Online gaming is a cesspool of racism, homophobia and misogyny. But at least gamers know it! A survey of 874 people on the Internet by the Emily Matthew at Pricecharting blog found that 80% of respondents believed sexism is prominent in the gaming community, and 35% had been targets of sex-based harassment while playing games online.
Women were four times more likely than men to have experienced taunting or harassment, with 63.3% of all female [women] participants responding that they had. The stories that these women told me regarding their experiences are similar to what one might think of regarding this topic. “Cunt,” “bitch,” “slut,” and “whore” were common slurs. The threats were largely of sexual assault. Much of the harassment was based around asking for or demanding sexual favors or comments that revolved around the traditional gender role and stereotyped behavior for women in Western society. Many of the insults were based on the subject's weight or physical appearance.
15.7% of men also reported that they had experienced sex-based taunting, harassment, or threats while playing video games. While this is in the minority, it is still of concern as sexism. The comments directed at these gamers, however, are different from those directed at women in some very telling ways. Most of the men who provided additional information on their “yes” response to this question experienced comments that revolved around them not fitting a masculine gender role. These men were often called “fags” and compared to or told that they were women and labeled with stereotypically feminine words.
For those who identified as intersexed, identified with a sex that was not listed, or did not identify with any sex, the sexual harassment that was experienced largely related to not fitting into any norm. Those participants in these demographics had almost all experienced intentional misgendering from other players.
Terrible harrassment aside, the survey found an interesting aspect of how gender affects play. While 10% of women admitted to using their gender as leverage when asking for favors/goods/attention, 13% of men said they had lied about their sex for the same reason.
The comments and data from these two questions point to an interesting conclusion: Some male gamers use the stereotype of a female “attention whore” to their benefit by pretending to be female in order to garner special benefits. Many of these men even kept images of women that they found on the internet in order to supply those gamers who helped them with nude photos and proof that they were female. In essence, an individual using femaleness to attain special favors and gifts from others while playing video games is more likely to be a self-identified male posing as a woman than to actually be female.
Sexism is still a huge problem with online game communities, and it probably won't ever completely go away. We should call it out when we see it, and defend others based on the knowledge that most women don't really like being called attention whores and bitches.