Panty Raiders: Humorous CD-ROM or the objectification of women?
May 5, 2000 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Panty Raiders: Humorous CD-ROM or the objectification of women? Have you ever heard of any other game referred to as a comedy? I find it particularly offensive and demeaning when a game that involves stripping women is passed off as something funny and entertaining, especially when targeted at young boys. Is this something we should be concerned about, or is it just a game? Are people overreacting?
posted by megnut (46 comments total)
Sigh. I'm always dismayed when I hear about stuff like this, because it seems there's never a way in our culture to register a real objection to it without being accused of prudishness or having no sense of humor. That said, I do find it offensive and troubling, not to mention lacking in imagination. And I think the quoted article is correct in assuming that the true audience is teenage boys, regardless of how it might be packaged.

I also don't think there's a whole lot that can be done about it -- in some respects it's just another symptom of the gender troubles that already exist. I'm glad there's a fuss being made, but the underlying issues are much bigger than this one product.
posted by raku at 2:04 PM on May 5, 2000

I think there have been a few games that have been considered "comedy" in the past few years - stuff like Redneck Rampage and Postal come to mind.
posted by schlyer at 2:06 PM on May 5, 2000

To me, this game just sounds too pathetic to be offensive.
posted by harmful at 2:13 PM on May 5, 2000

This is a trend in computer games that dates at least as far back as "Softporn Adventure", which later became the basis for "Leisure Suit Larry." There were crude, pixilated pornographic games for the Atari 2600 as well, IIRC.

And while it's vaguely offensive, do you really think it's any more harmful than, say, the average issue of Playboy? (Which I personally would contend is less harmful than the average issue of Seventeen, let alone a night of watching sitcoms.) I think this is a juvenille, sophomoric game that will probably appeal to juvenilles and high-school sophomores, and freaking out about this is a distraction from larger issues that are probably more important to the average woman (health insurance, say).
posted by snarkout at 2:16 PM on May 5, 2000

the screenshots from the game are un-fucking-believable.

Aliens throwing mints and credit cards at women to get them to strip? WTF? Are they employing neanderthals to come up with games for them?
posted by mathowie at 2:22 PM on May 5, 2000

i was playing leisure suit larry on my 286 when i was eight years old, and i turned out fine. (as long as you define "fine" to be a maladjusted geek who can't deal with women)

but geez, leisure suit larry was at least funny, even if was crude and lewd. and there was an actual adventure game going on... not just pixellated women to gawk at which is what this seems to be pitched as. and leisure suit larry did teach me the importance of condoms with that great death scene if you didn't use one.

yes, it's probably offensive and objectifies women, but probably not that much more than most other cultural products being constantly broadcast at the intended audience of this game. and is gawking at half-naked women really all that much worse than playing quake 3 and pretend-killing strangers?
posted by adam at 2:51 PM on May 5, 2000

Did every kid that snuck into the garage to read dad's National Geographic magazines, 30 years ago, grow up to be woman hating rapists? No.

My prediction: The same 14 year olds who scour the web looking for Lara Croft nudies will either buy it or get pirated copies.

Six Months later: The CDRom will either sit on a shelf or be sold in mass quantities by bored 14 1/2 year olds on ebay....

Ten years later: They'll all be holding jobs, raising families...and the world will be as it always was.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:10 PM on May 5, 2000

It seems strange to me, that so many comments hee are directed at how this game won't hurt men -

I don't think the point was "Will this software damage our sons", I think the point of the original post was, "How offensive IS this to women"?

My vote is, very offensive.
posted by sperare at 3:15 PM on May 5, 2000

Well, I'm not a woman, so I can hardly vote on that. Is promoting an unhealthy body image and objectification of women "offensive"? Sure. Is a cartoonish computer game which -has- to have a target market of giggling 13 year-old boys going to do do as much damage as an endless barrage of emaciated Friends stars? Probably not. Is it irritating that companies try to make a buck off this sort of thing? Sure. Is it surprising? Probably not.

Meg asked, "Is this something we should be concerned about, or is it just a game?" Well, yes to both. As I said previously, I don't think promoting an unhealthy body image and objectification of women in a silly computer game is remotely the most important thing people should be spending their precious attention on. But I'm not a woman, so what do I know?
posted by snarkout at 3:23 PM on May 5, 2000

Well, all the evidence seems to be, from the past decade, that boys *will* be boys, regardless of their age, or how popular political correctness is, or what women say about it. If they're *your* sons, you're entitled to an opinion on it, and I hope you'd take the opportunity to, rationally and reasonably, explain why you don't like it so that they understand that it's not the real world.

If you're married to them, and it bothers you that badly, divorce them.

If they're attacking you, and you think it's because they played this game, realize that it doesn't *matter* why they're attacking you -- fight back. A 5'1" 98lb. woman can *kill* a 6'3" 300 pound man, in about 4 seconds, if properly trained.

Alternatively, you could get a gun and learn to shoot.

I guess my point here is: yes, I think we're overreacting to this, just like we overreact to everything on the damned planet these days. I logged an entry on everyone's lack of sense of humor these days... if you want to read it, go find it.
posted by baylink at 3:26 PM on May 5, 2000

+++If they're attacking you, and you think it's because they played this game, realize that it doesn't *matter* why they're attacking you -- fight back. A 5'1" 98lb. woman can *kill* a 6'3" 300 pound man, in about 4 seconds, if properly trained.++++++

'm really not trying to be an asshole, but what is this supposed to mean?
posted by chaz at 3:28 PM on May 5, 2000

This is actually far from the most offensive computer game ever sold.

WAAY back there, during the Atari 2600 days, someone wrote a game called Custer's Revenge, which was some sort of side scroller or other. The point was that if you won, you got treated to a rather badly rendered picture of Custer with a woody walking across the screen to a tied up Indian maiden, and raping her.

Hoo boy was there a ruckus about THAT one...
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:38 PM on May 5, 2000

you've come a long way, baby....

posted by rebeccablood at 4:30 PM on May 5, 2000

why is that the argument *for* things like this tends to be "well, it shows up here, here and here, and people are already doing it so it can't be that bad"? or "well, it's not as bad as this other horrible thing, so that makes it ok"? based on these arguments, you could say that it was ok to discriminate against blacks 40 years ago, because everybody was doing it.

just because there are other examples of women being objectified for men's amusement, doesn't make it right, ok, or any less offensive.
posted by brig at 4:44 PM on May 5, 2000

My point, Chaz, was "what effect is it *actually* having?

I've always figured that if people are offended -- by pretty much *anything*, it's their own problem to cope with.

If this game is having an actual *effect* on women, other than offending them by it's very existance, then there are steps that can be taken to deal with each possible direct effect it might have; and I chose three possible examples.
posted by baylink at 5:08 PM on May 5, 2000

Is this game offensive to women? Sure. It's offensive because it's stupid. The jokes are obvious and easy. It pretends to mock Lara Croft-proportioned heroines and a supermodel-obsessed culture, but the "humor" is obviously just weak camouflage to give gamers an excuse to ogle badly drawn, hideously malproportioned, pliant computer damsels.

Incidentally, the "busty women sell" philosophy doesn't seem to be doing much for comic books. Sure, the comics that feature big-breasted women are selling a few copies, but the comics industry overall is having horrendous downturns. Maybe because intelligent fans, both male and female, are tired of fording through the cleavage to find decent comics.

Anyway, this quote made me laugh-- Joe Kelly said the game shouldn't mock anorexia: "They wouldn't be issuing such jokes about cancer or suicide."

Uh, sure they would. They already do. When I shoot the flak cannon too close to the wall in Unreal, the game says, "WireMommy killed her own dumb self." And that's just the tame response from the game-- human opponents react to onscreen death and suffering with lots more colorful mockery. Black humor is a key component of the gaming mindset.

Anyway, it's offensive because it's ugly and stupid, so I won't be buying it. I hope no one else does either. *Shrug*.
posted by wiremommy at 5:16 PM on May 5, 2000

Fair enough, Brig. But I'd say that the argument I'm trying to make is more analogous to saying that racial stereotypes on the radio in the 1950's weren't as big a problem as African American men getting lynched. And I'll stick to that argument.

Okay, this game is offensive. People should feel free to write the company and say they won't buy it. People should feel free to mock those who do buy it. But is it truly that big a deal? Why? Why this game as opposed to any of the other, more prevailing artifacts that transmit the women-are-property meme? This one seems rather obvious, and therefore less pernicious.

I wasn't just being facetious. I'm not a woman; I'm a straight white upper-class male, and so normative culture is all geared towards me, baby, me. But during the '80s, feminists spent a disproportionate amount of time dealing with cultural issues like this (and allowing the loonie Dworkin wing to become the defining image of the movement) and, in my opinion, not enough time speaking out on issues like child care and health insurance. If you think that this game is on a level with the story SF Weekly ran this week about women trapped in abusive relationships because their husbands are on H1-B visas, I'm not going to change your mind.
posted by snarkout at 5:23 PM on May 5, 2000

Christ, but I'm wordy. Sorry everyone.
posted by snarkout at 5:23 PM on May 5, 2000

Well this can all be chalked up to "a matter of taste".
Urealistically-proportioned women a problem? Ban the Barbie Doll while we're at it...

Women as objects a problem...? Get rid of male strippers too, why have a double standard?

Dammit, ban broccoli too!

Just because it doesn't suit your taste, doesn't mean it has to be banned. Live & let live.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 5:25 PM on May 5, 2000

Who said anything about banning the game? (Hint: No one.)

The question posed is, "Should we be concerned about this? Is it offensive to women?"
posted by wiremommy at 5:35 PM on May 5, 2000

I thought those screenshots bore an uncanny resemblance to the comic strip Blondie in terms of posture-- those bent legs bother the hell out of me. The Sims seem to do this too. Why?
posted by EngineBeak at 6:22 PM on May 5, 2000

And while amidst some shades of smug anti-feminist/pc boobery -- a few days ago Mister Limbaugh saw fit to use the phrase "cunning stunts" a few times with regard to Giuliani's wife's participation in the Vagina Monologues (I think) while decrying a marcher-on-Washington's statement that she had taken the Washington Monument as her strap-on dildo. Which of these is more vulgar?
posted by EngineBeak at 6:30 PM on May 5, 2000

I think the only way anyone can be concerned about this game promoting an unhealthy body image is if young girls have access to subcutaneous balloons, and perhaps an arc welder.

Actually, I'm more offended that some dink made more than I did to render those women so *badly.* I mean, sheesh, if you're gonna enter the Devil's territory, at least TRY.


I will come clean. I don't understand body issues. It is a predominantly female issue, and it has rarely registered upon my consciousness. So I don't feel comfortable saying whether or not this is bad for impressionable young girls, and I won't presume to judge anything on that standard.

However, I can feel reasonably secure that anyone with a brain cell will look at this game and pass it by. I would daresay that anyone who spends cold hard cash to own this CD will not be concerned with the feminist ramifications of its purchase, and is simply looking for 3-D titty.

Is it offensive? No more than Hooters, Playboy, the Spice Channel, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, or any other media projection of bimbii (the plural of bimbo, natch). And certainly not as offensive as the shrill, Puritanical screeching that was related in the Wired article.

Both the CD and the overblown reaction to it are simply symptoms of a greater cause, and that's the fucked up sexuality issues that have plagued this country (and others) for centuries. It's still a man's world, and until there's some actual respect afforded to both women and to sexuality, it ain't gonna change.

But I find it encouraging that a lot of intelligent people will look at this game, roll their eyes, and move on.

So there.
posted by solistrato at 6:40 PM on May 5, 2000

Most people in the states (west coast anyhow) have no respect for their fellow person, and are almost entirely lacking in any character. Just look at our president and driving habits up and down the I5 corridor for a living example. Why should it be surprising that panty raiders is all the rage with young guys? Frankly, it's a real disappointment. On one hand we produce and play games like this then when someone from France can't say the word for lubricant in an English lecture we all laugh in embarassment. Seems both a shame and bizarre really....the States are a culture and character free zone. --pardon my ramblings
posted by greyscale at 7:33 PM on May 5, 2000

wiremommy: "The question posed is, 'Should we be concerned about this? Is it offensive to women?'"

No. The question posed was "Is this something we should be concerned about, or is it just a game? Are people overreacting?"

Megnut *said* "I find it particularly offensive and demeaning"....which was well within her right to say as well as sperare (though she thought that was the topic).

As for the second question "Are people overreacting?"

Scroll back up and you guys tell *me*.....
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 7:36 PM on May 5, 2000

You know, they say all press is good press...all this talk about this game will just make it more sad...
posted by starduck at 7:36 PM on May 5, 2000

Well, you know, Eric, I have been wrong before :)

I don't think that people are over reacting. This is a 'game' in which the sole objective is to manipulate professional women out of their clothing. This is more than just a bimbo portrayal of women.

And it is a big deal. It is a big deal because so many people can dismiss it by saying it is just 'another' example of this sort of thing, or 'boys will be boys'.

This isn't like a kid cruising through his parent's stash of Playboy, and it isn't necessarily about seeing women naked, but about the context in which that happens.
It wouldn't freak me out (much) to know that my son was secretly checking out Playboy, but it would freak me out to catch him playing a game like this.

Would it be ok if the models were male? If they had impossibly ripped bodies, and 12-pack abs, and erect penii resembling stud stallions, and it was being marketed to little girls? If you found your 13 yr old daughter playing a game simulated to let her manipulate these men out of their calvins, would you laugh and not worry about it? "Girls will be girls"? Curious.
posted by sperare at 7:53 PM on May 5, 2000

I'd find it just as ridiculous whether my theoretical daughter or my theoretical son was playing this game, personally. Which would you find more disturbing: your son playing this, or your son reading The Rules, which teaches us that allowing men to manipulate women out of their clothes in just the right way is the key to happiness?

I think everyone can agree that this game is stupid and offensive. It's simply a matter of the relative stupidity and offensiveness.
posted by snarkout at 8:23 PM on May 5, 2000

Good question, sperare.

In actuality, I AM dealing with a 13-year old who has realized for quite some time now that the opposite sex exists...and I hear her & her friends say things that sometime I wish I hadn't. If she has her way, I'll have a Backstreet Boy as a son-in-law soon enough. :)

Would I *buy* her a male version of this game? Hell no! Truth be told, if my son were old enough, I wouldn't want him to have *this* game either. If a friend loaned it them and I saw them playing *Boner Raiders* (or whatever they'd call it); yeah, I really would say "girls will be girls".

Then my wife would scream "I got next!"
Comedy is *always* at someone's expense....

How'd you know I had a 13 year old daughter?

posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 8:44 PM on May 5, 2000

I do not have a theoretical child but if I was a clerk at Hastings or Wal*Mart I would stretch my short leg so far over the counter such that I could kick the purchaser of the program in the nuts (assuming no girl is buying it-- I'd pay for it for her) but of course I'd let them buy it.
posted by EngineBeak at 8:45 PM on May 5, 2000

Ok, sperare, here it is: at some point in your son's development he has to be taught two lessons:

1) it's not nice to objectify women, and

2) there's a difference between fantasy and reality.

Don't you think that *playing this game* is a much safer venue in which for you to teach him that lesson than, oh, say, taking a girl to the prom?

That second lesson is the most important, by me; and *the adults* seem to be having enough trouble with it; I'm not sure *how* we're supposed to teach the kids...
posted by baylink at 8:47 PM on May 5, 2000

Three things first:

1) Should we be concerned? - Sure, but only if you really want to.
2) Is it offensive to woman? - Some woman yes, some no.
3) Are people overreacting? - Certainly not!

See we have this thing called freedom of speech. Sometimes it's a bitch to live with, but all in all, we like it. One of the reasons we like it is because we feel that somehow it helps us become better informed and more thoughtful.

So we end up having to suffer through crap like this game, but hopefully it makes us think. It causes more debate than it does real harm to woman. (IMHO)

Young men think about this stuff 24x7. This game won't make that any worse. And it might generate some discussion.

I'm not saying it's a good thing. I'm saying that, on balance, we can live with it. The same freedom that allows a game like this also allows a nasty grassroots campaign to pillory the company that produced it. This is a social thing. Don't forget all the other social stuff that swirls around it.

And three cheers to Megnut for making us all think about it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:55 PM on May 5, 2000

What, the thread's over?
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 9:10 PM on May 5, 2000

I guess most teens don't care for Tetris, Hearts, Minesweeper, and Solitaire. I agree with the posts before, most will pass by it without giving it much thought. Kinda makes you wonder what the designers/creators are thinking when they need or want to create a new game? Are there no women to object before this even comes through the thought process?
posted by brent at 9:22 PM on May 5, 2000

I guess no-one here remembers what it's like to be thirteen.

Kids that age (boys AND girls) "try on faces". They don't yet know what they are, so they try different things to see what feels comfortable. This is a normal part of the maturation process, and an endless source of frustration to their parents who think that they're seeing their children go to hell in a handbasket.

But it's not really like that at all. There are lots of ways to be, but the only real way a kid can tell how they feel about one or another is by actually trying them. Being a "sexist bastard" is one such; and every boy that age at one time or another tries that face on.

Frankly, doing so in a computer simulation is probably a more harmless way to try that particular face out than doing it at school, where the girls you try it on will remember you. (And meanwhile, the 13 year old girls will have tried on the "bimbo" face, just to see how it feels.)

The vast majority of the time, the faces that kids try on they ultimately find to be dissatisfying; they "don't fit" and are discarded. But there was really no way to find out without wearing them for a while -- and they're certainly not gong to take their parent's word for it.

You can't really prevent this; all you can do if you try is to alienate your kids.

In answer to the original question: if I had a thirteen year old son or daughter and found them playing a game like this, I'd express some small dissatisfaction (where they could hear it, because part of trying on faces is to deliberately freak out the parents) but inside I wouldn't worry about it too much. If I've done a good job raising my kids, then I know this will just be a passing phase, a face they'll ultimately find to be uncomfortable and will discard like so many others they'll try out.

Few people at age 30 resemble what they were at age 15; the things that kids do rarely establish a pattern for their lives.

I think this is a tempest in a teapot, for the simple reason that what's being portrayed in this game aren't really "women". They are so stylized that they are about as representative of women as Barbie or Lara Croft are, or Duke Nukem is of men. And the point is that they are so stylized that the patterns of behavior used with them are unlikely to be mapped to real people of either gender.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:31 PM on May 5, 2000

totally unrelated but greyscale: all exchange students (no matter what country they're from, no matter what country they're in) go through three phases. 1. wow, everything is so interesting! 2. Everything sucks! 3. Everything is different. Perhaps we need to look at some things differently, perhaps they need to look at things differently.

the key is getting over stage 2 before you leave, which is where I imagine you are right now.
posted by chaz at 11:39 PM on May 5, 2000

Interestingly, only one person's raised the idea of double standards, and I think that’s the most important issue here.

We live in a society in which the passive objectification of women is considered okay. Hooters doesn't offend me, in and of itself; what offends me is the way it is marketed as a "family" restaurant. Let's bundle the wife and kids up into the car and oogle women over our hamburgers! (Or whatever it is they sell.) Let's drape a half-naked women over just about anything and try to sell it! Let's put up billboards with women in push-up bras, let's fill bus shelters with those come-hither looks, let's sell a dozen PG-rated magazines with barely-there models between the "articles"! They say sex sells, but that’s a misnomer. Passive female sexuality is what sells, at least in terms of the large mainstream audience.

Now try to think of situations men are objectified in that way. Apart from a series of Calvin Klein bus shelter ads that featured men in boxer briefs, I'm struggling to come up with any. (Co-incidentally, most of those CK ads were in the gay part of Sydney.)

Strip clubs, porn channels, Playboy, Playgirl, Australian Women's Forum, etc, are for adults. Though personally not to my taste, I recognise and respect the right of adults to partake in these activities. You cannot put this game in the same boat -- it's not aimed at adults, it's aimed at thirteen year old boys. Whatever the company may say about targeting, the game's premise and low, low price point tell the story. Teaching teenage boys how to "charm" women out of their clothes isn't cute, and it isn't amusing. "Sick" is the word that comes to mind. Or maybe "fucked up".

Sure, there are more important issues, but it doesn't mean we shouldn’t speak out on this one.

posted by Georgina at 12:39 AM on May 6, 2000

I'd also like to point out that the game wasn't written by 13-year-old boys. if it were, perhaps the "boys will be boys " argument would have some merit. this is a game written by adult (sic) men *for* whatever age level would find this appealing.

I think it's an important point.

posted by rebeccablood at 1:31 AM on May 6, 2000

Well, FWIW, I agree with Steven. He said mostly what I was thinking, but he did it better.

How many kids do you have, Steve? :-)
posted by baylink at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2000

The game is offensive and derogatory....but this game is the end product of the recent stream of video games available, take a look at Tomb Raider, or any of the games which have a female lead character in it, the women are almost always well endowed, and clothed in an revealing manner. Even games like Quake, have nude patches and skins for it. I remember Duke Nukem used to have this cheat code that enabled soft porn in it.

Even certain cartoons, usually anime, like Danger Girl, Gen X. etc, portray women as sexual objects, which kind of leads to me believe that either the people who are creating these cartoons and games are men who are trying to fulfil their own fantasies or they are trying to make a quick buck out of selling not so well disguised soft porn to teenagers.

So I'm not surprised that a game like this was made, but nonetheless it should've never been made.


All the young dudes carry the news...
posted by riffola at 9:22 AM on May 6, 2000

That is a good point, Rebecca. It is kind of disgusting that people are trying to make a fast buck churning out lame product catering to the base instincts of 13 year-olds. I guess it's just difficult for me to get worked up, because it's so damn prevalent.

Ever take a look at the new Nancy Drew books, where she's simpering? Or, for that matter, the circa-1955 notions of femininity at iVillage? Are these things, pitched to women, better or worse than making titty games for boys? (Honest question.)
posted by snarkout at 11:53 AM on May 6, 2000

riffola: "but this game is the end product of the recent stream of video games available...Even certain cartoons...portray women as sexual objects, "

Yeah I totally agree!...Look at that new comic book character coming out called "Wonder Woman". Just a bustier and a magic lasso that makes men bend to her will...Stuff like that would have never come out in the 40's!!!!

Sarcasm aside, come on guys. This is nothing new. Let's at least can the naivete...SEX SELLS. It's been the trumpet call of the entertainment industry since the beginning of, well, the entertainment industry.

- It many women find it offensive
- No *responsible* parent would ever buy this for their kid
- It has zero educational value
- I am neither for it nor against it
- Kids will grow up to be normal despite this game

Can anything else be added without redundancy
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 6:09 PM on May 6, 2000

So let me get this straight:

Game is released which objectifies women by having them remove clothing - some say its bad for kids, others say its not, but looks like pretty much everybody thinks its in bad taste.

Games are released every day in which the object is to harm, mame, and kill men, women, and the occasional moster - so where's the outrage over those type of games?

Isn't assault & murder worse for the mind of a 13 year old than the objectification of women?
posted by schlyer at 7:15 PM on May 6, 2000

Are you kidding?

Kids watch murder, maiming and torture on TV all the time -- but let them see a naked tit, and watch the fireworks start.

Violence is clean. Violence is healthy. Violence is good for you. Sex is dirty and will corrupt your mind and make hair grow on your palms. God Forbid your kids should actually watch a married heterosexual couple making love; much better to see one of them shoot the other. After all, we wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea about how adults are supposed to act.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:51 PM on May 6, 2000

It's true that this culture is much more comfortable with violence than with sex.

It's also true that there are groups of people who are very concerned with violence on the media and in games; go to any media literacy group to hear discussions along those lines (among many others).

The fact that violence in the media exists, is more accepted, and may be harmful is a secondary point, and has nothing to do with this discussion. Both may be bad. We don't need to choose between sex *or* violence as a detrimental influence in the media.

posted by rebeccablood at 11:15 PM on May 6, 2000

But it seems terribly inconsistent to go ape-shit about the sex but remain silent on the violence issue. Have our political activist citizens become that one issue orientied. - Obviously they have [answering my own question], just look at the abortion debate.
posted by schlyer at 6:48 PM on May 7, 2000

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