, attires, and different views of sexuality. To leads to my next assessment. You see, increasing diversity of character design is only half the battle; you can have a female character be dressed head to foot in full-covered armor, but if she's a flat character(in terms of personality and character development), then she's still going to be a flat character no matter how you dress her up; this speaks more to issue of how women are often written in fiction, not solely just how they're designed. I do believe it's possible to have a female characters that are like Mai Shiranui, Ivy Valentine, and Lara Croft in terms of body types and clothing choices while also still being a fully-fleshed out 3-dimensional character with her own personality, goals, and motivations. What this means is that not only do we need to have more diversity, variety, and options in character designs and clothing choices, but we also need to have better written characters, and thus having better written and more engaging stories. Last here are my thoughts on your last two paragraphs; sexuality is a very confusing and complicated subject. Sexuality is about a wide range of things, and I think that includes what we find appealing about ourselves as well as what we find appealing in those who we are attracted. You're right about the contradicting realm that society seems to celebrate and yet at the same time taboos sexuality, and that's going for both the status quo and the activism that's trying to challenge it. As someone who admits to liking the fanservicey stuff that's often shown in fictional medium, I'm often given the idea from people that "Yeah, it's okay to like this stuff... but what you like is still really awful and you should feel bad." and that really does not help me in trying to develop my own sexuality. Trying to be inclusive for other people is good, but I think it's very self-denying to believe that no one ever wants something to be made that caters to their interests, and sex and sexuality shouldn't be any different in that regard. I know that kinda sounds undermined given that society is built by people like me for people like me, but I don't think that makes it any less true; it should be something that's worth considering. We need a better of sexuality, to not be afraid to explore it as well as understanding other people's views and experiences. I think that if we are to make positive changes, we should at least try to compromise together, rather than form an us vs them mentality that's running rampant among the status quo and the activists who are trying to challenge it. I do believe that the fanservice that's oversaturated in our society has a right to exist and have a place in the world, but I also do think that it should be much more limited than it currently is, especially so that alternatives and different ideas can rise to share the spotlight in more mainstream media. We also need to be more understanding and accepting(or at least tolerating) of people's different views and preferences, because there is always going to be people who like things that we may not(and are often conflate them with as inherently bad). So yeah, more increase in diversity, variety, and options, better written characters and stories, and more understanding of ourselves and other people. It might not fix the problem completely or even by itself, but I do think it's at least a step in the right direction. Again, I don't claim to know the right answer to this overly complex issue. I'm just someone who wants to share my thoughts on this as you have kindly asked.

Sincerely, Rahkshi500.
Lalunabluena Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Sexuality in video games, movies, books or TV shows is when the female character is being portrayed as something you can imagine putting your dick into along with being portrayed as a human being with emotions.
Sexuality in drawings or photography is when the woman is being portrayed as being sexy but the drawing has something or somethings that people who aren't turned on by it all can like.

Objectification in any art from is when the woman is being portrayed as a thing you can imagine putting you dick into and absolutely nothing else.               
Seaxwulf Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist

My thoughts? Personally, I scaffold heterosexual aesthetic attraction into three tiers. First level is purely platonic, and that is the "cute" stage. Second stage is transitional/transcendental, and that is the "beauty" stage. Last stage is the erotic stage, the vaunted "sexy" stage that modern America is so hung up over. I think the slider should be kept at the Beauty phase. A lot of folks fetishise cute, which gets downright creepy. (Just think of school-girl uniforms.) Get too hung up on the sexiness and you end up with a throbbing rape culture: men with too much testosterone and not enough brain cells, and women dressing up like broads who are just going to be raped in an alleyway by the end of the next R-Kellie debut.


The Greeks had five cascading levels of love. Storge, philios, epithumia, eros and agape. That is: familial, camaraderie, eroticism, romanticism and Platonism.


Myself, I think that the media should have no place in redefining sexual mores. It has ended in oblique disaster. Body dysmorphic disorder, bulimia, anorexia, otherexia. The West has become a virulent mess. If a more realistic, organic sexuality were pushed, than we wouldn't see so much depravity. Much though people complain, in the 40s-60s the media showed representative types, arguably. Granted, they showed fine specimens, but did not attempt to transmogrify the latent morality of culture. Since cultural Marxism took root in the late 60s, we see media actively redefining mores. Now people try to emulate the media, rather than the media trying to emulate people.


This inversion of reality serves to ground people in a mass dissociative disorder which impacts virtually all strata of social existence. But that's probably some jive talk for a different little white comment box.

Mosspetal Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Good article! I agree with all of your points. It really is a shame that sexuality is pretty taboo here in America. It makes it seem downright wrong for anyone to talk about it now, and most people seem to think scanty clothing is needed to be considered "sexy." There has to be more to it than that, and the objectification of men and women don't help that at all. Good points brought up. Hopefully more people will pay attention to it now from your article :)
KitKat-Felilnine Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I generally agree with your points. However, I think there's a general mixing-up of the difference between "sexy" and "looking pleasant, ie not awful and kinda brash and revolting".
To give an idea, Barbie is really unrealisic and a bit sexualised; but the solution to her is not the unhygenic and foul-mouthed Feral Sheryl doll! The ideal doll would have a normal build, a face that you'd see on a pleasant natured ordinary girl in the street, and yes, she would have breasts. Just normal breasts that aren't pushed on you by their unrealism - but not just that. I've seen realistic enough portrayals of women - where there was something very sexualised in the essense of them (maybe the drawing style? it was definietely in the creator's minds), which was quite independent of the proportions of their breasts or what they were wearing.

Which brings me to your point I don't agree with - the putting together of two unrelated but often confused things - that wearing anything where you can at all see any of a woman's body (eg her stomach) must equal sexualised. Not true in the slightest. I've seen (many) highly, highly sexualised portrayals of women, who were very 'covered up'; and I've seen many of women in everything your definition would consider 'sexualised', such as a bikini, who have been completely normal.
The point is, it's not what you wear, it's how you wear it.

To make a character attractive - and this goes for male and female - is to start with a likeable personality. (This can include the appealing, bad-tempered mavericks who leave trails of destruction and chaos in their wake - it doesn't have to mean traditional heros.) Then, create a face that expresses that. (Having an expressive face will set your character apart from most others, as the million variations of "pout" are far too common.) This really sells your character. Now, prefably by doing some research on the closest real-world type of person to that personality you can find, conclude what sort of body type they have. So yes they may be sort of flat and skinny, or they may be chubby and - oh oh! shock horror etc - have larger breasts; that doesn't mean sexualised either - unless the designers go out to make them look sexualised. Finally, dress them as they would choose. If that means wearing something where you can see their stomach, that's what it will be! And it is time that people stop thinking that's sexualised. (Because knee-length skirts were considered sexualised when they initially appeared too. It's a combination of not-used-to-it-so-we-hate-it and seeing only a few slutty types dare to wear it - because of this pathetic reaction that the normal types got when they tried it, which put them off trying it again!)

Which comes back to the main question - how do you define the difference between attractive (as in pleasant, normal, appealing) and sexualised? One thing to start with, though I repeat myself, mixing up 'attractive' (as in not grotesque and repulsive) with sexualised/sexuality/whatever - a very large error.
It's very easy for me to cite examples of what isn't sexualised and what is, but much harder to come up with a definition - perhaphs partly because any hard-and-fast rules have the same problem as the famous '7 rules for determining an unjust law'. Someone once showed me that those rules could easily be used to support dictatorship if someone came at them from the wrong viewpoint and enough bad values. Same thing here. I can see why people go back to ridiculous rules like 'if she's not wearing a circus tent then she must be sexualised'.
So I will cite some examples. A recent website-hoster ad - very sexualised but the woman's clothes had nothing to do with it - proved when it looked no different when it was cropped to a close face-only shot. What made it sexualised was her expression - that sort of awful stripper-pout that I have never seen in an unposed/real picture - ever. So that gives you an idea - it was not the height of her front (yes, that would have been put down unfairly as 'sexualised') but how she acted that was sexualised. Exactly the same thing in computer games. Old-style Laura Croft is not sexualised because she wears shorts or a top that fits; she is sexualised becauase her creators set out to make her that way, from her expression to even the way they made her body itself.

TV show from the '80s. Woman, very much wearing a very very 'not sexualised' dress, was being very very sexualised. Why? Because she was flirting, posing, posturing and trying to lead the hero on. Do you see the pattern?
(Incidentally, I think this may mistake may be deliberate on some people's part. The idea that 'using your feminitity' (that is, flirting, leading people on, and using that to control and manipulate people) is somehow feminist seems to be quite popular. Probably partly because it works very well (kind of a Faustian Bargain - sell your soul to get what you want). So in order to divert attention, so noone calls this Real Sexualisation of women, (of everyone, actually), as exactly that - instead a scapegoat must be found to divert attention, and that to be called Sexualised instead.)
DTJB Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The term feminist is actually broader than most people imagine. It goes beyond the image of a woman decrying sexuality in a form of radicalism. Anyone, man or woman who stands up for the rights of women in any degree is a feminist.

Anyway, I believe the reasons there isn't a yes or no answer to this discussion is because everyone has their own gauge of what's sexy. You could have a bikini model alongside a fully clothed business women and there's always going to be someone who thinks both are sexy. It doesn't have to get to the point of blatant eroticism, it all depends on how the woman presents themselves. Personally, I'd look at the business woman and if all she does is give me sly smile, I'd think that's sexy. And what most people would classify as objectification, I'd classify as camp or boring; the King of Fighters fan in me finds Mai Shiranui nowhere near as sexy as any other member of the female cast.
KitKat-Felilnine Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
To use your example, the girl wearing a bikini could be looking at you normally and the woman in the suit could be flirting and sexually touching herself; which one is sexualised then?
DTJB Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
If we're talking in general terms, both would be sexualized. From my point of view, it would only be the woman in the suit. Since each individual has their own opinion about what is and isn't going to count as something that's sexy or sexualized, you can have many different viewpoints about why the bikini model and the suit are both treated as such. Because of the broad definition of what counts as sexual objectification, both are going to be categorized as such in one way or another.

Personally, I would take the two, but identify the woman in the suit as the one who is sexualized because her actions are much more provocative. If the bikini model just acts normally, then she's just acting normally. Sure she looks sexy, what? She's just another woman in a swimsuit, nothing special there really. The woman in the business suit however is putting action into her presentation and her actions would be blatant to the point that they're sexualized in my view. Maybe the reason I wouldn't find the average bikini model completely sexualized is I'm at an age and maturity level where I'd view a woman in a bikini acting normally and I wouldn't lust over her like most guys would.
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