Why Aren't There More Women in Gaming?

(TW for sexual violence)

Ha, fooled you, I'm only sorta gonna answer that.

Actually, what I want to do is post the text of an e-mail I just sent to my gaming group, which is largely men of a similar age to me - in their 40s. I enjoy our game sessions, and we've even formed the intent to make a game company together, as we're all designers, and see if we can get some of our better designs published. We even focus on cooperative-style games, or what we call semi-coop (one player v the rest).

I've addressed the e-mail to my best friend in the group, someone I've camped with, watched many movies and TV with, a good friend. I'll let the e-mail outline the problem I've been having (TW for rape mention, trigger process description):
$MY_FRIEND, one thing I've been thinking about, and I think I need to bring up.

One reason I've been reluctant to spend more time in the group environment is that it's really unsafe for me, emotionally. There are a few members - $TALL_GUY, notably, but $DRINK_SPILLY_GUY too, among others - who regularly drop rape jokes or comments into discussions.

These comments put me in a bit of a fugue state sometimes - I'm triggered into remembering the numerous people who have sexually assaulted me (and I'm talking, I can't count 'em on one hand). I disappear inside, I feel terror, I break out in sweat, I can't think straight or make decisions or function well.

I'm writing you privately, because I want to ask your help in bringing it up to the others. I know from experience that bringing this up to a group of men is, itself, a seriously triggering thing for me, but I can't let it go anymore, or I can't be part of the group (or the game collective). I also know from experience that if I don't have at least one male ally willing to speak up on the topic, I'll get shouted down, told to go make a sandwich, to stop harshing their buzz, stop "censoring" them, stop being oversensitive, learn to take a joke. Please don't tell me it wouldn't happen: this is the experience of someone with a long, LONG history of trying to ask this of largely-male gamer groups.

Do you think you could help me raise the issue? Or maybe bring it up when I'm not there, like tonight (I have theatre commitments)?

I'm not asking them to be perfect overnight, but it'd be really hard for me to work long-term with people who feel the need to keep using these kinds of comment. And believe me, it's not just me. I've caught the looks, the glances, the hurt face, on others as well at various events. This is an important issue to me, and to anyone who cares for or is a survivor.

Thanks for considering. By the way, I have noticed that you NEVER do this, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

We'll see whether it has an effect.

But I wanted to raise it as a larger issue, inspired by the mention in today's Occupy Round-Up of the articles about Occupy's "woman problem" (TW rape, sexism, bullying), because I want to be able to enjoy my games in emotional safety with my friends. And I can't do that, if those "friends" will be casually sending me into a fugue six times a night.

I'll post an update with the response when I have one. If you're a man and a gamer, consider standing up for your fellow gamers who are women like this. Don't wait for a possibly-traumatized person to have to bring it up for themselves.

It's an area where we need men as allies, because the kind of men who do this don't listen to women. They don't consider our voices or needs important.

And yes, of course some men are sexually assaulted too, so this only has a broader application, but we know from experience that men who've been assaulted are often even more reluctant than women who've been assaulted, because of the societal construction of masculinity in opposition to femininity, so bringing this up helps them too.

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