Sex is everywhere. You can't be exposed to television, movies, music, advertising, water cooler conversation, or just walk down the street without being bombarded by sex. Sex is in video games as well. Why? Is it because it's part of the human experience and therefore deserves a place in a culture-affecting medium or is it because sex sells? Playboy editor Scott Alexander said, "If there is a new technology, we will try to fuck it". I don't think we should fuck this one.
A lot of the pro-sex static comes from the "games are art" crowd. If games are art, do they need sex? Let's look at some actual art.
This is The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. It's a painting of (you guessed it) the birth of the Roman goddess Venus, a deity who aroused humans to physical love. It's art.
This is from Googling the word "sex". With the exception of my masterful editing, this is not art.
Here's the difference. Sex is cheap. Sexuality is art. As an artistic medium it's not right to force sexuality out of video games for the sake of morality or an obscenely flawed ratings system. By the same token, it's not right to force sex into games when it doesn't belong there. I'm not talking about the more tasteful stuff right now. I'm talking about sex in games for either the shock value and profit (BMX XXX) or for raunchy humor (Hot Coffee or the Saint's Row 2 Prostitution game). Granted these examples aren't exactly looking for kudos from the "games are art" community (they call them beard strokes), but it still hurts the medium as a whole. If you're into looking at drawings and numbers get it on more power to you, but it has no place in a mainstream retail title. I'm not in favor of censorship, but there's a reason why hentai games are a sub-genre of video games.
But enough about the obvious bad apples in the bunch, let's talk about the group that seems to be doing their very best to add some legitimacy to the sexual content in their games, Bioware (What, you thought you'd make it through this thing without them being mentioned?). Bioware is the vanguard of video game relationship simulation right now (See what I did there?). Their latest attempt at "sex scenes" are done well. It's all about subtlety; A furtive look, a little tasteful skin. Unfortunately the lead up to the actual scene is too sudden and forced. There's no "are they, aren't they" drama. You know as soon as you recruit a character whether or not you'll get to bone them. If they'd just hang up this idea that every choice in the game has to be made by the player they'd be able to give you a decent love interest instead of shoehorning them in then killing them off later.
As well done as they are, it seems like the sex scenes are just a check in a box for Bioware, and with their success I can see more like it on the horizon. I'm not saying that sex flat out doesn't beling in games (though I doubt I personally would be interested in a game heavily driven by sex), but I do think that, like any serious topic, it needs to be eased into video games in small, tasteful bites. I don't play video games to get off, and anyone who does is playing for the wrong reason. If games are ever to become a form of entertainment respected on the same level as some of the more established ones, we need to go in head first, not dick first.
"It's like I've eaten spam a few times from a few popular brands and in a few serving suggestions, and found I'm not really keen on spam, 'cos it's salty and slimy and looks like something you might find in the alien queen's litter box. But I've found myself in a world that's completely obsessed with spam. People spend their entire lives in pursuit of spam. Every single advert on TV sells their product by placing it alongside spam. Movies have to work in at least one spam scene to reach the broadest audience. People break up and get divorced because they don't exchange enough spam. Soldiers are given time out to go have some spam. Low-risk prisoners are given spam visiting rights. People die for spam. Entire economies have been based around spam. Selling spam is the world's oldest profession. The lack of spam has been linked to mental disorders. The only thing getting teenagers through difficult puberty is the thought of one day getting to have spam of their very own."