Friday, December 18, 2009

Where Do Children Learn To Be Sex Criminals? Nickolodeon?

Yesterday I attended the third meeting of the Olmsted County Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition, an effort which should be replicated in all counties, and learned that Nickelodeon has a popular website which features games for children that are deeply troubling.

They have a Perry the Sneak series of games where according to the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood:
Nickelodeon, the children's media empire, is promoting sexualized and violent video games to children as young as preschoolers. Its popular gaming website,, features games such as Candy the Naughty Cheerleader, Bloody Day ("Back alley butchering has never been so much fun. . . . How many kills can you rack?") and the Perry the Sneak series, where gamers take the role of a peeping Tom trying to catch revealing glimpses of scantily clad and naked women. Nickelodeon promotes, and links directly to, on its website for children and even on, its website for preschoolers.
Any defense of these games as humor needs to be rejected. Humor doesn't nullify the impact of the messages being given to children and can often allow unacceptable and dangerous beliefs to take root because they are dismissed as not serious.

The Perry the Sneak games don't include physical violence but they reinforce dangerous messages and beliefs about who boys are "naturally" and are grouped with games that are overtly violent and which connect imposing suffering and even death on other characters with the gamers personal pleasure.

Some children who learn to enjoy these games may compartmentalize this game violence, but what people view as humor, even if it doesn't increase their amount of violence, can be threatening to others as those children grow. This environment of non-safety caused by someone "just playing" or "just joking" should never be minimized or denied.

There is no way to know for sure whether those who fantasize about committing violent crimes will act out those fantasies until it is too late.

An example which comes to mind happened this week in the Twin Cities.
The University of Minnesota mortuary science student was upset and angry after breaking up with her boyfriend, and told her Facebook friends that she was "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy. ... Give me room, lots of aggression to be taken out with a trocar [a sharp surgical instrument used in embalming]."

Now she's banned from campus because three instructors in the mortuary science program felt threatened after being made aware of her Facebook posts, prompting a police investigation.

According to the police report, Amanda Tatro, 29, followed her first posting with one that read: "I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though. Hmmm ... perhaps I will spend the evening updating my 'Death List #5' and making friends with the crematory guy. I do know the code ..."

"Death List #5" is a reference to the movie "Kill Bill."

When Tatro got to class Monday, she was patted down and questioned by University of Minnesota police.
This type of glorification of violence is deeply troubling because while this particular woman may never go from wanting to stab someone to actually doing so, dating relationships do end in violence which can include murder. This ban was lifted, but the original ban which was in place until the situation and people's safety could be evaluated was absolutely the right action for the university to take.

All threats must be taken seriously and we cannot afford to dismiss any of them because someone doesn't understand why announcing her wish to stab someone in the throat when she is angry might make some of those around her feel unsafe.

There have been cases such as one in Washington state, where a man talked about planning to rape and murder a girl and those who heard his plans dismissed those plans as nothing more than a joke and failed to contact the police before a premeditated felony was committed. The girl survived being shot multiple times and then raped because she escaped and found someone who could help her in time, but if people didn't dismiss talk of committing violence as a joking matter that girl might have been spared that trauma of realizing how close she came to being murdered.

People learn different ways in which to respond to situations which make them angry and the media plays a role in which options feel acceptable. Those who joke about murder and who never would act out on those violent fantasies may be helping people like Travis Gillihan who have similar fantasies to go beyond just having violent fantasies and commit violent crimes. He likely told himself that he was no different from everyone else who ever expressed the wish to harm another person. Those non-violent jokesters helped him normalize his violence and that helped him turn his desire for violence into violent actions.

When it comes to sex crimes much of this harm is dismissed as not harming anyone because "it's just sex which many people enjoy." That some adults have trouble understanding the fundamental difference between experiences sexual violence and welcomed sexual interactions even when they have listened to survivors talk about their trauma makes it clear that it is dangerous to blur these lines in games directed at children.

Even victim's of peeping Tom's are harmed because their basic human rights have been violated. Some peeping Tom's go beyond non-consensual looking and normalization of boys ignoring girls and women's basic rights is very dangerous and is a contributor to violence against women.

What would be radical is to have a fun game where children are rewarded for respecting others boundaries and lose points or the game or are shown negative consequences for their character when they ignore or violate another character's boundaries.

I guess violence and violation are easier.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:31 PM   2 comments links to this post


At December 19, 2009 1:27 PM, Blogger Marj aka Thriver said...

Even if it is humor (which I don't personally find it to be) it is ADULT humor and has no business being linked in for kids! Thanks for raising awareness, as always.

Stop by my blog when you get a chance and "pick up" a little gift of gratitude I created especially for my bloggy buddies like YOU. Hope this holiday season is treating you at least reasonably well. Thinking of you.

At December 20, 2009 5:46 AM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Nickleodian is of course not the only media outlet which promotes male violence against women and children as 'fantasy' and/or 'humour.' But we have to start somewhere and publicising this website is a beginning. Promoting male violence against women and children whilst claiming such concepts are 'fantasy' is a deliberate ploy designed to exonerate the producers from any accountability.

So we should not be surprised when younger and younger boys commit sexual violence against female peers. Only a few days ago UK media reported two 10 year old boys had been charged with group raping an 8 year old girl. However, focus has been on blaming the mother/mothers of these two boys not criticising how popular culture plays a powerful role in naturalising and promoting male sexual violence against women and children.

Note too primary reason a female mortuary student was banned from her campus was because she blatantly defied 'male-centered propaganda that women but not men must never express threats to commit violence.' I've no doubt if the student had been a male such actions would have been dismissed as 'boys being boys.'

Any threat of violence is unacceptable but we continue to have male-double standards inflicted on women and girls.


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