Study Concludes “Men who harass women online are losers” — Univ. of NSW


Recently, an interesting article from Buzzfeed was shared with me, citing a study from the University of New South Wales that ultimately concluded that men who harassed women online (specifically in the gaming arena) were, in a very literal sense, losers.

I gave this some thought and I have to agree that there’s a lot of truth to this. It all boils down to what I already figured: people (men or women) who have the time to harass anyone else are obviously doing so to drag someone down to their level or lower. These people are trying to compensate for their own personal failings. In this article, they say that often (in their experience), the men who would lash out and make rude or disparaging comments to women were mainly doing so because they were losing. The idea of “losing to a girl” was repugnant to them. On the other hand, guys who were winning or on the same tier as the woman player would be respectful and nice, possibly nicer than they were towards the guys in the match with them.

On some level, this might also just be a reflection of immature people who never grew up. These are the types of people who, as an 8-year-old, could not stand being beaten by a girl. They also might just be the types who couldn’t stand losing to anyone else, period. My friend Jeremy Stratton pointed out that this might be a reflection of what they view as “weak:” if there were all guys in a match, they might pick on the guy they perceived as weak for whatever reason. In a mixed-gender match, they could choose to pick on the woman. What would that tell us about that particular person’s mindset?

But, I think the study is flawed. They admit that they focused on Halo 3, which is a first person shooter – a genre dominated by male players. I personally wonder how their findings would be if they instead chose to focus on a competitive aspect of an MMORPG that had a more balanced player field. What then?

Anyway, what do you guys (and girls) think?

6 thoughts on “Study Concludes “Men who harass women online are losers” — Univ. of NSW

  1. I know with MUDs (at least Aardwolf MUD…have to get back to that soon) there are some benefits to playing as a female so I think there are more female characters in the game. Also, as an older system of play Ithink there tends to be a more established base and less tolerance for asshattery. I think there is also a more mature base – people who want immediate satisfaction are not likely to be spending their day on a text-only MUD.

    Alternatively, if there is an online game that leans towards female participation, seeing how they interact with a guy who is playing at the same time. Commentary directed at them if/when they do better. My guess is it would not be near as abusive, but I worked in enough offices with women to not bet the farm on it.

    And I guess “gal” COULD be…it just sounds weird/old-fashioned to me to say “Hey gals! How goes?” in place of “Hey guys!”.

    • I agree with all of that. I still think their study was interesting, but it was flawed for sure. And in a lot of ways, it boils down to other topics that have been covered on this and countless other sites about women streamers and Let’s Players online and how they get treated. But honestly, when you do remove the “troll factor” from most of these studies, it isn’t nearly as bad as a lot of people make it out to be. I’ve had my share of people that had to get a channel ban from YouTube or the like, but these days it’s very rare and the person that gets banned probably 99% of the time knows it’s coming with the type of comments they made 😛

      I actually think the idea of MUDs are cool. I was aware of them years and years ago, but never really got into one. Of course, I didn’t really start any sort of social online gaming until around 1999 when in high school, but still. I should look up the genre again – what are the better ones that are functioning today?

      • The only one I play regularly is Aardwolf MUD – and it is HUGE….200 player levels, when you hit 200 you can take on a new class, when you complete all nine classes you can remort into a new race and start all over. You can literally play it for years if you were so inclined. There are special items, quests, area quests, GLOBAL quests, campaigns….and you can go without collecting experience, so that you don’t get in over your head too quickly. Plus a lot of other cool things like clans, mansions, etc

        There is a LOT to it, but there are a lot of users willing to help and a special channel for newbies (it’s actually called that – the newbie channel) which are levels 50 and under. Plus, they REALLY crack down on people abusing the system…you have the ability to mute users on your private channel, and users who are abusive on public channels are dealt with pretty swiftly.

        I think you would get a kick out of it…I advise MUSH Client for it to run through – lets you see a world map and local area map as well as health/TNL bars etc….a lot easier than tracking it all in your head.

  2. By and large, I agree, but for me it also comes down to how the study defined harassed. If it is strictly defined as repeated attacks/unwanted attention based on gender? Then yeah,those guys are losers.

    If it is a more open definition, things get a little stickier…if something is not harassment as most people would define it should it be “counted” as harassment? I will use MUDs as an example – I have a medium amount of experience with those – let’s say something innocuous like assisting a lower level character with equipment/buffing spells. The recipient may see it as “they think I can’t handle this because I’m a woman/girl”* and therefore harassing behavior.

    I will say that I do think most of it is the former, but I also agree that a lot of it is guys who never grew up…they lose to ANYONE and they’re going to get pissy. I think that (for a lot of reasons, but generally speaking our own jerkishness to each other when we are together as a group) guys are little better able to just let insults like that roll off our backs – it’s just some asshole in Brooklyn or something, so who cares? When you aren’t playing the one-upmanship game of insults with each other (even/especially your friends) it would seem like it would get a little more difficult to take insults with a grain of salt.

    * One of the great tragedies of the English language is the lack of a generic word for women (individually or as a group), which leaves “girls” and “women”…the equivalent of “guy” would be great, y’know?

    • That’s a pretty insightful take on it, and I do agree with it. To me, the failure in the study is that they focused also on a game that didn’t have a larger female base to it. I’d be more curious to see the results, as you said, in a MUD or maybe an MMO environment where there is a more even playing field.

      In a game like Halo 3, though, maybe the female player is more seen as an interloper into their mostly-male group. Obviously, they shouldn’t *feel* like that is a bad thing and she should feel welcome, but also maybe on some very basic level it is understandable that they might at least be taken aback by her being there.

      Sure, though, yeah a lot of it is just someone being upset they lost, period. It’s less about who they lost to, really.

      And, isn’t “gal” perhaps the equivalent to guy?

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