A research study by Glenna L. Read, Teresa Lynch, and Nicholas L. Matthews that was published back on March 2nd, 2018 as part of the Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, covers the topic of whether or not sexy video game avatars help encourage or influence the rape myth acceptance.
It turns out that after testing 300 U.S., college students who either played or watched someone play as a sexualized and non-sexualized female avatar in a video game, they discovered that participants actually had reduced rape myth acceptance and reduced hostile sexism toward women.
According the study, it states…
Results contradicted hypotheses that greater task demands and sexualization would produce greater RMA, hostile sexism, and self-objectification. Instead, we found that sexualization did not affect these variables. Greater cognitive load reduced rape myth acceptance and hostile sexism for those in the sexualized avatar condition, but it did not affect self-objectification.
“[…] These results provide tentative evidence that cognitively demanding video game environments may prompt players to focus on stereotype-inconsistent, rather than stereotype-consistent, social information.”
The supplementary material provided examples of the images for the avatars used in the study, which you can view below. The first image is of the non-sexualized female avatar, while the second image is of the sexualized female avatar.
Since around 2012, there has been a consistent pattern in the media, stating that sexualized female avatars in video games contributed to the rape myth, essentially purporting that people who played and enjoyed games that featured sexualized female avatars were more susceptible to believe that real life rape victims deserve it, or that being dressed a certain way invites the occurrence of sexual assault.
Last year Martha Fernandez de Henestrosa and Andrew Melzer from the University of Luxembourg set out to test the hypothesis posed by media outlets that sexualized female characters in games encouraged rape myth acceptance. In the May, 2017 study, “The Effects of Sexualized Violence in Video Games on Rape Myth Acceptance”, the researchers reluctantly concluded that sexualized avatars in games do not encourage rape myth acceptance, writing…
“The results of the present study do not support the hypothesis that encountering sexualized violence in video games (i.e., playing a sexualized female game character in a fighting game) has an increasing effect on RMAcompared to playing the same game with a non-sexualized female character […]. This result is in contrast to previous findings that the exposure to sexual and violent video game content increases the acceptance of rape myths […]”
This also flies in the face of propaganda peddled by media since 2012 that “rape culture” was being buffered in mainstream by the portrayal of sexualized females in enthusiast media such as video games and movies.
Jaded authors like Laurie Penny tossed textual petrol on the ever-burning coal fire of feminist ire directed at the gaming industry with a piece for the NewStatesman published on June 18th, 2012 titled “Lara Croft and Rape Stories: Breaking Down The Bitch”, attributing that rape and sexual assault are the go-to method of storytelling in video games, writing…
“Significantly, the character redesign [of Lara Croft] assumes that the large-breasted, bare-midriffed Lara of previous Tomb Raider incarnations came into being only after after this younger, small-breasted, more-modestly dressed Lara was sexually assaulted by scavengers, forced to fight for her life “like an animal”. The attempted gang rape, in other words, was what turned her into that aggressively sexual being. Those angry bedroom hard-ons in the 1990s were not in vain.”
There’s also the Atlantic’s piece published in June of 2013 exclaiming that “Yes sexism is still a huge problem in the gaming world”, and that many of these games played by gamers are designed to “alienate, harass, and exclude women”.
There are a plethora of articles exclaiming that sexualized female characters in games “exclude” women from gaming, or encourage “sexism” toward women, or contribute to “rape culture”.
In one standout example, Kotaku published a piece (one of many) back on June 16th, 2014, with an article titled “The Real Problem With Sex Workers In Video Games”, reiterating claims made by culture critic Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency, where they encourage readers to accept that video game portrayal of sexualized females contributes to rape myth acceptance, with author Yannick LeJacq writing…
“[…] repeated exposure to this kind of media can have real-world effects on players. Citing recent academic research, Sarkeesian says that after “long term exposure to hypersexualized images, people of all genders tend to be more tolerant of the sexual harassment of women, and more readily accepting of rape myths.”
What’s more is that just last year the National Center of Sexual Exploitation published an article on November 9th, 2017 accusing Valve of using Steam as a means of “perpetuating rape culture”, writing…
“The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) has identified some in the video game industry as perpetuating rape culture and rape myths. In July NCOSE reached out to Steam, a video game distribution platform and one of the most egregious culprits, asking the company to remove sexually exploitive games. After NCOSE’s complaint, Steam added black censor bars over the nudity in the House Party game—but left the themes of sexual coercion 100% intact.”
NCOSE has been on a vendetta against Valve since the summer of 2017, hounding the company until Valve implemented a policy prohibiting developers from distributing uncensored patches through the Steam forums or through official patches.
NCOSE has also been intent on getting Valve to remove dating simulators and visual novels that contain any kind of sexual content, claiming that all types of pornography hurts relationships, households, and the nuclear family structure of America, in addition to contributing to rape myth acceptance.
But despite all the haranguing from the media, study after study continues to contradict the media narrative. In fact, another study conducted back on April 21st, 2018 from Dr. Victoria Beck and Dr. Chris Rose from the University of Wisconsin arrived at the same conclusion as the study from Read, Lynch, and Matthews, corroborating that playing violent games or games with sexualized characters such as Grand Theft Auto don’t inherently increase negative attitudes toward females. A piece of the abstract reads…
“In the experimental group, participants played the game with a confederate, who exposed participants to sexual objectification and violence against females. Study results indicated that both the experimental and control groups had equivalently low levels of rape myth acceptance prior to game play. Immediately after game play, there still was no statistically significant difference in rape myth acceptance between groups; however, there was a decrease in rape myth acceptance for the experimental group.”
Even as studies begin to emerge that debunk the unsubstantiated claims made by the media over the last six years about video games contributing to the rape myth acceptance and “rape culture”, there doesn’t seem to be any news reports rapidly filling up Google News to inform the general audience that the previous reports over the last six years about the subject matter have been wrong.
(Main image courtesy of Lara Croft)
(Thanks for the news tip Lyle)