Well, I could’ve told you that, but having science to back me up is so much better. Turns out that most men who harass women online are literal losers. In a study conducted by Michael Kasumovic and Jeffrey Kuznekoff, researchers at the University of New South Wales and Miami University, respectively – published in the journal PLOS One last week, the duo watched how men treated women during 163 plays of the video game Halo 3.
They watched the games played out and tracked the comments that the players made to each other. The researchers observed that the men tended to be pretty cordial towards each other no matter their skill level, or how the game went. The men who were better at the game also tended to pay compliments to both male and female players.
The interesting thing is that male players who were not doing well at the game – who were less skilled – would make frequent, nasty comments to female players. So yeah, sexist men are literal losers. So the surer a man is of his ‘status’, the nicer he is to the ladies, and the lower he drops, the nastier he becomes.
The researchers have likened the game environment to real-life behavior. It’s important to note that traditionally the gender ratio of the game leans heavily towards men. This goes for other frequently sexist spaces online like Reddit, Twitter and 4chan. It used to be that these spaces were mostly men but a recent influx of female participants is causing a ‘glitch in the matrix’. While it was mostly men, the social hierarchy was safe, with the ‘better guys’ on top and the ‘not so great ones’ at the bottom. But now, with women involved, the guys at the bottom tend to lose more status and it is very threatening.
“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status,” Kasumovic writes, “the 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.”
So at least we know that when we get bullied, it’s because men are just hurting themselves. Alas, that doesn’t actually solve the problem of online or offline sexism. Just explains it. Either way, I’m glad that this research has made its way out. And now we can ask ourselves more questions and hopefully define a new way to communicate between the sexes.