Stakeholder Analysis

Lauren “Renny” Hutchinson
Professor Gabriela Rios
ENC1102H
22 Oct 2012

Account of Stakeholders to be Noted in the Making of AceWords

Introduction
As discussed in my proposal, the main goal of my project is to create a space for people to learn more about the asexual community. This is intended to be done through a website that houses a collection of personal stories and definitions given by members of the asexual community itself. Naturally, a project such at this will call to attention the importance of certain groups in the situation, especially those that hold the ability to correct the main issue even slightly. In this case, the main stakeholders are the people within the asexual community itself, those who identify as asexual, demisexual, or grey-asexual. Generally, these people are looking for understanding and acceptance in all communities that they interact with. Another important group is the queer community, who often believe that asexuals don’t fall under the umbrella term of ‘queer’, and don’t belong in the same spaces as those who do. The two final stakeholders are the sectioned groups of the general public; those people who are already informed about asexuality and have preconceptions about it, correct or incorrect, and those who have never heard of it. These people are important because they are the ones who both create and perpetuate the harmful stereotypes of asexual people, and the ones who decide how the asexual community is received by others. Each of these groups is of equal importance in terms of this project, and will be assessed at length to determine each of their faults and strengths.

Asexual Community
Since it happens to be the subject of the project, the asexual community plays the largest part, and is the most important. Asexuality itself often flies under the radar – a study in 2004 concluded that “their inclinations do not lead to overt sociosexual activities … the absence of sexual activities and the inclinations that induce this absence are not likely to bring public attention or scrutiny, either positive or negative” (Bogaert 284). Because of this, many asexuals feel as though they are not well understood by others simply because others have no idea what it truly means to be asexual. This is primarily because of the lack of information, and the fact that what little information is out there is not well-circulated. There are a few websites, such as asexuality.org and Wikipedia articles, that give a basic overview of asexuality as a concept, but fail to delve much deeper into education apart from superficial FAQs. A study done in 2004 of 18,000 British citizens concluded that 195 people, about 1.08% of the those surveyed, were asexual, having marked “I have never experienced sexual attraction to anyone” (Bogaert 282). This number may seem insignificant, and it is often seen as such, which begs the question, why does it matter? It’s such a tiny percentage of the population, what makes them worth listening to? Surprisingly enough, on the very same study, the number of people who marked that they were attracted to either both sexes or exclusively the same sex also totaled around 1.11% (Bogaert 282). At such a close percentage but such a disparate amount of information, resources, and general social acceptance, it’s strange to see that strength in numbers is not always true.
The difference lies in the fact that asexuals are inherently more accepted and less shunned than LGBT people, at least as far as sexuality itself goes. It is less ‘unnatural’ and unacceptable to not want to have sex, rather than to want to have sex with someone of the same gender. Asexuals have less to struggle against, because there is less general opposition to them. Their issue lies more in the fact that they don’t feel as though they are understood. From commenter tonkats This lack of understanding is incredibly upsetting for many people; when your friends and family have difficulty grasping a very basic fact about you, especially one that you feel defines you and is very important for you, it makes it hard to interact with them and fully appreciate the depth of your relationship with them. A study revealed that asexuals “discuss the naturalness of their asexuality as an important aspect of how they see their identity” (Scherrer 631), meaning that people denying that aspect becomes difficult for an asexual individual to handle. One potential reason for this lack of understanding is the fact that “a range of attitudes and orientations toward sex and romance can be found within the asexual community” (Carrigan 476), indicating that the complexity of asexuality itself causes a barrier. A first step to overcoming this barrier is informing non-asexual people in a way that will give them at least a glimpse into how varied and complex asexuality is, and having a website that functions as at least an introduction to that can help non-asexuals become more comfortable with the concept of asexuality.

Queer Community
Another major group of focus in this project is the queer community. The main reason they are so important is because they function as a ‘safe space’ of sorts for people who identify as queer – with the definition of queer being widely debated by all parties involved. Many queer people don’t make the attempt to understand asexuality either, and shun it because it is widely accepted that the LGBT community is based on who you’re attracted to, not how much you’re attracted to them. As such, most LGBT people do not consider “straight” asexuals (heteroromantic asexuals, who are romantically attracted to people of the opposite gender) to be queer. They see asexuals as “posers and bored white suburban teenagers that want to ‘feel oppressed’” (Mangie), as written by a member of the asexual community, and will often exclude them from spaces meant for the LGBT community. An article attempting to define asexuality states, “The process of creating an ace space is challenging. One cannot simply declare existence and expect the approval of truth, especially when that existence undermines what is considered true” (Hughes). The LGBT ousts asexuals from their community because they, in part, do not believe in the truth of asexuality, and see it as a cry to claim words and culture that are not theirs to share. While they do have a point in trying to protect the spaces they have created and the words they have defined for themselves, they fail to fully determine what the umbrella term ‘queer’ actually means or mention that there are other facets to the community besides just lobbying for equal legal rights, and tend to simply state that asexuals just aren’t queer and therefore don’t count. This exclusion is incredibly hurtful, especially given that most asexuals feel that they don’t fit in anywhere, and tend to hope that people who go through similar experiences of being ostracized, ridiculed, and treated as though they are attention-seekers and liars, would be more open to reaching an understanding.
Additionally, the queer community is the primary power-holding community, in that they as a group have the ability to give asexuals a voice. If asexuals were allowed to fit in as queer and become a fully accepted part of the LGBT community, they would have resources to work towards educating people and creating a better space for themselves in the world at large. The LGBT community holds the ability to create safe spaces as well, specifically for people who do not feel comfortable or safe in most places, as many asexuals tend to. Asexuals often feel out of place and as though they are ‘broken’ or unwanted because of the way they are treated, and many of them long for a place to go to be understood. A study of 102 asexuals and their specific experiences concludes that “the lack of visibility and awareness of asexuality is a barrier to its inclusion in other sexuality-based political action groups” (Sage), showing that there is a potential for improvement via education, specifically within the queer community.

Informed Public
As it tends to be with a mass of people interpreting a culture, there are often stereotypes formed about asexual people. “You must be ill or damaged in some way”, “You’re missing out”, “You’re trying to pretend you’re oppressed”, “You just haven’t met the right person yet” (Courtney) – all of these things are common for asexuals to hear after coming out, particularly to people who have heard of the orientation and believe it to be a cry for attention or fake in some way. The biggest issue with those outside the queer community that are informed is that they tend to generalize asexuals, and often times these generalizations are based on false or incorrect information, or things drawn from the wrong source. Additionally, these stereotypes are often hurtful, for instance assuming that all asexuals are sick or damaged and need to be fixed. As Bella DePaulo notes in a Psychology Today article, “If you are different from the norm, or what is perceived as the norm, you can count on the labeling police – and even some medical professionals – to tag you as dysfunctional”. Because of this constant diagnosis, many asexuals feel ill at ease in the world, believing themselves to be broken in some way and not fit for interacting with normal people. They may force themselves to change to fit in, which is a dangerous task and can lead to a multitude of self-esteem, anxiety, and depression issues, among other things. For a community that yearns for understanding, even the smallest jokes act as one step further to pushing them away into obscurity and being treated as something to laugh at.
The biggest question that the informed public tends to ask, then, is why they should be paying attention to this small group of people. The answer to that is, simply, wouldn’t you want people to notice you too, and treat you well despite all of your oddities? It’s undebatable that everyone has their secrets and things that define them, and there is not one individual in the entire world who wants to be shunned because of the things that they identify with. This is undoubtedly true of the asexual community as well, and being pushed under the rug by stereotypes and people who refuse to learn causes them to be cast aside and feel rejected and wronged, often believing that they are broken in some way. And really, why not treat asexuals like you would treat any other person? Instead of asking ‘why’, perhaps the question should be ‘why not’.

Uninformed Public

In the words of commenter PigCity on an article published in The Guardian, “I’m a sexual person and blissfully unaware of asexuality. Why does this force you to become more [vocal and] what are you saying that could possibly be of any interest to me?” When telling people about their sexuality to people who have never heard of it before, asexuals often face responses like this, alongside things like “No you aren’t”, “I don’t believe you”, and “Isn’t that a disorder?” (Christina), rather than any attempt to listen and understand. Even when met with support, there is often times still a lack of actual understanding, simply because there is no way for a person to fully grasp the complete absence of a familiar feeling, or the fact that someone has never felt a certain thing. Asexuals themselves understand this, knowing firsthand that desperate attempt to learn a feeling they’ve never known, but oftentimes non-asexuals have never even thought about the idea of never feeling sexual attraction. This disparity in understandings causes a gap, and this gap can cause asexuals to feel even more alienated. When people will make the jump to learn more and actually make attempts to put themselves into the shoes of an asexual, however, a greater degree of empathy is reached. This can be done through experiences, for example trying to view the world as someone who does not experience sexual attraction, or through research such as looking at the stories of people who are asexual.

Unfortunately, a lot of coming out admissions are met with dismissal. Because it is such a foreign concept, many people have trouble believing that it is legitimate, and at times will refuse to believe so. An asexual friend of mine reported that despite a generally positive response, she always encountered “those few holdouts that say things about immaturity or just not meeting the right person” (Mangie). This is common, and also incredibly frustrating. Having your personal opinions and feelings dismissed immediately for the first reason that comes to someone’s head is very hard to deal with, and makes it difficult to find the motivation to explain and tell your stories over and over again in the hopes that they’ll finally realize you aren’t just making things up. Many uninformed people are automatically closed-minded and make quick judgements without stopping to hear the full story, and that often upsets and frustrates asexuals who are just trying to get a point of understanding across.

Power vs Interest Graph

A Power vs Interest graph for all stakeholders involved in the AceWords project.

 

Conclusion
After analyzing all of the groups that hold major stakes in the issue, I have decided to place my focus the most heavily on informing the uninformed or ignorant. These are the people whose quick judgements and lack of understanding fester and become hurtful ideas and stereotypes; being able to give them an opportunity to get a better idea of what an asexual goes through is key to the acquisition of full understanding, and therefore will diminish discrimination against and dismissal of the asexual community by non-asexuals. My hope is that the website will be useful to the asexual community as well, giving them another resource with which to educate people who don’t believe them or fail to understand their diversity and general point of view. There is the potential of the website affecting the informed and queer communities as well, perhaps by changing their opinion of the asexual community after encountering personal stories and examples from asexuals themselves. However, they are of less relevance for this particular project, and I plan to aim the website primarily at people who have never heard of asexuality.

 

Interview: Questions about Asexuality
When did you first start identifying as asexual?

  • I started identifying as asexual when I discovered it was a legitimate label, around my junior year of high school.

How has this changed the way you relate to people?

  • It hasn’t really affected my way of relating to people, since I’ve always been kind of sex-averse.

What are your general experiences dealing with the queer community?

  • Talking to a bunch of people that hate asexuals because they think that asexuality is the label for posers and bored white suburban teenagers that want to “feel oppressed”. I have a generally negative view of a lot of the queer community, unfortunately, although pretty much everyone I’ve met in person is swell. I’m not very active in the community, as it were.

What are your general experiences dealing with people who have never heard about asexuality?

  • A lot of dismissal and assumptions that I’ll “grow out of it”. I’ve educated a few people and most people I know accept it, whether they knew about it before or not. However, there are always those few holdouts that say things about immaturity or just not meeting the right person.

What are your general experiences dealing with people who have heard about asexuality?

  • Don’t really have many. One person told me he didn’t believe it existed even though he’d heard of it, and a couple other people were just kind of like “oh okay”. I don’t discuss it much and most people I’ve met and actually communicate with on a regular basis already know about it.

Marina Mangie
Completed 11/18/2012

 

Works Cited

Bogaert, Anthony F. “Asexuality: Prevalence and Associated Factors in a National Probability Sample.” The Journal of Sex Research 41.3 (2004): 279-87. JSTOR. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4423785>.

This article was used to find hard numeric facts about asexuals, specifically a rough estimate of how many people are asexual. The sample size seems too small to be representative of the entire population, but it is the only survey of its kind, and thus the best source of evidence.

Carrigan, Mark. “There’s More to Life than Sex? Difference and Commonality within the Asexual Community.” Sexualities 14.4 (2011): 462-78. Sexualities. Sage Journals. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <http://sex.sagepub.com/content/14/4/462>.

This study was analyzed to see the varied responses of people when asked to define their sexuality. It validates the complexity of asexuality and the opinions of people within the community about their own identities.

Courtney. “13 Myths and Misconceptions About Asexual People: Part One.” Queereka. 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://queereka.com/2012/04/10/13-myths-and-misconceptions-about-asexual-people-part-one/>.

This source was used to find examples of hurtful things that people say to asexuals, in addition to common stereotypes. It was used mostly for the short, to-the-point headers.

DePaulo, Bella. “Asexuals: Who Are They and Why Are They Important?” Psychology Today 23 Dec. 2009. Living Single. Psychology Today. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/200912/asexuals-who-are-they-and-why-are-they-important>.

This article was used to gauge general professional reactions to asexuality. It was written by someone who was previously uninformed and did research, becoming informed.

Hughes, Lily. “The Presence of Absence: Asexuality and the Creation of Resistance.” Gnovis 12.1 (2011). Web. 198 Nov. 2012. <http://gnovisjournal.org/2011/11/21/lily-hughes-journal/>.

This article is an in-depth analysis of the terms of asexuality, and their importance in creating an environment that fosters understanding. From it, I drew conclusions about creating and accessing asexual spaces through the use of terminology.

Mangie, Marina. “Questions About Asexuality.” Online interview. 18 Nov. 2012.

This was conducted by me to gather a direct personal opinion of an asexual person about each stakeholder. It was mostly used as a gathering of general opinions rather than any direct evidence for or against each community.

Scherrer, Kristin S. “Coming to an Asexual Identity: Negotiating Identity, Negotiating Desire.” Sexualities11.5 (2008): 621-41. Sage Journals. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <http://sexualities.sagepub.com/content/11/5/621.full.pdf+html>.

This source was primarily used for results of a direct, personal research study similar to the survey I plan on using. This study gathered results and analyzed them to define the complexity of asexuality.

Smith, SE. “Asexuality Always Existed, You Just Didn’t Notice It.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 21 Aug. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/21/asexuality-always-existed-asexual>.

This is an article about the increasing presence of asexuality and how it is misunderstood by mainstream media. However, my primary use of this was the comments, which include opinions ranging from incredibly negative to incredibly positive towards asexuality.

List of Dropbox resources:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/8btjg950qoqqam8/3i03dfB6vX

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Proposal: AceWords

Lauren “Renny” Hutchinson

Professor Gabriela Rios

ENC1102H

22 Oct 2012

What The Hell Is Asexuality, And Why Should I Care?

Imagine trying to explain something incredibly important about yourself to someone who just doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. They could be a close personal friend, or even someone who you just met. Maybe you’re trying to tell them something about the details of your religious beliefs that guides the way you live, or the moral reasons behind why you eat the way you do. Imagine they are ignorant about it; they don’t understand why you would think that way, or why it’s so important for you to tell them. What if they reacted badly, or lashed out? Who cares why you dress like that? They don’t think people who look or act like you should dress in that style. In fact, they don’t think anyone else dresses like that. They may even claim that you made up that style just to try to get attention. No matter how you try to explain the personal importance of it, they continue to shoot you down and call you a fraud.

What if the discussion was instead about your sexual orientation? Regardless of the exact words they use to describe themselves in this way, people are constantly bullied about their sexualities and told that they are wrong, immoral, or “faking” it to call attention to themselves. This experience is had more often than not by members of certain communities; most notably, in my experience, with people who identify themselves as asexual.

Asexual? You mean like sea sponges?

Like homosexuality and heterosexuality, asexuality is a definition of the way a person feels sexual attraction. In this case, it means the absence of sexual attraction, and people who are asexual do not feel this attraction towards anyone, of any gender. Many people, queer or not, greet this idea with skepticism and even disdain, posing questions such as “are you just repressed? Are you secretly gay? Were you abused?” (Swash), as though their orientation is a problem waiting to be fixed. In fact, a counselor in the UK reports “[t]hat the industry wants to ‘fix’ asexuals and make them sexual is the most common comment [she] has heard; there is not much attention paid to the real psychological and emotional needs of asexuals” (Swash).

When greeted with this negativity and lack of respect, asexuals often feel that they are having their experiences demeaned, and that they are being erased and ignored despite the fact that they are still human. They are, of course, not the only sexual minority to feel this erasure; the same disdain is commonly turned towards bisexuals and pansexuals as well, as noted in an article by Kenji Yoshino. He explains that if people can be attracted to exclusively men or exclusively women, they can also be attracted to both, or neither; “Yet even those who acknowledge that orientation arrays itself on a continuum spanning the first three categories often ignore the fact that the continuum fails to represent the fourth” (Yoshino).

Okay, that’s pretty bad, but what’s the big problem?

The primary underlying issue is one of ignorance. People just aren’t aware of asexuality, and if they have heard of it, it’s almost always used incorrectly or being substituted for another word that doesn’t quite fit. The issue is that often times, people buy into heteronormativity; within our society that there is a bias towards heterosexuals, and anyone who falls outside that category is considered to be an ill-defined anomaly. However, even heterosexuals have something in common with homosexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals, and people of other gender-related orientations; they all experience sexual attraction. Being that only a small part of the population is asexual, everyone else has created a world that bases itself around the knowledge that everyone understands and experiences sexual attraction, and therefore desires sex. This begets the importance of defining and understanding asexuality, so that people who do not desire sex have a chance to be part of society at large without being too far-removed or placed into their own group. Lily Hughes of Georgetown University writes that, “defining ace identity … extends beyond understanding the meaning of the term asexual”. She goes on to explain that asexuality is different for each and every person, and that pinning it down as a single “fourth orientation” would be impossible because of the fluidity of both sexuality and non-sexuality (Hughes). This means that having an outsider understand the full complexity of asexuality would be impossible without giving them some insight into the community, and the experiences of the individuals within it.

On that note, an enormous amount of misconceptions exist regarding asexuality, because of the fact that it can be so complex and difficult to understand. These tidbits of misinformation are all easily correctable with a little bit of information, as many people have attempted to do on blog spaces such as Queereka. A short list from a post there reveals the most common misconceptions and explanations why they are ; things like the confusion of ‘asexuality’ and ‘celibacy’, the idea that all asexual people are damaged or have hormone problems, the impossibility of an asexual person being in a relationship with a sexual person, asexuality being used as a cover for being gay, and many others (Courtney). The list is long, detailed, and mildly upsetting to read knowing that there are people who have been hurt, lost respect within their larger communities, or had their identities erased because of all these things.

Part of the reason for this ignorance is the fact that there are very few reliable, open, and readable resources for information on the subject. Online spaces like AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) and campaigns such as the Asexual Awareness Week exist, but thus far they have only drawn in asexuals or previously-informed allies to their cause. Asexuality is a difficult thing to inform the general public on, simply because most people are unaware of its basic existence, or are not curious enough to learn more and will accept whatever information (correct or not) that they encounter. Even when further research is done, there aren’t a lot of resources for non-asexuals to learn about asexuals out there; many are summaries (in the style of Wikipedia), very wordy blog articles, or news articles written by people who have done research but have no personal investment in the community. This is where the basic problem lies; there is no general, concise resource that draws people in to read it and makes them feel like they need to learn more about the subject and the community.

So, the actual plan to fix it is…

To get the information out there, I plan on creating a space to inform and educate people on the basic definitions of the words used within the asexual community, and to dispel misconceptions that have arisen due to the ignorance of the mainstream media. The goal of this space is to not only give the factual definitions for the terms, but also give personal accounts from people within the community, defining their own experiences with those terms. For instance, there will be a page on “asexuality”, “demisexuality”, and “grey-asexuality”, as well as defining “celibacy” and its relation to the asexual community (with accounts from asexuals themselves), and a page on coming out stories to show how reacting with ignorance can affect a person.

The reasoning for using personal accounts is because of the power that a personal account has to influence a person. Scientific definitions and research studies can be a good basis for an argument, but people won’t start really listening to it until they hear from the people affected by it. Observation and sociological studies have found that “the accounts-as-stories framework is better able than standardized survey instruments to represent the rich, complex, interwoven reports that investigators are currently collecting”, and that “accounts may also give a fuller understanding than a checkmark on a questionnaire regarding the ambivalences, uncertainties, and angsts that are a day-to-day reality” (Orbuch 461). The few informative spaces created in the interests of the asexual community have failed to represent the complexity of the individuals they are trying to help, and as such have created a very basic and dry understanding of asexuality in people who have used them. The ‘ambivalences, uncertainties, and angsts’ of the community are what need to be best understood in order for people to grow more accepting towards asexuality, and the goal of this website is to begin to bring that understanding to a higher level.

The final product will be a pair of websites, one to interact with the community and collect the stories, and the other to post them in an organized, inviting format. This process will be completed as follows:

  1. Create Weebly website: http://www.acewords.weebly.com. It will have a basic design and be easy to navigate, with the purpose clearly stated on the front page and all tabs for information easily accessible.
  2. Create Tumblr blog (asexywords.tumblr.com) and begin calling for people to define their own terms. This will be done in rounds of posts, put into related tags (asexuality, demisexuality, grey-asexuality) so that members of the community can access them. Responses are to be sent in through the askbox, submissionbox, or as reblogs/replies to the post.
  • Round 1: Define your orientation, including romantic orientation. Make sure to state in the post whether you consider yourself ace, demi, grey-a, or something else.
  • Round 2: Define, for YOU, the relationship between asexuality and celibacy.
  • Round 3: Share your opinions on having sex, as it relates to you personally.
  • Round 4: Coming out stories. Can be good or bad.
  1. As information is collected, put it onto the website. Each page will include the scientific/factual definition, and then a list of 4 or 5 quotes beneath it, tagged by blog if available. The quotes are randomized and will change upon refresh, which will also be stated on the page. The factual definition will not change.
  2. The coming out stories page will have a short paragraph on why coming out as asexual is important, and a set of 5 or 6 stories, which will also rotate upon refresh.
  3. Once the website is complete, a last round of posts will go out, this time telling people to use the website as a source of information and to begin spreading it to non-asexuals, eg by posting links to it to their own blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.

While this site may not be a huge smash-hit success, and it certainly will not solve every single problem that the asexual community faces, I have high hopes that it will be able help a handful of non-asexual people better understand the importance of accepting this community and dispel common misconceptions by providing personal insight against them.

Works Cited

Courtney. “13 Myths and Misconceptions About Asexual People: Part One.” 13 Myths and Misconceptions About Asexual People: Part One – Queereka. Queereka, 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2012. <http://queereka.com/2012/04/10/13-myths-and-misconceptions-about-asexual- people-part-one/>.

Hughes, Lily. “The Presence of Absence: Asexuality and the Creation of Resistance.” Gnovis 13.1 (2011): n. pag. Web. 19 Oct. 2012. <http://gnovisjournal.org/2011/11/21/lily-hughes-journal/&gt;.

Orbuch, Terri L. “People’s Accounts Count: The Sociology of Accounts.” Annual Review of Sociology 23.1 (1997): 455-78. JSTOR. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2952560 .>.

Swash, Rosie. “Among the Asexuals.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 25 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/26/among-the-asexuals&gt;.

Yoshino, Kenji. “The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure.” Stanford Law Review 52.2 (2000): 353. Kenji Yoshino. 4 Jan. 2006. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. <http://www.kenjiyoshino.com/articles/epistemiccontract.pdf&gt;.

Link to Dropbox resources, incl. sources:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/uas1ycz1l2fu81z/XJJDRbA1hU

Mapping Project

The logo for Guild Wars 2.

http://goo.gl/maps/IwUYX

Renny Hutchinson

Professor Gabriela Rios

ENC1102H

24 Sept 2012

I’m Not A Gamer, But I Still Play Games

All my life, I have been surrounded by gamers. I was raised on video games, made friends with people who played video games, even went to conventions full of people who loved video games so much they dressed up as the characters. But, somehow, I never became fully involved in the culture. I’ve played a few, mostly multiplayer games at parties, and the occasional single-player adventure game, but I have never considered myself a “gamer”. Recently, the release of Guild Wars 2 has pulled me back into the gaming world. Guild Wars 2 is an MMORPG, which stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, meaning that hundreds of thousands of people are playing together. My roommate invited me to join her guild – a group of people that she plays with in the game, most of whom joined online and don’t know each other in real life. They have been together for a little over two years, hopping from game to game and finally settling on GW2. I was given the chance to join and play with them, and I found that I had chosen to enter into a very interesting community that gave me insight towards and changed my view on the gaming community. I had been expecting a group of elitist, nerdy people who were too serious about a video game and would be climbing over each other to be the best and most recognized person in the guild; instead, I got a small group of very friendly people who are more concerned with having fun than being the best.

The name of the guild is Censura Ultra, and it hosts roughly 60 members at the moment. I quickly learned that there were people from all over the globe, and mapping them out showed a very intriguing demographic. I don’t know if it was the guild itself or the genre of game that attracted this particular audience, but it turned out that there were a lot of people from the midwestern United States. Users Knight and Helm live in Missouri and Illinois respectively, and user Plath lives in Wisconsin. In addition, there are a significant amount of Canadians in the guild, including users Arkrius, Mihawk, and Wolf. There are several outliers as well; there is a member who lives in New Zealand, and several in England, though I haven’t had the chance to spend much time talking to them because of the difference in timezones. Still, I was pleased to see how diverse the crowd is; I had been expecting it to be a very narrow market, and primarily within the United States, since it is an American-made game marketed primarily to Americans.

Another fascinating note was the age bracket. The guild has a rule of 18-or-older members, but still, very few of them were “teens”. Of those whose ages I know, only 4 of them not including myself are younger than 20. In addition, few are enrolled in college, and several are well into their career and are even married with children. There’s even a 60-year-old man who loves the MMO genre and enjoys playing with the guild. Because I never socialized with gamers outside of my age bracket, I had wrongly assumed that the majority of gamers were in their teens, enrolled in high school or college, and played with friends their own age. It turns out that I was definitely wrong about this, and that gamers come from a wide range of ages and lifestyles. I was surprised at how well all of these people got along within the small guild community, seeing as they come from such different walks of life. I have never heard a comment demeaning someone for their age or social rank, or even heard ages mentioned much at all. It was a very refreshing change from high school, where one year of difference may as well have been a generational gap and people were shunned from social circles because of it.

However, the thing that surprised me the most was the gender ratio. There are only four girls in the guild. My two roommates, myself, and a girl from New York. Somehow, out of 60 members, only four of them are female. To me, this was very shocking; I’d been friends with a lot of girls who played social, skill-based video games. What’s worse is the fact that it plays into the organization of power structures in the guild. Julia, the co-leader of the guild, is of course high-ranked, but she is only co-leader because her boyfriend is the official leader. All other officers are male, because there are more males to choose from, and they are all given preference because the leader is male. It didn’t make sense to me that there could be such a distinct gender ratio in a game with thousands of players, and it made me curious to know if this was a trend specific to our guild or if it was found in video games across the board. A bit of digging led to the information that 42% of online game players are female (ESA). I actually hadn’t expected this to be so high, and was very confused by it, until I found another statistic: when asked what type of “online games” people play, only 14% admitted to playing MMO style games. On the other hand, 42% said they played puzzles, board games, card games, and other types of casual games (ESA).

This explained a lot. The reason the statistics for gender ratios in gamers seemed even was because of the inclusion of casual games. A girl is more likely to go online and play Monopoly with her friends than she is to play an MMO or a shooter. I personally adhere to that stereotype, and a blog article I stumbled upon made me see the reason why. Carrie, who claims to be a Ph.D candidate in biomedical engineering, writes on her blog that she “think[s] perfectionism is a big issue … Girls learn at a very early age that failure is not okay.” The moment I read this I entirely understood, because for me, failure is a big part of why I dislike playing video games. When I can’t complete something easily and I have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to do it, I feel inept, especially when someone else (a male, usually) can do the same thing in half the time and is socially rewarded for it. This is true in academics, video games, and social interactions. A later point in her article summarizes it beautifully: “If you’ve internalized the message that not immediately mastering something means you aren’t ‘good’ and ‘smart’ — that tricky level is just miserable and demoralizing” (Carrie). Girls are raised to think that if they can’t do something, it means they are stupid, unskilled and unsuccessful. This is enforced within video games when people watch a girl play; the more the girl messes up, the more she sees herself as a failure, and the more embarrassed she becomes.

I realized that this is probably a huge part of why girls don’t play massive multiplayer games. When a person is playing with thousands of others, and a mistake is made, it feels like everybody knows and everybody laughs. A boy takes this as a challenge to try harder and do better, but for a girl, it is demoralizing and embarrassing. She doesn’t want to be embarrassed again, especially in front of so many people, so she stops playing. I can attest that this is true for me; I hate being seen as a failure and a loser, and I don’t have the innate skill necessary for being “good at video games”, so I’ve stayed away from big multiplayer games or those that require a high amount of skill. It’s not because I don’t like them or because I don’t think I can become good at them eventually, I’ve just become demoralized, as Carrie put its, because I am not able to get it on the first ten tries. Plus, the fact that it feels like everyone is watching me and judging me only adds to my unhappiness when playing those games, leading up to the feeling that I’m actually losing out rather than gaining something from gameplay.

The problem is that boys take this to mean that girls are lazy, ignorant, or unskilled, and many boys feel that they are better than girls because they can play video games and have the drive to become better at them. This is especially notable in online communities, which are predominantly male, and tend to chase away female audiences because they don’t give room for girls to improve. Boys are expected to be good at it on the first try, or else improve until they are good at it, and can keep up with the people who are naturally talented. Girls, however, are seen much differently; they are to be taught, walked through it step-by-step, until they understand how to do it. If they never understand or simply don’t possess the skill to pick it up immediately, they are seen as inferior and cast aside. This setup for failure tends to drive them away, and makes girls who can play into a very sought-after group almost to an extreme, which in and of itself can push them away from playing the game as well.

Additionally, at the end of her article, Carrie adds that,

“It’s interesting to note that Angry Birds players are a much more gender-balanced group — even though Angry Birds definitely involves a lot of “hard fun.” Lots of possible factors, but I think “active failure” has a lot to do with it. Even when you don’t squish all the pigs, you make something happen. Instant sense of agency and control. When the act of failing itself proves that you can accomplish something, it’s a lot easier to keep your self-confidence and feel excited about your ability to succeed if you try it just one more time…”

I also find this to be a very compelling thought. Casual games are essentially what draw in females to the gaming market, and I am certainly guilty of this as well. This article made me reflect on the game choices that I make, and likely the choices of many other females; we are more likely to play something that we get some sense of accomplishment out of, which is typically different from the “serious” games that boys play that are the mark of a true “gamer”. Boys have a stranglehold over the serious game market because girls don’t want to be a part of it, just as girls reign over the casual gaming market because it doesn’t draw in a male crowd. This accounts for the huge difference in gaming demographics, and plays in to who has the most authority within each gaming market.

Taking a thorough look at the demographics in Censura Ultra really opened my eyes to the nature of the gaming community. People can come from all walks of life and still be treated as equals when they play together, but the skewed gender ratio creates an interesting power structure that has social ramifications, and is dictated by the psychology of game-playing. Although I’m not sure how to go about fixing this issue as a whole, I’m glad I now know exactly why I dislike playing video games, and can begin to take steps to brace myself against disappointment and learn to become a more patient person who can better react to failure in games.

Works Cited

Carrie. “Why Don’t Girls Play Video Games? Or, a Fail Blog.”Scientist Carrie. Blogspot, 26 Apr. 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2012. <http://scientistcarrie.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-dont- girls-play-video-games-or-fail.html>.

“Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry.” Entertainment Software Association (ESA), May 2010. Web. 22 Sept. 2012. <http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_Essential_Facts_2010.PDF&gt;.

List of resources, incl. ideas, drafts, peer edits, and links to documents referenced:

 https://www.dropbox.com/sh/avomp700st6i2m5/o9Jt3gfaC1