Overcoming Objectification

So when I was decided to do the TERA open beta, the last thing on my mind was character models. But as it turned out, that was what was on a lot of other people’s minds, in particular when combined with the open beta of Diablo III and its own related character model eyebrow raising.


Having read a good ten or so articles commenting on the subject, I’d like to weigh in on a few points that others have made, and then give my own two cents, with a bit of background on myself. Which will ultimately be a great lead in to the 20 days of “getting-to-know-you blogging” that I’ve decided to do.


First up, Donne over at Red Raiders decides that this is serious business, and goes so far as to pull out the APA’s definition:


The American Psychological Association (APA) defines sexualization as occurring under one or more of these four conditions:

  • “a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • “a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • “sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.”


So, here’s the problem. None of these can be applied to anyone’s characters. Without exception, in regards to the first one, a character will be valued for their skills and gameplay at every place in the game. Characters can be beautiful from the head up as well – look at this screenshot of my character from TERA, who I happened to think is beautiful:



If you agree that there is beauty on this model, or even *your* model, from the head up, then guess what? You’ve also just eliminated the second point from contention because the physical attractiveness has nothing to do with being sexy.   The third one is not applicable to a computer character, and in fact it is physically impossible to use the character in that capacity. The last point is also moot, since nothing is being imposed on a person. So, by definition, there is no sexualization going on in any MMO or even any video game, period. That’s not to say people still don’t have opinions on this, but it does mean there is no legal or ethical grounds for getting companies to change.


Second, Spinks, who I would like to give a nice H/T to for providing a succinct list of the greatest hits of this conversation, would appear to be in line with what Donne is saying above. I will note the line that gave me a chuckle though:


Note: Fanservice has minimal artistic integrity, by definition.


I love how we used the TV Tropes humor website for evidence of why these characters can not be considered in any way artistic. On those grounds, I think I will start advising my college friends to use Cracked as a reference for their next history paper.


And then we have Zubon, over at Kill Ten Rats, who, like many others, has delivered great humor to me by failing to provide adequate equivalency in his argument about false equivalency. This goes back to problems that many people have with creating valid analogies, by the way. Zubon argues (on something that is something of an old hobby horse I take it), that male models are not being implemented with the same ideal of sexiness that female models are, and blames this on the skewed sampling of an audience that leaves out a portion of the very population that would give the best input on how to make that a level playing field.  All while arguing that a level playing field would drive everyone away by making them intensely uncomfortable, citing the excellent LMFAO video as an example. There’s just a teensy problem with that though, and that is the basic information that said video has 230 million hits and has helped catapult the song into a #1 spot, while generating revenue that would make and MMO developer jealous.  The bigger problem beyond that teensy one is that the LMFAO video gives you no insight into the equivalency argument since it is played for laughs. Unless you think that TERA/Diablo III/whoever else is developing their character models for laughs.


Do you see now the false equivalency being used to sell the false equivalency argument? If so, you understand why I found the article humorous.


Then of course we have Flosch giving us all some great advice that I hardily endorse: get over it.



TL;DR Final Comments:  Or Why Should I Just Get Over It?


I grew up on the beach. I spent a lot of time in the sand, and I’ve seen all body types and all swimsuit types. And the end result is that I just don’t care. You see, after awhile, you get past the shock value of the g-string or the old dude in the speedo, and when that happens, far from objectifying the person, you start to see everything else about them.  The way to get past the objectification of women and an excessive reliance on sexuality in place of relational attributes and connections is not to shelter people.  Its to expose them to it so that they can normalize their reaction to it.


The end result is that those of us who are beach bums that spend time in the sand and surf, half naked with each other, tend to not give a rip.


I do understand the concerns over objectifying women, but I’m not sure what evidence can be presented to take this beyond the realm of personal fears. By the arguments I’ve seen in the video game context, I and everyone else who grew up on those beautiful beaches should be raving sex fiends, along with everyone who grew up in a school without a dress code.


And perhaps the biggest point and perspective I can provide is this: the viewpoints and issues our society has around sexuality are are so disjointed and fragmented, I’m not sure any one coherent ethics of sexuality could be agreed upon in general, and without that, you are never going to have leverage or impetus for a design philosophy that does not include sexual appeal in the arsenal.

One thought on “Overcoming Objectification

  1. Fantastic post; thank you very much for this! I am so weary of hearing these tired arguments played out over and over and over again as if it’s something terribly life-threatening that needs to be changed for the betterment of the world!

    Succinctly said: get over it.

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