Occasionally, you might come across a term in our videos, reviews, or analyses that you are unfamiliar with. Alternatively, you might be familiar with the term, but want more clarification about the ways that we are using it, specifically. We’ve prepared the following glossary to help viewers and readers learn a bit more about the fundamental terms we use. This list is by no means comprehensive, but represents a selection of key definitions.

Active Looking

A perspective afforded by interactive media including video games wherein a player is a participant or controller in a visual media experience.


The practice of rendering virtual women buyable and sellable in a video game world – a component of objectification theory, heavily linked to the commodification of women.

Damsel in Distress

As a trope the damsel in distress is a plot device in which a female character is placed in a perilous situation from which she cannot escape on her own and must be rescued by a male character, usually providing a core incentive or motivation for the protagonist’s quest.

Damsel in the Refrigerator

The Damsel in the Refrigerator occurs when the hero’s sweetheart is brutally murdered and her soul is then trapped or abducted by the villain.

Dude in Distress

A comparatively rare plot device employing a gender inversion of the damsel in distress trope.

Euthanized Damsel

This typically happens when the player character must murder the woman in peril “for her own good.” Usually the damsel has been mutilated or deformed in some way by the villain and the “only option left” to the hero is to put her “out of her misery” himself.


When an objectified person is treated as “something designed for or capable of being thrown away after being used or used up” – a component of objectification theory.

Gendered signifiers

Design elements pulled from a culture’s visual vocabulary intended to convey information about gender to the viewer by character designers. For example, the visual attributes that were used to transform Pac-Man into Ms. Pac-Man are referred to as feminizing gendered signifiers – the bow, the makeup, and the long eyelashes are all specific stylistic choices. Game designers use these stereotypical traits as a sort of shorthand to quickly identify a given character as female.


The practice of using virtual women as tools or props for the player’s own purposes – a component of objectification theory.

Ironic Sexism

A type of self-referential humor that indicates to the viewer or player, “I know that you know that I know this is sexist,” with the underlying assumption seeming to be that as long as the sexism is overt, obvious or “over-the-top,” then it somehow loses its cultural power and is suddenly no longer a problem. Ironic sexism is dependent upon the false assumption that people no longer really hold retrograde sexist beliefs and therefore the very idea of sexism is now just a hilarious joke, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

Male Entitlement

The conviction that men are owed something by virtue of their gender. It is the belief structure that tells men they deserve to have their whims catered to both culturally and interpersonally. One of the most harmful aspects of male entitlement is the belief that men have a right to survey and use women’s bodies.

Ms. Male character

A female version of an already established or default male character. Ms. Male Characters are defined primarily by their relationship to their male counterparts via their visual properties, their narrative connection or occasionally through promotional materials. When the female spin-off is an exact duplicate, she is sometimes referred to as a Distaff Counterpart.

NPCs (“non-player characters” or “non-playable characters”)

These are figures not directly controlled by the player whose behaviors and dialog are governed by automated scripts within the game’s code. NPCs can occupy a wide variety of supportive, neutral, or non-combatant roles, all with varying degrees of importance or levels of engagement with the protagonist. They can be pedestrians, shopkeepers, quest givers, party members or sidekicks.

Non-Playable Sex Objects

One very particular type of non-essential female NPC: those specifically designed as a decorative virtual “sex class” who exist to service straight male desire.

Objectification theory

The act or attitude of treating a person as a commodity or object without regard to their personality or dignity. Philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s work on objectification theory provides a framework that identifies a number of fundamental aspects of objectification including instrumentality, commodification, interchangeability, violability and disposability.

Personality Female Syndrome

This occurs when female characters are reduced to a one-dimensional personality type consisting of nothing more than a collection of shallow stereotypes about women. She is vain, spoiled, bratty and quick to anger.

Standard Hero Reward

Occurs after the ‘mission’ is over and the game is completed, when the king/father gives the hero the princess/his daughter as compensation for saving her. Related tropes are the Sex of Victory trope and the Rescue Sex trope, where the hero receives sex after saving a female character.


The tendency for men to view women as objects to be collected and displayed as status symbols of their sexual prowess or virility. These “trophy women” then serve as a way for men to assert their social status among and relative to other men.


According to Nussbaum, violability occurs when “the objectifier treats the object as lacking in boundary-integrity, as something that it is permissible to break up, smash, break into.” A component of objectification theory.

Violence Against Women

In the context of our work, this refers to images of women being victimized, or instances in which violence is specifically linked to a character’s gender or sexuality. Female characters who happen to be involved in combat or violent situations on relatively equal footing with their opponents are typically exempt from this category because they are generally not framed as victims.

Women as Background Decoration

The subset of largely insignificant non-playable female characters whose sexuality or victimhood is exploited as a way to infuse edgy, gritty or racy flavoring into game worlds. These sexually objectified female bodies are designed to function as environmental texture while titillating presumed straight male players.

Woman in the Refrigerator

The term “Women in Refrigerators” was coined in the late 1990s by comic book writer Gail Simone to describe the trend of female comic book characters who are routinely brutalized or killed off as a plot device designed to move the male character’s story arc forward. The trope name comes from Green Lantern issue #54, in which the superhero returns home to find his girlfriend murdered and stuffed inside his refrigerator.