Tropes vs Women: Women as Reward

Sarkeesian moves on to talking about Women as Reward, which she defines thusly:

We’ve coined the Women as Reward trope to describe a long-running pattern found in interactive media. It occurs when women (or more often women’s bodies) are employed as rewards for player actions in video games. The trope frames female bodies as collectible, as tractable or as consumable, and positions women as status symbols designed to validate the masculinity of presumed straight male players.

But if we delve into her examples, what we’ll find is that what she really means is “Women as Incentive”, or rather “Sex as Incentive”. These fall into two main categories. The first is where the game uses sex or the promise of sex — either actual in-game sex or sexual images and the like — as an incentive for the player to perform certain actions in the game. The second is where the game uses game mechanical incentives to encourage the player to engage in sexual actions in the game itself. What’s important to note here is that neither of these cases are cases where the player does something of their own volition and they happen to get, say, a sexual image at the end of it, which is them actually getting a reward even though they in no way did that action to get that reward. Sarkeesian, it seems to me, in order to make the link to her “entitlement” comments and for most of her examples to work has to argue that the game, at least, intends that to be the incentive for doing something, and not just some little bauble that the player looks at and says “Cool”, and moves on. It has to be important enough to the player that they strive for it, which makes it more than a mere reward. We often confuse the two because we use what we call rewards to “condition” people to do the actions that we want them to — we especially see this when dealing with children or animals, but this also occurs in business — but generally those are incentives for behaviour change, not merely rewards.

It’s also important to note from this, then, that Sarkeesian’s argument isn’t going to work if it can be boiled down to “It’d be okay to reward that behaviour, even with sexual content, but the reward is so sexualized that it ought not be in a game at all”. Sarkeesian claims to not be opposed to sex in games, and since rewarding someone involves giving them something they like, and we can presume that even Sarkeesian likes sex, then giving them that as a reward is not in and of itself a problem. If Sarkeesian’s only argument is that the depiction of sex is itself harmful and so, say, women ought not be depicted that way, then it doesn’t fall into the “Sex as Incentive” trope, or even “Women as Reward” trope, because for it to fit it must be the case that the problem with it is crucially that it is offered as incentive or as reward, and not its mere presence. So if she wants to make that argument, she needs to define the trope for it and discuss that specifically, and not let the idea of that trope colour our perceptions of this trope. So here I’ll focus on instances of “Sex as Incentive” as outlined above.

The result of this incentive structure is that access to women’s bodies, women’s affection or women’s sexuality is reduced to a simple equation that guarantees delivery as long as the correct set of inputs are entered into the system.

In this way the Women as Reward trope helps foster a sense of entitlement where players are encouraged to view women as something they’ve earned the right to by virtue of their gaming actions, skills or accomplishments.

So, then, the heart of the “Sex as Incentive” trope is that it reduces women to objects for the player to simply use. Of course, simply using sex as an incentive doesn’t in and of itself do that; it must be the case that the NPCs are already seen as objects, and then when the player engages in sex with them — or even views the images of them — that’s just continuing the objectification. The problem is that in a lot of games, the “correct set of inputs” is, essentially, talking to them, finding out what they like, giving them what they like, and solving problems for them. Thus, the correct set of inputs is to create a connection and a relationship with them, which likely isn’t what Sarkeesian is criticizing and, to her credit, doesn’t seem to be what most of her examples are criticizing, except potentially by implication. So it’s important to note that her definition cannot include these cases. This distinction is going to be important later when Sarkeesian talks about trophies and “entitlements”.

We run into a major problem when Sarkeesian talks about “Easter Eggs”, because these are examples that fit squarely into the “reward” category, and where the issue is the reward itself, not that it is being used as a reward:

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 included a secret unlockable character named Daisy, who bore the likeness of porn star Jenna Jameson. Daisy’s sexualized appearance and skateboard tricks are designed as a reward for those players who unlocked her. One way to do that is by entering this code… ( o ) ( o )

Probably one of the most famous Women as Reward easter eggs brings us back to Samus Aran. The original Metroid used a password system to save progress. By inputting the secret code “Justin Bailey” into this system, gamers would unlock a powered-up playable version of Samus wearing only her leotard-style bathing suit. Incidentally this is the same outfit we covered earlier as an end-game reward, only here she has the powers of the Varia Suit and its associated color pallete swap, which changes her hair color to green. Players can then play the entire game as Samus without her space armor. So she ends up exploring a hostile alien world and fighting off deadly monsters in her underwear.

I find the code for Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 to be juvenile, but note that in both cases the problem is with the presentation itself, not with the fact that that is the reward. It should be clear by now and from the initial introduction to her video — alluded to in the quote — that Sarkeesian doesn’t want the player to have the ability to dress Samus in that way, or to have a sexualized character in the game. She focuses on this again later:

Many unlockable costumes are cool, wacky or bizarre. But when applied to female characters we see a distinct pattern of revealing, hypersexualized outfits.

Fetishized bunny, cat, maid or nurse costumes are commonly used by developers as a way to pander to an assumed straight male player base.

It’s important to remember that sexualization is not necessarily just about the amount of skin showing, but is instead connected to the question of whether or not a costume is eroticized for the express purpose of titillation.

These types of unlockable outfits can be especially pernicious since they often end up undermining women who are otherwise appropriately dressed for active or professional roles. The Resident Evil franchise has been particularly guilty of this over the years. Almost every major release in the series has included the Women as Reward trope.

The problem is not that these outfits are unlockable. If you could choose them from the beginning, it wouldn’t make Sarkeesian any happier, and I dare say it would make her far less happy. So these don’t apply even to “Women as Reward’, let alone to “Sex as Incentive”, unless she wants to argue that people will try to finish the game just to gain the ability to dress the character in those outfits. No, the issue is that she finds them inappropriate, not that they are inappropriate rewards.

Let me take a brief aside to talk about this. I see nothing wrong with giving players the choice to put characters in utterly inappropriate outfits for the role they’re in. Games are primarily about entertainment, and if a player wants to acknowledge that by doing utterly ridiculous things, more power to them; they’re absolutely aware of the disconnect there and are rolling with it. I also see absolutely nothing wrong with giving players the choice to put characters into outfits that they happen to find appealing, and that they think make the character look good. I also have no problem with that “looking good” part being sexual in nature, in short, dressing up a character in ways that make them look “hot”, in the mind of the player. So the only objection here can be about it being “sexualized”, whatever that means. But that, again, is another debate. What is relevant here, though, is that dressing a competent female character in an outfit even designed to make her look “hot” doesn’t suddenly take away her competence, or her strength, or her personality. It doesn’t in any way reduce her to a sexual object, but instead enhances her character as “strong, capable, competent and hot too”. So since it merely adds to the qualities of a character that the player already likes. In fact, typically the biggest calls for “sexying up” a character comes for characters that the players themselves like in other ways. In short, male players tend to really want to see female characters naked that they actually really like as characters.

Admittedly, typically most men will take naked pictures most of the time, as evidenced by the popularity of pornography. But if we’re going to get into talking about incentives, the more appealing a character is in general, the more likely a male player will be incentivized by seeing them in a sexual position. And the driving force for that is often what they think of the character as a character, and not just as an object.

Alternative costumes for men are rarely objectifying. They’re instead presented as “tough guy” power fantasies for other straight men to identify with. And when men are stripped down to their beachwear it’s most often meant as a lighthearted joke.

So, here’s a quick question: why do men find those outfits “appealing” in the first place? Could it be because those are the sort of men that are considered to be “successful”, which in our culture very much means “appeals to women”? Sarkeesian here is ignoring that women have traditionally found different things appealing than men have, and that the “tough guy power fantasies” reflect the traits that women find appealing. Whether or not that is also a reflection of patriarchy is an argument for another day, but Sarkeesian assumes that they can’t be objectifying because they reflect a power fantasy for men, ignoring that a big part of that is their appeal to women. Sure, it’s absolutely true that in most of these cases the outfits aren’t put there to appeal to women — because games still do aim to appeal to men more often, which I concede is an issue — but if they were, I suspect that those same, “non-objectifying” outfits would be the ones added if women were asked “What sorts of outfits would you like to outfit men in if you wanted to make them hot?”. So things are no where near as simple as Sarkeesian wants to make them out to be.

For the record, I’m totally in favour of asking that question for women and putting those sorts of outfits in the game, as long as no one is forced to use them … just as I’m in favour of the existing outfits for women that Sarkeesian criticizes as long as, again, no one is forced to use them.

Sarkeesian moves on to talking about the use of XP points for sexual encounters:

When women are used as sexualized experience point dispensers, the sexual scenarios are themselves a reward designed to validate the masculinity of presumed straight male players. But there’s a dual reward here: absorbing these expressions of female sexuality carries with it the ability for male characters to grow stronger, faster and more capable, reducing the women to points in a mathematical equation that directly links the flippant consumption of female sexuality to an increase in male power.

She actually links to both cases here, where the first seems to be aimed at “You are encouraged to do it because you get sex out of it” while the second is aimed at “The game gives you stuff for engaging in sex”. The problem is that the game giving XP for this doesn’t link all that well to the first point, because typically XP is really important, and the game wouldn’t have to give you XP to do something that you were going to do anyway.

Her GTA example only highlights a problem with her analysis:

In Grand Theft Auto 5, players are given additional encouragement to solicit prostitutes, in the form of an increase to their character’s stamina rating, which enables those characters to sprint, swim, or ride a bike faster for longer periods of time.

If that’s an action that a character wants to do — because they enjoy the sex parts so much — then this becomes merely — presumably — one way to raise those stats, and a way that they find more entertaining. But then it’s one way out of all of the others to raise those same stats, making it a mechanism, not an incentive (the incentive is still to raise those stats; you’re just doing it in the way that bores you the least). Thus, either players are doing what they wanted to do anyway and raising stats that way, or else they are doing it to simply get the increase in stats and this is the most efficient way to do so, at which point that it involves sex is not only irrelevant, but mostly ignored. It’s the equivalent of, say, being able to raise a specific stat in an Elder Scrolls game by running everywhere. If I want to run everywhere — and I often do, because I hate horses — that stat will go up … but that the stat goes up is in no way an incentive for me to run everywhere. And if I run everywhere just to increase that stat, then that while you can argue that the game incentivizes my running everywhere, there’s no link between the increases and the action; it won’t make me want to run everywhere in games, or even keep running everywhere once I max out that stat. So we can see that these kind of incentives either reward the player for doing things they already want to do, or else turn the reward into a gameplay element where the details of the interaction are generally ignored.

So the only case that seems problematic here would be the case where the mechanism is boring, but players are encouraged to do it anyway to see the sex scene or image or whatever. But if they’re willing to be that bored to see sex, it’s not likely that the game giving that to them is going to change much. And note that underneath all of this lies the fact that many games do not have these sorts of mechanisms, or any explicit sex scenes at all, so it’s not like gamers aren’t already exposed to even relationships with female characters that don’t end in sex (even some of Sarkeesian’s examples have to substitute “a kiss” for that).

And speaking of relationships:

Note that, while the consumption of women makes male characters more powerful it has nothing to do with mutual relationship building. The “relationship,” such as it is, ends with sex, or rescuing the woman. At that point, she has served her purpose. Players have reaped the benefits and her value has been depleted. Like an empty energy drink container, she is simply cast aside after being consumed.

I have to presume that she’s talking about the cases where you can merely hire a prostitute or something, not the sex scenes that follow from explicit relationship building, like in the Personas, or most Bioware games, because there the relationship doesn’t end with the sex, and the relationship is built up massively over time. Which, again, since she talks about being able to show what she considers proper sexual relationships, it would have been really nice for her to have used one of the Bioware examples as relationships done right, and about being less about sex and more about a real relationship. As it is, as I said above, here she almost seems to be condemning them by implication as well. I’m going to be charitable and assume that she doesn’t include those relationships in this description (although in The Old Republic you get XP for pursuing sexual relationships. You also get it for pursuing friendship relationships as well. It’s about the relationship, not the sex).

When done well, collectibles inspire exploration and replayability. However, when they’re designed to function as an extension of the Women as Reward trope, players are encouraged to view women’s bodies as souvenirs of their adventures.

In the 2010 remake of Splatterhouse players are encouraged to collect ripped-up pieces of photographs of the protagonist’s girlfriend which are strewn around each level. Once the player pieces them together, the completed images consist mostly of private, personal sexual photos.

But, again, is this just giving a player something they like and then can look at later, or is it actually the incentive to collect these things? Again, if a player doesn’t care about looking at them, then they won’t collect them. If they really want the pictures, then they’ll go to potentially tremendous effort to get them. And if the collectibles provide something in game, then most players won’t be thinking “Hey, naked pic!” but instead “Okay, got that, so only X more to go!”. It’s no different in that case from my trying to get all of the Iron Man armour in X-Men Legends 2 so I could unlock Deadpool (I think). That it was Iron Man’s armour meant nothing to me.

So here, again, Sarkeesian has to be opposing having those sorts of images in the game at all, because she presumably wouldn’t have a problem with unlocking landscapes or bonus scenes or bonus characters (in fact, she out-and-out says that). So it’s that you can unlock things that are, in her mind, sexualized that’s the problem here. Keep that in mind as I’ll go into what her overall problem with this is later (as she holds it to the end as well).

Next, we turn to trophies, and achievements:

If collectibles in the player’s inventory work as a private trophy collection, then achievements serve as a public trophy case, on display for all to see. Achievements, or trophies, are meta-goal award systems built into most popular gaming platforms. Unlike collectibles, achievements are earned through in-game actions but awarded outside of the game environment itself and have no effect on gameplay. Some achievements are rewarded for skill or completion of tasks while others are arbitrary challenges set up by developers.

These systems encourage “replayability” and provide players with incentives to spend more time inside the game space experimenting with its environments and characters. By default, your achievements are visible to anyone who views your profile on a gaming platform and thus they allow players to show off their gaming skill or dedication to their friends. In other words, achievements are designed to function as status symbols for gamers.

Um, actually … no, not really. Or, at least, that’s not how most gamers, it seems to me, treat achievements. There are two reasons for this. First, the only real bragging rights you get are for achieving all of the achievements, not usually for completing specific ones (certain incredibly hard ones might get some props). Second, there are often in-game rewards for completing a specific achievement or all of them (a different difficulty level, new scenes, new options, etc). So while they are indeed shared, a specific achievement isn’t likely to generate much status for anyone. Sarkeesian describes it thusly:

Just so we’re clear on what’s happening here, players are receiving a literal trophy for “achieving sex” with a woman. When games such as these award players with achievements or trophies for sexual conquests they are directly reinforcing negative ways of thinking about the dynamics between men and women in our society. By presenting sex as an end goal of men’s interactions or relationships with women, these games frame sexual encounters as challenges to be overcome.

Let me emphasize that the problem here is not necessarily that sex is included in these games. By presenting sex as a goal and then presenting players with an award for accomplishing that goal, these achievements function as a form of trophyism. Simply put, trophyism is the tendency for men to view women as objects to be collected and displayed as status symbols of their sexual prowess or virility. These “trophy women” then serve as a way for men to assert their social status among and relative to other men.

The thing is … you pretty much get trophies for doing anything in the game. The trophies for Dungeon Travelers 2 include: leveling up to an intermediate class, eating at the ice cream shop, and a gold reward for leveling to an advanced class … which you’ll almost certainly have to do to get anywhere in the game. And these are likely going to be harder to achieve than most of the “get sex” options that Sarkeesian talks about. “Trophyism” in the real world only works when the thing you’ve achieved is hard to get. In the real world, the assumption is that the more attractive the woman, the harder she’d be to “get”, and so the better the man had to be to “get” her. This is not true of the sexual encounters in games that you get trophies for. The cheap, casual encounters are trivially easy to achieve in games; they’re literally the equivalent of hiring a prostitute, which confers no status on a man who had to do that to get sex. The ones that would be at all impressive would be the ones that require you to negotiate a long, drawn-out process of building a relationship with the person, and again what would be impressive is not that you got to the sex scene but instead that you spent that much time going through that character’s personal story to get to that point. The harder that is, the better.

She also talks about the 2004 Sid Meier’s Pirates! game:

The “fame points” system in the 2004 version of Sid Meier’s Pirates! provides us with a stark illustration of trophyism. In the game, romancing and then rescuing any of the game’s many governors’ daughters not only rewards your pirate with the option to marry her, but also wins him extra fame points. The daughters are largely interchangeable; they don’t even have names, and their value as a reward is tied directly to their appearance. Courting and marrying a “plain” daughter earns fewer fame points than marrying an “attractive” one, and marrying a “beautiful” daughter earns the most points of all. Fame points then directly contribute to the social status your character achieves at the end of the game. Depending on the amount of points accrued, you could end up as anything from a lowly pauper to a powerful governor. Other ways to earn fame points include acquiring wealth and defeating rivals. Like all your swashbuckling escapades, acquiring a woman becomes just another feather in your proverbial cap, functioning to elevate your prestige and renown in society. And since, in the game’s Xbox Live Arcade release, there are achievements for getting married, and for courting governors’ daughters from all four nations at once, these accomplishments also increase your gaming status.

The problem is this: the only difference in reward for attractiveness is precisely which one you marry. The spread is this: 1 for plain, 2 for attractive, and 3 for beautiful. There are a total of 10 points available based on what the wiki itself calls “Love”. So if you go for a plain daughter, you limit yourself to 8 out of 10 points maximum. The total number of points available in the game is 126. So you’d limit yourself to 124 points if you did everything else. If you get 124 points, you get … Governor. In fact, the range on that is 103 – 126, so you can still mess up a lot and still get the max retirement occupation even if you go for a plain daughter. And if you do nothing else and so only end up with 8 points, you get Bartender. Add the two extra points for a beautiful daughter and you get … Bartender. Huh. So much for her being beautiful really mattering.

And I think that finding someone to love — again, they call it that — is more than just a feather in your cap. After all, among those “feathers” is “Avenging your family earns you 10 points” and “You earn 32 points by finding all four cities and your entire family”. In fact, all of the fame achievements are things that are critically important to someone living the life of a pirate: achieving a certain amount of wealth is important to a pirate, since that’s their main measure of success; as a privateer, ranking with the nations is also important; defeating famous pirates is also a key factor; finding hidden treasure is what pirates do; and of course the three already mention. Knowing the series, this seems to be intentional; the fame achievements are likely designed to represent what an ideal pirate/privateer ought to be striving for. So rather than being an excellent example of what Sarkeesian is on about here, it is in fact a terrible one; the woman is not a feather in the pirate’s cap, but a key component of what a pirate/privateer would want to achieve before retiring. It’s thus important on a character level, not a gaming or “show off my status to others” level. I’d prefer it if the game had given them personalities to make it more interesting, but it’s not how Sarkeesian presents it.

So, finally, what is her problem with “Sex as Incentive”? Well, it comes down to male entitlement:

By extension, “male entitlement” is the conviction that men are owed something by virtue of their gender. It’s the belief structure that tells men they deserve to have their whims catered to, both culturally and interpersonally. One of the most harmful aspects of male entitlement is the false belief that men have a right to survey and use women’s bodies. This mentality carries with it a corresponding set of expectations about what women should provide for men. It’s a worldview that primarily defines women’s social role as vessels of sexuality, and men’s roles as consumers or patrons of that sexuality.

But then in the context of games she talks about it this way:

Players make the correct inputs into the game; a woman’s affection or her body is the corresponding output. Players go through the process of saving the princess, and the game’s algorithm dutifully rewards them with what they think they are rightfully owed for doing so: whether it be a kiss, a girlfriend, or sexual attention.

So, male entitlement is the idea that, because they’re men, they deserve something. In this case, it’s seen as access to women’s bodies for sex. And yet, the underlying mechanism is not “I’m a man, but give me sex” but instead “I’m a man and I’ve done all of the things that our society says I need to do to prove my worth and value to you, up to and including risking my life to save yours, and so I think I’ve earned the promised reward”. Sarkeesian’s misunderstanding of the damsel in distress trope rears its ugly head here again, because she misses that what the male character is doing in those cases is demonstrating their value to the woman as a hero and as a man. The man spends the entire game proving to the woman that he’s worthy of her. Assuming that he’s successful, it surely shouldn’t seem like such a stretch that doing that might, you know, prove that he’s worthy of her love, or even simply demonstrate to her his good qualities that she can fall in love with right?

Thus, the gaming mechanisms that present the “Sex as Incentive” reward as being the result of long, tedious and often boring “correct inputs” actually oppose male entitlement, as they present the situation as being male being table stakes, but that a massive amount of effort has to be done to achieve the end goal, an effort that is done to her specifications. If any entitlement is on display here, it is female entitlement: the idea that being female is enough to get a man to go through hell to win her love, while she doesn’t have to demonstrate anything other than being female, and being attractive.

There is one aspect that might actually fit into a typical view of entitlement that she talks about:

For instance in Asura’s Wrath, when the player stares at a maiden’s breasts, she’ll try to cover herself up. But if the player keeps staring they will unlock an achievement called “View of the Valley”.

Similarly, in Lollipop Chainsaw the player can unlock the “I swear! I did it by mistake!” achievement for using the game-camera to look up Juliette’s skirt for an extended period of time despite her coy efforts to block players from doing so.

These achievements are directly rewarding players for in-game behavior that amounts to sexual harassment. Players are actively being encouraged to think of women’s bodies as something they are entitled to interact with.

So, let’s analyze the role of the achievements here. Again, either the player gets this for doing something they’d do anyway, or else they are doing it to get the achievement. If the former, then they’re doing it anyway and that they get an achievement for it is irrelevant. If the latter, then they are only doing it for the achievement and it’s no different than them clicking on a door five times, and so they don’t even really acknowledge that this is sexual harassment … because they aren’t even really paying attention to what’s going on. Sure, there’s a middle ground between the two, but for the most part you’ll side one way or the other.

Sarkeesian’s objection here, then, can’t be that you get an achievement for doing it. It has to be that you can do it. And I can see an argument for that, mostly because it does involve you having to be directly trying even as the character is trying to ensure that you can’t. But this has nothing to do with “Sex as Incentive”, “Women as Reward”, or male entitlement as it is defined in relation to those tropes.

Let me finish by talking a bit about how she thinks rage at frustrated male entitlement plays itself out in games:

In the gaming community, we see this entitlement-fueled outrage bubble to the surface when some gamers encounter indications that games aren’t made exclusively with their fantasies in mind. Angry public temper tantrums from straight male players have occurred when role-playing games have forced them to interact with gay male characters, or presented them with lesbian characters who were not available as romance options to male avatars.

Angry backlash from straight male players also materializes when Western releases of Japanese games place women in slightly less revealing outfits, or increase the age of young sexualized female characters to 18.

In the same vein, when presented with critical analyses of the poor representations of women in many popular games, this intense male entitlement manifests in aggression, abuse and threats.

There are no examples of this in the actual transcript, but let me start from one main principle: The Internet sucks. Many Internet commenters have ended up in flamewars for simply expressing criticism of a game in a way that wouldn’t in any way trigger any kind of male entitlement. For example, Shamus Young ended up in a bit of one for a post that criticized Windows by parodying criticisms of Linux, as if he was criticizing Linux for not doing the obviously stupid and annoying things that Windows did. Suffice it to say, if you’re on the Internet, and you criticize something people love — or are even seen to be criticizing something people love — you will get lots of nasty reactions and rage.

So a lot of the time, the reaction is not so much “male entitlement”, but instead anger that something that they love is going to be changed to appeal to an audience that has never bothered to support it before and has no real reason to support it now if the changes are made. When D&D 4.0 came out, I say lots of posts criticizing how it seemed to be aimed at “video gamers” and removed elements that real roleplayers wanted to see. No male entitlement there. The reaction gets even worse when the response is seen to be a reaction to complaints from that group that is at least seen as not being particularly interested in the genre in the first place. If you look at most of her examples, that seems to be the case. Again, she gives no specific examples, but it is easy to imagine that players would react badly to either having a female character that they would prefer to be their romance option be designated as “female only” simply to attempt to be more inclusive, or have a male character blatantly hit on their male character when most other cases the player has to initiate the interaction (I believe there’s a case of the latter in one of the Dragon Age games, and I know some people complained about one of the characters in Mass Effect 3 being female only because she was the character they were most interested in). In the case of the ports, again this is a reaction to having to change the game from how it was originally done to serve the interests of people who almost certainly aren’t going to play the game, and don’t care about it … and who could easily skip the game and/or the scenes if it bothered them that much.

I’m going to skip the part where she’s trying to use herself as an example without saying it, because I don’t want to get into the discussions of that specifically — suffice it to say that it’s more complicated than she seems to understand — but the specific examples of changes in games don’t follow from male entitlement, but from people being upset at people trying to change the things they love for a vague or nebulous goal that is never “Make the games better”. I wish that people didn’t react as stupidly on the Net when things like this happen, but unfortunately, they do, and ruin things for everyone. That doesn’t mean that Sarkeesian can reduce it all to “feminist theory du jour” without understanding the potentially real issues that people have with those changes.


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4 Responses to “Tropes vs Women: Women as Reward”

  1. Andrew Says:

    What if Sarkeesian’s basic assumption is flawed? What if “women as reward” is not shameful, but rather a feature?

    Take a species that practices bi-sexual reproduction, with long gestation and development times. Optimise one sex for childbearing and childrearing, with resulting benefits and drawbacks. One obvious drawback is that they are significantly hampered during the whole process, first by the physical demands of pregnancy, then by the stresses of childbirth, and finally by the physical and mental demands of tending to highly dependent children.

    What mechanism might exist to tie the sex not hampered by childbearing to the childbearing sex? Simple loyalty to the offspring might do it, but how much more effective if you create a pleasure mutual feedback loop for the non-bearing sex for protecting and investing in the well-being of their childbearing partner?

    I put it that something very much like this exists.

    Given the existence of this mechanism, it’s really not surprising that it gets used as a reward mechanism and motivator in various situations.

    Now, it’s one thing to argue that the mechanism can be mis-used (e.g. pornography). However, to argue that the mechanism itself is bad – which seems to be Sarkeesian’s perspective – strikes me as (1) flying in the face of reality and (2) deliberately sabotaging a mechanism optimised for preserving the well-being of women because it offends her peculiar sense of pride.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      I think this comes out a bit in the discussion of male entitlement: Sarkeesian is ignoring the potential benefits to women and the efforts that the men have to exert while claiming that men expect it “just for being men”. It’s hard to say that men are expressing male entitlement when they perform the actions that are supposed to earn them a reward and then expect to receive it. Your analysis breaks down why women want to make men prove themselves and then why, when men feel they’ve done so, they think there was an agreement there.

  2. Patriarchy and Entitlement … | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] when I talked about Sarkeesian’s last, explicit, non-DLC video, I talked a bit about male and female entitlement. In pondering it a bit, I think that when we […]

  3. Tropes vs Women: Not Your Exotic Fantasy. | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] costume in the Resident Evil games that is definitely fetishy … after talking about how all of the alternative outfits for the women in those games are fetishy. She also talks about the sexy stereotypical presentation of a character in Street Fighter … […]

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