About a week ago, I wrote a post on Penny Arcade vs. Rape Culture, which sent my blog traffic skyrocketing after it was linked on Reddit. However, both in comments on the post itself and elsewhere on Reddit, quite a few people seemed to be missing the point: or, more specifically, misunderstanding what rape culture actually is and how it applies to gaming. One commenter, in fact, responded thusly:

My mind is boggled that you feel righteous in condemning something people enjoy, especially when it’s not even real. Do you realize that’s what you’re doing? You’re standing up and telling all these people, people you don’t know, that what they’re enjoying is *wrong*. You don’t have numbers or statistics or any sort of fact behind you quantifying how what they do is wrong. None. Telling people that what they enjoy in the privacy of their own homes in a virtual reality contributes to a Rape Culture is crazy. What’s next? Telling people what sort of porn they can watch, what sort of books they can read?

Seriously, show some facts. Show a concrete link between this and that, between playing the computer game and a rise in rape statistics. I know, I know, it’s not “Rape” it’s “Rape Culture”, so you conveniently don’t have to show *any* facts. Which is the one saving grace in all this. In the real world, for laws to pass and things to change, you have to show concrete evidence of your position. I remember how they tried to do that with Computer Games and Violence, and how no one was able to draw *any* sort of factual link between one and the other that would stand in any court of law.

Which is what made me decide that, rather than linking to any number of excellent rape culture 101 posts online, there might be a need for an explanation of rape culture tailored specifically to gaming. Because, let’s face it: gaming culture has so often been singled out by lazy politicians as the root cause of society’s ills – which is to say, as being inextricably bound up with violence, obesity, immaturity and so on – that it’s small wonder most gamers, on hearing it simultaneously accused of rape culture, are likely to roll their eyes. After all, those other accusations are only so much hot air, and tend to stem from a deeply prejudicial view of games and geekery besides – so why on Earth should rape culture be any different?

From the outset, we need to acknowledge something critical: that gaming is primarily a digital culture, and that digital cultures – while analogous in many ways to other cultures – happen in venues that lack a physical presence. Yes, there are gaming expos, conventions and tournaments where gamers come together, while many friends who meet up regularly IRL will also game together online or at lans. But the difference between gaming culture and, say, workplace culture is that the latter occurs primarily – if not exclusively – in a specific physical location inhabited by all the individual participants in that culture. What this means is that a Venn diagram of the overlap between social interactions, physical proximity and guiding culture for any given workplace would practically be a circle, as all three elements would, with very few exceptions, happen in the same space. But the same diagram of gaming culture would look drastically different: physical proximity would barely have any overlap with guiding culture and social interactions, which would themselves be separate, because proximity is a meaningless concept in digital environments, guiding culture doesn’t come from a single body but from multiple competing sources, and social interactions are less a byproduct of something else – like being at work – than they are a primary point of gaming.

And what this means for rape culture, which is a term we most often hear applied to cultures that do center on a physical environment – such as, for instance, sports clubs and fraternities – is that right from the offset, people are confused about how it can apply to digital environments in comparable ways. Because for both sports clubs and fraternities, rape is a significant problem; it is an actual, physical consequence that happens in the actual, physical environments associated with their cultures. Hardly a week goes by without some sporting hero somewhere being accused of rape or sexual assault, while the dangers faced by women at fraternity parties are a mainstay of both popular culture and popular knowledge. So when we talk about rape culture being promoted by this football club or that frathouse, we – very naturally, and very sensibly – tend to link the accusation with instances of rape being perpetrated by their members. But when the term is applied to something like gaming, there instantly seems to be a disconnect between the accusation and the reality, because barring conventions, tournaments etc, gaming lacks the physical spaces in which rape can actually take place. Which isn’t to say that sexual assault and rape never happen at cons or expos or tournaments; they do. But obviously, there’s a difference, because the primary mode of social interaction in gaming is digital – and how can you rape someone over the internet?

Which brings us back to the actual, proper definition of rape culture. Quoting from Fraternities and Collegiate Rape Culture: Why Are Some Fraternities More Dangerous Places For Women? by A. Ayres Boswell and Joan Z. Spade (my emphasis):

“Rape culture is a set of values and beliefs that provide an environment conducive to rape… The term applies to a generic culture surrounding and promoting rape, not the specific setting in which rape is likely to occur.” 

In other words, rape culture refers neither to physical locations where rape is deemed likely to occur, does occur and/or has occurred, nor to the specific details of  particular rapes: rather, it refers to a culture – that is, a set of values, beliefs, rituals, social codes, language, laws and art – which can be said to promote sexual violence, and particularly sexual violence against women as perpetrated by straight men. Note that this argument neither automatically nor universally implies the existence of a direct causal link between specific cultural artifacts and incidences of rape (though this is certainly possible); nor does it contend that every participant in that culture is or must be a rapist. What it does describe is a culture where rape is trivialized, where both the abuse and sexual objectification of women is normalised, and where, as a result, the sexual abuse of women is more likely to happen. 

But – and I cannot state this emphatically enough – rape is not the sole expression of rape culture. The whole point of the term is that abuse of women doesn’t happen in a vacuum: other sexist, toxic social conditions have to be present first, and so long as these conditions remain unaltered, the abuse itself will continue. The fact that gaming exists largely outside physical spaces isn’t a get out of jail free card; it just means that in the case of digital expressions of rape culture, we have to get ourselves out of the mindset that rape is the only consequence that matters – or, worse still, that unless rape happens, the accusation of rape culture is somehow bunk. Culture is what informs our actions; it is not the actions themselves – which means that rape culture is perhaps best understood as the presence of an ongoing sexual threat. If someone wielding a gun threatens to shoot me unless I comply with their orders, I’m supremely unlikely to challenge them: they don’t have to shoot me in order to change my behaviour. In that sense, it doesn’t matter if they really planned to shoot me, or if the gun was even loaded. The point – the effect – is power and coercion, and only someone who was completely callous, stupid, oblivious or a combination of all three would argue that the threat of being shot – and the subsequent change to my behaviour – was meaningless unless I actually was shot. Similarly, if I’m threatened with rape and violence and silenced with gendered, sexualised slurs every time I disagree with male gamers on the internet, it doesn’t matter if they really plan to rape me, or if they’re even capable of doing so: as with the gun, the point – the effect – is power and coercion, and the logic which underlies their choice of threat. What they want is to shut me up by reminding me that rape happens, that it could and should happen to me because of what I’ve said. And when that is your go-to means of silencing women in a context where men are the majority, where the female form is routinely shown in attitudes of hypersexualisation, sexualised violence and submission, and where men are in majority control of that setting? That is rape culture. 

Which brings me to the attacks on Anita Sarkeesian.

Sarkeesian, for those who’ve never heard of her, runs a website called Feminist Frequency, where – among other things – she posts videos deconstructing and criticising the presence of sexist tropes in popular culture. Recently, she went on Kickstarter to garner funding for a new series of videos: Tropes vs Women in Video Games. It should tell you something significant about the popularity of this idea – and of Sarkeesian herself – that, having asked for a mere $6,000 in financing, she has, as of today – with four days left on the clock – been funded to the tune of $44,027 – more than seven times what she initially asked for. Here’s her kickstarter pitch:

I love playing video games but I’m regularly disappointed in the limited and limiting ways women are represented.  This video project will explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games.  The series will highlight the larger recurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders.  I’m going to need your help to make it happen!

As a gamer, a pop culture critic and a fan, I’m always working to balance my enjoyment of media while simultaneously being critical of problematic gender representations. With my video web series Feminist Frequency,  I look at the way women are portrayed in mass media and the impact they have on our culture and society.

THE PROJECT

With your help, I’ll produce a 5-video series (now expanded to 12 videos) entitled Tropes vs Women in Video Games, exploring female character stereotypes throughout the history of the gaming industry.  This ambitious project will primarily focus on these reoccurring tropes:

  • Damsel in Distress – Video #1
  • The Fighting F#@k Toy – Video #2
  • The Sexy Sidekick – Video #3
  • The Sexy Villainess – Video #4
  • Background Decoration – Video #5

1st Set of Stretch Goals Achieved!

  • Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress – Video #6
  • Women as Reward – Video #7
  • Mrs. Male Character – Video #8
  • Unattractive Equals Evil – Video #9
  • Man with Boobs – Video #10
  • Positive Female Characters! - Video #11

2nd Stretch Goal Achieved!

  • Let’s Bump up the Production Quality!

3rd Set of Stretch Goals Achieved!

  • Tropes vs Women in Video Games Classroom Curriculum 
  • Video #12 – Top 10 Most Common Defenses of Sexism in Games

Each video will be between 10 and 20 minutes long and available online for free for everyone and anyone to watch, share and use.

Pretty benign language, yes? All she’s done is state what should be a fairly uncontroversial and obvious truth – that women are often presented badly in video games – and proposed to discuss this in detail.

And for this crime, she has been threatened with rape, with death and with violence, and had her Wikipedia page vandalised with images of graphic pornography.

This is what rape culture looks like in gaming: the use of misogyny to defend yourself against the accusation of misogyny. It’s like a woman telling an abusive partner that he’s abusive, and the partner being so angered by this that he punches her in the face. It’s doing exactly the thing you’re being accused of in response to that accusation while simultaneously trying to plead your innocence. And you know what makes this even worse? Sarkeesian hasn’t even started her videos yet. All she’s done is tried to get the funding for them – but even the prospect of a popular feminist deconstructing video game sexism has apparently been deemed so threatening, so emasculating and yet simultaneously so unnecessary by this particular misogynistic segment of the gaming population that, as one, they’ve risen up to threaten her with death, rape and physical violence.

And I can’t help but wonder: how many of Sarkeesian’s attackers use rape language when gaming? How many of them have inferred that because it’s apparently OK to talk about raping other players in-game, it’s OK to issue rape threats against women out of game? What are the odds that the men who vandalised her Wikipedia page with pornographic images – who decided that the quickest, easiest and most universally effective way to insult, demean and punish a female adversary was to hypersexualise her – are the same men arguing that the hypersexualisation of female characters in video games is normative, desirable, harmless? I’ll say it again: rape is not the sole expression of rape culture, and the fact that it exists foremost in gaming in nonphysical spaces – forums, online, in game, on the other end of the microphone, in game design itself – doesn’t make it any less toxic to women than the unsafe frat houses of Boswell and Spade’s study.

Critics within gaming seem to think that, unless we can prove definitively that rape culture acts like some sort of Hypno-Ray to turn otherwise normal men into rapists and sexual harassers, the whole idea of social settings that are inherently toxic to both female safety and healthy gender relations is bunk. But what else do you call it when gamers defend sexism in gaming by threatening a woman with rape? What else do you call it when a prominent figure in gaming says that “sexual harassment is part of the culture” and counts this as a defensible, necessary thing? What else do you call it when the combination of hypersexualisation and violence against women are so deeply embedded in gaming culture that a significant portion of developers and fans don’t see it as problematic? What else do you call it when the default form of insult used by and against male players is, as Penny Arcade’s Tycho once called it, ad mominem – that is, a way of insulting men by sexually impugning the women (mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends) with whom they’re most closely associated? There’s a reason, after all, why such jokes are used primarily against men, and why their subjects are never fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends – what misogynistic male gamer would bother leveling sexually loaded insults at a female player’s mother when he could just level them at her? Show me a female gamer who’s played online or at tournaments, or even one who has simply participated actively in male-dominated gaming forums, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I will show you a female gamer who has at some point been called a bitch, a cunt,a slut or a whore by male players, or who has been crudely sexually propositioned by male players, or who has otherwise been sexually threatened or intimidated by male players, because this is how rape culture is primarily expressed in digital contexts: through the abusive language, gendered slurs, sexual threats, silencing and exclusion that are levelled at women generally, but which are specifically and intensely used to punish women like Sarkeesian, who dare to point out that this is what’s actually happening.

The core argument of rape culture isn’t that exposure to yet another instance of highly sexualised violence against women will turn every man who sees it into a rapist, and that therefore we should censor everything that even vaguely references women and violence together; the point is that in a healthy culture, there would be no need to censor such images, because participants in that culture would have enough respect for women to neither create nor demand them as mainstream in the first place. Because ultimately, the big objection to the charge of rape culture in gaming seems to boil down to fears about censorship: that by criticising creative output and language as being problematic, sexist and offensive, people like me are arguing for less art all together, when what we’re actually arguing for is more good art. Sexualised violence and the sexual objectification of women should be to gaming like The Human Centipede, a film which is horrific in absolutely every sense of the word, is to cinema: something that we all understand is vile, but where a desire to confront that vileness is the motive for watching – as opposed to a scenario where almost every film produced contains elements of The Human Centipede, and has done for so long that cinemagoers treat those elements as normative rather than vile, because they’ve become so commonplace that they can’t properly imagine films without them, reacting with bafflement and outrage and cries of ‘Censorship!’ every time some critic were to suggest that maybe, just maybe, not every film needs to feature graphic depictions of the forced ingestion of shit.

In other words: it is not censorship to suggest that gamers and game corporations should increase their collective respect for women, or to try and encourage the creation of a gaming culture that would nominally reflect such respect in both its output and its language.

Returning to the Boswell and Spade paper about rape culture in fraternities, it’s extremely important to note the differences between houses which were identified as ‘safe’ – that is, houses where women felt comfortable and which had lower levels of sexual assault – and those which were ‘unsafe’ – where women felt more vulnerable and which had higher levels of sexual assault. To quote:

“At high-risk houses, parties typically had skewed gender ratios, sometimes involving more men and other times involving more women. Gender segregation also was evident at these parties, with the men on one side of a room or in the bar drinking while women gathered in another area. Men treated women differently in the high-risk houses. The women’s bathrooms in the high-risk houses were filthy, including clogged toilets and vomit in the sinks… 

Men attending parties at high-risk houses treated women less respectfully, engaging in jokes, conversations, and behaviors that degraded women. Men made a display of assessing women’s bodies and rated them with thumbs up or thumbs down for the other men in the sight of the women. One man attending a party at a high-risk fraternity said to another, “Did you know that this week is Women’s Awareness Week? I guess that means we get to abuse them more this week.” Men behaved more crudely at parties at high-risk houses… It was rare to see a group of men and women together talking. Men were openly hostile, which made the high-risk parties seem almost threatening at times.”

In other words: the high-risk environments that were toxic for and dangerous to women were characterised by skewed gender ratios, poor respect for female spaces, offensive jokes made at the expense of women, the hypersexualisation of women themselves, and male hostility towards women – all of which is representative of rape culture. The fact that these behaviours are also representative of many digital spaces in gaming culture should not be any less alarming simply because they happen online: the misogyny, sexism and disrespect which underlie their usage is, at base, identical. Similarly, it’s worth noting that in another recent paper, Marriage Structure and Resistance to the Gender Revolution in the Workplace by Sreedhari D. Desai, Dolly Chugh and Arthur P. Brief, the authors found that employed men in traditional marriages – that is, marriages where the wife stayed home and the husband was designated as the sole breadwinner – tended, when compared to men in non-traditional marriages, to:

“(a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, (c) find organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotion.”

On the surface, this has nothing to do with rape culture – and yet I mention it by way of demonstrating that the way men treat and think of women in their private lives has a direct impact on how they treat them professionally and elsewhere. This doesn’t even have to be a conscious process – as the authors point out, the majority of such sexism was implicit rather than overt, meaning that the men didn’t even realise they were doing it – but either way, the impact on women remains the same. Given this evidence, then, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that male gamers who disrespect women online, who threaten women with rape, who call women bitches and sluts in anger, and who view both women in games and women gamers through the lens of hypersexualisation, will be much less likely to respect women generally and elsewhere. And that really is significant in terms of analysing the elusive physical, real-world implications of rape culture in gaming, because even though gaming itself is a primarily digital culture, gamers themselves still inhabit the real world, where they must necessarily interact with women in physical spaces and contexts that have nothing whatsoever to do with gaming.

Or, put it another way: parties, clubs and bars are universal spaces, places where people of all different cultures and subcultures meet – as, for that matter, are workplaces, offices, shops and streets. If a group of footballers sexually assault three women in a hotel, for instance, we aren’t wrong to ask about the influence of rape culture in football, even though the physical location of the assault is a public place with no specific ties to either the sport or its culture. But this is where things become tricky, because gamers – unlike footballers – aren’t celebrities; and unlike fratboys, their subcultural identity is unlikely to be mentioned in the event that they’re involved in an incident of sexism or sexual assault. And there’s the additional problem of making the nomenclature accurate: while it’s very easy to identify footballers and fratboys – do they belong to a club or frat house? then yes – it’s less easy to tell who, for the purpose of analysis, is a gamer, and if so, what their level of participation in gaming culture actually is. It’s exactly this sort of subtle point that so easily gets lost in public discourse, but which becomes exquisitely relevant when we start talking about preventative strategies and the real world consequences of rape culture in gaming. Saying gamers are is a vastly less accurate and more problematic notion than saying gaming is: even though there’s a massive intersection between the two concepts, the former is still a generalisation about types of people, while the latter is an assessment of culture that may or may not be relevant to individual participants in that culture. But still, I have to ask: if gaming itself lacks the physical spaces we usually associate with the most dramatic consequences of rape culture – but if this doesn’t invalidate the fact that many sexist male gamers are nonetheless learning from and actively participating in a rape culture they refuse to acknowledge as negative – then what happens when those men interact with women in other areas of life? On the basis of the evidence, they seem deeply unlikely to respect them, and however subconscious their sexism may be at such times, the fact that any physical consequences, such as abuse or assault, would happen outside of gaming-oriented contexts does not free gaming as a community – as a culture – of the responsibility to reinforce the fact that abusing women at any time is completely unacceptable.

So: gaming culture is – or at least, contains many problematic elements of – a rape culture. It is frequently hostile to women, toxic in terms of both the hypersexualised, violent content and the hypersexualised, violent language it uses to demean and belittle women. Even if, for whatever reason, you’d hesitate to use the term rape culture, it should nonetheless be apparent that gaming, en masse, has deep-seated problems with its treatment of women, and that this ought to be addressed. The horrific backlash against Anita Sarkeesian is unacceptable. The Hitman: Absolution trailer is unacceptable. Aris Bakhtianians’s comments are unacceptable. Saying so is not censorship: it is simply a call to treat women with respect. But so long as gamers refuse to acknowledge that rape culture is an issue which applies to gaming, the situation will not – cannot – get better.

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Comments
  1. The constant conflation of criticism with censorship, and the incredibly obvious undercurrent of misogyny in all too much of the community, does more to “undermine the medium” (goddamn it, YouTube) than any one woman attempting to deconstruct its tropes.

    That gamers can harass a woman because they don’t believe she has ever experienced harassment online (?!), that they can call a woman a “stupid bitch” for decrying misogyny, all without the slightest hint of irony or self-awareness, speaks volumes about how far we have yet to go.

    Oh, and for the record? You repeatedly explore these subjects in impressive and expressive detail, but I can’t help feeling that in a scenario where ignorance causes harm to others, the ignorant should really be the ones putting in the effort to examine their behaviours and attitudes instead of glibly demanding fresh evidence and facts. And then immediately offering anecdotal tales of their own as an attempted riposte.

    • fozmeadows says:

      “In a scenario where ignorance causes harm to others, the ignorant should really be the ones putting in the effort to examine their behaviours and attitudes instead of glibly demanding fresh evidence and facts.”

      This, pretty much. And yet the problem is that so much of the relevant ignorance is willful rather than benign: people simply don’t want to believe that anything about their culture is bad. The evidence of how badly women are treated by gamers and gaming is everywhere, and that’s before you get into the additional, intersectional issues of racial slurs and homophobic bullshit. All any of these people would have to do for evidence of misogyny in the culture is jump onto any message board and look for threads about women, and bam! But instead they persist in claiming that somehow, a problem that crops up everywhere and which affects the vast majority of women gamers somehow isn’t representative of gaming culture. Which, yeah. NO.

      • I suppose the truth of the matter is that we may “educate” in good faith, but remain acutely aware that the much-demanded proof is self evident. When the information is out there, unhidden, observable in situ as well as repeatedly explored by various writers and commentators, yeah, perhaps we do have to accept some level of complicity and wilful ignorance.

        I’m not sure that some gamers fully appreciate the atmosphere that they are perpetuating, but I suspect the instant dismissal of unpalatable criticism, or even the constant shrugging of shoulders and “that’s how it is”, is as damaging as the blatant harassments and slurs.

        • michailv says:

          I think it’s too easy of an out to say “they should just be able to figure it out.” That’s only kind of true. Yes, they should certainly be able to figure out that the attacks on Anita Sarkeesian are unacceptable. That’s not a direct equality with the Hitman Trailer, and I would completely expect people to disagree and discuss what exactly the trailer represents and how much so.

          Neither one of those things is self-evident as “rape culture” — which I only put in quotes because I’m emphasizing the term itself. The poster spent a _lot_ of words unpacking what’s meant by the term, what the implications are/might be in a societal context, brought in several studies… and still has only touched on unpacking the term itself, and barely dug into the additional problems of rape culture and art.

          So to say that all that — when it took that much to unpack and explain what the term means when it’s thrown around — should just be self evident is… unfair, I guess. Or perhaps cynicism. Or just “tired or yelling at the wind”ness. (Which I totally empathize with! Yelling at the wind sucks, and it’s a super jerky wind.)

          Yes, the resources are out there for people to educate themselves. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a better resource, like this one. For example, I’ve had a Rape Culture 101 bookmark for two weeks now. But it wasn’t explaining what I wanted explained, and there’s only so much time in the day. Eventually I might have read it. Or maybe not. But I read this post, and I feel I have a much better understanding of where the poster — and like-minded others — are coming from.

          I have quibbles about the statements that relate to art, but I can enter a discussion at some common understanding beyond 0.

          Which is all a long-winded way of saying I don’t think it’s useless to try to explain things clearly and non-yelling-ly. You won’t see the people who are thinking things over and considering some new ideas, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.

          TL;DR: I disagree! I think this post is very useful, and there will totally be people who have a new appreciation for the discussion and the ideas behind it. Thanks for it!

          • Oh no, absolutely, it was a detailed exploration of the issue and it’s always helpful to increase the volume of information out there. In no way did I intend to belittle the efforts of anyone who wants to educate in the face of adversity, or for that matter the efforts of anyone taking the time to educate themselves.

            So a cogent point, well made. So let me rephrase: I take issue with the people who put the onus for their education on marginalised groups, groups who in all likelihood already have plentiful experience in being questioned and misunderstood while would-be allies quibble over terminology. In no way did I mean to imply that it’s WRONG to educate or be educated on such divisive issues, only that it’s distasteful to me when a certain subset of the community demands such assistance.

            And judging from most of these reactions it seems people are keeping a very open mind, so if I had dismissed educators/educating, I’d have had to eat my words!

  2. galactichobo says:

    This is a fantastic essay, I was wondering if you’ve ever watched these guys? http://extra-credits.net/episodes/harassment/ They talk critically about a lot of gaming culture, the videos are very good but the one in the link is about harrassment in online games. This video was brought to the attention of microsoft who are now in talks witht he creators to alter their online abuse policy. It’s only a small step, but it’s something

  3. Sarah says:

    Fantastic article. I will be sharing this widely. Keep up the good fight.

  4. Iordan says:

    i think the negative response to saying that gaming has a rape culture is one of nomenclature. saying gaming has a rape culture makes its seem that gamers are more likely to rape. you’re effectively accusing gamers of rape. That is highly emotive for everyone involved.

    “we have to get ourselves out of the mindset that rape is the only consequence that matters – or, worse still, that unless rape happens, the accusation of rape culture is somehow bunk. ”

    why not call it ‘sexist culture’, or even ‘sexual harassment culture”? it would appear these terms are far more effective at communicating what you actually mean without invoking the emotive responses that you get from ‘rape culture’. (though i doubt that’ll get you to the top of reddit)

    gaming has very serious issue of sexism and sexual harassment that permeates virtually all parts of the culture, but calling it rape will only get you hate mail.

    • Theawinde says:

      Well no, she’s not saying gaming is a rape culture, she’s saying that gamer culture, like most cultures in our current society are contributing to rape culture just like everyone else. She is saying that rape culture is rampant in society and gaming is no different, and only explains how it is perpetuated in the gaming community. It is not accusing gamers of rape, it is pointing out how this current gamer culture is contributing to rape culture.

      Also, as mentioned in the article aboved, being a woman on the internet gets you hate mail. There’s literally nothing we can do to avoid harassment online. There’s no magic word or phrase that stops it from happening, implying that there is pretty much trivializes the problem in the first place and ignores the reasoning she wrote this post.

      Foz Meadows: first time reader and already a big fan of your work. I’m looking forward to following your blog in the future! This is a great, necessary post.

    • Lilac says:

      Calling it “sexual harassment culture” is really weak when what happens to women is rape. 1 of 3 women are raped or sexually violated in the US, and to back down on language just because it might offend some gamers is weak.

      Being able to face how rape culture and rape affect both men and women is what will change our world for the better.

    • I like to call it “entitlement culture”. That said, it’s rape culture cause it’s based on male control over female/female-presenting bodies via threat of sexual violence (which sexual harassment is, often- “if you get angry at me catcalling/slapping your ass/leering then I might get angry and hurt you” is a very real thing. There have been at least 3 stories of women who stood up to catcallers and WERE SHOT TO DEATH.

    • “Rape culture” is a decades-old academic term for the behavior and conditions that normalize sexual assault and harassment. Changing the name to keep gamers from harassing seems kinda … weird.

    • blorp says:

      thanks for completely ignoring the fuck out of the entire piece and posting this stupid bullshit. keep up the good work.

  5. DBL says:

    There is a reason why accusations of there being a ‘rape culture’ are often met with misogynistic responses. When people believe they are being collectively prejudged without evidence, they tend to no longer perceive any benefit in good behaviour. If you believe you will be judged guilty regardless, then most of the incentive to avoid being negatively perceived has been removed. In that environment, a number of the accused will naturally decide that there is no longer any downside to self-censorship. Call it an ‘accusation culture’, if you will.

    I believe feminists are essentially shooting their own cause in the foot by accusing entire cultures of being rapey, thereby making enemies of all those who consider themselves members. By all means fight the rape culture; but this phrase should probably be ditched in favour of terms that emphasise personal responsiblity and de-emphasise the kind of collective guilting which, it should be increasingly obvious, is very counterproductive.

    • Justin says:

      I agree with DBL and Iordan entirely. I actually take a lot of issue with the term “Rape Culture”. The whole concept of “rape culture” as a phrase is to point out how blase we have become about sexism, while evoking a crime that, in reality, carries an extreme amount of stigma. If someone is accused of misogyny, the reaction might be to be more aware of their views and actions. Accuse them of facilitating or committing rape, and the general response will be along the lines of “go f%$^ yourself!”. Not that I don’t agree with the general message of the article, but intentionally incendiary language tends to get attention, but be counterproductive.

      That said, I do think that hostile and misogynistic attitudes in games and on forums should be addressed. I spend a lot of time on the internet, and would be horrified by the way people communicate on it if I weren’t already so used to it. It’s inhabited by absolute savages, but I think much of that has to do with anonymity, immaturity (both literal and emotional), and an emotional disconnect that many people feel when writing to other anonymous people. It’s not so much that most of them hate women… They just hate, and they want everyone else to be as miserable as them. If that means being sexist little asswipes, then so be it.

      However, I don’t think that game developers are the root cause of most of the horrible behavior you see online.

      In fact, when it comes to portrayal of females in games, I’m honestly not sure how they should be portrayed. It’s obvious how they should NOT be portrayed, but looking over the list of video titles above, very little is left that would be at all applicable to the types of stories that video games tend to encompass.

      Damsel in Distress – Video #1
      The Fighting F#@k Toy – Video #2
      The Sexy Sidekick – Video #3
      The Sexy Villainess – Video #4

      I sort’ve think she should have stopped after the first 4, which I largely agree with, though some of these, particularly #1, are tropes that predate video games and movies. Perhaps if the great majority of fairy tales we tell our children, without ever a concern as to the misogynistic ramifications, weren’t largely about damsels in distress, those children wouldn’t grow up to recreate those tropes in the video games they design.

      Background Decoration – Video #5
      Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress – Video #6
      Women as Reward – Video #7
      Mrs. Male Character – Video #8
      Unattractive Equals Evil – Video #9
      Man with Boobs – Video #10

      But then some of these seem to get very broad, or even contradictory. #9 for instance, seems to contradict #4, or at least leave a subjectively narrow window between the two. And I’m not sure the Voodoo Priestess/Tribal sorceress actually IS a trope. Certainly, no more so than the Voodoo Priest/Tribal Sorcerer. #7 is sort’ve redundant with #1. It might not be, if the rescued Damsel in Distress from #1 ever ended up NOT marrying the guy who saved her, but saving a damsel in distress usually comes with the intrinsic reward of a damsel who feels compelled to show her gratitude.

      #8, though, I find particularly troublesome (also #10, which seems virtually synonymous). What exactly defines a “male character”, apart from actually being male. It seems like many of the complaints with all the other tropes is that a female character is sexualized in some way that is gratuitous and unnecessary. Or else treated in some stereotypical female way, like being weaker, or pretty, or ugly, or spiritual, or cold, or overly emotional, or… wait a sec, most of those already contradict with each other, and they’re ALL complained about to some degree. So now we can add “none of the above” to the list of things to avoid?

      Take Ripley, from Alien, as an example. She is the prime example of “Mrs. Male Character”. She was originally written as a male, and then cast as a female at the last minute with no significant rewrites. She’s generally seen as a positive female character because she was not written with any female stereotypes in mind, and the only indication that she’s a woman is that she’s portrayed by one in the film. But, unless I’m misunderstanding #8, now that’s also bad?

      Perhaps these all mean something other than what their title suggests, but it doesn’t seem like there is any way to correctly portray a woman in a video game. And since most of these would apply equally well to men, it doesn’t seem like there’s a correct way to portray a man in a video game either. But no one really cares about that.

      • Star says:

        #9 doesn’t contradict #4. They’re two different categories that tend to not occur simultaneously. If there happens to be an ugly woman in a game she will almost always be evil, but if there is a woman who is from the outset identified as the big bad of the game then she will be sexy.

        Also # 7 is not redundant because of #1. In # 1 the damsel is a reward at the end of the game yes. But there are also games that even though the premise of the game/quest is not saving the girl you get girls/female attention as a reward for the quest; this also includes when your “congratulations” message comes with a picture of a sexy girl, or a cut scene that has boob and ass shots, because seeing the girl is part of the reward for your accomplishment.

        #8 and #10 are not synonymous. The man with boobs is usually an ugly tom-boy that looks and acts like a man with boobs. the Mrs. Male Character is usually a hot girl that if for the fact that she was not female-bodied would be entirely indistinguishable from any other standard male character. Also the problem with Ripley is that she was a Mrs. Male character. She was a hero in spite of the fact that she was a woman, not because of or regardless of the fact she was a woman. That’s the problem.

        Also the fact that they are contradictory is not a problem. It’s the fact that they’re over exemplifications of female stereotypes; you’re eye candy and a reward and usually pretty stupid, or you’re evil and ugly, or you’re hot but you’re evil and a bitch, or you’re a good character because you’re basically a dude. There are no positive feminine female characters. And yes there are problems with male characters but there are generally more variety with male characters and the problem is not nearly so rampant and utterly damaging as the problems with female character tropes.

        • anonymous says:

          >She was a hero in spite of the fact that she was a woman, not because of or regardless of the fact she was a woman. That’s the problem.

          That’s the stupidest shit I’ve heard in a long time.

    • HAMesmer says:

      But…if a group of people don’t confront something that is “rapey,” are they not themselves guilty of allowing debasement to happen?

  6. Reblogged this on RinseWashRepeat and commented:
    Heavy reading, but worth a look.

  7. I have to strongly disagree with what you wrote, Foz. Just because there are sexualized elements or racy depictions of women in video games doesn’t mean men are being subconsciously indoctrinated to accept and normalize rape. Rape is terrible. It mentally damages those who have suffered through it. It happens every day. I won’t deny these things, but to imply that most gamers are being subversively taught to hate women and accept rape as normal is ludicrous.

    I’ve been a gamer since I was old enough to hold a controller. I’ve played Mortal Kombat, Halo, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, and many other M-rated games. Some of those games do have sexual elements, but others do not. In fact, in some cases the only time the “rape” language comes into play is during online matches. Generally, the people screaming “I’ll rape you” or “You got raped” are Neanderthalian meatheads, but that’s why I usually mute my mic. And it isn’t everyone who speaks in this fashion.

    I play violent games. But I am extremely respectful of females in the real world. I help them, I speak nicely to them, I hold the door for them not out of some misplaced sense of sexism, but out of common decency. I am an easygoing person who enjoys getting the violence out of his system through video games. But I am not part of a “rape culture”.

    Please, don’t paint us with such a broad, indiscriminate brush.

    • You LIVE in a rape culture. I live in a rape culture. We can’t help but be a part of it.

      Do you speak up every time you see a guy catcall a woman telling him “dude, that’s not cool”? Do you say something when a gaming company promotes by doing something or saying something sexist and objectifying? Do you tell your friends to stop insulting some women’s bodies while leering over others? Then you’re probably more part of rape culture than you like to think. It’s a scary thing to challenge- I don’t challenge it all the time myself. But why feel guilty? You can sit with being a part of a screwed up culture and challenge it without being defensive when people say “ok, but here’s my experience of this”. I don’t think guys really understand rape culture until it continually happens to someone close to them.

      • Steve Nordquist says:

        Sorry, it is insane to say that because we live in a culture in which produced http://icd9cm.chrisendres.com/index.php?action=child&recordid=11662 that we belong to a culture of drowning while on fire and under a pier (or a rain culture, or an insanity culture (are people buying PSAs claiming 20% of adults are mentally ill outside the midwestern USA?)) Expecting evil of a transaction (esp. then committing to it) is itself evil (else for example there would be more documentary films about stairs or parking lots or knees; and naked shorts would be thick on the ground.)

        Also, this really long essay was nonsense, with Sarkeesian’s trolling (or rape-colored glasses, a slim subset of rich misogyny (misanthropy, nonsense, boilerplate scolding reverse-engineering) behavioral profile tinctures I can pick up anywhere costs are cut really low on the abstraction ladder) featured uncritically. (That is, it seems Anita could have laid down last week that Doom was racist because the invading Strogg were not portrayed evenhandedly, and/or modded id Software’s in-game cameras so that got fixed. Has Cracked.com been unsatisfactory in highlighting such biases? Are there no ‘collected letters to ZeroPunctuation’ on where the salted ink lands blackest?) At long last; is explicit liability a myth lost to a time of a common commercial code and bills citable (culpable, that is) to their representatives, or are you prosecuting a bad date with a ‘gamer’ theme down to whoever last fed him or her (esp. pinto beans with no cilantro?) EA’s human resources has been a source of controversy before…

        Good luck brewing up new feminist matter for a mere $44k; getting into those game engines and development teams and making them stand for better culture (while surviving Distributor or Cross-License mandates) should be a comfortable gamer activity. Game engines have gotten to be knots of capability and connective tissue over 200MB on the binary side, though….
        I think Play Magazine (…yes really, with lots of postdoctoral work also vying for place in Twink World…okay, messing with you there,) and Next Generation did a good job of that where programmers and other studio people and of course their conferences have not always reached out into deliverable and press assets.
        I did have to watch/play some Tomb Raider {real number} cutscenes a few times before they (generally) passed as colorful rather than wrong. Fine Art at work; The Inception of St. Sebastian by the time emulator people finish with it. More snark on unserved uses of architecture, please!

        Holy Cow rxjp, sweet kin^Wlinks that do not terminate in paywalls! Though one does read as a study with no sensibility checks incorporated (you rockin’ an Apple Bookstore link for that version for $1?) Thank you for airing that kind of good-basics baseline upon which we may stage our Starbuck (or more-curative-Lara-Croft-who-detonates-fewer-sites!)

      • Mandible says:

        Sorry, I no more feel morally validated in insisting that a man not cat call a woman in public than I would in insisting that ladies not attend a strip club and hoot and holler at men they feel are attractive. Just because one feels comfortable in privacy doing it to parties which they are paying sums of money to (and by the by, male strippers get sexually violated REGULARLY by women) and the other does it in public at their leisure and with no fiscal compensation does not make them as different as you might think. Furthermore, much to the chagrin of many feminists I’m certain, some women respond to that and from those encounters relationships emerge. It’s called a pick up. Get used to the idea.

  8. marker says:

    Despite agreeing with most of the above I still refuse to acknowledge the existence of rape culture as a single issue. It’s convenient to describe a host of other problems using this name but powerless internet smacktalk is just as bad (or just as meaningless) when it comes to violence. We had to defend videogames against accusations of ‘murder culture’ and ‘killerspiele’ and the arguments were similar. After all wasn’t Sarkeesian also threatened with death? Isn’t the other half of smacktalk essentially one big ‘I killed you’ or ‘I’ll kill you’?
    The Hitman trailer is simply bad and disconnected from the game but the rape accusations feel as hollow as the ‘murder simulator’ debacles we know. Tasteless or stupid doesn’t need to have any deeper issues.
    I’m seriously afraid that once we start eliminating things which may OFFEND someone (as opposed to things that cause actual, documented harm), we’ll drive culture towards bland, uniform, featureless goo of political correctness. We won’t be able to create despicable characters because someone will still feel offended by the character’s deliberately racist or sexist behavior.

  9. This is great. Thank you so much for writing.

    • Steve Nordquist says:

      I think you mean ‘the length and content of this appetizing article were great.’ I am also thinking the 5th Red Bull of the day may be talking for you; just not sure.

      I mean, the way successes and global heavy marketing of games are normalized, and the money followed up and down to show distinction, sources and sinks of feature lists which include cavalier abuse including rape of women in and out of AAA games; simple, excellent work. (n.b.: T’aint.) Also, the entry titled Penny Arcade… was much better than this entry, despite not fathoming what Jerry said, which for Jerry was fine and guiltless (as per the comments.) Foz on the other hand is pretty much marginalizing pictures and medical schematics (nee Grays Anatomy) of knees because of skinned knee culture. Foz perhaps wants to pick up the war against indigenous plants such as sage and/or profit on the back end?

      Also, the Hitman setpiece has been an Italian tabloid staple way back. If you can retcon it past 1000BCE, you have an EU-compliant heavy construction business in Italy.

  10. Miya says:

    This article was SO well written. Thank you.
    I will never believe that men (or women) who use racial slurs, or sexist abusive terms, don’t believe what they are saying. That it is “all in fun”.

    How you act when no one is looking, when you have the veil being anonymous, is who you REALLY are. And so many gamers have shown the terribly ugly side of themselves.

  11. Aurvant says:

    A well written article with only a few issues, but issues I must address nonetheless.

    First off, any sensible human being can look at what has happened to Anita Sarkeesian and recognize that the people acting out against her are terrible and shitty people. However, their terribleness isn’t a result of gaming culture; it’s a result of them being terrible people. Just accept that they’re a gang of horrible internet folk who have deep and horrible personal issues rather than attempting to blame their actions on a hobby. That’s the same tactic politicians used to try and convince state congresses to ban the sale of certain video games. By claiming there was a “kind of disconnect” between the real and the digital, these politicians, and other anti-gaming personalities, attempted to say that these games made people more prone to acts of violence.

    Jack Thompson used to make claims like this, and gamers, once upon a time, stood up against this kind of accusatory bullshit.

    The way people responded to Sarkeesian was terrible, but you seem genuinely surprised that people reacted at all. The response is obviously reactionary, which you kinda seem to acknowledge, but you then you seem appalled that people would DARE defend themselves against accusations such as those. An entire culture is being accused of perpetrating a terrible and horrific act, so it should come to no surprise to anyone that quite a few members of that culture (who do not perpetrate such things) would become defensive. I mean, if you were walking down the street and someone began verbally accusing you of murder to everyone else around, wouldn’t you feel just a bit threatened and defensive about it? Someone is accusing you of something deplorable, so do you just shrug it off and say “Oh well, our society is full of murderers so I understand that they’re upset.”?

    Admittedly, you don’t respond to their accusations by threatening them physical harm, which is what the Kickstarter mob did, but you don’t have to just listen to it without saying something. Kinda like what I’m doing here.

    Lastly, the insults tossed around in gaming aren’t necessarily due to a “rape-culture”, but are more likely due to just being a general “insult-culture”. I have played so many multi-player games that I’ve lost count and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called “bitch”, “faggot”, “shithead”, “fucker”, “slut”, “whore”, “cocksucker”, and many other insults I didn’t even realize were word combinations. Men, and women, use these insults and they aren’t exclusively sexual in nature when they’re being used. They’re weapons of words used to goad and diminish the opposite player, and none of them are gender exclusive. I don’t use them, but that’s because I’m not brutish jerk. Some people, however, are and I don’t think it’s gaming that perpetrates it. Some people are just awful, and others need to quit trying to find a reason as to why they’re awful.

    So, while your article is well written, I reject its premise. We, as gamers, need to decide whether we believe that gaming creates an environment that breeds violence and sexual hostility, or whether or not we believe that there are just terrible people out there who just so happen to play games.

    • rjxp says:

      “Lastly, the insults tossed around in gaming aren’t necessarily due to a “rape-culture”, but are more likely due to just being a general “insult-culture”. I have played so many multi-player games that I’ve lost count and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called “bitch”, “faggot”, “shithead”, “fucker”, “slut”, “whore”, “cocksucker”, and many other insults I didn’t even realize were word combinations.”

      What you call insult culture IS rape culture. When those words (sexual and feminine in almost all cases) are used to insult, degrade, or otherwise challenge the “powerful manliness” they contribute to a wider toxicity which makes anything female intentionally bad.

      The idea, in short, is that “cocksucking” is not something MEN would ever do. So why would we want a woman we love to do it? and therein is the issue…

      • OneSmallDrop says:

        “they contribute to a wider toxicity which makes anything female intentionally bad.”

        This is wrong. objectively. No one is saying that anything female is bad. The insult proposes that MALES doing female activity is bad.

        • Lenora Rose says:

          And this is better how? it still implies male things are superior to female things, because if female things were remotely worthy, men wouldn’t be insulted by having feminizing terms applied.

          • OneSmallDrop says:

            It’s not about being superior… You’re so delusional. Men poke fun at other men for doing stereotypically female things AND BEING MEN, not doing stereotypically female things because they are inferior.

            There is (stereotypically, of course) a set of actions that are deemed manly and a set of actions deemed feminine. No one ever said one is the superior set of actions. In fact, there is no way for either set to be superior because all of the actions defined in each stereotypical set consists of totally benign and meaningless things.

            • archprime says:

              But it IS about being superior – any insult has as it’s fundamental assumption that one way of doing things or being is not as good as another. And, I am fine with that. Both insulter and insulted must believe that one way of being and doing things is superior to another, or the insult could not work (i.e. could not get a rise or cause offence – mere inaccuracy has little emotional impact) It might happen that the specific criteria for ‘superior’ vary between the two, or that the level of emotional investment associated with the traits denigrated varies between the two, but both must feel that being identified as a ‘bitch’ for example is a bad thing on some level whether or not the person identified as a bitch really is one or not. I am fine with that, because everyone fundamentally feels superior in some ways – we all have things that we choose to identify ourselves with, and we would only chose to make those attributes important to our identities if they seemed better than all the alternatives. If I am described as something that simply is not true, or is not relevant to the values of my chosen identity, it is difficult to feel insulted. In other words, for every insult, there is a counter insult based what I do value about myself..

              Short of banning insults, and thus significantly eroding freedom of speech, surely the solution most likely to actually address and erode any toxic cultural expression is for those impacted to practice giving as good as they get?

              • OneSmallDrop says:

                ” It might happen that the specific criteria for ‘superior’ vary between the two, or that the level of emotional investment associated with the traits denigrated varies between the two, but both must feel that being identified as a ‘bitch’ for example is a bad thing on some level whether or not the person identified as a bitch really is one or not.”

                I know you’re trying to bust out the deduction here but you’re missing some important points if we’re going to talk about insults objectively. You gloss over what you’re missing here, either out of ignorance or purposefully to help your argument. Context and audience are huge. It may be true that there is an assumption of superiority, but it’s strictly in a context agreed upon by a party. The size of the party is negotiable, but not everyone is in it, and surely it can be only 2 individuals.

                It’s important to talk about context and audience because it’s why this quote –

                “they contribute to a wider toxicity which makes anything female intentionally bad.”

                is wrong. It completely throws context and audience out of the window because a woman looking at this kind of exchange is not part of the audience and doesn’t understand the context. Now calling someone a “cocksucker” is definitely a mean thing to do, and I can’t make an argument that everyone should be allowed to sling it around willy nilly, but the argument against saying it doesn’t contain that it contributes to rape culture by showing cock sucking as a bad thing to do. In a specific context between specific parties (men), it is agreed upon to be a bad thing to do in the context and between the parties it’s said.

                • archprime says:

                  The context surely is one where somebody is getting insulted – the selection of insult reveals the attributes that are mutually assumed to be bad by both parties (or it is an ineffective insult). My point here is that I am fine with describing someone as a women in a way that implies they are inferior in a trash talk context, just so long as someone else – perhaps a female player – can make the opposite insult predicated upon the inferiority of male attributers – and in fact I think it is important that this happens often so that one sided trash talk does not drift into actually reinforcing false belief through sheer repetition (as might happen when only one ‘side’ is ever presented),,

                  By giving as good as they get in a trash talk contest (rather than complaining, or going elsewhere), women are not then demonstrating inability to compete in that arena and thus weakness and inferiority.
                  They can of course prove the same point by routinely kicking butt in the game.

                  I suppose I am saying that a way to not be a victim of toxic attitudes is to compete and win in arenas where these are expressed – to an extent that holding on to those beliefs becomes difficult. Conquer the male dominated contexts.

                  • fozmeadows says:

                    What you’re missing here, though, is the crucial acknowledgement of the fact that not all people exist in equal positions of power. To take just one glaring example: the suicide rate among LGTBQ teens – and the rates of depression, abuse and bullying, for that matter – are much, much higher than for straight teens, as a direct consequence of the hatred and rejection they face on a regular basis. Queer kids get bullied for being queer. So if those same teens then enter a gaming environment where people are using homophobic slurs as insults under the guise if trash talk, there’s no meaningful difference between the insults they recieve in-game and the bullying they recieve out of it. Your argument is predicated on trash talk being an equal novelty for all players – a mutual exchange of insults that have no bearing outside the game. But for women who are aggressively hit on, bodyshamed and otherwise demeaned by strangers and culture on a regular basis because of gender, it’s not a novelty. For queer players who are routinely victimised and insulted by strangers and culture,it’s not a novelty. For POC players who deal constantly with racial abuse from strangers and culture, it’s not a novelty. All it is for these people is a continuation of the abuse they recieve elsewhere – and that being so, asking them to give it a pass or not be offended simply because it happens online is ludicrous. The point being, any insult a straight, white male gamer gets in-game that’s relevant to his straight, white maleness isn’t something he’ll routinely experience out of game; for him, it is a novelty, and therefore more easily shrugged off. He can afford to class trash talk as a separate beast to real bullying and abuse, because it doesn’t represent a continuation of abuse *levelled at his racial or sexual identity* that he already receives elsewhere. So when, in arguments like this, I see people arguing that trash talk is exceptional as a form of speech and therefore exempt from being classed as hate speech, what I see is people failing to acknowledge that what exists for them only as a feature of gaming is, for far too man other people, the default mode of going through life.

                    • archprime says:

                      That is fair enough – if the objectives of the trash talkers included provision of a safe haven. But the objectives of the trash talkers are generally combative and the context is an arena. Only those wishing to fight go there.

                      Certainly if insults, threats etc. are levelled outside of this ritual combat context, then that is well out of order.

                      Males, certainly in the west, seem to go through a rite of passage that involves humiliation by older boys, as a sort of toughening up process. We thereafter learn to address each other in insulting (mock combative) terms even as a sign of camaraderie. To fail in demonstrating our capacity for aggression is to display the very weakness that such rite of passage presumably evolved to weed out of whatever tribe we belong to.

                      The requirements of human survival in harsh and competitive environments with resource scarcity etc dominating our lives until extremely recently fostered a powerful drive to exclude the weak from ones own tribe, and obviously to repel anyone not of one’s own tribe.

                      This instinct hasn’t gone away, just because we became ‘civilised’.

                      As we became more civilised we (especially those with lots of testosterone) have had to increasingly devise ways to manage our instinctive need for combat that is engendered by ever higher concentrations of competing people/tribes etc all jostling for position around us, and more recently, jostling for access to the same roles and status.

                      Empathy is pretty important in overcoming the stress/aggression response engendered by the proximity of strangers, and is part of the answer – but clearly is not a total solution. It is far easier to be nice to those who are either very much like ourselves, or who are safely beneath us in status/not competing. Those of us with low intelligence and/ or limited life experience/limited exposure to differences in people are just not equipped to see ‘different but equal’ as a good thing.

                      If competitive sports, online gaming etc were to be made ‘safe’ and inclusive for the very demographics that are we are instinctively stressed by, where else can we turn in our need to vent and articulate the aggression response to that difference?

                      Is it not optimal for civilization that this by-product of our evolution – our instinctive dislike of difference – continues to be vented in a ritual context? Managed? Made a game?

                      We can chip away at the perception of difference on multiple fronts, but until we all feel like members of the same intimate group of Pleistocene hunter gatherers, all pulling in the same direction, all with secure roles and status within the tribe, surely we are going to have to have spaces that facilitate toxic venting against people who are different?

                    • fozmeadows says:

                      Here’s the crux of the matter: if someone thinks it’s OK to call a stranger a gay nigger bitch online, then what’s to stop them assuming that such language – and, crucially, the prejudice which underlies its use as pejorative – is benign or acceptable in other contexts, too? You can quite happily have trash talk without racism, sexism and homophobia: the two aren’t inextricably synonymous. And yet the former is rife with the latter, because people carry their real-world prejudices over into gaming; they assume the existence of an equal footing where none exists, and so perpetuate exactly the sort of bigotry that keeps in unequal in the first place.

                    • I confess I have never felt an urge to call a stranger (or anyone as it happens) a gay nigger bitch, and witnessing this sort of carry-on is not a comfortable thing for me, even safe as I am as white hetero male. I am also certain that you are right – choice of those epithets is a strong indicator of prejudices brought in from outside the trash talk arena

                      What I am proposing however, is that trash talk in a combative arena is a necessary evil, including talk that reveals prejudice – it is a relief valve for evolutionary prejudice against people who are different (and we are all inherently prejudiced, including gay nigger bitches) – some are just better equipped to offset prejudice with empathy than others, or at least with better learned responses.
                      Aggression against people who are different is better vented within in a ritualistic combat arena where people go expecting to be attacked on some level, and where that aggression can be treated as part of the game, rather than outside where it the impact is far more serious and direct.

                      Also, if opponents who are different do give as good as they get in this arena, they demonstrate that gay nigger bitches are worthy as opponents, not weak. They might also harness the underlying camaraderie often associated with mutual insulting rituals. They demonstrate that these gay nigger bitches are not so different/bad after all.

                      I would think that as a minority, on taking the decision to enter this arena, that giving as good as you get, and frequently would make sense – it reveals your existence and attacks the assumption/perception of sexual/racial homogeneity amongst the ‘hetero male gamer’ tribe.

                      Gaming is one environment where social disadvantage does not need to translate to weaker performance and so represents a unique opportunity for ‘outsiders’ to compete and earn respect that might just occasionally flow out into the real world.

  12. ashleydryden says:

    “This is what rape culture looks like […]: the use of misogyny to defend yourself against the accusation of misogyny.” This is the absolute best way to describe this problem and we see it not only in gaming, but in tech. Male dominated cultures where the need to exert macho-ness/manliness/virility all have this issue.

    Thanks for your brilliant writeup. I’m sending this far and wide.

  13. Nick says:

    As a young South African, this article has a similar effect on me to that of the impact of apartheid. As a white male born in ’87, I benefit from the legacy of apartheid but have no say in the matter. There is a guilt there that I don’t really know how to deal with – I am inherently a partial product of a brutal injustice, but I had no control over or participation in that system.

    In the same way, I am a part of a culture that accepts denigration, threatening, and insulting of others, particularly of women, as acceptable and expected, but I feel powerless to have any impact on that. Sure, I never act in such a manner, and I call people out when their behaviour is particularly egregious, but I am still a part of it, and I feel guilty for that.

    I see those YouTube comments and think “just some more idiots flinging their idiot thoughts about” – but I don’t engage, because “everyone knows” that the YouTube comments section is a cesspool. Yet YouTube comments are where it starts – an echo chamber for intolerance, a place where these fools have their views reinforced by like-minded (though mind is an inaccurate word). For some people that cesspool is the only feedback they receive – and not everyone possesses the personal armour of cynicism I have built up regarding people on the internet. I don’t have the time to fight that battle though – so who should be doing so?

    Am I remiss in not doing more? (This is where it loops back to white privilige) I know that I make an effort, but is that effort sufficient? Against the flood of ignorance, can my efforts weigh in at all? I don’t go around insulting women. I think that Hitman Trailer was just stupid. I don’t believe any one man (or woman) is superior to another based on skin colour, or that white men should get any and all career opportunities. But I don’t exist in a vacuum – and this guilt I feel is not assauged by the actions I take because I see the scale of the problem and they seem tiny against it.

    This rambling response is perhaps just a thought to indicate how (hopefully many) others may feel regarding this issue. It’s a toughie, and that’s for sure. I do try to do what I can, but it needs a lot more than just me to come right.

  14. I want to say something coherent but I can’t because I’m too emotional having read this. I’m so grateful that you put this out there and I’m grateful for how many times I’ve seen this post tweeted by people in my feed.

    But then, therein lies the issues, doesn’t it? The fact that it’s necessary for me to be grateful is a sad statement on our culture. The fact that I held my breathe reading the comments because I feared I’d see something that would trigger a flashback is sad. I shouldn’t have to worry about that. And maybe if more people speak out they way that you have then eventually women won’t have to worry about those things.

    Thank you.

  15. Crystal says:

    Wow, this is. an excellent essay. Seriously, thank you for writing this. It makes the point a lot better than I’ve seen other people make it, and I think it does so without being incendiary.

  16. cassus says:

    I kinda get the feeling that you want women to not go through the kind of crap that all guys go through.. I’m afraid that when women became equal with men (which, of course, they should be) they would still be able to hold on to the “fragile” image they had prior to equality. Oh noes, must not mock women the same way you mock men..

    I’m not much about abuse in games, in fact, abusive language and hatred is why I can not enjoy games like League of Legends and DotA and stuff like that. The amount of abuse in those games just.. It’s just unbelievable, and I can’t deal with it.

    About how women are portrayed in games.. How about the way men are portrayed, are they portrayed less stereotypically and derogatory? nope.. Playing Max Payne 3 at the moment, and he’s basically Bruce Willis in that game. Some rough guy whose only motivation is rescuing women by plowing through a million guys in the slums.. That’s okay? Portraying men as a Mario type figure, soaking up bullets to save the princess? Sorry, she’s in another castle.

    I, and a lot of other guys, play girls in MMO’s because we can not identify with the guys AT ALL. Huge sexy muscular bulky brutes that would make ladies swoon. 99.9% of all gamers look and feel NOTHING like that. Games are idealised worlds, just like the movies. You don’t see dudes like Brad Pitt walking around a town of stunning women with his buddy George Cloony.. Yet that’s what movies pretend is the case.

    What this article does is blame games for emulating movies.. Probably better to just go for the root of the problem.. Movies.. Or even better, just look in the mirror.. Abusive talk in games is basically a non sequitur. I’ve met guys who are just absolute assholes in games, in real life they are either your average guy, or somewhat weakly and socially awkward. Never have I met a guy who vents his frustration by abusing people over the interwebs who has been anything but ordinary in real life.

    The phrase “u mad bro?” has pretty much proven to me that the guys who go apeshit in games are just like any other frustrated person. Once they get a response they can’t really respond to in any way that keeps their manly facade going, they buckle. The issue is all about anonymity. Some people tend to live out their asshole nature on the interwebs because there’s no way they’d be able to in real life, and most of the time they wouldn’t even want to. Like rough sex.. Guys like it, girls like it, they go at it.. Does not mean the guy wants to actually rape anyone, nor does it mean that the girl wants to get raped. It comes down to the fact that people have a dark side, we’re animals after all. In racecar driving people get killed.. In online gaming you get insulted..

    People need to deal with it as best they can. This won’t change any time soon. Kids care little for people’s feelings.

    • Keezy Young says:

      First of all, myself and most of the other female gamers I know have very little interest in MMO-style male characters. They’re Hulkishly bulky, which, frankly, is not all that attractive to most women. It is what male game producers THINK women find attractive, and I’m generalizing here, but actually what male players idealize in men. See comic: http://www.shortpacked.com/2011/comic/book-13/05-the-death-of-snkrs/falseequivalence/

      That aside though, you are making excuses for bad behavior. Just because people (yes, people, I am not singling out men here) FEEL that it is okay to behave badly due to the anonymity of the internet does not MAKE it okay. It also does not mean that it is something we simply must ‘accept’. Your acceptance of this bad behavior is part of the reason that it is able to continue.

    • rjxp says:

      “I kinda get the feeling that you want women to not go through the kind of crap that all guys go through.. I’m afraid that when women became equal with men (which, of course, they should be) they would still be able to hold on to the “fragile” image they had prior to equality. Oh noes, must not mock women the same way you mock men.. ”

      This totally misses the point. For men to be equal to what women feel seeing this sort of imagery, the insecure heterosexual male would have be forced into the worst homosexual cliches. The idea is not that women want to be ‘fragile’ it is that they do not want to be seen only as fuckable dolls.

      Imagine if you will, all the video games out there where male characters are dressed in thongs, short belly shirts and in order to do anything have to please some big burly bear of a man. All the women in this game are dressed in bulky military gear and get to do all the action.

      The critique is that women have MORE to offer than sex and sexuality. The Bruce Willis character is not based on sex, but on ability and skill and luck. Won’t it be great if a woman got to do that too, and not have to wear an outfit designed by a low rent lingerie company?

  17. cyanotic says:

    Thank you for this.

  18. Billy says:

    I enjoyed reading this, but you are simplifying what the “gaming culture” is. It’s a limited view to describe people who play video games as adhering to a specific culture, because video games are a medium, which is an important distinction. There are genres of games, just as there are genres of books and movies. As such, it needs to be critiqued accordingly. Rather than comparing sports clubs and fraternities to the gaming culture, it would be more revealing to understand what kind of games, genres if you will, do sport club and fraternity cultures prefer to consume. You will find that the demographic of a genre has more to do with its culture then the act of playing games by itself. I imagine that examples of rape culture would be far more difficult to find while playing the game Minecraft than while playing Modern Warfare.

    The issue has more to do with how our societies choose to consume entertainment as a whole. Hypersexualisation and other tropes are found in the majority of mainstream media. If game companies follow in like, it is because, unfortunately, it’s been proven to sell. That is what needs to be addressed.

    Even your example of the flaming of Anita Sarkeesian is not simply an example of video games as a culture; It is an example of the perils of the internet itself and the culture of anonymity that it facilitates. What people choose to do and say under a veil of anonymity is indicative of the greater culture, not just the medium through which they are acting.

    Ultimately, the issues that you are revealing in this article, while real, have less to do with the games themselves and much more to do with the values of a greater society. Rape culture in video games is a symptom, not a cause.

  19. Lance Thrust says:

    I think you’ve made a very solid argument. There are a couple of minor criticisms I have of which none would undermine the point you ultimately made, and only feel one is worth mentioning at all.

    I quote: “that is, a set of values, beliefs, rituals, social codes, language, laws and art – which can be said to promote sexual violence”, and this is where I’d stop, but you go on saying “and particularly sexual violence against women as perpetrated by straight men.”

    While I can see how you might come to that conclusion I have my doubts that it’s against women in particular, since there is another side to this coin. Men impregnated with such a culture are all too often unaware that they too may have boundaries that can be violated. There are beliefs that men can’t be raped as they would never deny sex for any reason other than physical appearance, and if something isn’t seen as possible, it becomes impossible to speak about such experiences. A mentally unstable woman has sex with an underage male student, and this is seen as grounds for celebration across gaming sites, for example. The only publicly ostracized in such a scenario is the boy who spoke out. He didn’t like being used for sex by an authority figure, but the message he gets is that he should have. The violation he felt is never recognized or validated, compounding his confusion. Such culture effectively silences as it places blame on a victims pain rather than on the act that caused it. A woman breaks into a mans apartment to surprise him with oral sex, simply assuming the right to be sexual is hers for the taking, and for filing charges it is his sanity that is questioned. That is a deeply ingrained objectification that I believe springs from the very same source. Rape culture is indifferent to gender. It promotes sexual violence wholesale.

  20. Ginpenguin says:

    Thank you so much for this. We need more insight like this so very very badly.

  21. [...] post on the Tomb Raider reboot prompted a brief foray through other thoughts on the subject of violence against women in gaming culture. As a life-long gamer, the absurd level of female objectivization found in many [...]

  22. spot on article. thank you thank you thank you.

  23. Chrono1 says:

    I love how you say:

    “If a group of footballers sexually assault three women in a hotel, for instance, we aren’t wrong to ask about the influence of rape culture in football, even though the physical location of the assault is a public place with no specific ties to either the sport or its culture.”

    It is exactly like when ignorant people say something like:

    “Since the WTC terrorists were Muslims we aren’t wrong to ask about the influence of terrorism in Islam.”

    Got to love profiling and stereotypes.

  24. “Sexualised violence and the sexual objectification of women should be to gaming like The Human Centipede, a film which is horrific in absolutely every sense of the word, is to cinema: something that we all understand is vile, but where a desire to confront that vileness is the motive for watching – as opposed to a scenario where almost every film produced contains elements of The Human Centipede, and has done for so long that cinemagoers treat those elements as normative rather than vile”

    The above is a spurious example. The problems you’re siting with gaming culture are not analogous to forced eating of human shit. In fact, they are analogous to, and in most cases identical to, sexist tropes and themes in cinema. Take the list of videos:

    Damsel in Distress
    The Fighting F#@k Toy
    The Sexy Sidekick
    The Sexy Villainess
    Background Decoration
    Voodoo Priestess/Tribal Sorceress
    Women as Reward
    Mrs. Male Character
    Unattractive Equals Evil
    Man with Boobs
    Positive Female Characters!

    All of these are extremely common in movies, and have been extensively discussed as sexist culture problems in that medium. The same is true for Internet communities generally, the digital context related problems are not limited to gaming.

    Focusing the discussion on the *specific* context of gaming media while giving other media a pass is neither accurate nor helpful to addressing these issues.

    Gaming culture, internet culture, frat culture, cinema culture; they’re all instances of contexts in which these cultural problems manifest. Blaming those contexts for the existence of the problems is confusing the cause with the effect.

  25. Again posting to follow…

  26. Feral says:

    This is fantastic. Every paragraph of this is golden.

  27. [...] and they were clearly organised — likely by noted Internet cesspits 4chan and 9gag. This fabulous piece by Foz Meadows sums up the key aspect of the problem, I think: in attempting to defend themselves [...]

  28. Got here via a link from @elizabethdanger on twitter. Love the article, saved to my ‘trying to talk to other gamer guys about being more respectful to women’ folder, which is getting impressively big these days.

    Thanks.

  29. kupowark says:

    This is a fabulously well-written article about a very salient and contentious issue in gaming culture. Thank you very much for writing this!

  30. Matt says:

    Very enlightening article! I am taking a Sociology of Gender course right now, and for my final project I wrote an essay on the hypersexualization of women in video-gaming. I wish you wrote this before I turned it in so I could have had another great article to cite!

    Anyway, I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote. Just because gamers don’t see the clear and distinct culture of sexual harassment, and ultimately rape, that they are creating, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

  31. Architribe says:

    It reminds me that, like racism, it is an all encompassing pond. If you are in the pond, even if you heroically manage not to drink the water, you are still wet. Being in a culture has an effect even on those who wish to change the culture.

  32. anon says:

    If interaction logs could be obtained, it wouldn’t be too hard to provide some concrete and inescapable evidence of an unhealthy atmosphere. For example, usage rates of words indicative of derogatory slurs against women could be compared against baselines from another areas of the internet. These sort of statistics could be gathered using only a small amount of natural language processing. It might also be interesting to examine attrition rates of female gamers versus male gamers. Of course, I imagine getting access to the data would be a challenge–games companies probably don’t want to release data to someone studying how toxic the in-game environment is. But if this data could be obtained and did indicate the existence of unhealthy attitudes, objective statistics would make denial a lot harder to cling to.

  33. Excellent insight. I also can’t help but compare this situation to the dickwolves Penny Arcade debacle. The one positive thing has been the incredible positivity towards Sarkeesian in response to the backlash… someone suggested that 4chan was behind the attacks, in which case, if this is all “for the lulz” it would be a grotesquely ironic way of mobilizing support.

    I was a big fan of the original Tropes VS Women videos and I’ve even used them as teaching aids, I was a little late to the issue when I found she was making a video games themed series, but I have to say it’s incredibly needed. Video games are one of the last holdout markets where this demographic of consumers are truly and utterly pandered to. We can blame some of the faults of the film industry and the sexism of directors like Michael Bay on the studio system’s appeasement of it’s key market (young adolescent boys with disposable incomes), but games are tied into new media and its participatory nature. Suddenly we can SEE that there are gamers of various genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. What’s happening in gaming culture now is the bright light of reality, and this vitriol is just the hiss of the cockroaches as they head for the shadows.

  34. This is a really, genuinely excellent piece. I’ll hold on to it for when I have to have this conversation!

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together, and for sticking your neck out, knowing that someone is pretty likely to take a shot at you for it. Your courage and eloquence are both inspiring. :)

  35. [...] I could go off on a feminist rant about a lot of what was said. I could easily discuss the rape culture that has existed for a long time in the gaming community and in many male dominated fields. I could [...]

  36. Antonia says:

    I could not agree more. However, this argument needs to become mainstream in an easily understandable way for the mass absorbtion of the concept. The most POWERFUL way to change this is simply to start having games created with real female role models within. It is the only way. Women need to work in this field to actively change what is out there. Imagine if that happened?? It would be incredible.

  37. I pretty much agree with everything except for this nugget: “Because ultimately, the big objection to the charge of rape culture in gaming seems to boil down to fears about censorship: that by criticising creative output and language as being problematic, sexist and offensive, people like me are arguing for less art all together, when what we’re actually arguing for is more good art.”

    We’ve heard this argument before. Usually it’s from purse-lipped church ladies who are scandalized and shocked–shocked!–that someone has dropped an F-bomb into a work of art which they otherwise find laudable and approve of, but then they lament and criticize and whine, accuse the artists of stupidity, immaturity, and/or greed, and finally pronounce that it it is “bad art” because it contains this F-bomb or other “cuss words”–a truly ludicrous minced oath for “curse words” designed because of the superstitious dread that to even say the word “curse” would summon up the devil to drag you to heck. Um, Hell.

    In a word: “No.” The concepts of “bad art” and “good art” are and should remain independent of checklists of commandments and taboos. The inclusion or omission of an F-bomb doesn’t make or break a work. At best or worst it might serve to titillate or scandalize a certain portion of the audience, but it doesn’t make it “bad” or “good” except to those whose aesthetic sensibilities have been eclipsed by their moral certitude.

    Same thing with rape, rape culture, and all things rape related. Art is that which elicits an emotional response, and certain words, concepts, and acts elicit more emotional responses than others. An F-bomb packs more wallop than the minced oath “fudge.” A rape? It’s a quick and potent nerve to touch. Think of The Doors song “The End” and the response gotten when Jim Morrison does the spoken word portion “Father, I want to kill you. Mother, I want to rape you!” Why isn’t it flipped around? Because then the horror is pushed past the pale and goes into comedy. Note Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” where he’s going on about the awful criminals in jail and he says, “Mother rapists. And father rapists. And then the biggest meanest father rapist of them all….”

    Of course following the benchmark of anything that comes anywhere near “rape culture” is “bad art,” I suppose I should write off The Doors and Arlo Guthrie.

    I won’t. Likewise I won’t write off any game because it’s included a rape scene, or an almost-rape scene, or misogyny, or whatever. I might not recommend it to someone who’s offended by these, but that’s a side issue. The main issue for questions of art, especially “good” or “bad,” is whether it’s well done or badly done.

  38. [...] I’d like to see more of, here’s two. Foz Meadows’ hot-off-the-presses post Rape Culture In Gaming clearly explains rape culture with love and empathy, upholding the humanity of all involved and [...]

  39. This is excellent. You’ve clearly explained something that’s painful or difficult for many people to listen to, and done it without ego or antagonism. And I don’t just mean rape culture as regards to gaming, this is surely one of the best explanations/explorations of rape culture available online. I just did a blog post last week about John Scalzi’s Straight While Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There is and about Jezebel.com, criticizing the way a lot of writers these days are using social justice issues as an excuse to be mean, and I just went back and added a link to this article as an example of the way (I think) it should be done, both because it’s more in line with the morally correct way to treat people (not that it’s always wrong to antagonize people, mind you) and because it’s probably more effective.

    http://applebutterdreams.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/the-straight-white-male-rpgs-a-criticism-including-jezebel-and-debito-arudou/

  40. Meredith says:

    I just want to say thank you for taking the time to explore this topic.

    I could go on and on about my trials and tribulations as a gamer / comic book nerd who dated an abusive gamer / consummate underage anime girl porn watcher and how right I feel everything you say is. But I’ll just leave it with a simple thanks for this post. :)

  41. Mark Cookman says:

    Let me start by saying this is an excellent essay on the “rape culture” in gaming. This is a very difficult issue for me to comment on because I don’t see that gaming has a “rape culture” any more than TV has a “rape culture”. Realistically, our entire culture is a “rape culture”; the strong dominate the weak, politically – militarily – intellectually – financially – sexually – and sometimes just for good fun. “This is just the way things are. – shrug -” is the worst answer to give here. It indicates no willingness to put effort into changing things.

    On the other hand, standing up for changing it is going to invite a lot of abuse, just like championing any cause would. In this case though, those who stand up against it — like Anita Sarkeesian, are attacking generations of this “rape culture”. I see the point that she makes in her videos, but pointing the finger at gaming and comics, (especially 10 – 15 yo ones), and screaming “rape culture” is going to alienate a lot of people, some of them far less cultured than others. It saddens me to say that I am not surprised by the reactions she has received from her critics, only that it wasn’t worse.

    There are MANY different types of gamers. I run a weekly rpg that has been going on (in its current incarnation) for about 2 years. We have 4 men and 3 women, although one of the “men” is only 10. We do NOT have or encourage a “rape culture” in our games and it insults me when people like Anita Sarkeesian throw around stuff like “rape culture” when talking about comics and gaming. It lumps me in with crap that simply isn’t true about me (or anyone around me) so I feel violated by her analysis. It is unfair to only see the negative in something that you do not like, but it is certainly not uncommon. Again, thank you for an excellent essay.

    • potsherds says:

      “It lumps me in with crap that simply isn’t true about me (or anyone around me) so I feel violated by her analysis.”

      It it ain’t about you, don’t make it about you.

      You’re never going to be able to meaningfully participate in any social justice issues if you’re continually personally insulted by minority groups attributing some form of bigotry to a group you feel you belong to. Stop trying to make this issue about you, when it isn’t. It’s selfish, indicative of the problem, and derailing.

    • Haley says:

      Honestly, the most awesome thing about recognizing that your culture in particular has those elements is the attendant realization that YOU have the power to make a difference – all you have to do is say something when crappy stuff happens around you!

      Saying something creates a better culture. I’ve had some bad experiences speaking up, but even in those cases, the whole atmosphere changed when the non-participants saw how awful the backlash was. It turns out that most of the time, you don’t become a pariah for ever and ever just for being the one to say something about nasty behavior. In fact, you can make friends that way!

      Speaking out against rape culture is a useful endeavor, readers. Don’t let this dude convince you otherwise.

  42. adamarmour says:

    I very much enjoyed this well-researched and well-written piece. Thanks for putting in all of the time and effort I know it took to write it.

    On a personal note, rape is a topic I’m never really comfortable with seeing in any artistic medium. While I suppose that’s good — I shouldn’t be comfortable with seeing rape — what I really mean is, I avoid it like the plague. No matter how good a movie, book, show or…as time goes on…game might be, presenting rape in any way, shape or form usually drives me away. My wife’s even more sensitive to it, naturally. It sickens her to the point of anger. Back in college, we simultaneously took a class in modern American literature and read “Bastard Out of Carolina,” which features rape throughout. I didn’t think she was going to make it through the class because she simply couldn’t stomach reading more than a few pages of the novel at a time.

    The problem is, I just don’t think most artists have the integrity to handle the subject matter appropriately. I’m looking at you, Robert Kirkman.

    Anyway, tangent over. Again, this was a great read.

  43. Jeff Lee says:

    Wow, serves me right trying to read through an excellent topic like this without first finishing my morning coffee. I’ll be following this, but I’d like to hit on something about what “marker” said above. He speaks about other sorts of “culture.” I think one thing that should be taken into consideration is “internet culture.” Specifically, the tendency of people to respond with socially unacceptable to downright scary language in internet posts, when they are protected with relative anonymity. Most of the people that responded with threats of death and rape would be very unlikely to respond that way if this discussion had taken place in a public forum of a room and physical bodies. Had someone taken the opportunity to track down her address and mail a threat, or worse, slip it under her door, that would be cause for alarm. I’m not saying that the threats leveled against Ms. Sarkeesian aren’t terrible and representative of people in need of serious social adjustment, just that the level of threat they present is minimal.

  44. Nice Girl says:

    Reblogged this on Nice Girls Like Sex Too and commented:
    Hi everyone! I had planned on writing about Anita Sarkeesian today, but I found another blog that has done a much better job than I would have. Foz Meadows very clearly explains why and how internet and gaming Rape Culture is toxic, leads to misogyny, and can actually engender sexual assault and rape. I hope you all enjoy it.

  45. Feral says:

    I think this article’s discussion of Boswell and Spade is spot-on, and it meshes very well with the narratives that came through from the Lisak & Miller and Stephanie McWhorter papers from a few years ago – the idea that sexual predators seek out misogynist communities because they feel more comfortable in those communities (since they’re acting out internalized hostility towards women) and because those communities are safe havens for predators (they’re less likely to be accused and more likely to be protected by their peers when they are accused). And then there’s the Miranda Horvath paper from earlier this year that compared comments made by actual rapists to misogynist ideas in pop culture and found unsurprising but disappointing similarities. Misogynist ideas in pop culture enable predators, encourage them, and protect them from sanctions.

    I understand that gamers are hostile to the idea that our favored media can cause violence, especially since that discussion happens in the news in a really clumsy way after every high-profile instance of youth violence. (“Did Grand Theft Auto cause the Virginia Tech shooting?” Derp.) I sympathize. But we have to acknowledge that 1) it’s at least possible and 2) that sexual assault (which is sadly ubiquitous) is very different in etiology and psychology from schoolyard rampages. We have to talk about it in good faith rather than reject it prima facie because we don’t like the implications.

  46. I am disappointed. I was expecting actually connections between rape and gaming. There were none. Repeatedly, you went with college jocks and frat houses, but there’s no connection there at all. Rape culture is real, but all you really did was say “Well, look at jocks!”. Why not answer the original question?

    The people sending these ‘threats’ are likely 12-14 year old boys. Lord knows there’s enough of them on the internet. They’re saying mean and hateful things because they’re mean and hateful, not because they intend to follow up on them or actually believe them. They’re just trying to hurt, and they apparently succeeded. Most of us grow out of it.

    That is not to say that it’s OK for them to do this. If they’re going to play with adults, there’s a code of conduct they should be following. When we were using bulletin boards with no text back in the late 80s, we got the same insults and treatment of women by kids. I remember one kid getting kicked off of a text-based game thanks to saying “Fred rapes Tina” as one of the first things he said. There was nothing about the game that was sexist, since it was just people texting on a board. There wasn’t anything that could be pointed at as being ‘rape culture’ (or any other culture) in any form.

    I think what Anita Sarkeesian is doing is very useful, and maybe she’ll find rape culture in gaming. I’m looking forward to it. But what you’re describing isn’t rape culture, it’s just kids being idiots.

  47. JCG says:

    I agree that there should be more games with positive depictions of women.

    But unfortunately, the truth is that I don’t want games with negative depictions of women to be eradicated from the Earth, anymore than I want games with negative depictions of anyone or anything else you could possibly think of.

    I believe we should all be free to appreciate both bad and good art, so to speak, not long for a society where everything has been cleaned up and sanitized.

  48. Katie Williams-Bulota says:

    This was a very interesting and well written article. I am not a gamer myself but have many friends that are. Another thing that I noticed is that the comments that people have posted are well written themselves. Not something that is very common but I appreciate very much. Thank you.

  49. Phil Hartup says:

    While I agree more or less entirely with the idea that rape culture exists and that is it a bad thing with my empathy hat on, it’s impossible for me to just let this essay go without pointing out just how scary I find it. I like lists, and I want to make the points distinct, so now this is happening.

    1. Gamers are a diverse bunch. Men and women of all ages, cultures and creeds. One of the most fantastic things about gaming is the diversity of people you ‘meet’ in it, if you’re sociable. But my point I guess is that to address gaming culture as if it is some giant singular entity is a horrific oversimplification. The thought processes and debate around this article are fine things but we have all got to put the stereotypes down and take two steps back. To give you some idea of the scale of the gaming population, at it’s peak there were more World of Warcraft players than there are Jewish people. Just one game, bigger in number of players than a major established religion. You wouldn’t stereotype a religion, and to stereotype gaming culture is equally disingenuous. Most of us here are gamers contributing to gaming culture.

    2. The push comes to shove conflict of this debate is simple yet seems to evade nearly all commentators. It’s simply this: When somebody says most games are part of rape culture and ‘problematic’ (my hated euphemism of the year) what you are basically saying to the people who enjoy those games, who are often devoted to those games, is that they are accessories to rape. That they like rape. That they support rape. You see that rage that comes from so many gamers when this debate comes up? That’s not your common or garden angry internet nerd, that is hurt. That is anger. That is rage at a perceived injustice. These are people who, according to the crime stats, are no more prone to crime or violence than anybody else, and they are being told they are a part of rape culture. Nothing, but nothing, will provoke anger like injustice. The majority of gamers see themselves as being tarred with this most vile of brushes for what? Playing and enjoying video games. You accuse somebody of rape you better expect them to defend themselves.

    3. The scariest part for me is this notion that people are not pro-censorship, but when rape culture is gone, people won’t miss it. The idea that rape culture feeds rape culture, sure I get that, but when you tell people that you want to take away the thing that they enjoy, and then tell them they won’t miss it, because they’ll be changed. I mean, that’s just creepy. That’s scary. Self appointed moral guardians are going to make gaming a better place, and by doing this we’ll all be happier and more well adjusted, and we won’t miss the bad times. That’s what we’re looking at here, and of course people resist that idea, because it’s frightening. Nobody wants to be re-adjusted. Most people, for whatever reason, are trying to cling to the idea that they are functional, healthy, human beings. Suppose you told a religious person you were going to fix them, but it was okay, because they wouldn’t miss church once they were fixed. And yes, religion is a fair comparison, the amount of time most gamers spend gaming dwarfs the amount of time most folk devote to religion.

    I hate to fall back on this argument I really do, but seriously, if people want less rape-culture focussed games, they need to be talking to the people that make them. They need to be making them. They need to be making people aware that they will not be spending their money on certain things for certain reasons. That’s the right approach. And it is working. Take the new Tomb Raider game, suddenly Lara Croft has changed from a blow up doll who moans like a pornstar when she gets hit or takes a long jump to a much more human figure. Much less sexualised (indeed the one guy who tries it on gets his head shot off) and much more sympathetic. People of course are complaining about that, I mean that’s what people do, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    The wrong approach is looking at something like the new Hitman trailer and saying, “Ooh, that’s wrong, they shouldn’t do that.” Of course they should do it. It’s art. Maybe it is misjudged, maybe it is creepy, maybe it won’t sell, but it’s a Hitman game. It is the gaming equivalent of a movie like The Driver or Reservoir Dogs, or a book like American Psycho. It is what it is. It is not everybody’s cup of tea. It isn’t stopping any other game being made. The trailer is shocking, it’s awkward to watch, but it works, because now everybody seems to want to see the final game.

    • rjxp says:

      “1. Gamers are a diverse bunch.”

      so why not make it equal and friendly to everyone who wants to play them? I am confused how this discredits an argument that some women who play games are uncomfortable or disgusted by the depictions of women. The religion argument is a non-starter sorry. There are plenty of examples of where men and women have/continue to critize and attempt to change attitudes and practices that are detrimental to women based on ancient religious codes.

      “2. what you are basically saying to the people who enjoy those games, who are often devoted to those games, is that they are accessories to rape.”

      Maybe so. But I see this more as fearful projection and a defensive pandering that willfully misunderstands the critique in order to trot out disgusting attacks and sexist rhetoric to discredit the women authors. In those cases, proving the point that women are not welcome to have opinions. I think you should encourage yourself and your friends to think about the issues more after you have “calmed down” (though what you are so worked up about is beyond me, since by your own admission you are NOT a rapist, you respect women and their opinions, etc.)

      As to your injustice comments, just imagine what it must feel like to be a woman gamer who expresses her ideas and thoughts about some depiction that makes her feel sick to her stomach? After expressing that, she is called all sorts of names, her sexuality challenged, and her intellect disparaged. That, SIR, is INJUSTICE of the first order, not some nerd perceiving some that never materializes.

      “3. The idea that rape culture feeds rape culture, sure I get that, but when you tell people that you want to take away the thing that they enjoy, and then tell them they won’t miss it, because they’ll be changed. I mean, that’s just creepy. That’s scary.”

      I doubt you mean this, but it seems as if you are arguing that you would miss sexual violence and the hypersexualized female plaything (forcing sex on scantily clad dolls). If you are, in fact, saying that, well, then I understand why you got so defensive.

      “…people want less rape-culture focussed games, they need to be talking to the people that make them. They need to be making them. They need to be making people aware that they will not be spending their money on certain things for certain reasons.”

      What do you think this debate, these blog posts, and all this is trying to do? Exactly that.

  50. Jackie says:

    Excellent article. Thank you for writing it.

    I agree with the commenter who noted that perhaps a better term would be “misogynistic culture” or “sexual harassment culture.” I get why you are using the strong term “rape.” Unfortunately, having worked with rape survivors in college, I feel unable to share this because the mere word is extremely triggering for many. If it were not for that, I would definitely love to share this widely.

  51. Holly says:

    Thanks for posting this; it was refreshing to see the topic tactfully addressed. I have been in gaming forums with similar topics and taken the woman’s perspective and been attacked myself. I’ve since stopped even trying, because I just get upset when I see the fallout. I have been called a whore, a bitch, a f***ing ugly c**t (and many others) and been threatened with rape in chat: “it would give you perspective for your next discussion” someone said to me once. Rape as an empirical research… seriously?

    As soon as you, as a woman say something about it, what also inevitably ensues is that some guy says, “You are probably one of those ugly girls who never gets attention and this is your way of getting it. You would be lucky if you got any, rape or not.” I’ve had entirely too many of these “discussions” to dismiss it as an anomaly. Not that I really care what some geek thinks about me or if I was in fact ugly (which I am not), what the bleep does that have to do with rape?

    This also has bearing on the subject, which you mentioned in the article about hypersexualizing women. What they are saying about my hypothetical ugliness is that, not only am I unimportant or unworthy to even enter into a discussion because of my physical appearance, but that if I was pretty, men would be more likely to pay attention to me, though not for my brain, because my opinion is not wanted in any case…

    Having played MMO’s for almost a decade, and being obviously female, this is something that has always bothered me. I have been in countless discussions with people asking them to not use the word rape, or leave it out of guild chat or forums. Not to mention any other topic that degrades women in general, which occurred with regularity. (Don’t even get me started…) I have logically laid out why this is offensive, to be hit with previously mentioned insults and people dismissing it as “you’re taking this too seriously go shopping or something”…like girls or women shouldn’t even be gaming in the first place.

    I have a friend who was raped that was in my guild a few years ago—she was pulled into an alley and assaulted by a complete stranger. She was dating someone else who was also in the guild at the time. I remember the first time someone used rape in chat, as many so often do in the gaming vernacular meaning “getting even” or “destroying or violating someone.” It’s used because it’s the ultimate insult, to violently take something from you against your will. She got really upset and logged off-her boyfriend went off on the guy (understandably) and the offender didn’t care, so he was booted.

    This happened over and over until we (the officers, of whom I was the only female in a guild with 250 people) had to institute a no tolerance policy for the word, but new people would come and say it, and make a fuss that we were f***ing prudes, or something to that effect. We didn’t care about someone dropping the f-bomb; we just didn’t want someone threatening or discussing rape in such a derogatory fashion. This was only in our guild, this doesn’t include the thousands of people on servers, who in general chat would say offensive things about women and use the word without consequences. Don’t these people have mothers or sisters or women (or men for that matter) that they care about? Women aren’t the only ones who are raped, men are too, and it is more under-reported than the rapes of women because of social stigmas. Does this not bother them either?

    I think some people are defensive and become over-reactive because they aren’t this way and resent the implication attached to something that they do (gaming), but the offenders… I can’t say. I tend to think of a lot of them are affected with a sort of mob mentality, which happens when a lot of people get together—especially in MMOs. If, like some have posted, that you don’t believe that gaming is any more involved in rape culture than movies for example, you haven’t been as immersed in gaming as I in MMOs, or possibly you haven’t experienced it from a woman’s point of view, because it’s always been there for me, like someone picking at an old wound and laughing at it.

    You may not buy it or agree with it, but it exists, and it’s far more prevalent than some would like to admit. I can only go by my own experiences and other friends who have been affected, as well as my own education, and having taken enough classes in women’s studies, sociology, psychology, and history while in college, I can tell you that the rape culture in gaming is way above average in occurrences. It’s not just a daily thing; it’s how many times in ONE HOUR you can count it. Does that seem normal to you? This normalizes the word rape itself into a nonchalant vernacular, which trivializes degradation and violence against women. I’ll never understand it no matter how logically someone defends this sort of thing.

  52. T O says:

    Wow… I don’t know where to start. While I don’t play video games at all, I find these accusations of rape culture and the incidents of harassment against female gamers frightening.
    That said, the broad strokes used to describe men’s psychology in general and in gaming specifically seem to me to do a disservice to men. The gun analogy was so overwrought as to be almost laughable. The idea that men don’t use almost anything or anyone to insult and run each other down, including male family members shows how little you understand the male psyche. You don’t do yourself or your arguments any favors with such “facts”. It saddens me really that you use such reductive and so easily proven wrong reasoning in your argument against such a serious issue saddens me. Really, a

  53. [...] Lara Croft is an iconic character who transcends the videogame community. Tangentially related, Foz Meadows has a great post about rape culture in gaming with links about how several women have been harassed in nastiest way imaginable for the sin of [...]

  54. sforzando says:

    If you watch the usernames of the people who use sexist terms and phrases in the gaming culture alone on a particular forum, you will begin to see the same things pop up again and again. Gaming culture is like any other culture, a small portion are asshats and the majority don’t care. The only difference is that because the culture is mostly anonymous, even more people feel that it is okay to act this way. I’m participate in the Starcraft community, and just about everybody I met was pretty manner and nice. I understand what you’re saying, but I think the claims of “rape” culture are overall complete overexaggerations applied to groups of people, because of the few asshats amongst them.

  55. [...] more than 24 hours after my post on rape culture in gaming was posted, I moved house, a process which involved disconnecting my internet (the connection at [...]

  56. fozmeadows says:

    So many comments! I don’t have reliable internet access right now, so rather than reply individually, here is my response to three main objections: http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/rape-culture-in-gaming-redux/

  57. semikku says:

    An interesting article, that unfortunately missed a few points:

    First, I’d like to replace ‘gaming culture’ with ‘internet mob culture’ – this is in no way confined to gaming itself and flourishes all over the net.

    Second: Whilst this mob culture is undoubtedly sexist, the harassment is in no way just directed against women. The ability to say whatever one wants to whomever one wants to say it to, and without ever having to deal with the consequences have lead to a mob culture where everyone is picking on whomever they think is further down the chain.

    This is usually done in the most offensive way the posters can think of, namely sexual harassment against women, and insults about male sexuality against men.

    In short – the rape culture described in the article above isn’t about men trying to force women into submission – it’s about Internet jerks trying to piss people off as quickly as they can.

  58. RandomPerson438 says:

    So why don’t you ever mention men getting raped, or this is rape culture exclusively against women?

    • keelygirl says:

      Becuase it happens SIGNIFICANTLY less than with women. 1in 3 women will be sexually assaulted while I think the statistic is something like .6% of men will be sexually assaulted and most of that is childhood molestation. Sexual violence against anyone is horrendous but sexual violence against men is a minuscule problem while sexual violence as violence in general against women is rampant. And your statement is mysoginistic in and of itself and is part of the problem. Instead of recognizing the blinding issue presented you ignore it for the male-centric sub-issue; it’s not seeing the forest for the patriarchal tree.

      • OneSmallDrop says:

        How at all did you get that he wants only men’s problems solved? He simply presented the other side. Maybe he could have done it a bit more eloquently, but there is nothing wrong with wanting it to be looked at from both sides. He never even said he thinks the female side of the issue is trivial. He just said that this article is “female-centric,” which is not a complete look at the issue.

  59. [...] what the term ‘rape culture’ actually means, so have a look at this article I re-blogged. It’s not about a culture where you’re likely to GET raped but it is a culture [...]

  60. [...] Shared Rape Culture In Gaming « shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows. [...]

  61. [...] warning] Rape Culture In Gaming | shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows: “an explanation of rape culture tailored specifically to [...]

  62. The real worry is that this “feminist deconstruction of sexism in games” will led to the same heavy handed corporate response we see in television. Emaculated males. Manchildren. Buffoons, etc.
    The chilling effect.
    Let’s not forget how calls for the removal of booth babes nearly destroyed E3.
    Games are a legitimate art form,and protected free speech. The correct way to change the gaming culture is for women to make games. With tools like GameSalad allowing non-programmers to make games that are financially successful, there’s really no excuse for these tired attempts to shame game companies into forcing their products to fit a feminist ideal. That’s a financial risk that feminists should be taking themselves, not demanding Activision or EA to take the risk for them.

  63. rjxp says:

    Effects of exposure to sex-stereotyped videogame characters on tolerance of sexual harassment
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103108001005

  64. rjxp says:

    the statistics and proof is out there. Not to mention the knee jerk responses from self-proclaimed gamers to this topic. Instead of being threatened by these criticism, why not THINK about them, you know, for like a minute?

    Sexual Priming, Gender Stereotyping, and Likelihood to Sexually Harass: Examining the Cognitive Effects of Playing a Sexually-Explicit Video Game
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/kq3k75x5x1h3058g/

  65. Nerd says:

    Deleted for rape making threats against me. This commenter has now been banned.

  66. Richard Mongler says:

    Deleted for trollishness. This commenter has been warned.

  67. Karl says:

    Gaming contributes to “rape culture”? Have the author ever played a game I wonder, because very few games handle sexuality at all. Women are, in fact, hard to find in games at all as characters as most only include manly men fighting and killing each other. Games that DO have women tend to give them physical powers equal to that of men, so I would actually argue that the gaming industry fight against this “rape culture” you speak of.

  68. gottagofast says:

    This article is deeply flawed, and I refuse to acknowledge the existence of any kind of culture that is exclusively hostile towards women, like in your high-risk party analogy. The simple fact is that online gaming communities are inherently toxic, to everyone. While the words “rape” and “bitch”, do get thrown around a lot and could be seen as sexist, the other all time favorites include “nigger”, “faggot”, calling someone a whore, questioning their manhood or their social life. The spectrum of these insults is wide and spans not just the genders, but race, religion, societal status, income, physical looks and anything else that could be thrashed to get a rise out of your opponents. Furthermore, in most cases you aren’t even aware of the gender of your opponents in online matches, much less their looks, race and religion. Attempting to attribute some deeper meaning to a small portion of all the trash talk on the Internet is futile. Because at this point, we might as well consider talking about “racism culture”, “homophobia culture”, “misandry culture”, “jingoism culture”, etc, making it look to a casual observer that online gaming is a place that’s only slightly more damaging to human rights than Nazi Germany with the population consisting entirely of cloned Adolfs.

    • fozmeadows says:

      If the abuse in online communities spans sexism as well as other things, how does that mean it isn’t toxic to women just because it’s also toxic towards a whole lot of other people, too? This post was specifically about how the negative aspects of gaming culture affects women, but certainly, lots of other groups cop horrific abuse there, too.

      Also, you have invoked Godwin’s law, which is an automatic argument fail.

  69. OneSmallDrop says:

    I don’t agree with Sarkeesian’s videos and think it’s stupid that she should even make them, but at the same time I recoginize the fact that she has every right to. I also think that anyone who backs her is wrong for doing so, but I have no right to say that they can’t. They believe in her cause and want to back her. That’s the purpose of Kickstarter.

    Now that the basics are out of the way, I want to get into the what I believe is the central criticism of gamers against Sarkeesian’s videos. I also want to quickly acknowledge that it’s pretty horrible was some people are doing to her and I don’t approve of it in any way, but when the masses of uneducated have issue with something, discrimination is a pretty common go to.

    “Pretty benign language, yes? All she’s done is state what should be a fairly uncontroversial and obvious truth – that women are often presented badly in video games – and proposed to discuss this in detail.”

    This is not fairly uncontroversial. A huge error that a lot of feminists make is to not look at the issue completely. Women are not presented badly in videogames. People are presented badly in videogames. And I want to further define “badly” to mean simplistically. I don’t believe any games developer is looking to belittle women with any character, but I understand some characters created do not represent women positively at all. The thing to pull from this is that tropes are used for a reason, ESPECIALLY in videogames. Storytelling must always be condensed in this medium, so most characters, besides the main character (though this is also not always true), are extremely simple out of necessity. They fit one, maybe two, purposes and nothing more. Damsel in distress may be a gross oversimplification of women, but so is blundering bufoon sidekick. Both are used to flesh out the main character, however small a contribution.

    It’s extremely blunt, but oversimplification of characters (both male and female) is not a problem. It’s a literary tool, and not something to complain about. What would even be the solution? The reality is that if creators were not able to create characters unless each and every one was fleshed out, realistic, and politically correct (or any combination of the three), there would be one human character.

    The topic is not deserving of “discussion.” Education, for sure, but not discussion. I also watched many of the videos from Ms. Sarkeesian and I found I could say the same for all of them. She pleaded that writers not use these tropes in film, but provided no alternative. Some of her examples were great and showed examples of poor character use, but that’s always going to be true as long as there are bad writers. Move on.

  70. [...] second revolves around women in video game play.  In the article, the writer used the word “rape culture” to define the way women are portrayed in the game, as well as those who are playing as character in [...]

  71. [...] leads to this interesting post on the blog of one Foz Meadows: rape culture and gaming. Also, on Pandagon: Geeks, You Have a Problem. Basically, there’s a simultaneous assumption [...]

  72. Annon says:

    Most games don’t have rape scenes. If there is sex in a game, it is consensual. Objectifying women is not rape culture. Stereotyping women is not rape culture. Sexism is not rape culture. Sexually violating someone without their consent is rape. Advocating that someone be sexually violated without consent is rape culture. You are using the term rape to describe anything disrespectful to women. That is not how rape is defined. And yea there are 13 year old internet trolls who will attack and threaten anyone popular. Get over it, that is not the same as being threatened/attacked in real life. That’s like saying that call of duty prepares you for real war. It seems that ‘rape culture’ is just a feminist buzzword meant for shock value. I’ll say it again: Rape has a real and specific definition.

  73. Cavoyo says:

    “About a week ago, I wrote a post on Penny Arcade vs. Rape Culture, which sent my blog traffic skyrocketing after it was linked on Reddit.”

    Well that explains a lot. Reddit is the web site where they believe that men are oppressed by the awful “misandrist” “matriarchy.” There’s even a name for this nonsense: MRA. Whoever posted your article there did the internet equivalent of whacking a misogynist beehive.

    Also have you read Nathan Jurgenson’s articles on Cyborgology? It’s relevant to your argument. Jurgenson argues that we are “cyborgs,” in between nature and technology. Anything that affects our material environment can create a change in our communications technologies (for instance, by giving us the inspiration for a social network post) and vice versa (for instance, Occupy Wall Street). He calls the opposing view, the one that some of your critics use, “digital dualism.” Digital dualists believe that there is The Real World and The Internet and they stay in their separate boxes and never influence one another.

    • anda says:

      ‘taking notes…

      will be looking up Cyborology, and looking for opportune moments to use the phrase ‘whacking a misogynist beehive.’

    • Darth Jader says:

      There is nothing misogynistic about the Men’s rights initiative, it has a clear and valid point. Some MRA’s as individuals are misogynistic, much like a lot of feminists are violent, delusional misandrists. But overall there is nothing misogynistic about MRA’s.

  74. [...] posts that ask tough questions and (sigh) bring trolls out of the woodwork. Her initial post on rape culture in gaming (there’s that topic again) drew attention and a flood of comments, both positive and [...]

  75. Jamie Watson says:

    I am a transgender man, which gives me a very unique perspective on gender issues in general. I have the unusual experience of having lived in both male-dominated and female-dominated cultures as a passable, acceptable in-group member – I’ve actually lived as both “one of the girls” (for several decades), and as “one of the lads”. As a woman I’ve been groped, raped and loved; I’ve been treated like dirt and treated like a princess by different men at different times. In my adrogynous transition phase I’ve seen the relief on the faces of men when I disambiguate my gender as male, and they realise that I am no longer someone who by virtue of my cultural heritage will judge and pressurise them. It is deeply, deeply saddening to me to realise that the net effect of feminism is to damage the self-esteem of men in this way. That experience has made me determined to deconstruct feminism and examine its thinking for flaws and for encoded sexism which comes from women and is directed towards men. I do not believe that feminists become perfect human beings simply because they embrace feminism.

    And I have to say I think a lot of the inferences made in this article, and in thinking processes like it, are suspect and would benefit a great deal from some more concrete research. Things like:

    I can’t help but wonder: how many of Sarkeesian’s attackers use rape language when gaming? How many of them have inferred that because it’s apparently OK to talk about raping other players in-game, it’s OK to issue rape threats against women out of game? What are the odds that the men who vandalised her Wikipedia page with pornographic images – who decided that the quickest, easiest and most universally effective way to insult, demean and punish a female adversary was to hypersexualise her – are the same men arguing that the hypersexualisation of female characters in video games is normative, desirable, harmless?

    What I am about to say will get me accused of basic ignorance and sexism. Stop and read to the end before you react, please. I’ve been reading and studying feminism very closely since I came to understand that I was not part of the Western gender binary and therefore not part of the gendered culture it insists on maintaining – and which, I would argue, in many ways feminism does not truly act to deconstruct. And one thing feminist thinking consistently demonstrates in almost all areas of analysis is a complete lack of understanding of the male sense of humour – indeed, I would say a fundamental unwillingness to accept its validity. It’s not the same as the female one – especially not with regard to sex, sexual images and the internet. It is based on the values and instinctive reactions that are peculiar to men, which are not things many cis women accept or understand.

    Let me expand. Read the section I’ve cited again. The author wonders, asks questions, postulates. There is no evidence here – only speculation. I see fearmongering, not truth. Why? Because in my experience, men are profoundly aware of the importance of physical threats in a way women aren’t. As a consequence, men instinctively know that the internet makes both them and other men physically powerless – it’s a godsend for male geeks, who suffer in real life but find a sanctuary on the internet. It’s no coincidence that online anonymity breeds posturing trolls in all social fora, either – because trolls are cowardly people who know that they are immune from the beating they’d get in real life for behaving like that. Likewise, Sarkeesian’s attackers will be well aware that there is no physical consequence to Sarkeesian’s person of defacing her Wikipedia page and hurling insults. The aim of attacks like this is disruption of her message and damaging her “face” (in the sense meant by the phrase “losing face”). It’s a marvellously masculine mode of attack, designed to target social status and pride; it’s about ridiculing Sarkeesian, fundamentally, and is not particularly effective since it takes no account of the fact Sarkeesian is not herself a young straight male who will be deeply injured by such things. But feminist interpretations of this and other acts like it invariably seem to fail to grasp that; instead they seek to blur the line between fantasy and reality – they assume that there will necessarily be bleedover, that men are not conscious enough of themselves or insightful enough about their own actions to realise that what’s OK on the internet is not the same as what’s OK in real life. This is both demeaning to men and inaccurate; one of the first things I leant about living as male is that some of the deepest and earliest lessons men are taught by the culture around them are about appropriate boundaries for sexuality. Anyone with half an eye can tell that many men are fond of breaking rules, especially when young – no surprise, then, that some of them challenge the rules their culture teaches about sexual appropriateness and misbehave by breaking them in vindictive and public ways. Those rules are themselves problematic since they are deeply informed by 1500 years of repressive Christianity, but at the same time it is important to realise that many of the people involved in this sort of attack are likely to know exactly how and why what they’re doing is wrong. Much of the feminist interpretation I’ve seen aroudn issues like this appears to be founded on the belief that men are simply ignorant. Personally, I think the truth is that men are just as socially sophisticated as women, but some human beings are nasty when they’re annoyed. In that light, it becomes clear that a substantial part of the purpose of feminist discourses problematising attacks like this is not in fact to create social progress, but to reinforce the feminist in-group perspective that women are more enlightened beings than men.

    In my years of living as a woman something else I noticed is that the weapon of choice for most women in social disagreements is words. I’ve seen breathtaking psychological viciousness among women and among feminists. I find the lack of any insight into that on feminism’s part, or of any willingness to problematise its persistence and give it the same attention so assiduously poured onto “rape culture”, to be a double standard. I don’t doubt for a moment that attacks like the one on Sarkeesian’s wikipedia page look far more serious to a female viewer than they do to a male one; my point here is that there is a deep and subtle cultural difference in the significance of such attacks to women and to men, and that feminism, because it is of-and-for women and devalues the perspective of men, is not well equipped to discern that subtlety.

    Also, let me deal with the posting of pornographic images. Since taking testosterone I’ve become personally familiar with the qualitative difference between a T-powered sexuality and an oestrogen-based one. For someone whose body runs on testosterone, porn appearing in a nonsexual context is a massively intrusive, irrelevant distraction; it is possibly the most powerful visual way to disrupt the reader’s concentration if the viewer also happens to be T-powered. Again, this article interprets the mere presence of pornography as inherently sexist; I would argue that it’s not sexist per se – especially not coming from people who clearly haven’t achieved a level of maturity that allows them to conceptualise their victim as belonging to a group with different mores and gut reactions to their own. It’s simply more of the same petty disruptive behaviour which underlies the entire attack.

    The other part of the article which stood out to me is this one:

    … the authors found that employed men in traditional marriages – that is, marriages where the wife stayed home and the husband was designated as the sole breadwinner – tended, when compared to men in non-traditional marriages, to:

    “(a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, (c) find organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotion.”

    On the surface, this has nothing to do with rape culture – and yet I mention it by way of demonstrating that the way men treat and think of women in their private lives has a direct impact on how they treat them professionally and elsewhere.

    Again, this is demeaning to men: most gamers are teens or twentysomethings. Most men in traditional marriages, especially those who are in positions of power within companies such that they could approve or deny the promotion of female staff, are much older. Does the author of this article – does feminism as a whole – really believe that men have made no progress in the space of a generation or more? And, in the face of a constant flow of assertions that men do not and cannot change, is it really surprising that so many men “roll their eyes”?

    My greatest problem with the assertions of feminism as a whole is not that I believe women do not deserve respect and equality – far from it. It is that feminism rejects any notion that its ideas and thinking could be flawed, manipulative, ignorant about men, or biased towards reinforcing in-group norms. I believe that equality means equal treatment for all human beings, not preferential treatment for women instead of preferential treatment for men. And the problem with that view is that I don’t think feminism as it currently stands is, in practise, genuinely working towards that end.

    • anda says:

      I appreciate your perspective, I just think that you are making what is inherently a man’s (male, where sex and gender overlap) problem, the woman’s/female’s . If men feel relieved because they were afraid that they would be judged harshly, that doesn’t automatically mean that women judge men harshly. If my employer is a raging lunatic who harasses me and browbeats me, and I tell HR, I would hope they wouldn’t recommend a good medication to help me with my stress. That isn’t a gender analogy, it’s a whose-problem-is-it-anyway analogy. If I’m not the one with the mental illness, why should I take the drug? Likewise, If I am uncomfortable around men, the problem might be the men I am around, or it might be me.

      I said elsewhere that many men upon finding out that a women is no longer present act like they can finally let their gas out. (Actually I put it the other way around; Redditors realizing that one of them is a women, often nervously change the tone that was perfectly acceptable a minute before.) That doesn’t mean we have a problem with men letting it all hang out. It means men are worried that when they let it all hang out, they will say or do something offensive. That sounds like a YP, not an MP. Anyway that said, most men respond well (if differently) when they realize that they are sharing a space with a women. I’m ok with being treated differently, I’m just not ok with being treated unjustly. Some men are so taken aback when *they think* their ethos is being called into question, whether it is or not, that they respond violently, or virtually violently. That’s more than a YP. That’s wrong, sometimes nauseating, sometimes scary, and sometimes criminal, depending….

      I just wanted to make that distinction. But I appreciated your candor.

  76. [...] Thank You Hater video, a very witty response to trolling and online abuse.  Foz Meadows wrote an outstanding essay on her Shattersnipe blog, deconstructing the wider implications behind this Rape Culture which I strongly advise everyone to [...]

  77. Mandible says:

    I call it people threatening someone in a way they know will hit home. Controversial public figures that are men get threats and hate male of all types, probably including some rape threats. The difference is that from a logistics standpoint, most men are relatively physically similar to most other men (ignoring body builders and wimps). No man would be immediately threatened by the idea of a threat of rape because first the person would have to catch him and then the person would have to subdue him and not only subdue him but to do so long enough to get his clothes off and penetrate him. Strictly speaking, it’s simply not an effective barb and that is the reason why it’s not hurled the way of many men. Do you think Chyna, the female wrestler, gets rape threats? She’s physically bigger and more muscular than many men. Do you think she gets rape threats? She’s in porn now btw. I strongly doubt she does because you’d have to be the size of a wrestler to even conceive of that being something possible to do.

    What I call it is logistics. What I call it is using the right tool for the job. A man will get incensed if I insult a female member of his family because he is a normal individual and has deep feelings of protectiveness regarding them? Let me hit him where it hurts. That’s what I see that as. Could it be rape culture? Perhaps. But to mindlessly ascribe the cause of an entire phenomenon, let alone a group of phenomena, to a single cause, regardless of any other possible explanations that have been posited, then you’re a fanatic. More to the point, I find your post somewhat ridiculous in this element of finger pointing. I happen to be black and be a gamer and every once in a while I game online. I’m an xbox person. I hear the word “nigger” flung around all the time. It’s got to be the 2nd most used word on LIVE next to “fuck”. Do these people konw I’m black? No. Do they know the race or ethnicity of any of their opponents? Probably not. Does it matter? hell no. The only thing that matters is saying that 1 offensive thing that has a chance of ticking that person off, saying that one thing that you know is going to crawl under their skin because at the end of the day that’s the only way you can get back at them for inflicting any level of frustration or upset on you, or even just for your personal amusement. I don’t hold it against them. They’re not saying it to be malicious to black people. They’re saying it to be malicious to other people, period. They’re saying it because it sounds good enough to say. Does it say something about society that this seems to have fallen into the popular lexicon in this way? I dunno. What I do know is that all of a sudden calling it “racist culture” would be instantly regarded as horse shit on the internet but the second you say “rape culture” every argument supporting anything a feminist sayus is valid, regardless of whether it agrees with reality or not.

    By the way, you call it rape culture when all of these things are leveled at women. You don’t have a word for it when it’s leveled at men, by men or by women. Why is that? It’s not like it doesn’t happen. You’ve heard it happen, I’m sure. Why is it specifically and only rape culture, specifically and only when men are hurling these insults at women and it’s nothing when this discourse is carried over to male-male relations? A question for you to dwell on.

    Regarding your stance on the normative views on rape culture, in your opinion, what do you have to say abou anime? Is anime perpetrating rape culture in another country, in another culture?

    I bet you don’t know what the word misandry means but misogyny is your go-to buzz word in this article. You should ponder on why that is without the lens of confirmation bias clouding your assessment.

    Apparently in your part of the world gamers get out and go to parties, clubs and bars. In my part of the world, that is new york city, clubber and party rats go to parties and clubs and bar crawls. Gamers hang out and play games when they aren’t working or attending small private get togethers. But maybe i’m entirely wrong and have entirely misjudged the seemingly predictable behaviors of two seemingly distinct groups, which can be verified via photographs and facebook events at such sites as 7days7nights.com and alltheparties.com…. just saying. I know gamers and I know partiers and that crowd mixes only on the very fringes. Your argument is entirely unconvincing on this point.

    I also wonder if you believe that the suspension of disbelief involved in the enjoyment of gaming (and might I remind you other media which may be influential if such a thing is to be believed, like music, cartoons, commercials and movies) in some way does not extend to everything involved in the gaming. I mean, we already know that violent video games do not inspire a culture of violence. People that play boxing games don’t go around beating people up or necessarily experience more violent urges or outbursts. People that play shooting games do not necessarily feel the need to join the nra. This is certainly a topic to be highly skeptical on and even more cautious, especially for one such as yourself, because you clearly have an emotional involvement and easily spotted bias in this matter.

    To all of this I’ll add that I debate on the internet regularly. When I get especially frustrated with a person who seems incapable of accepting a reasonable argument (and sometimes just because I feel like it) I’ll call them a name. While I will usually impugn a sexless or definitely male opponent’s intelligence, I generally tend to want to offend women specifically by behaving in a misogynistic way, even if that is not my usual demeanor and even if I find it to be unacceptable behavior when not exercised in the context of comedy or making a point. I use this tactic because it enrages the person I’m speaking to. The word “bitch” I’ve found is just barely acceptable by most people watching a discussion while entirely incensing the person it is lobbed at. Cunt is viewed as more universally offensive and so it generally don’t roll off of my fingers. I also condescendingly call women affectionate names such as honeypot, sugarplum and babylove to get across the point that I’m not taking them seriously. At the point which I exercise this maneuver though, it’s fairly clear that I do not take them seriously or respect their opinion not because of their gender but becesaue they have failed horrificially at adequately defending their point and (in all likelihood) have declared me a nutter and a zealot for sticking to my guns of being a reasonable (if sometimes dispassionate) human being. I realize the coincidence in me chasing a lukewarm rebuttal to your article with a statement such as that. I’ll apologize for the lack of my usual energetic and ravenous disassembly and point by point analysis and say only that it is 5 am, I’ve been up doing this all night, and a certain someone on either this page or the other of yours that I was reading linked a very very accurate xkcd comic.

  78. anda says:

    Well put. Rape is not the sole expression of rape culture. That is the point.

    But if these online exchanges did occur in a physical context, the perpetrators would do everything in their power to tangibly abuse women out of it. In my hypothetical, I’m including physically threatening behavior not limited to rape.

    I once commented on an article about E3’s decision not to have “booth babes”. I was armed with actual data, rare quantitative marketing data that showed women buy video games (spend money and buy frequently) almost as much as men, they just don’t’ buy as many different types of games. Women limit their choices of games to a few popular ones (probably because of offensive portrayals of women that we don’t easily relate to, as in Nintendo’s first Baseball game, where the softball option was peopled with digital *girls* that dropped to their knees and cried when beaned with the ball). I put my two cents in; I said that we were present. I said we women were in attendance in these online forums, which was not always evident by our user names – and that this sacred male space, was actually shared. I added that, as such, perhaps game producers would want to stop alienating females at conventions, by targeting men so exclusively; using sex so aggressively; and, negatively shaping the stereotypes. You would have thought I was a well-engaged troll from the responses. Other women started to weigh-in and it just digressed into a misogynistic bash-fest. The author of the article, who said he didn’t enjoy ‘booth babes’ was summarily emasculated and called names I don’t type.

    Reddit, though I love it, is no exception. They have polled their users, but I don’t know the demography. Irrespective of that, I often see moments of confusion when a thread is sent off in a new direction because everyone just realized there was a woman or women amongst them, including a commentator who referred to the distraction of working with female coworkers as hard to handle the ‘she-developers.’

    I wish more men could come to grips with the fact that it is a non-physical space, and then perhaps they would stop acting like women were asking them to hold in their gas.

  79. Mizahn-X says:

    I recognize that your article was very well written, with lots of references.

    But I strongly disagree, because you only describe the consequences instead of the causes, the symptoms instead of the true illness. You point the finger to the gamer mostly-male demographics as if every one of us male gamer were a potential harasser and rapist.

    You pointed that communities with more seggregation between men and woman tend to suffer more of what you call ‘rape culture’ or ‘an environment more likely to sexual aggresion to women’. But remember, who are now veteran gamers, started playing in our teenage years. When playing videogames was something not so mainstream as now, attending schools that had a tacit ‘caste’ system in which gamers or anyone that was too excited with any sort of fantasy was labeled with derogatory terms as ‘dork’, ‘geek’, ‘nerd’. And that societal stratification was caused too because of the women in those environments, who had strong peer pressure to not end up going out with one of those ‘losers’.

    So what the industry did was simply market their games to that demographic. Scantily clad women appeared in games and other fantasy media, as a cheap way to advertise to what media creators viewed as sex-starved, mostly teenage males. And the snowball kept rolling. And all those tropes that Anita Sarkeesian tries to document were born. But all started with the generalized female rejection of gamers, that provided the seggregation that allowed game developers to sell games that portrayed women mainly as objects of desire.

    And now you feminists are trying to blame us gamers for something that was mainly women’s fault. Can’t you even think that those games with oversexualized female characters instead provide a healthier outlet for the repressed sexuality of those that belong to the gamer stereotype, making them less prone to actually harass or rape a real world women?

    And now I understand the reason why Anita Sarkeesian was so strongly opposed. Because those gamers perceived her as directly attacking their only escape from the real world, the real world where men are subject to a caste system according to their looks, money, and personal belongings. Anita was about to reveal documents that could turn the game developers into making worlds where gamers cannot escape anymore. I don’t condone those who attacked her. But I understand them.

    What is the solution then? Instead of blaming us male gamers for our culture, woman has to learn to value men outside of the rules of the tacit ‘caste system’. If they fail to do so, they are only perpetuating the war between genders, continuing the seggregation again and again.

    And when that act of understanding happens, games will portray women not only as sexual objects, but as true heroes with complex personalities. Because gamers won’t need an escape anymore.

    • Uhh, excuse me? Not wanting to date guys like you makes it MY fault when YOU act out of line? No. That is not acceptable. Believe it or not, you are NOT entitled to have sex! Ever! And furthermore, you CAN live without it! You are NOT entitled to access to my body, or the body of any other woman. We have every right to reject you based on ANY characteristic we deem relevant, WITHOUT explaining ourselves or giving you a “fair shot.” And doing so does NOT make us fair game for sexual harassment and violent threats! It especially doesn’t make our ENTIRE GENDER fair game! We are INDIVIDUALS. I am not personally representative of every girl who ever thought you were too much of a nerd to hang out with in high school.

      YOU are responsible for YOUR behavior. No matter what.

      • archprime says:

        Completely correct. However any one who feels rejected by an entire demographic is entitled to express resentment, commiserate with fellow ‘sufferers’ , and to irrationally ‘blame’ that whole demographic for their woes in any way that stops short of actual harassment and violence.

  80. saebel says:

    Two points:

    One:
    How in the world can anyone claim that it is women’s fault that game developers make misogynistic games targeted towards male teens? Anecdotes of “desirable women” rejecting “dorks and losers” is not a justification for the decision or the behavior. In fact, it proves the point. You are placing the value of their looks over the quality of their character. If someone calls you a dork and a loser for pursuing your hobby, regardless of their looks, then clearly they are not someone you would want in your life. There is an anger and resentment that builds up because of not being accepted for who you are by someone you desire to have/possess. And that can lead to misogyny. You cannot blame all women for the actions of a few.

    Two:
    Even males can be impacted by gamer rape culture. I played a game once, before the digital age, as a female dark elf. The other players didn’t like that I wasn’t conforming to their style of play. I was more of a role-player/actor, and they were very much hack/slash power grabbers. So they had their characters rape my character within the context of the game, and the game master let them. Only one player refused to participate, and urged the others not to do it. Years after the event, after I had taken a few psychology courses, I discovered something interesting about my reactions within the game after the event: they turned out to be very similar to how rape victims can react in real life. It’s not worth going into too much detail, but in short, I wanted to exact my revenge on them in their sleep since it was obvious they did it. However the game master wouldn’t let me identify them during the rape, and since I played a “good” character, I had to have evidence before acting. I then felt manipulated and powerless to confront my violators. Then fear set in that they would do it again if I didn’t conform. Ultimately, I decided to try and have my character commit suicide rather than conform or be raped again. However, no matter what I did, I was thwarted at every turn by the other players and the game master. Eventually, I snapped out of this sense of responsibility to role-play that had gotten me into the mess and left the game.

    Considering it was a “virtual” rape, it was surprisingly traumatic. And all I can say is that I hope no one ever has to go through something like that, even the threat of it, real or virtual. It is a really, really messed up thing to do to another human being who is just trying to live their life.

    • Darth Jader says:

      It was an rpg, rpg’s generally consist of young people getting high or drunk and having fun….wasting time with role playing 100% is really really annoying,since you refused to game by their rules (which they had every right to expect) they decided to react in game using your methods to get the point across to you, they reacted according to their alignment…i.e. true to character which is what you were doing…and you had a problem with this????? Grow up. I remember one time years ago my character in game slept with another character in game who’s owner was my buddy’s girlfriend, my buddy’s characterdecided to attack me in game while her and I were in the act…he killed me, but I severed both his legs and one testicle in the process. We created new characters, all 3 of us thought it was hilarious. People like you shouldn’t be gaming. Can’t differentiate reality from fantasy. Sigh, I miss those rpg days…

  81. Just wanted to drop by to say that I think this is an excellent depiction of what rape culture is, not just in gaming, but in society in general. In particular, I think the point that rape culture is not just acts of actual rape is a very important one, and something a lot of people miss while people who get it don’t realize what the other people are missing. In other words, it’s a major miscommunication and a gap we sorely need to bridge.

  82. [...] Culture In Gaming Posted on June 18, 2012 by msfatandsassy Rape Culture in Gaming: This is what rape culture looks like in gaming: the use of misogyny to defend yourself against [...]

  83. armoredjeans says:

    What a surprise comment section is infested with men’s opinion. Shut up dicks.
    You don’t see rape culture? I wonder why. Maybe because you’re not the one who gets blamed, when they go on walk at night and get raped. Oh, I forgot. Men get raped too. But the idea of being subdued by other men, and showing weakness in this way is so shameful it barely ever gets reported, and if it does, there’s a possibility no court will treat you with respect. Hah, no problem right? Because you think it would never happened to you. You still think being killed is worse then being humiliated, violated and having to keep silent about that, and nod politely when other poke fun at what happened to you. Now let’s all laugh together! And then you guys can pull your head out of your ass and think why you feel so butthurt at the implication you might have a problem respecting woman. You’re part of the problem.

  84. Safireblade says:

    [...] I could go off on a feminist rant about a lot of what was said. I could easily discuss the rape culture that has existed for a long time in the gaming community and in many male dominated fields. I could [...]

  85. [...] Rape Culture In Gaming, 11 June 2012: A detailed explanation of what rape culture is, why it exists and how it’s [...]

  86. archprime says:

    Yes, as defined, and well articulated by foz meadows, ‘rape culture’ is manifested in cyberspace as everywhere else.
    But not sure where acknowledging that gets us

    That many people hurt other people is well established.
    That many people strive for power over other people is well established
    That many men are particularly attracted to women (amongst all other commodities) is well established
    That those men who are willing to hurt others to get what they want will do so in pursuit of or in seeking compliance of women is unsurprising.

    Giving this a special name, and describing one medium through which it is expressed does not really get us any further forward if prevention of harm is the goal. If anything it marginalises the issue as a ‘special case’ .

    Surely the root of all sexism, bigotry and other forms of discrimination, and harm causing generally, is lack of empathy. Empathy for others is the one fundamental handbrake that prevents us all from simply doing what we want to other people.

    Fear of consequences is another handbrake, but the consequences in most cases are defined by the empathy of those imposing them (or codifying them as law), and for practical purposes, the ease by which they can be evaded (resourcing priority of this vs other needs).

    We need to work on expanding empathy first and foremost. Ever more strident calls for the banning and regulation of things that the harmers utilise in pursuit of their goals would seem a pretty weak strategy, and ultimately counterproductive, especially when those same things bring pleasure to a majority that do have sufficient empathy to not inflict harm (including, for most men at least, being rewarded in video games with fantasy images of compliant / interested women with exaggerated sexual characteristics – after all we do not play video games to experience reality)

    Bringing kids up on stories of other kids from different demographics, and the effects these feel when subjected to sociopathic harm, and hopefully the ultimate triumph of good over evil, might make far more difference in the end.

  87. Darth Jader says:

    2 very popular game franchises that COMPLETELY debunk everything you just said: Metroid (Samus Aran; female, and quite likely the most bad ass game character ever made, nothing sexual about it….unless you consider “panting” after exherting extreme amounts of energy to be “sexual”) & Halo

    • Jeff Lee says:

      There are thousands of games out there. You can only name two that go against the grain and consider that “debunking.” All you’re doing is supporting the argument, not invalidating it. You’ve named two. I could probably compile a list of dozens just off the top of my head that support what the article is saying. Just because there are exceptions to the rule, it doesn’t mean the rule is nonexistent.

      • Darth Jader says:

        WRONG, I listed two of the most influential game franchises in history in detail, and I listed another 10 that further obliterate her claims. I also listed 3 which on the surface may seem to support her ridiculous claims, but in fact are a delightfully entertaining foray in the adult entertainment industry i.e. eliminate games like those and you’re going to have some very angry people out there (myself included), we have an ESRB rating system for a reason you f***tard. Meanwhile I dare you to even try to find one JUST ONE game that truly and validly falls within the realm of what she describes. This “rape culture” stigma does NOT exist, and it takes a wonderfully delusional mind to think it does. Trash talk is common among competitors, and it’s so common with gaming because 1) it bears more witnesses than a bunch of guys playing hockey on the rink and 2) the demographic that most commonly plays videogames is a demographic that is most competitive, and due to insecurities is very hostile with their competitors, their trash talk has nothing to do with some ephemeral “rape culture” and everything to do with standard trash talk. I suggest you go out there, play a real game beginning to end, and insert your foot into your mouth and keep it there.

        • fozmeadows says:

          Dude, did you even read the article? The primary assertion I’m making is that rape culture exists in the BEHAVIOUR OF MALE GAMERS, and while I’d certainly contend that the portrayal of female characters in many game franchises contributes to negative and highly sexualised images of women, as per bullshit like Hitman: Absolution, pretty much any fighter game you’d care to name and the entirety of the GTA franchise (for instance), what I’m actually talking about, and what you haven’t addressed, is how female gamers are treated by their male counterparts.

          As a case in point, I’d invite you to check out Fat, Ugly, Slutty and Not In The Kitchen Anymore – two massive online databases consisting entirely of evidence of female gamers being sexually harassed by male players. Trying to write this sort of gendered abuse off as trash talk does nobody any favours.

          • Darth Jader says:

            Describing the real world and pointing out something which renders your ridiculous assertion entirely false isn’t doing anyone any favours? I’m pretty sure that’s the very definition of doing EVERYONE EVERYWHERE one gigantic favour.

            • fozmeadows says:

              Let me explain something to you:

              “Trash talk” as a concept is not a get out of jail free card that magically prevents you from being sexist, racist or homophobic. Call someone a shit competitor who’s bad at the game, that’s trash talk. Call someone a slut or a whore, you’re being sexist. Call someone a nigger, you’re being racist. Call someone a faggot, you’re being homophobic. The fact that you’re only doing it because you’re playing a game doesn’t make it any less problematic – in fact, it arguably makes it worse, because it means that somewhere along the line, you’ve accepted and internalised the idea that calling someone a woman, or even worse, a sexually available woman, is a bad thing and therefore insulting; that being POC is worse than being white, and therefore insulting; that being queer is worse than being straight, and therefore insulting.

              All you’re defending here is your own utter incomprehension of the problem.

              • Darth Jader says:

                Actually I’m not defending anything, I’m pointing out your own “incomprehension” (not an actual word btw) of what trash talk is. You should try it out sometime, it’s really really fun. While the method of delivery may be superficially sexist, racist, whatever, the context is not, and I think that’s the source of your lack of comprehension. I’m sorry, but I’m beginning to see that you are nothing more than a religious zealot who’s exhibited an utter failure to pick your battles wisely. It’s not gaming that’s the source of your frustration, but rather the demographic, kids will be kids, let em, contrary to your ridiculous claims, they are doing absolutely nobody any harm whatsoever.

                • fozmeadows says:

                  *bursts out laughing*

                  First, uh, you might like to try this thing called the dictionary before you go around correcting my word usage. It’s great! All the cool kids are using it.

                  Second, your entire argument hinges on the idea that female gamers – or just women generally – have no right to be offended when total strangers call us sluts, whores and bitches and tell us to get back in the kitchen, because it’s only “superficially” sexist, which… yeah. No. Sorry. Context doesn’t change jack in that regard. Plus, you’re sort of contradicting yourself with the whole “kids will be kids” thing, here, for two reasons: one, as any number of audio files on the websites I linked earlier would tell you, this is as much an adult male problem as a teenage one; and two, you’re suggesting that such behaviour is only benign if kids are doing it, implying that it’s legitimately offensive otherwise. So, yeah. You might want to think that one through some more.

                  Third, the fact that this stuff doesn’t harm you personally doesn’t mean it isn’t hurting others. Going out on a limb, I’m guessing you’re not the subject of this sort of bullshit, in which case, trying to assert that it causes no damage to anyone, ever just because you’re fine is categorically ignorant.

                  I’d say more, but you’re not worth it.

                  And fourthly

                  • Darth Jader says:

                    I suggest you take a look in your dictionary a t the definition and spelling of “comprehension”, you’ll find “incomprehensible” but not “incomprehension”.

                    No, women don’t have a right to get offended, IT’S TRASH TALK! Just like I don’t have a right to get offended if someone calls me honkey, mick, faggot, cock sucker, etc. etc. There was a time in my life (elementary school) when I let trash talk get to me, then I realized that it was compromising my ability to compete and their trash talk was achieving its purpose, allowing them to win. I grew up and I grew a thicker skin. The world is tough, if you let everything get to you it’s going to chew you up and spit you out. I suggest you listen to the Johnny Cash song “A Boy Named Sue”. If you can’t handle one of the elements of gaming THEN DON’T GAME, it’s unfair to everyone else out there for you to try to change something that people love about gaming.

                    • fozmeadows says:

                      You really don’t listen, do you?

                    • seantheblogonaut says:

                      Took your advice Jader, Oxford Dictionary has incomprehension and so does the Webster, its first use occurring in 1605, which means its got about 200+ years on Tool, which is what I’d describe you as. Sorry if this offends.

                      In modern democracies that aspire to ideal of free speech, people don’t have a right to not be offended by someone’s speech (i.e. you can’t prevent or legislate against someone from saying something that might offend someone, somewhere). In America this is almost taken to the ridiculous where the Westboro church and turn up to dead soldiers funerals and hurl abuse.

                      People do have the right to feel offended, to express their displeasure with you words.

                      In most liberal democracies there are laws against hate speech and vilification which is what trash talking could fall under. There’s a world of difference between calling your gaming buddy a tool, or telling her to go back to playing with barbies and calling her a stupid nigger or a slut.

                      There’s a world of difference between being called a faggot or a cocksucker when you aren’t gay or a nigger when you aren’t black.

                      Do you still get called Honkey or Mick (i’m assuming your of Irish descent ) in the street, do you suffer vilification because of your race or background? Because I think that’s what you may not be comprehending. When you leave the gaming console and go to work does the trash talking continue(where trash talking is actually vilification from people you don’t know)? Because that’s the reality of the real world, being white, middle class and male means that you get about 10% of the shit that women, blacks, name your minority get when they leave the house.

                      And as for “handling it” I’d say the vast majority of female gamers have handled it, put up with it and now they express their opinion. The vehemence in your comments leads me to think you can’t handle the criticism.

                  • Darth Jader says:

                    You’re wrong btw, there are many slur and names that can be used against me, and because I’m so good at kicking ass in online gaming, I bear the brunt of online trash talk all the time, sometimes I sit there and listen as I game because I find it entertaining, and there’s nothing more satisfying than sniping or dropping a cluster bomb on someone right as they’re done calling you a stupid f*ggot…which of course leads to even more irate trash talk. Sometimes, If I don’t want to listen to it then I simply toggle the mute to OFF…simple as that.

                    • fozmeadows says:

                      Coping with abuse by normalising it doesn’t actually solve anything. All it does is make abusers feel justified.

                    • Architribe says:

                      Foz, You are brilliant. I have enjoyed reading your arguments for the cultural problem you have IMHO defined so well. I believe that I understand your point and your point of view. It seems to me however that the fundamental flaw in this course of discourse is that the people you are discoursing with are not as brilliant and insightful as you are. The trouble with that is that you spend a lot of time and energy responding to people who don’t understand because they don’t want to understand. They will never be persuaded by your argument no matter how brilliant.

                      I am familiar with what one agency called Cultural Competence Continuum. It was a report oriented around inter-racial adoption issues. I find however that it applies in all sorts of cultural contexts. I have used it as a basis for presentations given at the American Institute of Architects national convention. Architecture as a profession is a culture which only in recent years has begun to open up to women and is still hostile to most minorities.

                      The cultural competence continuum has six steps. in order from bottom to top are Cultural destructiveness(Bigotry coupled with vast power differentials allow the dominant group to disenfranchise, control, exploit or systematically destroy the minority populations.); Cultural incapacity (Extreme bias, a belief in the …superiority of the dominant group…subtle messages to the [affected group] that they are not welcome or valued.); Cultural blindness (Ignores cultural differences holds an expressed philosophy of being unbiased engages in a “blaming the victim”model or a cultural deprivation model.)

                      None of your opponents seem to have developed socially past these three levels. Of these though the first and second advocate violence I believe cultural blindness is more damaging because of the belief a culturally blind person has that they are being “good” or “wise” or “advanced” while at the same time devaluing those aspects of another person that gives their life meaning and from which they derive strength, creativity and success.

                      The upper there levels, again from bottom to top are: Cultural pre competence (Recognizes weakness in [cultural relationships] tokenism may prevail or minor efforts may be seen as fulfilling the obligation to the community); Cultural Competence (respects differences seeks expansion of cultural knowledge); and lastly Cultural Proficiency (through knowledge and publishing…advocates for cultural competence and improved relations between cultures.)

                      It strikes me that since culture can be described in so many areas beyond race and gender that we are all at different levels of competence in different frameworks. I may be competent in my relationships with women, pre-competent in my relationships with musicians and culturally blind with respect to a non-christian religious culture or say financial industry high performers. The real value is created in trying to move up the scale. It seems to me that “fun” games have not been created where cultural understanding is the key to winning the game and not simply pumping a few more rounds in the face of your virtual opponent. I could easily be wrong as violent gaming does not appeal to me and neither does trash talking. I salute and honor you for your effort to change the nature of gaming. It shows you to be culturally proficient in this area. I ask you to apply your brilliance to find that tipping point that might make a permanent improvement not only in gaming culture but in western society as well.

          • Darth Jader says:

            Also, using GTA as an example is an exceptionally weak argument on your part….right from the start the GTA franchise was about an aspiring gangster, what do gangsters do? Steal cars, sell drugs, beat the sh*t out of people in broad daylight for money, kill people, f*ck hookers, etc. etc. So….you’re going to blame the developer for making the game have realistic options? What, would you have the ONLY game genre out there be fantasy games?

  88. Darth Jader says:

    Halo (the symbiotic relationship between Master Chief and Cortana is a metaphorical expression – right down to the fact that Cortana is the voice of reason, no physical influence but a profound psychological influence – of the classic relationship between men and women, neither would survive without the other, say what you will, you’re grasping at straws.

  89. Darth Jader says:

    Then there are other game franchises that further debunk your claim: DOA, Jade from BGE, Bayonetta, Heavenly Sword (in fact it does th EXACT OPPOSITE of your claims), Zelda, Resident Evil, PoP, Diablo, Baldur’s Gate, WoW, the list goes on and on. If you don’t like games that do objectify women (Duke Nukem, Conker’s BFD, Leisure Suit Larry) to the delighted entertainment of men and women everywhere THEN DON’T EFFING PLAY THEM! Unlike your utterly ridiculous extreme feminist claims they do no harm to anyone, in any way at all, people like you disgust me. One of my best friends LOVES gaming, she’s also a leading industry game designer (currently working for Disney), she loves games the way they are, and if you f*cked that up for her, she’d probably hunt you down and…..well her job requires her to be very creative, I’m sure she’d think of a delightfully ironic punishment for you. There is no “rape culture” and I’ll thank you very much to stop spreading your misanthropic/misandrous propaganda. Go find yourself a hobby….such as tiddly winks.

  90. Andrea Harris says:

    Shorter Darth Jader: “Waaaahhhh!!! You broke my toys!”

  91. [...] Examples: PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical, Politics, YA and Narrative, Racism, Revealing Eden and STGRB, Rape Culture in Gaming [...]

  92. [...] Hines’ recommended fan writers include Seanan McGuire, who writes about why the female characters in his novels will never be raped. He writes in response to a fan who told McGuire it would only be realistic. Conversations like this are happening for all forms of speculative storytelling, asking if “realism” really requires everything from patriarchy to rape, in stories that regularly include fantastical, impossible elements. Hines also links to Tansy Rayner Roberts, who discusses the issue in detail. But it’s not just fantasy books that suffer from this conundrum. Recently the video game Assassin’s Creed III was discussed: the main character was made to be male in service of “realism,” according to the game’s creators. Even though the main character is a Native American assassin who single handedly turns the Revolutionary War.  When feminist blogger Anita Sarkeesian announced her intention to analyze the role of women in video games through a Kickstarter campaign, she was bombarded with angry comments and threats of death and rape. People attempted to bring down her Kickstarter page and vandalized her Wikipedia page. All this before she said word one of her actual analysis. You can read all about it from another Hines recommended writer, Foz Meadows. [...]

  93. Amir Adel says:

    We have a huge harassment and rape problem here in Egypt, and while the main cause is the strict religious media–not gaming–under the rule of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, the exact same analysis of the roots and mechanics of gaming in acting as a rape culture works on mass media.

    On one infamous instance, some army soldiers attacking group of protesters STRIPPED AND KICKED a veiled girl right in the middle of the street!

    http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/12/18/183123.html

    And in response to one of the opposition leaders blaming the Minister of Defense for the ugly incident, one of the Brotherhood’s most popular sheikhs replied only with mockery and laid the blame on the protester girl for actually getting out of her home!

    And another one blamed absolutely every single girl getting harassed in the streets, saying they are seductresses from hell, even if she wore a full niqab (a large black veil covering the whole body used by strict Muslims).

    And so on, this is the usual daily religious dialogue for the past two years since the revolution. The average Egyptian male would always blame the victim, never for a moment acknowledging the rights of a woman to actually be left alone on the streets.

    Needless to say, the already high rates of harassment overshot to astounding heights.

  94. Amir Adel says:

    We have a huge harassment and rape problem here in Egypt, and while the main cause is the strict religious media–not gaming–under the rule of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, the exact same analysis of the roots and mechanics of gaming in acting as a rape culture works on mass media.

    http://images.alarabiya.net/sahl_13259_5684.jpg

    On one infamous instance, some army soldiers attacking group of protesters STRIPPED AND KICKED a veiled girl right in the middle of the street!

    http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/12/18/183123.html

    And in response to one of the opposition leaders blaming the Minister of Defense for the ugly incident, one of the Brotherhood’s most popular sheikhs replied only with mockery and laid the blame on the protester girl for actually getting out of her home!

    And another one blamed absolutely every single girl getting harassed in the streets, saying they are seductresses from hell, even if she wore a full niqab (a large black veil covering the whole body used by strict Muslims).

    And so on, this is the usual daily religious dialogue for the past two years since the revolution. The average Egyptian male would always blame the victim, never for a moment acknowledging the rights of a woman to actually be left alone on the streets.

    Needless to say, the already high rates of harassment overshot to astounding heights.

  95. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day.
    It will always be useful to read articles from other writers and practice a little something from other websites.

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