Objection! Should Duke Be Allowed To Spank Women?

Welcome to Objection! This is where we take the time to go on-depth on current gaming issues, and let you guys continue the discussion in the comments section. This week we're discussing the 'controversy' over Duke Nukem Forever and the game's 'spanking' mechanic.

To help us out we've brought in Tracey Lien, who you might remember from such TV shows as Good Game, and publications such as Hyper and Atomic.

MARK: So, Duke Nukem Forever allows you to spank women to keep them under control in a multiplayer mode. You're typically quite laissez-faire, but how do you feel about this sort of thing?

TRACEY: Once again we're talking about a game that hasn't come out yet, so any opinions I offer are based purely on what I've seen and read.

So, spanking women to keep them under control... I can already imagine people getting offended just hearing about it, waving their arms wildly and pointing to this as evidence of videogames being sexist, degenerative, and OH WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!! But I think we need to be careful not to jump the gun and accuse the game of being sexist and misogynist because it might not be.

A game can contain sexist elements without the game itself being sexist. As Laura Parker over at GameSpot wrote, it all comes down to context. Duke is a sexist character - we all know that he is consistently politically incorrect and full of jerkery, and a mature player would also understand that the world he inhabits is similarly politically incorrect, ridiculous, and just so far removed from our own world. In this context, spanking lady buns is a ridiculous activity that is consistent with this equally ridiculous world. And as long as players understand this and are aware of the nature of the game and the characters, I don't think there's a need to panic.

Personally, though, I do wish they had come up with a slightly different ridiculous activity to do, because I'm not sure what this adds to the game. I'm willing to (pre-maturely) defend it as being harmless (for mature players), but I won't defend it for being tasteless. But hey, maybe I am just Some Female Who Is A Bun Spanking Prude.

I'm curious to hear what you think of this feature in the game. Your opinions - SHOW THEM TO US.

MARK: Wow. This is interesting. Both yourself, and Laura over at Gamespot, have condoned the whole thing - and you are both 'ladies'. I, on the other hand, am a 'gentleman' - and I find the whole thing... a bit stupid. Personally, I'm not offended, but I do think the 'spanking' mode is completely unnecessary - those that love to stir up the media moral panic are rubbing their hands with a perverse glee. Why give them this opportunity on a silver platter?

When I saw this part of the game in action, the first thing that entered my head was the movie Goldfinger. In one particular scene this happens: Sean Connery sunbathes (he is the only Scottish person in our history who can 'sunbathe'), an associate arrives. Sean Connery stops sunbathing. He slaps his female companion firmly on the arse, says something to the effect of "man talk", and sends her on her way.

Today, I watch that scene and completely piss myself laughing. Firstly, because Scottish people don't belong in the sun - shilly Shean - but secondly because the whole scene is just hilariously anachronistic. I'm laughing at how ridiculous it is - at the fact that, in the 60s, this whole scene was actually acceptable.

I'm not laughing at the act itself. I'm laughing at how stupid and unacceptably sexist it is.

But to attempt that same move today? In 2011? I think it's a poor move. It doesn't make me angry, it doesn't offend me. It just feels unnecessary - a blatant attempt at shit stirring, and that's not cool.

TRACEY: This is tricky. When I watched the latest Duke Nukem footage, a similar thought did go through my mind: that the mainstream media is going to gobble this up and spit out some really condemning material, that this is just going to further the image of the gamer as some perverse, regressive boofhead who likes violence and animated knockers. And to be honest, the game is probably going to cause a stir and possibly make it that little bit more difficult for some gamers to be taken seriously. But I think it would be unfair to hold this against the game.

Developers have the right to make their own art - they've gone into the business because they've got their own ideas that they want to see come to fruition and I support their right to make the games they make, as long as it falls within legal boundaries. They shouldn't have to change their ideas or self-censor because of what people might say or think. I think that's what's often left out of these discussions. Everyone worries about what the mainstream media or non-gamers will think about "us" because of some game that has been released, but what about the developer? Doesn't he have a right to make games without having to take my insecurities as a gamer into account?

For all we know it *could* be blatant shit-stirring, and it would be something worth talking to the developers themselves about. And while I don't really take issue with it, I can't say it appeals to me, either. Watching the latest game footage, I was reminded of some contemporary music video clips where beechez 'n' hoez gyrate all over rappers like it's a thing to do: in context, I can understand that the video clip is establishing that Rapper X is shit hot and thus the ladeez need to give him their boobies, rather than suggesting that all women are easy and will rub up against a musician's privates just because his lyrics say so. But I still find it tasteless and off-putting.

MARK: I think you make a great point there – no-one ever questions the artistic integrity of documentaries when Girls Gone Wild: Surf Sluts is released on DVD, so why should we be questioning what video games do in the same way?

You’re right – it’s to do with our insecurities as gamers. Because games are a relatively new type of media we’re constantly striving for acceptance in a bizarre, almost desperate manner, we often have to resort to po-faced, pompous defences of video games that should totally be allowed to exist in the grand spectrum of things. Video games don’t have to be one specific thing - they can’t all be The Last Guardian and neither should they. Why can’t we have our version of Adam Sandler comedies without having to defend ourselves?

Part of the problem seems to be our own insecurities as gamers, as you mentioned, but the other is mainstream media’s fear of the new - it’s video nasties, dime novels, comic books all over again. Attacking video games is an easy story for news outlets looking to peddle the easy, fear-mongering option. I think we’re almost getting to the point where gaming is old enough, and mainstream enough, to deflect this sort of nonsense – but we’re not quite there yet and, in a sense, Duke Nukem Forever is taking us a step back.

Let me clarify - my only problem is with the smacking of women on the botty. For the love of God I want to live in a world where Duke exists, where he can smear shit over the walls, crack lame jokes and tip strippers generously – I just feel like the arse smacking mechanic is a weird attempt for the kind of publicity gaming doesn’t need, and I’d rather we didn’t make it so easy for Conservatives to derail the hobby I love on national television.


    I want to live in a world where this shitty game doesn't exist and Gearbox can get back to making games I actually want to play like Borderlands 2

    My problem isnt so much with the slapping itself. It's that (from what we know thus far) the women in the game are portrayed as helpless, and become hysterical. Carrying a hysterical woman causes some disadvantage, so you the only way to prevent this is to slap them, rewarding the player by removing the disadvantage.

    I agree that gamers should be able to have their their American Pies along with their Citizen Kanes. But games are still viewed by much of the public as a niche hobby, and including this as a game mode in what will likely be a commercially sucessful game is not endearing anyone to gaming culture.

      Personally I dont care if it endearing anyone to gaming culture. This is as much as entertainment as 2 and a half men, which makes hundreds of millions per year, for what 6-8 years now?

      The video game is as much a form of entertainment media as is sitcoms. Stop trying to justify gamings existence. If someone doesnt like it boohoo to them, we dont need to seek the 'wider communities' approval, do you think porn is trying to endear people to the porn culture? Hell no, they are doing what they do for thier fans and to hell with anyone else, Which is EXACTLY how gaming should be

        I'd much rather see gaming as an inclusive exercise, rather than an exclusive one. The more people we can get playing and supporting the industry, the more likely it is that companies will be able to turn a profit, which will allow companies to take more risks with the games that they develop.

        Whereas sticking to the core userbase and not expanding will inevitably lead to the same games being made over and over again purely for profit.

        You use the example of porn and that's perfect. There is an industry that has done the same thing for years and years, churning out the same product over and over again with no change, no innovation. I personally do not want that for video games.

          No innovation in porn? You'd be surprised how many major new technologies have come about or had their pick up driven by porn.

            If you're referring to the Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD or VHS vs BETA, those are urban legends. Those were driven soley by the market, and who managed to get the most units into homes the fastest.

            Regardless, speaking of the actual product itself, no real change.

          No innovation for the porn industry?
          If they didn't innovate they wouldn't be here. I dare say they have faced more of an issue with piracy and conservative activists than the gaming industry and survived through innovating and changing their products to meet changing environments.
          If anything the gaming industry could probably learn a thing or 2 from them.


      Again, personally not offended.

      As previously pointed out this game clearly sets out to set a scene of stereotypical, chauvinistic world. I struggle to believe anyone playing the game (at least that meets the game's mature rating) will actually take anything in this game seriously.

      I can however see an argument for taking offense and in my mind it falls not with Duke's actions (he is a character and that's the way that character acts) but with the actions of the women in the game.

      Again - haven't played it so could be wrong but it seems ALL of the women in the game respond positively to Duke's antics and in fact NEED a good slap to get through the day.

      Sure, Duke's the man and the ladies love him so makes sense but I can see people getting uppity.

      I reiterate that this doesn't bother me personally as it is all consistent with the world that Duke fictitiously inhabits but this is the bit where I can see a case for offense.

    I agree with Laura and the Tracey (Action Journalist). In context, it's completely understand. Duke is a heavily mysogynistic character so you could understand him doing it in his reality.
    Sure, I can see that it might cause a stir in the journalism scene, but didn't the whole "No Russian" thing do exactly the same?

      I agree with this sentiment. It is a little annoying that this is only going to negatively affect public opinion of gamers, but we can't censor developers because of this fear.

      There are plenty of areas that we tolerate sexism or racism because it is considered necessary, I believe True Grit the western movie has a significant amount of racism, which is true to the time it is set (I can't be sure as I haven't actually seen the movie). I think the sexism in Duke Nukem is apt for the setting and atmosphere of the game and it only our fears that make us think it should be censored or made more politically correct.

      But as Jimu says, games are meant to be fun, we find these things fun and often funny and we should be allowed to indulge, maybe it can even have the opposite affect; rather than promoting sexism it points out how ridiculous it is. For instance I know the South Park creators are often praised for putting anti-semitism in such a ridiculous light that rather than encouraging it their parody actually denigrates it.

        True Grit (recent one with Jeff Bridges) portrays the racism present in the era without using overtly racist remarks or actions. Various throwaway lines establish rather vaguely that white men are superior (particularly compared to the Native Americans).

    But, b-but...but I am someone "who likes violence and animated knockers".

    Serious I do. Games are fun fun is boobs and violence.

    By adding this 'spanking' mechanic in the game they have achieved exactly what they wanted. The issue is being discussed at length at almost every gaming community which acts as advertisement for the game. i am willing to bet that a lot of people are going to buy the game because they heard about it in an article just like this one...

    You both raise some really interesting points.

    Like Mark I do find it a bit disconcerting (it's a weird game mechanic, if not particularly offensive) - but I'm also concerned about the negative publicity that this would bring, almost needlessly.

    It's faux controversy for its own sake (and presumably to get interest in the game), and far from being an in-joke we can laugh at, it becomes ammunition for one-eyed members of society that see (as Tracy said) the archetypical gamer as "some perverse, regressive boofhead who likes violence and animated knockers."

    Many don't fit that description, and eww bewbs.

    Not every game can be a Kafka-esque arthouse classic that has a team of 20 writers or even particularly compelling gameplay. But it's unfortunate that, generally, games are held to a higher moral standard, and that what would be relatively commonplace in film or other media immediately generates mass hysteria.

      "But it’s unfortunate that, generally, games are held to a higher moral standard, and that what would be relatively commonplace in film or other media immediately generates mass hysteria."

      This is really quite disappointing. This might not be something that everyone agrees with, but I would give the example of pornography. It is a part of society and generally accepted that there is pornographic magazines, books and movies. However if you were to make a game as 'adult' as this the game would be thrown out and the developers would get torn apart by the media.

      Maybe we don't all agree that such adult material should exist, but we do allow it, and why allow it in all of these other mediums and not in games? Because people still see games as being for kids.

      One day we will look back on this day with our children or our children's children and they will laugh at how foolish people were then, but not today.

    Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Any muscle-bound ass-kickin', pop culture-quotin' ladies want to carry me on their shoulder and slap my butt? No, seriously.

    Duke Nukem has to be taken at face value for what it is/was. IT has always been a sexist jock that runs around in 2D or 3D with big guns and shoot stuff. The last Duke game had dancing girls in them. So what. Make it 15+ and get it over with. I'm pretty sure the 15- old boys won't be inspired to pick up girls, run around and slap them on the butt. Probably won't even be able to pick them up to start off with. But fine. If it is offensive and Australia's grand council of old blokes that feel they have to rate every game and ban them because they are too violent (looking at MK) feels it is just not right to slap a pixelated a$$. Then remove the "babe" put a mindcraft block in her place and let the player capture it. Boom, 2 lines of code. Hell, change the "babe" for a pig (Since there are pigs in the game already and Babe was a pig). Then it can squeal and the player can slap it. But all the hype around it being sexist is just adding fuel to the fire for the already too strict R18 ratings on games.
    My 2c....now give it back so I can buy lunch.

    People who don't like the idea of Duke spanking people shouldn't be playing Duke.

    Is it crass and offensive? Sure.
    Does it work in the game? I'd imagine so.
    Would it be entertaining? Depends on the user.
    Should he be allowed? Absolutely.

      Of course he should be allowed.

      I was going to go on a bit of a rant, but basically this. If this offends you, you probably weren't going to play the game to begin with.

      Duke wouldn't be Duke without a bit of misogyny. That's just part of the character. There is an audience for this kind of thing and I gladly count myself as part of said audience.

    Girls Gone Wild : Surf Sluts is over rated. Had well and truly gone hollywood at this stage and had lost the true "artistic integrity" and "hunger" that almost seeped through the screen with the first few outings. The true innovators of shaky cam "gueriila" film making are rarely given their correct due...

    Great discussion.

    I don't have anything to contribute beyond that, but I really enjoyed reading this article.

    Am I the only person who just thinks that it's a joke and people are taking this far too seriously?

    48 million comments later... Do any normal woman play games?
    Honestly, I smack my wifes 'that' (reference being akon / slim shady song) and she likes it! And she's a cute little pretty thing to. just though I would give some real world perspective on 'sexist attitudes'. Can we actually acknowledge there is another side and persective to real world relationships?

      get out you sexist pig!

      hahahaha! Spanking women is acceptable. People are over-sensitive. Kotaku is feeding the controversy machine. End of story

      I think what two (or more) people like to do within their own sexual relationship(s) is a bit different to what one might like to do in a Duke Nuken videogame. Just sayin'.

        Ignore my heaps of spelling mistakes (wrote it on android phone). I still think it’s relevant, too often we hear only one side which is always the feminist’s point of view.

        Slightly biased in my opinion.

        Real world attitudes and acceptances of sexual ideas or content (for lack of a better word) are far more varied. Only acknowledging a feminist point of view is just as bad as any right wing nut. You have a set of principles rattled off are that are not realistic or necessarily correct.

        Real life has a grey area, and I think journalism and media forgets that (sites like Kotaku which I frequent constantly because I enjoy the articles for the most part) are either to scared of breaking political correctness to retain female readers (who on the most part will agree with the femnists) or they really believe there is only one attitude that acceptable, one way we should follow and everyone else is wrong.

    In my experience most women like that sort of thing. Heck, I usually have to throw them down the stairs a few times or they get upset and think I'm ignoring them.

    i just dont get why people complain about violence and inappropriate games, its simple dont like it then dont buy it, why ruin it for everyone else....

    if its the underage viewing well then dont let the children buy the games period.... i really dont get it why bitch about the content, its not as if the buying customers dont know what they are buying....

    actually banning a game makes it much more suspectible to piracy, if thats the case then it is easier to pirate, if thats the case even children will be able to pirate the game and play so not only they are viewing inappropriate content but they are essentially making the chidren and people who wanted to pay for their product but cant end up pirating and breaking the law... oh that is very smart...

    even removing such content for a specific region as patches/hacks can enable them or they can turn to piracy to get the game from a region where it is uncut...

    so they are essentially promoting piracy, and giving a method to acquire the game without age checking

    "...no-one ever questions the artistic integrity of documentaries when Girls Gone Wild: Surf Sluts is released on DVD"

    If Duke Nukem Forever was some skeezy, made-on-a-dime videogame, it would might be similar circumstances, and your example might stand. But as it is, it's not similar and I don't think it holds water.

    Duke is supposed to be some originary videogame hero! If the media typecasts "us gamers" as sexist pigs because this is a BLOCKBUSTER GAME and we're okay with Gearbox pulling this kind of BS (and yes, I'm calling it BS), then I think we've got no one to blame but ourselves.

    It's pretty clear this isn't really satire of sexism; there's no knowing winks here. Shit-stirring and trying to be "edgy" by being non-PC just excuses when the real racists and the real sexists come out. It's ennabling and it gives those views legitimacy because it becomes impossible to tell the "winking satire" (hurr hurr) from the out-and-out sexists.

    So go on, hate on Fox News and hate on Channel 7 and Channel 9 when TT & ACA run specials about how we aught to "ban this sick filth" but you won't hear a peep from me about it. If we're not willing to stand up and excoriate this crap, we've got it coming. And we'll deserve it.

      Hey Ben, I'm on your side. Totally agree with you.

      And I think you have a good point on the fact that Duke is a big budget game - not a weird, tiny niche cheap game.

      I, on the other hand, completely disagree with you.

      Duke is a unique kind of beast. Built in the late nineties on the back of the likes of Arnold Swartzengger, Bruce Willis and of course, Ash Williams, the Duke is the epitome of everything politically incorrect and socially unacceptable.

      There was a period in gaming when this kind of thing was rampant. Look at most of the games from the 90's, they are all sexist, violent, bloodbaths of pop culture. Look at TOMB RAIDER for christ sakes.

      DNF is a throwback to this time gone by, a time when people actually knew the difference between a video game/movie and real life, and the PC police wouldn't kick down your door every time you said 'fanny'. I applaud DNF for sticking to its guns and making this game as offensive as it should be, because sometimes I don't want to play 'art'. Sometimes, I don't want to play a wanky obscure indie game, sometimes I just want to be John Mclain - Shoot the bad guy, get the girl, be a hero.

      I don't mean to be presumptious, but people like Ben seem to have forgotten what it was like playing video games that let you do all the outrageous stuff you could/would never do in real life. You've forgotten what it was like to be a 13 year old boy who snuck into an R-rated movie to see Arnie kill an entire country.

      Duke Nukem forever is the last vestige of action heroes, the heroes of my childhood, and I'll be dammned if they cut back even a single bottom-slap because of you people!!!

        +1 to Steven

        Daaaaaymn Steven, looks like you're really out of bubblegum!!

        "...people like Ben seem to have forgotten what it was like playing video games that let you do all the outrageous stuff you could/would never do in real life."

        Well okay, cool, you'd never make any sexist jokes in real life, would you? Nah, you'd never make a joke at the expense of women, I'm sure. Wait, what's that comment below this one? Is that a joke about women and kitchens/bedrooms? Oh Steven, you might want to re-think whether you actually WOULD be a sexist jerk in real life or not. Would you be a sexist jerk in real life, Steven? I hope not.

        "You’ve forgotten what it was like to be a 13 year old boy who snuck into an R-rated movie to see Arnie kill an entire country."

        Steven, if you want to act like a 13 year old, go ahead and be my guest. But you really aught to know that Duke Nukem isn't a game for 13 year olds... perhaps Duke is a little too mature for you.

    I think that in 'capture the babe' mode, your home base should be a kitchen, so you have to bring the babe back home to the kitchen (bedroom would also be acceptable).

    Similarly, when a babe has been captured, your team spawns more health packs (cooking) and ammo packs (cleaning) due to the woman preforming her proper duties.

    It's just a game. But I gotta admire that they leaked...er...allowed us this preview. It's been worth the immense amount of free publicity.

    Its just a video game, With all violent video games its just acts like a release, yes we can spank a woman in a video game but any "normal" person knows that you cant do that in real life.

    Ok one question is how come the feminist are getting bitchy about some who doesnt technically exist spanking a woman who also doesnt exist.

    You mention James bond. If we run with the movie analogy I think of Duke Nukem as the Austin Powers of video games. Wile it is meant to be enjoyable in it's own right, the entire thing is one big joke.

    So on one hand people are arguing that "it's ironic" or a "big joke" - nicely challenged by Ben's point that "it becomes impossible to tell the “winking satire” (hurr hurr) from the out-and-out sexists" - but other people, like Steven, seem to think that Duke is actually a pretty awesome action hero:

    "I applaud DNF for sticking to its guns and making this game as offensive as it should be, because sometimes I don’t want to play ‘art’. Sometimes, I don’t want to play a wanky obscure indie game, sometimes I just want to be John Mclain – Shoot the bad guy, get the girl, be a hero."

    I get that..and I'm gonna play the game too. But I don't equate this game with the movies I loved as a kid, or Duke with any of the heroes from those movies. Don't you really mean "Shoot the bad guy, kidnap his girl, smack her ass"? I don't remember Mclain or any of my other old 80s-90s heroes doing that sort of thing. Sure there was more sexism in movies and games back then, and sure we didn't worry about it as much...but isn't that why we think of ourselves as having progressed? But in any event, as I say, I don't think I ever saw Bruce or Arnie or Sly 'capture' or spank random women, etc - and if they did, that wasn't exactly what made them cool (to me, anyway.)

    As for the supposed dichotomy between the criticism a game will get for this kind of content versus a movie...Zack Snyder has just been recently castigated in several reviews for the sexism supposedly/apparently in Sucker Punch. I haven't seen it yet myself and can't comment, but I think right there is a good example that movies too do get criticised when they (are percieved to) contain wanton sexism. If The Expendables had included scenes where all the dudes walked around and patted random girls on the ass because that's 'ironic' and hilarious, I think people would have commented.

    Even if it IS all a joke, some jokes aren't that funny; would it be hilarious if the 'flag' was an African American and you treated him like a slave as you dragged him through the map? Sometimes I think people should do some thought experimenting. Maybe put yourself in other people's shoes, too - imagine if MEN were the ones who had mainly always been treated with such little respect, and yet another big blockbuster game was coming out that once again denigrated men and you basically couldn't play it because you'd have to play as a female who treated your sex as a plaything. That totally wouldn't be annoying at all, right?

      Well said, especially the last bit.

      I agree with Ben above, as well, to a large extent. No sense in half-hearted, nod-wink disapproval then outrage when tabloid media grabs the sensationalist perspective.

    Get over it.

    Some people still have enough backbone not to kowtow to the demands of the authoritarian enforcers of political correctness. I'm voting with my dollars and picking up a copy of Duke Nukem Forever.

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