Sexual Harassment More Damaging Than Other Online Abuse

Woman playing an online video gameOnline sexual harassment of women may have longer-lasting effects than other forms of online abuse, according to a study published in New Media & Society.

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, 6% of Internet users report being sexually harassed. While men are slightly more likely to experience name-calling, women face significantly higher rates of sexual harassment.

Several high-profile cases have drawn attention to the problem of online sexual harassment—particularly rape threats—some women face. In 2014, so-called Gamergate harassers targeted female game developers on Twitter and other social media websites, making death and rape threats and enlisting the assistance of thousands of online harassers.

The Effects of Online Sexual Harassment of Women Gamers

The study surveyed 293 female video game players. Participants had an average age of 26, and they averaged 13 hours of online game play each week. Researchers asked about general harassment, such as name-calling and other forms of “trash-talking” that can be common on video games. They also surveyed participants about their experience with sexual harassment.

Players easily dismissed generalized insults after the game ceased, but sexual harassment was harder for them to stop thinking about offline. Not only did this harassment upset them more than other abuse; it also continued to upset them even when the game ended.

Players engaged in several strategies to avoid sexual harassment, including pretending to be a different gender or using a gender-neutral avatar. Some women also adopted strategies for dealing with the effects of the abuse, such as seeking support from friends offline.

Although players did not seem to believe gaming companies should stop general harassment, they did blame those companies for inadequate efforts to end sexual harassment. Women who thought companies did not do enough were more likely to quit playing altogether.

Jesse Fox, a communications professor at The Ohio State University and the study’s lead author, said women players understand the culture of insults that often surrounds game play, but being targeted solely because of their sex is a different matter that leaves many women frustrated with gaming companies.


  1. Duggan, M. (2014, October 22). Online harassment. Retrieved from
  2. Fox, J., & Tang, W. Y. (2016). Women’s experiences with general and sexual harassment in online video games: Rumination, organizational responsiveness, withdrawal, and coping strategies. New Media & Society. doi:10.1177/1461444816635778
  3. Why sexual harassment is worse than other types of abuse online. (2016, March 22). Retrieved from

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  • Max


    March 28th, 2016 at 3:21 PM

    I don’t know much about online gaming but it seems like the safest thing to do would not to have a screen name or whatever that would suggest that you are female. Maybe this would help even if it still feels like you are having to hide your true identity.

  • Jenna


    March 28th, 2016 at 4:47 PM

    can these goons be reported?

  • Lacey


    March 29th, 2016 at 11:20 AM

    It really peeves me that we can’t do the thing that we love to do because we are afraid of getting trolled online. The people who are doing all of that nonsense seriously need to get a life and stop worrying about what others are doing. To each his own- and find some better way to assert yourself!

  • Mason


    March 29th, 2016 at 5:46 PM

    The same as in real life, these are people who have no sense of who they really are and feel bad about themselves so the only way to make themselves feels better is to try to tear down other people. There is a safety there for them when they do this online because they don’t have to do it face t face and they become braver then they ever would be if this was in person. just ignore them

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