How to Not Get Hit on in 'World of Warcraft'
By Jack O' Dwyer
Why is it impossible to exist as an uninfringed-upon lesbian in nerd spaces? I’ve been playing this game for a long, long time. The time I’ve invested is an odd middle-ground amount of my life that isn’t enough to be taken seriously, but is also too much to be considered “casual.” Originally, I joined the community with games like Warcraft III and its expansion Warcraft III: Frozen Throne -- playing off and on during a tech-based summer camp in the early 2000’s. This transitioned into a trial account during late Cataclysm and then an official account with the release of Mists of Pandaria. I pre-ordered Legion, pre-ordered Battle for Azeroth, and while my subscription hasn’t always been consistent, my appreciation for the lore typically has.
You know what I don’t appreciate, however? Being asked for in-game threesomes by some random level four warrior while trying to run my girlfriend through her starting zone – and then being whispered to come back after we reject him and leave. It was disgusting, unsolicited and unnecessary. I tend to create masculine/male presenting characters in order to specifically avoid these interactions. It makes me feel measurably safer. Between endless reputation grinds and low turnout World Quests, this type of harassment is, without a doubt, the thing I hate the most.
Unfortunately, this behavior doesn’t only occur online where the creeps can hide behind their keyboards. It seems to happen at every “nerdy” place I go with my girlfriend – and I mean everywhere. Whether it is conventions or events, it doesn’t seem to matter how openly together we are or how inconspicuously we try to get through content. Inevitably, one of us is propositioned or verbosely (read: insidiously) complimented. It feels like they are expecting us to drop to our knees and declare that this creepy male attention is all we needed to “turn us straight.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s usually directed at her, as she presents much more femme than I do. She was once asked if she was single with me standing right there. I had just barely let go of her hand to pick something up!
It’s almost as if queer relationships are completely invisible to anyone outside the LGBT+ community. That, or they hold less intrinsic value, giving off the impression they are less serious than cis-straight relationships. Remember when folks used to say things like “it’s not really cheating if it’s with a girl”? Well, unfortunately that mindset still prevails. I increasingly feel like I’m playing the most invalidating game of bingo whenever I step out with my typically feminine-presenting partner. “You’re too pretty to be gay” and “What guy hurt you” are, now, the only squares I’m missing. I really hope the prize is worth it. A “Man Begone” coupon book, maybe?
There’s a kind of “re-closeting” that’s often forced on LGBT+ individuals in these spaces -- especially women. Gender inequality and vitriol compound in a catastrophic way at this intersection where unsuspecting folks just want to express themselves. Game companies misguidedly support this by punishing the victims instead of the oppressors, only reinforcing the aforementioned re-closeting of LGBT+ individuals. In an attempt at protection, video game companies have taken to prohibiting mention of queer identities rather than cracking down on abusive behavior. This interpretation and subsequent enforcement of these rules becomes a silencing of voices rather than its intended purpose as a bulwark against harassment.
I’ve come to expect this kind of lousy thinking from the general public, but some part of me desperately wants to hold the nerd/geek community to a higher standard. Most of us are smart individuals who should understand the importance of treating other human beings with basic respect and kindness. We all have most likely experienced harassment or bullying in one way or another. Isn’t it time for nerds to stop targeting each other and make the game an enjoyable space for everyone?
We go on these platforms like Warcraft to escape from the awfulness of society and have some fun. I shouldn’t have to pretend to be a man just to feel safe on a moderated public server. I shouldn’t have to be a man just to receive an appropriate amount of respect or to validate the worth of my romantic relationships to others. Obviously, I’m not bothered by the act of chatting up a voluntary person or going off to have some fun of your own design. If two consenting adults want to have virtual sex in a public dungeon then by all means, I’m not going to stop you. The part that I take issue with is when these advances are unwanted, continually rejected, and yet repeated occur, as if the offending party has decided such protests are completely illegitimate. I’m just sick of MMOs being a place for the harassment and the targeting of queer individuals. Hasn’t the industry tried to erase us enough?