Friday, October 11, 2013

Study Shows Women Objectify Sexy Female Avatars

When we play a game, we temporarily cloak ourselves in the personality and spirit of the character we are portraying. We also take on the characteristics of said avatar. I.E. if one plays a character that is taller, the person will feel more confidant (this is called the Proteus Effect). So when Stanford University did a test to see how women felt after playing as a sexy female avatar, the results are not what I would expect (and completely reinforce the negative culture that we have been striving to break). The results show that women who played the sexy avatars were more likely to objectify them, and even give to the notion of “well she asked for it with what she was wearing.”

That is not okay.

The study was conducted with 86 women who donned head-mounted virtual reality displays. Some avatars wore “sexy” clothing and others were “casual.” The participants had a Q&A session with a random male avatar, which allowed the researches to see how the women spoke about their avatar selves. What they found was the “sexy” clothing women were more likely to focus on physical appearance versus the “casual” clothing. “[T]he results indicate that women who wear sexualized avatars may internalize the features of their avatars and start perceiving themselves in a sexually objectified manner.”

The women were also give a questionnaire and found that more of the “sexy” clothing ones were accepting of sexual assault myths because of the way their avatars were dressed. Even more disturbing is that the women who had their faces rendered to the avatars were the most accepting of assault myths.

That blows my mind. I’ve admitted that I will pick characters or avatars that are visually appealing to me. But I wouldn’t objectify them to think that “oh well, they were asking to be assaulted.” Hell no! It is NEVER OKAY to justify sexual assault by blaming the victim. Everyone has the right to say NO and clothing is never a reason to violate someone’s body.

This is a good example of why we need to change the mindset. Not just for men, but for women as well. The author’s of the study noted a few pathological reasons why the “sexy” clothing women would have leaned more towards accepting the sexual assault stereotypes, but it is also a sign that things needs to change. The culture needs to change. Step 1 is reinforcing the truth that it is NEVER okay to assault anyone. Ever. Hopefully this study will end up doing more good and helping promote awareness of the issues of our cultures.

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