ESA has decided to actually enforce E3â€™s policy on sexually explicit material and ban Booth Babes (IGN says: Companies may have to rely on actual games to grab our attention.). The response I’ve been seeing is not nearly as bad I would have thought. Amid cries of “Without Booth Babes in tiny leather pants or bikinis, is there any reason at all to go to E3?” (dur, if you have no interest in checking out new games, plz send me in your stead) and WTF!!!!, there is a surprising apathy with people more concerned about the underage attendees. There’s even *gasp* some happy people.
But, beyond the varied response is the reasoning behind the choice. ESA claims that they did it to create a more professional business environment. Their timing, however, is suspect, especially given that they have had these policies on the books for some time. Well, better late than never, right? Taking the focus off T&A and putting it where it belongs, on the games, is a good thing in my book. Iâ€™m just not feeling good at the way ESA chose to do it.
Letâ€™s first take a look at the policy in question [emphasis mine]:
Material, including live models, conduct that is sexually explicit and / or sexually provocative, including but not limited to nudity, partial nudity and bathing suit bottoms, are prohibited on the Show floor, all common areas, and at any access points to the Show. ESA, in its sole discretion, will determine whether material is acceptable.
IDGA addresses the potential implications for adult material, but Iâ€™d like to take a look at it from a feminist perspective. Am I the only one whoâ€™s uncomfortable with the live models being defined as material? I thought we had gotten past that whole â€œwomen as propertyâ€ thing, at least for the purpose of legal definitions. Come on, it shouldnâ€™t be that hard to word a policy that is both clear and recognizes the humanity of the models whose service E3â€™s clients employ.
The â€œsexually provocativeâ€ line also makes me nervous, simply because itâ€™s reminiscent of the kind of language thatâ€™s used to blame women for sexual harassment. IGNâ€™s comment on penalties for conduct violators plays into that sentiment, as well [emphasis mine]: â€œModels will also have to switch to more modest dress before returning to the show floor.â€ To ESAâ€™s credit the actual E3 handbook doesnâ€™t use the word modest, but the phrase â€œcomply with the dress code.â€
Although my first impression about the crack down on Booth Babes was along the lines of, â€œFinally!â€ Iâ€™m not so confident about ESAâ€™s decision anymore. From the policies and the commentary on it, ESA seems to be reacting more to an anti-sex political environment rather than actually grocking the line they give about professionalism. Itâ€™s not the models’ sexuality thatâ€™s the problem, but rather how itâ€™s used to promote the games thatâ€™s the issue. Iâ€™m starting to wonder if a simple concept like that may be too hard for execs in the gaming industry to grasp.