• The Gamer Wife, Part 2

    by  • August 15, 2012 • Essays • 8 Comments

    Or how I became a gamer wife.

    Way back in the dawn of time (or about 9 years ago), I started going to larps. There I was besieged by a bunch of guys whose behaviour I can only really describe as treating me like fresh meat. I was young, a woman, and single. A lot of men, whether in relationships or not, would hover over me in a proprietary fashion. Trying to recruit me to their circle of friends. Trying to recruit me to their beds. Some were subtle, some considerably less so.

    Most of this was just the standard flirting when a new person enters a large social group. Some of it was a little creepy. But, after about a month, I’d started seriously flirting with then going out with the man who would later become my spouse. Once this started, two things happened.

    The first was that the flirting dropped off rapidly but not entirely. I was clearly “taken” but there was still some residual flirting from guys who assumed that my relationship didn’t matter. I was a young woman trying to play games. That means that I must be available, right? Especially if I went anywhere without my significant other!

    The second major change was that a bunch of guys felt a need to warn me about my spouse. To offer their services in case of a break-up. To protect me if something bad happened. These offers came from guys I barely knew, guys who were married, single guys, guys who knew me well enough to know that I could take care of myself. I was clearly defenseless against my boyfriend and everyone seemed to believe that I was going to be badly hurt. Now, this was mostly because of their views of him as a philanderer and rake. A womanizer. I had no chance, in their eyes, of emerging from this without being heartbroken and used.

    I was still a woman who needed to be protected and coveted first, then a gamer.

    Time went on and eventually people adjusted to the idea that I was not their flirt toy. Sure, I was flirty, but I became a safe flirt. I was a woman with whom they could chat with, laugh with and generally not expect things to become “weird”. I was a gamer’s wife. Some guys used the excuse that I was in a relationship and “safe” to give me unwanted hugs and affection without upsetting their own partners. There are still people who I can’t bear having touch me because they would give me unsolicited hugs.

    Now that I was properly off the market, I was no longer someone whose opinion was as keenly sought after. Why bother listening to her when you don’t have a shot of sleeping with her? If you were still listening to me and engaging with me as a person, you clearly were angling for sex. Guys who spent a lot of time talking with me back then told me years later that “we had a connection” and that “there was serious chemistry” between us. Which, apparently, I was not privy to. I felt no sexual flare with those men. My willingness to talk with them, however, was clearly an indication of sexual interest, I guess?

    Of course, this also meant that some of the more shy guys, or those who were uninterested, would actually talk to me now. Because if I was off the market there would be no confusion! You could talk to me safely without worrying that I would start coming on to them. And women who were in relationships suddenly warmed to me. I assume because I was no longer at risk of stealing their men. Single women treated me the same as before or with the occasional flares of jealousy because they were interested in my spouse.

    Finally, there were those who treated me the same as everyone else. You could see the way that I moved into a different mental box for many of these people but, for many, that didn’t really matter. Overall, however, attitudes quietly shifted and I haven’t been treated the same since. I don’t regret losing some of the flirting. I don’t regret those women now seeing me as less of a threat and those guys who didn’t want me to get the wrong impression. I have people who I like hanging out with and who like hanging out with me.

    All of these shifting attitudes also resulted in impacts at the gaming table.  I’m sure there would have been other problems if I’d stayed single. Or if I’d broken up with my future spouse and re-entered the dating pool. Those are futures I have no knowledge about so I can’t speak to them. All I can say is that attitudes changed, and while I wasn’t very aware of them at the time, they started to change in ways that affected my ability to game.

    I moved from being a sought object of desire to a taken wife and I was given new-found roles and responsibilities, which will be the focus of the next part of the series. Because you don’t get to switch a character class without having to deal with changes in perceived duties.

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    About

    I am a casual tabletop gamer and occasional larper who likes to hold forth on gaming in general and draws like a crazy monkey who was given coffee by accident.

    8 Responses to The Gamer Wife, Part 2

    1. avatar
      Frax
      August 16, 2012 at 21:21

      Thanks again for another post Finaira, which is again wonderfully raw and powerful and I must say… a little enraging. In that I am enraged that you’ve had to experience this.

      I find I have to think very hard before replying to your GamerWife series. Mostly because I have been very, very lucky as a Women Gamer. I have definitely seen and experienced some of what you describe, but very rarely and mostly it wasn’t tolerated by the culture of the groups I was/am in. I think one of the things which horrifies me the most about your article is that fact that this behaviour was the cultural norm of the group; accepted, tolerated and perpetuated.

      It has brought back a few less than excellent memories from my own past but mostly I feel pretty bloody grateful that I haven’t encountered such a wall of sexism and harassment.

      I think it is important to say that my gaming groups have always had a lot of women in them – back at university (over 10 years ago) we had nearly a 50/50 male-female gender split by the time I left. I don’t know for certain but I am sure that this had a huge impact on the games we played, the stories, the style of play and the low tolerance for sexism. It wasn’t perfect – but it was better.

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      • avatar
        Finaira
        August 17, 2012 at 01:05

        Oddly enough, my gaming groups often have a lot of women in them as well. I think a big part of it though is that there is an “old guard” that is almost exclusively male in my larping crowd. And while a lot of the “new guard” are women, the “old guard” have some kind of strange cultural influence such that very few people want to anger of upset them.

        Although I feel I should state that I’m mostly focusing on the negative experiences here, not the positive ones because it’s the negative ones that make me want to shatter the stereotype quite hard.

    2. avatar
      August 16, 2012 at 21:33

      I really enjoyed this article and the previous installment. I wondered, though, whether this was an experience unique to gaming. The experience of people treating wives as trophies/attachments to their husband struck me as an (unfortunately) common brand of mainstream sexism rather than gamer-specific. Not that this makes it better – in fact, it makes it worse. But the level of harassment you’ve described above does feel like something that is maybe a gaming-specific problem. Let’s hope that the work that’s being put into reducing harassment at conventions also spills over into wider gamer culture.

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      • avatar
        August 17, 2012 at 00:41

        Even if the problem isn’t gaming specific it can be important to see what specific forms it takes in the gaming hobby.

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        • avatar
          August 17, 2012 at 09:39

          Totally agree!

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      • avatar
        Finaira
        August 17, 2012 at 01:07

        Well, the reason I’m addressing this from the Gamer Wife perspective is that I needed to go over the background that leads up to how all this has affected my gaming around the table. That and there’s this desire amongst gamers to pretend that this doesn’t happen here without looking at the social interactions from the perspective of the women.

        And yes, I definitely agree that there is a whole lot of overlap between regular old societal sexism and gamer-specific sexism. It’s how it all hangs together that I think is important, ultimately.

        • avatar
          August 17, 2012 at 09:44

          Yeah. Having seen first-hand how gamers can close ranks to almost cover up, or at the very least excuse, bad behaviour I think it’s worth shining a light on it at every opportunity.

          Looking forward to reading further installments!

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