Content Warning: Graphic description of a horribly misogynistic Grand Theft Auto gameplay video.
I saw a video. In it, a driver barks “In you get” to a prostituted person standing on the curb. After she hops in, he pays her for various sexual favors, punches her in the face, knocks her to the asphalt, and then backs her over with his car. He speeds away, undeterred, knowing he’ll never get caught.
“HAHAHAHAHA!!!” starts one of the top comments of the video by YouTuber UltraGamer. “I can’t wait for the PC release and all the full 4K textures for naked bodies PC moding community will make! Then I will see all the retarded feminists BITCHING and CRYING like they always do but they wont be able to change it! BWHAHAHA!!”
Oh, thank God. We’re only talking about the upcoming release of the video game, Grand Theft Auto 5, for the Xbox One. You know this series – the one that’s withstood one controversy after another in its popularizing open-world literally-do-almost-anything-you-want environments. It stands to reason that if so many people are drawn to the Grand Theft Auto series, it must have some culturally-significant pull. This particular video, which I’ve described above, has raked in more than 1,700,000 views (and counting) in less than 48 hours of its original upload, and has a disproportionate number of likes against dislikes. Clearly there is some appeal. But if so, what could it be?
It’s obvious. It is entirely to do with like attracting like.
Grand Theft Auto, and this video celebrating its misogyny, is popular because its champions are misogynistic. The developers, and its fans, hate women. The laws of attraction are at work.
What I want to make clear, when I say “like attracts like,” is that:
- People who simulate or role-play raping and murdering women will not necessarily rape and murder women in real life;
- People who dignify raping and murdering women as entertainment cultivate an environment where the real life raping and murdering of women is not taken seriously;
- People who don’t take the real life murdering and raping of women seriously create entertainment where raping and murdering women is an option;
- People who participate in this woman-hating cycle, including gamers, designers, developers, video uploaders, commenters, up-voters, sharers, likers, are complicit in fostering an environment where women are raped and murdered.
In other words, Grand Theft Auto is popular because hating women is popular. It’s not edgy or daring to like the simulation of raping and murdering women; it’s expected, it’s lazy, and it makes for dangerous, unsophisticated thinking. In a world where the vast majority of rapes go unreported, where women are threatened with rape for drawing critical attention to rape culture, where refusing to give a stranger a number can and will result in a woman being murdered, where women are becoming increasingly sexualized and expected to give the porn star experience (the prostituted person here speaks one-liners that could have been ripped straight from pornography: “I love the taste of precum.”“I want to swallow all of your cum.” “Your cock is so hard inside of my mouth.” “You should get paid for this – you’re a natural.” “I’m getting so wet for you.” “I’m cuming for you.” “You’re the man.” “My clit is throbbing for you right now.” “You like me being your little nasty slut?” “I hope you come and see me a lot. That was great.” “I feel like I can really talk to you. Come back and see me.”), the popularization of Grand Theft Auto and the immediately viral, monetized reception to videos demonstrating the sexualized violence therein makes perfect sense. This “game” is a product of our rape culture, and this rape culture creates products like this “game”.
I think the response to the video speaks for itself.
Within 86 minutes of the footage’s release, men took to harass video game trope critic Anita Sarkeesian’s Twitter:
GTA prostitute looks alot like Anita Sarkeesian pic.twitter.com/ckrXx5pt4s
— Vexy Vox (@Vexyvox) November 19, 2014
Rockstar: When gameplay from your product is regularly used to harass women it might be a sign you're contributing to a hostile environment.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) November 18, 2014
A favorite harassment tactic of online abusers is to send me gameplay footage or still images of the degradation of women in video games.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) November 18, 2014
The most “liked” comments, following the video, are the ones attacking women and feminism (which is, I remind, a political, social, and economic movement advocating for sex equality):
Buizel TV: This has triggered so many feminazis. Mission Accomplished. Now we can all be stereotype niggas.
Lucian Gheciu: Those that call themselves “feminist” but start bitching about every small thing that doesn’t hurt them,doesn’t “opress” them or doesn’t even influence their lives somehow are just man haters.
THOMAS SODOMIZER: Can you imagine the Feminazi going apeshit over this. They made that poor astrophysicist cry and apologize for a fucking Hawaiian shirt. I love it that GTA is shoving down their Feminist throats.
Jimbo: I can’t wait for retarded feminists to freak out over this.
4EverDurbin: I hope Anita Sarkissean will find this, just to prove her movement ain’t doing SHIT!
SGtMarkIV: 100 usd for 60 seconds with an ugly bitch like this? Come on, she looks like Anita Sarkeesian after being thrown inside a dry washing machine for two hours.
Derk Ender: HAHAHA reminds me of the old days in GTA 3 when me and my friends would stick some whores in a car and drive it off a bridge LOl.
Vivek Varghese: Finish by punching the prostitute and getting your money back, as you do.
Grand Theft Auto 5 – the fastest-selling product in the history of entertainment – was either developed by a team with a socialized hatred of women, or developed by a team that’s suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance (the creator of the Grand Theft Auto series, Sam Houser, myopically responded to the video’s controversy, asking “What are the alternatives? Censorship? I sincerely hope not.” UGH). In either case, the narrative of the video and the immediate response say all we need to know: a man uses and then kills a woman with impunity, then many more men get angry and threaten violence towards women in anticipation that they will become upset.
That narrative sounds awful familiar, if you ask me.
If you give a damn about women, don’t pick up Grand Theft Auto 5. The raping and murdering of women is not entertainment. It’s not entertaining. It’s not funny. And it’s not a game.