Violence Against Women and Grand Theft Auto: One Young Man’s Epiphany

Grand Theft Auto encourages violence against women (photo credit: Grand Theft Auto).

During the weekend that International Day of the Girl was being celebrated all around the world, I attended a powerful town hall assembly titled Breaking Silence: A Hearing on Girls of Color, which was dedicated to girls of color to share their stories honestly, while being in the presence of fellow allies, activists, and academics.

This event, intentionally scheduled to happen on International Day of the Girl, which was on Saturday, October, 11, not only opened my eyes to the horrible injustices that were happening in the community I live in, but also made an impact on me forever.

I left this town hall a completely changed man and my stance in the feminist movement is even stronger than it was before. I became aware of the numerous forms of oppression that women face. I never believed or thought that this was a problem that was greater than what the media represents.

This change in perspective came about when an 18-year-old young woman talked about her experience with sex trafficking. Before she went into depth about her experience, I thought she was going to share a gruesome and horrible experience that would make me cringe and angry. As I prepared myself for what I thought was about to come, she began to speak, and what she said surprised me.

She began by letting her audience know that she experienced sexual trafficking from the age of 9; at that time in her life, sexual trafficking was her reality. Many would think that she was a physical victim of sexual trafficking, however this was not the case. She went on to explain her intense attraction to vulgar video games, and her favorite was Grand Theft Auto, which blatantly objectifies and abuses the already battered image of women. This was not only her virtual reality but also her actual reality.

One of the main characters of Grand Theft Auto V receiving pleasure from a woman in the game. (photo credit: Grand Theft Auto)

In Grand Theft Auto, many women wear little to no clothing, have occupations as strippers, and offer oral, vaginal, and anal sex, with the expectation to get paid. This sexual aspect of the game isn’t the only layer to the objectification and oppression that women in this game face. The next and most detrimental layer is the post-intercourse action that is usually done to the vulnerable woman by the main character of the game, which is always a man. This male character usually kills the woman.

This young woman on the panel went on to explain something that was already familiar to me, something that she saw her older brothers do to these virtual women, and due to their example, what she herself has done. She explained how the typical thing to do in this game was to shoot, knife, or beat this woman with the intention to aggressively take the woman’s life so that the aggressor (player) can take back the money that was just spent on the intercourse with her. Here’s an example of the whole encounter:

A virtual victim of the wrath of the player. Here you can see her blood splattered everywhere, and the money she previously received. (photo credit: Gran Theft Auto)

At this point in the game, this vulnerable woman’s life is put on a lesser level than a maximum of $100.00. When I came to this realization, I was stunned. Like this young woman who shared her story, I found myself guilty of this being my reality. I was a virtual perpetrator. I subconsciously objectified women. And I, prior to this realization, had no remorse. What shocked me even more was that playing a “game” like this is considered normal.

It isn’t something that only I was doing, it was something that EVERYONE is doing. This was considered normal in the virtual world of gaming. As a person who plays a sport, an instrument, and considers himself a perfectionist, I can firmly say that ‘Practice Makes Perfect.’ Therefore, eventually, all these interactions being executed within this virtual world can permeate through virtual confines, leave a mark on the brains of the players, and in turn leave a negative footprint on our world.

You will be perfect at what you constantly practice. In this case, it’s violence against women.

Prior to this town hall, I only thought about injustices as being some far away problem and I never thought that alter egos in video games had the power to facilitate real world injustices as well.

Unfortunately, sexual violence against women is the reality of many women in the actual world. This should not be the case! NO ONE deserves violence done against them.

Commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls is a real world problem. Without a demand for women, the supply cannot and will not prosper. Simply said, without a buyer there can be no business.

It’s truly sad and disappointing that I am able to associate the fundamental economic concept, supply and demand, with women. This term is associated with the free market and it’s procedure of pricing, and it’s procedure of associating success with a particular type of merchandise. The consumer, or the person buying the merchandise, is always a person, and the product they are seeking to buy is always an inanimate object, unless of course, it’s an animal such as a pet purchase.  With this association in mind, in this situation the male perpetrator retains his human identity, while the female victim is objectified.

The process of objectification, though it may not be physical, is a form of violence. It is a form of violence that tends to go unseen and ignored. As a young man who has ignored and has been ignorant to the objectification of women and the violence directed towards them, it is my duty to speak out, act out, and call out this process when I see it.

This young woman on the panel opened my eyes, and gave me an insight to my own reality. In addition to her insight, my high school feminism class has aided me by giving me the necessary components I need to critically analyze specific situations.

I now am forever changed. I now see things with a different perspective, and I now think with a different thought process. My mind has been touched and now my actions are a thorough representation of the way that I think.

After accepting this change in my persona, I, along with a friend, was able to stop an assault that would’ve been committed to a stranger on the street. This stranger was a small, white middle aged woman, and her potential perpetrator was a 6′, heavy set, white, middle aged man. Intoxicated, he called her names, he cursed at her, and he threatened to “F*ck her up”, and raised his hand on two occasions.

Realizing this, my friend and I decided to intervene. “You better not hit a girl!”, my friend screamed. Immediately I decided to walk over to the scene of the altercation, with my friend right beside me. Ready to jump in if this man decided to do anything stupid, my friend and I stood next to this woman. We asked her if she was okay and if she needed any help. Instantly, the situation simmered down. Our presence potentially saved that woman’s life or at least saved her from what could’ve been a gruesome assault. Though there might have been other factors as to why this white man decided to cool down (my friend and I are young black men and perhaps he perceived us through a stereotypical lens), I am happy that my friend and I were able to help.

The feminist movement needs men to man down, and go against the masculine expectations given out by society. We, as men, need to “Be that guy“, and speak out against, act out against, and call out injustices against women.

Being a firm believer in the saying “practice makes perfect,” I will continue to practice so that I can become perfect at the art of being that guy who isn’t afraid to be a feminist!



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