Yep. Its another article about the dangers of pornography.
Guys, I'd really like my blog not to be "all porn, all the time". I'd like not be the "porn lady". But the thing is, these issues aren't going away! In fact, the more I research the topic of pornography, the more impassioned I become about protecting our kids from it.
Sadly, a lot of parents aren't facing the reality of raising kids in a pornified culture. They're hiding their heads in the sand, saying "not my kids". I wish it could be "not our kids". However that is not the world we live in. So I've decided I will stand in the gap, sharing as much information and as many resources as I can. I want to help you protect your kids from the dangerous world of pornography. If that means people get tired of me talking about it, or even if it makes them feel uncomfortable, so be it. Helping just one family makes it worth it to me.
Today I want to talk about the connections between pornography and video games. By now some of you may have heard that the World Health Organization has declared "gaming disorder" a mental health condition. While I'm not a fan of video games, and don't have them in our house or on any of our devices, its not just the addictive quality of video games that concern me. I am truly bothered, often horrified, by the portrayal of women in many video games. I'm deeply concerned by all the negative, even dangerous, things these portrayals can lead to. And I think you should be too.
Now I know many of you are thinking: "my kids play Mario Kart and Wii Sports. There are no sexualized images of women on those games. Not my kid!" Friends, please, please, hear me when I say to you, it might not be your kid now, but it could be your kid later. When it comes to pornography, we can't just think about where our kids are now in terms of exposure. We have to think about what they could be exposed to in the future, and then we have to create a plan for those days. Its called forward thinking parenting.
The truth is, sexualized video games exist. They're much more prevalent than you think. And just like pornography, they start off so seemingly innocent that parents and kids don't notice what is happening. The way it begins in video games is with sexualized images of female characters. Because video games are made with images that are not real, body parts can be exaggerated and altered in a way that highlight sexual features. Breasts are enhanced beyond what is humanly possible. The characters' butt is "plumped" beyond all reason. And then, their waist is made tiny to accentuate those other parts. "Most female video game characters are thin, with large breasts and hips, vacant stares, long legs, and poses designed to accentuate these features." (from High Heels On The Battlefield: Sexual Objectification In Video Games)
Female characters are also costumed in hyper sexualized clothing. They're often shown in tops that have what is called "boob windows". I'm not making this up! They might be a soldier fighting in a battle, but they'll still be wearing a thong, thigh high boots and a top with most of their gigantic chest popping out of it. Their clothing, or lack there of, is demeaning and serves only to objectify the woman on the screen.
The truth is, the vast majority of video games objectify women with the clothes they're wearing, or not wearing, and the way they are drawn. So we have to ask ourselves, what does it do to our sons and daughters to see women drawn and dressed like this over and over and over again? "Constant exposure to this type of depiction in video games—as in any other media—can be damaging to kids. It affects self-esteem and body image..." (from High Heels On The Battlefield: Sexual Objectification In Video Games) I'd go far beyond that, and say it also teaches kids that a woman's value lies only in her looks and the size of her sexual body parts, not her brain, her courage, or any other part of what makes her a person. It teaches boys that women are things to ogle. Without them even being aware, it begins to train their brains to see women not as people but as things. It teaches girls that if their bodies don't match the ideal body they see in a video game, then they aren't beautiful. These are the dangers of exposing our kids to objectified images of women in video games.
The scary things is, objectified images of women are really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pornography and gaming. In Matt Fradd's book, The Porn Myth, there is a whole chapter devoted to something called "anime porn". Anime porn is actually called "hentai" which is the Japanese word for perverted. This type of pornography and gaming is often looked at as harmless and even safe, because it doesn't involve real people. You'll hear it defended by statements like this: "It's just a game." "It's pretend." "It's fantasy." "It's just a drawing."
The trouble is, the purpose of anime porn is the same as in live action porn: "the degradation and objectification of women for the masturbatory pleasure of men. The female figure is nothing more than an object for male pleasure.....women are portrayed as powerless--either powerless over male advances or powerless over their own sexual euphoria that compels them to be dominated." (from The Porn Myth pg 130). So the types of games that have this kind of pornography in them are feeding gamers the exact same messages that live action porn does: women are things to be controlled and used in whatever ways the male wants to, not people who are to be respected and treated as equals.
To me, the most disturbing and frightening aspect of anime porn is that absolutely anything is possible with it. Because it is "just a drawing" any fantasy or fetish can be acted out. The opportunity for perversion in this realm of gaming and pornography is seemingly limitless: rape, child porn, physical abuse, murder, and even more. In gaming, this means that the gamer has the opportunity for complete control over the female player. Think I'm exaggerating or over the top? In the game "Dead or Alive 5 features a mechanic where players can control the female characters’ breasts. Like, actually jiggling them up and down with the controller." (from High Heels On The Battlefield: Sexual Objectification In Video Games). Sadly, this kind of game isn't an anomaly. There are plenty of games where there is full nudity, and graphic sex scenes. "It can’t be denied that the gaming industry might be trying to keep up with the porn industry with more graphic additions." (from Fight the New Drug).
Why does this matter? Like Matt Fraud says, "because the films are animated, the consumer does not need to feel any compassion for a character, because she is not real. As a lifeless scribbling of ink, she has no rights and no choice and is therefore subject to the creator's (or gamer's) impulses." (from The Porn Myth pg 131). When our kids are put into positions, over and over again, where they are not compelled to show compassion or to have empathy, that spills over into other parts of their real life. This is not the world we want to raise our kids in! Yet, if your kids are allowed unfettered access to video games, there is a strong possibility that at one point they will play these games, or at least have friends who play them and show them to your kids. Perhaps not now, but remember, when it comes to pornography, we have to plan for the now and for the later.
Again, you might be thinking, "my kid doesn't play those games, and he never will!" The trouble with this line of thinking is that both the gaming industry and the porn industry are always looking for ways to get your kids addicted to their product. There are huge amounts of money to be made in both industries: "Worth an estimated $99.6 billion, video games are big business, followed by the porn industry’s $97 billion global worth." (from Fight The New Drug). And the way to keep making money is to have a constant flow of new customers. Therefore, it is in these industries best interest to get your kids hooked as soon as they can. You are fighting a really big and powerful enemy. That's exactly why we can't assume that our kids will never play these kids of games. After all, there is a whole industry out there trying to get them to.
So what can you do to protect your kids?
*First, be hyper aware about what games your kids are playing. Both at your house and at their friends houses. Know each and every game they are playing, both on gaming consoles and on the computer. And don't let your kids play any that objectify women, or have sexual content.
*Next, research the games your kids are playing. Read reviews and find out the content of each game. One of my favorite resources for video game reviews is Common Sense Media, found here. This site breaks down each game with a recommended age for players, a summary of the game, and ratings for violence, sex, language, positive messages, and more.
I also like the site Cyber Safety Cop. He has a whole section where he reviews apps and games. Its extremely helpful.
*Be sure you check out the apps your kids are downloading and playing too. There are apps that are just as full of objectionable material as traditional video games. For example, this app is a plastic surgery game: "Manage a beauty clinic in Beverly Hills!" These apps are directed at girls as young as 8, encouraging them to perform various types of plastic surgery to achieve ultimate beauty. The game's description reads, “No one could resist the temptation of beauty! Every girl dreams of a delicate face and stunning figure. If makeup can’t give the beauty you want, then come to join this amazing plastic surgery game! You can turn into a Victoria’s Secret model at once!” (from Cyber Safety Cop) I can't make this stuff up! Please check what your kids are playing on their devices.
*Boys are not the only ones playing games. Girls are gamers too. Don't think you don't have to worry about pornography and gaming because you only have daughters.
*In the same way that you shouldn't let your child have unlimited or unchaperoned access to the internet, your child should not have unlimited or unchaperoned access to video games either. Some online video games have chat rooms or opportunities for your kids to intact with other players that you don't know. People! Don't let strangers talk to your kids on video games! Be there when your kids are playing. If you can't be, then don't let them play.
*Don't think that using a video game console keeps your kids safe. Many, many kids have been exposed to pornography through video game consoles, like Xbox, Wii and Play Station. Know your game console and how to enact every safety feature on it that you can! This site has step by step instructions for setting up safety controls on all kinds of gaming and other devices.
*Know that the world of gaming and pornography are inherently linked. Whether by the sexual images and content displayed in many video games, or by the way gaming and porn addictions often go hand in hand. Watch this Ted Talk by psychologist Philip Zimbardo on the subject if you'd like to learn more about links between the two. This article also discusses the same topic.
BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT YOUR KIDS FROM PORNOGRAPHY WHILE THEY ARE PLAYING VIDEO GAMES IS TO TALK TO THEM ABOUT IT.
Remember what I said earlier about forward thinking parenting? This is the perfect opportunity to practice this. Don't just say, "no video games!" Or, if you discover they're playing one with material that you object to, shut it off and shout, "we don't play these kinds of games!" Always, always, talk to your kids. Tell them why you feel the way you do, why your family practices certain rules or limits with video games, why certain images are harmful, and why some games are dangerous. Don't ever close the door to communication. Instead, use every opportunity given you to have honest conversations with your kids about these topics.
Here are some suggested talking points for you to use with your kids as you discuss pornography and video games. Of course you'll need to modify the conversation based on the age of your child. But even a young child who is playing video games should be warned about potential dangers and then given a plan for when they encounter one.
Ideas for Discussion:
*Explain what objectification is and why it is harmful to both women and men.
*Talk about objectified images of women seen every day in the world around them. Make your kids media literate. ( more on this idea in the book How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography)
*Explain how video game images often portray women in sexualized, objectified ways and why this is harmful to both men and women.
*Explain that any game that promotes women as sexual objects is not training the player's heart or mind to see that woman as a person worthy of respect.
*Tell them that there are video games with pornography in them--if they are older be honest about what's out there, anything from full nudity to actual sex acts--and what to do if they accidentally see one. Give them a plan for getting out of the situation at home or at their friend's house.
*Tell them that the pornography and gaming industry want to get them hooked on games and porn. There are "big bad guys" who want to trick them. By making your kids aware of the agenda of these industries, they are less likely to become prey.
Remember many video games in and of themselves are not evil or even bad. "The problem here lies in the blurring of the lines between entertainment and pornography. Porn is bleeding into every single aspect of our society, contributing to the objectification of the human body, rape culture, and basic desensitization to sexual material. Porn culture can be seen in gaming culture with the commodification of sex as entertainment, with no shortage of detailed sex scenes, and no “fade to black” or blurring out of graphic scenes." (from Fight the New Drug) Being aware of these things, and then being proactive with that awareness is one of the most important ways you can protect your kids from pornography in video games, and in the rest of the media and entertainment they consume.
In the end, we have to remember that in order to protect our kids from pornography, we must be forward thinking. We have to be aware of the various ways and places our kids can be exposed to pornography, both now and as they continue to grow. We have to be hyper aware and involved in the games they are playing and the media they are consuming. We have to arm our with information, and a plan for the time when they are exposed to pornography. Most importantly, we need to continually talk to them about the realities of growing up in a pornified culture. And then we need to give them the tools to fight back against that evil!
It is my hope that this article gives you food for thought, steps for action, and a determination to protect your kids and kids everywhere from the dangers of pornography. I'd be so glad if you share the article. You can hit the share button at the bottom of the article to share on Facebook or Twitter. You can find the article on Facebook and share it there. (go here to share on Facebook) Or you can find the link on my Instagram profile and share it on Instagram by reposting my post or sharing the post in your stories. (go here to share on Instagram) We don't have to give up and let the evil overcome us. Together we can fight back!
For further reading on this subject, please read this post describing the dangers of pornography, this post on radical ways you can protect your kids from pornography, and this post encouraging you to connect with your kids and give them something better than the emptiness of pornography.