Study Shows Men Who Harass Women Online Are Literally “Losers”

Indrani Sengupta
They say that bullies are born out of a lack of self esteem, that oppressing or abusing others is a way for the powerless to feel powerful. Could this logic be at the root of Internet sexism?

We love when statistics confirm what we already know.

Michael Kasumovic of the University of New South Wales and Jeffrey Kuznekoff of Miami University, recently published a study of the behaviors of male gamers. The two researchers observed how men treated female gamers during 163 plays of the video game Halo 3.

video games

They found that male players tended to treat each other civilly, regardless of how the game was going, or how skilled they were at their game. Frustrations over losing did not inspire much malice toward other men.

But female gamers didn’t fare as well. Men who were struggling with the game frequently made hostile, sexist comments toward the women in the game.

female gamers

If this sounds like an isolated observation that is indicative only of sexism in the gaming community, it’s not. Unfortunately. A recent Pew report states that 40 percent of Internet users have been personally harassed, and that women get the lion’s share of this abuse.

Sexism on the Internet

What’s more, the study suggests that any spaces that allow for anonymity, where “policing individual behavior is almost impossible,” and where women are in the minority, such dynamics are likely to arise. So women on Reddit, 4chan, YouTube,  and most other Internet platforms will fare similarly.

sexism in the gaming community

Kasumovic argues that this is the result of women intercepting spaces where women weren’t traditionally present, thereby “disrupting” a pre-existing social hierarchy. The men at the top of the totem pole aren’t threatened by this, but men at the bottom feel in danger of being “overpowered” by women.

sexism in the gaming

“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.”

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Banner image credit: flickr @ Farhan Perdana