Sexism: The Male Experience

Let’s talk about the second side of the same coin, take just a brief moment here to sort at least two sides of the often binary debate on sexism. Do men experience sexism?

Yes. This isn’t news. But we don’t experience it in the way we think we do. The truth is many men have no idea what sexism looks like, we just feel it. Think about how men react when the topic of sexualization of women crops up. There’s always that pack of guys who comes in and says “us too!” They use the images of muscled men in games to prove it.

CVS_ZangiefThe thing is, that’s not sexism. That’s not even sexualization. BUT …men do experience sexism! So, uh …what does it actually look like?

Anytime someone has called a boy a “girl” as an insult. Anytime a male has been accused of being feminine. Anytime a man’s sexuality is called into question when he’s emotional. These are some examples of sexism against men. Men and women have very different experiences of sexism, don’t they?

Sexism against men is about calling our masculinity into question and it usually means showing in some way that the man is acting like a woman. These register as insults because of an understanding in our culture that to be a woman is a bad thing. In a way, I think this sexism is also seen when we encourage men by appealing to their masculinity.

There’s this line in Gears of War 3 where one of the men praises Marcus, the main character, saying “Damn it, Marcus! You’ve got some hangers on ya’!” after Marcus does something very daring and bold in a gun fight. The “hangers” are a reference to his balls. When men do manly things, one way we’re given kudos for our show of strength is by being told we’ve got large balls. It works the other way too: men who don’t make shows of strength are told they don’t have any balls and since women literally don’t have any balls, everyone’s shocked when they encounter a strong woman. It really is funny how we’re often blind to these obvious things.

A lot of the time when men experience sexism, we experience it as a loss of masculinity or a challenge to it. While women definitely do this to men, men overwhelmingly do this to ourselves. Just visit any locker room, playground, or barracks. I dare you to find even a joke that’s not about dicks and power.

The language of sexism is funny like that, full of ironies and subtleties that we’re barely aware of. The symbolism of male genitalia in general is quite amazing for it’s sheer variety! My penis can be used to describe anything that’s awesome and powerful. Anything. The vagina is used to describe everything stupid and weak. That’s why “cunt” is such a bad word and why “suck it” is a statement of power. Test these ideas on your vocabulary. Think of the words for powerful and the words for weakness. Go ahead, try it.

Power. It’s not just having control over ourselves, but control over others. Everything is about power and sex, which is where all the talk of genitalia comes from.  Just think of the ways that we make bodies into objects and symbols of power, and how that language pervades our vocabulary.

Attention to the meaning of the central male slang term for sexual intercourse — “fuck” — is instructive. To fuck a woman is to have sex with her. To fuck someone in another context …means to hurt or cheat a person. And then hurled as a simple insult (“fuck you”) the intent is denigration and the remark is often a prelude to violence or the threat of violence. Sex in patriarchy is fucking. That we live in a world in which people continue to use the same word for sex and violence, and then resist the notion that sex is routinely violent and claim to be outraged when sex becomes overtly violent, is testament to the power of patriarchy. – Robert Jensen

When someone says that women are sexualized in games, and men respond that we are also sexualized, this is that twisted construct we’re grappling with right here, perfectly summed up in this quote. All the power fantasies in games are, in the eyes of these men, sexual fantasies for women. And it’s easy enough to see how these men arrive there: this is how men are supposed to dream of being perceived by the opposite sex, and anything dealing with the opposite sex has to be about sex. All portrayals of power fantasies are necessarily sexual fantasies in the eyes of these men. If you’re interested in a more thorough discussion of that, try this.

It starts to feel like our brains are being warped by our use of language. Funny how that works. Men definitely experience sexism, but many of us have no idea what it looks like because we’ve drilled that bad is good and good is bad (that not crying is good, crying is bad, therefore man good, woman bad). We like to think we’re smart enough to sort these differences out, but we’re probably creatures of habit far more than we are creatures of intelligence. It helps to be aware of what’s going on in the words we speak, but we can’t always understand on our own.

Probably some of you are surprised that the experience of sexism for men and women is so different. Definitely for those who believed it would look the same as it does for women. But that’s why it’s important to understand the entire conversation about sexism. That’s why it’s not some objective concept removed from gender constructions and assignments in society. In a culture dominated by men, how these things work for us won’t be the same way they work for women.

Maybe I’ll start a community project to get men to tell their stories about their personal experiences with sexism. Maybe. At the very least, I hope this gives everyone something to think about and consider.

Sexy or Sexualized No. 3

 

Remember: the question isn’t whether you personally find these character sexy or not. The question is: what is sexualization and what does it look like?

The more I go over these photos (I’ve started somewhat of a collection), the more easily I can see what sexualization looks like. It seems tangled up in our quest to want to be be attractive for one another and it questions what it means when we self-determine what shape our sexuality takes …and when that sexuality is being assumed and imposed.

Rape Culture and Consent

This is a follow-up to the article I posted the other day about Max Temkin. Some have taken the time to dissect the responses by Max and Magz. But if there’s a silver lining in this, it’s that there’s an authentic discussion happening right now about consent, mostly with ourselves as we try to sort out our past. Many men are asking themselves if they’ve raped. They aren’t sure any more.

I spoke with a number of people since then about the topic and I also got to ask questions and also give answers. I wanted to share those questions and answers in this post to keep the discussion flowing and help make it as productive as possible. While the questions that have been asked seem to mostly come from cisgendered males and females, what follows applies to any human being engaging in sexual relationships regardless of gender. Also, this is going to be a longer post so I’ve tried to break it into sections to make for easier skim reading. Still, context is everything.

What Is Consent?

The question of what consent looks like is popular, especially among men I recently talked to about it. But there were even women who asked me the same question. I think this speaks volumes about the state of sexual relations in our societies that consent can’t be easily known or understood. The answer to the question is entrenched in definitions of manhood and female virtue (purity/virginity). As a society, we tend to view consent as a mystical concept, one shrouded in romance. The man will know when to make the right move, the woman will resist to protect her virtue, the man will persist and eventually win her over. They’ll both find themselves overcome with “consent”, or at least this is the mythology surrounding it.

The problem with a culture as prudish as ours is that talking about sex is never seen as the solution. Men and women are supposed to know what to do, and both of them should know without having to talk about sex. Talking ruins the moment. “The moment” is supposed to just happen naturally. And “natural” is the whole sequence I describe above, where instinct is supposed to dictate what happens next. In this framework, consent isn’t even part of the sex equation. Men have it no matter what, and women are always seen as acting the part of the virgin .

So it’s really no wonder so many people are wondering “well what is consent?”,  so many young men asking “how am I supposed to know?”. It betrays a cultural mindset about sex in which consent is just a discussion to be had after the fact.

But I’d argue consent is essential to sexual well-being, for all of us who want and enjoy sex. For the typical male, it doesn’t feel good wondering whether she wanted it or not. For women, it’s devastating. And all it takes to spare both from this torture is for them to have a conversation about sex. Simple. It erases all questions of consent.

I’m going to go on a limb and state that you can’t have awesome sex without consent. So much of what we enjoy about sex is bound up in the pleasure of the other. In our society, men are raised to be ignorant of this. We are taught that the most crucial elements of sex are hard-ons and ejaculation. If those two things happen, then things went as they should. We’re never told about the pleasures of consent, of being pursued,the sweetness of seduction and the satisfaction of being with someone you respect and who also respects you. These things can never be taken. They have to be given. Sex is infinitely more satisfying when these things are present.

I wrote not long ago about what consent means to me, which you can catch up on here. To summarize,in no particular order, I wrote that (among other things) consent is:

  • Seduction. Wooing and being wooed is a satisfying game of sexual tension. It piques sexual interest.
  • Temporary. Giving consent today doesn’t mean I give it tomorrow. It doesn’t even mean I’ll give it in the next 5 minutes. We’re free to change our minds at any time.
  • Respect. People are moody and consent may not be a simple yes or no. It’s complicated. But if you seek their satisfaction and respect their autonomy, you can’t go wrong.
  • Patience. We’re not always ready to have sex, even when we want to have sex. Just because I want it doesn’t mean I must give it.
  • Trust. No one would give themselves willingly to someone they don’t trust. This can only happen when you value their well-being as your own.

These things are all very inter-dependent if that’s not obvious already. You can barely have one without the others and trust is the main barrier to sexual intercourse.

Part of the excitement of eventually having sex with someone you like is going through these motions with them. You rile each other up, rouse sexual interest, make promises and delay delivery; give and then take, or even just giving (having sex to satisfy your partner even if you don’t crave it yourself). Consent is complicated, but it’s the key to healthy and fulfilling sexual relationships. I’ll take that even further and say that sexual satisfaction is only achievable with consent.

What if She Doesn’t Say Yes or No?

“What if she just let’s it happen, without protest, without physically resisting? Isn’t that the same as telling me to get on with it?” If you’re asking these questions, I’m really glad you’re interested in the answers. But I’m afraid you’re missing the point.

Consent isn’t the absence of no. It’s also not the absence of resistance or protests. Consent also isn’t the presence of a “yes”. Let me explain.

A woman isn’t a prop. You don’t insert coins and wait for a “yes” or “no” to pop up before proceeding. She’s a person. Instead of seeking a yes or no, ask her how she’s feeling. Ask her what she wants to do. Tell her what you want to do, how you’re feeling. Put simply, respect her.

When we lose control of our bodies or our autonomy is being challenged, we’re no longer speaking on behalf of what we want, but on behalf of what we think we need to do to survive a situation. What she might say if she didn’t feel pressured, coerced, or threatened is different than what she might say when she feels comfortable, respected, and safe. Having some guy breathing down her neck and using his strength to gain an advantageous position isn’t the best of circumstances to let him know that you don’t want him touching you. How vulnerable we feel in the moment is kind of important and men who would ignore this in order to pursue a simplistic yes or no are rapists in waiting. They need to re-evaluate their approach. Most importantly, they need to NOT engage in sexual acts until they understand their partner’s wants and needs.

I’ll go further and say that not doing so shows a criminal mindset, no matter how benign the intentions may seem. If you’re thinking of the situation as “what can I get away with”, consent doesn’t matter to you. If you’re playing the consent game with “what if” scenarios about dubious “yes” or “no” responses under varying situations, you’re missing the point. Consent is about taking care of your partner by respecting their vulnerability and not putting them in a difficult situation. It’s your responsibility to seek consent throughout the process, not just at the start.

On the flip side, it’s important for the woman involved to communicate her wants and needs as well. As long as both parties have control of their bodies and their autonomy is not being threatened, they have an equal responsibility to communicate their wants and needs to one another. But once one begins to dominate the space of the other, putting them in a position where they feel pressured or insecure, that person loses their ability to act autonomously. If you’re asking for sex from a position of advantage, whether apparent or not, you’re doing it wrong. Start over and balance the situation so you’re communicating as autonomous equals.

To give an example, I’m not a huge guy, but I’m tall. I understand that my height dominates intimate spaces. So I try really hard to make myself less imposing as the situation requires, knowing also that women are taught to make themselves smaller in the presence of men. Recognizing these kinds of things can help you safely navigate intimate spaces with one another, so that you’re both feeling empowered by the sexual encounter, not disempowered. This makes room for mutual consent.

But She’s Teasing Me!

It’s your nth date with a woman you find fiercely attractive. You’ve been seducing each other for weeks and you’ve even fooled around on a couple of occasions. But whenever comes to sexual intercourse, she turns you down. Then one night things are getting hot and heavy at your apartment. It’s 1 in the morning and all signs seem to indicate that she’s there for sex. But as soon as you try to advance it, she seems to lose interest. In fact, you can tell she’s trying to keep things right where they are – just some heavy touching and kissing. But you want more and you feel like she’s been leading you on. Besides, IT’S 1 AM.For what other reason could she be there? She knows you want to have sex …right? I mean you haven’t outright said it but IT’S OBVIOUS …right? Should you get more aggressive? Maybe that’s what she’s waiting for! For you to take charge, maybe that turns her on. You decide to try it and while you meet a very faint hint of resistance, overall she seems to give in to you. You never hear a no and while she’s not resisting, she’s not exactly prying your pants off either.

This is dangerous territory and this guy may well be on his way to raping. If you’re wondering abut the nature of a sexual act after it happens, then you’ve probably done something wrong. But could this have gone differently?

You notice she’s not quite embracing you as you advance to undressing her. She’s not saying no either and overall she’s not pushing you away. It looks more like hesitation, but you can’t be sure. Even though it’s 1 am and even though you’re both laying in the dark together in your bed, you’re not feeling your passion returned. Instead of advancing the situation, you ask her what she wants and you let her know what you want. You decide that unless she shares what’s on her mind, you should just keep things where they are without advancing to intercourse.

Consent should never be ambiguous. You should always know with certainty.

Yes, teasing can leave you frustrated and horny. Some people will lead you on and never deliver. That’s their perogative. At no point does teasing and leading entitle you to sex. Never.

On the upside, teasing can be exciting, even if she never sleeps with you. The key is for you to accept that sex is highly unlikely, and then move on.

Consent in Hook-up Culture

Consent is complicated. There’s no 10-step program to achieving consent from your partner. I think when we look at it as a means to an end, nothing good or fulfilling can come of it. In some cases, it can be devastating. Even when hooking-up for a single evening, it doesn’t require disrespecting your partner. People can be sexual creatures, they can want sex without wanting anything else from you. Plenty of people have learned how to have sexual relationships without betraying trust or disrespecting their partners.

Consent is intuitive when you think of your partner as a human being and respect their autonomy. Objectification makes it difficult to see each other that way. In our culture we look for exterior details to turn us on, so maybe a typical guy is only looking for women wearing clothing that grabs his sexual interest. When he approaches her, he’s less likely to care what she says unless her words are “let’s have sex”. He looks at her clothing as an advertisment of availability. We’ve all heard the horror stories that result from this mindset.

At the same time, men and women are allowed to dress sexually provocative, are allowed to send messages with their clothing. The problem is that we look for clothing to do all the talking, to do all the messaging. We forget there’s a human in there and that we should talk to them first. There’s nothing wrong with liking what she’s wearing – but you should respect her all the same. She’s not her clothes.

People hook-up all the time, so it’s not like people can’t pursue sex without a permanent relationship. But even temporary relationships require trust. Any kind of relationship requires trust (and there are many layers of trust, which I won’t get into here).

In the end, we’re dealing with people and we shouldn’t forget that.We have to treat consent with the same high regard that we treat our desires for sex. I think so much of the ambiguity of figuring out consent is the implicit assumption that we’re not dealing with a person who can talk to us and explain their sexual wants to us. If you’re not sure, it’s as simple as asking and starting a conversation about what you both want, need and like.

Scree Tags: #sex #rapeculture #consent

Male Power Fantasies in Gaming

This is another relevant throwback article I wrote a couple years ago. It’s always funny to read my old self. I’ve learned so much since then, but there’s still some good information here so it’s worth reposting. In fact, I’ve updated the whole thing. There’s also a link to the original article if you want to have fun watching me change. EDIT: Some pictures didn’t properly display. Also, it appears some edits didn’t get properly transferred over. My mistake. I’ve recovered them.


My purpose here is not to show how males are exploited or are victims of something. The broader culture is structured to reward males for their conformity to sexism such that even while their presentation is problematic, men are the clear beneficiaries. In this article, I want to  examine those presentations and respond to some of the most vile defenses of them. I’m targeting men, but I think any reader can gleen an idea or two from what follows.

Something We Have to Know About Ourselves to Understand Our Fantasies

I’m not going to explain “Not All Men …“. We’re all intelligent creatures, yeah? This is directed to whom it applies. All men can learn to question their interest in fantasies, especially the power and the sexual ones, which are often intertwined in the imagery of games. Receive this only as an opportunity for personal introspection, not an attack on your person.

wow_alexstrasza_by_gooloo0_o-d32edoqSo who is this picture really painted for? Why is it painted in this way? I have my own theory. It goes like this: the artist, especially if male, is painting for a male audience. His goal is to idolize sex itself. The woman is simply a necessary element to demonstrate his heterosexuality. If he could do it without painting a woman, he would but most male artists are never this clever and creative. They opt for the woman. She’s an obvious marker of heterosexuality to other men, so the art will read easily with a male audience. Next, the sex. Sexualized images of women focus on the big two, tits and ass, to help men fixate to get it up. If her back has to be contorted and her breasts immeasurably large, then the more sexual the picture is. When it comes to sex education, men learn that their erection is the most important component. The harder, the better. To get it on rock we must fixate our minds on something that turns up the intensity. We learn to do this so we don’t embarrass ourselves when the moment comes. When the moment comes, we want to prove our manhood — be as hard and erect as humanly possible. You just can’t get there pre-sex without fixation.

Back to the art work: so the focus on those two essential parts of a woman’s body aren’t really about the woman. They’re about demonstrating manhood, proving to peers that you too know the secrets to a good hard on. That’s what all winking, nodding and loud approvals are about. It’s got nothing to do with the woman. She’s invisible. The painting is of breasts and buttocks. This is objectification incarnate, a literal object in human form. She’s been completely reduced out of humanity in the name of erections and manhood.

avengers-posing-like-womenAs me and my closest friends got older, we had some very revealing conversations about our actual sexual tastes. Chief among them was that it wasn’t boobs and bottoms that did it for us. One friend couldn’t resist long hair — he later learned he liked it on men as much as women. Another liked high pitched voices. Boobs and bottoms were nice in the moment, but they were not essential to the physical attraction. I suspect this is true for most men, that our tastes vary and that any given picture of a sexualized woman isn’t actually our thing — but we can never publicly say so for fear of the relentless shaming. It’s much easier to just go along to get along.

Women are only tangentially necessary to prove male heterosexuality, a checkbox on the list of Masculinity. The less like people they are, the better because it’s not about demonstrating our love of women, but our solidarity with other men. Remember: men don’t get points with other men by being loving. We get the respect of other men by being emotionless, hard, tough, and, most of all, heterosexual. Sexualization of women in games is primarily about homosociality among men. Masculinity is a performance men do for other men and in which women are only a prop.

Normality

By making fantasy depictions of women normative, sexism remains part of our daily mode of operation. This mostly goes unexamined and unquestioned, and that’s key to the perpetuation of it. It’s not just a few sexists in an otherwise non-sexist society, which would be easier to fix. It’s institutions that reproduce it. So remember this when you hear the following arguments:

  • There’s no such thing as sexism. The argument goes that since no man in the vicinity has qualified the alleged sexism (only they can be trusted to identify it), sexism is a myth. Men and women act the way they were born to act, that this lopsided relationship between them is natural. Cries of sexism are just women acting emotional, as is their natural condition or some variation thereof.
  • Sexism without sexists. This argument accepts that sexism actually exists, but no one anyone knows is sexist. Your friend isn’t sexist, you aren’t sexist, you haven’t seen sexism in the work place, it’s not happening in your games, and on and on. The supporting arguments for this are that sexism is ONLY when your grandpa tells your grandma to get in the kitchen (but even that kind of sexism is ok because it’s natural), that sammich jokes are funny, and that chivalry is Good for Women. There are no sexists. This ultimately has the same implications as the first argument.

It’s supposed to feel like things are just normal. That’s what structural problems feel like: Normal. That’s what makes them difficult problems to address. Normality means acceptance, even if what’s happening is wrong or negatively impacting certain groups. Normality means status quo, “that’s the way it is”. It means those who benefit from normalcy are blind to it (the privileged).

Our Complexity Reduced to XY

In fantasy art, men have motives, problems, goals and dreams, and a strong sense of justice. We bring the law because heroes are the law — they cannot be corrected and they are the solution to every problem. We’re complex, complicated, multi-dimensional characters dealing with fate. We’re capable and competent, trustworthy and loyal. We epitomize everything that’s worth redeeming about mankind and that’s an important message of the fiction: men represent the reason everything is worth redeeming and we are there to correct things. And people.

On the other end though, our heroes are shallow, ever the revenge driven patriarch out to protect us from ourselves. Socialization teaches us that these are innate features of male biology, the emotional under-development and drive to violence. And as they say, when you’re a hammer everything is a nail. Male violence is always justified as natural and righteous.

In the end our complexity is reduced to biological rage that’s channeled into the role of lawbringer and protector. So much of the “development” of male heroes is in explaining why their violence is righteous. In the end, our complexity is reduced to a chromosome which we are slaves to, the opposite to that in-control hero we project in our fantasies.

The Art of Heroism and Absence of Heroinism

Superman Male Power FantasyAesthetically, what’s attractive about the superman is his confidence and power. His posture and physique exude it. This is what men are supposed to aspire to: strength which grants confidence that commands respect. The fantasy images aren’t for women (again, women aren’t even important to the artist), but for men. It’s rare to encounter images that are created to celebrate female heroism.

The art of the male and female hero is about inspiring power in men. Male hero figures are all about strength. It’s a fantasy about power. The female figures are also about power …sexual power for men (imagery that inspires erections, which is a symbol of our potency). Sexualization is actually about sexualizing male power. Again, the woman is merely a prop in this process. She’s not important.

Heroes are natural born leaders. That’s why most of them are men. Our place as men is at the front, to dominate because that’s what heroes do (“it is natural for men to lead”). Media messaging for men tells us that we must aspire to these things, because they define true manhood. Every man is taught to pursue true manhood. We cannot fall short of these expectations or else we risk being ostracized, shamed and having our man card revoked.

Remember those words “be a man”. What do they mean? These images are attempting to draw that out for us.

Of Women and Redemption

Through it all, the messaging in our fantasy tells us that men, as in males, must be redeemable, no matter what.

Masculinity is power, and power is attractive. The women in these games want these heroes because they’re strong, powerful figures. Or at least that’s the narrative. The sexual aspects are subtle, but present. The images of men are rarely sexualized in the same way that women are, but rather their power is sexualized. It’s a kind of balance to maintain the humanity of the character. Too much focus on raw power, and you’re the bad guy; too little and you’re as useful as the female characters.

Kratos Male Power FantasyLet’s look at Kratos from God of War. There’s a moment in the game where he lays Aphrodite, tames the goddess in her own sanctuary. Aphrodite is the prop and the scene focuses instead on Kratos sexual prowess. It’s another opportunity to put his power on display. Was it his body she was attracted to as is the case with men and female imagery? No. In the end, Aphrodite is written up as a nymphomaniac, his superb physique significant only inasmuch as it eroticizes his strength. It’s the power he radiates that she lusts after, that makes him a real man. She’s been waiting for a real man for so long, she tells him. Kratos is a real man, his power absolute (this is why he can sleep with a goddess). Male sexuality is not about sex, but power. This is just another way we know that sexualization is about masculinity, disguised as femininity (enlarged breasts, hips, facial features, make-up, and weakness …Aphrodite is all these things and more).

But there’s a price for this mascuinlity. While Kratos’s entire story is built on his quest for power, at times we’re not sure if he’s the hero or a villain, but this contradiction still humanizes him. He’s a man who’s descended from the gods with the power to take even them to their end, even death himself. Over the course of the series, Kratos is a destroyer and in the end of the series his character is offered as a sympathetic figure. A fragile man reaching for godhood, a rejected god reaching for manhood. Yet he spends all of the first game destroying gods for personal satisfaction. He murders his wife and child in his blind lust for power and suddenly, a man who’s spent his entire career destroying others is presented as deserving our compassion.

These new, divine dimensions of character make him more worthy of redemption than before; men must be redeemable the game tells us. He’s come to see the blood on his hands as a curse …and he yet continues to bludgeon every god until the world is no more and nothing is left. Yet by the end of the series, Kratos is transformed from destroyer to redeemer. Men can act in this self-centered manner and we still have to forgive them because, as the narrative tells us, men are the solution. He emerges a god who grew into a better man. That should be a familiar tale for most of us.

The Darkness PicIn the end, we know Kratos’s whole story. He’s not just an abstract figure players don’t care about and he’s not just some power-hungry warrior with a great body. He’s complex, yet shallow. He’s perfected directing his anger to the point of a blade, but he’s just not there emotionally. In fact, when he encounters emotions we find him in the game lost on a black road amidst total darkness. His quest for power has reduced him to nothingness.

Having Our Cake

Game designers believe that we really identify with this sort of thing. They count on it. It’s not so much that they think this applies to all guys, but that they know all men are bound by the same oath of silence to never speak about it. Our task is simple: nod and approve of the cleavage and hips served up in our fantasy art or be ridiculed. Men are supposed to approve of the Kerrigans, Laras, Camys and Aphrodites. Kratos isn’t the only character to be built on male power fantasies.

The values our games espouse exist within a cultural context that reinforces positions of privilege for some and positions of inferiority for others. Every character is made for us, every image made to appeal to us, and we get a lot of variety. We don’t have to want it or ask for it.

Male power fantasies, as an idea, aren’t bad. There’s nothing wrong with being male and enjoying fantasies of these kinds. Modern fantasies come at the expense of everyone but men, though.  Sexualization of women is done for men and men are done for men. It’s all about us and that’s part of why it’s such a big topic in games and fantasy. By all means let’s have male power fantasies, but do we have to throw women under the bus in the name of them? Do we need to be the center of attention? Must everyone be defined as though we are the center of the universe?

Do people other than ourselves matter?

It helps to understand exactly what we’re talking about when we speak of power fantasies for men, and who it’s actually about. There’s no separating them from the harsh realities of traditional manhood which help construct them. It’s OK to chose differently and it’s OK to seek the approval of women, not just men. If we did that a bit more, perhaps we’d get our sexy fantasy art that’s about women instead of just power.

Original Article: http://www.trredskies.com/male-power-fantasies/

Scree Tags: #malepowerfantasy #sexualization

There and Back: The Big Lie or How the Gaming Community Got Dirty

Another article I wrote almost 2 years ago which bears special relevance today. I’ve edited it down, but also linked to the original article. I plan to explore this topic once again in the near future, just as I plan to do with all of the There and Back articles you find reposted.


Malcanis over at The Mittani wrote a brilliant article last week about how the player community in EVE interacts. In it, he invoked the ideas of Hitler’s Big Lie to explain how the community deceives itself into taking sides and demonizing others. Malcanis gave a very eloquent summary of the principles as follows:

Ideally, when you’re telling a Big Lie, you tell a lie that fulfills three important criteria

  • i: That the listener’s problems are not his fault. They’re caused by a malicious and irredeemable Other. And they’re going to keep on getting worse.
  • ii: That if this Other weren’t up to those shenanigans, the listener would be recognized and rewarded for being the superior person that he is
  • iii: The implicit, but unspoken solution is to do the thing that the Big Liar wants to happen. And just in case, make the solution explicit and speak it loudly.

Directly before reading that article I had been browsing the comments over at Iron Ribbon and Disqus recommended me another article over at The Mittani which spoke about sexism. It’s not that Hitler’s theory here is always true. But I think it’s true among people with certain values, chief amongst them any -ism. If a person already believes there’s such a thing as a better race or sex, then they already believe the premises of the Big Lie. Having a leader come forth and personify it, and institute it as  law and order is merely taking those values to their inevitable conclusion.

What do we tell ourselves as a gaming community about sexism and racism? The primary sides involved are usually posed as males versus females, white versus non-white, because they’re rooted in our very bloody and barbaric past. Adolf was no fool, but the people to whom he told the Big Lie were at least paranoid enough, lacking in the courage and fortitude required to reject those values. And if not those two reasons then they followed because they believed in the Big Lie.

First, a relevant statistic:

There are scant statistics of any sort about the ethnic demographics of the gaming community at large, but if I find any in the future you can be sure I’ll write an article about it.

Point 1: The Big Lie to Yourself …Responsibility

It’s very hard to admit something is wrong that you’ve done out of habit for years. This is my personal testimony, not to be read as a cliche of do-gooders.  I’ve been a sexist and racist for most of my life. I wasn’t the overt belligerent type nor someone who literally hated or disliked groups of people. I was a pretty nice guy by normal standards, but just somewhat ignorant or aloof. I wasn’t aware of how my behavior patronized females/non-whites, how it insulted them in my gestures of goodwill, or how it oppressed them in what those gestures assumed about them. I was just ignorant, like so many of us. It wasn’t intentional and for those who have been where I have, we’re not evil people at heart. We just picked up some very bad habits and behaviors from our environment. At some point in our lives we simply didn’t know something until it was taught to us or until we were made aware of other things.

When first confronted about being sexist, I was horrified. Being called a sexist isn’t a good feeling but if you’re just willing to listen and try to understand why someone could possibly perceive you that way, then you’ll get over it. Else you’ll likely be defined by how you reacted to that accusation.

The point here is that when you’ve been doing something wrong for a long time, it’s pretty terrifying to learn that it’s been hurting people. It goes beyond just admitting a wrong; it’s a confession that you’ve negatively affected dozens of people, misjudged them, made their lives harder, or scared them away from pursuing something they cared about. That’s offensive to those of us who believe we’re good people and especially offensive to those people who aren’t willing to listen and consider that they might actually be doing those very things. The first stage is always denial and the one that follows is always anger and resentment. This is a pattern of response many of us should recognize in all these discussions at our age. Many people, guys and girls, instantly jump on the “nuh-uh” argument and paint plaintiffs as bra burning feminists, reverse racists, or sex-pandering men. They say women are sexist for making exclusive groups which men cannot join. They say most gamers are majority men so women should learn to accept the way things are, that men are by nature gruff, brutish, and insensitive. Both sides rarely admit to building up the Big Lie which allows them to feel justified in their views of the other. Often when we’re denying the other side, we’re doing so to protect ourselves from the accusations. We’re doing so to dodge responsibility for the way we’ve been behaving, because of what the accusations might suggest about us — which aren’t flattering. At some point, though, we have to admit these things and be free of them. While the process of changing is difficult, the steps towards it are simple. Either you believe a person when they tell you you’re being hurtful or disrespectful or you pretend that what you’re doing isn’t hurting anyone and that your behavior is fine. We have to remember: it’s not the racist or sexist act which will necessarily define you, but how you respond when someone points it out to you. There’s no harm in letting maturity guide our reaction by admitting you might have erred.

Point 2: The Big Lie …About The Other

When you’re the Default, it’s impossible to see that. Impossible. You rely on the feedback of others to alarm you of the injustices that come with having a Default and Other. The bad thing about being the default is that it’s extremely difficult to get past the denial stage; because you can’t see the unfairness because of your perspective, you’re far more likely to believe nothing is wrong at all and that others are simply delusional, or making a fuss out of nothing. That’s doubly true in the 21st century where people, despite national (and global) conditions, believe the -isms to be relics of the past which no longer exist. People are so ready to just be over that stuff that in their haste they dismiss anyone who would dare remind them of our horrible track record with it.  No one wants to have the same fight in 2012 that people were having in the 1960s USA. Yet all of those oppressive values from the ’60s are still wide spread and deeply rooted in our cultural values (albeit in subtler ways, which makes it a greater threat now than it ever was then).

When comment and forum threads in various gaming communities repeatedly host discussions about sexism and racism, I think that’s a sure sign that this is still a problem. But when you believe the Big Lie or when you’re so committed to self-deception on those issues, you’re likely to draw battle-lines in which you stand on one side and everyone else becomes Other. We do this almost instinctively to discredit people, to make them seem ridiculous and to paint ourselves as idols of rationality. The actual topic gets abandoned in favor of bickering about who’s less crazy — which is just crazy.

There is no Other. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel good about ourselves.  It’s a lie we tell to prop up our egos, to make us feel better. After all, you can’t be the best unless there’s someone who is worse than you. What we ought to value about success is our own personal growth, not our triumph over others. In the gaming community, where competitive relationships are part of the landscape, that doesn’t mean we can’t see who’s the better shooter in NBA 2k. It means that you aren’t being better or making yourself look better by calling people fags, suggesting they’re gay, or telling sammich jokes. You aren’t looking more manly by demanding to see boobs (becuz real men luv boobs, rite?). You’re just celebrating being the default and ridiculing others who aren’t like you.

Point 3: Believing the Big Lie

Sometimes people tell lies for so long or hear them so often, that they believe them and begin to base real decisions on them.

Even military psychology …hesitates to make the distinction between true and false, between the “produced” and the authentic symptom. “If he is this good at acting crazy, it’s because he is.” – from The Procession of Simulacra byJean Baudrillard

Jean was explaining here how we cross over from pretending something is real to simulating that which isn’t, and how in the end it becomes irrelevant. In the process of simulating, we produce the symptoms of the simulacra. At that point, the difference between what’s real and what isn’t becomes incredibly difficult to discern, if possible at all.

There are levels of self-deception which we engage in on the issues of sexism and racism which amount to us pretending such a thing just doesn’t exist. And this is made possible by just acting like everything is fine, denying things very loudly in an effort to drown out any reference to the truth. But at some point we begin to actually believe the lies and the truth falls away. We’ve made such a convincing show of all the falsehoods, that they start to appear authentic.

So let’s gradually back out of the philosophical woods here. Sexism and racism are extremely real and they pervade our social institutions as they dictate our culture. It’s dangerous to suggest people who point it out are “them”, the crazy, delusional, conflict-seeking whiners who just can’t handle the real world. The irony is that the most fervent deniers (who are usually self-professed racists/sexists) themselves can’t handle the real world, where there really is no such thing as “better” races or sexes.

It’s also bad that some of us want to sit on the sideline and wait for change. It’s those people who say yeah, sexism and racism are bad, but the people complaining about it shouldn’t make a big stink about it; that since complaining won’t change anything we should just be quiet; that games have always been this way and we ought to accept it. All of these responses fail to acknowledge that no change in the history of anything has ever happened by humans standing idly by waiting for it to happen to them. This line of thinking is potentially worse than being the sexist or racist yourself, because it confirms their existence but advocates silence. Dr. Martin L. King spoke out decades ago about these moderate types and how their neutrality is more dangerous than the belligerent offenders.

Getting Clean

So now that we’re dirty, now that the gaming community knows we’ve got some filth to deal with, we come to the part where we must confront the Big Lie and so much more. It all starts with owning your actions, taking responsibility. This is the cornerstone: eradicating a community of difference in order to erect a community of commons. It’s been hard and often un-fun for me personally, but immensely rewarding to make that private change. I began to realize one day that I was looking to gain something at the expense of others which wasn’t mine to gain; that the real value in being a non-shitty person is feeling good about myself and knowing that I’m not hurting other people. The prize for me is a clear conscience, more success, and making a world I can trust with my children. We have to admit to our complicity in the system. Every time any of us has listened to racist rants on vent, or sexual demands from guild mates in chat and said nothing about it, we might as well have said the words ourselves for all the damage our silence did. None of us is untouched, not even women and not even non-whites. We’ve all been soiled, even when we didn’t want to be and didn’t intend to be. That doesn’t absolve us of responsibility. It just means that we were blind to it before, that now we see it, and we will use that knowledge to speak out and act against it.

Next is to stop looking at the difference between you and others because it’s insignificant compared to the similarities. If we view the gaming community as a place full of different people, we will breed a community of conflict. If we view it as a place full of people just like us, we’ll make a community full of cooperation. I know that sounds very idealistic, but it’s just the plain ole’, unstyled, no make-up, hairy truth. Self identified whites, males, blacks, gays, and all other descriptions are fine, but they shouldn’t be used to to differentiate. Identifying and differentiating are very different things.  The former allows us to be unique and the latter creates situations where everyone has varying quality, allows us to create Others.

Finally, we’ve got to grapple with our common reality. We have to accept that one person’s experience of you isn’t going to line-up with who you believe you are all the time, and that this doesn’t mean you’re irredeemable or wicked; it means you made a mistake. We have to be willing to believe that there really is a lot of unfairness out there, that people are wrongly discriminated against on the basis of skin color and genitalia, and that it happens often enough to spawn dozens of organizations dedicated to addressing those problems. If we’re so willing to consider that these people might be crazy, we must also be willing to consider they’re perfectly sane, correct and perfectly capable of identifying a problem when they see it. Listen to them and, if you can, support them. They are you and if you try to keep them down for their difference, someone will try to keep you down. Reject both instead of making space for them in our reality. Things don’t have to be that way.

If Hitler understood the power of the Big Lie, and we believe he was Satan incarnate, then let’s reject the Big Lie forever.

Original Article: http://www.trredskies.com/big-lie-how-gaming-community-got-dirty/

Scree Tags: #gamertalk #community #activism