Male Gamers Harass Women For One Sad Reason

July 21st 2015

It's well-known that women in gaming often experience sexual harassment, and a new study published in the journal PLOS sheds light on the type of men who go after female gamers. According to the research, men with poor gaming performances were more likely to make rude, unkind comments towards female gamers. The top male gamers, however, did not treat the female gamers this way. As many people have said of these findings, it appears that men who express hostility towards women in gaming are literally losers. That is, the harassing gamers are more likely to be unskilled at the game they are playing.

"Our results support an evolutionary argument for why low-status, low-performing males are hostile towards female competitors," the study said. "Low-status and low-performing males have the most to lose as a consequence of the hierarchical reconfiguration due to the entry of a competitive woman. As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status, the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank. This idea is reinforced by the fact that higher-skilled males that should not feel threatened by a female increased their number of positive comments."

Study authors Michael Kasumovic and Jeffrey Kuznekoff came to this conclusion after observing the way men treated women in more than 150 rounds of the game Halo 3. They saw that men of all skill levels were polite to each other, with high-performing male gamers doling out compliments to men and women alike, but that lower-performing men were more likely to be cruel to women.

Speaking to The Washington Post, Kasumovic suggested that an increase in female gamers, as well as Reddit, Twitter, and 4Chan users, has altered the pre-existing gaming system. This doesn't impact the best male gamers out there, but those who weren't so good anyway now have to compete with women.

Last year, writer Amanda Hess published a powerful article about the immense harassment women face on the Internet, fielding death threats, rape threats, racial slurs, and all sorts of horrible remarks from men. Hess, who has written about women's issues and sex in the past, detailed a slew of disturbing tweets she'd received from a Twitter user named headlessfemalepig:

“I am 36 years old, I did 12 years for ‘manslaughter’, I killed a woman, like you, who decided to make fun of guys cocks. Happy to say we live in the same state. Im looking you up, and when I find you, im going to rape you and remove your head. You are going to die and I am the one who is going to kill you. I promise you this.”

Unfortunately, this was far from the only threat Hess had received online. Even so, she said even her more memorable experiences with online harassment don't set her apart from what other women on the web have faced.

"None of this makes me exceptional," she wrote. "It just makes me a woman with an Internet connection."

A 2014 survey from the Pew Research Center found that women were much more likely than men to report being sexually harassed or stalked on the Internet. Though it happens to all age groups, young people were much more likely to experience online harassment than their older counterparts.

Female harassment onlinePew Research Center - pewinternet.org

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