It is as we have long suspected – the males who are most likely to harass females online are those who are over-compensating for their own flaws. Michael Ksaumovic and Jeffrey Kuznekoff, researchers at the University of New South Wales and Miami University (respectively) conducted a study that confirms this belief.
The two researchers observed how men treated women during 163 plays of the popular video game Halo.
As the games played out and the comments were tracked, it was clear to the researchers that men were pretty friendly with each other, no matter what their skill level was. Another point that was observed was that male players who were good at the game complimented other male and female players.
However, less-skilled male players with poor performance would make nasty comments to female gamers very often.
In a chart that showed how nice the players were to each other, men treated each other about the same, while those men who improved their game, were then nicer to the women. This should not come as news to women, who experience harassment online on sites such Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and 4chan.
According to a Pew report, 40% of internet users experience harassment, but women get the worst of it as they’re vulnerable to sexual harassment and stalking.
For those who feel that video games might not be the best place to observe human behaviour, here are three things you should know: 1) since players are anonymous, policing individual behaviour is impossible, 2) encounters can be rare – you can have an explosive fight with a player you’ll never meet again, and 3) the sex ratio of players leans pretty heavily towards men.
The recent influx of women in male-dominated spaces (like video games and social media sites) challenges not the guys on top but those at the bottom.
The evolutionary framework that sees sexism against women as a Neanderthal defense mechanism of low-status and non-dominant men, who try to maintain their shaky grip on a set of women, supports this research. Men rely on aggression to maintain their 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,” said Kasumovic.
However, though this study confirms what we have long suspected, it looks like online harassment will continue to be a part of our lives, especially the women’s.