Quick Apparel Tricks to Sexualize Female Characters

We know women in video games are nearly always represented in a hypersexualized manner. This means their breasts and hips are exaggerated, often with skinny limbs, presenting a figure that’s physically impossible in real life. This trait is emphasized through both their clothing and their lack thereof. While there is a never-ending list of evidence in support of this, I want to list some quick examples (with visuals!).

Many games (such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) give their female characters breast-shaped armor to wear. While it’s nice these women get to engage in combat, this is impractical and would actually get them killed. Why? This is because, rather than deflecting blows from weaponry, breast-shaped armor actually increases the chances that say, a sword, will slide inward, towards the center of the chest. Not good!

Splash arts for Miss Fortune, Katarina, and Zyra
Splash arts for Miss Fortune, Katarina, and Zyra

Taking armor out of the equation, women in other games appear practically nude (in-game sex workers aside). In League of Legends, for example, female characters are displayed in skimpy clothing, breasts hardly contained in their bra or cut-off shift, and leather straps that encircle their hips and thighs. The pictures shown above are not the worst offenders.

In the most recent Tomb Raider game, while I’ve discussed her portrayal is still appalling, yes, the new Lara Croft is less sexualized. However, there are still subtle hints given by her clothing. Her appearance consists of a tank top that clings to her curvaceous body the entire game (but okay, she has pants at least now). She also has a bag strap crossing between her breasts, drawing attention to her chest.

I haven’t discussed the implications of these trends just yet — simply pointing them out. So, what other dress patterns have you noticed? Feel free to list examples!

Original source for featured image: [ link ]

16 thoughts on “Quick Apparel Tricks to Sexualize Female Characters

  1. I can at least stand the skimpy armour when it has some sort of silly in universe reason like ” I want protection and the freedom to move” or “eh it’s magic shut up”.

  2. When it comes to realism vs. fantasy, we can’t really have it both ways. The rules set up by the game world are all that matter, and historical context to how “real” armor would deflect a sword doesn’t seem relevant when almost every fantasy/rpg game bases their armor system on magical properties.It is unreasonable to suspend our disbelief when it comes to what an armor can or cannot stop based on “practical” features, when we are blocking fire-balls and parrying the attacks of dragons. Skyrim never claims to be come kind of medieval-historical reenactment, so it’s unfair to judge the game based on that criteria.

    Another point is that consumers simply want to play as attractive characters. World of Warcraft is a good example, with a fairly good spread of male/female players, and the female population of WoW players overwhelmingly prefer to play as the more conventionally attractive races (Human, Night Elf, Draenei).

    So if the rules of the game-world justify it, and it’s what the consumers want, why is it that appalling?

    1. You make some excellent points! I see what you mean about not needing to be realistic and having in-game justification for the boob plates. I suppose what concerns me is I don’t see the more practical armor for women anywhere in games. Do you know any examples? So I’m also wondering is it because boob plates are the standard, or is it, like you said, because of consumers’ desires?

    1. Very true — and the huge arms! I will argue the characteristics of idealized male figure in games don’t (typically) sexualize men, as these traits don’t emphasize the crotch area. But I realize there are instances where this is the case, sometimes through different poses or angles, not so much dress. That said, these unrealistic depictions of men and women in games both can be very unhealthy for the self-image and expectations of players!

    2. I don’t think that the sexualization of men in games is equal to the level of sexualization of woman. The male idealizations we most often see, broad shoulders well toned muscles, exist to not only sexualize the male figure, but also to empower it. Male sexualization is not just eye candy – it makes the character appear physically strong, giving him power.

      On the other hand, the sexualization of female bodies in games tends to disempower. Beyond just the terrifyingly skimpy clothes that they’re given, female characters in games are less muscular than their male counterparts, even when unsupported ludically (For example, why the heck are the muscles on my Female Paladin so much smaller than the Male Wizard’s ?

      1. First of all, in the examples you linked I don’t really see the ‘skimpy’ clothing… Second of all, men are just bigger like men gain muscles way faster than women which is why they got bigger muscles.

      2. reply to christianp98 – WordPress won’t let me reply directly for some reason.

        My sentance structure was a little confusing at the end there, my fault.

        The images I linked were to provide an example of a game failing to ludically (mechanically) support a more slender female character design. In the images we see that the female bodied paladin has much smaller arms than the male bodied mage.

        The problem I have is that, non-diegetically, we know that the paladin is physically stronger – the strength statistic for a paladin is much higher than that of a mage. Yet the visual diegesis of the game suggests that the mage is the one who would win an arm wrestling contest. It’s a choice that indicates the character design of the female paladin prioritized physical attractiveness over both narrative structure and player empowerment.

      3. Could that have to do with the fulfillment of a body-fantasy by a female player? While muscles on a male character do have the dual-meaning of portraying power as well as sex-appeal, muscular women are stigmatized in our culture as being “too manly.” Often times the methods we use in real-life to improve our physical fitness are often divided amongst male and female methods, mainly to do with the opinion that a majority of society has of muscular women. It is not uncommon for muscles on a man to be considered attractive and the same muscles on a woman be considered “gross” or “manly,” so could it be that simple? Could it be that the reason female sexuality in gaming (and in the bigger picture) lacks the power that male sexuality has be that, in today’s culture, there is a widely-held preference for females to attain sex-appeal while at the same time, avoiding looking too powerful?

  3. Oh, I’ll add one more thought. To use your example, I’m not too familiar with WoW myself, but do attractive female characters mean they are also automatically oversexualized? This can be generalized too.

  4. Here’s another example of the armor gender difference in Skyrim. The image on the left is the male version of a helmet from skyrim, the image on the right is the female version.
    Skyrim Male Dwarven Helmet
    Skyrim Female Dwarven Helmet

    The male helmet is fixed in a grimace, with a widely flared bottom. It is designed to intimidate – to frighten and push away threats.

    Meanwhile the female helmet is smiling – placating rather than intimidating. It’s more slender design fails to belay the strength of the male version. In sum, it is designed to be attractive, rather than functional – a choice that is unsupported by the narrative and mechanics of the game.

    1. Just following you up with another example from Guild Wars 2.
      Note that these armor sets at the exact same ones with different models for different genders.

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