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Shortpacked! Defines False Equivalence


I’m not sure that this will successfully explain the difference between “idealization” and “sexualization” to anyone who hasn’t figured it out already, but, as usual, David Willis of Shortpacked!, Roomies, Dumbing of Age and It’s Walky! knocks it out of the park whenever he talks about gender in media. For a real life example of what’s being presented in this comic, check out James Deen, a male porn star with a significant female following, talking about why his appearance appeals to women so much, and the subtle homophobia involved in why the porn industry doesn’t instinctively go for guys like him.

(comic via Shortpacked!)

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  • Kath

    That’s some fair points, and I think I never saw it that way, although one could still easily argue that male superheroes in comics (and games) *are* sexualised. Whether it’s the prominent packages, their good looks, anything like that – there is still a degree of it, but it’s not as visible as it is for women.

    That article does pose some very interesting points and questions, though, but largely the porn industry is absolutely naff. If you do a cursory glance for, say, lesbian pornography you tend to find gay-for-pay girls in the least convincing and sexy videos ever, often involving men (F/F/M configurations). Yeah, looking at the camera and going “Mm, I like girls” is really, really going to get me excited. Ugh.

    Uh, side tracked there. But yes, really, all industries need to improve in their portrayal of any/all genders – male, female, or otherwise – as well as other sexualities.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    It’s usually a character’s wardrobe that bothers me first, especially when it comes to superhero costumes, whether form follows function. There are functional schematics for Batman’s entire costume, describing how and why he has every piece of uniform, right down to the weighted tips of his cape. Similarly, Catwoman’s current uniform makes perfect sense. However, does it suit an acrobatic burglar to have her breasts barely contained as she somersaults about, especially if there’s a perfectly good zipper hanging right there? Not so much. And has anyone ever truly believed that Powergirl (or Red Sonja, or any of the other heroines that have used this logic) has a cleavage window in her costume because her enemies underestimate her as a result of seeing skin?

  • Frodo Baggins

    As a straight man, I have no problem with the men in my heterosexual porn being attractive, as long as the camera doesn’t focus on them, and they don’t make much noise. 

    It seems to me that it would be relatively simple to use a multicamera setup for a porn shoot, and produce versions that focus on one or the other participant, which could then be marketed to different orientations/genders.

  • Keiv M. Salmon

    Straight also, but it doesnt matter to me how much the camera is on the men, but i do insist they be about as attractive as they can be.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/YXIXYOH5SVZ6KUFDROBIFGE4O4 Mark

    I suppose most men don’t understand that women don’t follow the “bigger is better” method of sexuality that men do.

  • Frodo Baggins

    As a man who likes petite women, I resent that.

  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    Quality, not quantity.  ;)

  • Frodo Baggins

    I mean, as for Red Sonja, plenty of pre-Modern warriors would fight bare-ass naked, so pretty much anything goes (except mail bikinis, that’s stupid). But yeah, Powergirl showing off her cleavage is tactically pointless. It might be explained as a quirk of her character, liking to show off her body (ala Silk Spectre I), but that wouldn’t exactly reflect well on her character.

  • http://twitter.com/literatewench literatewench

    … why is showing off her body a character flaw? Most folks with decent bodies show them off at one point or another. If you’ve put a lot of work into your body, why not be proud of it? 

    ..caveat: I haven’t wanted to show *anything* off since around 1997. 

  • http://twitter.com/literatewench literatewench

    That idea is frickin’ GOLD. Seriously gold. You could have different tracks for different folks… Oh, dude, you are a genius. 

  • Anonymous

    Not a character flaw, but certainly a creator flaw. I’m not mad at Harley Quinn, for example. I’m mad at all the decisions in development that took her character where it is, you know? She’s not a real person, someone wanted her to be the way she is, and that’s the problem.

  • Anonymous

     I think he means “bigger is better” in regards to their own bodies. Or possibly specific *ahem* attributes of the female form.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    That’s it, really. My examples were Powergirl and Red Sonja because I can remember both characters explaining their ensembles away as deftly chosen distractions that beguile their opponents…but their costumes were designed by artists and their words chosen by writers, and I’ve never really felt that their particular explanations hold up.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    This discussion slid into pornography fairly quickly.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I assumed that F.B. was using “petite” as a genera term that could cover specific attributes as well as the whole shebang. 

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Nintendo’s motto!

  • Terence Ng

    The closest sexualization in a mainstream video game I saw was FF XII. Until I see male characters in comics in video games at least looking the way they do in a Patrick Fillion comic (NSFW if you decide to google it), I think most male depictions fall into idealizations and not sexualizations.

  • Terence Ng

    Especially since there’s also a gay market for straight porn that focuses on men (in addition to the gay-for-pay concept).

  • Terence Ng

    “Slid”. Heh.

    #IswearImnot12Ijustactthatway

  • Anonymous
  • Kath

    But the thing with Power Girl is she can’t be considered like others. Power Girl should be the most extreme in terms of her body, but due to the absolutely ridiculous way women tend to be drawn, she’s just a little bigger than everyone else. With Power Girl, it’s not entirely serious. There are many documented cases of her large chest being used as either a plot point or a moment of comic relief. In a way, you can look at her and see her being a spoof of the way women are drawn in comics and *that* to me makes her acceptable.

    It’s when artists like Greg Land draw women with the same faces and makes-Power-Girl-look-flat chests that we have a problem.

    Power Girl is fine. She’s empowering.

  • Kath

    But is there really much difference between idealisation and sexualisation? If you look at male love interests in, say, BioWare games then they’re usually handsome men with toned bodies, if not always like that. Except for Garrus, of course.

  • Anonymous

    linkhide.com.ar/47632

  • Anonymous

    Three words for you:  Abby Winters Models.

    (NSFW)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=563223409 Vic Horsham

    The difference is the audience.  Idealised males in media appeal to straight males.  Sexualised females in media appeal to straight males.

    In a comic with an idealised hero and a sexualised heroine, there’s no one intended to appeal to the rest of the audience. 

    There is a way to show sexy characters without them being sexualised.  It allows viewers to enjoy the physical attractiveness of the characters if they want to without pushing it in the face of those who don’t.  And it isn’t hard to manage, either.  Plenty of webcomic artists using a variety of styles manage it just fine.

  • Terence Ng

    Agreed. Kath, I do think there is a distinct difference. It is intention: Sexualized female characters are there to appeal to the sexual interests of straight male gamers or readers. However, their hardcore, wickedly armored, bad ass male characters are not there to speak to straight male gamers’ sexuality, nor are they designed to appeal to the straight female gamer’s sexual interests. 

    In fact, I would give some sort of gold star if I met a developer who specifically designed their female characters to be sexy for straight men and their male characters to be sexy to straight women.You have a developer who describes the female characters he’s created as “I want her to be sexy” and then you have him describe his male characters and he says “I want him to be a badass”.

    Now, a badass character may incidentally be a sexy character, but the difference in choosing to describe (and design) a character to BE badass rather than designing them to BE sexy is the difference between idealization and sexualization.

  • Terence Ng

    Lord, if I have to see another drawing of Psylocke doing the splits in a mid-air grande jete, going inverted-pear-shaped torso-first at a villain, I am going to lose it.

  • Wesley Jones

    More false equivalency. Bulging penises are not equal to big tits. If I start seeing prominent mons pubis in most mainstream comics, then we can talk.

  • Terence Ng

    If we want to talk about breasts, why does nearly every female character have her nipples showing through her top, but every man has a smooth, nipple-free costume? Different material? Colder temperatures around women? Or do these superheroine’s nipples just defy their unstable molecular costumes while the men’s just aren’t up for the challenge?

  • Kath

    That’s actually quite sensible, and thank you (and Vic) for the explanation. Wasn’t quite sure what the difference was.

  • Kath

    I don’t know if to giggle at them or enjoy them.

  • Kath

    I’m very much the same Terence, but I think my reasoning and so forth is different.

    Largely, I don’t mind the costumes or some aspects of the figures, but in my opinion it’s not the costumes that are “sexy”, it’s the way the women are drawn. The poses and the “camera angles” contribute more to inappropriate/sexualised shots than the costumes do themselves.

    Supergirl’s short skirt isn’t that sexy until you start getting up-skirt shots, for example.

  • Anonymous

    The content may be variable, but I certainly find the more intimate films and photos to be the most erotic thing I’ve ever seen by a large margin :-)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R7GVNIKWG3S2UTHEQOMSZXT4M4 Anna B

    On a remotely related tangent…

    Many of you probably know about the “Immortality Drive” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immortality_Drive). According to Wikipedia, “The Immortality Drive contains digitized DNA sequences of a select group of humans, such as physicist Stephen Hawking, comedian Stephen Colbert, Playboy model Jo Garcia, game designer Richard Garriot, Pro Wrestler Matt Morgan, and athlete Lance Armstrong.” 

    It’s just funny to me how the techies and scientists to made this Immortality Drive happen seem to think that the only apparently admirable traits a woman ought to pass along, in the event that human beings become extinct, is her perfect, Playboy body. I mean, a gals gotta be able to pose nude for a magazine if she wants to, don’t get me wrong, but honestly, couldn’t they have diversified the female gene pool a little bit more? How about throwing in someone like Tina Fey, or Hillary Clinton, or Oprah Winfrey. If they wanted someone more accessible, Lady Gaga would’ve been great.

    The point of this is, of course, is that the mainstream doesn’t even think about it–women are sexualized and men are idealized–everywhere. The worse part–this fact has been immortalized in outer space.

  • Yaboiksar

    Good article with James Deen. I work at a porn company and his movies have moved up considerably and we know why. He appeals to both men and women. We do have women customers and his movies sell very well.

    I’ve seen a few of them. He has a charisma about him that makes it seem more than physical and I think that goes a long way with some people (men and women).

  • Anonymous

    Eh, you know, I’ve met a lot of guys who like to call the misogynist things they do jokes or parodies. It’s a defense meant to block any criticism. Should that sort of stuff be exempt every time there’s a chance of it being comedic? For instance, the infamous rape joke, because it’s technically a joke? No matter the intention, the creator still has some responsibility about what they’re producing.

  • Anonymous

    In your mind, what is equal to big tits, then? Because if you think it’s muscles, you’ve missed the distinction between idealization and sexualization.

  • Anonymous

    That … was … hilarious.

  • http://ladymercury-10.livejournal.com/ Maiasaura

    Seriously, the only woman is a Playboy model?  That’s the only thing women have to offer to society, in the minds of the people who made the drive?  That makes me want to cry.  

  • Carmen Sandiego

    Thank you, Holleyx!

  • Anonymous

    Indeed. :)

    “Sphincter clench” is my new favourite sound effect.

  • Anonymous

    Kurt Busiek outlined exactly my thoughts on gender disparity here:

    http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/10/13/female-characters-superhero-comics/

    In short, the problem isn’t that any one character is built to a masculine power fantasy or feminine sexualized fantasy, it’s that EVERY character is.  In certain line-ups of the Justice League, every male character will have the same heroic, muscular, mighty build, while very female character will be buxom, curvaceous, and gorgeous. At most, you’ll have the speedy characters being slighty leaner, and the strong characters slightly beefier, but that doesn’t apply to female characters outside of She-Hulk.

    There’s also the problem that masculine power fantasies can also be appealing to women muddying the waters, and so nailing down exactly what qualifies as a “sexualized male fantasy” is difficult since not everyone’s into Ed Cullen.  In any case, I’ll echo Kurt’s basic mantra: sex isn’t the problem, sameness is the problem. Every male being a power fantasy and every female being a sexual fantasy is a problem both ways.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annabalasi Anna Jugo-Balasi

    That makes me want to punch somebody.

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    Okay… I’m sleep deprived so please excuse me being dense but; what?

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    *looks at the extensive Mario franchise*

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Haha! I didn’t say they lived up to it.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Wish I could take credit for the idea, but I’m pretty sure I got it from an episode of Entourage.

  • Frodo Baggins

    “in regards to their own bodies”

    Ah, well in that case, as a hobbit, I resent that.

  • Frodo Baggins

    I’m with you on the unacceptable lady-shortage, but Tina Fey, Hillary Clinton, Oprah, and Lady Gaga? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like… two of them, but there’s gotta be some female genius poets or something out there, right?

  • Frodo Baggins

    @unravthreads:disqus a short skirt might not be emphasized as sexy without upskirt shots, but you gotta know that someone is always seeing her undies when she flies around like that, even if the reader isn’t. 

  • Kath

    maselphiel; I see your point and understand (apologies for the delay in response), but I don’t see how Power Girl, whom I assume you’re referring to, is a character now personifying misogyny. She’s a strong, powerful and empowering character. Yes, her costume is a little small and her cup size is exaggerated, but she’s – compared to most – voluptuous and curvy. She’s quite clearly a sexually-inspired character, but I think it’s possible to view her as a celebration of female sexuality, of the feminine form. When you take it like that, and you realise that the writers aren’t against using her bust for comic relief, it seems to me that the argument against her loses ground a little. If you’ve seen any  cosplay of her, it’s clear there are women (almost) built like her, and as such I think she tends to be one of the more realistic characters in terms of build.Frodo; And? Underwear isn’t necessarily sexual, that’s the viewer making it so. I can’t really see her wearing a thong or anything like that under there, instead something more like shorts I’d reckon, but to be honest I reckon she doesn’t flash her unmentionables all that often, unless she does spinning kicks or whatever.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R7GVNIKWG3S2UTHEQOMSZXT4M4 Anna B

    I’m sure.  Them too, but one of my not-so-dirty secrets is my general inability to remember poets–even the famous ones.

  • http://twitter.com/Kanta_Mizuno Ryan Alarie

    It should be noted a key phrase is being overlooked: “such as”. While the fact that the list of ‘notables’ only includes one female, and she is a Playboy model. (Also, the males are all white), the phrasing implies there are more people included. However, the wiki, and the sources, have a noticeable lack of information. It contains a lot of people’s DNAs, and it just happens that a few celebrity names were leaked, mostly as articles about that person (Colbert, Hawking, Garriot) having their DNA sent into space, which often left out or minimized the fact that other people were included. http://techbloq.com/tech-bloq/the-immortality-drive/

    While it’s possible that Jo Garcia is the only notable female celebrity included, it’s unlikely she is the only female. Without knowing for sure the complete list of people included (and even with it, most of the non-famous names would only involve speculation) the leap of logic involved is great. It isn’t meant to create a socially engineered perfect species. It includes a grab bag that includes players of Tabula Rasa that won a contest to get their DNA included, amongst other probably random lottery. It’s some sort of cross section of the human race (without knowing the selection process, it may favor industrialized nations perhaps), with some celebrities included, likely only for the sake of having some publicity brought to the project by acknowledging that Stephen Colbert is included in the project.

    You can draw conclusions from the fact that an article writer (who was cited word for word in the wiki stub) found the only notable female celebrity whose name was available to be included was a Playboy model, but the actual Immortatlity Drive isn’t an Arc where the greatest of humanity will be used to repopulate the planet, and the list is far from exhaustive.

  • http://www.justplainsomething.com JustPlainSomething

     You hit it on the nose and it applies to stereotyping characters in general. It’s fine to have a female character be girly or sexy… but when they’re all like that (or drawn like that or written like that), then it’s a problem because then the comic book industry as a whole are saying that’s what women are. Women are all very different and express themselves differently, so why not show that more in these stories?

  • http://www.justplainsomething.com JustPlainSomething

     There’s a big difference between sexualising and objectifying. And while male characters are objectified occasionally, it’s not nearly to the degree that female characters are.

    I just dislike that argument not because it isn’t at least partially valid (there is some merit to understanding how males characters are manipulated) but because so often that argument is used to nullify the other. I’m not saying you do it, but that’s what usually happens when it gets brought up into a conversation like this.

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes when I think back, I am amazed at how far ahead of the curve Chris Claremonts New Mutants and X-men the 80s were. The range of body types were far greater than we got today. Stil no pudgy ones, though. I suppose the long Danger room sessions saw to that.
    As for Power Girl, I saw her as one of these women with a spectacular chest who is quite proud of it, but also feels she shouldn’t be. I’ve known several women through the years who have had attributes they feel proud of, but who have also felt shyness or shame at that pride.