A group of us were talking over dinner last week, and (mostly based on acutegirl
's contributions to the conversation) came up with four rough criteria (in no particular order) people use to decide whether they will enter into a certain sexual situation or not:
(a) Is it illegal? (are there laws - perhaps also policies/rules - against it?)
(b) Is it immoral/unethical? (do I believe it to be harmful to myself or others, does a Higher Power forbid it, etc?)
(c) Is it beneficial or is it in my/their interests? (beyond strict answers to above considerations, will it be unharmful and perhaps helpful in some way - psychologically, socially, etc. and probably actually includes consideration of consequences of (a) & (b). This criterion was the most vague and may actually need to be explicated further and teased apart more from (b).)
(d) Is it a preference? (do I like or want to do it, does it turn me on, etc)
Clearly, this set of criteria probably applies more broadly than sexual situations. How these four considerations are weighed against each other depends upon the person, and probably varies across situations for at least some persons. For example, some people would never do anything they knew to be illegal. Other people wouldn't much care about the legality. Some people might care a great deal about the legality in business matters, but not sexual matters. Sociopaths would only consider (d) and a limited aspect of (c) in regard to decision-making about pretty much anything. And so forth.
I decided to write about this now, beyond the fact that I considered the above conversation very interesting, because of how I thought about it being applicable in another case I recently ran into. On an LJ gaming community I posted part of a post by Gabe from Penny Arcade, an interview of his grandpa who fought in World War II.
The interview ended with the following exchange:( Interview excerpt cut for length )
At the end of this quote I asked about what kind of moral/ethical lines people drew in regards to the games they play. I was only somewhat surprised to get back a couple of responses along these lines:
"I play what I like. I don't like moral/ethical values stand in the way."
"I do not avoid video games based on morals or ethics. The line should be drawn when games stop being fun."
In other words, mostly using (d), with perhaps a limited consideration of (c). Sound familiar?
As I thought about it, it seems to me this is actually a common attitude towards media in general. Certainly there are things individual people won't read or watch, but it varies quite a bit from person to person, and often tends to be expressed more in terms of personal preferences than ethics or morality. Indeed, there is often lots of criticism and contempt heaped upon groups that recommend avoiding a movie or book because of the ethics or morality it displays (of course, this is somewhat confounded by a history of actual censorship or attempts at censorship, and/or un/misinformed viewpoints about content of a book or movie). So I would venture to say most people will read books or watch movies in which various sorts of unethical and indeed horrifying behavior takes place, even when portrayed in anything from a neutral/ambiguous to sympathetic light. Witness the Hannibal Lecter fandom, as a quintessential example of this phenomenon.
So it should not be shocking to find people extend this attitude to other forms of media including video games. But, in the case of video games, it seems to me people tend to find this more worrisome
. While in a sense people may "take on the role" of characters in any form of media, in video games this is much more explicit and active. The main character "is" the person playing in a way they are not for the person viewing or reading. Certainly I find it somewhat worrisome, although upon reflection I think perhaps we should also do more worrying than we do about other media as well. What does it mean that many of us use a logic arguably akin to sociopathy to decide what media we consume?