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* Attention feminist nerds: “Portal,” the first-person shooter that Games Radar described as “the most subversive game ever,” is being offered for free until May 24. What Portal is not like:

The gun is typically regarded as a phallic symbol of masculine agency, through which power is won and maintained. In any first-person shooter, a power dynamic is reinforced between subject (the player’s subjective sense of self) and object (the rest of the game world.) The player is forced to accept militarism and conquest by violence, historically masculine behaviors, as the only course of action. To play a first-person shooter is to enter into a context in which only the male perspective exists, regardless of the gender of the character or player.

The playable characters in first-person shooters are almost always men. In the rare event that a female character is playable, she serves as an object of male fantasy and her interactions with the game world are still forced through the male-oriented lens described in the previous paragraph. Interestingly, playable female characters are usually presented in third-person action games (think Lara Croft) — again reinforcing a visual power dynamic that in this case furthers the objectification of the female form by a predominantly male audience. Rather than the player assuming the identity of the heroine, she becomes a controllable other.

* Also available: Not the most subversive game ever! In “Privates,” the “first twin-stick shooter set in a vagina,” condom-hatted Marines take aim at infections, infestations, and ingrown hairs.

*Geek Feminism asks what a feminist social network would look like.

* Broadsheet interviews the man who created the “marriage saving” anti-flatulence blanket. He’s awesome!:

I bow-hunt for deer, and to do that you have to get really close to them, close enough that they can smell you. They’re pretty sensitive. So I started buying these military surplus chemical protective suits, from the army surplus store to block my odor. One time, I noticed that if I passed wind in there you couldn’t smell a thing. And a light bulb went off. I took a couple of the suits, cut them into pieces, sewed them together and made a blanket. My wife and I used it in our bed for years, and it was great. Fifteen years later I made the first prototype and had a number of them produced.

* Sexuality and Society has more on Marquette’s canning of a lesbian sociology professor: “So if O’Brien wasn’t disqualified because she is gay, per se, what is ‘really’ going on? Maybe it’s just the sort of gay she is,the sort who likes to talk openly about sexuality, and moreover to discuss it critically within the context of social institutions such as religion and family.”

Photo by randy.troppmann, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0