Cyberfucking While Feminist

Can the strong, independent, and noble woman be sexual? Yes, and RPers show how. ((A dark skinned human woman in realistic silver armour that covers her from head to toe with a red cape fluttering down her back, broadsword in one hand and shield in the other)) ((Image credit: Pathfinder RPG, Paladin))

One of the driving themes of my gaming writing has been to emphasize the fact that how we experience games is a factor of the games players forge for themselves and not just what the developers hand us. There are worlds of social experience that exist in a netherspace between the physical world and the ideal fantasy world of developers’ intent.

One of the more interesting worlds is that of erotic roleplay or ERP. This is a field of interaction between gamers that is the subject of many jokes, stereotypes, derision, concern, and sometimes the bitterest of scorn. It is considered by some to be symptomatic of a male-dominated gaming environment lardered with male-gaze oriented objectification of women- the inevitable result of men literally taking control of idealised women’s bodies and enacting perverse puppet shows with them. However, there is another highly significant side to this that such a superficial critique misses. The women and the feminists who ERP.

For a number of us, erotic roleplaying is a double-edged sword. It is, for some, a path to sexual freedom and a means of enacting another significant dimension of a roleplayed character’s life. But it is also an exercise fraught with a myriad of pitfalls created by the institutional sexism that still haunts many gaming and geek spaces.

Rather than have this piece entirely in my own words, however, I wanted to give voice to actual ERPers who are women and/or feminists, or people highly sympathetic to feminist ideas. This idea came about during a personal conversation with one of the people I’d interviewed. As we got to talking about our experiences in gaming the issue of how difficult it can be to roleplay a strong female character who is also sexually active came up; we discussed it for a good couple of hours, discussing the links to dominant cultural ideas about women’s sexuality, or as Jessica Valenti might put it the ‘he’s a stud, she’s a slut’ double standard. It operates heavily in the world of roleplaying as well, and to me it became important to not only speak to this issue but to let others speak to it- the often invisible women and feminists who ERP.

They deserve to be heard both about why they ERP and how they deal with the troubles it brings, often alone due to concern about being judged harshly for what they do and why, whether they are women or men in real life.

The issues that arise are oftentimes familiar. A leading concern among many is having their sexuality appropriated by men for their own ends, and worries (and solid advice) concerning the undermining of a roleplay character through sexuality. Critical for all is the idea that any number of sexual tropes can be used meaningfully for their own ends and their own pleasure, rather than the exclusive pleasure of a male partner, and the idea that ERP enables them to demonstrate how women’s power and women’s sexuality need not be at odds in the slightest. It only becomes such in the hands of people attempting to slut-shame.

 

Some Brief Definitions!

To be clear Erotic Roleplaying is the use of fictional characters that one roleplays as during sexual encounters. This distinguishes it from cybersex which is usually done as some iteration of one’s self and in the first person. When ‘characters’ are spoken of these are the fictional beings roleplayed by the interview subjects in both sexual and non-sexual RP scenes.

IC means ‘in-character,’ which refers to fictional words and actions carried out as part of acting out one’s character in a roleplay scenario. OOC, or out of character,  is reverting to your real life personality.

Notes on Methodology

The people I interviewed for this article are all friends and acquaintances of varying degrees of closeness. To discuss this subject honestly requires a great deal of trust and all were kind enough to give their permission to have their words used for this series of articles. They are all familiar with The Border House and support its aims. This is not intended to be a random sample, by any means, but rather a collection of perspectives from people who explicitly identify as feminist or who sympathise strongly with feminist goals. The questions were tailored to each interviewee and the interview was conducted in a largely conversational style. To that end some of my questions will read like commentary, but it is my hope that these conversational interviews will be all the more elucidating as a result.

In thinking about how to organise this article, where interviews and research had been going on for several weeks before this one was published, I decided that- pending the reception of this first one- this should be a series. Too much of value was said to fit everyone’s insights into one extremely long article.

All names and identifying information have been changed, and where WoW servers are mentioned I changed their names as well. Why did I do that? Well, to be perfectly honest, I could’ve just bracketed their words with [my server] whenever they mentioned its name, but it was much more fun to come up with pseudonyms.

For today’s article we’ll be hearing from just one person.

The Undimmed Light of a Paladin–Rosethorn

Rosethorn roleplays prominently on a decently travelled server in World of Warcraft. Today she comes out as an ERPer with a good deal to say about the subject.  A roleplayer of a well heeled warrior class on the Northshire Abbey server, she participates in her server’s RP community for both erotic and non-erotic roleplay. She feels that while the dangers to women are real, one can overcome the backbiting gossip of others to face the headwind that blows against sexually empowered women. She states in no hold’s barred terms what the stakes are:

Rosethorn: I don’t have much formal knowledge about gender theory other than what I observe, but it’s interesting how, even in a space that is wholly fictional (by which I do not mean “fake” so much as entirely within the control of its creators–fabricated. Different from fake.) we tend to bring in our standards of behaviour.

Rosethorn: It’s actually kind of weird. I’ve noticed that people with predominantly male personas tend to get away with ERP without much drama or flaming or whatever.

Rosethorn: In other words, guy characters tend not to take as much criticism as female characters if they’re known to indulge in ERP. They’re not called sluts or whores or trolled on the forums for it. People don’t look at them as lacking willpower or being perverts.

A vague approximation of Rosethorn's character- ((A light skinned woman with short hair, again in wonderfully realistic armour, victoriously resting her sword in the corpse of an undead she's rendered even dead-er.))

This is something I’ve observed as well. Interestingly this fate befalls men too, but only if they are playing as female characters, in which case a special level of forum troll hell is reserved for them. But even there, the issue is association with the feminine, the idea that women serve only as Trojan horses to invade male space and undermine it from within. If a woman is found to have ERPed with guildmates, or heaven forefend a guild officer, she will immediately be accused of doing this for no reason other than personal material gain. The stereotype of women sexually manipulating men to gain material goods and wealth is still disturbingly popular, and in online gaming ERP is seen as women’s tool of choice for doing so. It is this broad stereotype of woman-as-manipulator that attacks both women playing as women, and men playing as women.

It is also an inhibiting force on people who roleplay women’s sexuality.

Rosethorn recalled an interesting and rare case of a male character found to be ERPing with a female raiding guild officer and how her erstwhile GM opined upon it:

Rosethorn: We don’t have a word for male characters who use sex for manipulative ends. Not a clear word, just metaphors.

Rosethorn: There are cases where two characters sleeping together lead to guild drama, loot distribution issues, etc.

Rosethorn: Actually, yes. I do know of such an accusation, justified or otherwise, in which the leader of a raiding guild on Northshire Abbey(female character) was being derided in private by my asshole GM at the time, for “cybering” with a male character in that same guild, a warrior geared to his teeth in epics.

Rosethorn: The attitude wasn’t so much that the warrior was a slut using sex to get more loot from his guildmistress.

Rosethorn: But rather that he was a big, dumb idiot who didn’t deserve what he got, but was getting by on being screwed by the GM’s female character. Someone with dumb luck. It was still the guildmistress insulted for being a whore.

Rosethorn: I think the fact that these accusations often come from other guys says something about the unspoken jealousy inherent to it.

Here the male player’s skill was insulted, certainly, and he was considered undeserving of his epic raiding loot- but the appellations of whore and slut still found their way to the person gendered as a woman in this situation. Had the genders been reversed in this scenario, based on my own experience certainly, the male guild officer would’ve been seen as a victim more than anything else.

Rosethorn’s initial observation here that no word exists for male sexual manipulators is also a highly salient one. The mythical bogeywoman of the female gamer or RP character who wants to fuck her way to a full set of raiding armour has no real male equivalent, except perhaps by the avenue of a man who plays as a female character. As she goes on to say:

Rosethorn: ERP is occasionally used as a means of argumentum ad hominem. It’s a way of discrediting someone. Or trying to.

Rosethorn: Someone hates you for a seemingly unrelated reason. Almost always an irrational one. Your personality irritates them; the way you write, the friends you have, the way you might’ve wounded their pride–more commonly, the way you play your character.

Rosethorn: The most common way to discredit a woman is to either call them a whore or call them a man.

Defensive Masculinity, Transphobia, and ERP

I found this especially interesting as a trans woman- calling out transsexual women as being “really” men is a significant form of bullying and social control that often occurs in gaming spaces, and using a cis man’s real life gender against him if he’s playing a female character is another patriarchal operation of power where men are kept in what activist Tony Porter called “The Man Box.” But when applied to trans women, who are actually women, our efforts to retain agency (or to achieve transcendence, as Simone de Beauvoir might have put it) are seriously undermined and discredited by being called men. Our abilities to be seen as legitimately sexual women, both in and out of character, are also called into question.

In discussing her old guildmaster she described him and his relationship to both RP and ERP thusly:

Rosethorn: Being the GM of a massively successful (and therefore controversial) guild in a quickly growing server, a loud if occasional presence on the forums and backed by a team of officers the majority of whom seemed to agree with his ostentatious Drill Sergeant style of leadership really only amplified whatever frustrations, anger or bitterness he harboured in him. It was like a rash that grew inflamed. He was lonely, and so he took it out by ridiculing ERPers and alternately stalking or harassing female characters. The latter followed the former if he realized they were played by guys.

She said she’d found that his misogyny and generally vitriolic nature stemmed from overcompensation for what he perceived to be the thwarting of his ambitions in real life. Despite these failures he was sustained by wealthy parents that allowed him to comfortably nurse his bitterness in World of Warcraft. It is people like this that women who roleplay, and men who roleplay seriously as women often have to confront in online gaming. Rosethorn was, it should be said, ultimately sympathetic to her old GM and said that while she hated him, she also felt sorry for him. Despite his hatred for roleplayers he confided in her one day that he wished *his* character could “find someone.”

Walk The Line

What was certainly very true for us both was how we found ourselves struggling occasionally with the expectations and meanings that some men projected into ERP with us:

Rosethorn: It is a tough line to walk, and I admit occasionally I tend to feel a little frustrated or ashamed that I’ve decided to make Rosethorn bisexual.

Quinnae: *nods* Being sexual can be quite a minefield for a woman. Whereas men are rewarded for being seen as sexual, women’s authority will be *vastly* diminished if their sexuality becomes known.

Rosethorn: I think that’s really perceptive and correct.

Rosethorn: In Rose’s case, the frustration is manifold. On the one hand, I’ve just reasoned that if she ever felt like sleeping with a guy, fear of losing authority ought not stop her. Otherwise it turns into a Catch-22. Denying herself, she implicitly recognizes a guy’s power to reduce her own.

Rosethorn: But if she does follow through, another set of problems emerge, not in the least of which is this peculiar pattern among male characters to seem, on the one hand, sexually confident and strong willed, and on the other, needy, possessive and totally incapable of understanding the mutual respect necessary in a concept like “one night stand.”

This dilemma, the sense of damned if you do, damned if you don’t traps in one’s social space was what philosopher Marilyn Frye identified as a hallmark of sexism in her well-known piece “Oppression.” In the course of our conversation we both remembered instances where we tried to navigate issues of sexual agency with men, trying to roleplay sex with confidence while not running the risk of losing control of one’s agency to a man who would thereafter only see your character as a sex toy. Even when one does expertly pilot their way around those jagged shoals, however, we still encounter men who may be creepy or needy about sex and who sometimes channel real life desires into ERP, hoping it will be an immediate path to something more real.

I’ve dealt with this more than once myself. One male roleplayer sought repeatedly, through OOC means, to get into a relationship with my character. I repeatedly rebuffed him, even explicitly stating that my character was not interested in men and that this was a non-negotiable aspect of who she was. His reply was to tell me that this wouldn’t stop him from trying and that he still had ‘hope.’

Yet in the midst of all of this Rosethorn loves roleplay and has said that over the years she’s built up the confidence necessary to deal with the less pleasant quarters of these communities, and I would say the same. Both her and I get a tremendous amount of value out of our RP, erotic and non. ERP can be a great way of expressing the sexual side of a complicated character and exploring the intimate sides of such a person. A lot of RP I’ve done that’s shaded in and out of ERP often involved character development. Rosethorn remains optimistic and upbeat about roleplay in general and I asked her for her advice to anyone who wants to avoid the drama and opprobrium that comes with ERP:

Rosethorn: The short answer is to remain in character, to keep good company and be discreet, to cultivate mystique and to keep drama confined into IC terms, where it may be dealt with.

And the long answer?

Rosethorn: I believe players should roleplay that which excites them, genuinely excites them, with honesty to their characters and not a care at all of the disapproval others. There’s a certain rare pleasure in slipping into a persona you really enjoy, something which can’t be experienced in real life, and I think to squander that valuable resource of self-expression, or to somehow silence ones creative urges in shame inflicted by another’s insecure judgement is monumentally dishonest to one’s own integrity.

To be honest, sexuality is not at all a valid metric of the strength of a character of any gender. Strong characters are believable, a complex interconnection of desires, urges, vices, virtues, tempers and intellects. Play a strong character by exploring every facet of her persona, from her emotions to her desires to her taste in bedmates, and do it honestly. And players who disapprove of honesty are probably not worth your time.

About Quinnae

Quinnae Moongazer, (or Katherine Cross, as she is known in Muggle-speak) is a pizza loving feminist sociologist, trans Latina, and amateur slug herder, working on her PhD at the CUNY Graduate Centre. When she's not studying or gaming she can be found at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Her blog can be found at quinnae.com and her writing has also appeared in Women's Studies Quarterly, Bitch Magazine, Questioning Transphobia, and Kotaku. She is a co-editor of the Border House.
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32 Responses to Cyberfucking While Feminist

  1. Mirai says:

    I’ve never understood why it is people in RP are chided and derided by the more “hardcore” MMO and PNP, especially when it comes to sexuality. Wait, yes I do, it’s cause they’re immature fucking twits.

    Having said thus I like this article – it’s nice to see someone tackle more finicky and tough-to-put-into-words double-standards of roleplaying an entire character in an MMO environment, not just the chaste part. It’s incredibly unfair that someone can act like they’re an imaginary person for fun, but the minute they use their sexuality to their benefit, it’s not about THEM, it’s about YOU, and what YOU are doing. Great stuff.

    • Chris says:

      Basically, if you want to know why PvP/E’rs in World of Warcraft have a bad opinion of role players, simply look to Moon Guard.

      • XIV says:

        Or they could just be pretentious snobs who believe being hardcore is the only thing to be and somehow gives you MMO cred? Just saying.

        • Chris says:

          I was mostly joking with that statement, buuut…

          Everyone wants to be the most important in their world. PvE’rs and PvP’ers -constantly- fight over “which is harder” and “which is more important.”

          Likewise, the climate on most RP servers is that RP and raiding can never mix.

      • Quinnae says:

        Given that disdain for RP and various criticisms and stereotypes about ERP long pre-existed the opening of Moon Guard (whose reputation I am familiar with), I’m going to say “no” to your theory.

        Even when roleplaying in, say, Stormwind’s Trade District, having a perfectly normal conversation it’s not too unusual for random people to bug you for RPing if you’re doing it in /say. (And this isn’t about *E*RP, lest the subject of the main article confuse anyone reading this particular comment).

        This is shading into a very different discussion, but RP elitism is itself a problem and while it’s worthwhile to point out how non-RPers can be very bullying to roleplayers it’s also worth examining that several of the issues I pointed out in this article- particularly the diminishing and undermining of sexual women- are promulgated by RPers themselves. I’ve heard also a lot of anti-ERP sentiment from RPers who, emulating predictable hierarchical dynamics, want to distinguish themselves from Those Bad People who do x, y, and z.

        So, just sayin’… it’s a bit more complicated than that. :P

        • Chris says:

          I was mostly joking, I don’t honestly think Moon Guard is the real reason why RP is looked down on by most people. While I don’t think its recent reputation has helped, that is another topic entirely.

          Roleplay is seen as “weird” by the majority of WoW’s player-base. Despite the game being an RPG, many choose to ignore the “R” part of that. I play on an RP-PvP server and RP’ers are by far in the minority — and always have been. I basically expect to be trolled when I’m role playing out in the world. It sucks.

          As far as RP elitism goes — I think it differs greatly from server to server.

          • Jayle Enn says:

            “RPers are a bunch of weirdos/carebears who can’t hack the real game” goes back at least as far as Ultima Online, when RPer towns (built with that holy grail, player housing) were a favorite target of PK guild zerg rushes. Most of these people, typically the sort who like to hide behind ‘it’s only a game’ as an excuse for being an asshat, came from a background that defined an RPG as a game that had an inventory and/or attributes, not a game played socially where you pretend to assume a role.

            And yeah, unlike an RP-enforced MUD where there are enough Immortals to keep an eye on the players and keep @nuking Chuck Norris jokes, there’s no way to keep ‘it’s just a game’rs from rolling in and driving RPers off an RP MMO server.

            I’m not touching RP elitism either, because that unfolds into arguments over validity of styles, vocabulary, metagaming and oh god argh. Well, with one exception: To the guy whose character profile on Virtueverse had a commissioned picture of a sixteen year old girl with tits literally the size of beachballs, nipples covered with electrical tape, and whose bio described in lascivious detail the vigorous sex life she shares with her brother, and her dog Piston: everything, and I mean everything, is your fault. Yes, even that too.

        • Dblade says:

          Quinnae, there often is very good reason why the regular roleplayers try and disdain ERP. I know it’s not popular to say it, but much ERP is perversion. It’s not a matter of being sexually empowered, coming out, or using it to add richness to RP, it’s people using ERP to do seriously nasty if not illegal kinks you would not admit to in public.

          When ERP rises, so does that aspect of it. I could post some horror stories.

          • Quinnae says:

            Where exactly is it “not popular”, Dblade? Because so far as I can tell, that’s the pretty *dominant* mainstream way of conceptualising ERP and cybersex.

            I can tell horror stories too. What’s your point?

            Secondly, while there are problems with simply saying it’s entirely up to individuals to determine what’s empowering and what’s oppressive, there is also a problem with entirely removing the agency of individuals to lay claim to such things. To wit, how do you know what most ERPers feel about whether or not what they are doing is an expression of a kind of empowerment?

            Perversion according to whom, as well? Certainly some things are completely sickening and beyond the pale, like paedophilia, and several of my own horror stories do involve that; but honestly, speaking generally, for a lot of other wild kinks I am honestly none too perturbed at what consenting partners do.

            Your comment would sound awfully prudish if it said “people use their bedrooms to do perverted things they wouldn’t admit to in public!”

            No, really? *smirks*

          • Denis Farr says:

            Unfortunately, I would say this can be true of any expression of sexuality, from art and drawings, to porn films, and roleplaying of various sorts. Wherever humans have an interest in sexuality (read: everywhere), there will always be people to push it to limits that make others uncomfortable; that does not mean we can’t look at the positive aspects of it, as I believe Quinnae is attempting to illustrate alongside the problems it faces in gender discrimination.

      • Toitle says:

        PvP/Ers in WoW have a bad opinion of roleplayers because they desperately want to prove that they’re not nerds. They have no actual opinion of any substance on roleplaying-they just know it’s something geeky and they cannot ever admit to liking geeky things, lest their penises shrivel and fall off or whatever it is they’re scared of happening. The people who are loudest in WoW have never stopped being 13, and probably never will, and they make damn sure their voices drown out everyone else’s.

        So like Mirai said, they’re just immature fucking twits. Or like XIV said. And like Quinnae said in regards to rpers wanting to distinguish themselves from Those People, they need to put down people they think are nerds so they don’t get called nerds for playing WoW in the first place.

        The hatred people have for roleplayers has nothing to do with Moon Guard, or erp, or even roleplay-it is entirely about raising their status by stomping on other people. Roleplayers are seen as lower down on the social hierarchy, so they’re an easy target.

  2. Laurentius says:

    Interesting article, the only thing that was not much to my liking is part when interviewed Rosethorn speaks about former GM, personally that kind of psychological vivisection even of anonymous people always makes me feel uncomfortable.

  3. Jayle Enn says:

    “I repeatedly rebuffed him, even explicitly stating that my character was not interested in men and that this was a non-negotiable aspect of who she was. His reply was to tell me that this wouldn’t stop him from trying and that he still had ‘hope.’”

    Between bouts of visceral shuddering, I imagine that people like this must watch Chasing Amy every weekend.

  4. oddboyout says:

    Great article, these types of conversations and articles make me want to join WoW, even though I’ve already tried playing it 3 or 4 times without much success. I would assume very few WoW gamers take the time to reflect on their actual relationship to the game and their characters.

  5. melponeme_k says:

    I’ve never been interested in RP or ERP. Its just nothing that has been on my radar.

    As far as most games go, do even a little mild flirting and you gain an “admirer” that won’t go away. Its better if you don’t Vent, because the other person always has the idea that your female character may in fact be another guy. In WAR I’ve heard Vent sessions turn into giggle fests the minute a female voice entered the chat room.

    ERP has an awful reputation on WoW. Moonguard’s Goldshire is infamous. For me personally, I always have the paranoia that any interaction in an mmo is recorded somewhere. I would be worried that the game masters have a hallmark hall of fame for things they think are especially amusing.

  6. Lake Desire says:

    How do folks get over the bad experiences? Mine has soured ERP for me, to the point I had a hard time reading this article because it was giving me flashbacks to some of my traumatizing experiences I had “cybering” with adults when I was 14 (for context, this was in the 90s).

    • Quinnae says:

      Heya, LD, I’m really sorry to hear that. It varies from person to person- what you’re willing to put up with versus what you personally get out of it. The way I dealt with it was in part through having good friends who ERPed- so we trusted each other and each other’s recommendations, went to communities together, told each other who to look out for, etc.

      You fine tune your radar to know what warning signs to look out for and become a bit picky. But it’s worth it in the end and makes the whole thing a much better experience. Sometimes to make these good friends you have to take a leap and reach out to a stranger with whom you ERPed but, hey, it’s worked out quite wonderfully for me honestly. You just apply the same standards you do to anyone else you meet on the internet- play it safe and slow, build up trust over time, and become friends gradually and naturally.

      I guess the long and short is, friends make ERP much much more tolerable. ;)

  7. *Shrug* says:

    Not sure if someone said this already. I never RP’d or ERP’d, but I knew people who did. Of the people I knew, they were a mix of genders. Those who were men were considered deviants and repulsive. They were thought to be socially dysfunctional. They were derided and shunned. The players who E/RP’d as women were not considered to have ANY sense of deviancy or repulsiveness, however, they were seen as “easy”, sluts, as was said in the article. However, the women were wanted and seemed to often shrug off the “slutty” guise and go be good pve/pvpers without that kind of talk following them.

    Also, this part made no sense to me:
    “…incapable of understanding the mutual respect necessary in a concept like “one night stand.”
    For me, one night stands are rather emotionless, because all I care about is the dudes body and not his personality. And i can empathize, because there are people who are just very clingy or needy, however what follows is this:
    “…a man who would thereafter only see your character as a sex toy.”
    These two sentiments seemed incongruous, because it seems to put men in a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” position. Either the man is clingy and needy for a lasting relationship or is a misogynist, where as the woman is either strong and confident or a victim of disgusting patriarchy.

    I dunno, my experience with this subject matter seems strikingly different and it makes me think that if you feel this way it might be partially a self fulfilling prophecy. You think it exists in abundance so you see it in abundance. As a feminist I’m always skeptical of other feminists, because they often come off as either militant (not very common) or as bullshit philosophy majors (much more common). Whatever, I could be wrong, and my comment about self fulfilling prophecies could be applied to myself as well, I suppose. Sorry for the long post.

    • XIV says:

      “The players who E/RP’d as women were not considered to have ANY sense of deviancy or repulsiveness, however, they were seen as “easy”, sluts, as was said in the article. However, the women were wanted and seemed to often shrug off the “slutty” guise and go be good pve/pvpers without that kind of talk following them.”

      Wait, what? Being considered ‘easy’ and slutty is being considered a deviant and repulsive so what are you talking about? The whole point of slut-shaming is to.. shame women as dirty and gross and disgusting and someone who doesn’t really deserve to be treated much like a human for having sexual desires. Forgive me, I am skeptical that they shrugged it off as easily as you think or that any and all the sexual harassment just kind of faded away either.

      “You think it exists in abundance so you see it in abundance. As a feminist I’m always skeptical of other feminists, because they often come off as either militant (not very common) or as bullshit philosophy majors (much more common).”

      Uh, you’re definitely wrong if you’re generalizing all feminists into two categories end of story. And the whole ‘it only exists if you choose to see it’ thing can be flipped around to include people who don’t want to see anything that’s right in front of their face because it’s more comfortable to just pretend as if everything is lovely. So yeah.

      • *shrug* says:

        I feel like my comments are to long or out of place. Moderators feel free to delete if this isn’t the place for these. You don’t need my consent, I know, but I give it just the same. Anyways

        To XIV

        Being slutty isn’t considered being a deviant. Actually, I should qualify that: I’ve never heard the word used in my life in anyway that implicates sexual deviancy. The word slut refers to a dirty slovenly woman, which isn’t sexual, unless you take the non-literally definition of dirty. A deviancy is a major abnormality, usually having to do with a mental state (got that from the dictionary). In common use slut seems to apply to women who have sex a lot, which is not only a misuse of the litteral definition, but is not something that I’ve seen to be considered a deviancy. A foot fetish would be considered a deviancy. Having sex a lot is not.

        What I was talking about was that from my experience men E/RPers were labeled deviants and women were labeled overly sexually active/willing by being called slutty. Those female players I played with would come and join groups, because people wanted them, but then ended up seeming to shirk any stigma they got from E/RPing by just playing well and focusing on the PVE/PVP aspects. What I do not mean to imply is that they did not experience degredation for being female gamers. That, sadly, would still persist. Men E/RPers would constantly take abuse for E/RPing though. It was not like they joined the raid and all the dudes e-fived the men E/RPers and talked about sex or whatever.

        Lastly, I was not generalizing all feminists. When I said: “…, because they often come off as” it seemed pretty clear that use of the word “often” meant not all the time; meaning not all feminists. And you’re right, it can be flipped around, which I said here: “my comment about self fulfilling prophecies could be applied to myself as well.” I said that in the first place though, because my experience with what Quinnea was talking about did not seem to fit with what happened to her, so I was trying to think of a reason why. Maybe it just boils down to that we have had different experiences, albiet, Quinnae has more experience with the E/RP community than I do.

        • Invoking a technical definition that is contrary to the actual way a word is used isn’t actually productive, and, more to the point, isn’t actually an accurate description of reality. Saying a “slut” is not (a slur referring to) a woman who has sex a lot doesn’t actually work, because that is how the word is generally used, and claiming that something else is more literal doesn’t actually magically change what everyone who was using it the commonly accepted way actually said.

          Secondly, regardless of whether you’ve experienced it, or how you are defining the terms so they do or do not apply, women being sexually active and/or enjoying sex is still shamed and presented as something bad and worthy of derision, in other words, deviant.

          And it should also be noted, being overly focused on semantics and theory and what is technically “true” to the exclusion of reality is one of the critiques that tends to directed at “bullshit philosophy majors”, so you may want to think this over a bit?

    • Quinnae says:

      Shrug, I’m deeply sorry you felt that we exhibited “disgusting behaviour” by having lives and not checking new comments every 10 seconds to approve them. I’ll send out a memo to the entire feminist movement asking them to approve comments faster.

      That you would assume that something disgusting was going on behind the scenes immediately is something that tells me you’re not very interested in a good faith discussion here.

      To reply to your actual points, however:

      Men who play as women are the ones who get stick for ERPing, due to the reasons I outlined in the article, primarily. Even guys who ERP as guys do not have the same stigma attached to them that people with female avatars do- I made a point of emphasising throughout the article that men do not necessarily have it easy in this realm, depending on the gender they’re roleplaying as.

      You may note, apropos the entire “shrugging off” comment, that that is precisely what Rosethorn called on people to do if they were at all able and for what it’s worth I agree with her. This is not always practical, nor should the burden always be on people to simply ‘shrug things off’ but concomitantly I wanted to emphasise agency in this article as well as problems.

      “These two sentiments seemed incongruous, because it seems to put men in a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” position. Either the man is clingy and needy for a lasting relationship or is a misogynist, where as the woman is either strong and confident or a victim of disgusting patriarchy.”

      I’m not really sure how you concluded that from what I wrote.

      At no point in the article did I say all men are one or the other, nor did I imply this, nor do I actually believe it myself. I do not deal in either/or dichotomies and I have written in the past about how being a ‘victim’ (a much maligned word in our culture) is not an antonym of ‘strong’ or ‘independent.’ People who ERP and are attacked by sexist attitudes can be victims and agents at the same time.

      When I said “thereafter only see your character as a sex toy” what I meant was this: that they will not see your character as a complicated personality that has sex as a *facet* of their experience rather than a defining feature thereof. Your suggestion that having a one-night stand with someone necessarily entails that much disrespect for a person leaves me questioning exactly how you see that type of sexual arrangement. You can have the detachment necessary to engage in a non-commital night of lust without going “now that I’ve fucked you I see you’re nothing but a whore, not the strong woman you’re pretending to be.”

      That’s what I was getting at.

      You’re inventing a double-bind from my words where none exists. What Rosethorn was complaining about was the clinginess, yes. What I added was that in some other cases, the exact opposite will happen and your character will be stereotyped as ‘nothing but’ a slut/pervert/whore, etc. Your words subtly suggest that a one night stand either entails one or the other.

      I cannot make this any clearer than I’ve now made it.

      I should also reiterate XIV’s point that as a woman to be tarred as a ‘slut’ publicly is to be considered a deviant woman. It’s not just a cute word. Not that it can’t be reappropriated, etc, but in the context I’m describing here its weaponisation against women and men who RP as women is explicitly meant to mark them as deviant and perverted.

      “As a feminist I’m always skeptical of other feminists, because they often come off as either militant (not very common) or as bullshit philosophy majors (much more common).”

      I would suggest that you have a lot of exploring to do if you actually believe that.

      • *shrug* says:

        The disgusting behavior I was talking about was what I thought was removal of dissent, which personally I think is pretty disgusting and also kind of contradictory to the site’s discussion policy. All of that though is unimportant, since it was a mistake. I didn’t realize that this site moderates posting before they are officially posted. I apologized for that already and since you are upset that I made a mistake then you probably didn’t see that I had apologized, so I’ll apologize again. Sorry, it was a mistake.
        I didn’t have much faith in a good discussion here. You are right. I expected to be scoffed at or mocked or something for things that have nothing to do with my actual points.

        What I was trying to say, but reading it again said poorly, is that in the Walk The Line part rosethorn illustrates her dilemma in that by fearing to lose authority during sex she can choose to refrain from sex, but that in turn recognizes an authoritative power over herself. This I get. I can see how that presents a problem for herself, but the issue I take is this: from what you both said it seemed that the trapped social space rosethorn found herself in is simply a result of men attempting to purposefully gain authority over her.

        Rosethorn says these men come in two ways in regards to “one night stands” either they are strong willed, which thus puts her in the catch22 where they assume authority, or instead are needy and possessive, which also puts her in the catch22. But this attitude that she has works in reverse on men. If for a man to be strong willed is to take authority from the woman, then in turn for the woman to be strong willed it takes away from a mans authority. If for a man to be needy and possessive it takes away from a womans authority over herself, then for a woman to be the same takes the same away from the man. If rosethorn views her relationships with a man in such terms as this pitched conflict then she in turn inflicts the same imposed predicament on the man. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this trapped social space rosethorn has found herself in comes from a mindset of fear that in turn inflicts upon her partners the same trapped social space. So what seemed incongruous was this: I thought you were saying that men inflicted this catch22 upon women, but in reality it seemed to me to be a vicious cycle where each person who upholds this mindset of authority traps the others. The problem was not simply men being jerks, it was both men and women believing this mindset of how they take authority from each other.

        As well, I still persist that being labeled a slut is not to be labeled a deviant (I explained why in my post to XIV. Please see) either by technical definition or common use and that being labeled a deviant is, by definition, to set some one apart from the group in a wholly different way than to be labeled a slut. Different enough that someone who is labeled a slut can more easily be accepted back into the fold than someone labeled a deviant. This is not to say one label is more hurtful than the other, that is on a person to person basis, but the effects each label has on social interactions is different. You say that in an RP setting when slut is thrown around it carries with it the explicit intent to label as deviant or perverted, but from my experience of watching E/RPers mingle with non-E/RPers when slut is thrown around it does not carry that same label of deviancy.

        Maybe you’re right and I need to do some more exploring, but the most interaction I’ve had with feminists has been from some college courses and the way people acted almost soured me. I got lucky in that I got a good foundation of feminist reading when I was younger from short stories like The Yellow Wallpaper or books by Ursula K. Leguine and Tamora Pierce. I don’t have a degree in gender studies, but I’m also not an idiot. If I’ve shown disrespect it was unintended and I’d appreciate a little respect in return.

        • Quinnae says:

          With regard to your first paragraph, I would advise you to look to major media outlets and governments around the world when you talk of stifling dissent. Not a small website built around -resisting- the hegemony of the privileged. We have a strict moderation policy not because we don’t value discussion, but because in order to have deep and meaningful discussion here we can’t allow threads to be cluttered with all of the usual conventional wisdom and strawman/strawfeminist arguments. Because it forces commentors to go over basics, and that’s not what our regular readers come here for.

          Some people are also genuinely hurt and antagonised by certain kinds of commentary that privileged people erroneously think “neutral” or “objective”. So on balance the authors and editors here think that since people like this have the rest of the internet to play around in and air their grievances, we also have a right to preserve a certain kind of space here. If you want so-called debates, there are plenty of news websites that welcome all manner of commentary from people who think white cis men are the most oppressed people on the planet.

          In reading your reply it seems you’re still dealing in dichotomies. To wit: the whole issue surrounding “strong willed.” There are many ways to be strong willed that do not turn sex/ERP into a battle to retain one’s agency. I’m quite certain that Rosethorn has no problem with strong willed partners in general and from conversations with her, I’d say she very much welcomes them. In reading over the quote of hers I excerpted I will admit that, from a particular perspective, I understand that some misinterpretation might result. In the name of editing for space I obviously did not include her remarks on the matter in full, thinking that was enough to get a gist.

          To say that a reverse double bind is forced on men in the scenarios outlined incorrectly assumes equality in society between men and women, which is not there- we are, alas, still treated differently. The power differential is always there. Whether you choose to admit it or not, unfortunately some of the people she stumbled onto were simply, as you put it, jerks.

          Your portrayal of her as this scared, trapped individual is also deeply incongruous with who she is as a person and I don’t think that’s what really came through in this interview.

          Secondly, your defence of the concept of ‘slut’ does border on offensive, frankly. Saying that people labelled as such are not considered deviant (or even that sleeping with lots of people is not considered deviant) is indefensible from any standpoint, least of all people who have actually had to deal with it. Your assertion that the technical definition of deviance is on your side of this discussion is also flat out wrong. The sociological definition of deviance is broad and circumscribes any behaviour that contravenes what is considered normal and acceptable by a given society- this occurs in degrees, naturally, some forms of deviance are more tolerable than others depending on the setting.

          “…[D]eviancy research has taken a much broader definition of deviance as any socially proscribed departure from ‘normality.’ Thus, many different forms of deviant behaviour may be socially condemned or challenged even though the behaviour is not specifically illegal…” (Penguin Dictionary of Sociology, p. 106)

          However, as Emily notes, getting mired in technical definitions to the exclusion of how words and concepts operate in the real world is a problem.

          You say to XIV that men E/RPers wouldn’t join a raid and hi-five all the dudes about sex and what not. Can you show me where I said that this occurred? What I said was not that men could be proud and brag to everyone sans consequences, but that they were less likely to be tarred as sluts (particularly if they did not play female characters). Rosethorn also pointed out from her extensive experience that she saw a definite gender discrepancy in the various dramas she’s witnessed in her years of playing, as did I.

          To the extent that women ERPers are viewed as ‘cool’ by the guys, it’s kind of the same way a hegemonically attractive woman gamer is viewed as ‘cool’ by these people.

          The minute we speak and act for ourselves, however, we become bitches, sluts, whores, harpies, feminazis, man-haters, etc. So if that woman ERPer rejects your advances but sleeps with someone else… whore. If that sexy woman gamer starts a feminist blog calling for social change… bitch.

          The point that I should have developed better in the article was that when a woman is sexual she can be potentially seen as non-deviant and even quite positive. Why? Because women are attractive to heterosexual men. However, once those women act independently in a way certain men may disapprove of, then the opprobrium starts. It is true that this step is skipped for men, usually. Because a dude isn’t sexy, but two chicks kissing is OMGHAWT, rite?

          You’re not, as you say Shrug, an idiot. You should know and be familiar with these social tropes by now.

          Women’s sexuality is not intrinsically threatening- if it can be tamed and domesticated to serve the male gaze, women’s sexuality may even be celebrated in a narrow way. That does not obviate the fact, however, that we are made to choose between that and independence. A choice I flatly reject and think none of us should feel we have to make.

  8. purpleburble says:

    totally agree, quin!

  9. *shrug* says:

    huh, guess i was wrong. my apologies. I assumed falsely, because i didn’t see the “your comment is awaiting moderation” thing. Sorry.

    • Alex says:

      In the future, please keep in mind that all of our moderators are volunteers who have day jobs as well as other responsibilities. It may take longer than a few hours or even 24 hours to get a comment approved, especially if it is a first comment. Careful moderation is necessary to maintain as safe a space as possible, but that often results in comments sitting in the moderation queue for a while.

  10. Curious says:

    Just wanted to hail this article as fascinating and looking forward to seeing future installments!

    Cheers!

  11. Lyla says:

    A minor quibble: The armor depicted is not safe for women. I’m not arguing about the adornment, historical accuracy, or anything of that kind (it’s a game, it looks fucking cool), but I do want to mention a systemic problem with even full-coverage ‘female armor’: When you design a breastplate that conforms to the shape of the breasts, a weapon striking the breastplate with slide towards the center, which is flat and therefore much easier to penetrate. A breastplate designed to be even remotely effective should be convex. Breastplates for male characters are convex, and therefore more effective.

    Armor styled this way focuses on the shape, rather than the safety, of our bodies.

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