This article is labeled as NSFW because it contains frank description of sexual behavior. If you don’t follow the links, it’s probably OK depending on your work.
Sometimes something comes up in feminist and queer dialogue that totally throws me for a loop. I’m sex-positive and queer, so why does the news Team Fortess 2 team “rEJ” have become team “fleshlight.co.uk make me feel so uncomfortable? To quote the press release:
The Division 2 team known as Red Eyed Jedis have announced today that the team have picked up a sponsorship deal with Fleshlight.co.uk. The team will now be known as simply “fleshlight.co.uk” from here on out. The sponsorship deal includes coverage for a server, with the possibility of future LAN support, should the team perform well under the new banner.
George “Poop” Duthie, one of the seven team members on the newly renamed fleshlight.co.uk team says:
It is about time that rEJ was supported by a well respected sponsor. The prestigious organisation known as fleshlight.co.uk, famously known for providing pleasure to many male clients, is now taking rEJ under its wing. With mutual reasons for combining our interests, we feel that a rare and innovative bond has been created. I only hope we can give them as much pleasure, as they do us.
Fleshlights are a male sex toy, basically an artificial orifice. Frankly, I find the things themselves pretty freaky, probably because they have a whole range molded on actual porn stars’ genitalia. On an aesthetic level I find this pretty creepy – it’s definitely in the uncanny valley region. The marketing itself doesn’t help either, I can’t be the only sex-positive person to find this kind of marketing… just… skin crawlingly awful:
Goth Girl Next Door, Alt Porn Star, or just plain Gorgeous. Call her what you want, the mind-blowing Stoya is the newest Fleshlight Girl. With her light green eyes, silky dark hair, and milky white complexion, Stoya’s a tall, lean, all-natural girl that radiates sex from every orifice. That’s why Fleshlight and Digital Playground are proud to offer Stoya every way you want her.
This marketing to me heavily implies that Stoya (she’s about as famous as you get in the adult industry) is simply the combination of her orifices. What if I want a drink and a movie with her first and a cuddle afterwards? I guess then I’d have to buy the Real Doll version (yes, that was sarcasm), but I digress.
Aside from the creepiness of the objects themselves, on a basic level I still find this combination of computer game team and such a blatantly male object uncomfortable. And I don’t even know why. Would it be weird to have a team sponsored by Viagra, say? I think much less so. Would a company that made vibrators sponsor, say, a knitting circle (I can’t think of anything else suitably stereotypically female), and would that be weird? I would find it kinda cool to be honest.
Maybe it’s that I’m ultra-sensitive to how androcentric gaming circles are, especially around the FPS scene. Perhaps the reason I feel so uncomfortable about it is because it seems to flaunt and celebrate the fact it’s an almost entirely male environment. Unlike dildos (which are unisex), Fleshlights aren’t much use to people without penises. As someone familiar with the sexism of the competitive games scene, perhaps I’m also worried that people will take Fleshlight’s marketing and message a little too seriously and start to see women as a collection of orifices to be used. It’s pretty well documented the effect porn is having on men’s sexuality. This kind of marketing where you’re encouraged to have simulacra of your favourite porn star’s bits (taking the linked porn discussions to a literal next level) is potentially a very worrying message to send out. Dildos cast from real penises (click ‘Real’) seem very differently described to me, for instance – they are described much more as tools (forgive the pun) rather than simulations. However, I think there’s a lot of things intrinsically right about masturbation, sex toys and aids and the discussion of sex and sexuality.
As an aside, much like other games, Team Fortress 2 itself has a large amount of amazingly macho marketing and no women characters in game (Pyro may be, Valve haven’t revealed yet). I don’t know if this is relevant. Aside from this, and the fact Fleshlights themselves creep me out (would I get one if it was aesthetically pleasing and didn’t look like a person? maybe?), I genuinely don’t know what I think of this. What do Border House readers think? Does anyone have any other examples of incredibly gendered objects being used in such a way?