BDO Black Desert Online female character with brown hair biting her lip.

Sexual Harassment In Online Gaming

MMOs, MMORPGs and online games, in general, have a sexual harassment problem.  It’s time to address it.

In my “Male Gamer, Female Avatar,” I explained why I often play as a female character in games that allow the option.

In single-player games, there isn’t any problem of prejudice or discrimination.  But online multi-player games? Yeesh…

One of the biggest drawbacks to playing a female character in MMORPGs is the unwanted, oftentimes on the verge of sexual harassment, attention I must endure.  It’s astoundingly disturbing.

I go to great lengths to make my in-game avatar, whether female OR male, as attractive, beautiful and/or handsome as possible.  Hey, it’s “role-playing” game; why would I want to play as the real me?

The problem with making a beautiful female avatar is I become a flower and a portion of the male online gamer population are bees looking to pollinate.  Not so much bees.  More like pigs.

The harassment can come in any form the game allows.  Voice chat, text, or emotes.

Voice chat has its pluses but I usually mute it.  I really don’t want to hear what music fellow players like as background noise.  I really don’t want to hear players argue with their parents, spouses, or kids.  I really don’t want to hear how players think my character is hot and what sort of acts of perversion they’d like to perform on her. Muted.

For text chat harassers, I just block them.  I’ll never have to hear from them again.  My list of blocked players has, sadly, grown quite long.  But it’s effective.  Blocked.

The emotes are often of the tea-bagging variety.  While I can turn off voice chat and block players, there isn’t much I can do about these losers.  I usually teleport, fast travel, or warp away.  If necessary, I can log off and log back in, in the hopes of landing on a different server than the man-child who gets off on virtually rubbing up on my avatar.

Men, real men with a brain and a heart, if you ever want to know what it feels like to be a victim or target of sexual harassed, make a beautiful female character in an MMO and play the game normally.  You’ll soon discover the discomfort, the annoyance, the frustration, and the anger women experience from unwanted attention from either ignorant or sociopathic males who haven’t a clue or a care about other people’s feelings.

I’m sure these feelings I have can’t compare to the real-world emotions women must put up with when they’re victimized is such a manner.  While my anger and disgust as a target are real, there’s a layer of emotion that I don’t experience:  Fear.

In game, I have options.  I can escape, quickly and safely.  A woman in the real world who is being targeted, may not.  She can’t block or mute their unwanted advances.  She can’t warp away to safety.  If she’s confident and strong enough, she could fight back.  But physical confrontation comes at a price.  Someone’s going to get hurt, maybe her.

Recently, few stories of women fighting back against their aggressors have made the news.  Some of the women held their own, and put their attackers in their place.  One woman was not so successful and, instead of belittling the man who groped her, got hit in the face by the attacker.

That’s the sad state of the real world we live in.  While I applaud the women who fight back, I’m saddened and angered that, in this day and age, some men still objectify women.

What goes through these male players minds, who harass female avatars?  Do they think they’ll get a hookup, virtually or in real life?  Do such invasive actions work on real women in the real world?  Have I been approaching women wrong all my life by being polite and respectful?  (I don’t actually approach women in real life; I’m too much of a coward).

Are these players doing it because they can get away with it?  Does being in game empower them to act like fools? Do they actually get sexually aroused?  If yes, then, dude, you have some serious issues and emotional problems.  I fear for you in your real-life dealings with real-world women, or even just people in general.

Whenever this happens to me, I tell myself that this player who’s tea-bagging me, is just young and stupid, most likely hasn’t had much real-world experience with women, and is probably socially awkward.  Video games might be his only outlet for social interactivity.

The darker side of that theory is that this guy really gets off on making women uncomfortable.  What’s he like in the real world?  A frightening thought.

For those readers who defend these acts of sexual harassment, I ask how can you approve of such violation?  Do you not have a mother?  Maybe a sister, or favorite niece, female cousin or aunt?  If you love a woman in the real world, how can you condone such actions against women, at all?  Would you want your sister to have to put up with some ass stalking her, in game or in real life?

Some morons would say, “Hey, you made a beautiful female, you should have expected it.”

I say, BS.  As in the real world, a person, male or female should be able to look and dress however they want (short of indecent exposure).  They should have the freedom to be who they are, WITHOUT having to expect unwanted, possibly, aggressive, sexual, or violent attention.

Assuming you can read, to you idiots who do think and act this way towards women, in real life and in games, I ask, have you not heard of “Denim Day“?  Google it.  Educate yourself.  Learn something.  Then look in the mirror and judge what sort of person, what sort of “man,” you are.

To those players who believe they have to right to sexually harass female avatars, that they’re free to play however they want, you are so wrong.  You DO have the right to play however you want, AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT INFRINGE ON ANOTHER PLAYER’S RIGHTS TO NOT BE HARASSED!!!

For example, we in the United States often say we have freedom of speech, that that freedom gives us the right to say whatever we want, whenever we want.  Yeah, go to a busy, crowded shopping mall and try that.

We do have the right to freedom of speech, but, again, as long as what we say does not affect the freedom of others to not have to listen to us.  There are other caveats to “freedom of speech,” but those who protest that their rights are being violated are usually ignorant of the exceptions.  Exceptions including obscenity, perjury, defamation, and others.  Google it.  Educate yourself.  Learn something.

Those “rights” also apply in MMO games.  I do have to right to play a game, even an MMO, without having to repel unwanted sexual advances.  Read any MMO’s Terms of Contents.  Learn something.

For good or ill, MMO’s are pretty representative of the human population as a whole, I suppose.  There are good people, bad people, nice players, mean players.

In my limited experience, I’ve found that people who are nice and decent in real life are even more so in MMO games.  In MMO games, these good, kind players can be heroic and just, and have the power to help and aid others.  Without the risk of life and limb.

On the opposite end, I’ve found that people who are mean, nasty, selfish, in the real world, feel emboldened in game to live out their fantasies of crime and evildoings.  Without the risk of law enforcement involvement.

Maybe that’s naive on my part. In role-playing games, maybe a good, law-abiding person in real life wants to experience what it’s like being evil, in a safe environment.

Fortunately, most of us aren’t highly-trained assassins, nor are we criminal overlords nor evil villains bent on world domination.  Most of us.  But games celebrating such lives and lifestyles have been around for a very long time and will continue to be popular in the future.  So, yeah, maybe I am naive.

But I am hopeful that good always, eventually, triumphs over evil, in real life and in games.

And in game, at least, the sexual harassment, while prevalent, is easily dealt with.  Mute, block and fast travel are my friends.