I admit up front that I don’t actually have a teenage daughter. However, I want to, and she and countless other girls will grow up in a culture of video games. So when I heard that a woman was sexually assaulted in a virtual reality game, I knew this world wasn’t ready for my daughter or anybody else’s.
So here are eight steps to making the virtual world safer and friendlier towards our sisters.
1. Just because you’re laughing doesn’t mean she is.
To you, it’s a joke. To her, it may be frightening or just plain repulsive. It’s good to laugh, but it’s far better, more respectable, and a greater measure of your own wit when everyone is laughing, not just you.
2. Talk to her like she’s really there.
Would you make that rape joke to her face? Would you use her in a sexually explicit sentence if she was standing right next to you? Don’t hide behind anonymity like the rest of the world. Be better. Be a man, not a boy.
3. She draws the line, not you.
That body may be virtual, but it’s still hers. If she’s uncomfortable, stop. If she’s scared, stop. Even if you think what you’re doing is okay, she decides that, not you.
It’s just like real life. No means no. Simple as that.
Virtual reality doesn’t make groping or harassment okay. It just shows the world the kind of person you really are.
4. Realize girls come in all flavors
Some are flirtatious, others conservative. Some choose the hammer-wielding orc, others the archer fairy. One can take your insults and laugh, another will cry. Some want to hmm-hmm your virtual ha-ha in a chatroom somewhere while others wouldn’t be caught dead with you. Treat each as she wants to be treated. This requires listening, patience, and an open mind.
There’s only one constant: they’re here to play games, not please you.
5. Never insult her for being a girl
Gender insults are for cowards or men not intelligent enough to come up with real criticism.
6. Never threaten her for being a girl.
Rape threats and death threats are sickeningly common. Even as a man, I find this unacceptable. Once more, virtual worlds don’t excuse this behavior, they only expose your true nature. Are you generous, fair, and levelheaded or are you just waiting until nobody’s looking?
7. It’s okay if she’s better than you.
To quote the bartender from Anchorman, “Chicks can do stuff now!” They may be able to pwn your noob self all over the board!
And if that frightens or irritates you, ask yourself why. Are you a poor loser? Or do you simply see women as something to put under your heel?
As long as they’re playing fair, it’s okay to lose.
8. If you accept her, she’ll accept you
Guys, I get it. This was once our world, not theirs. It was a place owned and defined by men.
And we were ridiculed for it. We were called nerds, losers, and lazy bums. We were told we’d never amount to anything more than furniture in mom’s basement.
But now many of those critical voices are getting into gaming themselves, whether mobile, online, or console. They’re starting to understand us, even respect us.
So why are we throwing that away by giving them the same ridicule, scorn, and dismissal that we once received? If we treat them as fakes, sex objects, and inferior gamers, they’ll go back to calling us good-for-nothing Neanderthals. Is that what we want? To go backwards?
Or do we want to step hand-in-hand into a world where gaming is a mark of pride, not shame?
Our daughters will be part of this world someday. Our sisters may already be. What will they find? What will we leave them?