Sex Sells… Or Does It?

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A schoolgirl around 12 years old travels on a commuter train. A man who has been following her gropes and sexually molests her. Eventually the train stops and she runs frightened into a public toilet, followed by her assailant who handcuffs and rapes her. The assailant takes her prisoner and repeatedly rapes her in various locations. Her mother and teenage sister suffer the same fate. This family is targeted for rape as punishment because the older sister had previously reported to the police the attempted sexual assault of another woman by the rapist. This is the story line of RapeLay, a rape simulator computer game produced by Illusion Software and sold in Japan. Prior to issuing this Action Equality Now brought RapeLay to the attention of Amazon Japan which also sold the game. Since then it has removed the game from sale, however it continues to sell similar titles based on stalking and sexually molesting women and girls. – Women’s Action 33.1

According to this article, it does. ‘RapeLay’, a game where the player is required to rape and molest women and girls on a train, was distributed by Amazon Japan and could also be found on and until 2006 when it was banned. Although banned, there are still similar  games being sold that involve raping and molesting women. I was shocked when I came across this information as I didn’t realize it was legal for companies to make these kinds of games in Japan.

In early May, Equality Now released a statement saying that in Japan the gaming industry profits from games featuring violence against girls and women. It also criticized the growing market for pornography found in Japan known as roricon, or “Lolita complex,” which has a child pornography theme. – Japanese computer game featuring rape creates international outcry

So what does this say about both the game designers and the consumers? Would a game like this encourage a player to go out and rape/molest a woman? Maybe, but this argument is similar to the violence in games argument, where it is believed video games can encourage violence. However, I played many violent games when I was younger, watched violent movies and listened to aggressive music. But I wouldn’t consider myself a person with violent tendencies. So it would be hard for me to argue that if I had played a game such as ‘RapeLay’ when I was younger that I may want to rape/molest someone. It’s difficult to tell as, in the end, it’s all down to individual differences. Which leads me to this thought; if violence is acceptable in games, why isn’t rape? If you were to commit either crime in real life (say you killed someone in an act of violence), you receive the same sentence: Life imprisonment. Who’s to say that violence is OK and rape isn’t? Before writing this blog entry I would of picked (and defended) Halo over RapeLay, but now that I think about it, there just as bad as each other. The social acceptance of violent games has almost blinded us from we’re really taking part in. At least Japan is being consistent with their laws, where the UK and US merely dips their toes in the forbidden waters. I seem to have veered away from the topic slightly, so perhaps I will address this issue in a later post.


So where was I? Using sex as a way of selling products has been popular in the advertisement industry, especially in games. This could mostly be due to the fact the women can be created digitally to look and wear whatever the creator wants. For example, you can easily find pictures of Lara Croft that are nothing to do with the game. The image above shows her wearing no clothes, in a provocative position with absolutely no relevance to the game. But Lara is not alone here, women are often subject to sexualization by making them wear little clothes. In my opinion, Lara Croft (in the actual game) is a well dressed character. She is wearing suitable clothes for her activities and is portrayed as a capable, confident and un-sexualized character. It is only the way they advertised her that I don’t agree with. Some examples of other games that use female characters with inappropriate are Bayonetta, Dead or Alive, World of Warcraft, Blades, and many more.


Dead or Alive Xtreme 2:

Uses the female characters from the original Dead or Alive, which is a fast paced fighting game, and puts them in a world where they play volleyball and a series of other beach-related mini-games.  The game uses ‘Jiggle Physics‘ to emphasise the women’s breasts bouncing up and down when she moves. The ‘physics’ they claim to use that are meant to resemble real life movements are far from accurate, with every step the girl takes resulting in the same extreme bounciness as you would see if she was jumping up and down. The advert is clearly using this to sell the game, but does it work? As a woman I find the unrealistic bouncing quite repulsing, especially as each breast bounces at a different time, and I was surprised to hear some of my male friends agreeing with me. Perhaps this would of sold to an audience of horny individuals, but if they just wanted to see them bounce, they might as well save their money and just watch the trailer over and over again.      Game info


World of Warcraft:

Just one example of a scantily clad female character on World of Warcraft (WoW). When a male character wears the exact same armour as she is wearing, it will appear completely different, with his covering most of his body and actually doing what armour is supposed to do- protect. Emphasising the body by sexualising female characters is one way of selling the game to anyone that wants to stare at half naked women.

Game info



Need I repeat myself? The girls body is being used to attempt to sell the game here; her posture, lack of clothing and emphasised features. They may also be trying to appeal to a different market here by giving her a very young face.

Game info


This witches’ outfit is made out of her hair, as she builds up combo attacks, her hair-suit slowly disappears until there is nothing left but small areas covering her nipples and crotch. Her ridiculously long legs and ability to fight in heels are also features she should be proud of.

Game info

If sex sells, then why arn’t these games top sellers, apart from World of Warcraft? World of Warcraft is the only game in the list that uses both male and female characters, and apart from the armour, rarely uses the women to sell the game. An article in The Guardian argues that gamers have “grown up”, and with the rising percentage of women playing games and entering the industry, that they are reaching a more mature level. I doubt that there will ever be a time that games like this are not produced, because they do sell, so there must be an audience out there that compnies can make money from. However, if games ever want to recieve as much credit as films, music and other media, they do indeed need to reach a more mature level. With titles such as Mirrors Edge and Flower experimenting with new types of gameplay, I have high hopes that games are not only receiving more apprechiation for beng experimental, but that there are teams of people out there that want to make games like this.


7 responses to “Sex Sells… Or Does It?

  1. Video games, and other media sub-genres such as films books and tv programmes are constantly under scrutiny as being put to blame for the continuous rising of crime levels.

    The whole idea of a video game is just another method of escapism. The player knows full well he/she is taking part in a simulation – and it is make believe.

    There are laws, regulations that as we grow up we are constantly made aware of – so of course some form of an entity that can embody some of the things we are always reminded of as being ‘wrong’ in a safe, fictitious environment are going to be picked up upon.

    This game in question may not be necessarily ‘glamorizing’ rape – but to ignore rape completely in the media would probably be worse. Drugs, murder and violence are all key ingredients to many films books tv games and indeed video games. Rape is a crime that albeit is horrific, still goes on in everyday society.

    The thing to look at is – is this game glamorizing rape, or is it just trying to make us become more aware of the devestating effects?

    As you mentioned Tomb Raider – I recall reading an article in hearing that when the 1st Tomb Raider game was recreated with much superior graphics more relevent for the updated consoles etc. – the makers intentionally removed the animals Lara had to kill. If Lara does have to kill anyone – a voiceover would come up expressing her remorse over this.

    So it seems that video game producers are heeding the complaints and blames and in some ways trying to prevent them on their part…but as far as video game influences go – I think crime and violence has roots that are a lot more complex than a kid emulating his favourite video game.

    Great blog xx

  2. I agree with you 110%. And that ‘RapeLay’ game disgusts me =/

  3. Okay, i am a gamer and i just want to say that that rapelay game is bad, but that is what the culture is like over there, if you look up rape on any porn site there will be results or something that has it in it. i know this is a liberal country. but you have to realize that the culture there is very different than ours here. most of the fighting games like dead or alive, final fantasy or street fighter, will have scantily dressed women because that is how the characters are portrayed there. i know it may not be viewed as correct, but that is just how games are made. even if the game gets banned here it will stay the same there. Its just how games are made so its something that people are going to have to deal with.

    • Hey Alex,

      If people just dealt with things would any issues ever get resolved? I can imagine it being a very racist, homosexual, nazi world, whatever issue it is i’m sure you get the point.

      The games industry is still young, and the way they’re being made is changing. Games like Flower clearly show this.

      But yes, their culture is very different to ours.

  4. Just SO you Know Bayonetta isnt even out here yet how is it suppose to be a top seller?

    • Hey Chris,

      I’m not sure what you mean, I never said Bayonetta was a top seller? I’m very aware it’s not been released yet. Unless you’re referring to the ‘Sex sells…’ headline, which isn’t a statement, it’s just a title.

      I did quite enjoy the gameplay in the demo though, even though her walk is a bit ridiculous.

      • “If sex sells, then why arn’t [sic] these games top sellers, apart from World of Warcraft?”

        Bayonetta is very likely to be a top seller.

        There is a small percentage of gamers out there who buy games for sexual gratification, just as there is a small percentage of movie-goers who will see movies for sexual gratification. However, games that lack story or gameplay will not be well received by critics or consumers, just like movies without story or plot.

        As far as “RapeLay” goes, it is a Japanese game made by a Japanese company for a Japanese audience. Not only are legal regulations different for our friends in the east, but the culture is quite different as well. If you look at movies, animes, mangas, or video games from Japan you will find rape, violence, pedophilia, and other American taboos to be very common themes. It’s not right to judge their culture against ours, of course, it’s simply different.

        That being said, I do agree with you that sexualization can ruin, or at least taint, a perfectly good video game. There have been many times when excellent gameplay has been interrupted by unnecessary jiggling, but I believe that critics and consumers do a fairly good job of reflecting these inadequacies in their reviews and ratings.

        The bottom line is that males dominate the video game market, and as long as that’s true games will always be tailored to their interests. I would encourage you to not let sexualization ruin your enjoyment of a good game, and to convince your female friends to play video games as well. We’re right on the verge of receiving an influx of female gamers, and once that happens the market will sit up and listen. Until that happens just try to enjoy the games and ignore the male-pandering.

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