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watch out for da sperminator. (and other constructions of sexuality)

February 26, 2010

A British Health Unit designed this sex ed game in an attempt to capture youth attention and get some important information about sex to the a demographic that might otherwise miss it.

But in addition to sex information, they passed along some sex and gender constructions.

Embedded in this well-intentioned video game are the values society assigns to different expressions of sexuality.

And of course I’ve got something to say about it, especially in reference to the female superheros.

Inherent Bias 1: the virgin-slut dichotomy of female sexuality.

2 of the 4 superheros are women.

On the one hand, we have WONDER VAG, who “believes in true love and promotes abstinence until marriage.” Wonder Vag’s super power? Human lie detector, “she can tell when someone is lying.”

On the other, we have POWER PAP, who “is sexually active and is a strong believer in getting tested regularly. After a close encounter with a horrible STI, she was treated and now dedicates her life to testing and PAP tests.” Power Pap’s superpowers include her X-ray vision, which she uses to spot infections.

I think it is important to have both types of life style choices, sexually active and not, represented. And it is important to be an advocate for keeping our bodies healthy to get tested if we are active. But I would prefer if some reference had been made to the male superhero’s choices to abstain or not, as well.

In this video game and in reality, I feel there are expectations for women to remain virgins for as long as possible, but it is expected that men will be sexually active. I also disagree with making assumptions about why people make the choices they do, beyond the idea that it is the best choice for them. (Like Wonder Vag believes in true love, but Power Pap obviously must not value that type of thing).

And I really don’t like that Wonder Vag and Power Pap are presented as either/or options. Either you believe in true love, or you are having sex and getting STI’s. Either you are a human lie detector (implicit message: you are able to see through stories and proclamations of love people may be trying to sway you with in order to get up your schoolgirl skirt) or you are gullible, capable of being deceived (possibly of being deceived to sleep with people). And like Power Pap, you are probably supposed to be regretful. With no built-in lie detector, and no ability to discriminate among sexual partners and screen them for yourself, you must instead test yourself regularly.

Because all unmarried sexually active women  say yes to anyone who sounds sincere enough, right?

And a few more words about these female characters. Wonder Vag, like so many virgins in media spotlight before her, is blonde and overly sexualized. It’s this construction of what female sexuality should look like. It’s a construction of what it means to be a desirable woman, of what it means to be pure. And the conclusion we must draw then is, if a woman doesn’t look like Wonder Vag, and if she isn’t a virgin, is she the opposite of pure? Is she the opposite of all those things Wonder Vag and virginity stand for (or encompass in our media)? What is Power Pap in comparison?

I highly recommend the Purity Myth, by Jessica Valenti. She is the inspiration for many of my recent thoughts and musings about female sexuality and virginity.

But I am not done yet. That was just inherent Bias 1.

Here’s Inherent Bias 2: disease

I mentioned earlier that the male superheroes choices to be sexually active or not where not explicitly stated in the game.

One thing that I should note is that the main villain in the game is a man with giant penises for arms that shoot dirty contaminated sperm at the superheroes.

This villain was once a superhero, but he had sex, caught and STI, and didn’t get tested, so he turned into a roided-out monster intentionally spreading disease and harm.

This baddie is called THE SPERMINATOR.

Might this send a message to children playing the game that people with infections are dishonest, or scary, or generally someone you may not want to be around?

I understand the point is to inform them of the terrors of an STI, but might there be a better way to do it then constructing a man with two penises for arms and scary looking sperm?

I also don’t like how aggressive and violent the male form is in this superhero turned villain. By calling him The Sperminator, is it implying that sperm are inherently scary, and therefore, that men producing them are scary?

If the intention is to scare young teens away from sex, mission accomplished.

But if it is to encourage them to have healthy ideas about their body and their sexuality, and to not feel ashamed of asking questions about either, I think there is a lot of room for improvement.

rant done.

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