Grand Theft Auto V, or, Women as Sex Objects, As Sex Objects

I haven’t blogged for awhile. Seems like a good time for a post.

I have been coming aware lately that we are turning a corner in our country around the issue of public nudity. I know our culture has been going this direction for a long time (since before I was born) but several pieces of work have been produced this summer that seem to be pushing those few boundaries that we have left really hard.

Several popular musicians have released music videos this summer with either incredibly sexual near nudity or actual full-frontal female nudity. This has got me thinking (and talking with Joanna) about where our culture is headed and how we will raise our daughters in this world. That’s not exactly my point tonight though.

I have heard that the new installment of the Grand Theft Auto franchise continues to push the envelope when it comes to sexuality. I did a little internet research into what that actually means, and I ran across a review of the game in Time where author Matt Peckham has this to say about the sexuality of the game:

Let’s talk about one last, debatably uncomfortable thing: the game’s portrayal of women. Forget the partial nudity and softcore sex you’ve maybe heard about, both well within the bounds of other art forms and beneath mention here. I mean the way the game often portrays women, from the perspective of adolescent or misogynistic men, as sexual objects. Is Rockstar satirizing the objectification of women, or just objectifying?

Basically, the playable characters in the game are terrible human beings. They are criminals (which is a major plot point) and they visit strip clubs and cheat on their girlfriends in full digital view of the player. The crazy thing to me is not the premise of the game, it’s not the violence, the fact that you play a criminal, not even the nudity and sexual content. I think we are way past outrage at that. That’s where our culture is. The thing that I can’t figure out is that Peckham isn’t concerned about the nudity. He’s concerned that the characters are portrayed as objectifying women. He seems somewhat put off by this. He wonders if maybe Rockstar, the company that makes the game, is being satirical. Are the characters in the game trying to tell us something about the way men treat women in our society?

What (if I am understanding him correctly) he misses in his concern over the way the characters treat their female relations, is that precisely by buying and playing the game the gamer is treating women the same way. Using simulated sex and digital nudity in these video games is objectifying women. The young male demographic that is buying GTAV is being sold that game, at least in part, by its ability to give the gamer sexual objects to do as they want with. The problem isn’t that the characters objectify women in their in-game portrayal, it’s that the gamer objectifies women by playing the game in the first place. Peckham seems to be saying that if the digital sex scenes in the game were taking place in the context of committed, loving relationships, everything would be ok. He doesn’t see the fact that the gamer is still left as a voyeur in the sex lives of the characters and is still objectifying women by their being used as sex objects by the gamer.

Crazy.

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Grand Theft Auto V, or, Women as Sex Objects, As Sex Objects