Among the complaints leveled at Fallout 3 was the fact that some features of the previous titles had been removed: notably killing children and the exploration of sexuality. The only act of sex to be sought after in the game is with a prostitute, which brings up once again Alex Raymond’s Women Aren’t Vending Machines. Instead of plying one with minigames, the model of sex is purely monetary, however. Oh, and will you look at that, Nova just so happens to be female.
In the narrative itself, we have Dukov, but I fail to recall any other explicit sexuality being present; while Greta and Carol are a lesbian ghoul couple, it never brings up their sex life, so I cannot comment on it other than that they are partners.
As for the players options for sexuality? As compared with the previous titles in the series, they are quite limiting, which is disheartening. Beyond the removal of more sexual options, there is a very constraining way of viewing the little sexuality one can express.
In Fallout 2 there was a perk called Karma Sutra master; this was a perk that was non-sex specific and either a male or female could select. In a similar, but vastly different, vein, Bethesda provides both the Lady Killer (male) and Black Widow (female) options, which actually draw closer parallels to the Sex Appeal trait in Fallout 2 (again, a trait that was non-sex specific).
While some may consider it amusing in its use of language (the perks both give an additional 10% damage to the opposite sex), there are some points of consternation here. Simon Ferrari examines how to explicate the term Black Widow in terms of the waves of feminism in his Thoughts on Playing Female in Fallout 3. But otherwise?
While the Sex Appeal trait in Fallout 2 was dependent on sex (males appealed to females more, females to male), there were other options in the game to explore. Without those other options, Fallout 3 locks the characters into a heteronormative existence. Even if a female avatar can pay to sleep with Nova, it’s worth noting that using female with female sex is something that plays to the stereotypical lust of male sexuality; a maturity level gamers are not willing to rise above if one takes a look at games like Bayonetta. It’s not an issue I would press further if, as the conversation at the boards of Iris Gaming Network and Ferrari point out, the game didn’t go out of its way to show how the female sex is very much an afterthought to playing the game.
Instead, if one is a male, one can be a Lady Killer; if one is female, a Black Widow. To some extent I can understand the game not wanting to press the issue of a gender that may conflict with the sex of the character, but this could be solved by, again, a non-sex specific perk. In their zealousness to be clever in naming perks, Bethesda has not only closed the door on a more open world with an exploration of a character’s sexuality through act, but in mere words.
Or, as an alternative, what if Bethesda were to offer either the Lady Killer or Black Widow perk to either sex? As it stands, the Black Widow perk is more advantageous, as more of the human adversaries you face are male (Talon Company is entirely male, as is most of the Enclave–the Raiders may be the most egalitarian, for all the sense that makes). Why should male characters be cut off from that option? Then again, from where does the bonus of this perk stem?
Is it an intimate knowledge of that particular anatomy that allows a boost to damage? Or perhaps being a distraction of sorts? In the case of the former, the need for creating such a specific perk is moot and can easily be explained as either sex picking up either perk. In the latter case, one could once again easily ignore any desire to play anything but a straight person, arguing, rather fallaciously, that the enemies you encounter are all straight. It would seem less complicated to not have to create any sort of programming for determining whether or not the Raider whose head you just exploded like a melon was after a penis or vagina.
Then again, this all assumes that anyone actually cares about providing options to be anything other than straight in an open world game. Or, for that matter, exploring sexuality in a meaningful way that isn’t about just kissing and penetration, whether that be on or off camera.