Why is a Bare Breast More Offensive Than a Severed Arm?


Hat Man
Jul 8, 2011
San Diego, CA
First, you condemn the very idea of claiming that one idea of offensiveness is more valid than another, then you spend about half the article arguing almost precisely that position. And still, the entire argument falls flat due to obvious counter-examples showing that everything you're claiming is objective difference, is instead culturally relative after all.

You should've quit while you were ahead.

Chris Pranger

New member
Aug 31, 2011
I really enjoyed that read. I was expecting it to go in an entirely different direction, and I'm really happy that it didn't.

My take on this is that sex and violence hold very different baggage in our lives. Most people will never experience the fantastical violence that pop culture shows us. It's all pure fantasy. In a weird way, showing violence to the point of gratuity makes it so cartoony that the majority of us have learned what is and is not real, so when a video game or a movie shows a scene of a guy's head exploding like a watermelon, we just brush it off as the cartoon that it is.

Sex, however, is harder to collectively get to that point, partly because despite making sex equally as gratuitous in our culture, the cartoony aspects aren't understood as cartoony. We still have this notion that the sex we see, while not real, is still attainable and can be something to strive for. I will never be in a situation where I need to go into bullet time to shoot a helicopter down, but I could reasonably talk to someone into sleeping with me.

And this is where video game sex makes me profoundly uncomfortable. My wife will roll her eyes at a violent game, but she will be visibly bothered if a sex scene comes on in that same game because, presumably, I am controlling the character that has decided to engage in the sex. If I'm trying to get into the game, that means on some level, I'm supposed to be into the sex as well, and that's where it doesn't sit well.

Arguably, a lot of this comes as a result of the limitations that you previously stated. For as far as video games have come, very little thought is given for real character relationships and the writing to actually support a realistic and mature sex scene. Mass Effect is rated Mature, but the sex is what middle schoolers believe sex is like: talk to the pretty girl and eventually she will sleep with you if you say the right things. If a game writes a husband and wife/dating couple/sexually romantic partnership/etc in a way that feels like humans, that changes the conversation considerably. Movies have proved they can do this, hence why we talk about actors' chemistry in their performance. When discussing video games, we get hung up on "who is the character I think is hottest/doesn't annoy my the most." It's all very shallow, and that sort of thing can get uncomfortable, boring, and sometimes dangerous.

In conclusion, good read. :)


New member
Jul 25, 2012
Izanagi009 said:
Shamus Young said:
Why is a Bare Breast More Offensive Than a Severed Arm?

This question gets asked a lot. "Why is a bare breast more offensive than a severed arm?" This question has been around in one form or another for decades and is usually presented as a challenge or a demand for explanation regarding the way movies are rated, marketed, and edited.

Read Full Article
Excellent article but I have one question after it.

You had stated that games are bad as systematizing relationships and conversations. So where does that put Visual Novels like Little Busters, Clannad and other such digital media that revolves around conversations and developing relationships between characters in game? Does this mean that the current model of Visual Novel is the best we have limited by a very poor system?
Still waiting for a good answer for this. People seems to just shrug this topic off, ignoring and some don't even consider VNs as games to begin with.

Even the PBS Game Show channel when they talk about how sex is bad in games.

He only pointed a bit about one western made VN, and that VN doesn't even have erotic content. In the end questions concerning about VNs was never brought up in the next video where he answers and reply to the comments of that episode.

FYI, Japanese 18+ VNs are pretty much the same with every other media. There are Great and good ones, and there are the bad ones and the pandering to the lowest common denominator ones.

Heck, I just came from a thread a guy asking for PC JRPGs, when one guy suggested one VN with SRPG (and it's good one Kamidori Alchemy Meister, I already played it), he then has to put a disclaimer that the sex scenes is the downfall of the VN, where as people who actually played it rated it fine, and in VNDB it's rated 8.28.


New member
Oct 16, 2011
It is probably because sex is considered a private thing, whereas violence is usually seen out in the public.


New member
Dec 5, 2008
BigTuk said:
Now as for violence.. well. Violence is something that people have always seen in their day to day lives. Heck if you were a boy or young man you were expected to get into a fight or two. That and it's kinda hard to get around the fact that yeah...Violence is in the bible, the bible is okay.. so violence must be okay (incidentally that was an excuse used in early hollywood to get more scandalous costuimes and even a little nudity in their films because.. (it's a bible story.. it's in the bible.. you want us to edit the bible?')
Actually, I was going to argue quite the opposite. Most people who live in the kind of (relatively) affluent surroundings that afford video games as a pastime don't experience violence with any regularity, much less the kind of grisly and lethal violence on display in some of the more extreme examples of video games. But almost every person who grows to adulthood can be expected to participate in some form of sexual expression.

For this reason, video game violence gets a kind of leeway because it's clearly fantasy on multiple levels. It's showing something that some people may fantasize about (a kind of cathartic and direct overcoming of enemies and obstacles through direct application of force), but few have a frame of reference in reality that causes them to find the portrayal to be antithetical or unrealistic. And while everyone (one hopes) understands that when someone dies in real life, they don't come back, a player of a violent game is rarely more than minutes from rising from their own death and taking on another swarm of interchangeable, identical enemies.

Conversely, sex has a thousand ways to seem "wrong"- real people don't interact this way when they're attracted. Real sex doesn't look like this. This is demeaning to one of the people engaged in the act. This is objectifying. This suggests that sex is a "reward" for gameplay, and by extension, the character is nothing more than a prize. This doesn't consider the physical and/or emotional ramifications of the act. This isn't sexy to me (and its close cousin, how dare you think I would consider that sexy?). Sex in this context runs counter to my morals, but I'm expected to engage in it anyway. This encounter sprang from coercion/manipulation/deception. And so on.

Any or all of which someone could see in a particular scene while others would entirely disagree. It makes something like "The fire rate on this sub-machine gun is completely inauthentic to its real-world counterpart" seem like a relatively minor issue to field.

As far as the Bible goes, it bears notice that there's plenty of sexual material in that book that few, if any, feel any need to portray. There are long verses full of lustful admiration in the Song of Solomon, aside from many instances of polygamy, adultery, incest, and rape. Early Hollywood may occasionally have gotten away with hints of sex in quasi-biblical settings, but it was usually not direct depictions of biblical verse, but more, "Oh, and these people who were oppressing the martyrs/biblical heroes, you see, they were sinful and decadent."


New member
Apr 26, 2011
Sgt. Sykes said:
Second, we still don't know why some cultures (er, culture) have a bigger problem with sexual content than others. Citizens of France get together and watch a sexy movie... And not feel as awkward.
Uh.. we do know why.. and the answer is religion.

Most european countries are far... FAR less religious nowadays then the US of A where every nutjob can come up with his own religion and sorta kinda be taken serious (looking at you scientology.. hows your space program doing?)

This isnt even about liberals vs conversatives because as was pointed out earlier by someone else, in japan no one really seems to have a problem with sex in games, movies or even establishments that sell sex... and japan is as conservative as it gets.

The difference is that japan never really had christianity/Islam breathing down their neck telling them what is okay to think and believe and what will get you stoned (not the good kind) But to be fair they do have a rather silly board of censorship with very VERY specific rules about what you can show and not show for reasons that even most japanese dont understand anymore. Like that artist that got arrested because she made a boat out of a sculpture of her vagina or something.

(Hey that tentacle looks like a penis... shouldnt that be censored? Naaaah.... its a tentacle.. its not a penis.. it looks and functions like one but something like this clearly doesnt exist in real life so its totaly okay not to censor it)

However if you tried something like this in the US? Everyone would flip their shit because sex is and allways has been seen as something amoral in the US... something dirty, something thats not talked about openly. Now this notion has been challanged alot of times in mainstream media or parodied.... but in the end mom and pa will still rally against anything sexual that hits to close to their own religious and cultural comfort zone.


New member
Nov 4, 2008
Well... It is generally assumed that when you see a severed arm in media, it is fake. Tits are tits, when you see them you are most likely actually seeing someones tits. This split from a perception of realism leans people towards not caring.

To support that, last I checked, snuff films and any sort of videos representing the actual dismemberment of people are somewhat more frowned upon than boobs.


New member
Apr 13, 2011
Violence is very easy to excuse in media. Since characters are not real people, it's possible to craft a scenario where a character who gets their arm severed off isn't a 'person', at least not in the conventional sense. We distance ourselves from characters like that, like how we view individual units in a strategy game. And we all know that the severed limbs we see are a make-up trick. So there's no victim of the violent act.

Nudity, on the other hand, is a lot more 'real', at leas in live action. It requires that an actual person strip down to some degree, and that's impossible to distance from an actual person. In porn, we don't really care since the whole point is to watch people f#$%. In other media, though, we're reminded that people aren't supposed to go nude in public.

That's my 2 cents given while I'm half-asleep, anyway. I could easily be wrong.


New member
Aug 20, 2009
I find that I really can't stand sex or nudity in most games because it's thrown in and gratuitous, not because it's against my religion. When sex is part of a romance (better if it's a well-done romance) it makes sense. When it's "Let's get our M rating by having the protagonist fuck the hot side character" it isn't offensive because it's sex, it's offensive because the sex is so shallow it might as well be porn. Violence, even over-the-top violence, usually has context: you die if you don't fight back, or you're fighting for a cause your character believes in, or in the rare occasion it comes up, you're the villain. For the most part, games as a medium are as bad at sex as Postal 2 is at violence.

In conclusion: yes, I would rather my character blew a zombie to pieces to survive than slept with a side character whose name he barely knows. Conversely,I would rather play a game with two lovers who fell into each other's arms for comfort when they feared losing one another and thereafter struggled to even see each other because life (and death) got in the way but managed to make it work in the end, than, say, Postal.

And since the elephant in the room has already been killed for its ivory, I'll go ahead and say it: I am a Christian, and it stings to be openly lied about in a topic where it didn't need to come up. I mention this in order to also say that almost all of what's been attributed to us in this thread comes not from the religion itself as founded but from the Holy Roman Empire as a tool to control and brainwash its subjects using Jewish law and Roman iron-fisted law as a template. When Christianity was founded, for example, marriage was simply a consent between people to be married. Sex WAS marriage, and "sexual sin" was betraying that marriage by whoring around. Israel still followed bride price traditions at the time, but Christianity was founded to be a transcultural movement with few and simple tenets.

Flame shield up.


New member
Jun 21, 2010
Holythirteen said:
Jumwa said:
Many people love the explosions, the gory gruesomeness (and some don't, which also belies the "shared experience" argument).
Well, its more likely a shared experience because the person next to you knew what to expect when going into that movie, because we do tend to know the attitudes of our friends have towards violence, but less so towards sex because we discuss those things less openly. Or am I off my rocker?
Let's assume you're right in that we're all perfectly, fully aware with how our friends and family respond to violence and that matters to us. It's still only arbitrary cultural attitudes that make us concerned that our friends might be titillated by sex, but not bothered that they might be titillated by the gory violence itself, or the way that, say, women are blatantly objectified without going all the way to outright sex.


New member
Feb 7, 2009
Karadalis said:
This is mostly an american problem if its about western world standards.

Here in germany for example people are much more lenient when it comes to nudity (kept for the genitals that is) then they are about violence...

Have a suggestive commercial about lube 2 pm? Hey no problem... A shower commercial showing bare boobs? Go on.. no one minds... Wait what? Blood and gore past 10 pm? Hell no.. kids could still be up watching TV and we dont want to let them see blood an gore.

The same is aplied to video games. Our version of the ESRB doesnt give much about scenes of nudity aslong as they are not outright pornographic (for example the sex scenes in mass effect? No one here gave a crap about those.. unlike in the US where media was screaming sodom and gomorra)

But get a little bit to brutal even against lets say zombies and your game wont be allowed to be sold openly in germany (a death sentence for releases like dead rising or most other zombie splatter games)

Heck the most ridiculus case of censoring i remember was when they turned everyone in Soldier of Fortune 2 into robots by swapping out skin textures for metal plates... that was weird...

I've always considered this fear of nudity to be a strange American phenomenon.

No one (well, almost) in Western Europe seem to mind much at all, and certainly not when it's natural.

It is only natural for someone stepping our of a shower to be nude, and you'd be hard pressed to find someone over here that find's it sexual.
Same goes for someone getting out of bed.

That one always bothered me too.
The characters have just had sex, but when they get out of bed they're sudenly extremely shy and need to cover up?
That is some bullshit right there.

Casual Shinji

Should've gone before we left.
Jul 18, 2009
Weaver said:
I honestly disagree with the entire premise: that we all react to violence the same. We simply don't. I've laughed my ass off at "Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky" while other people thought it was disgusting. I found Saving Private Ryan's violent frontline depictions to be an on point representation of the horrors of war, while other people I watched the movie with thought it was needlessly graphic and made them uncomfortable to the point they didn't want to keep watching.
WiseBass said:
I pretty strongly disagree with the idea that we all have a communal reaction to violence in media that differs only in minor degrees. You put a violence scene in a movie, and you're going to get a wide range of reactions: disgust, apathy, amusement, enthusiasm, and so forth. Some people, particularly those that have been victimized by violent criminals in the past, might have a more severe reaction.
It's about how sex evokes a deeply personal, physical reaction, more so than violence, unless you've suffered some sort of related trauma.

I mean not everybody reacts to humor in the same way either, but watching a comedy with my mom or sister won't cause me any discomfort. Watching a porno will. A long time ago me and my oldest sister rented Wicked City, not being too familiar with anime and Yoshiaki Kawajiri in general, and thinking it was just going to be some violent cartoon about demons... And from the very start things got extremely awkward.

We all react differently to things like violence and comedy, but with sex it shines a giant spotlight on our most embarrassing inner thoughts and desires.


New member
Aug 22, 2010
Wilco86 said:
There's no counting how many times I've had this debate, and so I have a stock answer:

The one of the left shows a person (well, actually two) having a shower while wearing her underwear in a game Mass Effect 3 - a game made for mature players. I dunno, but I don't shower my clothes on - I have fallen from a boat and swam while my clothes on, but never showered.

The one from the right is from a French comic "Valérian et Laureline" (censored by yours truly) - an award-winning sci-fi comic for teens that has had direct effect to things like The Fifth Element, Star Wars, etc. Probably Mass Effect 3 was more futuristic, as in this people undressed to clean themselves properly. (For Mass Effect's credit, nudity was done well in the first one, as it used well-chosen camera angles for modesty.)

Also about BioWare and nudity: I find it funny how in Dragon Age: Origins nude werewolves magically conjure up clothing when returned to their human forms.
I like to think that the showering in underwear thing is a form of flirting that Samantha uses on people when she wants to 100% make her intentions known.

It is of course just an absurd moment caused by their inability to go 'fuck it; tits out' or be as judicious as they once were with camera angles.


New member
Aug 11, 2013
theSteamSupported said:
I find it interesting that you mention how being aroused among others is more taboo than being grossed out among others.
That's exactly what I was thinking. This article is probably giving more information on the author's psyche than intended.


New member
Dec 18, 2008
nuttshell said:
theSteamSupported said:
I find it interesting that you mention how being aroused among others is more taboo than being grossed out among others.
That's exactly what I was thinking. This article is probably giving more information on the author's psyche than intended.
Less so than you might think. I'm sure if you ran a poll of "which would you rather be in front of your mom: grossed out, or sexually aroused?" the vast majority would choose grossed out. Nobody wants their mom to see them with a boner.

I think a lot of people here are missing the point and citing edge cases.

Yes, Germany has a unique view on violence compared to most other countries. It's an exception, there's one to every rule, perhaps you've heard?

Yes, Europe in general is more comfortable with nudity than America. It's still more comfortable with violence than it is with nudity.

Yes, there are different reactions to violence as well. Those reactions are less diverse and less uncomfortable in group environments. Also the vast majority of violence in media isn't terribly graphic. Not too many people are grossed out by "The Avengers" punching aliens. We're not necessarily talking about "Saw" levels of body horror here.

Then main point of the article is that on AVERAGE, for MOST people in MOST cultures the world over, people are less comfortable about sex in group environments than they are violence.


New member
Feb 3, 2011
Shamus Young said:
Why is a Bare Breast More Offensive Than a Severed Arm?

This question gets asked a lot. "Why is a bare breast more offensive than a severed arm?" This question has been around in one form or another for decades and is usually presented as a challenge or a demand for explanation regarding the way movies are rated, marketed, and edited.

Read Full Article
I often like your analysis but I think you are off this time. The explanation is simply cultural upbringing (which in itself is a complex thing).

The communal experience may or may not exist. It happens, but its impact is also a reflex of culture.

I love slasher movies and to me they are comedy. They are so exaggerated that do not gross me out. But in my house, my eleven year old girl detest violence an can't watch it. She just now managed to watch Jurassic Park. My wife is also a little bit squeamish.

I would say that the communal experience is much more unbalanced here around violence then around sex. And it is pretty much the case with everyone I know here in Brasil.
I would not watch 9 and 1/2 weeks with my mother, but I would also not watch Hostel with her. And the occasional boobs and naked people around or even sex scene certainly does not make me uncomfortable in front of anyone. A naked couple on top of each other would play out like this in my house:

Me: Now we are talking!
My kid: would laugh and roll her eyes.
My wife: Would make an observation to my kid that in real life it is not THAT common to people make sex in the first time they met.
My mom: would laugh from my kid reaction.
An unexpected violent scene would result in a much more dramatic reaction from all.

I get what you are saying, Samus, but the reality of it is that Americans in general do have more issues with sex than with violence. I am not saying what is "right" or "wrong", but the American market is really a thermometer to all entertainment. It has very little to do with the ability to do it right.

Sex (and sexuality) has existed in videogames since the ATARI era and is quite popular even when limited by tech. Try making a Mass Effect game without relationships and watch the fan reaction. It is just super uncomfortable to a large part of the western audience and so companies have to be careful with it.

Also, the correct representation of gender and sexuality has become an issue of late, which is a good trend that kind of promotes the theme but makes it even more complicated to handle.


New member
Oct 5, 2011
Gordon_4 said:
I like to think that the showering in underwear thing is a form of flirting that Samantha uses on people when she wants to 100% make her intentions known.
Oh, now I get it. So it's something like this:


I don't think that Samantha needed the charisma bonus, but I can appreciate it.