A new study has found that men who harass women online are actual losers – at least when it comes to video games.
Two researchers analysed how men treated women while playing 163 games of Halo 3.
Men who performed poorly in the games responded by being hostile to female players.
The male winners were mostly pleasant to other players, while the losing men made unsavoury comments to female players.
“Low-status males that have the most to lose due to a hierarchical reconfiguration are responding to the threat female competitors pose,” the researchers, from the University of New South Wales and the Miami University in Ohio, write. “High-status males with the least to fear were more positive.”
In Halo 3, players are anonymous and only interact with each other by voice a few times during the game. Most Halo players are men.
When performing poorly, players increased negative statements toward women and submissive statements toward the men who were winning.
“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status, the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance,” the researchers write.
Male players were thrown off by hearing female voices during the game. The researchers think their results suggest that young males should be taught that losing to women is not “socially debilitating”.
The results also suggest that video games may be reinforcing gender segregation and potentially promoting sexist behaviours, especially troubling since so many “gamers” are teenagers.