And here I thought people were joking when they said we're slowly turning everything into a game. Nope. Gamification has a new target, and it's female masturbation.
Now, masturbation on the whole has a stigma. Hairy palms, what have you. But some would say it's especially bad with women given societal pressures to maintain purity. Purity, although an outdated and useless concept, is often seen as incompatible with a sexual woman. The stats from the graph above, taken from the Gamification website—which show that women aren't so into masturbating—are used as evidence that there's a problem with female masturbation. (Here's some more statistics, if you're curious—although, you can assume there's some wiggle room here; not everyone will be honest about this subject) Edit: the X axis on the graph above is as follows: not in the past year, less than 1x a month, once a month, more than 1x a month, less than 1x a week, more than 1x a week, almost daily, daily.
Enter HappyPlayTime, a mobile game that hopes to "rebrand the entire concept of female masturbation through education and light-hearted games." It has what is probably the cutest vagina mascot ever—yes, I know that sounds absurd, but it does.
Friendly, neighborhood vagina. Jesus christ, you'd think this was a joke. But it's not. They're completely serious about tackling the issue. From the game's website:
Sexuality is one of the most basic instincts of human beings. Being comfortable with your own sexual pleasure is a prerequisite to both being able to healthily accept pleasure from others, and pleasing others. How can you exchange pleasure with someone else if you don't understand what your own body likes? That's why masturbation, and learning how to masturbate is such a fundamental life lesson.
Unfortunately for many women, there has been a cultural stigma that blocks access to self-stimulation. HAPPYPLAYTIME is here to eliminate this barrier as much as possible. By talking openly and lightheartedly about female masturbation, we are taking the first step to becoming truly sexually liberated.
Although the developers claim the lighthearted tone is intentional—they hope that by presenting female masturbation through something kind of comical, that they're doing their part to erase some of the taboo around discussing female masturbation. If people laugh at female sexuality, then the taboo is magically gone? Err. I guess it's a step above "denigration."
And cmon. Look at this, which showcases some of the gameplay—what I assume to be segments of the game that teach you how to masturbate. I don't know.
But beyond this, the stigma around female sexuality on the whole is tricky. What can be seen as "normal" amounts of masturbation? As compared to men? To quote game developer Merritt Kopas, the game runs with "the assumption that if women aren't doing the same things as men or as frequently as them, that there's something wrong with them." Lillian, a friend of mine, makes another astute observation: "Sex and masturbation are already gamified. Competitive. Who can be the best at sex who can find the most g sposts. It's not helpful." Couldn't "gals, you can do better!" be seen as shaming, too?
Here's game developer Anna Anthropy chiming on on the game:
there’s this unfortunate idea of “sex positivity” i encounter all the time that essentially just shames people for not having enough sex and pressures them into doing it more. making masturbation into a universal competition is going to achieve only that: people are going to get pressured into using their bodies in the ways that are arbitrarily defined as normative.
Another thing: not all women have vaginas. This fact makes the game exclusionary. Still, it's obvious that the game is well-meaning and there are some issues worth trying to solve here. Schools do a shitty job of teaching anatomy and talking about women's sexuality is difficult. I'm just not sure this specific game is the best approach for that stuff.
That, and...I'm not sure about you, but gamification is just about the last thing I associate with "sexy."