Sex and the Single Werewolf
topic on White Wolf's Werewolf Forum caught my eye. As with most forum
topics, multiple discussions were contained within, but all remained on topic (always a
rarity), and the result was probably one of the most intelligent conversations on female
secondary sex characteristics outside of an anthropology class.|
For those who don't wish to explore the link (or should you be reading this article some time after the topic has been deleted to save space), the topic title was "a question about female werewolves." The author of the first post was curious about the lack of breasts on the new War Form1 picture of a female werewolf, and was uncomfortable with having the answer to "how can we tell it's a she" be "by scent." From there, several posters proceeded to discuss why it was not appropriate for the werewolf war form to have secondary sex characteristics, why there was some artwork from Werewolf: the Apocalypse that depicted female werewolves in War Form with breasts, and why human females (and males) developed the secondary sexual characteristics we did. Thanks to the anonymity of Forums, the genders of those in the discussion cannot be gauged with any certainty, but odds are pretty good that the one poster who identified herself as female (not the author of this article) was the only female who participated at all in the discussion. So, if I may get sexist for a moment, it was an exceedingly mature conversation for a bunch of gamer guys.
The discussions also bring up an excellent question. Just how important are Secondary Sexual characteristics to gaming anyway? "Sex sells" has long been a basic advertising mantra, and one anything but lost on the gaming community and its predominantly male clientele. Sorceresses wearing robes more suited for the boudoir than a dragon's lair, and women wearing armor that couldn't even count as a chastity belt have long adorned gaming books, posters, and miniatures. Non-human females still display the same curvature, and breasts, as human females almost consistently. However, even with the gradual increase of female gamers over the past decade and a half, these features have not seen any significant decrease in use. While some of this lack of change is doubtless inertia, I think there's more to it than that.
Although why is still very much up for debate, humans are unique among primates, and I believe all mammals, in that our secondary sex characteristics are, at least when we're sans clothing, on display at all times. All other male mammals "sheath" their penis when it's not in use, and female mammaries are either flaccid or even hidden except when the female is either fertile, pregnant, or nursing. For whatever reason, humans evolved so that the sexual characteristics of the male penis and female breast were always prominent, probably as a means of attracting and keeping mates. As the discussion at the forums pointed out, having something(s) hanging off your body moving in rhythm or counter-rhythm to the rest of you while you're fighting for your life or chasing down prey is uncomfortable at best. There must be some reason why humans evolved the way we did, and this reason is still relevant today, impacting our gaming as much as it does any other aspect of our lives.
The response of gaming art to the influx of female gamers, as I said earlier, has not been to reduce the number of scantily clad women. Walking through the art show of any gaming convention shows almost no reduction at all in the number of Chicks in Chainmail. Nor has there been a significant increase in the number of women depicted in more "appropriate" attire, though there has been some. What instead has increased is the percentage of "Beefcake" art. Sex still sells, and the art has evolved to target the female libido as much as the male. I would think, though I'm no expert and haven't done any formal research, that if there was less of a market for beefcake art than realistic female art, then the realistic art would be the art type that saw the marked increase.
Another area where the, for lack of a better term, necessity of the human development of secondary characteristics is seen in gaming is in the phenomena of the modern Mary Sue. (Just click on the link. It's faster.) Most gamers have created a Mary Sue or a Gary Stu at some point in their gaming career. Some can't create anything else. But if there was no "need" for gamers to at least describe to some degree the secondary sexual characteristics (appearance) of a character, then there wouldn't be the terrifying levels of support for Mary Sues.2
So, where does this fascination with displaying the human (okay, female) form come from? I believe it's an extension of western society's appreciation of the human form. Starting with the Greeks, and traveling outward with the conquests of the Romans, the human form has long been appreciated at least in art, if not admitted to in society. And really, despite previous trends in contemporary artwork, there was little difference in the amount of attention paid to the male physique as to the female. Certain eras in history may have favored one or the other, but by and large, the male and female bodies have been equally admired over time.
As to how this applies to gaming, it's really quite simple. Most people game to escape reality, and our fantasies are often shaped by art... or at least the media. So if even the "ugly" people in Hollywood are fairly attractive, why shouldn't our artificial worlds of gaming be the same, where even the "average" Joes and Janes are pretty, the "pretty" people are beautiful, and the "beautiful" people are stunning... and so on?
Some people may say that this isn't how it should be. That gamers, usually not the best- looking people in the world, shouldn't worry about looks so much. But gaming is an escape, a trip to a world where the gamer is not so plain. Along those same lines, if the character isn't quite as plain as the gamer, then the love interests (or conquests, depending upon the character) shouldn't be just ordinary-looking people either. The average knight does not rescue the so-so prince. The ugly rogue needs more than words to charm even the ordinary- looking captain. So the characters live in a world that Hollywood Casting can only dream of. And it's okay. Really. Humans are visual creatures who have evolved into the forms we have over millennia. Our appearance does matter, whether people like it or not, and it applies equally to our characters as it does to our real lives. This is not to say that everyone makes only beautiful characters. That's certainly not the case, and it works well for some characters to be less than "Hollywood" average. Such characters are usually made with malice of forethought, with a story-based reason (and probably a mechanics one too) as to why the character has a lower appearance. It's rather rare that anyone creates a character who is ugly just because. Scars, tattoos, mutilations, mutations, curses... there is almost always a cause for the lower appearance other than that's just the way she was born.
Where am I going with all of this? If even ugly characters were not born ugly, and if there is nothing wrong with using Hollywood casting to populate our RPG’s, then, really, there’s nothing wrong with Cheesecake... so long as they bring on the Beefcake as well.
1: War Form: In Werewolf (both Apocolypse and
Forsaken) werewolves have a "battle form" that is the classic man-wolf. In Apocolypse it
was called Crinos, in Forsaken it's Gauru.|
2: Go to FanFiction.net, pick a random Harry Potter or LOTR fic with an Original Character, and count how many praises there are for this "Original" character and how beautiful she is, and how she's not a Mary Sue (after someone says she is). It's pretty scary.
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