Objectification (specifically, sexual objectification of women) "occurs when a person is seen as a sexual object when their sexual attributes and physical attractiveness are separated from the rest of their personality and existence as an individual, and reduced to instruments of pleasure for another person."
In discussions of media and especially gaming, a common silencing tactic often used to counter accusations of sexually objectified female characters is to say the male characters are just as objectified. This argument misunderstands (deliberately or otherwise) the difference between a power fantasy and sexual fantasy.
A power fantasy is a character the audience is presumed to want to be. They are often sexy, but but their main appeal isn't relegated to their sexuality. Male characters are often talented, respected, and otherwise powerful before their physical appeal is evaluated. They are shown in poses and environments exerting control over the world around them. They have total agency. Most male characters aren't made to be sexually attractive to a majority of players. Exaggerated musculature is intended to appeal to a male viewer's desire for power.
A sexual fantasy involves a character the audience is presumed to view as sexual in nature before anything else. Such characters are almost exclusively female. Regardless of context, their sexual attributes are given foremost attention. They wear outfits ill-suited for their roles (the classic example being skimpy armor and heels in battle), move and pose to the male gaze. Female characters have exaggerated characteristics popular culture deems sexually ideal, such as tiny waist with disproportionately large breasts and butts. Their portrayal is intended to begin and end only with the male viewers. They usually have no sexual agency.
None of this is to say examples of female power fantasies or male sexual fantasies don't exist, but on a systemic level across the majority of media, it's vice versa.
Further reading Edit
- Ways of Objectifying
- Designer / Writer Meg Stivison writes about a misogynistic promo Http://simpsonsparadox.com/2013/01/two-steps-back.html