A recent study proves that men who harass women online are in fact losers. The journal PLOS published the study led by researchers Jeffrey Kuznekoff of Miami University and Michael Kasumovic of University of New South Wales. The study took place during 163 plays of Halo 3 and tracked how men treated women online.
The researchers studied the gameplay and tracked the comments made between players. They observed that men acted relatively cordially to one another regardless of their skill level or gameplay. The research also showed that men who were skillful at the game typically paid compliments to both other men and women. Male players that were less skillful at the game frequently made nasty comments to other female players. The results suggest that sexist men are losers.
Recent polls prove this research’s validity as 40% of users on the Internet have experienced some form of harassment. While these users consist of both men and women, it seems that women receive the heaviest and most consistent harassment compared to their male peers.
Kasumovic suggests that studies of video games like these make good proxies for real-life behavior. In the game, players are anonymous and will most likely never see each other face to face. Also, the male players far outweigh the female. According to gender rations, the Halo sub Reddit is overwhelmingly 95% male. These ratios are similar to other sites known for harassment, 4Chan, Reddit and Twitter.
The lead researchers suggest that this harassment is due to a socially triggered reaction that has been around since Neanderthals. A social hierarchy is threatened as more women are brought into the gaming realm. While men at the top are comfortable, less skilled males are threatened by the new players. This results in opposition which comes out in harassment.
Kasumovic says,“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status, 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.”
Although this research cannot provide any suggestions for dealing with this kind of harassment, it does shed some light on the cause for this phenomenon. Kasumovic and Kuznekoff expect only more interesting findings from this research.