Female Gamers and Sexual Harassment
The world of virtual reality has a way of creeping into actual reality for some women.
A study published in the journal New Media & Society found that women in online gaming communities are likely to continue thinking about online sexual harassment long after they leave the game.
Investigators surveyed 293 women from online forums, blogs and social media sites, to investigate the longer-term effects of harassment. Respondents averaged 13 hours of online gaming per week, had an average age of 26 and represented 30 countries.
The women were asked about their experiences of harassment, sexual or otherwise, how they dealt with it, how the game administrators or companies responded to it and how much they thought about the abuse when they were offline.
The study team discovered a world of threats, sexually related comments and rape jokes. The majority of the women did not blame the gaming companies for the general abuse that occurred in-game – however, when the abuse turned sexual, they did see it as the company’s responsibility.
Female gamers affected by sexual abuse online dealt with it in a similar way to abuse in real life: avoidance, denying that it’s a problem, seeking help and blaming themselves. Many employ gender masking, using male or gender-neutral screen names.
In 2014, the Internet Advertising Bureau released figures showing that more women now play video games than men (52% versus 48%). Although the gender split in the online community is harder to gauge, women are thought to indulge in online gaming at least as much as males; still, they are generally considered a minority.