What a perfect body is perfect for

| Sunday, May 6, 2012
This jumped out at me over at We Fly Spitfires: "Why Females Are Oversexualized in Video Games"
Secondly, because we think it’s what women want. Video games are mostly fantasy representations and reflect things as they would be in a ‘perfect’ universe. The male models are all huge and buff, straining their clothing through their rippling muscles beneath, a massive departure from not only real life but also the men themselves who play the games. If we like seeing ‘perfect’ men, why wouldn’t women like seeing ‘perfect’ women? And if males run around wearing what we would wear in our ultimate fantasies, wouldn’t we want our female characters do the same?

That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  But for one problem: What is the use of said perfect bodies?

Let's start with the male body.  What is the purpose of a huge and buff body?  There is some aesthetic aspect to it, that some people find that attractive.  As a fantasy, most men probably wish they were a bit stronger, a bit fitter, even if they'd be confused if they looked in the mirror and saw the Hulk.  There is also a practical aspect: a lot of muscle means a lot of strength.  The muscled behemoth can exert physical control over his environment.  It's useful to him personally, regardless of how others value it.

Contrast that with the perfect female body.  For the sake of focus, just as we did with the male, let's set aside personal preference for appearance and go with the general fantasy trend: thin with big breasts.  Who finds this attractive?  Well since I already set aside personal preference, I get to say everyone: that men desire women with that appearance and women want to have that appearance.  But what is it good for?  We've covered aesthetics, but what else?  There is some notion of fertility and health, that the breasts are a sign of sexual maturity and the thinness is a sign of taking care of oneself (which would be reversed in times of starvation when being bigger was a sign of having enough to eat and therefore health and economic security).  Okay, so if we are looking to make babies, we've got that covered.  But the muscled man gained the ability to singlehandedly exert control over his environment whereas the woman's great physical advantage, making babies (which is hardly of similar usefulness in the typical world beset by demons and bandits) is still a cooperative effort: She needs a man to gain any benefit from her power.

There's nothing wrong with the "perfect body", except when said perfect bodies mean that male characters appear capable of standing up to danger while the female is helpless, but sure looks great doing it.  If ya know what I mean.


Syl said...

...to add two things: thin-ness for women is actually quite contradictory in that it isn't what it's supposed to symbolize. fit people are rarely skinny the way the model look suggests (and everyone knows just how healthy and fit models are..). thin is not fit.

also, it does not suggest fertility; wide hips do, fat stored around the middle parts of the female body, to nurture a growing child. so at the very least, the model would need to have an hour-glass figure, not look like a stick with boobs.
thinness is completely perverted by the media and fashion industry imo.

Klepsacovic said...

I should have included a line about how I wasn't concerned with the real life practicality, since in practice that muscle-man would have quite a few problems as well. But while we're tangenting...

I personally differentiate between thin and skinny, with the former being desirable (to me personally) and the latter being various adjectives best summarized as: not good. No extreme is good.

Ephemeron said...

Big boobs are a sign from the gods and indicate that their bearer is destined for great things in life.

We Fly Spitfires said...

If you look to our primitive instincts then yeah, I'd say it boils down to strength (and aggressiveness?) being desirable in males and fertility being desirable in females, all aspects that exists to improve the chances of successful procreation. I don't actually think it's about control over the environment but rather increasing the chances that ones offspring will survive.

And one could also argue (but not me, oh no) that whilst strength gives men more control over their environment, enhanced fertility gives women control over men.

Finally, you mentioned men being capable of standing up to danger whilst the women is helpless... that's assuming a physical threat. If we were talking about what really matters here - procreation - then there's nothing more helpless than a man standing by a women through pregnancy.

Keidot said...

If you want perfect bodies for what the body is supposed to do, then not only the male warrior body needs strength, but also the female warrior would need said muscles and bulk.
A perfect bodied mage has no use for the same, yet in many mmos you get the same model on all classes.
As Syl said running around as a stick is the opposite of taking care of yourself (your health). Pre-blood elf era the female horde models were moderatly normal figured. Anything thinner than an undead should not be alive either.

Klepsacovic said...

@Gordon: That enhanced fertility only gives control within a context of rules being followed: laws and social expectations. If those rules don't exist or are not enforced (these are often lawless areas), then the woman cannot control her fertility or men.

@Keidot: You're right, that a female warrior would need to be muscled, which only increases the absurdity of the results we see. Though the scrawny mage isn't mandatory, since there is still use for physical ability: mana runs out, spellbreakers suppress, any maybe he's just not very good at levitation and needs to go up a hill.

We Fly Spitfires said...

So are saying that without laws, men would just go around taking what they want (sex) from women without their consent? That's quite a nihilistic view.

Klepsacovic said...

Laws and society. Note the society bit. I'm not saying that all men are barely-restrained rapists, but that when you're dealing with a lawless area, physical strength can overpower, literally, other forms of influence. Again, not saying all men would do this, or even most, but that there is a dramatic difference in the ability to defend oneself if we're using these "perfect bodies."

We Fly Spitfires said...

What about female manipulation through sex? Or intelligence? There are forms of control other than physical.

As for law and society... personally I believe those are just formal extensions of a natural moral code that stems from emotions - love, happiness, guilt, grief etc. Not that I know for sure, but I'd be surprised if we ever existed in a state of pure anarchy which would mean that women always had the power of, basically, life over men.

We really need to start a beer and debate club ;)

Copernicus said...

What has the market research said about this? Taking a large cross section of women and giving them options to play different body styles, which get selected and played the most often?

Klepsacovic said...

@Gordon: There are temporary states of anarchy, or close. Look at the old habit of murdering all the men and raping the women after a city was conquered.

If we were all playing World of Peacecraft, then the physical strength would be less important and the sexual appearance of the women would be more practical.

@Copernicus: Market research is a strange thing. I'm sure it would tell us that men like to look at sexy women without too much clothing, and that would be true, but there is already a market for the sexy women without too much clothing: porn.

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