Dragon Age, Sexual Archetypes

While reading a friend’s post on Bilerico, I came across this article related to Dragon Age’s romance with Zevran.

There are issues with race in this game. Not only is there commentary on the differences between elves, dwarves, humans, and the Qunari, but being of a different skin color will likely disappoint.

Beyond that, however, Jason Tseng notes how there exists a racial disparity in the male on male sex scenes and who gets depicted as either the bottom or top dependent on which race you play. The video (NSFW, and the captions are shown in-game, though the focus is on the sex scene itself):

Videos of human males or dwarves having sex with Zevran result in him being the bottom, whereas the roles are reversed here, for the male elf.

As Tseng notes:

I find it fascinating to observe how sexual racism persists even the gaming world. While it is true, you can be a dark-skinned elf, just as easily as a light-skinned human… the notion that races generally fit into neat sexual archetypes still persists in the virtual world is interesting. It is reminiscent of how Asian men are assumed to be bottoms unless proven otherwise. Much in the same way that in Dragon Age, all bottoms are elves, but not all elves are bottoms (when bedding other elves).

It is very curious how our own expectations and way of viewing things bleeds into the fantasy and fictions we create. Not only is race at play, but expectations of gender identity and representation. In this instance, it would be that elves are more lithe, therefore considered more ‘traditionally’ feminine in features, grace, et cetera. This would then cast them in the more perceived feminine role during sex.

In terms of game models, this means that the male elf is equated with the female models who may engage in a similar sex scene. The intersection of race and gender expectations is another point where I have to raise my eyebrows at Dragon Age, even though I love it so.

10 thoughts on “Dragon Age, Sexual Archetypes”

  1. Being that I work in the industry and I see how these things get made, I’m thinking that may have been a technical oversight. Something about the models, either how they were rendered, or the code behind the cut scene generation that causes this. I HIGHLY doubt there was a conscious decision made here, at least not one that equates elf men with women.

    I could be wrong though! :)

  2. Cuppycake is right. The author didn’t take into account for the fact that the human vs elven models in the game are different sizes with the humans being taller. That’s the only defining reason why one would be a “top” or a “bottom.”

    1. Just because there were animation rig reasons for the result doesn’t mean that the result doesn’t raise implications in terms of stereotypes. The designers or animators may not have intended anything by this design choice, however the results still raise these questions. Every single thing in a game is designed. The only reason they would not have addressed this is because they either didn’t think of it (the “unconscious stuff” issue that kaninchenzero raised) or didn’t care.

  3. I though, that I should point out that the elf in question here, Zevran is bisexual, and his sex scene with women is completely different, so it’s not a case of the engine being gender confused.

    Personally I made a feminine, coquettish male elf out of personal preference, and thought it was appropriate that he ended up the bottom in the cutscene, I couldn’t really see him as the top.

    It probably would be too much work to code, I’m sure, but they should have made it so that the player character stated their preference for topping or bottoming through dialogue, and adjusted the cutscene accordingly.

  4. Ugh, the first though should be thought. There ought to be a comma after Zevran, and probably less commas all together. Sorry for sounding incoherent.

Comments are closed.