Analysis · Games

Looking At: 21st century horny

I’m sorry about this one, it took me far too long to write and I fear it’s totally incoherent.  I guess my thoughts on the matter aren’t all there either, please let me know if this makes any sense; any sense at all.

21stcenturyhorny

On January 17th this year Randy Pitchford made a mistake. The CEO of Gearbox Software, developers of Borderlands and the Brothers in Arms series, among others tweeted pornography on his public account. Not just any porn though, porn depicting characters from Battleborn, one of his studio’s most maligned and unsuccessful games. Even worse, he knew what he was doing.

I’m not gonna go into too much detail here, there’s plenty of writing on this particular story anyway, most of it funny and cringy and there’s speculation that he was the one to create the forum he linked to in the first place as a horrifically ill-advised attempt to drum up some publicity. Imma stick to what could have possessed him to actually commit that foolishness in the first place.

Well, Battleborn has (or had, it’s long since dead now, less than a year old) a direct competitor, Overwatch, one of the most critically and commercially successful games of 2016. Pornhub, in a January press release, declared it a more popular search term on their website than ‘anal’, so y’know, it was besting Battleborn in the sex stakes too. Maybe Randy just wanted to claw back some respectability.

He was going the wrong way about it though, trying to participate in a conversation he was only on the edge of. Nobody wants sex to be a competition, unless that’s, like, you kink or whatever, you do you, but don’t nobody want to have their sex game be brought up in a conversation about brand loyalty. Pitchford’s real mistake (aside from considering the damn act in the first place) was to conflate two separate concepts: regular horniness, and the new 21st century horny.

See, look at the naked lust the internet had been displaying for the latest Zelda‘s hunky fish prince. Look at the openness and the lack of shame, desire don’t have to be hidden away, don’t got to be obfuscated from view, just put a thin coat of irony over the top and it’s all gravy. Y’all, 21st century horniness has got to exceed the limits of the past, we are seeing a rise in sex-positivity, dialogue around sex becoming far more open and enjoyable.

Sex is fun, why shouldn’t the way we talk about it be fun too? That’s where classic horniness has failed us, the capitalisation and commoditisation of sex through the porn industry has reduced casual engagement with sexual material into something problematic, in a woke society we gotta talk about the sexism and racism and exploitation inherent to the pornography we enjoy.

Instead we create something new, create utopian porn, a reaction to the iniquity to the current form. Working from a base level of acceptance and consent and mutual enjoyment. We’ve started to see this happening, starting with the obvious, we gotta start be reclaiming horniness as a concept, it has failed under the watch of cis straight men, the monopolisers of sexual desire. Recognise, in order to create a more egalitarian sexual marketplace we gotta centre the arousal of previously marginalised groups.

The fetishized must become the fetishizers. For this to happen it starts with a queering of straight archetypes. If open lust over real human people raises issues with objectification and consent then the objects of our desire must be disassociated from the real.

When artists draw sexualised Disney characters as a critique of their business and work, they are inviting us to view these characters outside of the prescribed capitalistic lens they were created under. However, that is inherently problematized as the sexuality is presented as an inversion of the character, a countercultural imagination that strips them of the creator’s intent. To work in this way is essentially sex-negative as the sexual characterisation must exist exclusive from the original.

Contemporary eroticism, though, must go in the other direction, people love to fuck, therefore, in the absence of a creator who is willing to explore that side of existence, that element of their humanity must be plumbed by the fans. Which is why Randy made that mistake in the first place. See, I’m guessing he realised that the 21st century horny means that these sexualised representations come from a place of admiration and love, the hope that those we admire are as freaky as us.

He didn’t realise that his status, his presence as an authorial voice, means that he must be divorced from the equation. By adding his opinion to the mix he undermined the existence of the art as a subversive form; and in doing so killed it as dead as the Battleporn subreddit now is.

One thought on “Looking At: 21st century horny

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