Earlier this week I had a girls night with one of my closest, straightest female friends. And like most times she and I are hanging out in a private-ish space stocked with a copious amount of wine, the conversation eventually turned to men—men in general and the ones we call our own in particular—how gorgeous they are, how stunningly, unwittingly sexually attractive men are, just ambling about their day-to-day business without a clue of the things we’re thinking about them.
Women know. All women know, on a very basic level, that other people see us as sex objects. It’s all around us, all the time; it’s embedded, more or less overtly, in nearly every message our society sends us. And that’s the problem there, is that it’s in every message, that it’s expected to be our primary purpose, regardless of whatever else we may be or may be doing. That sucks, and isn’t okay, and is another subject for a whole lot of better writing elsewhere. In an appropriate context, however, it’s pretty great: being willingly, consensually sexually objectified is a helluva lot of fun. And objectifying someone else in service of your own satisfaction? That’s a head trip and a half, and it’s a pleasure that most of us rarely get a chance to enjoy in the media provided for our entertainment. Sitting in my seat at the movies, I’ve gotta get my pants-buzz watching Jason Statham just happen to look the way he looks while he’s pretending to murder nameless bad guys; it’s unlikely that there will be a scene showing him strip down solely for the purpose of titillating people like me. That’s been changing recently, however, and Maker bless BioWare, nobody does a better job of catering to (or trying to cater to, at least) everybody’s desires.
I am slowly savoring my way through Dragon Age Inquisition, a game I saw jokingly (and accurately) described on Twitter as “a dating sim with a side of dragon-slaying.” I let my character “pick” her own romance option (i.e., flirted with several characters and noted the big doofy-ass grin she made in conversation with ex-Templar leader of the Inquisition’s forces, Cullen), and blessed Andraste’s tits, am I happy with the way it’s turning out.
Cullen is, in addition to serving as an advisor and tactical commander, the game’s primary eye candy. This is noted regularly in casual conversation between other characters, and NPCs at a fancy-dress ball in Orlais literally can’t keep their hands off of him. It’s a nice reversal of the usual order of events for anybody playing, but if you romance Cullen, it gets even better. My character finally (“finally“) got down to the business and peeled that boy out of his feather cape armor thing last night, and I am still feeling a warm glow about it today. It went like this.
He’s in the middle of a meeting giving orders and being all serious business-face:
When my character walks in and leans against the wall to admire the view:
And he notices her noticing him and forgets what he’s saying for a second…
Before wrapping shit up and telling all those other people to get the hell out of his office:
(Yes, my character is still running around Skyhold in her underwear.)
They talk for a minute, he wants some reassurance that she’s still gonna want to bang him when the Inquisition’s current goal has been accomplished.
And she’s like, “Yeah,” and then she leans against his desk and accidentally knocks something off onto the floor, where it breaks, and then he’s like:
“Let me hoist you up on that desk, girl”:
I am my character is like FUCK YEAH LET’S DO THIS and then:
The, uh, magic happens.
But that’s not all! Remember all that typical-male-gaze-objectification stuff I was yammering about before we got to the gifs? Well, when they woke up the next morning, my Inquisitor is all, “That was great, babe, got to put my business underwear back on and get to work,” and CULLEN, the DUDE, is the one lounging around in his all-together in a post-doin’ it dewey-eyed love haze.
(When she stood up, I really thought for a second there I was gonna see the whole package. This is the closest I’ve come to seeing the goods in a video game since this.)
Maybe this isn’t the best way to phrase my sentiment, given the topic and the preceding images, but: it’s the little things, guys. It really is. It takes so little, just one naked dude, to make me feel seen, to feel included, to feel like this game was made with me and people like me in mind. And does it hurt the character? No, Cullen is well-written and really fleshed out*; if anything, the nudity just adds realism to the scenario. Does it hurt men, as a whole? No. Get back at me when you have millenia of institutionalized objectification under your belt, bros. Is Naked Cullen a beautiful glorious boon to dude-liking ladies who (relatively) rarely see themselves represented as action-driving characters with agency in the video games we play? Fuck yes! Thanks for throwing us a naked man bone,* BioWare; we eat that shit up.*
*the double-entendre…I tried, guys, I really tried not to. I just can’t help it.
Jennifer Culp has it on good authority that Cullen is gonna strip down again in the course of this playthrough. Stay tuned for gif-able developments/deep thoughts on hot nekkid fictional characters.