The Other Sexy Models

Today’s bit was inspired by the soon-to-be-notorious discussion on Sinsynn’s Sexy Models post, and the general discussion in the community at the moment on this topic (see this excellent post at Tentakel).  The post that you’re reading now replaces one I had half-written on the subject of sexist – as opposed to sexy – models.

First some background though.  In real life I mostly work on research in ethics and moral philosophy, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I think humans should be excellent to one another, and that we have the potential to change things and to make the world and ourselves better.  There wouldn’t be much point studying ethics if you don’t believe that we have choices.  I also think the easiest way to find out how someone wants to be treated is to ask them.

I’m not opposed to sexy models personally, though I do think many of them are obviously pornographic and should therefore be treated as porn, not as art.  However, the attitude that male gamers are somehow qualified to judge what female gamers should and should not be offended by – well, I was going to say it “upsets me” – but that’s too strong a word.  I don’t easily upset.  Let’s just say it made me want to write a post of my own.

This is one of my favourite models ever, Justine the Demon Hunter. I own it but haven’t painted it yet. She looks sexy, heroic and feminine, and is wearing full plate and a hood. It can be done.

I don’t want it to be too long though, so here’s my final opinion in a nutshell, paraphrased from the discussion on House of Paincakes which I urge you to read if you have a couple of hours:

I guess, like I said in my first reply, it’s the thinking it’s a non-issue that I have a bit of a problem with. As a male, I’d feel like a high and mighty hypocrite saying I am truly offended/upset by overly sexual female models – I’m not. But I can see how a woman could be, and I don’t think it would be unreasonable of them . . . I have seen many gamers (online, it has to be said) suggesting that anyone who finds those sorts of models distasteful, or even straight-up offensive, is some sort of politically correct crybaby who shouldn’t be taken seriously.

I think if someone claims to be upset by something we should take them seriously, and find out why. Women especially. They aren’t men, so we have to trust them when they tell us what they feel about things like this. Otherwise we’re just being jerks and putting words in their mouths.

Hark from Game Over made an interesting response to SinSynn’s post.  She had an issue with the impractical armour of the “cheescake” models and especially with the fact that most of them have no visible faces.  Here is a woman who is sympathetic to the hobby, gaming, fantasy and sci-fi in general, telling us that these sorts of models are not that cool.  I quickly polled the gamer women in my life (more than two!) and they agree.  I see no reason to ignore them.

A sexy female bard. Her face is covered a bit, yeah, but it’s with the tool of her trade and it’s not enough to obscure her identity.

A different bard, with a different body shape and face, but still sexy.

As Sinsynn pointed out, in our culture we tend to think of strong, heroic-looking men as sexy.  That sort of portrayal has nothing to do with porn, which portrays people as nothing but a collection of sexual attributes and appetites.  By the same token, we can have female heroes who look strong, sexy and feminine without being pornographic.  There’s nothing wrong with female or male heroes being hot.  Look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Conan.

Sprinkled throughout this post are some models by Reaper Miniatures that I think achieve that.  I think these sorts of models are much better for the hobby in terms of inclusion and public relations than the other kind, plus they look great.

It’s true, one of them’s a dude, but he is an elf so. . .

These Sea Elves are nearly naked but that’s because they live underwater. Not because they are cretins who decide to go into a cobwebby trap-filled dungeon in a crop-top and panties.

10 responses to “The Other Sexy Models

  • Frontline Gamer

    Hey James, I think you might enjoy my upcoming Sunday Sermon my good man. I’ve been working on it for quite some time, and have also been wimping out of posting it for quite some time because I always has issues with the ‘ownership’ of feminist agendas. I’m sure you get where I’m coming from. There will be a few articles going up this week actually that might hit on this topic. One briefly the other a bit more direct as it is a review of one of those sexy miniatures. Thanks for the good read.

    • James S

      @Frontline Gamer, thanks. It’s tricky, but sometimes I think it’s not that tricky at all, and men have just as much right to fight objectifying portrayals of women as women do.

      And I always enjoy your sermons, they’re my favourite bits on your blog for the many reasons you listed in your last one. I’m really keen to hear about the results of your survey of female gamers you keep hinting at 🙂

  • Von

    Good stuff, dude.

    I don’t think the issue is necessarily about whether or not people are offended, though – ultimately being offended by something, or liking something, is far too subjective and far too personal to be worth arguing over. And it’s far too easy to back out of the discussion about whether or not something is objectively problematic by saying it doesn’t offend you – well, it doesn’t have to offend -anyone- in order to be Part of the Problem, as it were. I’d argue that it’s the most ‘inoffensive’ things that are the creepy, skeevy worst. Something that offends people is at least drawing attention and objections to itself: something that’s just quietly taken for granted has the capacity to perpetuate all sorts of problems and get away with it.

    In more specific terms: I like those Sea Elves, same as I like the Freebooter’s Fate Amazons. If you’re going to do scantily clad women, sculpt ’em with sensible proportions and scraps that at least
    look like they can hold everything in.

    • James S

      @Von, cheers. And I also like those Freebooter’s Fate Amazons.

      Offence is a hard issue, to be sure. I have a pretty complicated viewpoint on this informed by various philosophies, but basically I think that negative freedom (freedom from harms) trumps positive freedom (freedom of action). So if someone’s portrayal of, say, women, harms women, then it should be deemed unacceptable by the community. No-one should be harmed by art or free speech.

      This obviously raises the question of whether objectifying portrayals are harmful. Following the Jewish-French philosopher Levinas (who as a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp knew a thing or two about objectification) I think that objectification is something like a pre-condition for harm. So we should watch objectifying portrayals carefully. They can be “harmless fun” one day, and an excuse to silence the one being objectified the next. Or worse.

      As you said, the other problem is that we don’t always know when we’re objectifying a group of people. I think the best we can do is react to the instances where we do notice, and bloody well listen to people when they express dissatisfaction with how they’re being portrayed.

  • Eversor

    Nice to see that SinSynns article ended up being used to do good! I’m still not sure what that thing was really about. Anyhow …

    You’re completely right when you say “it’s the thinking it’s a non-issue that I have a bit of a problem with”. Anything that deals with sex, sexuality and gender a is an issue; a topic for discussion; something to try to be aware of. Especially in a male-dominated environment as ours.

    And like Von says, if we take the current status quo for granted, we’re never want to progress as a community. Because this stuff matters. It affects how we see fellow human beings, and how they see us.

    • James S

      I agree @Eversor. If we admit that the environment is male dominated, then we should allow that males may not be in the best position to clearly see injustices.

      Anything that helps us see more clearly is good, anything that encourages us to stick our head in the sand is bad.

  • sinsynn

    Yeah, that SinSynn guy…he’s a big ol’ knucklehead.
    He has REALLY GOOD taste in models, though.

  • sho3box

    I really like the spread of miniatures that you used to illustrate your point. Well played.

  • Frontline Gamer

    Well for good or ill, my Sunday Sermon has gone live James:

    As always I’ll be interested on your take.

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