Why Bayonetta Is One Of My Favorite Women In Gaming

You know you’re doing the “seduction by lollipop” cliche right when you look like your doing the candy a favor.
Source: Know Your Meme

Ah, screw it. I’m counting this as a Halloween post. I mean, what’s more Halloween than a witch?

So, true to my nature as being infinitely late to the party, I’m just now starting to get into Bayonetta. I picked it up at a reasonable sale price on Steam and I’ll admit openly that I may have had the game wrong all these years. I wrote it off as just ‘Devil May Cry with boobs’ and thought it was just senseless titillation for titillation’s sake. But the more I played it, the more I came to realize that, while it does delve into gratuitousness quite often, it does so in such an over-the-top way as to stop being sexy and start being entertaining on its own merits.

Plus, I’ve come to have genuine affection of the titular Bayonetta herself. I actually feel kind of bad for writing her off as pure fanservice. Because when you actually look at her closely, you come to realize that…

Her exaggerated figure actually makes sense

One of the first things I noticed back when I decided to give Bayonetta a miss was how silly her proportions were. I mean, the first thing most people notice when they see her is that she has legs like stilts propping up a torso that’s just a cup size or two shy from being a Rob Liefeld drawing.

But once you see her interacting with “normal” human beings (normal being subjective in such a strange setting), you realize that she’s not some average, everyday superheroine; she’s a 7 foot tall, supernatural amazon witch bred of two warring factions of magic users and molded to be a perfect fighting engine. Of course her body would be an exaggeration of our own – extreme conditions result in extreme personalities and extreme appearances. Those legs NEED to be that powerful-looking so she doesn’t collapse on herself like a top-heavy Barbie doll.

Plus, she’s not just a pair of legs. Look at her delicate facial features and long, swan-like neck. Everything about her is meant to convey grace and class. And when you consider the main mechanic of the game is to make a long string of unbroken attacks in rapid, flowing succession, those are good qualities to have.

Still, there’s no denying that Bayonetta is still heavily sexualized. But, in her case, that’s actually a good thing because…

She knows she’s sexy… and she LOVES it

A large part of my recent journey through gender transition has been building up a positive body image by appreciating the sensuality of my body. Of course, when you work at a rest stop and have a horde of lonely truckers and construction workers – male, female, and otherwise – reminding you of that sensuality on a weekly basis, you tend to enjoy the attention (even though they should REALLY not be doing that to someone who’s on the clock; that’s just rude).

My point is that I’ve learned that flirting can be fun and can make you feel good when done right. And Bayonetta embodies this idea. A lot of people have criticized her for ‘moving like a stripper’ in game, but she always makes it clear that she does so by her own choice (“As long as there’s music, I’ll keep on dancing”). Besides, what’s wrong with erotic dancing anyway? It’s a perfectly noble art that requires years of training and conditioning to do well. I respect anyone with the physical fortitude and self-confidence to perform stark-naked like that for an audience.

And before any of you bring up her “wicked weave”, yes, the fact that her hair is both her costume and her most powerful weapon does lend itself to fanservice. But screw that; if I had a magical updo, you better believe I’d use it for some new wardrobes (“I can’t help it if I like the little outfits”).

She’s one of the few women that work the “sexuality as a weapon” angle well

Here’s the thing you need to understand about depictions of women in games; for the longest time, there were only two flavors of women.

The first is the cutesy one – small, meek, and gentle. She’s the sort of girl that’s designed to encourage you to want to protect her; i.e., “She just needs a big, strong person around.”

The other is the ice queen – hard, tough, and mostly disinterested in others; ESPECIALLY romantic advances. Whether intentional or not, it reassures the audience that it’s okay to think she’s hot because she doesn’t care anyway.

Both of these are (god, I hate this word…) problematic as one puts the woman on a pedestal and the other outright objectifies her. So how does Bayonetta approach this dilemma?

Bayonetta is not helpless; she can take down entire armies of the most powerful beings in Heaven, Earth, and Hell with ease. But, she’s not cold either; she displays a wide variety of emotions throughout the game and cares a great deal about her own personal enjoyment in particular. This results in a personality that is eager to find pleasure but is skeptical that YOU are the one that can provide it.

Do you get it yet? She’s not a cute princess, nor is she an ice queen; she’s SEXUALLY INTIMIDATING and you, aroused audience member lost in the fantasy, need to cope with that.

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A Very Brief (And Woefully Incomplete) Primer on Asexuality

… Well, some of us do on occasion, but we aren’t exactly crazy about doing so.
Source: falunel.deviantart.com

I’ve made mention several times on Twitter, Facebook, and right here on The Archive that I am an out-and-proud Asexual. But recently, I’ve noticed people within my circle of friends and family discussing the topic of asexuality more or even coming out to me as falling under the asexual spectrum (yes, asexuality is a spectrum; we’ll get into that).

So, I felt like it was my duty to talk about asexuality; not just among friends, but publicly so that all of those curious about it could understand it better. After all, one of the biggest problems plaguing the asexual community is a lack of visibility that leads other to claim that it “doesn’t exist” or that we’re just “secretly gay” or “trying to be special.”

Now, to be clear, this isn’t going to be a perfect resource. I may be asexual myself, but I’m not an authority on sexual orientation (if such a thing can be said to exist). To that end, this is going to be a HIGHLY simplified collection FAQs and debunked misconceptions tinged by my own experiences. If you want to learn more, I deeply ask you to check out The Asexual Visibility and Education Network for more information. So, with all veneers of expertise removed, let’s begin.

Attraction Vs. Desire Vs. Activity

One of the larger misconceptions is that asexuality is just a fancy name for what others would call celibacy. Another is that asexuality is just an excuse to justify a weak libido. These couldn’t be further from the truth.

Asexuality, low-to-no libido, and celibacy together demonstrate the disconnect between sexual attraction, sexual desire, and sexual activity respectfully. It’s often difficult for most asexuals or “aces” to explain the concept of sexual attraction since – surprise – we don’t experience it and it’s kinda hard to explain something that you don’t have a frame of reference for.

The simplest explanation I can muster is this: An ace can still be sexually aroused (genitals are stupid and can be turned on by just about anything) and many are still willing to engage in intercourse (until evolution allows humans to reproduce through parthenogenesis, babies need to come from somewhere). However, they simply don’t find others sexually attractive. We can certainly identify people as “cute,” “beautiful,” or sometimes even “sexy,” but sexual attraction may as well not exist to us.

This separates asexuality from the aforementioned low libido – a loss of sex drive and sexual desire that can be countered with medical treatments – and celibacy – the active choice to abstain from sexual activity for various reasons. So when in doubt remember this: if there’s no sexual attraction, it’s asexuality. If there’s attraction but no drive or desire, it’s low libido. If there is attraction and desire but you actively choose not to, it’s celibacy. The important point to take home here is that, whatever you identify as, it’s your identity and it’s valid.

Sex-Positive, Sex-Neutral, and Sex-Repulsed Aces

As briefly mentioned above, many aces still engage in sex or sexual acts. However, not all of them do and not all of them enjoy it or enjoy it to the same extent. This is why the asexual spectrum and the distinction of grey-asexuality or “gray-a” is so important. Different aces may, and likely will, have varying feelings towards sex.

Sex-positive aces regard sex as an enjoyable experience and may even encourage openness about sexuality. However, they still don’t find themselves sexually attracted to anyone. When interacting with a sex-positive ace, please note that their sexual identity is still valid and the fact that they find sex enjoyable doesn’t make them less of an ace. Remember; there’s a difference between attraction, desire, and action.

Sex-neutral aces – the camp that I belong to – tend to treat sex as a tertiary thought. We aren’t exactly opposed to the idea of sex and many of us will gladly engage if it means pleasing a lover or wanting to start a family. However, we aren’t exactly crazy about the idea and probably won’t break our necks to get some. The same considerations paid to sex-positive aces above should be given to sex-neutral ones. Again, attraction is not desire is not action (is that getting through yet?).

Sex-repulsed aces are genuinely disinterested or even disgusted by sex and/or sexual activity. In some cases, just the mere mention of sex makes them incredibly uncomfortable. Bare this in mind when interacting with sex-repulsed aces and respect their comfort zone. This also means not treating them – or any ace, for that matter – as emotionally or psychologically broken. There doesn’t necessarily need to be some kind of trauma to be repulsed by sex. Sometimes, people just find sex undesirable for any number of reasons (speaking personally, I usually just find sex too funny or too clinical to be enjoyable).

Demisexuality

I can’t in good conscience talk about the asexual spectrum without giving at least a brief mention its most often underrepresented section; the demisexuals.

Demisexuality falls under and is a very important part of the asexual spectrum. It describes a person who CAN develop a sexual attraction towards a person, but only after a deep, emotional connection has been formed. This makes it one of the most difficult orientations in the asexual spectrum to explain to people and, by extension, one that catches a lot of criticism – even from fellow aces.

But, it’s important to note that demisexuals ARE part of the asexual spectrum. They don’t experience sexual attraction in the same way as other sexual orientations would and need to be respected and welcomed. They aren’t outsiders; they’re human and kin.

How To Respect An Ace

I know I’ve beating the “attraction/desire/action” drum this whole time, but it seems so difficult to convey the importance of it to some people. These folks and I have a valid and legitimate orientation – a very specific way that we prefer to interact with our lovers in order to feel comfortable and secure. This doesn’t mean that we are broken or seeking attention and it’s not a moral or ethical choice like some people consider celibacy to be; it’s just the way we are and we all need to respect that.

Also, just as you should ANY sexual orientation, we ask that you respect our boundaries. If one of us tells you that sex or talking about sex makes us uncomfortable, please stop. If we don’t want to have sex with you, please understand that it’s not a negative judgment of you but us trying to maintain a comfortable sexual environment.

Ultimately, we aces are just like everyone else. And like everyone else, we just want to feel happy and comfortable in our own way.

The Importance Of Sex In Fiction (Or “This Cartoon Is Hot And That’s Okay”)

Drink it in folks; this may be the only time I can LEGALLY get away with showing bare breasts on this site. Source: Wikipedia

Drink it in folks; this may be the only time I can LEGALLY get away with showing bare breasts on this site.
Source: Wikipedia

So, one reader this week left a comment on my discussion of Steven Universe‘s Garnet and the purpose of her sexualized nature saying that they found the article after doing a light search to see if other people felt the same way about her. They also stated how they felt odd about being so attracted to an animated character and wanted to know if there was “something wrong” with them.

Well, to that reader and to others like them, I say to you this; No, there’s nothing wrong with you.

Sex and sexuality have been a major part of fiction since the creation of fiction. When someone invented the wall, someone else said, “not bad, but it would look better with a bunch o’ NEKKID people on it,” and created the first mural.

Arthurian lore is a great example of this. The tales of King Arthur and the likes of Sir Galahad, Sir Lancelot, Lady Guinevere, Morgan Le Fey and others are often centered around or even solely motivated by sex.

Even when the issue of censorship started coming into play, people found ways around these ‘decency laws’ to simulate and imply sex without actually showing it as a legal loophole. And thus innuendo became mainstream.

Basically, sex is a big deal in fiction because it’s something we either all do or are at least affected by; a universal constant that we can all relate to. Even asexuals are affected by the lack of desire for intercourse. That’s why asexuality is STILL a sexual orientation.

It’s for this reason that I get a little hot-headed whenever I see trolls online poking fun at people who draw erotic art, read hentai manga, or have an interest in anthropomorphism. Here are a group of people engaging in a time-honored global tradition and now they’ve come under attack by closed-minded bullies that can’t separate reality from fantasy.

Fiction is fiction and fantasy is fantasy; no healthy-minded human being will debate that. The use of fiction and fantasy is a means of self-exploration; exploration of our minds, our morals, and – indeed – our inner desires. And to this day, we have yet to find a better way to explore those notions than through fictional narrative.

Basically, if you aren’t willing to indulge in flights of fantasy – including sexual fantasy – while reading a book, watching a movie or playing a video game, why are you even bothering with a story in the first place?

Sex, Romance, and Dangly Parts: Three Things That The Agent Is Sick of Explaining To People

... And if you can't understand a simple explanation, you probably aren't trying hard enough to understand it. Source: Quora.com

… And if you can’t understand a simple explanation, you probably aren’t trying hard enough to understand it.
Source: Quora.com

Do you have a quirk about your personality or a personal belief that, despite your best efforts, you are constantly forced to explain in excruciating detail to people because they assume that you’re like that for completely unrelated reasons?

… ’cause I do. I’ve got a lot of ’em. Quirks for days.

I hate explaining these things about me to people, not so much because I constantly have to repeat myself, but because their misunderstanding of me comes off as insulting – if not to me, then to the people who are in the same boat as me. And it’s even worse when you have to explain it to the same person multiple times.

So, once and for all, let the world know that…

I’m not a prude; I’m asexual

This is probably one of the biggest problems that I (and many others, I’m sure) face as an ace – just because we don’t want to have sex, people assume that we’re prudish, virginal, moral guardians looking to ruin other people’s fun.

In fact, I’m not even all that against sex personally. I have a large collection of erotic art stored away. Some of my favorite songs are sexy love ballads. Hell, I recently wrote an entire article dedicated to the amazonian sex goddess that is Steven Universe‘s Garnet.

I simply don’t ENJOY sex as much or in the same way as other people. I prefer to avoid direct sexual encounters because I feel they distract from what I really want out of a relationship; emotional support and intellectual stimulation.

I’m not gay; I’m panromantic

… And since I don’t f***, I also can’t be gay… not that it hasn’t stopped people from thinking that.

I think what bothers me most here is more what it implies about other’s views of homosexuality rather than their thoughts about me. It seems this only ever comes up as a negative when people ask or at least that’s how they come off.

Make no mistake, I do find myself attracted to women more often. But when all I want is an intellectual chat and a reassuring cuddle, it doesn’t really matter who I get it from as long the feeling is mutual.

Thankfully, this is one of those things that was more a problem in my youth than it is today. But it still comes up often enough where I wanted to bring it up here.

I’m not transgender; I just REALLY like crossplay

Back in my college drama club days, one of my most beloved roles was in the murder mystery Murder at Rutherford House as the incorrigibly fun-loving maid-servant Ruby Pinkbottom – a role written to be played by a man in a dress. To this day, it’s considered by many of my friends to be one of my best performances.

… As well it should be. I’ve had a LOT of practice with drag roles.

Costuming is one of my favorite hobbies. I love being able to become someone else for a few fleeting moments to escape the drab, boringness of real-life. Of course, when you’ve become things like aliens, vampires, and warriors often enough, even they get old after a while. So what else is there to explore but the opposite gender?

I guess the technical label for me would be ‘gender fluid’, but I definitely identify as male by default.

Basically, I cross-dress and cosplay for fun because it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being a real-life shapeshifter. So don’t be shocked if you see photos of me at a convention dressed as Bismuth in the future.

A Long Over Due Retraction: Minaj vs. Trainor

What did they used to call it? “The shiniest of two turds?”
Source: junkee.com

I’ve been putting this off for too long; not for fear of admitting I was wrong, but because I always had something else on my mind that I wanted to say that got in the way.

So, way back in September of last year (has it really been that long?), I criticized Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda for not being the feminist message that it portended to be. However, I made the sorry mistake of saying that Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass was able to keep the theme of booty pride while retaining a more girl friendly atmosphere.

Well, as a few readers were eager to point out, this was not the case.

Upon repeated hearings and exploring the rest of her body of work, it’s hard to deny that Meghan is just as near sighted as Nicki in terms of the definition of feminine.

Nowhere is this more clear then when I finally found a line in All About That Bass shaming petite framed girls by calling them “skinny bitches.” There was also the line where she explains that she “[Shakes] it like I’m supposed to do.” Again, we have the problem narrowly defining what as woman should and shouldn’t be. What if a girl doesn’t want to show off her butt? Doesn’t she have other avenues she can pursue to gain respect and attention?

Also, when I heard her newer single Lips Are Movin’ – a song about distrusting a lover, I started to notice another uncomfortably off-key message of empowerment; promoting women by shaming men. I get that the stereotype is that men are sex-crazed jackasses, but so-called “slut shaming” works both ways and when you say that you “know [we’re] lying ’cause [our] lips are moving” is not only painting with a broad brush, it’s also painting in a very offensive shade. And if it wasn’t cute when the Spice Girls did it, it sure as hell isn’t cute now.

So, yes – I was demonstrably wrong about Meghan Trainor. She is not the saint of female empowerment that I gave her credit for being.

That being said, she is still LEAGUES above Nicki Minaj in terms of likability. Where Nicki is aggressive about her sexuality to the point of trying way too hard to impress, Meghan is more reserved which has the effect making her seem more sweet and good-natured.

Also, and this purely a matter of personal preference, I find Meghan’s 1950’s throwback sound more tasteful and gentle on the ears than Nicki’s ripping-off and butchering of an ACTUAL female empowerment anthem.

Basically, what I’m straining to get out is this; the difference in insulting between Meghan Trainor and Nicki Minaj is the difference between a put-down from Tyrion Lannister and Dane Cook’s “The Finger” sketch… and if forced to choose, I’ll take being verbally slapped in the face by Peter Dinklage over someone flipping me the bird while bouncing around like an amphetamine-fueled Chimpanzee any day.

Of course, I’d rather just settle on someone that didn’t offend my senses and made me happy.