EA games invites convention attendees to sexually harass ‘booth babes’

// 25 July 2009

eagames.jpgTo promote a game called Dante’s Inferno, Electronic Arts decided to hold a competition at Comic-Con: (male) attendees were encouraged to “commit acts of lust” with so-called “booth babes”, for a chance to win “a sinful night with two hot girls, a limo service, paparazzi and a chest full of booty”.

Yeah, in all seriousness they were offering prizes for attendees who sexually harassed women working at the convention (there’s a whole other post that I could write about the concept of hiring “booth babes”, but that will have to wait for another day.)

You can see the leaflet they distributed at the convention over at Mashable.

EA posted a ludicrously weak apology (in which they continue to advertise the competition), claiming that the competition was about taking your picture with ‘booth babes’ and nothing more. The apology has since been taken down. But as Christyxcore says:

“Commit acts of lust” really doesn’t translate to “take a photo with…” at all.

In fact, I’d say it’s disingenuous to claim that’s what they meant.

iola, who actually works as a ‘booth babe’ points out that EA games is not only encouraging people to grope their own employees, but also other women who happen to be working for other companies or just attending the convention in costume:

Have any of you BEEN a “booth babe”? No? Then STFU. Myself, I’ve been a “booth babe” at many comic, scifi and anime cons for the last several yrs. I was also the training manager for ALL employees, running the booths and overseeing the product of two major companies. I also happen to be attractive and enjoy wearing costumes. I have a four-yr degree and my day-job is in the comic industry. But I guess I’m ASKING to be groped because I’m one step up from a hooker, right? Even if I WAS a fucking hooker, that gives no one the right. I can walk around in a thong and pasties and it’s nobody’s license to touch.

As for those that think the “fine print” settles everything, you’re sadly wrong. I just worked a con last week where about 2-in-3 people would come stand directly under a large sign and STILL ask me the question answered on it. People don’t read. You’d be lucky if they read the whole ad, let alone some fine print bullshit.

Then there’s the girls. The brass BALLS on EA to put a bounty on OTHER booth girls. Hell, girls in general. Afterall, how does someone know who other booth girls are? At one SDCC I was trying to have a converstation with my editor off on the fringe of a booth, not wearing any “booth babe” identifiers–just being a girl in a costume–and we kept getting harassed by people who thought I was one of the booth’s “babes.”

Lastly, you guys think that people offended by this are over-reacting because SANE people at a con would never do something criminal? Spoken like someone who’s not female and dressed up at a con. Last week I had some moron ACTUALLY STALK one of my new girls. Kept coming back to the booth even after she told him she wouldn’t hang out. He kept getting more insistent that she hang out with him and give him her phone number. Kept telling her he’d come back when she asked him not to. Tried to FOLLOW HER. Yah, that’s obviously not dangerous AT ALL. I’ve had my own issues over the years, including stalkers, men trying to take invasive photos, or grabbing things they shouldn’t. I have at least a couple of guys a con who cross the line. Please don’t downplay the seriousness of a situation that you know NOTHING ABOUT.

The Iris Gaming Network has put together a link round up of reactions to this. And you can see the many tweets on this (mostly calling out EA, rather than defending them) here.

Comments From You

Laurel Dearing // Posted 25 July 2009 at 7:05 pm

Tbh im pretty offended by the “YOU” tag on the guy. its like it doesnt even cross their mind that the male customers theyre assuming want this offer are the only people going or receiving these leaflets. a lot of “geeks” or “nerds” you see will feel like they arent enough around women or liked by them, but its things like this (and touch my breast badges was it?) that keep women away from these spaces in the first places. being looked at differently is why people dont like to be around them sometimes. i dont see how its helpful to the guys at all even, if the only women they do get to interact with are attractive, dressed in something from their fantasy, and available to be groped. i mean really! not much of a life lesson, and, to be honest, an unfair set of expectations. i hear people complain most geek girls are overweight or unattractive. well so are most geek boys. and cons arent dating agencies anyway. im not saying dont rise above your statin or that it will ever happen, but dont expect to deserve someone that works hard on their appearance or has a killer body to settle just because youre a cookie-worthy nice guy. if you really are and you treat women like people rather than some attainable object, then youre far more likely to find people of different sorts liking you for you too.

Rob M // Posted 26 July 2009 at 1:30 am

“Commit acts of lust” really doesn’t translate to “take a photo with…” at all.

In fact, I’d say it’s disingenuous to claim that’s what they meant.

Mind, “Take photos with” does – very much literally – mean “take photos with”. Which is what it says. The “people don’t read” argument falls on its arse with the picture that these non-readers see showing some dude being photographed standing casually next to and not even touching a bikini-clad lass.

The basic concept of having ‘booth babes’ (even the name, Jesus…) is a toe-curling embarrassment, and fundamentally and obviously sexist. I really don’t think this particular competition significantly extends that (I don’t think it is asking anyone to commit assault.) iola’s arguments in the linked thread are spectacularly disingenuous. “Yes, I support sticking a bunch of chicks in bikini’s at shows to attract nerds to come and see some unrelated product whilst photographing and harassing them… but to use the word LUST in an advert is UNACCEPTABLE.”

It’s baffling that people reacting with outrage to this competition are doing so over semantics, and giving a free pass to the underlying practice of using women as bait to be gawped and pawed at by goons at these nerdfests.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 26 July 2009 at 11:30 am

I’m assuming these young women described as ‘booth babes’ are being employed by a company in order to promote their products.

Therefore ‘inviting males to commit sexual harassment or other forms of sexual violence against the young women’ is a crime, since sexual harassment within the workplace is no longer legal and this includes males who sexually harass any woman whilst she is undertaking paid work.

But given male sexual harassment of women within public and private spheres is now seen as ‘normal male behaviour’ with the pseudo justification – if a woman behaves or wears certain clothing she is seen as ‘causing and provoking normal males to enact their supposedly uncontrollable male sex drive’ it is not surprising corporate companies will use this to increase their profit margin.

Ergo: Electronic Arts are promoting male sexual violence against women and their only reason is to garner even higher profits from the sale of their products. Similarly men who commit sexual violence against women whether it is verbal, physical, or psychological always claim ‘it is the woman’s/women/s fault’ which neatly deflects attention away from how our society deliberately encourages men to commit sexual violence against women.

The now normal misogynistic representation of women as men’s sexualised commodities is one of the main reasons why women are now dehumanised sexualised commodities. One cannot commit a crime against an object – ergo women and girls.

Anne Onne // Posted 26 July 2009 at 3:45 pm

And they ask why more women aren’t doing [insert geeky activity of choice]! Well, stop treating female geeks or women at geeky events as nothing more than wank fodder for the obviously more important doodz, and they might not feel that the industry holds women in contempt. Just sayin’…

@ Laurel Dearing: I don’t see what you wrote above as telling someone not to ‘have ideas outside their station’ as it were, but rather a warning against entitlement.

It’s not impossible that someone considered conventionally attractive would date someone less so. Nor would it be wrong, obviously. Likewise, you’re not saying that nobody should be attracted to someone conventionally attractive, whether one is conventionally attractive oneself or not.

But you are pointing out that it is hypocritical of oneself to believe that nobody but the most conventionally attractive people deserve your attention/dates/sex/etc because you think they are hideous wastes of space, and then wonder if other people are likewise as shallow.

If someone just wants partners that are conventionally very good looking, particularly if they are a lot less so, they limit their chance of finding people interested in them, or with similar interests or hobbies. This isn’t about ‘forcing’ poor beleagered men to date fat women against their will (so the argument goes), it’s about the expectation that a woman is only attractive if she resembles a photoshopped porn actress or an anime character, and that women less attractive than that are ‘beneath’ one’s attention. This does a disservice to those who both are and aren’t conventionally attractive by grading people based on an arbitrary standard that has nothing to do with who they are as a person and whether they would be fun to know.

You’re pointing out that nobody is entitled to ‘hot’ people falling head over heels for them, whatever they look like, and that the patriarchy encourages men in particular to aspire to date women for their looks above all else, treating them like nothing more than arm candy for male prestige. Such a double standard is worth pointing out for the fact that it is an unfair expectation and is hypocritical. Even if such people find a conventionally attractive partner, their focus on looks above all else may well be off-putting to someone who sees themselves (rightly so) as more than just a pretty face!

Also, you rightly pointed out that cons aren’t dating services and that there’s more to interacting with women than hoping to get laid. It’s quite depressing that a fair few heterosexual men seem to see interacting with 50% of the population in these terms only.

polly styrene // Posted 26 July 2009 at 3:49 pm

I notice that on one of the sites linked to there’s a predictable comment that “but the booth babes chose to do that job”.

Why are some folks incapable of grasping the idea that because a women is “sexy” she’s not issuing an open invitation to all and sundry to treat her body as their property?

(yeah stupid question I realise).

JenniferRuth // Posted 27 July 2009 at 9:15 am

Wow…what is there to say to that? I would love to know what creative agency was behind it.

There is a problem with sexual harrassement at cons and the last thing women need is companies actively encouraging it.

I would bet money that the people who worked on this campaign were men. They have no idea what it is like to be a woman – what it is like to live under the constant threat of sexual assault (yes, groping is assault). This is their privilege showing. However, their apology is so weak it seems that they have absolutely no intention of acknowledging this fact.

Also, way to imply that the only customers you think you have are straight males.

Christian Gilbert // Posted 28 July 2009 at 6:48 am

I may be old fashion in saying this but, should not the male population be defending the women in the first place. I don’t just mean to rebel against the idea EA threw to the public (quit like throwing meat to a starved wolf) but that the marketing idea even has a possibility to work. In fact take it to the next level and say that the EA brass should not have passed this just to protect the women. On top of that it is idiotic to think that these “men” in attendence are even sane. As a teenager (and yes male also) i have witnessed accounts where an individual is obsessed with a manga, anime, rpg, story, or fictitious game to the point being deceived into thinking that the individual is no less short of a “god”. With that unstable mentality would it not be to say that these people do not possess the will not intellect to decipher the subtle meaning to the ad? I think it would be like sitting an epileptic in front of a strobe while driving a car!

iola // Posted 28 July 2009 at 7:29 am

@Laurel Dearing – By your comment, I’m going to guess that you aren’t a part of the nerd/geek culture. Your post seems based completely on the same stereotypes that the ad perpetuates.

There are LOTS of women in nerd culture. LOTS of women at cons. At most of the cons I do (USA, scifi/comic/anime) the ratio is 50-50 (if not more-so). The nerdy men do not want for lack of girl socialization there.

There are also plenty of physically attractive people outside of the “booth babes.” I’m a huge nerd and I have lots of nerdy friends. Not a one of them is the stereotypical “I live in the basement and don’t shower” people. Anyone who says nerd girls are all “fat and ugly” doesn’t know too many (and doesn’t have license to learn otherwise with that attitude).

@Rob M. – Hahahaha, I love what you did there. You DIDN’T READ and then claimed the “PEOPLE DON’T READ” comment is wrong. Wait, I have to stop laughing….

The “Take photos with us” is right beneathe “COMMIT ACTS OF LUST.” I’m pretty sure you can figure out the implication there. Then again you didn’t the first time, okay…IE “Do something raunchy to our girls and THEN take pics of it!” The implication is reinforced when you see that the photos are choosen (as opposed to random drawing), which leads one to believe that just standing around with the girls will probably not be creative enough.

Obviously what I said was too confusing for you, since your paraphrase is sooo very out there. Let me help.

#1 I have no problem with using spokespeople to sell product. I don’t have a problem with sexy girls. What’s sexist about “booth babes” to ME is the fact that no one bothers to play to my side. I would like more booth BOYS (there are a couple I know, but JUST a couple). What’s sexist about this contest is EA shutting out their girl gamers, stereotyping their male audience, being insensitive to the dangerous assault culture that exists for girl con-goers, putting their “babes” in assault danger, and giving women away as prizes.

#2 I did not say it was okay to “harass” the booth babes. I think I made that pretty clear, but I can say it again.

#3 Didn’t argue against saying “Lust” or the semantics of things. You are oversimplifying to somehow support your position…whatever that was. I’m really baffled where your crazy-train of though went on this, but bully for you for following it to it’s illogical end.

Oh wait, was it that you don’t like “booth babes” so people upset about possible ASSAULT are mad at the wrong thing? Oooookay. Can’t help you with that one.

Kit // Posted 28 July 2009 at 11:13 am

Classy EA, alienate a good chunk of your audience/customers with a competition aimed pretty much at straight men – didn’t you learn from the IGN incident?

I know it seems fairly obvious they’re targeting a straight male audience, but do you think they’re actually open to a woman spending “a sinful night with two hot girls”, is the main prize is for men only?

@Rob M – I agree with you that in reading (coupled with the image), it does look like a case of simply taking photos next to a “booth babe”, but although they say to repeat the process n-times to get a better chance of winning, I think you might get some people thinking “let’s do something to make my photo stand out from the rest,” and then try to do something more in keeping with the theme of the contest. The risk of that happening might be small, but it’s unfair of EA to put that risk on their own “booth babes” and others at the con.

Moe // Posted 28 July 2009 at 1:09 pm

I’m an avid gamer and I don’t really see what the need for booth girls is in the gaming industry. I play games for what they are, games. If I wanted to go out and meet a girl I’d just talk to a girl at school or at work so I wouldn’t be wasting my time talking to someone that’s getting paid to act all nice. I’ve read through some of the stuff on this site and although I don’t agree with some of the stuff said with that whole hooters thing, I agree that this is definitely going too far.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 28 July 2009 at 4:37 pm

@iola, i know there are more women at these things than people assume, but i was trying to address that a lot of the men are more shy around women and interact with them less and feel the need to be presented with them rather than having to open communication. i am not going off of stereotype, but of people i know. i know many perfectly well adjusted men and women that go to cons, esp anime ones, but then i know a lot of them are nervous or feel like no women are interested in them and get quite depressed about it. even ones i know who make the series people go to see sometimes. ive always been described as a geek and hung around with, only difference being im not really heavily into or particularly good at any of it

Rob M // Posted 28 July 2009 at 9:19 pm

The “Take photos with us” is right beneathe “COMMIT ACTS OF LUST.” I’m pretty sure you can figure out the implication there. Then again you didn’t the first time, okay…IE “Do something raunchy to our girls and THEN take pics of it!”-iola

Alternatively, it’s a ham-fisted attempt at tying in the product. It’s HEADLINE: Explanation. Call me over-generous – or sane, either way – but I really think the most likely explanation is that they made a bad choice of wording, rather than they cooked up the conscious and deliberate plan of openly asking people to attack their own employees. Not least because they do have a legal department (and again, maybe too generous: basic common knowledge) to tell them that such a thing would be hugely illegal, even if we accept the idea that they are psychopaths (which I, generous to a fault, actually don’t assume to be true.)

It’s not too hard to imagine a competition for, I don’t know… ‘Crazy Taxi’, saying “DO SOMETHING CRAZY” then an explanation “Paint Yourself Like A Taxi”, all underneath a picture of a man painted yellow like an American taxi. (It’s a shit campaign, i know – I’m not getting paid for this.) If we follow your reading, they’d be asking the competitors to go out and act psychotic – They’re asking people to kill and maim people! And eat actual shit! And watch the entire series of ‘Horne and Cordon’! Fucksakes! My reading of that would be that it’s a competition to, er, dress up as a taxi.

So that’s part of what I was saying, but the minor part. The other, bigger bit…

Oh wait, was it that you don’t like “booth babes” so people upset about possible ASSAULT are mad at the wrong thing?

No, no no, it wasn’t that. I agree that this competition is awful bullshit. However, remove the headline and keep the rest of the poster… and it’s still awful bullshit.

What’s sexist about this contest is EA shutting out their girl gamers, stereotyping their male audience, being insensitive to the dangerous assault culture that exists for girl con-goers, putting their “babes” in assault danger, and giving women away as prizes.

See, you could replace “this contest” with “the entire bloody concept of ‘booth babes'”, and “EA” with “all of these dickhead companies” and that’s still all valid. That’s my point.

iola // Posted 28 July 2009 at 11:53 pm

@Moe: What you fail to understand is that #1 “booth babes” who might fall closer to the stereotype (costumed people who’d only job is to stand around and draw attention to the booth) are very rarely wearing anything that’s shown in the ad. The girls at EA’s booth were wearing business casual, a knee-ish length pencil skirt and plain V-neck shirts. Yes, they were pretty, but they weren’t overtly sexual.

The other problem is that the majority of “booth babes” are just girls working for the company. They’re at the booth just as their male counterparts would be (selling, assisting customers, etc.) but happen to be pretty and/or dressed in costume (as a major of those on the floor are). I work as the latter and as you can see from my original comment, it makes no difference to pervs. So I should job not have a job in a booth at all? Wear a tablecloth? That’s ridiculous.

Jess McCabe // Posted 29 July 2009 at 9:09 am

I really think it’s important to seperate out these two conversations: like I said in my post, there’s a whole other thing to talk about the concept of ‘booth babes’. The only thing which I’d say is worth addressing is this, and iola, I don’t know what you think? It seems to me like if women who work for the company, or are hired just to do this job of staffing the booths, etc, are being routinely viewed as eye candy, as opposed to the men working on the booths, then maybe that is contributing to a culture where EA thinks of booth babes as sexual objects, which is maybe why they thought this was acceptable?

But regardless of whether it’s a good or a bad thing to have ‘booth babes’, it’s common at conventions like this, and EA has invited attendees to sexually harass them. That’s the main issue. I have trouble with those who are insisting “it only says take photos!” It’s not even a question of semantics: “commit acts of lust” does not = “take photos with”, whatever way you spin it. It’s not that we’re saying people can’t read, it’s that they can read, and they’re reading the words “commit acts of lust”.

iola // Posted 29 July 2009 at 11:24 am

@Rob M. – No, I don’t think the EA guys had a thought in their mind that this contest would generate something criminal. That would be the problem. The fact that their “apology” was NOT an apology, but a “Aw, you guys just don’t get it!”? That just reinforces the well deserved shit-storm.

You do not accept the idea that girls get phyiscally and mentally assaulted at cons? How many enraged girls does it take TO convince you of such a thing? Apparently my first-hand experience is not enough.

A “crazy taxi” contest does not–once again–reinforce a sexual harassment/assault culture that women at cons already endure. Some men at cons ALREADY lose their common sense at the door. Booth girls don’t need their EMPLOYER putting them out there as if such behavior was okay. Obviously if you’re going to argue this point with me, then you best stop now because you are not empathic to the issue. It will be like beating my head into a wall and I’m not fond of that.

Read my comment to Moe to see that “booth babes” are not what you think they are.

@Jess McCabe – I’m not sure what you’re trying to address in your first paragraph, but I’ll try to respond.

Do you mean: Does the objectification of women in convention culture (comic/gamer/scifi/anime) make EA think their contest is okay? I think that based on the stereotypes they display in their poster, they do think this is the case.

Booth babes can be sexy, and I’ve said before that I have no problem with that (just that I wish there were more male “babes” to balance things out with the audience). You can ASK to take pictures or compliment a gal just as you would any other time. I draw the line when people act in a criminal or rude manner. You don’t demand she rip your shirt off and make out with you (multiple times), or tell you her perferred penis size. Man, maybe I should just start a booth babe anon blog and put those stories out there…I think I’m getting most of my flack from people NOT KNOWING that this stuff really truly HAPPENS. The above is just a sampling of what happened last month to me.

And I was only wearing jeans and T-shirt that day, selling merch like any of the male workers.

Jess McCabe // Posted 29 July 2009 at 12:14 pm

@iola Yep, that’s what I meant. I think it’d be really powerful to have a booth babes anonymous blog, but also I think a lot of the comments just betray how little some of these (male) commenters know about what it’s like to be a woman, and the level of everyday harassment women get, even when the situation isn’t exacerbated by idiots like EA.

Diana // Posted 29 July 2009 at 5:01 pm

I am getting soooooooooo tired of self-important, authoritarian men posting here who basically lecture women and tell them they’re lying or delusional or took things the wrong way, or give spurious irrelevant bullshit examples. The world (esp. the feminist world) is NOT their fucking classroom. They have nothing to teach anybody, and everything to learn. But they never will learn, so let’s stop wasting time and energy by engaging with them.

iola // Posted 29 July 2009 at 11:34 pm

@Jess – HA. Actually, you’ll find some women commentors being dense as well. Mostly it’s the “Oh, girls get sexually harassed–but booth babes are asking for it by demeaning themselves.” Riiiight. I don’t think being a feminist means what you think it does, gals.

It’s ignorance. Hopefully that will change.

Sam Rico // Posted 1 August 2009 at 11:32 pm

oh for fucks sake,

i was actually sortof looking forward to this game, just out of sheer curiousity at how they had interpreted ‘the divine comedy’.

but, i guess a boycott is now pretty much in order. they just had to, didn’t they.

BainDrenal // Posted 11 August 2009 at 9:07 am

Is it just me or is the prize even worse than the competition itself? You can argue for hours about whether EA’s promoting sexual harrassment, but the PRIZE is a “sinful night with 2 hot girls”. Um, excuse me?

Lady // Posted 2 May 2010 at 7:43 pm

He heh hee – at the next Convention that you ladies attend, I expect to see NO hesitation in pouncing on the individuals who seem to be pressing their attentions unwantedly and making a public example of them! I will do so too – cannot believe that EA *beep*ed up so badly!

LOLz those PR boys sure did come in on the Onion Boat!

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