Recently I have been noticing a theme in my Twitter feed, big breasts. Specifically characters in video games that have big breasts.
Now there has been a lot of discussion in the last few years about over sexualisation and objectification of female video game characters and a common complaint is too much generosity in the design of the female character’s breasts. There seems to be an idea among critics of video games that female characters cannot be strong, well developed, kickass women if they have big breasts. However it seems there may be the beginnings of a backlash forming. Recently a number of female gamers, particularly those that are themselves well endowed in the chest area, have begun to push back against the idea that having big breasted female characters in video games is inherently sexist. They argue that big breasted women have as much right to representation in video games as women with small or average breasts.
I myself am a big breasted woman, a UK G cup which is equivalent to a US H cup. I have watched this issue for years with some trepidation, what seems to have started out as a well meaning effort to introduce a wider variety of body types in gaming has degenerated into a mess of assumptions and body shaming. There is a belief that if a female character in a game has large breasts then she must have no character or agency and that she only exists to cater to the ‘male gaze’. This may have something to do with the emergence of the Fighting Fuck Toy trope label, a term that was coined by Dr. Caroline Heldman an Associate Professor of Politics.
But what is a Fighting Fuck Toy?
According to the Fighting Fuck Toy Blog the term refers to women characters that seem empowered but are actually only really designed to appeal to a male audience i.e female action heroes. “Though in modern day they’re featured as the alpha character in most mediums, they’re still depicted as sexual objects, something to be desired by men. Yes, they fight crimes like badasses, but they’re physical appearance, body type and wardrobe – the huge bust size, small waist and little (or see-through) clothing they wear that leaves nothing to the imagination – are mainly the qualities that hook people in (especially the men).”
Pop Culture Critic Anita Sarkeesian explains, of female characters that embody the Fighting Fuck Toy, that this “hyper-sexualized, hyper-violent female character presents the illusion of female empowerment but is designed as a sexual fantasy.”
So from my perspective there are a number of problems with this. My first problem being that if characters are designed with big breasts in order to be a fantasy well then what’s wrong with that? Gaming is, for the most part, a visual medium based on fantasy and escapism. Some games, such as Dragon’s Crown, are known for their distinctive visual style and exaggerated, cartoony character design. While I would like to see a greater variety of character body types and ages depicted in video games it is not because I see attractive video games characters as problematic but more because I would like to see developers given the creative freedom to tell a wider variety of stories involving a wider variety of characters. The characterisation and criminalisation of attractiveness is slightly baffling to me. Yes the size of these character’s breasts may be an attempt to make the game appealing to straight men and the majority of men enjoy looking at breasts, so what? A great many straight women and people in the LGBT community like looking at breasts too. The enjoyment of looking at breasts is a biological imperative, a part of how the human animal forms complex chemical and emotional bonds associated with mating and the rearing of young. Acknowledging that does not reduce women in any way.
My other problem with the ‘big breasts as fantasy appeal’ argument is that the notion that big breasted women may see these characters as an empowering power fantasy does not seem to have occurred to these people. There are times when having big breasts is not much fun, it can be uncomfortable, and expensive. Often it will come with assumptions or snarky behaviour, as much from other women as from men. Is it wrong to play a video game and fantasise that we are like that woman? Kicking ass and taking names in between the nightmare of bra shopping and lower back pain? Did the thought ever materialise that women with big breasts might like to imagine that they could be an action hero? Or a warrior? Or an adventurer? If overdeveloped male characters are designed as a power fantasy for men then why can’t the same be said for overdeveloped female characters for women?
Also there seems to be this assumption that big breasted female characters lack agency or have no noticeably defined character. Again I would argue that this really isn’t any different for men and is more dependent on the type of game. Is Marcus in Gears of War a particularly rounded and developed character? Is anyone really looking for meaningful dialogue and character development in DOA? There’s also a issue here in that small breasted female characters are often negatively labelled as either too masculine i.e a man with boobs, or designed to appeal to the lolicon fanbase. Perhaps critics like Heldman and Sarkeesian should just let developers know what range of cup sizes is acceptable? As far as agency is concerned the fact is that all characters in gaming lack a certain degree of self-determination because of their role in driving the story and gameplay. Video game characters cannot have full agency because of the very nature of the medium, in that characters are CONTROLLED by the players and NPCs are props that assist the player in carrying forward the narratve.
The main thing that comes up in regard to female characters in video games is the issue of representation. Critics want female characters to be more like real life women, with realistic dimensions and proportions. However there are a great many women in real life that have big breasts and, due to implants and the rise in levels of obesity, that number is increasing. In the UK alone the average bra size has gone dramatically, increasing 3 cup sizes from 2010 to 2012. In the U.S the average bra size in 2013 was a DD cup. Women with large breasts are effectively being body shamed when they are told that female characters that share their proportions are offensive. Critics of video games are pretending that these women do not exist and as a consequence their voices are not being represented. This is an example of the recent trend of building some women up, but only at the expense of other women. That ‘I’m all about the bass don’t worry about your size unless you’re a skinny bitch’ mentality is harmful to all of us. These critics cannot have it both ways, if female video game characters are supposed to look like real women then it’s inevitable that some of them will have big breasts. Stop telling me that characters with breasts that look like mine are sexist ‘fuck toys’ and shouldn’t exist.
It is my opinion that assuming that big breasted characters are incapable of having any personality and reducing them to ‘fuck toys’ is, in itself, sexist and demeaning. It assumes that breast size and sexiness are the only things that the player notices or cares about in regard to female characters. Even worse is the assumption that this will make gamers sexist towards women in real life, a presumption that I find deeply patronising and insulting as a gamer. This morality policing of gaming has gotten out of hand. The vast majority of gamers are adults, let us decide for ourselves what we find acceptable. If more body types in gaming is what you want then stick to that instead of yet again promoting one kind of woman at the expense of another. Busty women are gamers too, some of us want to continue to see characters that look like us, deal with it.
Thanks for reading