D&D's Obsession With Phallic Desire
Before you get mad at me, I didn't come up with the title; Zedeck did! I have him to thank for that and also for inspiring me to revisit this topic by revising and expanding upon the article I had written before. Please read his article .
I am going to talk about Dungeons & Dragons from a psychoanalytic angle again (original version), but this time I will be integrating a more direct feminist critique of the original D&D base settings: the Underworld and the Wilderness. We will see how these settings interact with the phallic drive of D&D adventurers, and how they reflect real life intersections of sexism with colonial imagery. This involves an in-depth examination of the aesthetics of D&D, to understand what literary or social influences were being evoked in the text. This will contribute to a fuller reading and critique of D&D as a sexist text and game setting.
Shout-out to the Twitter discourse of which I got secondhand whiffs, but didn't read because I'm trying to be on Twitter less.
Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons (1974-1983) is a series of fantasy role-playing games about adventurers who explore and loot so-called dungeons. As adventurers accumulate experience and wealth, they attain greater degrees of personal development and social power. The original D&D manual in particular sees adventurers out of the “Underworld” and into the “Wilderness”, where those characters proceed to conquer land on which to establish baronies or castles. Meanwhile, the adventurers are accosted at each step by fantastic monsters—such as goblins, zombies, or dragons—which threaten the characters’ progress as well as (non-monstrous) civilization itself.
D&D has long been read as a game with certain political overtones. A predominant reading is that it encodes modern visions of racism and colonialism in its fantasy, by reducing the typical antagonists of the setting to inhuman monsters that threaten human society. Although the monsters do not necessarily reflect racial stereotypes of any one group, their dehumanization is analogous to the racialization experienced by demographics deemed non-white, and it justifies within the game’s fiction a sort of colonial violence where the monsters and adventurers are the thin line between wilderness and civilization. This closely relates to readings of D&D as a Western, since the manual seems to presume a human world with the trappings of early modern society, set in a wild frontier inhabited and embodied by hostile monsters. Overall, it is fair to characterize D&D as a Western setting in a fantastic medieval veneer, the aesthetics of the latter serving to facilitate the symbolism of the former.
Building upon this previous understanding, this article will argue that D&D can be read as an expression of masculine or phallic fantasy. Specifically, the structure and symbolism of the D&D game align with certain structures and values of patriarchy. The game is designed to last infinitely by shifting goalposts of character experience in terms of increasing amounts of gold pieces acquired; this resembles the modus operandi of phallic desire which seeks out object after object (most typically, women) in order to quench a lack which always reasserts itself. The game in its totality, as classically considered, turns out to revolve entirely around the conquest and looting of dungeons, turning into an optimization problem; this resembles the totalizing tendency of phallic fantasy to reshape the subject’s world in its image, so that their whole subjectivity is oriented around their desire, or whom they want to fuck. Only having considered these can we discuss any implications of the game’s aesthetic, such as the imagery of the Underworld and Wilderness, since these images are not arbitrary but express their own significance with respect to the game and the situations in which the characters are located. Finally, we will be able to understand the presuppositions of Gary Gygax, the coauthor of D&D, in regarding his game as a masculine one, since his assertion is not without reason but its expression is grounded in sexism. D&D is a masculine game because it is, in many respects, a sexist one.
A feminist critique is or should be inseparable from a critique of capitalist and racist elements, both because of how they play into sexism and how sexism plays into them. This article particularly focuses on sexism because there are few if any treatments of the dungeon game as an expression of psychosexual “erotics” (as opposed to politics, that is, on the scale of society rather than individuals). Yet this approach must necessarily involve a discussion of how society shapes norms of personal desire and fantasy. This is all the more necessary when considering that D&D is a social phenomenon depicting political categories . Therefore, rather than insisting that the Freudian lens is the only lens through which to view D&D, this article will argue that D&D exemplifies how erotics and politics inform and interact with each other.
Aspects of Symbolic Systems
There are two broad axes according to which we can characterize interactive systems such as games. The first axis is whether a system has a closed or open set of interactions: a closed system is self-contained and formal, containing no rules outside of itself; however, an open system relies upon language in order to interpret “input” and thus reconcile it with whatever formal rules it has.
The second axis is whether an interactive system is definite or indefinite: a definite system terminates after some goal or final state is reached; however, an indefinite system can handle an unlimited sequence of interactions by not imposing or expecting a terminal state of victory.
D&D is an open and indefinite system, and both of these qualities lend it to the phallic desire which I claim is constitutive of D&D.
Closed & Open Systems
A closed system has a finite number of strictly defined interactions from which a participant cannot deviate. For example, a video game is a closed system not only because there are limited ways by which the player can interact with the game, but because the rules of the game are literal instructions for how the computer ought to store and process data. The only way to deviate from a closed system is to somehow open it up to different interactions than were originally anticipated, similar to how hacking a computer program opens up new interactions between the user and the program. Otherwise, the set of rules is absolutely closed.
An open system has no such (obvious) limitations because it is located within the grand system of language itself. The difference between closed and open systems is perhaps best illustrated by the difference between D&D and David Megarry’s Dungeon!. Both games have the same written procedure for detecting a secret door: elves have a 4-in-6 chance, and everyone else has a 2-in-6 chance. Dungeon! is a board game because this interaction is the final word. Meanwhile, D&D expects the player to avoid this very interaction (at least in most modern readings). Instead, the player says how their character slides their hands across the wall, hoping to come across a hidden door. This interaction is interpreted by the dungeon master who then tells the player whether or not there is a door at that spot.
This is not to say that the presence of a master is what distinguishes open systems from closed systems. On the contrary, closed systems find their own strict 'master' in the closed set of possible interactions. The master of the open system is ultimately the demiurge of a greater master: the system of language which encompasses all other systems of interaction. Hacking a computer program expands the set of interactions from those sanctioned by the program to any possible interaction represented in code. Likewise, D&D expands the set of interactions found in Dungeon! to any possible interaction represented in language. This means that the dungeon master is not really a master at all. Instead the dungeon master takes whatever the players say, and transforms it into a representation which can be handled in the game-world through natural or formal language.
Definite & Indefinite Systems
A definite system only supports a finite sequence of terms, whether those terms are events or interactions or 'signifiers' (if you are familiar with semiotics). Games can be made definite by asserting a positive terminal state. This means that there is a goal you try to reach by playing the game, and by reaching the goal you win and the game is over. For example, in Dungeon! the goal is to get a certain amount of gold and then to enter the 'great hall' space before the other players do.
An indefinite game can last forever, not just by the players' own efforts but because it is structured to last indefinitely. The game accomplishes this by not having a positive terminal state. There might be a negative terminal state representing failure, e.g. when you die, but the goal is precisely to avoid that state. There might also be markers of progress, like experience levels in D&D, but these are not terminal states at all. Instead, they allow the player to endlessly pursue goal after goal. This structure is homologous to Lacan's notion of the plus-de jouir, the subject's drive: there is always something else for the subject to desire because nothing fully satisfies. This drive allows the subject to continue to exist, if we (like Lacan) define the subject as the desiring mechanism itself. Therefore, the aim of an indefinite game is not to win but to continue playing.
Drive is key to indefinite systems; after all, any game worthy of the moniker 'game' (indefinite or not) must transform the player into a subject by forcing them to desire, i.e. by telling them what they lack. In Hungry Hungry Hippos, the player becomes a hungry hungry hippo who desires to eat more marbles than the other hippos. The difference between Hungry Hungry Hippos and D&D is that the game terminates when there are no more marbles left . One player wins and the satisfaction wears off. The friends might play another game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, or they might move onto something else entirely. In contrast, D&D offers one goalpost after another. It represents a wholly self-contained fantasy wherein the player-as-subject does not have to stop desiring, and they are driven toward treasure after treasure (and experience level after experience level) indefinitely.
Cooperation & Indefinite Games
Cooperation between agents also lends itself to indefinite systems. Really, the subject of D&D is not the individual character but the whole party . Even though each character has their own level indicator and their own being in the gameworld, the true subject is the assembly of characters insofar as it represents the unity of the players' desires. Needless to say, this unity is unstable because of intrapersonal conflicts and so on, but the conceit of cooperation allows players to strive towards that unity for their mutual good. By principle, a game where characters compete must be definite because there exists a terminal state where one character overpowers the rest (lest that overpowering be inconclusive and dissatisfactory).
For example, consider a modification of Dungeon! where there is a dungeon master who represents the actions of each player character competing against each other, relocating the competitive drive underneath the open interface of D&D. Such a game is not impossible to imagine, especially because the role of objective referee originated in freeform war games (not to mention in physical sports, albeit with a lesser responsibility)—even more so because already when a player character dies in Dungeon! they simply start over. However, Dungeon! is not an indefinite game. It terminates when someone enters the great hall with the minimum treasure required to win. That is to say that goalposts cannot be shifted indefinitely for a competitive game, where in effect each competitor is a goalpost. The ultimate satisfaction is derived from besting one’s competitors for once and for all.
To say that D&D is a Freudian game would be silly. It suggests that something has to obviously correspond to (a vulgarization of) Freud's ideas on a superficial level in order for Freud's theory to become applicable there. To put it in a different way, it suggests that some things are “Freudian” and other things aren't, and that things which are Freudian are definitively and essentially Freudian. I am not going to tell you that D&D is “Freudian”.
Instead, I propose that psychoanalysis is a useful model with which to approach D&D as the fantasy of a desiring subject. We can use psychoanalysis to talk about D&D because it is the product of someone's brain, and the way in which anyone produces anything speaks to the unconscious processes which guide that person's behavior. At the same time, we are not concerned with any one individual, but with the consistent patterns which emerge in individuals who play D&D. These patterns speak to the persistent elements of the D&D game and, through them, the shared patterns of players’ desires.
In particular, the structure of D&D as an indefinite game is homologous to what Lacan calls the phallic drive. The phallic drive serves as a heuristic to guide an individual towards certain objects of desire; that is, the phallic drive determines someone’s desire. Alongside that, it is the impulse to constantly seek out objects which seem to have the ability to fulfill one's desire; in other words, the phallic drive is desire itself. Thus the phallic drive, combining heuristic with motivation, ensures that in the subject's imagination there is always another thing to desire; when one thing is acquired, another thing will become desirable in its stead. Lacan calls this the phallic drive because it directly relates to the subject's unconscious 'belief' that they have irrevocably lost something that once fulfilled them, and so they must grasp at straws to find something to replace what they have lost, each attempt satisfying for a short while but never lasting . Lacan calls this castration since he argues that this is the actual root of Freud’s notion of castration anxiety. The subject acquires a so-called 'symbolic' phallus (the phallic drive) to replace the 'imaginary' phallus, the source of fulfillment, that they had originally lost. (Freud literalizes this as the Oedipus complex where the mother figure, as an original source of enjoyment, is "gatekept" from a boy-child by the father figure; so the child seeks out substitutes for the enjoyment he originally derived from their mother, by taking on the role of a father-substitute.) The phallic subject thus has no choice but to keep desiring and to keep new finding things to desire, always feeling like they lack something.
Likewise, the player as an adventurer seeks treasure after treasure because that is the formal goal of the game: to acquire gold pieces is to acquire experience points, and to acquire experience points is to develop one's character. The adventurer acquires gold pieces while exploring dungeons, and the exploration is thus oriented by the adventurer's pursuit, as are other activities in the game such as combat (and, by extension, the referee can design locales and situations anticipating certain behavior from the players). Finally, the adventurers acquire enough gold pieces to level, and what happens next is key: the function of leveling up is to improve one's own treasure-extracting abilities. Then the adventurers are thrown back into the fray, seeking out more valuable treasure in more difficult dungeons in order to attain higher levels of experience. Overall, the game enables the player's fantasy by ensuring that there is always another dungeon to explore and pillage, or another experience level to attain, and the game never ends. For the Gygaxian adventurer, there is always another dungeon to loot. In the same way, the phallic drive always ensures that in the subject's imagination there is always another thing to desire. For the traditional male subject, there is always another woman to fuck.
This is where we meet with Gygax's comments on biological essentialism of the sexes: Gygax says that men normally find enjoyment according to the structures of the game, whereas women find enjoyment outside of the game structure itself by "LARPing" and "csocialization [sic]" and "theatrics" . Gygax is partly correct to notice that this is "because of a difference in brain function", but this difference is not biological as much as it has to do with the (normal) determination of desire for girls and boys. Lacan distinguishes between masculine and feminine enjoyment along similar lines as Gygax: the male subject is basically enslaved to the phallic drive (“There is always another dungeon to fuck”), whereas the female subject may find enjoyment beyond this phallic cycle of failure. In this precise sense, Gygax is not incorrect in saying that D&D is a masculine game, especially in the context of how D&D was basically conceived (as an infinitely playable war game). Rather, D&D can be accurately characterized as a tabletop simulator for male desire.
The (phallic) structure of a fantasy does not necessarily inform its explicit content, but it helps us understand why the explicit content appears in the form that it does. By explicit content, I refer to the distinction Freud makes in The Interpretation of Dreams between the explicit and latent content of dreams: explicit content is the superficial images that appear in dreams, while latent content is the symbolism behind those images. Freud’s discovery of the unconscious originated to explain how dreams are structured according to the dreamer’s desire; Lacan would then rephrase Freud’s discovery in terms of the phallic drive which I’ve already described, as something owing not to biology but to our relationship to desire and language.
D&D is certainly phallic, and this relationship between the player and the game-loop structures the images which appear in the game. The players are adventurers in a pseudo-medieval world, and they loot dungeons or fight monsters to survive. As discussed, this fantasy is not grounded in medieval Europe at all, and it has more in common with Wild West fantasies about colonialism, freedom, and social escapism than anything to do with feudalism. The only reason that D&D is “medieval” is because Gary Gygax and David Arneson were medieval history buffs who liked sword-and-sorcery fiction (itself also a derivative of Wild West fiction). The weird imagery of swords and dungeons and borderlands is knitted together by the party’s desire to accumulate gold, which has nothing to do with its economic value but instead its being a signifier of victory for the players. The game relies on accumulation as a metaphor for victory, but it also rids accumulation of its own significance in capitalism. One persistent criticism of D&D is that adventurers accumulate so much gold throughout their exploits, and yet there is little to actually spend it on. In this way, phallic desire takes the wheel and appropriates gold as a symbol for itself. Gold comes not to signify economic value, but to signify play experience.
The images that appear in D&D are almost nonsensical unless you take them as the product of Gygax and Arneson's weird fantasies. Certainly their fantasies are products of the liberal capitalist world in which they lived, but criticizing D&D for being capitalist or colonialist doesn't give the full picture: the images were selected because they were already socially desirable, and it's in this precise dimension that they interface with real-life politics and we can thus criticize them.
There are even more interesting implications of the environments which adventurers are most likely to explore: dungeons below ground and the wilderness above. I will first discuss the immediate literary or social influences on these settings, and then I will discuss how they pertain to a feminist critique of D&D insofar as they import feminine associations which rely on the social denigration of women.
The Underworld is a literary convention which D&D appropriates in order to import its symbolic associations into the game. The katabasis, or journey into the Underworld, is itself an ancient trope, having predecessors in the Gilgamesh epic, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, and others. Often the protagonist is seeking a shade among the dead, such as Odysseus seeking advice from the dead prophet Tiresias or Aeneas trying to find his lover Dido. The dead are often in the middle of being punished, like Dante exploring an imagined version of the Christian Hell. An interesting mix of these two tendencies is found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses where Ceres’ daughter Proserpina is raped and forcibly married to Hades. The language Ovid uses to describe the capture of Proserpina seems to be a metaphor for sexual violence, as Hades pierces a hole into the Earth (Ceres and Proserpina being Earth goddesses) and creates an abyss into Tartarus through which he transports his ‘bride’. Another predecessor to D&D dungeons appears in The Metamorphoses, namely the Cretan labyrinth constructed by the inventor Daedalus to contain the Minotaur; unfortunately for Daedalus, King Minos of Crete would also imprison him and his son Icarus in the labyrinth because it would ultimately fail to protect the monster. The literary tradition out of which D&D emerges has therefore long understood the Underworld as a hostile and punitive landscape, as suggested by the word “dungeon” which prior to D&D referred often to underground prisons.
The punitive symbolism of the dungeon relates to the phallic structure of the game insofar as it imposes a ritual cycle of risk and reward onto the players’ characters. One of the most famous conventions of the Underworld is that shades are punished in a manner befitting their sin. Lucretius explains the symbolism of such depictions in his philosophical epic On the Nature of Things, where he says that Tityos whose insides are eaten continually by birds represents people afflicted with anxiety, and Sisyphus represents people who habitually seek but fail to acquire power. It is perhaps such characters we should consider when trying to find some connection between the dungeon as a prison versus the dungeon as a so-called “mythic Underworld”, since it seems that the adventurers of D&D are themselves trapped in a hell where they must keep searching for gold or else die—only to come back again in the form of other adventurers. In this sense, the phallic desire which animates the characters is redoubled onto them as game pieces that are replaced when killed. Hail, Player! We who are about to die salute you!
The Wilderness takes after the American myth of Manifest Destiny, representing terra nullius just waiting to be conquered and civilized by brave settlers. The brave settlers are none other than the adventurer characters who, after having acquired so many gold pieces' worth of treasure, have attained powerful capabilities and social status in proportion. The original D&D recommends the game board of Outdoor Survival as the basis for a regional map, a hostile landscape dotted sparingly by castles and towns. The castles are ruled by classed characters (i.e. fighting-men, magic-users, and clerics) who have attained an even greater level of experience than the players' characters. These non-player characters are thus worthy of becoming lords, wizards, and patriarchs respectively (i.e. by class), and have built castles from which to rule over the domain they have conquered.
As outlined in the introduction, the frontier setting and early modern economy is what characterizes D&D as a Western rather than a medieval fantasy setting. This is especially evident in the teleology of the adventurers' development. To summarize the author of Bag of Holding : there is no noble class except perhaps one being eclipsed by a rising middle class (bourgeoisie) ; land is not granted by an overlord but freely seized from the Wilderness; wealth "is primarily in the form of coinage and jewels, not land and cattle"; transactional relationships between people are expressed in wages rather than in fealty. The characters are thus really Wild West cowboy-type figures, wandering the frontier until opportunity strikes. Like in the actual American West, they engage in a violent settler colonialism which 'cleanses' the land in order to claim and settle it for themselves.
The transplanting of Wild West social dynamics into medieval fantasy settings has precedent in American popular culture. Notably, Robert E. Howard depicts the Scottish Pict people as virtual (and stereotyped) American Indians in his Conan short story "Beyond the Black River", which itself takes place on a frontier settlement posing a threat to the 'wild' Picts; the story has thus been interpreted as a Western in the guise of a sword-and-sorcery romp. More broadly, the Western genre takes certain influence from medieval chivalric romance, locating the archetypal cowboy as a semi-contemporary knight errant who embodies ostensibly Christian values (which, of course, had changed from Catholic chivalry to Protestant work ethic over the centuries). The traditionally chivalric appeal of the 'American cowboy' functions in a similar way that Howard's story and D&D do: by drawing upon shared generic conventions, or by speaking those conventions into popularity, the literature fosters a sense of nostalgic timelessness. Whether pseudo-medieval or Western, the imagery has one ideological function: to normalize the social or political dynamics of the West with respect to a bygone, idealized era.
Monsters in D&D
An uninhabited frontier is incomplete without 'monsters' which actually inhabit it. Although monsters appear in the Underworld in literature and in D&D, their significance for the latter is most apparent once adventurers emerge from the dungeon to the surface: the monsters are monsters which oppose non-monsters that are not monsters. Duh!
To put it differently, the monsters are creatures or figures who have been determined by the game to be monsters. In doing so, the game designates monsters as appropriate adversaries for the adventurers by identifying them as the antagonists of normal society. It accomplishes this multiple ways. The beastly monsters are grotesque creatures or depictions of typical fantasy creatures, like dragons. The often-called 'goblinoid' monsters are primitive, such as the orcs who live in constant "inter-tribal hostility" (M&T, p. 7). The human monsters (how deep!) are either also primitive, such as cavemen, or they represent antisocial rejects of regular society: bandits, brigands, nomads, dervishes, buccaneers (M&T, pp. 6-7). Therefore there is no consistent characterization of monsters as a category except that they are monsters.
However, the very category of 'monster' itself is socially and politically significant because it is precisely a category often imposed onto the targets of (widespread, industrial, social) violence. There is perhaps nothing intuitively racist about pig-faced orcs, save for their tribal social organization which most often serves to ascribe to them savagery and barbarism. Many who identify that as 'problematic' may revise their orcs to be nothing but pure monstrosity, having no resemblance to any real culture or ethnicity. That is, however, the precise historical (and current) function of applied monstrosity in society: to identify appropriate targets of socially sanctioned violence by designating them as non-self (non-white, non-male, non-straight, non-cissexual, non-cisgender, or non-human; behold the taxonomy of non-"normality"!). This is the premise of the monstrous ‘humanoid’, that which is like a human but is certainly not one (to whom?).
As Siew discusses in his article, D&D's impulse to taxonomize monsters reflects the colonial impulse to do the same to indigenous people (and in other contexts): the goal is to thus quantify and standardize the world in order to possess the proper (i.e. determined-to-be-correct) knowledge of how to possess and act upon it . I am quoted in the article as saying, "The connection between taxonomy and power, that nerds find it empowering to possess an abstract knowledge which they impose onto things, seems related to what has been identified as phallic desire." As we have discussed prior, phallic desire seeks desirable objects by objectifying things into standards or quantities understood best by itself; for example, the dungeon game is an optimization problem of value gained for time and value spent, where value is represented (and quantified) by gold pieces, and the time limit is limited by quantifiable resources and time for play. The same impulse underlies colonial taxonomy, to sort people (often quantifiably!) into ethnic or racial categories. As we will see, the phallic drive also plays into sexism, and more than phallic desire in sexism being a mere analog of phallicism in other contexts, sexist phallicism underlies phallic discourse in those contexts.
What is the significance of the female body for patriarchy? First, apparently, it’s a fucking mystery. In one UK survey conducted by YouGov , 60% of men and 45% of women could not identify the vagina on a diagram, and 31% of men and 29% of women could not identify the clit. Irigaray argues in This Sex Which Is Not One that patriarchy is not only defined by men controlling women’s bodies, but also women being socialized to repress their own sexual impulses for the benefit of men (who need not repress anything they do not already know). Irigaray also argues that patriarchy, or phallocracy, reduces women into mere abstractions pertaining to their exchange-value as a virgin or their use-value as a wife-mother “consumed”; only whores straddle the line since they are considered valuable for exchange insofar as they are freely available to fuck. Woman’s body is thus mystified in order to become a vessel for relationships between men, especially fathers and husbands, or between themselves and money.
Woman’s body, as understood by men, has much in common with the Underworld as something which traps its victims in punitive rituals. This is not out of nowhere. The figure of Pandora by name originates from Hesiod’s didactic epic Works and Days, where the poet seems to have combined a tradition of an Earth goddess named Pandora with a tradition of the origin of the first woman (who, in The Theogony which is also attributed to Hesiod, has no name and no jar of spirits). When Pandora opens her jar, releases the evil spirits, and traps the spirit of hope inside, Hesiod mythologizes in one swoop the origin of marriage and also that of agriculture: both being avenues for Zeus to control men by imposing strife. The jar which entraps hope is understood to be both a symbol of Earth and a symbol of the womb, both requiring a man to plow in order to reap the benefits of crops or children therefrom. Thus agriculture and sex, or more broadly marriage, have been understood by Hesiod and other men as inconvenient rituals (“the old ball and chain”) which they must still perform in order to survive in the world. This instrumental view of women aligns with the goal of the dungeon crawl, to squeeze as much value as one can from penetrating into it before wanting to explore another hole instead.
The Wilderness has more immediate associations with woman’s body for those familiar with the American imperial doctrine of Manifest Destiny, or more broadly with the discourse of colonial conquest in the New World. Virgin land is one idiom that exists in many contexts: for agriculture, it refers to soil that has not yet been cultivated by farmers (like Pandora!); for colonization, it refers to land that has ostensibly not yet been settled. It is this lack of civilization that often justifies the settling of those lands, by casting them as ripe for the taking on one hand, but also untamed and requiring work on the other, being full of “monsters” and “darkness”; the virginal feminization of colonized lands gives the impression that the colonizer is meant to marry (or, really, fuck) them. This aligns well with patriarchy’s view of women as professed by Hesiod and analyzed by Irigaray, that women are only good to be fucked and that their own body is virtually an obstacle in the way of that. It is thus no wonder that myths of Earth mothers and Earth maidens emerge in different agricultural societies; however benevolent the myth may occasionally appear, its social function is to naturalize the belief that woman’s body is a ground meant for cultivation, while eroticizing agriculture as a marriage to the Earth. Likewise, for colonial ideology, the frontier is female—and she's a virgin!
The truth is that sexuality is everywhere: the way a bureaucrat fondles his records, a judge administers justice, a businessman causes money to circulate; the way the bourgeoisie fucks the proletariat; and so on. And there is no need to resort to metaphors, any more than for the libido to go by way of metamorphoses. Hitler got the fascists sexually aroused. Flags, nations, armies, banks get a lot of people aroused. A revolutionary machine is nothing if it does not acquire at least as much force as these coercive machines have for producing breaks and mobilizing flows.
Deleuze & Guattari, 1972: p. 293.
Is D&D a metaphor for phallic desire, or is phallic desire something which operates on the same logic as D&D? Obviously, if phallic desire in the strictest sense (i.e. of erotics) were considered a basis of D&D, it would have to be alongside other social systems such as capitalism and racism whose symbolic structures permeate all aspects of social and personal fantasy. Yet at the same time, sexism or patriarchy do not exist on a lower level than these other factors, not only in existing beside them but also informing the language we use to discuss them, as we have seen in how colonial language evokes patriarchal symbolism in order to justify some aspects of colonial conquest. These systems all interact with and often reinforce each other if deemed beneficial, so better understanding one helps understand the language and logic of another.
The political is erotic just as the erotic is political, and D&D is not exempt from the social implications of phallic discourse even if it is not unique or as explicit in encoding them (though, with characters being lords and patriarchs, and with dungeons inhabited by “scantily clad” medusae, how could it not be explicit?). Rather, if Gygax’s comments are to be taken seriously, or if the literary or social conventions behind D&D are to be explored, D&D is as much a male sexist fantasy as it is a racist or a capitalist one. Yet these fantasies, being so prevalent in society, are difficult to escape even for the people they target. They cannot be bypassed by just calling for more female adventurers, for example. They are features of the dungeon game insofar as the latter is an expression of all those real-life symbolic systems.
 Siew, Zedeck. 2022-08-23. "D&D's Obsession With Taxonomy", Zedeck Siew's Writing Hours.
... this blogpost should really be titled D&D’s Obsession With Phallic Desire , for maximum clickbait ...
 Compare D&D to F.A.T.A.L., a game manual infamous for its graphic depictions of sex and violence.
 Another difference is that Hungry Hungry Hippos has a closed interface that has not been opened up by language like D&D has.
 L., Gus. 2013-04-09. "Thoughts Regarding Character Mortality and Old School Dungeons and Dragons", Dungeon of Signs.
 In particular, the normative 'neurotic' or 'obsessive' subject has this relationship to desire. The pervert and the psychotic do not, and the hysteric only partly has this relationship. Obsessive neuroticism is equivalent to sole phallicism.
 Gygax, Gary. 2002-05-20. "Q&A With Gary Gygax, Part III", Dragonsfoot.
See also: Gygax, Gary. 2004-01-25. "Q&A with Gary Gygax", ENWorld.
Here i thought that most everybody knew that the first two play-testers for the D&D game were my son Ernie and my daughter Elise. They played the first dungeon adventurte, were joined the next day by Don Kaye and Rob Kuntz.
Elise played for a few months, then lost interest. Her younger sisters, Heidi and Cindy, got into D&D later on. those two used to make Luke DM for them when he was very young, tell him what treasure that they found. When he complained to me about that I set him straight, and shortly after that his sisters quit playing, the greedy power gamers :D
As I have often said, I am a biological determinist, and there is no question that male and female brains are different. It is apparent to me that by and large females do not derrive the same inner satisfaction from playing games as a hobby that males do. It isn't that females can't play games well, it is just that it isn't a compelling activity to them as is the case for males.
 Hughes, Paul. 2016-11-02. "d&d is anti-medieval", Bag of Holding.
 I have previously written about the class dynamics of D&D with respect to lords, wizards, and patriarchs: "On Thieves: A Trifunctional Analysis of OD&D" (2022-07-05).
 Waldersee, Victoria. 2019-03-08. "Half of Brits don't know where the vagina is - and it's not just the men", YouGov.
Deleuze, Gilles & Felix Guattari. 1972. Anti-Oedipus. Translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane in 1983.
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