Grand Theft Auto: a double standard for sex, killing

Children and teens will have to wait until they turn 18 before they can get their dose of virtual, videogame sex, but the killing of people and fantasy creatures rages on.

This past summer, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game had its rating changed from “Mature” to “Adults Only.” The new rating implicates that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to purchase the game. Select retailers have already removed the popular game and its new rating from their shelves.

This comes in the aftermath of an Internet modification that enables players to enter an otherwise hidden sex scene and minigame. The principal character then engages in sexual positions with all his clothes while the woman is naked.

Amid the outcry over a sex scene, obtainable only through the process of Internet downloading, Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman voiced their outrage with Rockstar’s video game. Despite the graphic violence of the game, which allows players to engage in brutal deaths, it took a secret hack-job of sexual pornography for Capitol Hill to denounce the game.

Are censors trying to make an example out of GTA: San Andreas? While this game and other violent games flood the retail markets, in his New York Times op-ed (7/22), Thomas Friedman describes the distribution of Islamgames at the Iqra Learning Center in Leeds, England:

In the game “Ummah Defense I”, the world has “finally united under the Banner of Islam in 2114, until a revolt by disbelievers. The player’s goal is to seek out and destroy violence against others.” This game further divides the ideological differences between Islam and the Western world, and it may be Capitol Hill’s next biggest concern.

With sexually explicit porn sites a mouse click away and virtual violence role-playing at our hands on Xbox, PS2 and other game consoles, what are we trying to protect our children against? From the explicit and verbal violence in movies to music, it usually takes an act of juvenile violence before someone notices. If we want to stop future damage, perhaps politicians need to sit and play GTA or a similar game for themselves.

Now that the “Adults Only” rating is used, no longer will the images of sex drift into children’s and teens’ minds while playing a particular video game. Children are creative; they will find it elsewhere. Let us hope all the uncensored gun shooting in video games does not make a child a better marksman or trigger some mental imbalance causing a rampage shooting accident.

Censors and Senators Clinton and Lieberman are sending gray messages in a world of black, white and red violence. It is unrealistic to believe that we can safeguard the youth culture from entertainment violence, but we fail at making the minor improvements where we can. It was not until a modified sex clip was attacked that the scarlet “AO” was embroidered on boxes of GTA: San Andreas. The killing of police officers, women and thugs had previously warranted the playability by “mature” users.

A double standard lurks in the country, giving life to violence and death to sex. In a country that favors war as the end-all solution to conflict, it is no surprise that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas came under heat for its hidden sex content rather than its violent game play. As for its gun-slinging, civilian-killing protagonist, he is no longer allowed to have intercourse. Sex is dirty. Killing is tolerated.

Sam Rega can be contacted at