Sex in Games More of a Concern than Violence, Say Parents

April 11, 2008 -
Mom and Dad are more concerned about depictions of sex than violence, according to the results of a poll at parent-oriented site What They Play.

37% of poll respondents indicated that they were most concerned by depictions of a man and woman having sex, while 26% listed a graphically severed human head as most worrisome.

The poll, of couse, is unscientific (like all such polls, including those run on GamePolitics). But its result seem to tie in with the traditional American view as well as U.S. legal precedents. First Amendment protections, for example, are extended to violent content while sexual material is subject to greater legal scrutiny.

What They Play editor John Davison seems a bit non-plussed by the results, while Susan Arendt of Wired Game|Life termed the poll numbers "an interesting snapshot of our cultural taboos."


@ Are'el

Good points and I tend to agree.

@ Ian

I wouldn't take these polls too seriously, as it was stated in the story it was not a scientific poll. Also it doesn't seem that there was an option for finding 2 or more things equally offensive.

But thanks for judging a whole culture on it though ;) . Just Kidding.

[...] (Thanks, What They Say, via GamePolitics.) Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

Damn, you would've thought this had got sorted out oin the '60s. I agree with Scolar Visari - this appears to be peculiar trait of the Mid-Western American psyche, and for some unfathomable reason the world's media must pander to the tastes of the Mid-West.

It's understandable when you consider that parents are worried about children doing what they see. In most cases, a child isn't going to go out and behead someone. Your child murdering someone is actually pretty low on the "parenting-meter." Sex, on the other hand, is quite common and is generally seen by teens as just "something to do." And it's difficult for most teens to think of things like pregnancy and STDs as serious threats, because teens feel invincible.

So many parents fear that if their kid see sex, they'll want to do it even more than they already do, and they'll wind up with little Sally being prego and little Timmy getting AIDs. And those are more realistic fears than your son or daughter turning out to be a gun-toting mass murderer.

How about parents stop caring about either and focus on existant problems?

@ BIll Underage sex is pretty relative, the human body pretty much decides its ready for sex around 13, the "underage" is just a bunch of post puritanical bullshit.. our culture treating sex like its evil is the only reason why anyone would actually feel abused or damaged from experiencing its act, no matter what their age, sex is a completely natural act, and their is nothing natural to suggest it could hurt anybody, just our asinine cultural taboos.

Violence on the other hand, as far as im concerned, is pretty much the most despicable act anyone could be involved in.. I can't believe these parents would rather their child experience something that actually could damage them.. something that is actually unnatural, as opposed to the very way they were created.
Would you have to sit a parent down and make them choose if they would rather their son or daughter engage in a sexual act or be the victim of a violent and untimely death?

I think you need to realize that people from all over the world could vote in this (unscientific) poll at - I voted. And being a Dane, I voted for the 'severed head'. However, there seems to a split in Europe, too. I don't know if it is true or not, but a member of the Danish Media Council once said in tv-interview interview about PEGI-ratings that in Southern Europe, they are more concerned about sex than violence whereas North(west)Europeans seems to be more concerned about violence than sex. Just to avoid the sort of 'hey - Europe is more concerned about violence than sex' arguments. I do believe this split as much as I believe that there could be a split as well in the US.

And by that I mean that if I were to make a (qualified guess) most US states on the west & east coast would be more concerned about violence than sex while the more -ahem- shall we say conservative states in the middle of the US would be more concernd with sex than violence.

Just to put these things into perspective...

Abot the Puritans, I think you all need to see a very good movie called 'to kill a king' or the mini-series about Charles II (the second). In the movie 'to kill a king' the leader of the puritans, Cromwell (which really was a sect under the jacobins? I think in the early 1600's) demanded that society's foundations and institutions were to be built upon --- the bible.
And that's exactly what the Puritans did when they landed at Plymouth Rock. They looked in their Bible - to built the New World. The Puritans, at least in England in the early 1600's were also very unforgiven about other people's interpretation of the Bible since they thought their interpretations were the only ones God approved. Much like some other religius (or all) fanatics do today...

greater drive for sex than violence

[...] wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptMom and Dad are more concerned about depictions of sex than violence, according to the results of a poll at parent-oriented site What They Play. 37% of poll respondents indicated that they were most concerned by depictions of a man and woman having sex, while 26% listed a graphically severed human head as most worrisome. The poll, of couse, is unscientific (like all such polls, including those run on GamePolitics). But its result seem to tie in with the traditional American view as well as U.S. legal precedents. First Amendment protections, for example, are extended to violent content while sexual material is subject to greater legal scrutiny. What They Play editor John Davison seems a bit non-plussed by the results, while Susan Arendt of Wired Game|Life termed the poll numbers ”an interesting snapshot of our cultural taboos.” [...]

So a loving act between two people is less socially acceptable the slicing off a person's head with accompanying blood... interesting, but not surprising.

Not much sex dipicted in games.

Films and Tv on the other hand....

And lets not talk about what you can get on the WWW's now.

I've always found this to be a bit odd. Why is it okay to kill hundreds of enemies in a game (or a movie for that matter), but if you show a pair of boobs and two characters have a non-pornographic physical encounter and you're suddenly dealing with inappropriate material?

A guy blows his head off with a shotgun on an overpass on live tv, and that's pretty much okay. Janet Jackson shows a nipple for three seconds and we have to completely revamp the way media works. Why is blood okay, but boobs are evil?

@ Hans

I think your correct in saying that when it comes to depictions of those acts. But I'm sure if it were literal, people would prefer someone really having sex over someone really beheading someone else.

But when specifically dealing with it in the context of movies and games, parents are probably more worried about their children engaging in underage sex more than they are about committing beheadings.
That's just what I suspect is the case.

Im fascinated about how sex is apparantly more unsuitable than severing heads... but somehow not as surprised as i feel i should be.

People will, eventually, have sex as they grow up.

People will not, typically, sever heads in a glorious spray of blood and gore.

That's where I see the difference. Sex is not a "loving act between two people" most of the time when it's portrayed... it's just sex.

Ultimately I'm not sure why these even matters, though. Any game that has "severed heads" or any degree of sexuality will be rated mature anyway, parents shouldn't care because it shouldn't even be an issue.

I think this all stems from American culture. We see violence as acceptable because thats how our country was born, through violence and exploitation. Our kids have been exposed to fake violence all their lives so I don't see any reason why video games should be singled out over movies and other media. On the reason why America is so afraid of sex I personally feel that it stems back to our religious beginnings. Of course you then have the completely out of touch people who see video games as nothing more than filth.

"Well with the beheadings it's obviously fake, it's just a game, but the sex.. geez that's just like real life pr0n."
- Parent that was JUST campaigning against violence in games.

No more Woohoo, then?

Sex isn't a dirty word, is it?

That's it. These americans are nutjobs. The ones that think that minors don't think of sex, every single day in their lives.

HEY MOM, DAD, look! I CAN MASTURBATE! Watch this!

No, seriously! There's no OFF/ON switch for kids sexuality, and there most *certainly* is no OFF/OFF switch! All this religious crap is to be blamed I presume. You definitely won't be having normal healthy kids if you aren't even going to let them look at naked people!

Yea...we're backwards like that.

I think we should treat video games same as that of movies, it should be rated in accordance to propriety. If it is restricted for children or for general patronage, so be it.

well its like they say.
America was funded by a bunch of prudes.
i mean... how many people here know that they actually tried to ban the condom?
no joke.

I don't know about the rest of you but my nights of passionate romance usually begin with a beheading (or 2 if I'm in the mood for a threesome)

Now thats some deep throat action

Violence = Kills people = Not good
Sexuality = Breed people = More life = Inherently good!


Would the mom and dad of american be opposed to life?!

That being said, the Internet Porn Industry economic success overcome Amazon, Yahoo, Google, and many many other internet giants banded together. Don't need more porn in mah games, but I wouldn't mind another romantic scene à la Mass Effect... -Sighs and flutters.-

I'm sure we've all heard the story of the theater employee who had to deal with parents taking small children to see Saw III or what have you, and when the content and massive inappropriateness were explained, the response was "gruesome torture is okay as long as there aren't boobies."

It really comes from the religious underpinnings of American culture. Sexuality = deviance, while violence = battling evil.

The US could take a page from the UK (Page 3 maybe? ;-)) and relax their views of sexuality. I am sure they heard and agree the human body is a beautiful thing, but won't admit it for some bizarre reason...

Being a parent, I have taught my children the beauty and, more importantly, the reality of the human body and sexuality. I have no qualms with them seeing sexuality as I know they understand the difference between fiction and reality. The same can be said for violence, except the beauty part. Parents need to be held accountable for their children's upbringing and government needs to stay out of it. I will play the games WITH my kids and decide what is appropriate. My civic leaders can take care of more important issues, like the economy!!! If only they spent as much effort there...

Well the reason why sex evil blood good, is because the US was built largely bypuritans (the same group of people who killed countless men and woman because of a misprint that resulted in the word "which" in the bible. The US is VERY closed of to sex. Besides a side boob isn't going to destroy a childs mind; nope it's the parent running around going "OMFG, WTF A SIDE BOOB MY CHILD WAS DESTROYED OMG HE'LL NEVER HAVE A NORMAL LIFE!" Well of course not Mom, your running around scared of a boob all the while forgetting in took sex to have the child.

When I was a teenager and was made aware of the USA's problem with human sexuality, I thought that by the time I was an adult, our society would be more mentally mature about this topic than it actually is...but it did not turn out that way.

That being said, among my personal inner circle of friends, I don't know anyone who freaks out openly concerning this subject...but I have met others who do have a problem and they equate saying terms like "breast" or "penis" and so forth, to swearing.

Quick note on Puritans. Puritans didn't shun sex. They were actuallly quite open about sex. They considered it a gift from God. What they shunned was sex outside the mariage, which was a punishable offense. How that got twisted over the centuries to the point where parents are too uncomfortable (and the kids, too) to discuss sex with their children, I don't know. But we didn't get that solely from the Puritans.

It's also false to say that modern Americans don't like sex. We love SEX! We surround ourselves with it, in our tv, movies, books, advertising, and so on. What Americans are against is exposing children to sex at ever younger ages, for the reasons I stated in my previous post.

That poll just shows that at least 74% of Americans are complete nutters and only 26% have an ounce of common sense.

Also note that 10% said that multiple uses of the 'F' word were most worrisome. Now those people are the ones who REALLY worry me. I mean they think a severed head is less offensive than saying f#$@ twice. That is messed up.

Polls like this really make me believe that these nutters will eventually blow us all up - and that it might not be such a bad thing to rid the universe of a species that is so woefully loony.

On the issue of Puritans, let's not start defending those psychos. These people were religious fundamentalists whose opinions would make Al Qaida look like a liberal organization. They left England, not because English laws were too intolerant of their religion, but because English law was TOO tolerant of other religions. When they got set up in Massachusetts they jailed, tortured, banished and hanged other Christians. In Boston there's a statue of Mary Dyer, who was whipped, beaten and finally hanged for practicing Quakerism in Massachusetts.

I wasn't taking the poll seriously. I posted a reply on a gamepolitics blog, it wasn't a letter to my congressional representative.

what's funny is that it entirely goes against the natural instinct, if sex disapears, byebye human race and if violence goes to the extremes byebye human race too.

This is the classic American bullshit. Let's kill a ton of people by shooting them in the face and watching their blood splatter on a wall, but showing tits is totally wrong.

You can watch JFK get his head blown off on TV, but Janet Jackson barely showing a nipple is horrible.

This really, really emphasizes how far behind the times that a lot of parents are. I mean, good lord, I heard more about sex every day at high school than from any game, thanks to a very loud group of guys I had to sit next to. 90% of it was made up stories and boasts, but several of the rumors were confirmed when two or three couples were caught having sex in various parts of the school.



When approaching sexuality.. a parent should think..

"What is the desired frame of reference that I would like my child to apply to sexuality and nudity for the rest of his/her life."

By that I mean, in what context. Considering this, I would exposed my children to sexuality and nudity in the artistic context FIRST, as that is my desired endpoint frame of reference for them. It isn't disgusting, it isn't sinful, it isn't taboo... it's natural and beautiful.

That being said, I would not want my children to discover these things in a video game. However, there is absolutely no chance that they would see it in a video game first anyway.

Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

Sex is natural and should be explained to children early on. You don't necessarily need to go into all the details, but as long as you're watching what they play, they're not stumbling onto sexuality in an M-rated game. Jesus, sex more of a problem than violence, what a bunch of sheltered idiots.

Hey, you all know that one girl in college, you know, the one who tried to fuck the whole football team? Yeah, her. She was sexually sheltered until she got to college. Being kept in a vacuum is a sure-fire way to limit or eliminate healthy understanding of the world outside the jar.

Sexual taboo, especially in the US, is what drives the porn industry. As long as this continues, porn will continue to thrive.

The country, indeed, shows its puritanical roots with studies like this. It's mirrored in other forms of media. Cartoons gave us an early look at violence, and as such, we've become desensitized to it (long before video games got to be so violent). There are just so many ways to mutilate a cartoon cat... and in the next minute, the cat will be just fine (Tom & Jerry... the old cartoons reciprocated through hyperbole in The Simpsons with Itchy & Scratchy).

Part of it is, as I said before, the puritanical roots. I also get the feeling it's militarily motivated. "Don't think about sex, but think about dying for your country instead. Don't worry. What you see you've already seen before on TV."

And I've noticed the surprise from people from other nations. Perhaps this also shows our country's relative youth. Rather than trying to understand other countries intimately, it just wants to roughhouse.

Erm... don't mind me... my train of thought switched a few tracks and seems to have derailed.

I wasn't defending the Puritans. I was correcting the false preconceptions most people have about them and their views on sex. That is, they didn't try to shield children from it, they didn't talk about it in shameful whispers, and they weren't really all that uptight about it. They had a problem with extramarital sex, but so does the majority of modern religions today.

So while the Puritans were a bit etreme in their beliefs, and in no way should be emulated today, we cannot blame them for our current perceptions of sex. That came from somewhere else.

And if you keep spouting that "the Puritians made us do it," then you're no better than that UK game critic that keeps blaming "Manhunt" for that murder a couple years ago. You're just perpetuating a myth to suit your agenda.

Is the US's reaction to sex a bit wierd? Yes, yes it is. But it's also understandable if you take into account that most parents don't want their children to be exposed to gratuitous sexuality that's out of context. Rhade (a poster up above) had it right. If you allow your kids to be exposed to sex in media too much, then they'll get a distorted view of it. You should talk to your kids about sex, and gradually expose them to such media (art, movies, books, etc) at a proper pace. This would work a lot better at teaching them what sex should be about, than if you were to simply try to shield them from it entirely. Parents that try to hide sex altogether from their kids are doing more damage than they realize.

And yet still, that's why there are ratings on games. If you don't want your 12-year-old children playing a game with sex in it, then flip over that copy of the Witcher and read the bloody ESRB rating.

Ragnaar, Canada is younger still, and we're not THAT prudish. ;)

So yeah, I'd still blame the Puritans. Remember, before they left Britain, they were all for violence, as a means to punish those "heretic" protestants. So their views on violence vs. sex is not surprising.

Just listen in on old biddies talking about foreigners like arabs or mexicans. It's scary what they consider "acceptable" to do to people they dislike *shudder*.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Yeah, though everyones kinda forgotten to mention, that in other countries, its the other way around, sex is okay, but violence, not so much, and @JohnnyD.

"The US could take a page from the UK (Page 3 maybe? ;-) ) and relax their views of sexuality. I am sure they heard and agree the human body is a beautiful thing, but won’t admit it for some bizarre reason…"

Yeah, but I wouldn't recommend taking their views on video games, since the UK tends to ban more games then the US, or they try to, like that Manhunt 2 incident.

Crazy, this country is.

@# Hans Moleman Says:
April 11th, 2008 at 7:55 am

So a loving act between two people is less socially acceptable the slicing off a person’s head with accompanying blood… interesting, but not surprising.

This is one of the reasons why Europeans think Americans are just plain old CRAZY. Damn Puritanical attitudes.

Oh and if a game has any type of sexual material in it I can say that it is be a Mature rated game. So I still maintain that it is up to the parents to police this kids and not the Video games industry. Stores should police themselves as well. It is frowned upon for a minor to buy a R rated movies or an CD with a "Parental Guidance" sticker on it, but it is not illegal.


"the UK tends to ban more games then the US"

Two instances in a decade. Both apparently didn't work.

I know, but here, the ESRB wouldn't have tried that kinda thing, and well, the UK, they really, really, really kept trying to get Manhunt 2 banned, I mean, seriously, they could've just given whatever their 18 rating is and let it go.

Even if a kid sees a sex act, parents should talk to their kid about what he just saw. I think it is just a way for parents to avoid responsibility.

Why did the parent buy the kid a game that contained the material. The ratings are clearly labled on the front of the case, so there's no excuse otehr than didn't check / ignorance.

I just wish parents would explain why they think it is bad to show kids sex.

Shouldn't the parents be more worried about their kids having ACTUAL sex than virtual sex? Kids are having kids because their parents are too fucked up to teach them about sex and the consequences that come with it such as pregnancy, AIDS, STDs, etc.
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