12 May 2018

Do Lizardfolk Females have Breasts?

I know, that's a very strange title for an article. Bear with me though.

See, I was working on a prop for the new Fate game I'm running. It's sort of a crossover between Shadowrun, Call of Cthulhu, and Cowboy Bebop. But the important thing is that I was looking for images of lizardfolk to use in this prop. And I noticed that many of the images I was seeing displayed breasts on the females.

This struck me as odd, because reptiles don't have breasts. Breasts are a uniquely mammalian feature; in fact, that's where the word 'mammal' comes from: the Latin word mammalis, 'of the breast.' No other type of animal has mammary glands.

Yet there are the hordes of females depicted with breasts that would, if they were on a human (or human-like, such as elves or halflings) be considered sexy. For example:

A hyper-sexualized illustration of a lizardfolk female. She has blue skin, a reptilian head complete with orange crest atop her skull, a long curled tail, and a body that in all other respects looks like a human body. She is wearing a chain mail bikini top and loincloth with bracers on her forearms, and is holding a bloody axe.

The absurdity of a reptile with boobs is so great that it was even parodied in an installment of The Order of the Stick. But what brings me to write about this topic is an article I read over at Nerdarchy. It's entitled 'D&D Dragonborn Illustrate Why the Reason Why Matters.'

Yeah, I know that title is a little hard to parse. Perhaps a better way to phrase it would be 'the importance of the reasoning behind your actions is illustrated by D&D Dragonborn.'

The main thrust of the article is this: it doesn't make sense to have breasts on non-mammalian females, such as Dragonborn, lizardfolk, mind flayers, and so forth. However, there may sometimes be valid reasons to have them anyway. In 4th edition D&D, females of these species had breasts, because (according to the article) they are seen as a source of (or, at the very least, symbolic of) feminine power. Thus, by giving breasts to non-mammals, they are allowing females to be seen as powerful without sacrificing their femininity.

However, in 5th edition, these races have no breasts. The idea here is that, even with the best of intentions, human-like breasts are more commonly associated with sexual objectification than with feminine power, often despite the intentions of the creators of the artwork. In other words, even if an artist put breasts on a lizardfolk for the purpose of symbolising female power, the end consumers of that artwork (i.e., the players who purchase the books) view it as sexual gratification.

Given the current state of gender in American culture and the culture of other industrialised nations, this is a valid concern. To a great extent, even in nations where women are better off (say, the United States, as opposed to Saudi Arabia where it will remain illegal for women to drive a car until June 2018), women still face levels of inequality. These inequalities may be subtle, easy to overlook, and less extreme than those of women in other parts of the world, but they can still have significant impact on the lives of the women whom they affect.

I'm trying to keep this blog from getting political, so I'm not going to delve any deeper into the issue. If you want to know more about this topic, or you need examples of ways in which women are still oppressed in more 'advanced' countries, try this article about the misinformation regarding feminism.

Returning to the article that inspired this post (D&D Dragonborn Illustrate Why the Reason Why Matters), the author describes how he had a player that came to him and asked to play, in a 5th edition game, a dragonborn female with breasts. She explained to him that she specifically wanted a symbol of female power for her character. The author/DM felt that in such a situation, with both the player's and his own guiding influence to oversee the characters, this was a reasonable request, and so he allowed it.

As I was working on the prop for which I needed the picture, I decided that biological reality was of some level of importance to me. The lizardfolk and dragonborn in the world I'm creating would not have breasts, because I wanted to stay in keeping with non-mammalian entities having no mammary glands.

But then we get into the bigger question: we're already talking about a fantasy world. Given that lizardfolk, dragonborn, mind flayers, and other fantasy races are already a bizarre merging of real-world elements with fantastical ideas, do we need to worry about whether non-mammals have boobs? In other words, if I'm ok with teleport spells and fireballs, why would I have a problem with non-mammalian mammary glands?

And that's where personal preference comes in. If you are running a game that includes reptilian PC races, you are welcome to put breasts on the females of those races. Just keep in mind the subtle nuances of how those actions may be perceived by your players, and make sure to work hard to overcome any potential objectification that may result.

As the still somewhat recent phenomenon of Gamergate illustrates, there is still a lot of misogyny extant in the gaming world. I hope that you, like me, are working hard to ensure that this wonderful hobby becomes and remains accessible for everyone, regardless of demographics. Because, as I've said many times, everyone is welcome at the gaming table.

So, I hope this has been interesting for you to read, and has at the very least given you something to think about. So have fun out there in the many worlds of gaming, remember to make the world a more inclusive place, and of course,

Game on!

6 comments:

CrimzonHorizon said...

I'd rather misogyny in the virtual world than misandry in the 'real world' LOL

The Game Dork said...

There are several problems with this comment.

First, the 'LOL' at the end, as if there were anything funny either in this article or in your comment. There is clearly not.

Secondly, why does it matter if it's the 'virtual' world or the 'real' world? Discrimination of any form is equally harmful.

Thirdly, comparing misogyny to misandry is a false equivalence. The amount of misandry that exists is paltry compared to the amount of misogyny that exists in both the virtual and and real worlds.

And, of course, there's the fact that it would be preferable to have neither one. Instead of pointless competitive comparisons, let's just work to eliminate sexism altogether.

CrimzonHorizon said...

Answer to your question ...yes, if you want them to LOL. In my fantasy world the female Lizardfolk have breasts coz they are not exactly lizards/reptiles from Earth, they are a lizardlike/reptile-like descendant species of a lifeform that evolved on a different planet from lizardlike/reptile-like creatures that combined aspects/elements of 'mammals'/warm-blooded with lizard/reptile aspects/elements. Even on Earth creatures don't all fit exactly into groupings ie there are marsupials, monotremes, a warmblooded lizard etc. I take as an inspiration the Duck-Billed Platypus. It lays an egg & then after baby Platypus breaks open egg it nurses from milk-pores in mama platypus' skin. So my lizardfolk have intercourse same way as humans/mammals, male fertilises egg, which grows inside her for a two months, then she pops it/or two or three of them out relatively softshelled but soon after they enter world shell hardens with air-contact ...then she nests on it for a month then it/they crack/s open and the babies begin to nurse. She breastfeeds them for three months or until each baby draws first blood from her due to sharpening/hardening teeth & desire to bite. Then the father starts bringing raw meat home for the kid/s.

The Game Dork said...

You're absolutely right. This article was never meant to say they should not. Only to suggest careful consideration of the question and the motivations behind the decision. It is a fantasy game after all; having breasts on a lizardfolk female is no less ridiculous than the concept of lizardfolk in itself. I just want people to think about things a little and in a new way.

And, hopefully, to consider the effects of those decisions.

CrimzonHorizon said...

Yes it is funny that feminists & their simp 'white knights' see misogyny everywhere & in everything while ignoring rampant misandry espoused by feminists & enabled by a gynocentric legal system. The definition of what is considered misogyny has expanded so much/broadened so widely that it's in danger of becoming almost worthless as a term. In our twisted broken society it seems it is perfectly acceptable to insult all 'white' males as "stale, pale, male", privileged etc while ignoring the many privileges that women have legally/socially etc etc. BTW Once upon a time I was a radical Socialist & considered myself as a 'Feminist' until told that I couldn't be a feminist coz of my maleness, but I could call myself "an ally". I came to realise that 'feminism' was not about 'equality' but about 'Matriarchy'/ 'Supremacism'. If it was about Equality then you don't need the word 'Feminism', Egalitarian/Equalitarian' do perfectly fine. If 'Patriarchy' is 'bad/evil' then by logical inference 'Matriarchy' must be good, a desired goal. If men are bad coz of patriarchy, then women must be good/better/superior to men. I believe women are fundamentally 'equal' to men, but I still consider myself a misogynist in the pure unadulterated original meaning of the word ...I despise women, but it's nothing personal though as my misanthropy trumps everything.

Unknown said...

I don't care about all this political nonsense. Just do what you think is scientifically accurate in D&D campaigns. For instance, Warforged are masculine or feminine, they don't have a gender. Goliaths have deep voices due to their size alone. Wild Magic Sorcerers can possibly change someone else's gender, or their own. In summary, do what you want, as long as it's not political or biased.