Sex is vastly overrated. It’s not a value judgement, just a statement of fact: sex is just Not That Big A Deal, Really, despite what societal and social expectations may tell you otherwise. A hypersexualized culture is damaging to nearly every demographic, save those who conform to a “standard” parameter of race, class, orientation, gender identity, and age, decrying every other identity as invalid at best, and “inhuman,” “freakish,” or “broken” at worst. And, best of all, it’s utterly impossible to escape.
Obviously, oversexualization of female characters in video games annoys me. Oversexualization of female characters in everything annoys me. But it’s completely unavoidable – no matter where I turn, every female character is some guy’s dream girl. No one character is purely a subject; she must always have an object status. Let me explain my annoyance further. (Some NSFW text under the cut)
There is a lot of baggage I’m bringing to this blog post, so let me unpack a little of it. I have three main identities that I like to bring to the forefront of my personality. I am, in brief:
- A feminist
- Asexual (This is not a perfection description, to be fair)
This is not nearly the whole of who I am, obviously, but it’s a good jumping off point. But I write this disclaimer to dispel any preconceived notions that I am morally opposed to sex, sexuality, pre-marital sex, or homosexuality/non-heterosexuality. I’m not. Let me be clear – I am not anti-sex, in the abstract. In the abstract, I recognize that sex has no inherent negative or positive attachment; it’s just a thing that people do together. As a feminist, I support the liberation of women’s sexuality, and I would never, ever want to take away anyone’s freedom to pursue a partner and engage in sexual acts together. As a Catholic, I know that God, who, in His infinite wisdom, has created such marvels as galaxies and gravity and the jellyfish, truly does not care who you want to bang. But as an asexual, I can only experience sexuality in the abstract, which is great, because I never want to experience it at all.
The thing about asexuality is that it is defined as being against to sexuality. That’s what the Latin root “a-” is for, to specifically designate asexuality in opposition to “normal” sexuality. This is an issue for me, and many people, because I don’t want to be defined by my sexuality, or lack thereof. But because I identify as a woman, it’s quite frankly impossible for me to exist outside of a sexual lens.
“Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it’s all a male fantasy: that you’re strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it. Even pretending you aren’t catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy: pretending you’re unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you can wash your feet and comb your hair unconscious of the ever-present watcher peering through the keyhole, peering through the keyhole in your own head, if nowhere else. You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.” – Margaret Atwood, Robber Brides
I’m trapped in a sexual universe. No matter what I do, someone is going to look at me and think “I want to bone that.” This is inevitable. It’s inevitable for every type of woman – a white woman or a woman of color, cis or trans, abled or disabled, straight or on the spectrum, and every other category under the sun. Completely against my will, I am reduced to someone’s fantasy.
My imperfect proposal: strip away the sexuality of women in media. And of men. In fact, let’s de-normalize sex entirely. Just fucking get rid of it. Sex in the media is lazy storytelling, a distraction, a placeholder for actual meaning and real human connection. Because why would you bother untangling human emotion when you could just say “and then they fucked, and it was glorious”? Sex is boring.
Am I being a prude? I certainly don’t think so. Sex is not inherently evil – obviously – but neither is it inherently good. It just is. It exists. It is an evolutionary necessity. But we are certainly more than our biological urges, aren’t we? This media obsession, fanaticism, with sex and romance is damaging all of us, encouraging everyone – not just women, everyone – to think that they are incomplete, that they aren’t fully realized as a person without an attachment to a second body.
I do not labor under any illusion that I am only half myself, and that I need only find “the one” before I realize that I am whole. I assure you, I am more important than what I do or do not do with my genitals, and with whom. I am a one singular person, not one half of a soul waiting for another.
In this respect, asexuality doesn’t even begin to cover what I feel. I would say “anti-sexual,” but this implies that I am anti-sex, which is patently untrue. I suppose the best description for me is “non-sexual” – I want nothing to do with it whatsoever.
The de-normalization of sex is probably not really going to work. People like to fuck. Hollywood would – gasp! – lose all of its appeal, and most of its ideas. It doesn’t even begin to touch on the forcible desexualization of black and brown bodies, a topic that I am distinctly unqualified on which to speak. But in terms of oversexualization of female characters, I think it’d be a damn good place to begin.