Just Lust: San Diego Booth Babe Bounty

By Kieron Gillen on July 29th, 2009 at 5:25 pm.

Actually, another vague thing from the show with a feminist bent. Right at the end, someone was wandering around with a sign reading TWILIGHT FANS RUINED COMICON. Only a lack of paper prevented me fashioning a sign reading PEOPLE WHINING ABOUT TWILIGHT RUINED COMICON and marching around five feet behind him.

Hello everyone. I’ve been off at San Diego Comicon, having adventures. As usual, when you’re actually at the front, you don’t get any of the bigger picture, so I’ve been catching up. And getting a little annoyed. Ars Technica broke the story on EA’s SDCC Dante’s Inferno compo – and reproduced the full flyer with all the rules – but in short you’re encouraged to take a photo of yourself performing an act of lust with a boothbabe and send in a photo to win a night out with two hot girls and a limo. There’s a bit of a furore. George Broussard has cracked in accusing people of not having a sense of humour and being feminists and/or wimps.

I’m about to come over all feminist. And I don’t mean in a “spraying ejaculate all over Germaine Greer and snapping a quick photo in an attempt to win the competition way”.

To be fair to EA, they’ve apologised for the misunderstanding in this, saying they were tongue-in-cheekly refering to just taking a snap with a booth babe. Which opens a whole different can of worms, but we’ll side-step the issue of objectification and all that malarkies, because it’s relatively beside the main issue. Which is, why offering a prize for this sort of behaviour at Comicon is a spectacularly bad idea.

In short: Comicon crowds? Not very good at judging what’s sexually inappropriate or not.

Let’s take a couple of casual stories from Comicon. An author friend of ours is hanging around at our table. One of our readers wanders up and starts chatting to her.

“So how do you know Jamie?”
“I’m just a friend”
“Sexual or other?”
“… Inappropriate!”

You don’t ask women if they’re fucking someone as an opening gambit. And, I stress, Phonogram are a bunch of indie-kid sweethearts with nary a bone of hate in them. This chap in question was otherwise lovely. He just displayed a bad judge of what’s appropriate or not. It’s plain social retardation.

Generally speaking, it’s worse. On the first day, a Photographer friend of ours wandered over, sighing that she’d already had her arse pinched four times.

This is what comicon is like without a multinational corporation deciding to turn it into a sport. Ever looked at the online photo-galleries of booth babes? A huge amount are just attractive women who happen to be at the show. A sizeable proportion of people who take photos are incapable of judging whether a girl is a booth-babe or not. As such, even with the “booth babe” proviso in the competition rules, sending people off to snap photos of booth babes is just encouraging people to go and sexually harass random people. Throwing petrol on the general aura of misogyny of the show – google up the whole furore over the Twilight fans at SDCC if you’re interested in seeing comic fandom in a bad light – shows a complete lack of understanding of how events like these work.

Oh, Broussard? Regarding the “wimp” thing? Real Men Finish What They Start.

Problem or solution, people. Really, pick a side.

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233 Comments »

  1. Jacques says:

    To be fair, the flyer does clearly say “take photos with us or any booth babe”.

    They probably should have been a little more aware that their audience is full of socially inept nerds though.

  2. sigma83 says:

    Actually, _why is it_ that geeks tends towards social retardation? I’m a little socially inept myself (mainly because I tend to assume that people are as un-offendable as I am) but it is apparently a Trend.

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    The point being, they’re not capable of realising who is a booth babe or not.

    KG

  4. Heliocentric says:

    Is it even feminism? Not simply “don’t be a prick”-ism.

    Still, i think the concept of “booth babes” is a fucking abomination in itself. I mean people roll their eyes at things like Ubisoft sponsoring that girl clan, at least they played games.

    Getting people to dress up, that’s fine.. A dude like Kratos next to god of war with 2 pseudo greecian women half dressed even makes sense with the theme of the game. But a rally game, or a shooter? Its fucking nonsense. If you call this out, call out booth babes in general or sit back down on the damn fence.

  5. sigma83 says:

    Also, couldn’t find Twilight debacle on google. Whatsits?

  6. Okami says:

    Ummm….The whole thing is extremely sexist, clearly not funny and people who use the word “feminist” as a derogatory term are the reason why feminism needs to exist.

    I was just writing that sometimes I’m ashamed to work in the gaming industry, but that would be untrue. I’m actually ashamed all the time to work in an industry that’s saturated with bigots, mysigonists and just flat out idiots.

  7. Metal_Circus says:

    I think something like that is just plain fucking idiotic. It’s immature. Not too concerned about the feminist aspect (although it is hideously sexist if you ask me) I just find the idea of that being a competition as utterly immature, stupid, and lame. Oh and Broussard? It’s comicon for christ sake. I think if you’re going to talk about being a wimp then a big convention center full of comic book fans isn’t the best place. By wider societies standards they’d *all* technically be wimps (although that would be wrong, but you get what i mean ;))

  8. sigma83 says:

    Models have been used to hype things forever. It’s become sort of standard practice… stupid practice nonetheless but it’s sort of a ‘must have’

    But yes, shouldn’t the money go towards, I don’t know, better games?

  9. Jason McMaster says:

    I absolutely agree. EA has a knack for picking the worst ways to promote their games. At the EA conference at E3, it was pretty much the same.

    On a related note: Dante’s Inferno looks pretty lame.

  10. Jacques says:

    True, but apparently they’re also not really capable of reading something properly, because to me, it clearly looks like that “commit acts of lust” thing is just a tongue in cheek header.

    They should have been a little more aware of their target audience though, maybe they weren’t expecting them to take it quite so literally.

    I’ve never been to any sort of gaming event, but I can see how people might be confused between a booth babe and some other woman dressed up in a comic/game/whatever inspired outfit.

  11. Dante says:

    Reposting from Jalf in the forum thread (good find man) it looks like someone from gaygamer managed to win second prize with his ironic effort.

    http://gaygamer.net/2009/07/update_runnerup_for_lust_conte.html

  12. moyogo says:

    All the feminists I know are strong as shit (i.e. not wimps)… probably a good deal stronger than Mr. Broussard http://farm1.static.flickr.com/30/38854267_6eaf333337.jpg (FIGHTING NOT TO MAKE A FAT COMPUTER MAN JOKE).

    I love that “feminist” is still a viable slur in most circles where people don’t understand it – I await feminism being represented as man-hatred below.

  13. Stitched says:

    “Feminist wimps” or not, when it hits the company bottom-line, I am sure Broussard will be drinking a big cup of shut-the-f*ck-up.

  14. Metal_Circus says:

    And people wonder why girls don’t play games. I WONDER WHY.

  15. Natalie says:

    For me, this just reinforces how damaging having Booth Babes at conventions really is. It reinforces the idea to a lot of shut in men (often very personable, nice guys too!) that women at conventions are there for no other reason than to be recipients of their sexual advances. If Comic Con et al got rid of them, it would expose a lot more of the talented women exhibiting, instead of overshadowing them with tits and arse.

  16. Dante says:

    @ MeatCircus

    I take offence sir! I for one am a giant manly geek!

  17. Kieron Gillen says:

    For the record, the two women I’m talking about in the article are just dressed entirely normally.

    KG

  18. Meat Circus says:

    Fucking idiots.

    It’s this sort of thing that makes me periodically ashamed to be a gamer.

  19. Bobsy says:

    Girls do play games.

    But you can bet your ass none of them are going to play this one. Except possibly Leigh Alexander.

  20. Tei says:

    I like Boothbabes, I kind of think is a cool thing, much like geishas, Is cool to have around people that is cool that way. Pretty womens are pretty, aren’t? I know that there are people that have a diffrent opinion, not a problem.

    That why I feel *double* insulted by this. It feels to me like a attack to the institution of Booth Babes *and* something terrible gross, with total lack of taste ..or sanity.

  21. sigma83 says:

    Meat Circus: Amend that to ‘human being’

  22. Dinger says:

    The real problem is not that comic-book guy has trouble identifying booth babes, but rather with defining an act of lust. For the EA team, a photograph of me standing next to the QA lead constitutes an act of lust. For a fan of comics, bikinis and spandex are a way of life. For some of them to get to lust, they need tentacles and genitalia.

    So according to what variant of feminism is the very notion of “booth babes” acceptable? I mean, come on. They could have called them “market-enhancing artistic talent”, or something less offensive.

  23. sigma83 says:

    Dinger: That’s just spin. We know spin when we see spin. It’s spin.

    It is a sad fact though that having pretty girls tends to increase the amount of attention you get. It’s a cheap shot, instead of, you know, being Quality.

  24. Metal_Circus says:

    They could have done that, Dinger, but then i’d have to send a nuclear bomb to whoever thought of that fucking title. A pair of tits and arse standing outside a promotion booth of a game they will never ever play (or even heard of before) is not talent and has no artistic value other than to demean the entire female gender.

  25. Bobsy says:

    @ Meat Circus

    It’s not all gamers. It’s “Comic Convention Attendees”. Since I’m not one* I don’t feel too bad about it. Ah, disconnection.

    It IS reprehensible behaviour though, and not because it’s sexist. A lot of massive sexist arseholes would also consider this sort of thing crossing the line. If you objectify women you don’t generally want to… er… damage the goods.

    *True story: I did once sneak into a Transformers convention in Birmingham without paying, mostly for shits and giggles. Their guards were relatively poor. As I left, I shared a lift with the special guest, who was an American voice actor with a silly name. Someone asked me, open-mouthed, “What did you talk about?” I answered truthfully. Nothing. Didn’t exchange a word. Gave him a smile though. Nice guy.

  26. Jacques says:

    Meat Circus, I sort of agree, as much as I like games, I do hate being associated with the common gamer stereotype. It doesn’t help things when some gamers go out of their way to try to prove those stereotypes are right.

    Kieron, did you do the right thing and stand up for your women’s honour?

  27. Pstonie says:

    They took a job standing around in tight clothes, and were expecting to get right to work curing cancer.

    Some people have no marketable skills apart from their looks, and there are many more who don’t even possess that.

    Yeah, they’re being objectified. It’s their job description. Can’t change that without changing the whole system, but I guess if you can whine at your nearest service provider these days, you can tell yourself you’re making a difference.

  28. Acosta says:

    Misogyny in a comic conference?

    Preposterous!!!

    In a more serious note, everything is connected. Most popular comics don’t shy themselves from the idea that “super-women” must have “super-breasts” and a perfect ass–> Comic readers salivate over the last iteration of Rogue—> those reader arrive to the medium wanting to recreate their own dream version of Rogue… Vicious circle, it´s not medium’s fault, but the main target is obvious and it´s the same target that goes to comic-con.

    90% (I’m being generous) of the people there will think the same than George. It´s all “good fun”, and people complaining are just party poppers because they don’t adapt to their own code of what having fun in a comic conference is. Mix it with a complete lack of what social manners means and voila! Misogyny! Encouraging it? Terrible idea indeed, but it was all there from the beginning, and the only difference is that there is a mini-scandal has made it an internet topic.

    @Natalie

    Sure, but E3 tried to get rid of them and the cries for getting them back has been (almost) universal for two years. This is not companies fault, they are just offering what the public (and the press) is demanding. If you don’t believe me, ask some editor of IGN what are the most visited videos and features in a E3.

  29. no says:

    You’re totally right. How dare anyone treat them like sex objects, just because they’re employed in a position for which the only qualification is to look smoking hot wearing almost nothing in order to promote a product.

    That doesn’t mean harassment should be condoned or tolerated whatsoever, but the argument some people are waging goes well beyond the “acts of lust” crap and almost reach the level of stupidity of someone screaming “STOP LOOKING AT MY TITS YOU MONSTER!” when she’s got E cups and is wearing electrical tape over her nipples in the shape of an ‘X’.

  30. Metal_Circus says:

    Acctually, Pstonie does have a point (although I won’t make it in quite the same pig-headed “I-don’t-care-that-sexism-is-still-rampant-in-the-advertising-industry” fashion)

    Even though EA have apologised, they’ll be back to work again next year with even more walking tit adverts. I think if people are genuine about their thoughts on this then there needs to be more than a change of attitudes. We can whinge all we want but you and I both know it won’t do anything. People in the industry need to really start rattling their cages over stuff like this, and I mean developers, journalists (like RPS) not just gamers. It’s not enought to simply point out something is bad. you need to turn up the pressure cooker for stuff like this.

  31. Bobsy says:

    Actually, what was George Broussard doing just walking around the convention like that? Isn’t he supposed to be working on Duke Nukem Fore- oh.

  32. bob_d says:

    Sorry EA, that “apology” didn’t cut it. “[C]onfusion and offense”? There was blatant encouragement to sexually harass, and the contest treated the “reps” as prostitutes that (presumed male) winners would get to enjoy for “a sinful night.” “Grotesque” is the only word that describes this regressive, misogynistic promotion.

    Oh, and someone needs to kick George Broussard in the bollocks… and take a picture. We could make a contest out of it.

  33. no says:

    “Misogyny in a comic conference?”

    Way to fail in comprehending what the word “misogyny” means. If you’re going to slander people, at least get it right.

    Also, SHOCKER, men like hot chicks and react to them. Big deal? If you’re a good looking man, your actions are of course desired. If you’re not a good looking man, you’re a disgusting criminal monster for even looking at an attractive chick. Nice double-standard, huh?

    This promotion is really stupid on so many levels, not the least of which is that I want to go check out videogames and such… not chicks. The LAST reason to go to a convention (almost always a sausage-fest) is for women. Especially booth-babes, who don’t even wan to BE there except it’s “a step on their dream path to being a super model”. Why do I want to be around people who don’t want to be around the rest of us? It’s just uncomfortable and stupid.

    But it really does go a little overboard in some discussions. It’s like guys are afraid that they’ll be labeled unfairly if they do anything other than act like you’re a eunich.

  34. Steve says:

    Twilight is really rather terrible. Literary trash doesn’t really belong at Comic-Con, now does it?

    I heard they were incredibly loud.

  35. sigma83 says:

    Re Twilight: But what happened???

  36. no says:

    @Metal_Circus

    I think it’s all pretty stupid, too, but what’s so special about comic-con or E3? I mean, sex and attraction is used EVERYWHERE every minute of the day to sell to both men *and* women. So why is one or another convention so sacred? Are you afraid that if you say “hey, what the hell, I like hot chicks” you’ll be labeled as a filthy male monster with a penis by all your feminist friends?

    I think booth babes are pretty retarded and I don’t care for them. I don’t care for them being harassed, either. But to extend it to suggesting that the whole thing is sexist (as if it’s only in one direction or they’re being forced into it) is just crazy. There’s nothing wrong with marketing a product using sex. It has been done for… well, probably all of history. Certainly for the past century. To men and women. And men and women react to it, because… shockingly… we like attractive people and sex.

    This is all beside the argument — which is obvious — that being a booth babe shouldn’t mean you must be subjected to caveman level harassment.

  37. sigma83 says:

    In my opinion, people do need to lighten up about sex a little bit.

    Not to say that harassing women should be permissible, but if some folk weren’t so repressed to begin with…

  38. Acosta says:

    Whatever, not misogyny (way to ignore the roots of the problem). Call it “objectification of women” if you feel more comfortable.

  39. Misnomer says:

    Let’s remember that this is the same group that hired actors to hold fake religious protests against Dante’s Inferno.

    Marketing is pretty much evil anyway. Why did EA think that saying “Could you do a campaign for us based on sin, the seven deadly kinds if that isn’t too much of a problem?” would end well?

    While all of you debate booth babes and I remember forums about why E3 died (personally I find the concept of booth babes pretty lowly)….I take all of your suggestions with a grain of salt. Feminism is easy on forums, no one will tag your name here to the next time you make a sexist comment in a game or make fun of the Sims 3 as a “chick” game.

  40. Natalie says:

    @Acosta – just because people want something, it doesn’t mean to say you should give it to them, you know?

    @Pstonie – just because a woman is employed as a booth babe, it doesn’t mean they have “no marketable skills apart from their looks”. It’s a quick and dirty way to earn money (especially in this economy) to pay for things like… oh I don’t know… college loans or rent. Just because the system is broken, it doesn’t make the workers at fault.

  41. Kieron Gillen says:

    Jacques : I wasn’t there. If our T-shirts turned up, we weren’t going to sell him one though. Unless he apologised properly.

    Steve: Comicon is all about literary trash.

    Re: Twilight. Here’s a story about what happened at the con, but I was more thinking about the stuff online before it. It was all over the blogosphere.

    KG

  42. Metal_Circus says:

    Well “no”, i like how you’re using a pseudonym to cover up your real username and then complain that I’M afraid of being castrated by my feminist friends (of which I have none.)

    Anyway, I have to disagree with your attitude to using sex to sell products. I don’t really think it’s all that acceptable really, and if you buy a product because you psychologicaly believe it will enhance that side of your life then you are stupid, frankly. We all know it won’t and it’s pretty insulting to have that presented to us all the time acctually, so no I don’t think it’s acceptable because honestly? I just find it stupid to the point of being insulting. Take the Lynx adverts for example. Funny and tongue in cheek right? Not really. Just shit.

    And it might come to a surprise to some of you but yes, i’m very much on the feminist side here. Like the old phrase goes, women are the “niggers” of the world. Someone has to stand up for these people.

    Oh and the people you mention who do the modelling willingly are just as much victims as the girls having their asses pinched because they genuinley think their career path is fulfilling rather than being empty, soulless and artless.

  43. sigma83 says:

    Natalie: I think that there should be no reason why you can’t market yourself based on your physical qualities, attractiveness being one of them, although my problem specifically is that physical attractiveness is overvalued in relation to other traits.

  44. no says:

    Man, I can smell the argyle socks and button up sweater vest and thick black emo glasses and sexless pandering growing so thick in here.

    You don’t have to chop off your penis and sacrifice your libido to be a good person. You can disapprove of EA encouraging what *seems* like harassment (an act of lust could simply be drooling over yourself, surely) without going down the whole “every time a man looks at a female, it’s RAPE!” branch.

    Also, as much as I think this whole EA promotion is god damned retarded, I do have to question some of the assumptions that are being made. I mean, seriously, does anyone think that “a night with two hot girls” means “they’re going to suck you off all night long!”? I mean, c’mon. The prize is two good looking chicks will suffer an intolerable night in a limo going to a club and out for dinner or something with you. And an “act of lust”? Do you really think EA was condoning, say, “grab some ass and get a Polaroid of it!”? I find that difficult to believe.

    Don’t get me wrong — the whole idea is just stupid, stupid, stupid… and as a geek, I am offended by it. I don’t think it’s sexist in any way for a man or woman to be used to advertise a product because they’re attractive and that draws attention — because it isn’t. It’s a job and a career and both men and women are employed in it. Or maybe it’s also sexist that men tend to get paid less in the job than female models? I don’t know – whatever.

    But what *IS* borderline sexist is EA promoting the idea that geeks are a bunch of sexless driveling idiots who will fall all over themselves for a contest that involves hot booth babes who are half naked and only there because they’re being paid to be.

    The booth babes would be shaking ass somewhere else if it wasn’t at the convention. Have no doubt about that. But that EA particularly chooses a group of geeks and nerds… because of course, the only sex we all get is wanking ourselves over a ’77 print of Princess Leigha… is really kind of fucked and doesn’t look good to the rest of society. Not because they’re thinking “wow, dudes like hot chicks” but because they’re thinking “wow, a bunch of pathetic nerds! hah! look at them swarm the hot chicks because they’ve never seen a woman before! durrr!”.

  45. Acosta says:

    I’m just explaining the reason. I’ll let the moral judgment for other. This is how it is, and it has it reasons, take it or not.

  46. Yargh says:

    this would have worked so much better if:

    a) they restricted it to only their stand
    b) their ‘booth babes’ were all giant hairy world’s strongest man wannabes

  47. Dinger says:

    @Metal Circus. I didn’t say M.E.A.T. was the ideal title for such folks, but that it was better than “Booth Babe.” Also, you folks should give some respect for the people who take those jobs. It’s hard work — don’t hate the playas, hate the game.

    And it ain’t “spin”; it’s just simple exegesis. The EA compo folks were thinking in terms of contest rules: A. photograph with EA people or models, B. associate them on social networking sites, C. we give an award to someone. D. Hey, let’s associate this with the sin of Lust to make it Dantesque.
    The resulting flyer makes us think in entirely different terms, namely “get lusty with our booth babes.” Add that to a predominantly male environment where the governing text on gender relations is the Comics Code Authority, and you’re enhancing an already bad sensation.

    By the way KG: Comics + Booth Babes + Video Games + Sexual Assault = 300 posts, even if the news is a week late.

  48. FunkyLlama says:

    @no
    No, there’s nothing wrong with marketing a product using sex, except when you do so in such a way that’s probably going to be causing sexual harassment.

  49. jalf says:

    Aw, didn’t see Kieron had posted this here. And I just suggested on twitter they discuss it on the podcast. Way to make me look completely out of touch :D

  50. Dinger says:

    sensation? situation? salivation?

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