Playing with Pleasure and Anxiety: Dark Play, Transgression, and Kink in Grand Theft Auto 5

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Ketterling, Emily Jean




This project aims to explore how the lessons learned about feminist media analysis in the sex wars can help us develop more nuanced understandings of transgressive video games. Radical feminist approaches to pornography tend to focus on harm and use media-effects research to support their claims; I argue that these same arguments are being played out in a new arena: anti-violence in video games advocacy. Using autoethnography, hermeneutical textual analysis and in-depth interviews, I aim to re-read one particularly contentious title, Grand Theft Auto 5, in a way that acknowledges the complicated and contingent pleasures of transgression. Using a kink-informed lens, I push back against essentializing cause-and-effect readings of transgressive gameplay including GTA 5's interactive violence, rape fantasy, and cross-racial play. In doing so, I aim to present "not only a critical but a political interrogation" of radical feminist approaches to video games.  


Gender Studies




Carleton University

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Master of Arts: 

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Legal Studies

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Theses and Dissertations

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