A review penned by Dr. Linda Papadopoulos into the Sexualization of Young People, which was alluded to last week on GP, has been released and videogames play a prominent role in it.
The review (PDF) was done at the request of the UK’s Home Office and is part of a government strategy to address violence against females. In a foreword, Papadopoulos writes that the document is “not an opinion piece,” but one constructed from “empirical data from peer reviewed journals.”
In her Executive Summary, the doctor notes that “games are becoming increasingly graphic and realistic,” and that children are “more and more likely to play games without adult supervision.” She also adds that a link between violent content and aggression has been cited in “several studies,” and that it is “widely accepted that exposure to content that children are either emotionally or cognitively not mature enough for can have a negative impact.”
Under section five of the report, entitled Sexualized Content and the Mainstreaming of Pornography, Papadopoulos notes that “High street stores sell video games where the player can beat up prostitutes with bats and steal from them in order to facilitate game progression,” leading to the following “clear” message to girls that this type of media portrays, as interpreted by the doctor, “… young girls should do whatever it takes to be desired. For boys the message is just as clear: be hyper-masculine and relate to girls as objects.”
A few other videogame references from the review:
Violence against women is often trivialised. For example, in the game Rape-Lay…
Many popular video games effectively reward children for engaging in violent, illegal activity, albeit virtually…
Nevertheless, it is imperative that we acknowledge the very real possibility that, say, pornography that shows girls talking with relish about pre-teen sexual exploits, or highly realistic video games where players take on the role of stalker and rapist might start to blur the boundaries between what is acceptable and what is not. [Ed. does that sound like empirical data?]
Among her sweeping recommendations, Papadopoulos recommends that game consoles be shipped with parental controls pre-activated and that:
Games consoles are sold with a separate ‘unlocking’ code, which purchasers can choose to input if they wish to use or allow access of the console to adult and online content.
GP: Papadopoulos’ bio notes that she has made appearances on the TV series Big Brother, which as our resident curmudgeon DarkSaber was quick to point out, is not known for serving up content that is exactly empowering for any form of life, including females. There is no mention of (nor blame placed on) Big Brother in her report. Indeed, videogames are more of a focus of her review than television.