Female sexuality as a weapon

With the recent release of Bayonetta, I was reminded of female sexuality being used as a weapon or a power in games. This is not an original idea. Having not played Bayonetta I will only mention some other games that use this mechanic.

Jessica from Dragon Quest 8.

The 2005 Square Enix release Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King had Jessica.  She has quite an array of aptly named Sex Appeal abilities. One of these, named Puff Puff, is to shake her chest at enemies in order to charm them. Puff puff video In order to “Focus the power of passion into a beam that sows destruction and confusion” she uses Sexy Beam.  She can Blow Kiss in order to prevent enemies from attacking.

The recent Nintendo DS game My World My Way has a main character described as a spoiled princess. She uses a pout as one of her abilities. With her Pout Points she can obtain discounts in stores, charm enemies so they do not attack her, and even automatically complete quests.

Even characters that are predominantly hard hitting, damage dealers are not immune from using their sexuality as a weapon or power. The character of Ayla in Chrono Trigger fights with her bare hands! Her abilities involve kicking and clawing at enemies except for her one sexual ability: Charm. Ayla’s Charm seduces an enemy to obtain an item.

So the question remains: what is the problem with using female sexuality as a weapon or ability? This mechanic is just part of a larger picture. It is another example that adds to the idea of women using sex appeal in order to obtain presents from their partners. Presents are not given freely, but because women “trick” or “force” their partners into gift giving. The games I listed all have women charming enemies into submission or having these enemies give them gifts of experience or items based on the character’s enticements. Yet another media that says women gain power or possessions simply through their attractiveness and not through their hard work. Ayla is a powerful fighter, and yet she still uses sexuality to obtain what she wants. A male character would just use a Steal ability, but a female entices and lures through her sexuality.

29 thoughts on “Female sexuality as a weapon”

  1. I can think of two games, which uses sex as a “weapon” in a more positive way.

    Sims 3 and Fable.

    In both games you can seduce other characters and get game play benefits from it. But regardless of your gender you can use this ability and you can if you want seduce members of the same gender.

    My actual favorite is Dragon Age, there you can seduce some your Party members, but you only can seduce the same those members of the same sex who are actually into it. So this world is more realistic and sort of respectful and don’t fill the world with infinite bisexuals.

    1. I think Gunthera is speaking specifically of combat abilities that are sexual. None of the games you mention mix sex and combat.

    2. Those are examples of including sexuality in a game but it isn’t using the same as using that sexuality as a weapon or ability within battle.

    1. I feel like Succubus is the only context where sexuality-as-a-weapon is ‘accetpable’.

      If Succubus exist, it’s part-and-parcel of that to have her primary (or sole) method of interaction and especially combat to be sexual in nature.

      The issue is when females generally are given abilities suggesting that they are all Succubi at one level or another.

      As someone else mentioned, Persona/Shin Megami Tensei is the only series I know of which consistently has both a Succubus and Incubus— good for the goose should be good for the gander…

  2. I’m playing through Bayonetta right now, oddly enough she doesn’t use sexuality as a weapon at all since she just kills angels (who, it seems, aren’t interested in procreation at all). However, is she sexualized in the game? Thus far, only by the viewer. I personally find her “resting” pose a bit odd, arching of the back etc.

    1. This is why I am not talking much about Bayonetta at all. I have not played it so my knowledge only comes from what other people have said/written about the game. How far are you in the game so far? Have you seen all her moves/abilities in battle?

      1. Only to chapter 3 so far, the first chapter which made me say “oh man I’m going to have to change the difficulty to ‘easy’ or else this thing is going to give me a headache”. There are something like 20 moves to unlock with Halos (aka the gold coins of the game) so I don’t know all of her moves. So far there are a few that could trigger people with weird fetishes like the torture attack where she forces an angel into a guillotine, then if you hit o repeatedly she kicks the angel in the butt/shoots them with her heel gun. Of course if they wanted to go with the sexual thing it would have been spankings instead.

        Describing stuff in games like this is just so weird out of context, it’s like “oh what’s god of war like” “ya know, you stab a cyclops in the eye…”.

        Outside of the Climax/torture moves I hardly even see what she’s doing on-screen since it seems like I’m always surrounded with enemies. At any rate I personally think this game is one of those “guilty pleasures” as it certainly has a lot of male gaze camera angles and she flaunts her sexuality in the cutscenes (although it comes across a little weird imo because she’s an inhuman monster with no respect for life). So far in the game I’d say she’s still likable due to her sense of humor, her jokes are just a tad more entertaining than Drake’s. (the guy from Uncharted 2…)

    2. She uses her hair as a weapon, and it’s not like a small whip either. She beats the shit out of people with it.

      1. Yeah I realized later in the day yesterday, I personally don’t trip over women having to cover their hair (not a follower of Abrahamic traditions anyways) but for many a woman’s hair is linked to her sexuality and Bayonetta certainly uses her hair as a weapon. Part of the game’s campiness, arguably, is giant heels stomping on enemies.

      2. It is not a solely female ability. In Quantum Fighter (for the Super Nintendo or its predecessor) the hero is male and uses his hair as a weapon. He can also throw stuff at the enemy but his hair is his only melee weapon.

  3. Again game play via the heterosexual male gaze/orientation. I’m glad your blog is here. While I don’t know why we expect the virtual realm be different from (e.g. better than) the material realm, it’s vital to expose and name things like this.

    I’m in the marginalized minority of Americans who also think the warfare/fight, yeah the violence-based mechanics of gaming and an increasing amount of popular culture, (oh I mean entertainment) is also fundamentally problematic for reasons too numerous to name here.

    I find nothing entertaining about violence when it’s used as entertainment.

  4. In Atlus’s Digital Devil Saga & Persona games, a move called “Sexy Dance” charms all enemies and can be performed by a male or female character. In Persona games, there is always an Incubus counterbalance to the Succubus persona (neither of which seems more “evil” than the other and neither of which has a charm/seduce ability)

    In the original Final Fantasy Tactics, both men and women characters can use the “Charm” skill, but it only works on foes of the opposite sex.

    In Sid Meyer’s Pirates, a male MC can court women and use his sexuality to gain money and power.

    I’m miffed by the perpetual stereotype of women using their sexuality to their ends, too, but the last few lines of this article had me wondering: Is the male option of stealing really so much better than sweet-talking/seducing? At least if my character were to sweet-talk someone out of a key item, I can know that I obtained the item with their knowledge and consent. Stealing doesn’t necessarily seem a preferable option, especially since neither sex is given the option, “Just ask nicely.” It bears the stink of making female sexuality into something transactional (“I give you sex if you give me presents”), but I wouldn’t say charm /forces/ someone to give something up the way outright stealing would.

    I’m not personally bothered by the pouting princess in “My World My Way.” For one, the girl is so young, her pouting ability is more about her cuteness than something sexual. I think that cuteness factor would have worked just as well if it were a pampered prince instead of a pampered princess. Would it be be any different if the ability were renamed “puppy dog eyes” or even “sulk”? Is it manipulative? Probably. But so is a skill like “intimidate”, which a male character might use to similar effect. And again, I’d personally rather “pout” and “charm” someone into giving up something rather than “bully” or “steal.” Just because it’s gender-specific doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worse than the male counterpart. The fact that gamers don’t think of “steal” and “intimidate” as undesirable options says something about the privilege of the male way of doing things.

    Ideally, I think these options should be all be available, but not sex-specific–women should be allowed to intimidate and steal if they so choose, and men should be allowed to pout and seduce.

    1. Those are some great examples of these skills being used by both male and female characters. Thank you. I think then when these abilities are used by both sexes it becomes less problematic. When you remove the female only aspect you lessen that impact of the cultural narrative of females using looks to “trick” others into getting what they want.

      The issue I have with the seduce/charm skill is that it uses female gendered, sexual attractiveness as a way to “confuse” the enemies. They are not being sweet talked or persuaded to giving items, but are simply enchanted by the sexual ability that the character just used. When charmed the enemies often spin, have confused looks on their faces, or even have hearts above them to indicate they are entranced. This does not indicate to me that they gave the items over willingly.

      Regarding “My World My Way”, while the character is a young girl she is also engaging in a quest to obtain her perfect Prince. The guy she wanted to be with is an adventurer so the only reason she embarked on her journey was to win him over. For me that story line pulls the game out of just young girl cuteness territory and into young adult sexuality.

      In terms of pouting, charm, steal and intimidate, the best possible option would absolutely be the rarely used Negotiate. I am not advocating the idea of stealing as preferable over that of seducing someone for items. What I meant for that line to suggest is that there was already a well known game mechanic for getting items off enemies without their approval and therefore there is no need to create a sexual version of that for female characters.

      I agree with you last point whole-heartedly. If steal, intimidate, pout, or charm is available to both male and female characters then it evens the playing field. But as long as seduction is a female only character ability it just adds to the stereotype of women using sex to meet their goals.

  5. Reading your post I thought of Catwoman, the game inspired by the Halle Berry film. In that you had a move called “pose”. Basically you just pushed a button and Catwoman would make these suggestive moves to make enemies dizzy. How classy.

    I also thought of Mortal Kombat. Sonya Blade had this fatality where she would send a kind of mortal kiss. Oh, and that move where Orchid from Killer Instinct would flash her breasts.

  6. Square Enix games have a history of giving charm abilities to female monsters, too. The Lamia comes to mind–and in FF II*, the animation was of hearts instead of the birds-and-questions. There are similar attacks in FF III* that are wielded by Chadarnook’s goddess form and the Barb-e.

    * US numbering

  7. Reading this post reminded me of one of the more bizarre aspects of the DS rhythm game Elite Beat Agents. One of the songs (“Material Girl”) follows the story of two young, blond rich sisters (think, Paris Hilton-esque) who are in a boat wreck and end up stranded on an island. If you successfully play through the song, the women use their looks/sexuality to coerce the local wildlife to prepare food for them, keep them warm, etc. It’s really effin’ weird because you have all these animals (lions, raccoons, bears, monkeys etc) who are totally lovestruck and enamored with these human women (the animals eyes turn into hearts when they’re besotted and they say things like “Hubba hubba”) and performing menial tasks for them.

    Apparently female sexuality is so potent that it crosses species-lines.

    1. In a game where pirates deep sea dive to find treasure to the song “Y.M.C.A.” and a defunct oil baron digs with his hands to find a civilization of mole people I’d hardly say that ranks as one of the more bizarre moments. :P

      It is worth mentioning in this context though.

  8. Other examples have come to my mind as I read through your post. Sophitia, from Soul Calibur, for one. In Soul Calibur 1 to 4 (not sure about Soul Blade ’cause I’ve never played it) she has a grappling move, called “broken promise” I think, in which she throws both arms around the opponent’s neck, more in a hugging attitude than trying to strangle him/her, and leans back, pulling said opponent towards her. The whole move is intended to look like it would end in a passionate kiss, but instead, Sophitia finishes it by slashing the enemy’s neck from behind. The most significant detail here is that the enemy does not resist or try to break free, even though the “grappling” in itself seems easier to disrupt than any other in the game (she’s not even trying to immobilize her opponent). Then again, we’re talking about Soul Calibur, where most female characters are absolutely sexualized.

    Another example which comes to my mind is Poison Ivy, playable in Lego Batman, which has an instant-killing grapple attack in which she kisses the enemy, poisoning him. In this case, however, the source of the problem is not the game but the original Poison Ivy character from the Batman comic books, which is completely based around the idea of using sex as a weapon (and is female, “of course”).

    I’m sure there’s a lot more examples I could come up with, I just can’t recall them now. A very interesting article, by the way. I finished Chrono Trigger some years ago and, though I used Ayla through the whole game, I never noticed the issue with her “charm” attack (or her “healing kiss” power – I’m sure they would have never thought of that move for a male character). That was the whole point of the article, I guess, to make readers aware of that kind of things. Well, you did a good job, thanks :)

  9. For what it’s worth, “Puff-Puff” is not Jessica ‘shaking her chest’ at enemies- the concept of ‘puff-puff’ is to surround one’s head/face with breasts.

    This is exemplified (humorously) by the ‘puff-puff’ room in the game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0BbmgQ8t7c&feature=related (sample is with Jessica as the customer- to be progressive!)

    This is what is supposedly happening during the Puff-Puff attack animation where squeaking noises are made, and the camera aims up into the sky, away from the action.

    I don’t know if this is actually worse than what you suspected to be the case, but it certainly isn’t better.

  10. Natasha from Commandos 2 (plays in world war II) and Kate from Desperados/Desperados2/Helldorado (play in the old wild west) come to mind.
    Also Victoria and Jessica from Restricted Area (Cyberpunk)

    Natasha is one of the commandos and plays like a toned-down version of the male spy character. In the gameplay this is balanced by that she, unlike the male spy, can use a sniper rifle. Besides that she can use the same general weapons as the other commandos.

    She can dress as a civilian or secretary to not get attacked by the enemies (except officers who pierce her disguise, but they do the same to the male spy) and can distract them by flirting with them. (they stop walking, look into her direction and their range of view gets reduced) The item for flirting is a lipstick and mirror. The “weak female” theme is also included here as she is the weakest character in melee. She needs to break bottles of wine (which take up quite some inventory space) over the heads of the enemies to knock them out and can not tie them when they are KO. And she starts with no gun. This makes it impossibile for her to kill enemies, which in turn makes it impossibile for her to get a gun without help from the male characters, since an enemie needs to be at least tied to take his gun.
    In the missions where you have Natasha you also most often find no gun anywhere else.

    In one mission she hides in what seems to be a brothel and one of the other characters has to get her the civilian clothes she needs for her abilities.

    Desperados had two female characters. Kate, who uses seduction and ablities that employ metaphors for seduction, and Mia who uses no seduction and rather plays like a classical thief character. Desperados 2 and Helldorado replaced Mia by a Native American Character.

    Kate is dressed about as seductively as you can realistically dress a cowgirl. When she seduces an enemy she beginns to pose and the the enemy’s field of view gets pink as soon as he sees her (except for the enemies who are immune against her charms and start shooting), he makes some comment a la “Ey caramba” and comes closer, where she can knock him out with a kick. If she does not knock him out, he knocks her out after some time. Or so I recall, I do not have the game anmore.

    Her other four abilities are:
    Her boots, which allow her to knock out enemies (the two male characters who can do that use their fists instead), are high-heeled and unlike the other characters allow her to move on wooden floors without making a sound, allowing and being a metaphor for sneak attacks.
    Her mirror, which allows her to temporarily blind enemies. Metaphor for beauty.
    Playing cards, with which she can lay a track which her enemies follow. Metaphor for seduction.
    Her “lady-sized” pistol, the kind of model to fit into a purse, is the smallest gun and has the second smallest magazine in the game.

    In Helldorado she can kiss Cooper, the protagonist of the stories and also a playable character, to restore both of them to full health – and can do so an unlimited number of times.
    If two enemies fall for her seduction at the same time in Helldorado, one knocks out the other in front of her, so she only needs to knock out the winner.
    But since she can not tie, carry or silently kill them she needs the help of the other characters to dispose of enemies.

    Victoria and Jessica are the two playable female heros from Restricted Area.
    While Victoria has the ability “Mind Control” it is one of her psychic powers (and also displayed as such) instead of seduction.
    However, both characters can get lower prices from the guy who flies them to their missions, if they ask, simply because they are a “beautiful woman” and can get higher credits from the local loan shark and pimp (same person, mainly loan shark) by sleeping with him.
    Also Victoria’s outfit got a last minute change from black longcoat and black dress to black bra and relavively short black skirt in a try to get more players.
    When you play a male character and buy the prostitute free she pays you back with free sex.

    1. Yeah! Or in games having the team pet/mascot hump an opponent’s leg to distract him would also be cool

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