Friday, February 11, 2011

Male Gamers Unfairly Maligned by Claim Tying Video Games to Alleged Increase in Rapes

Remember when more than a few mothers across America wouldn't allow their kids to watch a certain television program that had become a bona fide national craze because it depicted gratuitous, often sadistic violence at levels that were off-the-charts?

It was called "The Three Stooges," and every weekday afternoon in the late 50s and 60s, the Stooges' Columbia Pictures two-reelers from the 30s to the 50s were broadcast in all their glorious black-and-white on popular kids shows in most major American cities.

Fortunately, it seems that most of America's kids were permitted to thrill to the other-worldly antics of Moe, Larry, and Curly/Shemp, and it's my guess that none of us -- none of us -- grew up slapping our friends at the slightest infraction, striking their heads with mallets, pulling out their hair, gouging their eyes, violently grabbing their noses, putting their heads in vices, or telling them to remind us to kill them later -- because of the Stooges.

Turns out it was the kids who didn't have much of a chance to see the Stooges who were far more prone to violence -- in fact, they were afflicted with every conceivable social pathology. It wasn't the Stooges who messed up kids after all; it was being raised in fatherless households. But, you see, it was easier to blame things like the Stooges than to address tough, politically incorrect issues.

Well, the daughters of some of those constipated moms from the 60s seem to have picked up right where mom left off, spewing the same Chicken Little hysteria, but updating their target.

The gaming community is up in arms, and rightly so, over comments by a psychiatrist named Carole Lieberman that "sexual situations and acts in video games -- highlighted so well in Bulletstorm-- have led to real-world sexual violence. 'The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games,' she said." 

Dr. Lieberman tried to be more diplomatic in an interview with video game blog Kotaku: "The more video games a person plays that have violent sexual content, the more likely one is to become desensitized to violent sexual acts and commit them."

Accoring to the Kotaku article: "Dr. Lieberman couldn't cite a specific study that showed that video games cause rape but she argues that it is a logical conclusion to reach: 'That fits under the idea of people becoming more violent or aggressive, the more violent media they consume,' she said."  Moreover: "Lieberman is not a gamer, says she's never even played Pac-Man; though she suspects that Jared Lee Loughner, the man who allegedly tried to assassinate a Congresswoman last month, was a player of violent video games, a theory that has yet to be confirmed."

In fact, the research doesn't support Dr. Lieberman's "logical conclusion," any more than it supported the "logical conclusion" of those moms from the 60s that kids "get ideas" when they see an angry man poking someone in the eyes.

According to Dr. Christopher Ferguson of Texas A&M, the available research shows that video games are not a source of increased violence -- from assaults to rapes to murder. In fact, there's "a remarkable correlation between video game consumption and violent crime -- in the wrong direction.

Dr. Ferguson, who specializes in the study of positive and negative effects of media violence, explains that "as our society's media has become more violent, we as a people are the least violent that we have ever been on record."  Dr. Ferguson rejects the anti-game hysteria by actually examining the available research and concluding that violent games do not warrant consideration as a public health concern. See this article by Dr. Ferguson:

So why do you think Fox News quoted Dr. Lieberman instead of consulting with Dr. Ferguson? As we've demonstrated time and time again on this site, the news media is looking for "scary."  Having someone come on and insist there is no problem isn't scary.

Dr. Lieberman's comment is also problematic because it assumes, with no authority beyond her serene ipse dixit, that there has been an "increase" in rapes. All evidence I've seen seems to indicate the opposite. But, again, positing that rapes are steady or are on the decline wouldn't worry anyone, and that seems to be the game the electronic news media plays.

Lieberman's sweeping, unsupported assertion is the kind that would never be tolerated if the genders were reversed. Here's what one reader, a gamer, wrote about Lieberman's blithe allegation: "Not only as a gamer does this type of press disturb me, but as a man this disturbs me as well because i know there is no way, these type of random accusations would fly . . . on why woman . . . do the things they do." 

If I suggested that women who are avid viewers of Lifetime Movie Network, or avid readers of Harlequin Romances, are more likely to falsely cry rape -- just because I believe those are "the kind of women" who tell rape lies -- I suspect some people would buy into it. But I won't say it because I have no evidence for such an assertion. 

That didn't stop Dr. Lieberman from speculating that Jared Lee Loughner enjoyed playing violent video games, and impliedly suggesting that such hypothetical interest somehow led to the recent massacre in Arizona.  Even if Loughner did play violent video games, in the words of  A.J. Cooke: "This is a 'wet streets cause rain' scenario - the ridiculous idea that rape is not caused by the sociopathic tendencies of individual men, but because men as a whole watch too many Michael Bay films."

Can we please have a moratorium on male-bashing gussied up with PhDs and tenure and disguised as science?  Instead of slamming law abiding young men who happen to enjoy video games, can we please focus on the real causes of our social pathologies?  We can start with the government policies that give women incentive to kick the father out of the house and raise the kids alone. 

Or is that not scary enough for you?

Thanks to J.B.