Outrage, but not surprise at sexual harassment

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Sexual harassment, oh how you are omni-present. It seems every industry has to deal with people who cross boundaries and make people uncomfortable. This time, it happened to a game developer and helped keep the reputation of male game journalists fully sullied.

Here is the Facebook chat. Warning: contains rather graphic sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment uncensored

For the tl;dr among you, the male journalist sexually harasses the female developer while also asking for details about an unknown game project. With instant classics like “I’ll still kiss your vagina” and “Let me know if you need a penis for anything” this is a clear case of sexual harassment. That reporter – the founder of Indiestalk, no less –  has since apologized, blaming depression and alcoholism (despite the inappropriate comments continuing over the course of an evening and following morning):

Contrary to what I drunkenly typed, I have nothing but respect for this person. She has always been a positive ray of sunshine and I got very carried away in a conversation that I never should have started. Just because someone is nice to me doesn’t mean I can act inappropriately or say whatever I want to them. Especially since I have been such an advocate of women in games and treating everyone with the same level of respect and decency. I was a complete hypocrite and I am more mad at myself than anyone else will ever be with me.

I must say that I struggle with the issue of sexual harassment. It is pervasive and distressing to men and women who find themselves victims. I must say that it can be difficult to draw the line. I honestly have no problem with running jokes that I have with a range of men in the industry and community – I think it’s hilarious that the Wookie and I were joking about using the Xbox Podcast to show off our new talent where I’d deep throat the mic while he sang into it. And I see nothing wrong with the community obsession with seeing my boobs or having me pose for ION. However, I have had instances of sexual harassment and assault (not at this job, don’t worry) that made me incredibly uncomfortable. I know that I’m a friendly person, and some people misinterpret that as meaning that I’m open to any and all sexual invitations.

This is the insidious nature of sexual harassment – women (and I’m assuming men, too) blame themselves if they become victims. Should I not have made that dirty joke? Did I smile too much? How did I bring this upon myself? The reality is, those who sexual harass others are overstepping boundaries, and everyone’s boundaries are different. One woman’s joke is another woman’s sexual harassment. That said, I think it’s obvious in the case of the above chat log that it was sexual harassment. Every possible boundary is crossed.

We should be outraged and offended by this case of sexual harassment in the gaming industry. It’s so common for women in gaming to be objectified – I’m not talking about appreciation of the female form in games, I’m talking about offensive things said to female gamers and journalists. That said, harassment in general is all too common in gaming – the toxic online environment for games should be proof of that. But does our outrage actually do anything? I suppose, as is the case in all situations of harassment, the best you can do is name and shame the culprits, hoping that they simply misinterpreted the signs and apologize.

Please tell me, am I just desensitized to this? Have I come to accept harassment as the norm, no longer seeing a solution? What do you believe could be done to correct this rampant problem in gaming?

Last Updated: January 21, 2014

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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