Thoughts from a (girl) Gamer

Tara Voelker's thoughts. A lot about video games, a little about life

Sexual Assaults hit Playstation Home

a news story by Tara

“Fear Over Online Sex Assaults – Gamer players traumatized” was the headline of this past Monday’s Daily Telegraph, a newspaper from Australia. The title draws a sharp reaction. Your eyes are drawn to the article. You’re almost afraid to read it. As a girl gamer, am I in danger of being sexually assaulted because I play games online? The title almost suggest so. In reality, I’m not.

My first thought was “What sort of horrible act must have happened to warrant such a strong title?” I found my answer on a Playstation Home thread entitled “Sexual Assault.” On December 22. 2009, a posted by forum member who goes by “Whoef” stated that his roommate was sexually assaulted while playing in the Playstation Home “Winter Wonderland Event.” He went on to describe the “assault” describing  how a male avatar began repeatedly doing the crouch emote behind his roommate’s avatar, causing it to look like that two avatars were engaged in a sexual act. When the women would move, the harasser would follow. It apparently went on for “some time” until her harasser was reported.
Whoef’s exact post stated:

“This morning I learned that my roommate was sexually assaulted near the Festive Tree while she was helping others with the puzzle. She would move and the harasser would follow. Each time trying to get behind her and use the crouch gesture. This apparently went on for some time. The harasser was warned multiple times and laughed at the thought that someone might report him for his actions, which was eventually done, and also, I’m proud to say, by other bystanders…..

Seriously, if complaints aren’t going to be immediately dealt with by the staff, regardless of the reason, then give some recourse to the victim that doesn’t include punishing the victim further and rewarding the harasser. That sitting gesture should be immediately removed. If sexual assault and other crimes against users, it seems predominantly against women, is allowed to continue, at the very least Home is going to turn into an all male application. Worse, Home is going to lose a lot of money. Starting right now with my roommate’s.

She hasn’t decided whether she will go back into Home. At this point she is rather disappointed with the whole thing and I don’t blame her at all. Me, I’d rather not completely say what I’d like to do. Lets just say it involves food and hungry dogs.”

I wasn’t sure what to think when I first read the post. A newspaper wrote an article about men being immature on the internet and claimed it was a sexual assault? You’ve got to be kidding me. If there was a news article every time that happened, newspapers would be the size of novels.

I was really wondering what other people in the forum thought about this subject, as there have been a lots of posts in response. I read about 12 pages worth of posts and the decided I knew what the community was thinking. The first thing that most people said was this was not assault and it’s not correct to label it as such. Secondly, most people thought that although it was unfortunate that this happened to Whoef’s roommate, and that actions like this should be stopped, but that it was being blown out of proportion. And further more, they all felt like there were more things the woman could have done to protect herself. Over all, I really agreed with most of what the people on the forums were saying in response to the initial posts. Let me break down these arguments and share my thoughts.

Firstly, this is not sexual assault. Sexual assault as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent.”  There was no sexual contact here, no force, so by definition, this was not assault. Sexual harassment as defined by the EEOc states that sexual harassment includes discussing sexual activities, telling off-color jokes, unnecessary touching, using crude and offensive language, and using indecent gestures. By definition this is not assault, but maybe harassment. There is a big difference between the two, as any women who has actually been sexually assaulted can tell you. It should be made clear exactly what happened, and using the term assult to grab attention should not be done. I’m not saying that it was right for this women to be harassed, because it wasn’t. I’m saying that her roommate shouldn’t have labeled it an assault.

Secondly, most of the drama could have been avoided. There are several things the roommate could have done. Some of the suggestions made by forum users inclduded ignoring the avatar trying to bother her. Normally, people like that will stop bother you if you stop giving them attention. Or maybe if that wouldn’t work… she could have left the tree puzzle and went to another area of home. Or, if that didn’t work, she could have simply logged off.

Further more, Woelf says that she didn’t report this on her own. Other people reported it for her. Although I can’t say why she didn’t report it, I feel like if this was really as big of an issue as it has blown up to be, she could have reported it herself. Some may say maybe she didn’t know how, but I don’t think that is a good excuse. I’m not a Playstation Home user. I’ve been on it like once at a friend’s house. I can tell you it was really easy to find out how file a report. I literally googled “playstation home filing complaint” and the first thing to pop up was the Playsation Network complaint form. She was totally in the right to file a report if she wanted to. The Playstation Network terms of use under Section 3. Community Code and Conduct that “You may not abuse or harass others, including but not limited to stalking behavior.” Since he was clearing harassing her, she could have reported it, but didn’t.

Most people on the forums think that Woelf is over reacting, especially in his claim that the sitting gesture should be immediately removed. Woelf implies that these sort of complaints aren’t going to be immediately dealt with by the staff and that they should be. Yes, these things should be dealt with by Home moderators immediately, I’m not arguing with that. I’m just wondering how Woelf supposedly knew how quickly all of this was being handled since neither he or his roommate were the ones to report an incident.Further more, you aren’t insta-banded when you do something stupid on PSN. You get suspended twice and then the third time you are banned. You don’t know what’s going on on the other end. Maybe this guy’s 12 year old brother picked up the controller and started doing the harassing. Should the account be instantly banned for that? No. Is it always a kid being stupid? Of course not. Some times it is a creeper on the other end. That’s why if there is three complaints they are kicked.Further more, the idea of removing the sitting emote is ridiculous. People also come up and dance on avatars. Should the dancing animation be removed as well? What do you think will happen then? I have a feeling that people wanting to cause trouble will just have their avatar stand super close to other avatars while sending inappropriate messages. It sounds horrible, but people will wanting to cause trouble will keep finding ways to cause trouble.

Now, I have an idea on why this all made it into the newspaper…. because it was an Australian newspaper… in Australia… where for some reason people think that video games are the devil. We’re talking about the country that banned the American version of 50 Cent: Bulletproof and the American version of L4D2. No other journalist in any other country would have seen this post in a forum and deemed it news. The negative effects of gaming is a big controversy in Australia and it’s as simple as that.

This whole thing may make you wonder, what can Sony do to combat these creepers dancing and humping avatars in their virtual world? Well, they can use what moderators it has and follow up on complaints and that’s about it. Home is free. You don’t pay Sony to use it, so it doesn’t make sense for them to invest more money in it. Maybe it’s a sort of you get what you pay for thing. And when your account is free, you aren’t going to be concerned about possibly having your user name banned because you aren’t losing any capital. And, if you account is banned, you can just make another for free… (Well, that’s until you do it enough times to let Sony know that you’re all the same person and ban your system from the Playstation network.) Playstation Home is a free service, and just like any other service, if you don’t like it- don’t use it.

This all boils down to the fact that none of this is real. There wasn’t a real man humping a real woman, and there was no real sexual contact. Does it suck for her? Yeah. She should be upset? Well, I guess if she wants to. In the end though, it’s not real. It’s like the people who crashed the WOW funeral. Did they hurt people’s feelings? Yeah. Were they probably laughing about it? Yeah. Did they actually crash a funeral? No. Was she actually sexually assaulted? No.

So I guess I can just wrap this up with my final thought. The online world is full of creepers. It’s their first home, and anyone, not just women, can be subject to inapprproate avatar humpings. It’s really part of life, but it’s not a news worthy deal. This should have been handled like any other incident- ignore, log off, or report- not compare to a real crime that devastates real people’s lives.

I know leave you with this Penny Arcade comic- made before this whole “news” story happened:

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6 responses to “Sexual Assaults hit Playstation Home

  1. Kristianna January 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    My thoughts exactly. Does it suck, sure, but by no means was this assault. Hell, if I posted every time I’ve been harassed online for being a girl I would probably have written a complaint log book myself. No system is every perfect, and unfortunately there are plenty of immature people online. Fortunately enough I’ve found a group of people I tend to play with across games so that I’m enabled to kick certain players with their support if it happens.

    My best advice to girls in this situation is to do the same. Find a good group (after sifting through some less than par) that you clique with, and try to set up times to play together. It’s much more fun this way, and when you have an off day, they can make fun of you even more 🙂

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  5. whoami September 2, 2010 at 9:51 am

    I’d like to say ps3 is getting worse they are saying it’s ok to harass people on their forums. I have put in complaints and told to accept it. Also the clothing is getting smaller. They are making it a world for peadophiles and I am sure there is a way of stopping this. I plan on exposing the truth and I will.

  6. Sullivan January 20, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    It certainly wasn’t sexual assault. But it was undoubtedly harassment, and I would take it much more seriously than some seem to. It’s a comment on the culture of my generation that this sort of disrespect and demeaning treatment can be dismissed as just the way the internet is. That may be true, but why do we have to accept it? Male gamers in particular, but all gamers ought to acknowledge that behavior for what it is and shout it down when we see it. But most of us are just willing to accept it as part of the Internet, and that’s why it won’t change. The gamer who decided to be so vulgar against someone trying to enjoy themselves is the one that should have to leave, not the woman playing.

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