Thursday, July 16, 2009

New virtual reality game plays on women's irrational fear of men

We often report about how the myth of male predatory sexual behavior is the engine that drives the culture of rape hysteria, and that false rape claims are its noxious emissions. Here is an example of high tech fear-mongering, a modern-day Chicken Little game that seems to foment hysteria about rape for women already overly wary of men.

NPR's All Things Considered broadcast a story last night about a video game called The Path. It's a variation on the Little Red Riding Hood fable -- a warning to girls about the danger of male strangers. The virtual reality characters (all female) are heading to grandmother's house, and the object is to confront the wolf (the male).

According to the story: "Facing the wolf, you see, is what The Path is about. In each level of the game, you play as one of six sisters. They range in age from 9 to 19, and each of them must make the long trek through the forest. Each must meet her own personal wolf. The moment you step off the path and into the forest, the terror of the game begins. Sunshine fades to murky darkness. You hear low moans but can't tell if they're from pleasure or pain. And you know, all the time, that the wolf is out there waiting. In one of his incarnations, he's a white light that sweeps you into the sky. It feels ecstatic and horrifying at the same time. When it's over, you're left lying in a heap. The game is nothing so much as a rumination on the vulnerabilities of girlhood."

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the report concerns a woman's take on the game when a 15-year-old virtual girl "stumbles into a deserted playground in the forest where a young man, sitting on a bench, offers her a cigarette. Then he sits back on the bench. "He's just sitting there," says [Brenda] Brathwaite. Still: 'The actual thought that ran through my head at the time was, "Oh my God, am I going to be raped?"' Brathwaite claims to have been violently attacked when she was younger.

And, you see, this is where we've come: a young male virtual reality character who furnishes no evidence that he poses a threat to a female character is suspected of being a rapist -- for no reason other than the fact that he is depicted as male.

What other group in our society would tolerate being stereotyped as monsters in this manner? It is a fact that innocent males are assaulted far more frequently than innocent females. Yet the object of this game is the vulnerabilities of girls.

I would suggest this in all seriousness, having studied the issue intently: the male character likely has more to fear about a false rape claim being lodged against him than the female character has about being raped. The fact is that this milieu of rape hysteria in which we find ourselves stranded not only is terribly gender divisive because it encourages females to mistrust males, it also enables false rape accusers to spread their lies with automatic credibility. False accusers know that the very mention of rape instills fear and overwhelming anger in the vast majority of decent people. They also know that virtually any young man who is even accused of this vile act will be considered not just a plausible suspect but a presumed felon.

This virtual reality game is a sad manifestation of a culture gone askew -- a culture where rape hysteria is far too prevalent and downright unhealthy, and where blatant stereotyping of a lone male as a possible rapist is tolerated without even being challenged.