Games and The Madonna & Whore Problem

My friend Eric Kelley came out to N.M. to visit and to attend Bubonicon.  He’s a very fine writer, but also a gaming geek and fellow Mass Effect fanatic.  He’s the Garrus to my Shepard, and a real BFF.  While he was visiting he played through part of Citadel and that spawned an interesting discussion and Google search to compare notes on the romances we had selected.  Eric romanced Ashley, and said that there is very little interaction with her aboard the Normandy.  She holds Shepard at arms length and then succumbs to her love for him the night before you start the assault on the Cerberus base.  He was fascinated with how the Kaidan/male Shep romance unspooled and we talked about the very grown up relationship.  Sex is definitely occurring long before the “final night”, and treated as matter-of-fact and what consenting adults do.  But only the boys?  I went in search of information about the  Shep/Ashley interaction in Citadel and they’re certainly not having carnal knowledge of one another.

So what was the difference and the message?  Gay guys are sex fiends?  Good girls wait until they get married?  It’s only when your man is about to face certain death that you can put out and not be considered a slut?  That’s when I began to wonder if gaming is suffering from Madonna/Whore complex that often afflicts the treatment of women in fiction?  I haven’t played enough games to know if this holds true across most games, but there has been this tendency to cast woman in either the pedestal/Madonna role or the tramp, the slut, the femme fatale role rather than just treating us as humans with sex drives and ambitions and complex emotions and needs.

I do think it’s sad that the hetero/human romance is so stunted in Mass Effect 3.

And how do they handle the female Shepard?  I guess she doesn’t have to be coy, and somebody would probably only get to call her a slut once.  🙂

One Response to Games and The Madonna & Whore Problem

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    I just had a conversation with my friend Sage Walker where I also pointed out the strange contradiction of the highly sexualized outfits that female characters in games often wear. So it really is a schizophrenic message that’s being sent.

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