The seminar discussion for Riding the Trail of Tears evoked some tension in the group when we began debating whether the actions one performs in a cyberspace relate to the actions one would do in real life. Kids are killing characters in video games all the time, and apparently “studies show” that these kids are not the people who become killers later in life. So what does it mean when a tourist in the Trail of Tears ride attempts to rape a person? People argued that it isn’t necessarily ‘bad’ if somebody tries to rape a character in a virtual game because it isn’t actually harming anyone. It is considered contradictory that it is horrible to rape in a videogame but completely fine to kill. I disagree with that fact but it took me a long time to come up with why. These are the reasons I generated:
- There is something personal about rape; it inflicted by one individual onto another, and cannot be done without thought
- Rape is more common; we hear stories all the time about rape on college campuses, people being harassed on the street, etc, it’s an issue that is close to us
- There is no single method of rape, it can happen on many different levels and in many different ways
- It involves emotion and can scar a person for life
- It is dangerous to normalize that sort of behavior to people because it is more likely to happen than killing somebody
Therefore, I strongly believe that it is worse to rape a character in cyberspace than it is to kill.
To further develop this argument, I will consider this idea in a virtual game I am familiar with, Sims 3. This is a game where you design your own characters and are in charge of their fate. Your Sim’s life involves a career, relationships, and hobbies. I was obsessed with this game when I was younger because I was able to do whatever I wanted without affecting anyone else in real life. I used to take all of my Sims, put them in a pool and watch them drown. Now I know that sounds entirely f*cked, but I guess there was something fun about being able to break the rules in a virtual space without having any consequences. Does that mean I would drown people in real life while I sit back and watch? Definitely not. So why is it that I think rape would be different? Well, first of all, the very idea of rape being an option on a game for kids is indescribably cringeworthy. Yet, for some reason, killing is not. Well, this brings back my arguments above about why rape is worse than killing in a video game. If young people were introduced to the idea of sexual harassment through virtual reality, I do believe it would become more common in real life. Now I do not have any statistical evidence to back this up, but I think I am justified to argue that rape culture presented in movies and tv shows and pornography does normalize the behavior. We are made aware of the fact that people kill other people through the medium of media from a young age, but we always understood that killing is the worst thing you can do. Rape, on the other hand, does not end physically end the other person’s life, thus the effects are hidden and can be looked past. It is something that a person could do, and they wouldn’t necessarily have to face direct consequences if the person chose not to report. An important fact to note is that for cold murder, the victim is never at fault. Let’s say a person goes out on a Friday night to a party and is all of the sudden shot. Next picture that exact scenario, except the person going to the party is raped instead of killed. The first questions to be asked of the person who was raped would be: “What were you wearing? Were you drunk? Were you asking for it?” The problem is that nobody would ever ask those questions for the person who was shot. The murderer would be convicted without question. So why is it for rape that the victim is questioned? Now, this goes into millions of things that are wrong with rape culture and the way it is handled… which ultimately goes to show why rape is worse in virtual reality. As a kid watching movies with my parents, they would cover my eyes whenever a sex scene came on; however, my parents would most likely not cover my eyes if a person was being killed. Rape is emotional and personal, and the idea of it being exploited and made common in a virtual reality when it is something that truly harms people every day is what causes my discomfort.