A Richer Tapestry of Sexual Expression


Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 26 February 2012

I've been struggling for a while to figure out how to write this post. While I'm someone who often requests that we talk about sex and sexuality openly and honestly, I'm still unsure of how to do that in a culture that might judge or silence me, especially given the lack of examples we have for such discussions. At the same time, I've found that it's getting increasingly difficult for me not to talk about it, particularly with the way some are misinterpreting the bits I do let out.

Male gaze in actionMale gaze in actionIn researching this, I found an article that sums out a lot of how I feel about the topic, On Men's Sexualization in Video Games. That article has a great explanation of the trend that I often refer to as the "male gaze." In my discussions with friends, I realize the short phrase often gets misinterpreted so I hope to clear the air on that a bit. The "male gaze" is a label applied to media framed in a way that suggests that a male, more notably a hypothetical, stereotypical heterosexual male, is the viewer. Scenes are composed and framed to highlight those aspects that the composer believes men would find attractive and quite possibly finds attractive as well. Some, including friends, who have never heard of the term before and maybe haven't studied media or art, believe that by using that term that I am attempting to make a statement about men, heterosexual men, the actual viewers, or them as individuals where it's often the composer who is making those statements, not me.

For me, the issue isn't the existence of the "male gaze." I think there are contexts and environments where people can and should enjoy sexual imagery for its full on, unbridled sensualness and sexuality. I'm just not sure the base D&D game is one of those contexts. I know both opinions put me squarely against some groups, but, that's honestly how I feel. What often bothers me is how pervasive it is and, with the focus on that one point of view, how little we see other gazes in our media. The pervasiveness, in my opinion, is sexist, against all genders. It represses and overly simplifies the full complexity and nuances of human sexuality. It also normalizes one masculine viewpoint, allowing it to dominate above all others, feminine and masculine.

As a woman, I often feel oppressed under it. Its constant presence reinforces messages I get from many places that my worth is tied into my body and my looks and my ability to please men. Hell, the uncomfortable comments I get about this, the refrain that I should shut up and just accept it shows how ingrained this point of view is. Yes, I get mad that scenes depicting female pleasure or that use a female gaze are often left out of our culture, especially in games. That those perspectives are often seen as more "mature" than similar topics from the male gaze. Yes, I get mad that more often than not, the woman is presented as a sexual object to be consumed by the viewer. It's not political correctness, it's the breaking of suspension of disbelief since this is not how I see the world.

But I also get mad about what those images say about men. My husband is a wonderful, complex individual full of lots of emotions. Many of my male friends are that way as well. The constant messages they get from these images hurts them as well. They need to know that it's ok if they aren't always sexually available. That men aren't always attracted to women. They care about women as people, not just as a source of sex or as wombs. It's ok to turn down sex with a woman if you don't want to because a woman doesn't have to have sex to confirm her self-worth. It's ok to appreciate a woman's beauty, but women have more to offer than just that.

If we lived in a society where images that conformed to the "male gaze" were a small portion of the overall images, if they were just one thread in the rich tapestry of life, my message too, would probably seem more nuanced and broad. But that's not the world I feel I'm in. Instead, by seeking a more balanced portrayal of human sex and sexuality, I'm painted as a conservative who wants all women in burkas which is utter and complete bullshit. It's the sort of accusation made by people who are used to having their whims catered to and are afraid that perhaps that privilege will end.

So, how does this all relate to gaming and what would I change if I could? The first, is that I would argue that there are contexts within gaming, even a game such as D&D. I've read some of the Forgotten Realms novels. In my experience, there is a diverse array of groups, including some who seek healing and divine guidance through the flesh while others are a bit more chaste. This is great. By including the latter group in your game, you're making it clear that sexuality may be a topic in your game. Players can know in advance, boundaries can be set, and we can have informed consent before the first die roll. By setting the game in a place where sexism exists or by having a character from such an area, you are signifying those topics are something you are interested in exploring.

But, I don't think by sitting down to a D&D game in general that I'm agreeing to cover adult themes such as sexism, sexuality, and pregnancy. It might be a fun mental exercise for a person who hasn't experienced sexism to want to play through a sexist society, but, honestly, I have enough of that crap in my real life that I want my gaming to be an escape from that. I don't want the general, the statistical, to inform what my character may or may not do or attain. In a world with magic, we should just have reliable birth control, for men and women, and allow players to decide if they don't want it or if pregnancy and father- or motherhood is something they want to explore without forcing them to keep chaste. I want a world where men and women are equal and can attain the same goals. Make half the guards women and make half the healers men, or at the very least, don't make it a deal when characters break out of the gender roles that confine us in the real world.

But most of all, let's create a richer tapestry full of different portrayals of sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, and depictions of the masculine and the feminine. Let's provide easy ways for DMs to make clear that they want to include those subjects in their games, at their home tables, and for players to provide consent to those topics and set boundaries. Let's understand that what is considered normal might not be normal for everyone and that we leave out so much when we concentrate and emphasize images that fit under the "male gaze." Most importantly, let's talk about the issue.

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We have discussed the topic previously, and it is certainly an uphill battle on your part. I think expressing yourself through media like Twitter is limiting and often leads to confusion and arguments. That's not your fault by any means - the character limit and lack of nuanced communication hinders meaningful discourse at times.

In my game, I've tried to explore a variety of themes for males and females. I have not introduced transgendered, but I leave that open in the future. One of the primary villains for an arch in my campaign was a complex female mage. I created her partially because I was aware most of the NPCs in my game were males. I think awareness such as that is key.

As a DM, consider why you are populating your world with specific NPCs. Mix it up and introduce variety.

On a larger note, I think it's important to have these discussions in whatever forum possible. As a male, I realize I have the privilege of having multiple entertainment industries catering their product to "my" tastes. There are other tastes out there, and we should acknowledge that things like the "male gaze" can have harmful effects to everyone.

Hear hear!

I think you're right that it's the pervasiveness that's key. I don't mind an occasional sexy image in my gaming books (ala the illustration for the Nymph - it's a Nymph, for crying out loud.) But I want that to be just _one_ kind of image, one kind of content.

I don't think I've ever seen a gay couple in an RPG book. There are female warriors, but how many of them have exposed cleavage? How many characters are non-white in most art?

I know a lot of people hated White Wolf alternating he and she as the neutral pronoun, but you know what word I'd use for it? Welcoming. And I think we all agree that a lot more women played White Wolf games than most lines, and this is not a coincidence.

I really do believe that if you present to a broader crowd, over time they'll show up. A lot of geek hobbies traditionally didn't do this, and our culture is slowly, painfully waking up from this. But more women, more non-white people, more non-straight people, are playing RPGs, video games, reading comics, and science fiction and fantasy, than ever before. (Just go to a con and look around!) The more welcoming the actual content is to different assumed audiences, the more this will happen, and the straight white male geek who expects everything to cater to him all the time will loudly but inevitably be disappointed. (And by disappointed, I mean only being assumed to be the protagonist about 70% of the time.)

And those of us who want this kind of broader content, there's things we can do. One is continue to write blog posts like this, and say so, and keep this counter-idea alive. Another is to support work that is more inclusive and varied when we see it. And a third, when we can, create it ourselves. I'm coming to realize that if you want to see a novel, comic, rpg, whatever that's what you're looking for, there's much less stopping you from making it than you might think. (Well, not you, hello, the proverbial you.)

I agree with your post, Sarah, as well as Id DM's observation that it is an uphill battle to change this perception. Even voicing your opinion to the people who decide to employ the male gaze will probably have limited effect, as few complaints about it are likely to come from a largely male RPG culture.

Having said that, few things are more powerful than example, and you're setting a fine example here: straightforward and honest enough to confess some vulnerability when describing how it makes you (and I'm sure a lot of other women) feel. That was very courageous.

Very well said.

I think that a large part of the problem is that advantaged parties have successfully demonized the efforts of anyone that dares question or analyze any aspect of American gender culture. The word "feminazi" and its ilk get thrown out all too often the moment a discussion starts.

I have often used my privlege to simply avoid this topic... and most topics where my priveledge is an issue. I have it, I know I have it, I do my best not to wave it in other people's faces. I enjoy the occassional chain mail bikini but I also like to see the chaste Joan of Arc type represented. Variety is usually the key to my tastes in all characters I like to see represented. My empathy for others who have to deal with this on a daily basis recently grew when I opted to take a female cohort for my character in game. I was going for Joan of Arc. She was a paladin. It took me 2 maybe 3 games of constantly putting my foot down to emphasize that she was NOT my PCs girlfriend and it wasn't like that.

My brain can't even wrap around the level of annoyance that must be for a female gamer who every time she sits down at the table has to demphasize the sexual characteristics of her character just to move on and play. I'm a guy, my gaming group is a bunch of decent guys, and I had to experience that minor annoyance. That must be nothing... less than nothing... for a woman with a group of less-than-decent guys.

Unfortunately I don't have a good solution beyond modifying my own behavior and encouraging others to change their own.

Do you know who that person in the picture is? That's Elise Gygax.

I am well aware who it is. :)

That's what makes that poster such an interesting image every time it comes up. I mean, it's Gary's daughter, who first played the game at age 9*. She was in several different advertisements. The "What's in Demand Today" is pretty similar. The Gamma World poster from White Dwarf is a bit more in-character.

On one hand, I absolutely agree with this blog. The conversation is vital. Seldom are these issues highlighted and we need more awareness around why having a predominantly male perspective/gaze is problematic (and to both genders!).

On the other hand, I'm not sure what the particular image tells us. This isn't some strange anatomically incorrect woman that someone drew. It's Gary's daughter, who from all accounts he cares about greatly, and she in turn digs the game. We could guess that they both thought this was a great idea, as well as the other adds. That doesn't mean the adds don't suffer from the "male gaze", and they sure cause discomfort for many of us, but it becomes more complex if we guess that Elise thought it was cool and that she probably felt empowered and/or cool by being in the adds. Product of a different time? Buying into the "plan of the man"? Lack of awareness?

I have a daughter, 7, and a son, 5. I want the same things for both of them. When it comes to D&D (or any RPG) I do want a game that is both rich and interesting and has nods to the past (including past myths - many ripe with gender topics that are difficult to modernize effectively), all while being equally open and welcoming to them regardless of gender. I want the characters, story, and art to be equally cool and inspiring for both my kids. To that end, I'm very glad to see the discussion take place. I hope more people will take it up, especially with a focus toward the future. These adds? I leave that to Elise and Gary... and I would guess they are both fine with them.

*(and at 4, his daughter Cindy reportedly picked the name "Dungeons & Dragons" out of several options)

Um, no, I'm not going to leave it to Gary and Elise. Seriously? My understanding is she was underaged, dude. I can say that it's pretty clear that the ads weren't set up to appeal to a full spectrum of sexuality and instead a very narrow one.

Yeah, if she's underage in that shot, then that's a problem.

You seem to be focusing on the art included with the column. Odd.

I'm commenting on what I found interesting. Why is that odd?

It is really easy to guess that the image chosen was cooked up by some terrible guy in the marketing department (or even a 3rd party advertising company). That it is actually Gary's daughter makes it a really interesting piece, historically, and much more complex (and hard to typecast).

On the article itself, as I said, I agree! As an environmentalist and a Hispanic diversity and tolerance are issues I care about and I empathize with the passion to speak for both awareness and action. That doesn't mean that two environmentalists will always agree on how to do things (seldom happens). There is always room for discussion and disagreement on specific points - it is healthy because it allows a wider range of people to be passionate about a cause.

I think part of the point, though, is that we can't blame it on "some terrible guy in the marketing department". It's not like there are a bunch of sexist neanderthals roaming the halls of the gaming companies, secretly pushing an agenda to portray women as objects. Gary wanted to sell his products. Gary felt that his products would sell best to young males. Gary also felt that a stigma had been attached to the game of being, well, anti-sexy. Hence, Gary chose to employ the "male gaze" in his advertising.

Once that becomes the norm in the advertising, it starts to become the norm in book covers (which are, after all, a form of advertising). Once it becomes the norm in book covers, it becomes the norm in interior art. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. (Admittedly, it is also a self-perpetuating cycle that started way before Gary, who inherited both the male-dominated wargaming hobby and the male-oriented pulp fiction source material.)

There was never a conscious decision that women should be marginalized in RPGs. It is simply a factor that worked its way into our hobby. If the hobby had been formed in the 90s instead of the 70s, it might be very different. But, it wasn't. Gygax, Elmore, Greenwood, and a host of other luminaries made the "male gaze" the default point of view of the hobby, simply because it was their own default point of view.

So, I know I have an incomplete picture, but my understanding from talking to a variety of people is that some of those choices were intentional and went beyond marketing or inheriting a system. They were choices informed by the times they lived in but my understanding is that there were multiple times the decision knowingly went away from a more inclusive game.

One thing I'd like to say, staying on the current trajectory is no less a political choice than deciding to change.

Outstanding post.

One of the (many) wonderful things about role-playing is that it can be a place where issues such as sexism, racism and countless other -isms can be explored in a territory several steps removed from the real world.

Only if the participants (the GM and other players) are ok with that though. Most of the time, it's just a game, and that's something else that's wonderful about role-playing. It can be whatever you want it to be.

The issue about sexism in particular, as you so rightly say, is pervasiveness. Chainmail bikini clad babes have long been a trope in fantasy, and I'll admit that renders on my own blog sometimes pander to that stereotype. I do try to balance out the half-naked women (and men, for that matter) with fully clothed ones though. Not sure whether that makes it right, or not....

There's a flipside to all that bare flesh though, purely to provide a counterpoint. Yes, fantasy images often show scantily clad women in impossible poses and huge breasts. But they also show strong, confident women who are equals to the male heroes in every way. That's something to cherish and applaud about the hobby.

You're absolutely right, of course. The hobby would be a far richer tapestry if there was a conscious effort to present a wider variety of colour, sexual orientation or creed. Note to self: NPCs. Must try harder.

When it comes to attitudes, it's a whole different matter. I'm lucky enough to play in a group who are mature enough to play either sex without the schoolboy giggles, but we've encountered more than enough players who aren't. We don't play with those gamers any more.

Well put.

Though it can be difficult to know what a group wants, especially when it is new, and it is easier to err towards caution. But you are right, it is definitely a discussion worth having.

Having more tools and more support for for talking about such would certainly be welcome.

It's the pernicious effect of marketing bias.

I've no doubt in my mind that the marketing directors at Whizbros and Blizzard have a flashdrive full of marketing studies which support the notion that sexualized images of women work to sell books to gamers, in the same way that marketing directors at clothiers cite their own research to put wait-thin models in their fashions, and then photoshop them to be even more improbably proportioned.

It ends only when those marketing directors make a conscious choice to make their imagery reflect the actual diversity of their customers. They need to understand that they can change those studies by their choices, by making their images more inclusive. They have the ability to influence what the market wants - for heavens' sake, that's what marketing is all about! - by leading instead of reacting.

Having this conversation is an important step to making that happen. Writing to the companies that produce materails for gamers, talking with artists directly, giving them concrete examples of what inclusive art direction looks like - it needs to happen over and over and over again.

I want to +1, RT, and Like this comment a hundred times.

I have really enjoyed your commentary on projecting women with strength, intelligence and both modesty and sensuality. I believe you are a proponent of both when appropriate.

However your most recent post goes off course a bit at least for me. So if you really want to "talk about the issue"

As a Conservative Christian I've spent 20+ years making exceptions to my personal belief system and morality to sit around a table with political, social and moral deviants to saints to play the game I love, Dungeons & Dragons.

I am open and excepting and don't expect Dungeons & Dragons or it's players to change what it/they are to accommodate me.

That seems to me to be what you are asking for. It's seems that Sarah Darkmagic's D&D "Next?" would create:

"a richer tapestry full of different portrayals of sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, and depictions of the masculine and the feminine...provide easy ways for DMs to make clear that they want to include those subjects in their games, at their home tables, and for players to provide consent to those topics and set boundaries."

We need rules/suggestions/tables for this? We must have this defined? Why?

It's a Sword & Sorcery game set in the limitless expanse of the imagination. It already includes every option under the Sun in Heaven, Earth, Hell and through out the Planes.

It would seem perhaps that it is you who wants to tie D&D to the "Real World". Applying the "Political Correct" rules of our modern age to an ageless and timeless game. Which could just as easily be confined to a Medieval Judeo Christian Age and Morality, Alignments and Cosmology.

But it's not anymore. Dungeons & Dragons is FREE to be what ever players want it to be and Free it should stay.

Keep up the good work and fight if you must. I'm just saying...

Calling it political correctness cheapens your argument and is hurtful. We already, today, have sexuality in the game and players and DMs have no way to say that they do or don't want it or to set boundaries. Giving those tools helps not only myself, but you. Or, we could continue to suppress and oppress women in the game.

I am amongst the many that have agreed with you and have complimented your efforts in regards to women, art and the portrayal of women in D&D. In this very response.

It is disappointing that the use of a single term "Political Correct" popularized by a woman, Hillary Clinton. Is hurtful? And for you "cheapens" my statement. Which spoke of my own 20+ yr. compromise within D&D. Which you clearly dismiss as not as significant or worthy as your plight.

Again where we have diverge is in your request for rules and mechanics to be implemented to shield players from any scenarios you deem inappropriate.

Q: We need rules/suggestions/tables for this? We must have this defined? Why?

While I am a fan of 4th Edition. Many are calling for less rules not more.

Q: Are you suggesting a Gender and Sexuality Module? What is it you are calling for here?

Why does it matter who used it, and, in particular, if that person was a woman? I'm allowed to say I find it hurtful. It assumes that the status quo is somehow less political, which is false on its face. Your own desires when it comes to the game are no less political than my own.

It's not a matter of presenting rules for sexual equality. We achieved that a long time ago, simply by dropping rules that enforced inequality. It is, instead, a matter of presenting examples. The art needs to promote respect for women, and give their point of view equal weight. The sample PCs and NPCs need to show diversity, both in their own makeup and in their viewpoints. The language used to write the rules needs to be inclusive.

In short, we need to hang lampshades on the implicit sexism woven into the fiber of the existing settings, rules, etc. Once we do that, we can recognize the patterns that those of us who are straight white males take for granted as "normal" when they really are not. Then, we can reshape the patterns to be more welcoming and inclusive.

And there are rules that present a very constraining view of women in the world. Just look at the presentations of the female-dominated races through the years and the fact that so many of the other races are patriarchal.

I have followed this discussion and your comments on Twitter and here on your blog where possible, and after reading this excellent post, I am ashamed to admit that I am confused/have missed a critical point.

I agree with your underlying principle which, if I have understood you correctly, is that the objectification of any sex or more generally the diminishment of any group through the use of stereotypical "framing" of them is wrong.

Point conceded and accepted. To say otherwise seems immature.

Where I become confused is where this relates to the game of D&D (or any game for that matter) itself.

Are you referring to the art/advertising/media of the game of D&D or the rules and mechanics of the game? For while I see your point and agree with you completely about the various artwork/media/etc used in games in general (The anatomically impossible depiction of women in armor or combat is one of just many such examples of ludicrousness and often offensiveness) I fail to see if that is being applied in rules/mechanics.

Respectfully, have I missed something? I want to be sure I have understood the scope of your criticism of the game to ensure that I have the full impact of your critique.

I can't speak for the OP, but I believe the issue in D&D specifically is limited to the art, advertising, and media. (Adding gender-based mechanics would be quite enough to drive me from the game entirely, to be honest.)

The male gaze is as much a part of D&D as most other fantasy franchises -- hell, I'm forced to think about it every time I look at my copy of the Player's Handbook, which I think illustrates the problem quite succinctly. Given one chance to draw a player into the new edition, what did they choose to show? A large, intimidating Dragonborn man, wearing armor and looking threatening -- and a small human woman wearing highly revealing cloth, posed to best present her cleavage and butt to the viewer.

I'm not impressed.

For what it's worth, I think I understand the point you're trying to make here. We have the same discussions in the video game community: diversity of representations. A general feeling that everyone is welcome in the tree-house, without the sense that someone's life experiences are just drama fodder, or that some people exist primarily for the sexual pleasure of others.

Am I close? :P

I want more ads like that.
Not for the sex, but because it's gloriously campy.

Other than that I have nothing to say and just agree.

I'm going to avoid my urge to troll-stomp the comments of that D&Ddefense guy and focus on what I planned to write before I read the comments. This was a great post and I especially appreciate your approach & your courage to address the topic even though you keep getting Crap for it. It sucks that it takes courage in the first place but since it does, thanks for sticking to it. Also I'm thrilled you chose to include the often-overlooked fact that hetero men are also being boxed in and turned into stereotyped commodities by this practice. We're not all one-dimensional goons controlled by whatever sexualized imagery gets pushed at us. I am attracted to all kinds of women in all kinds of ways for all kinds of reasons, and I'm pretty tired of the idea that I can be mesmerized into buying something through the use of male-gaze images and tropes. So yeah, it diminishes us all.

If you are intending to adress the issue of the "male gaze" in contemporary RPG gaming, especially D&D, using an advertisement from thrity years ago is not the best illustration of your point.

That was the face of D&D then. Surely there are similar images from D&D now that could be used.

I do remember the first edition AD&D Monster Manual in which almost without exception every creature illustrated with a drawing of a nude female was a chaotic evil monster. This actually programed our gaming group to respond to any appearance of a female, especially a sexually aluring or scantilly clad one by assuming she was a chaotic evil monster on sight. A very twisted outlook indeed.

I have long felt that a very large contributing factor to the lack of female gamers has been the lack of positive and appealing portrayals of females in games. The same is true for non-White gamers. I remember reading an article by an African-American gamer on how he found D&D unappealing because it was all about white people and based on European history and mythology. Where was Africa, he wondered.

As I start playing RPGs with my daughters I run into the same thing. Where are the strong girls? So much fantasy adventure fiction, gaming, and general entertainment is from a male point of view. Look at the Lord of the Rings. How many named female characters even appear in the novel? I can think of five. Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Rosie Cotton, Arwen, Galadriel, and Eowyn. Of these only two play any significant role. Arwen appears mostly to be Aragorn's off-stage love interest, and later his queen and mother of his children, she doesn't even directly appear until the very end. Galadriel is an Elf queen, and wearer of one of the three rings, and more of a plot device than a character in any event. The only one who really shines as a character with motivation and personality is Eowyn.

The only great epic of English fantasy that comes to mind as having fewer female characters has only one. That is Beowolf. That one is Grendel's mother and she is quite enough.

I picked that image for 2 reasons. One, it's a clear cut example of the gaze I was talking about and, two, it shows how long it has been in the game.

For reading, I'd suggest some of the newer D&D novels, especially The God Catcher by Erin Evans. Also the Paksenarrion trilogy by Elizabeth Moon is quite good but it has some very adult topics in it, including sexual assault and rape, so it might be more difficult for your daughters depending on their age. Her more recent novels have less of that in them as far as I can tell.

Did you see this page?

http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2012/02/hire-women.html?zx=6c23f84a...

Interesting thoughts on the subject.

Hmm ... Sexism.

Okay, first of all, if you are looking for a Golden Age of human relations; you're not going to find it in D&D. One of the things that fuels D&D was the John Norman novels, which is a satire on the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s. Secondly, the other things that fuel D&D are exotic romances -- Tarzan and Jungle Girl; the work of Frank Frazetta and other fantasy artists, medieval tales, and myths from the European Tradition.

D&D survives by dysfunctional relationships. A dysfunctional relationship creates drama, so you are going to experience sexism in many of the classic D&D stories. Although, I'm not sure what you want; putting away the sexism in D&D or turning it up a notch?

"Also the Paksenarrion trilogy by Elizabeth Moon is quite good but it has some very adult topics in it, including sexual assault and rape, so it might be more difficult for your daughters depending on their age. Her more recent novels have less of that in them as far as I can tell."

Rape is a sexist act. Most people say it is a crime of violence, and Jewish Law had some say on the subject.

To ask D&D to get rid of the undertones is asking too much. Some of us scholars believe that by roleplaying characters in such invented universes is pretty much an intellectual exercise. We want to rescue the princess in tatters from the dragon because it makes us feel better about ourselves. On the otherside, is it cool for a warrior woman to rescue the prince from the evil sorceress?

We don't have any tales for strong heroines in our mythic tradition except for Atalanta, and if you read the Apocrypha -- Judith. On the oriental side of the world, you have Rama and Sita and Mulan. The myths in our tradition reinforces traditional male and female roles, and since we had a Patriarchy from 2,500 B.C.; our myths and legends tend to reflect the Patriarchy. Joan of Arc and Lady Godiva was a fluke in the whole storytelling tradition. And Lady Godiva road her horse naked through London town to prove that the Anglo-Saxons were a moral and upright people to the Norman conquerers.

People have always brought this up -- there should be less sexism in D&D, or this and that. But is less really the answer from a marketing point of view? D&D caters to a specific market -- the creative, intelligent type who is usually male -- and to attract such you need to create a certain look to make sure you have your audience.

"I have long felt that a very large contributing factor to the lack of female gamers has been the lack of positive and appealing portrayals of females in games. The same is true for non-White gamers. I remember reading an article by an African-American gamer on how he found D&D unappealing because it was all about white people and based on European history and mythology. Where was Africa, he wondered."

I wondered this myself. There is a lot in Africa that is attractive to gamers. Africa has some of the best landscape. However, we don't have access to those myth and legends. What we have is H.R. Haggard's stories of King Solomon's Mines, She, and Opir. We don't have access to the large tapestry of Africa's myths and traditions.

We are getting access to a wider, and diverse, storytelling narrative. But D&D will always be marketed to those who want to imagine being Conan the Barbarian who has Belit at his side; or imagine such powerful women such as Red Sonja, the She Devil with a Sword with her over emphasized attributes. Or Sheena, the jungle princess, and Tarzan, and naked Martian Princesses, a tribal Agartha, or wild and wooly Africa.

To de-sexist D&D and to make it more bland is to kill D&D's sales. D&D caters to a specific demographic. However, that doesn't stop others from trying something different. Nyambe, a product I wanted to purchase, is a d20 Product set in a world populated by Africans and is based off of African mythology. There is a Shoujo roleplaying game out to sell to those who enjoy Anime romances built around a girl's point of view (I don't know how much yayoi it covers.) And I am sure there is more out there that caters to different demographics.

You can't change D&D and how it's marketed. But, you can create your own game that de-emphasizes the sexism and seemingly one-sided marketing technique. The OGL does make this possible. And it can sell if it is marketed appropriately and you can get it into the hands of the right people. :)

You can't change D&D and how it's marketed.

Incorrect.

Exactly.

Hah! Brilliant.

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