Rape Culture and Video Games

Ah, video games, probably the only place where you can shoot someone in the face, steal cars and be a terrible person without any consequences. In fact, in some games, you might even be encouraged to take on a morally grey role. As a result, video games have a bad reputation with parents, media journalists and politicians who take the easy way out by blaming these games for the increase of violent tendencies in teenagers.

Here, I would like to look at how rape culture is evident in video games, be it in-game, where the game itself promotes sexual violence, or out of game, in which male gamers deliberately attack female gamers for their gender.
Rape culture is a term that is used to describe a culture or society where rape and sexual violence are common, and in which prevalent attitudes, norms and practices normalize, tolerate, excuse and perhaps even propagate sexual assault.

The old concept of ‘girls don’t game’ is swiftly becoming a dying myth, as numbers of female gamers are growing yearly. However, the unpleasant treatment and harassment that these female gamers receive from their male counterparts are not a myth. Recently, there has been an increasing spate of articles where female gamers speak up about the harassment that they face when playing online.

These female gamers have been attacked with nasty comments, where male players either sling derogatory insults at them, threaten them with physical violence or single them out on purpose in order to assert their own dominance.

For instance, Anita Sarkeesian, who runs a website Feminist Frequency, where she deconstructs and criticizes sexist trope in popular culture, was recently attacked with a harassment campaign in which she received messages that threatened her with rape and death, had her Youtube and Wikipedia page vandalized with misogynist language, pornography and racial slurs.

There are plenty of such instances, but it appears that most people do not see the implicit issue with such behavior. Instead, many users and gamers merely brush off these instances of aggression as something normal, as trash talking or simply troll behavior. However, the problem that I would like to raise here is the fact that these male gamers are attacking their female counterparts solely because of their gender. It is not because of their playing styles and lack of techniques, but rather the fact that they do not seem to want to accept women in their ‘exclusive’ gaming community.

Of course, I am not suggesting that all gamers react badly in such ways, but it is the actions of these players that give the rest a bad rap with others, justifying the stereotype that gamers are antisocial, basement dwelling nerds, rather than well-adjusted individuals who just want to play a game in peace.

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