In Grand Theft Auto V, an R-rated video game that allows players to attack and kill women in the sex trade, I would have been the character who gets left by the sidewalk, bleeding and unconscious. Or hit with bats, run down, set alight still screaming and graphically murdered – for game points, or maybe just ‘for fun.’
- Target Australia pulls Grand Theft Auto V from shelves after customer feedback on violence
- Grand Theft Auto and the problem with banning ‘violent’ video games and media
- Angry gamers petitioned Target to stop selling the Bible, but their plan backfired
I was in the sex industry in my early 20s. But instead of the virtual world of GTA V – the abuse I suffered, while not as extreme as those in the game, was terrifyingly real.
It has taken me almost ten years to get my life back on track and to recover from the sexual violence and abuse I faced. I still live with flashbacks, nightmares, and crippling depression and anxiety.
Last week, together with two other women, I started a change.org petition requesting Target to pull GTA V from its shelves. The reason behind the campaign is simple: that a game exists which makes ‘enjoyment’ out of the kind of abuse I lived through in real life is sickening. For survivors of abuse, it adds insult to injury to think someone could get a thrill out of violence against women, even if it was in a ‘virtual world’.
In GTA V, a new ‘first-person player mode’ feels more realistic than ever. This includes a more realistic depiction of sex acts with women (who are largely represented as prostitutes) – and the options that follow of being able to kill them with machetes, guns or bats to get their virtual money back.
Making it all the more disturbing was having a retailer I shop at which sells and promotes this kind of game. As recently as last week, Target was advertising Grand Theft Auto next to Peppa Pig. This was being marketed at parents buying Christmas toys.
It sent a terrifying message. This is a game that has ingrained misogyny and graphic violence against women. It breeds an acceptance of abuse in our world; abuse from which I’ve been trying desperately to recover – and by stocking this game, major retailers are lending their credibility to it.
Despite potential backlash, I couldn’t stay silent about this. The fact that over 40,000 parents, customers, and advocates got behind our change.org petition showed we weren’t the only ones. The response to our campaign exceeded our wildest expectations – and forced Target to listen to their customers.
Since then, gamers have launched vicious and violent attack on myself and other women who dared to speak up. We’ve had threats of rape and torture. To mutilate us and set us on fire.
One gamer has threatened to locate us and publicise where we live. Another has superimposed the face of a friend onto the body of a murdered woman lying in blood, in a scene from the game.
“I’m going on GTA V right now and pretending every ugly c—t is you”, tweeted another hater to her.
Ironically, these abusers claim this game does not perpetuate violence, and yet they continue to send women horrific violent threats online.
Gamers also argue that games like GTA V have no impact on real life violence, despite research published earlier this year showing violent video games increases aggression, aggression-related variables and decreases pro-social outcomes.
Sadly, many women don’t need studies to tell us that. We know because we’ve lived it. We know how violence can start with ‘playful’ remarks and turn into dangerous, controlling behaviour. We’ve seen the violence implicitly condoned in these games play out in real life.
The ‘thrill and pleasure’ that gamers get off violence against women in GTA V makes the world less safe. Not because every gamer turns into the abuser – but because it breeds a casual acceptance of violence against women.
Stripping GTA V from the shelves of retailers like Target and Kmart won’t change that culture overnight. It’s one step among many — like the recent #takedownjulienblanc campaign – that will help dismantle the culture of violence against women in years to come.
It may not be a popular debate, but it’s one that Australia desperately needs.
*Name has been changed
Reprinted with permission of the author.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732): 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Lifeline: 131 114
Grand Theft Auto: lesson learned the hard way
…there is no denying the deeply rooted misogyny and sexism of the series.
Of Grand Theft Auto V’s three playable characters, all are men. The vast majority of the women depicted by the game’s narrative are either passive victims to be killed or rescued, or sex workers to be killed or used. While the series’ supporters have long used the excuse of “satire” to justify the story lines, there is no critique of the social attitudes depicted; it simply perpetuates them…
The petition signers are completely right: Grand Theft Auto V’s treatment of women is terrible. That they would want to complain about this, and that Target and now K-Mart might listen to them is neither shocking nor outrageous.
… it is not a case of censorship, and it is not a case of an ignorant mainstream being paranoid about a medium they do not understand. Rather, it is a group of people with legitimate concerns about an incredibly popular cultural work perpetuating toxic politics, and taking the reasonable approach of directing their valid concerns to retailers who often explicitly market such adult products directly to children. If videogames want cultural relevancy, they need to deal with cultural responsibility… Videogames no longer exist on the margins of popular culture, and if they are going to uncritically present problematic material, they need to be ready to face the consequences. Read full article
The Video Game Industry Has Only itself to Blame for Misogyny and Harassment
The thing is, it’s not just a vocal minority. It’s a vocal minority that actually participates in the cruelest harassment, but we’re kidding ourselves to think they are somehow separate from a culture characterized by video games. Just play a match of more or less any competitive online game and listen to the number of times you hear the word “rape:” despite what we may think, this is not normal or inevitable. What it is, however, is a natural byproduct of the games we play.
We all know, at least on some level, that games have a massive problem with depictions of women…
It’s not a tremendous leap to assume that a community of consumers and producers is going to develop some intensely dysfunctional aggression and misogyny when this is the cultural background that we’re interacting with… It all comes from somewhere. If the “gamer” community is defined by playing certain games, then it will inevitably be colored by the content of those games. This recent virulent hatred directed towards women in the industry should serve as some proof. Read full article