Sexualization and the charge thereof
I had the pleasure of reading through an early draft of a friend’s story that he’s preparing as a submission to an anthology I’m editing. He introduced a trope that is usually associated with fan service but did so in a way that “took the high road” and did not sexualize a very often sexualized trope. And I’m cool with that.
I think it’s the word “sexualize” that I’m not cool with.
I had been posting some fantasy pictures to my D&D party’s online facebook group until two of the members objected. To make a long story short, I think (they weren’t very clear about their objections and I was too annoyed to ask for specifics) they objected to the female characters in the depictions being sexually attractive. The term “sexualized women” was mentioned.
I don’t get this term. It implies that something has been done to the women, or the pictures, or both, that wasn’t inherent to either the women or the pictures beforehand. The pictures I shared were of two models, both women who had arranged for someone to take pictures of them in cosplay, all on their own. These were not women who had been hired to wear skimpy costumes for the sake of pleasing men. These were women who chose to portray themselves in fantasy costumes for their own pleasure and that of those they shared their pictures with. And I, for one, don’t see that as a crime, and certainly not a sin.
I don’t see a sin with males enjoying pictures of attractive females or heroes getting it on with sexy princesses and that sort of thing in stories. Rather than remove descriptions and situations of women in sexual roles in fiction, I’d like to just adjust the balance and make sure that there’s more beefcake to balance the cheesecake. I’d like to make sure there’s as many heroines getting it on with sexy princes they’ve saved as heroes with alien princesses. The old Frank Frazetta paintings had as much half-naked Conan-type barbarian men as half-naked fantasy women, you know? That’s what I think would be fair. Fantasy is called fantasy for a reason.
Usually when I say that, someone lifts their nose and gets all snooty and says something to the effect of “fantasy doesn’t need naked women to be successful.” I agree. But I like naked women and I don’t have a problem saying so. What’s wrong with finding beauty in the human form? What’s wrong with enjoying sex? Fantasy is entertainment and I’d rather have more entertainment than less.
So — anyway — while I won’t ask the author of the story in question to change his work (I’m really biting my tongue not to mention specifics but I don’t want to give away spoilers), it’s his choice and I respect that. Besides, he is a really good writer and there are other aspects to fantasy writing than naked sweaty people.
I’ll just be sure to add more naked sweaty people to my own work, so prudes of the world be warned.
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