Ikkin: In any case, I was under the impression that this whole conversation was based on the initial question of "how do you sexualize a male character for women?" with the implication being that the answer could be used to balance out the sexualization of women that's all-too-common in the context of gaming.
Thank you! And thanks for engaging in the conversation with such vigor. (Though, honestly, issues of balance are not terribly interesting to me; I'm quite happy if people want to target particular audiences by gender, if they want. I just don't want anymore bland-as-wallpaper products being conceived as "female friendly" as if "inoffensive" is somehow a synonym for "attractive.")
And back to the topic at hand, here are some interesting datapoints I've picked up from conversations, both recently and in the past:
* women don't always seem to know what they want. That is, I've had conversations that went something along the lines of, "I suddenly discovered in my twenties that I really liked..." This is almost inconceivable for hetero guys, because we all seem to work it out by the time we're 18. I suspect that's the case because we're heavily marketed along the most common interests. In short, we've been working on isolating the most common cues for what arrests a guy's attention since the carving of the Venus of Willendorf. Marketeers then use those cues like a bludgeon to attract male attention to their products.
* but we can't say the same thing about women. Sometime between the first performance of "Lysistrata" and the filming of "Eyes Wide Shut" we've decided that women aren't supposed to like sex. When discussing sex with only other women, I hear about a frequent refrain of "I'm not a slut, but..." So even when women know what they want, they are hesitant to advertise that fact, which makes capitalizing on it by folks like Zak nearly impossible. The most important thing the romance novel industry does is hide from men what exactly is between those covers. Few women will buy porn, and I'm not sure that many more will openly purchase erotica. Which leads to this bizarre situation where a collection of letters to Penthouse must be carefully treated like it's radioactive, but any twelve-year-old can buy Anne "A. N. Roquelaure" Rice's Beauty novels off the shelf at Barnes & Noble without anyone batting an eyelash.
* and when we do try to sell porn to women, gay men scramble the signals. I'm still not sure we, as a culture, really know what women find physically attractive because the market signals keep getting disrupted by gay men, who are far more likely to buy porn. I think it speaks volumes that most magazines aimed at women tend to sport a woman on the cover.
I've known women who were crazy about bald guys. I've known women who were crazy about chubby guys. I've known women who went absolutely insane over any guy who could physically pick them up and carry them in their arms. I've known women who were crazy about beards, and women who couldn't stand beards, and I've had women describe their ideal mate to me in terms of physical characteristics almost exclusively. And all of these women were native-born Americans.
Were these women outliers? We don't know, because everyone is too busy "knowing" that hetero women are all about the tight ass, broad shoulders and six-pack abs. Just like everyone "knows" that hetero men adore large breasts, even though nearly every female movie star and supermodel can barely fill out a c-cup.
The end result is that sexuality for women turns into a maze they have to navigate on their own, hiding every step they take from anyone who might notice, dealing in codes and signals like spies in enemy territory, and always trying to read between the lines. So long as this remains the case, it's going to be extremely difficult to tease out what, exactly, they're looking for, especially if they themselves don't appear to know at times.