Study Finds That Men Who Harass Women Online Usually Share This One Negative Quality

This explains A LOT.

If we've learned anything from Gamergate, it is that women often face an extraordinary amount of hostility and harassment on the Internet. Is putting down women a habit ingrained in society from centuries of gender inequality? Has the little progress we've made surrounding sexism largely bypassed the online gaming community?

A new study conducted by researchers Michael Kasumovic of the University of New South Wales and Jeffrey Kuznekoff of Miami University shed light on the type of men who harass women online, and its results aren't completely surprising. 

Published in the journal PLOS, the study monitored how men treated women during 163 games of Halo 3, an online first-person shooter game. Kasumovic and Kuznekoff found that men were mostly friendly with each other. High-skilled male players also behaved more positively toward other men and women.

But they also found that men who were less skilled at the game and who performed worse than their peers were "significantly more hostile towards females," which means that men who were harassing women online were actual, literal losers.


So how applicable is the result of this study to real life or other online situations? According to Kasumovic, video games make pretty accurate proxies for studying real-life behavior. In male-dominated environments, the recent influx of female participants interrupts the pre-existing social hierarchy. For established, higher-ranked males, that's fine, but for those who aren't doing so well, females pose a threat to their status.

The study explains:

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 and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank. 

We all know that how a man treats a woman is telling of his overall character. Though the study doesn't present any solutions, fellas, it's worth noting that how you behave towards a woman — whether online or offline — says a lot about your competitive ability, too.

Cover image via iStock / swilmor


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