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Opinion A game that lets you murder prostitutes? It's creepy, offensive and infuriating

Can we say with 100% certainty that such graphic depictions of sex and violence won’t influence attitudes toward women a teeny tiny bit?

I’LL START BEFORE I begin with the admission that I am not a ‘stereotypical’ women’s rights campaigner. I take selfies. And I watch The Kardashians. And I am totally influenced by the media’s ideals of beauty (I’ve gotten HD brows, waxes, facials and highlights on the regular).

In actual fact, I’m not a women’s rights campaigner at all. Don’t get me wrong, I get angry when I hear of women’s abuse worldwide and I am in total support of gender equality. But, really, I just work in marketing and do yoga and go out to bars and the cinema and occasionally tweet about something that really “grinds my gears” (usually after a glass of wine or two).

Lately though, something has been bugging me about how women are portrayed in popular media. I’ve been struggling a bit to accept Page 3 girls, sexy selfies of 14-year-olds on Twitter and “reality show star” as a career aspiration. And also feeling conflicted when, truthfully, I buy into some of it.

Virtually murdering prostitutes

But it all came to head recently. The culprit? Grand Theft Auto 5. I was never a fan of this video game when the first version came out after hearing that players could (virtually) murder prostitutes. I put up a vague protest, but eventually forgot all about it.

Fast forward to a few days ago when I watched a preview clip circulating the internet of the new Grand Theft Auto game. The video showed a sequence played in “first person view”, where you can actually invite a prostitute into your car, select the amount of money you wish to offer for her services and then watch the chosen acts performed. Not only that, once you have been sexually satisfied, you can kick her out of the car, stab her with a hatchet and run her over. You’ve gotten your jollies, but don’t think to pay this down-on-her-luck hooker (who I doubt very much is working the streets for kicks). No no, let’s just murder her.

As weird and embarrassing as it is to admit, I cried after I watched the clip. Then I was overwhelmingly outraged. And the reason is twofold.

Can we really say this won’t influence attitude toward women?

The first is because the makers of GTA, Rockstar Games, are well aware of the controversy that will inevitably rise with the inclusion of this particular feature of the game. The public outcry from concerned parents and equal rights organisations only intensifies the frenzied need to buy, buy, buy! Essentially, Rockstar Games is taking a fundamentally immoral situation, plugging it into a video game already loaded with gruesome violence and crime, then riding the wave of backlash all the way to the bank. They know it’s too much, they did it anyway and now they are lining their pockets with the results. Granted, they aren’t the first company to use sex and violence to plug a product, but where does it stop?

The second, more obvious and more personal problem I have with this is the complete and utter disrespect toward women. It sickens me. Partly because it shows such a lackadaisical attitude toward prostitution and violence, but more so because it’s just feels offensive. It’s unnecessary. It’s creepy. It sends the wrong message to impressionable boys and men. And I don’t want it to exist in my world, and a world into which I might one day bring a child into.

I have read arguments and statistics that say that we aren’t influenced by video games and that we don’t become sex crazed murderers after playing them. And while that may be true for the most part, are we not influenced by what we watch and read in a lot of other ways? Fashion, slang, dance moves and social activities are often dictated by what popular media shows us. Can we say with 100% certainty that a young boy controlling a game where he murders prostitutes won’t influence his attitude toward women a teeny tiny bit?

I don’t think we can, so why are we risking it?

Callan Price. Canadian in Dublin. Blogger, writer, yogi and football fan. Follow Callan on Twitter @callanprice or visit her blog

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