Unexpected Consequences of Plot

2010, March 22nd 9:00 PM

Last night I found myself unable to stop thinking about Mass Effect 2. Not about to the gameplay, or the plotline. I just couldn't get my mind off the bizarre social effects that the universe implies.

For a bit of backstory, the critical bits of plot go like this. Humans join a galactic civilization with a bunch of alien species. One species is a bunch of blue women who sleep with other races.

Alright. First off, this is obviously only "the critical bits of plot" for the purposes of this particular blog post. I'm not arguing that. Second, the Asari aren't technically women, it's a single-sex race, but, come on:

That's female.

Now, it's reasonably clear in the game that Asari are bisexual. But humans, as far as we know, generally aren't. Humans tend to be heterosexual. I'm pulling this claim out of nowhere but I feel reasonably confident in it. So take the human race as it stands today, and then, out of goddamn nowhere, introduce an entire new race full of reasonably attractive and sexually compatible females.

What the hell does this do to gender balance? People are worried about China's gender balance, which is leaning 55% male. Even assuming the Asari population is no larger than Earth's, this leaves us with a stunning 75% female ratio. And according to the chronology, the Asari were colonizing space before the rise of the Persian Empire! Human growth rate is around 1% right now. Let's assume the Asari have a growth rate a mere tenth of that – 2500 years of growth leaves the Asari with more than twelve times the population of Earth.

(If you assume they actually have a 1% growth rate, then each male human could have literally an entire planet full of Asari women while still occupying less than 10% of the entire Asari population. Though I admit "occupy", despite the somewhat misogynistic double entendre, isn't really the right word when there are twice as many women on your planet as you'll have heartbeats in your life.)

"Oho," I hear you saying, "but why would the Asari mate with humans?" Well as of the time of Mass Effect, an Asari mating inside their species is considered a mark of shame. So basically you have a civilization of a hundred billion females who want nothing more than to breed with aliens. Now, in their defense, they're not picky about gender – but humans are, and I don't see that changing without some truly unbelievable cultural shifts. Not the kind of thing that would happen in a mere five hundred years, I feel.

"But wait! What about other species?" Yeah, sure, the Asari mate with other species too. No arguments there. It happens. There's the species of giant armor-plated killing machines that weigh a literal ton each and are infertile. There's the species of lizard men whose food is poison to most other races. There's the species of . . . well, we don't know what they are exactly under the biological containment suit, besides "humanoid", but we do know that even opening the suit for a few seconds is incredibly dangerous for them. And then there's the species that doesn't consider it "incredibly dangerous" but rather "instantly fatal".

And there's the floating luminescent jellyfish.

If you were an alien, and I showed you pictures of all the Mass Effect 2 races, and asked which were most likely to be sexually compatible, you'd pick the Drell, the Asari, and the Humans. And the Drell are nearly extinct. And they don't travel much.

Bioware, I love you guys. I really do. But did you stop to think for a second about the social consequences of this?

  • graemer957

    2010, March 23rd 5:03 AM

    All good points. Of course don't forget that the normal lifespan of an Asari 1,000 years, so they'll have "many" mates!

  • Your Mom

    2010, March 23rd 6:54 AM

    Sounds like a lot of wishful thinking on the part of Bioware's developers – who are apparently not doing too well on the dating scene.

  • Kiru

    2010, March 24th 4:48 AM

    While humans individually may have quite set sexual preferences within a few years of birth (their setness depending on factors like gender, culture etc), human sexual systems can be quite flexible. You'd certainly come to have different ideas about what level of homosexuality was "normal" or "natural" in society with a 2:1 ratio of women to men. I figure the sexual system of Mass Effect 2 would be a sort of exaggeration of contemporary sexualized Western culture, where "sex" is essentially synonymous with "female", men are sexualized almost exclusively as subjects, and bisexual displays are de rigeur for females competing for male attention. On the other hand, perhaps you'd see a system where the male figure is exoticized and heavily objectified by an all-enveloping female gaze.

    The more disturbing questions to my mind involve cross-fertility, of course…

  • WolfKrad

    2010, April 6th 2:40 PM

    I think I might have an answer. Not a very satisfying one, I admit, but an answer nonetheless.

    In Mass Effect 2, somewhere on Illium, you can listen to a conversation between a human, Turian and Salarian (bachelor party). At one point in that conversation, it is mentioned that the Turian feels that Asari look almost exactly like Turian women. The Salarian then disagrees, since he feels that Asari look almost exactly like Salarian women. And then the human obviously states that he disagrees with both.

    Apparently the Asari somehow manage to influence the minds of other species in such a way that they're percieved as similar to the subject's species. Now, while this explains the interspecies part, it still leaves the male/female thing open, since it's also made clear that Asari are always seen as females, whether the observer is male or female.

    So, what if the Asari use that same mind trick to appear attractive to all individuals, regardless of species or gender? It would certainly solve the problem for heterosexual human females, thus resolving the gender imbalance.

    It's not the greatest of explanations, but enough to settle my mind. I've only just finished ME2 and this article has been on my mind almost my entire playthrough :P

    Of course, Bioware could have made it a lot clearer by simply designing the Asari to be more andrygonous, but then again, who can blame them? Sex sells.

  • Zorba

    2010, April 6th 6:46 PM

    Interesting explanation there. I must say I'd love to see art of the "Turian Asari" and the "Salarian Asari" (and the Krogan Asari, hoo boy.)

    I suppose I'll give Bioware the benefit of the doubt here, since I guess they did, in fact, think things out a little :)

  • Mr. T

    2010, July 1st 4:37 PM

    It evens out. Krogans have almost only males. Asaris mate with each other. Humans develop weird fetishes.

  • Aero

    2010, July 16th 2:32 PM

    It sounds like they need the DNA, and aren't concerned with being with females because that doesn't bring about reproduction. I think people can change pretty quickly and adapt to their circumstances, and society would change as the needs and ratios changed, to compensate. It may not be instant or fast, but the stronger the imbalance, the more intense the reaction becomes. I'd say it wouldn't take more than 10-30 years for society to make the needed changes, but it wouldn't be because it was needed. I doubt people would largely be doing it because they see and understand the problem, they'd mostly just be following their natures and circumstances.

    I think the problem would be more the opposite, humans would come to be ok with the homosexual aspects but the Asari would still have no use for the females. If that were so, I suppose that means there'd be a lot of males with aliens and human lesbians everywhere. As said, the whole males being objectified thing could happen. Not exclusive from that though, I think there would be a lot of people that see this whole situation as a problem and a (very?) bad thing. As a result, there would be an ever-growing notion among people that it's bad to be with these Asari, and to not do it – the degree being dependent on how badly people feel about it. Kind of like the general feeling I've been seeing people have about shopping at Walmart, that it may be contributing to some "abstract problem" and people talk about it, but in the end, some do it and some don't. Many will never see how it could be a problem, and some amount will overdramaticize and exaggerate it.

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