The gamification of strip clubs in Grand Theft Auto 5 is a worrying development. (Rockstar)
"It's just a bit of fun," say the men who grope women in nightclubs. "They like it. They want it really. It's only for a laugh." For these men, sexual harassment is like a parlour game. The rules are simple: Grab some boobs. Grab some bums. Don't get caught by the bouncers. If they get a gin and tonic poured on them, or slapped around the face, they'll consider it playful joshing. "It's not as if we're hurting people," they'll say. "If she didn't want it, she wouldn't be dressed like that."
Read more: Grand Theft Auto 5 Review
Grand Theft Auto 5 encourages this kind of behaviour. If you go to a strip club and pay for a private dance, it starts a mini-game where you have to touch and grope the dancer without getting seen by security. I'm serious. You switch to a first-person viewpoint, and just past the stripper is a little doorway where, occasionally, a bouncer will walk by. You wait for him to turn away. Then, you hold R2 to start running your hands over the lap-dancer. If he comes back, you have to let go of the button before he sees you. If you do get caught, you get thrown out of the club.
Holding the button down slowly fills a meter indicating how much this stripper likes you. If you grope her enough without getting caught, she'll invite you back to her house, where you'll have sex. She'll also offer discount lap-dances in the future.
Let me reiterate. In Grand Theft Auto 5, there's a mini-game where you have to touch a woman in secret. Play it successfully, i.e. don't get caught by her security detail, and you will be allowed to take the woman home and have sex with her.
And this game cleared $800 million in one day.
This article means I've joined the ranks of morally outraged journalists - Daily Mail and Fox News types who fret about Grand Theft Auto. But honestly, with this, I think my concern is justified.
Men with delusions about sexual harassment are playing GTA 5 now and the game is assuring them that their behaviour is okay. It's telling them that not only are they able to touch women in clubs, but in actual fact, if they do it enough, the women will sleep with them.
Oh, and there's nothing the law will be able to do to stop them.
Before you ask (or before you head to the comment section to try and defend this bullshit) there is no critical eye here - there is no satire. You go to the club. You grope the woman. You have sex. And it is cool. There's no humour, no irony. It is just that straightforward. You grope the woman. And you get away with it.
Bonus sex scene
There's a rigid risk-and-reward system in place. Dodging the bouncer and timing your groping is tricky, but if you manage it, you unlock a bonus sex scene as well as some small gameplay benefits.
It's sexual harassment as a game. This is how perverts look at their world. They consider their harassment as "just a bit of fun," as part of some light-hearted competition that women around them have entered into just by leaving the house. It's why Neil Strauss called his book "The Game."
This kind of behaviour violates people's rights. It marginalises women in their personal and professional lives. In some cases, it leads to rape.
But Grand Theft Auto 5 doesn't care because it's a video game for boys.
And boys will be boys.
A final point. I found a YouTube video explaining how to get the strippers to have sex with you. Two days after GTA 5's launch, it had 80,000 views.
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