Effects of sexualized video games on online sexual harassment

Aggress Behav. 2019 Mar;45(2):214-223. doi: 10.1002/ab.21811. Epub 2019 Jan 4.


Negative consequences of video games have been a concern since their inception. However, one under-researched area is the potential negative effects of sexualized video game content on players. This study analyzed the consequences of sexualized video game content on online sexual harassment against male and female targets. We controlled for a number of variables that might be related to online sexual harassment (i.e., trait aggressiveness, ambivalent sexism, online disinhibition). Participants (N = 211) played a video game with either sexualized or non-sexualized female characters. After gameplay, they had the opportunity to sexually harass a male or a female partner by sending them sexist jokes. Based on the General Aggression Model integrated with the Confluence Model of Sexual Aggression (Anderson & Anderson, ), we predicted that playing the game with sexualized female characters would increase sexual harassment against female targets. Results were consistent with these predictions. Sexual harassment levels toward a female partner were higher for participants who played the game with sexualized female characters than for participants who played the same game with non-sexualized female characters. These findings indicate that sexualization of female characters in a video game can be a sufficient condition to provoke online sexual harassment toward women.

Keywords: confluence model; general aggression model; objectification; sexual harassment; sexualization.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Sexual Harassment / psychology*
  • Social Dominance
  • Social Perception*
  • Video Games / psychology*
  • Young Adult