- Problems as big as this cannot be solved over-night, and it’s time we come to grips with that.
Every single story that has come out, brought with it an air of wrongness. Real people have been suffering greatly at the expense of their own selves- where an individual’s very being was considered a valid point of conjecture. These stories go beyond what they represent at face value. Because at face value, they fool you into thinking that the problem is a lot more tangible than it actually is. And the actual problem is not the sexual or abusive nature of these stories, as they are merely a symptom of a more profound and fundamental narrative.
It’s the narrative of this constant clash and interaction between individuals that belong in extremely far ends of the spectrum of power. It’s why the powerful members of this community feel individually responsible for how many of these stories turned out. These things happened on their home turf! And so we hear responses and comments from prominent community figures, expressing their sadness and rage at how things were unfolding before their very eyes. This is an incredibly natural reaction to the situation they found themselves in. They were the unofficial protectors of their community, and they feel as though they had failed.
Try and visualize an interaction between 2 individuals of drastically different positions of power. Not “physical” power- but the kind power that makes or breaks careers. Where on the one hand, you have the top of all top dogs, and on the other, a young bright prospect looking to make their mark in the esports scene. How is that interaction supposed to go about naturally? Even more mind-numbing, try and visualize this interaction happening in a social setting. Within this innate conflict of power differences, there is a whole etiquette and set of boundaries that are dynamically present. Where a lot of individuals don’t have a clear understanding or perspective on where exactly the boundaries lie. The aspects of “gender” or “sex” are coincidentally related to this looming issue, as they can be considered as force multipliers for when they manifest.
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We have some kind of an idea of how we are supposed to act in certain situations; to ask ourselves “what is appropriate, and what isn’t?”. And some people are more in-tuned with the answers to these questions than others. People like Kyle Freedman (Ex-Pro DotA player), and Kevin Godec. Yet not everyone is, in fact, I’d say the vast majority don’t, and that’s the actual root of the issue.
It’s easy to say that a problem can be solved by doing X, Y, and Z. For example, in Kyle’s blog post, he outlined a clear and useful cheat sheet for how to act responsibly in certain given situations. Things that are so profound, that reading it makes you think: “Duh, this so true! Do people not do this?” Unfortunately, the issue with Kyle’s cheat sheet is that although it is accurate and just from a moral perspective, it is just too vague and incomplete to meaningfully tackle the actual problem. All the same, he was one of the first individuals to open my eyes on the dynamic of power differences in these interactions, and I suspect he’s thought about this a great deal.
Men need to act a certain way around women who are in different positions of power relative to them. If there is some semblance of a power differential, then a sexual notion is wrong. My question is, what sort of societal encounter of absolutely any nature does not have any degree of a power difference whatsoever? If you look hard enough, you will inevitably find one. On top of this, what does this mean for work-place relationships? They most certainly exist, and a lot of them are successful. How are they successful? This is an important question because we think we know the answer, but we really don’t.
This is not a problem exclusive to esports by any means. I think its extremely disingenuous to point at esports and treat it as an isolated case. I would go as far as saying that esports probably has it a lot better than other industries, namely Hollywood. An industry where the power differential is absolutely gargantuan, and where entities on both side of the spectrum are in constant clash with one another. This. Spells. Disaster.
What are the situations that act as a force multiplier, that causes these issues to manifest a lot quicker and nastier than necessary? For one, I think alcohol is a massive one. Alcohol erases your individual perception of boundaries and fogs your judgment. Its why most cases of violent crime happen when someone is under the influence. It’s why a lot of the stories heard in the last few days happened when both parties were intoxicated.
The second thing is the notion that the overuse of sex is justified, or okay. A society where, when you attend a social gathering, like a party, you are under the assumption that sex is on the table. Sex is absolutely not always on the table, and it’s important to understand this as a culture. And this isn’t a statement made with the intention that implies that sex is not okay, because that is an asinine statement to make. Just that the entire culture of “I’m going to try and get laid tonight!” is absolutely a massive problem, and should be addressed.
Now what does everything I’ve said mean exactly? It means that there is no way to correctly compartmentalize, or identify what exactly is the correct way for individuals of differing power positions to interact in a professional or social setting. Even if you attempted to do so, the “rule book” would be full of contradictions, and infinitely long. Furthermore, there has not been enough exposure of these dynamics long enough for a collectively culturally conceived understanding or a framework of appropriate behavior. In other words, we simply don’t know what is the correct way to go about this, and it’s about time we stop pretending that we are.