Why are we allowed to be titallated by women in games, but not actually talk about their own sexuality?
In games, the sexuality of women is typically used as a way of titillating an audience and is often depicted in a way that is for those who are sexually attracted to women rather than for a woman’s own pleasure or empowerment. Over-sexualised women often feature as side characters in triple-A games, the importance of their presence derived more from their jiggle physics than their ability to drive the action or plot. A recent example is Quiet from Metal Gear Solid V; literally named after the act of being barely heard, Quiet’s scantily clad figure is fetishised by the camera, with lingering shots of her scarcely covered breasts designed to appeal to a player who is attracted to women, not one who seeks to identify with a woman.
The over-sexualisation of women leads to them rarely being represented in games - and media more broadly - in a way that speaks directly to them about their own sexuality. A woman’s sexuality is positioned in a dangerous way: as being primarily for those who are attracted to women, and not for the woman herself. You need only read articles about ciswomen who have never seen their own vaginas (of which there are many) to see the way this issue has permeated our culture.
"... these processes are perfectly captured by how do you Do It?, a short, free-to-play game.'
Often discussion of women enjoying sex is avoided because sex is considered ‘dirty’ and women are considered ‘pure’, and any interaction between those concepts jars with the narrative we are familiar with. This starts from a young age, with girls becoming aware of sex, but also knowing that it is a taboo topic that should not be discussed or asked about. This can lead to confused, self-led exploration or experimentation, as well as attempts to repress natural curiosity; these processes are perfectly captured by how do you Do It?, a short, free-to-play game.
In the game, you play as a young girl who attempts to recreate the act of sex using two naked dolls and a limited knowledge informed by a scene from Titanic. Your goal is to experiment with the way sex may look between these dolls while your mother is out, ensuring you stop before she returns and catches you.
how do you Do It? represents a reality of repression, but what are games doing to promote sex-positivity, and to begin shifting the public perception of women’s sexuality?
Well, for starters, people have been making touch-sensitive games about vaginas as a way of reducing the stigma associated with them, which is a step towards greater sex-positivity for vagina-owners of all genders.
Released in 2013, Luxuria Superbia is a simulation game where you explore twelve flower-like tunnels using touch to colour each petal; however, if you colour the petals too quickly, you can prematurely end a level and cannot move on to colouring the next flower. This relaxing simulation game is subtle in most ways, but more direct in the feedback that it provides you with, encouraging you with phrases like, ‘Yes, right there!’ These moments make the innuendo clearer and reveal that Luxuria Superbia is actually about the slow-paced process of bringing a vagina-owner to orgasm.
A less-subtle approach was taken by HappyPlayTime in 2014, a game in which you are encouraged to sensually touch an adorable vulva with pudgy arms (who quickly informs you that vulvas don’t usually have arms). Not only is HappyPlayTime more obvious in its appearance, but also in its intent; while Luxuria Superbia could be for vagina-owners or their partners, HappyPlayTime is explicitly designed to teach users about the act of self-love. On the game’s website, the developer, Tina Gong, has said: "Loving your body, in every way, is not a sin. No more shame, no more secrets. This little vulva is on a mission: to free the world from a silly social stigma."
La Petite Mort is a recent release that follows in the footsteps of these simulation games, using colours and music to respectfully represent vaginal stimulation. It is described as a ‘one of a kind digital erotic experience designed for touch’ that will allow you to experience ‘a cacophony of musical climaxes you never thought were possible on a touchscreen’. The developers, Lovable Hat Cult, sought to make a game that is not fixated on scoring systems or speed, but rather on creating a slow, erotic experience with the end climax acting more as a ‘bonus’ than an objective.
Although Luxuria Superbia is available on multiple platforms, including the Apple app store, both HappyPlayTime and La Petite Mort have been deemed unacceptable by Apple. HappyPlayTime was rejected from the app store for ‘containing pornographic material’, while La Petite Mort - a more abstract and less explicitly educational imagining of a similar topic - was rejected for featuring ‘excessively objectionable or crude content’. One of Apple’s primary complaints in the latter scenario was regarding the names used in La Petite Mort for the unlockable ‘experiences’ (designed to replace ‘achievements’ without introducing competition); these names - like agitato and crescendo - are taken from music and, although they have been used in literature to describe sexual experiences, they are not sexually explicit terms.
This denying the availability of apps that are about sex-positivity simply reinforces the stigma that these games are attempting to destabilise. The significance of this becomes clearer when you consider that games such as Game of War: Fire Age - complete with all of Kate Upton’s cleavage - are available on the same app store that has denied access to games that are seeking to empower women and improve the relationship that vagina-owners have with their own bodies, on the grounds that they include ‘pornographic’ or ‘crude’ material. This act is the product of a culture where sexualisation of women for the purposes of titillation is accepted, but the empowerment of women or vagina-owners is discouraged; a culture that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.