A recent news documentary suggested that there has been an increase in sexual violence on North American educational campuses, including incidents occurring in high schools, colleges and universities. Another recent televised news report suggests a link with the prevalence of sexual violence in popular computer games. The gaming industry, however, dismisses suggestions of a link between sexuality depicted in their games and sexual violence in the general population. The truth may lie somewhere in between.
In his famous treatise entitled Man and His Symbols, famed psychoanalyst Dr. Karl Gustav Jung wrote that ancient societies provided male youth with challenges and rites of passage to prove themselves. In some societies, a youth had to spend a night alone in a forest, or a few days alone in the forest or jungle. In other societies, one or more youths were to go into the jungle and kill a wild animal, then return to the village with food. By doing so, they earned the acknowledgement, validation, approval and recognition of peers, family and the community.
Successful gang leaders are acutely aware of the need to regularly assign challenging tasks to gang members and upon successful completion of the task, to provide generous acknowledgement, approval, validation, recognition and praise in the presence of their peers. Sometimes the validation is unspoken, such as following a gang rape where individual gang members may feel degraded, dirty and ashamed to perform an act that they performed to look good in front of their watching peers or to gain the acceptance, approval and validation of the gang leader who seeks proof of a member’s loyalty.
Gang leaders often succeed where society, the school and state-run social systems fail to provide appropriate rites of passage for male youths. Dr. Jung even issued a warning to such effect in his treatise, that male youths would create their own rites of passage when society fails to do so. Almost worldwide, state-run school and social systems have replaced the role of extended families and communities in the lives of male youths. State welfare in North America has led to the breakdown of the traditional family, with more children being raised in single-parent, mother-only homes.
According to one school of psychological thought, children learn most of their behavioural strategies by observing the behaviour of their elders who serve as role models. At one time, governments kept statistical information about the numbers of marriages and marriage break-ups that occurred across the nation. Today, with a substantial percentage of the adult population living together out of wedlock, the state no longer has accurate statistics that pertain to relationship break-ups, but the nature of the relationship between a child’s parent and that parent’s partner does impact on a child’s emotional development.
Interviews with teachers of pre-teen children attending state schools where authorities require accurate information about each child’s home living arrangements suggests that many children are living highly unsettled lives, which include being moved between parents living at different addresses. A study done some ten years ago by the New York City Department of Education indicated that by the time boys from unstable family backgrounds reach the age of seven or eight, they gravitate toward gangs. For many boys who live in mother-only homes, the gang leader becomes the first stable adult male role model in their lives.
For some young boys, the gang leader assumes the role of the head of the family. Government prohibition assures a source of income for the gang, selling products for which there is market demand. Boys who join gangs get to feel accepted by other males and acknowledged by them, receiving approval and validation as they participate in gang activities. The same or similar activities form the basis of the themes of many action-packed computer games that appeal to male customers.
Several action-packed computer games allow male participants to enjoy participating in gang-type activities by being a member of a cyber-gang instead of a real live gang. In the game, they get to take on a challenge with the prospect of success and the opportunity to experience a sense of achievement performing a task similar to that of a soldier in a battle zone. The games are designed to be challenging and to provide the player with a sense of ability and competence, and perhaps also prepare the player for a possible tour of duty in the military.
Computer games are very popular among the age groups that attend high schools, colleges and universities. In an earlier time, it was relatively easy for young males in this age group to get hired for part-time jobs. Now, progressive state legislation in areas of minimum wage laws, related labour laws and even municipal by-laws has greatly curtailed part-time job opportunities for the younger generation. Municipal by-law officers have shut down lemonade stands and even harassed teenage boys in Philadelphia who offered to shovel snow from neighbourhood driveways, requiring homeowners who hired them to fill out tax forms.
Instead of experiencing a meaningful sense of achievement, success and accomplishment as an entrepreneur or as an employee who earned money by doing a job and perhaps doing it well, a large segment of contemporary teenage and adolescent boys now experience that sense of achievement in the world of computer games. For many in this group, the state-run school system with its compulsory attendance laws may already have destroyed their joy of learning and discovery. For some of them, participation in gang activities or achieving success in computer games has greater relevance than academic achievement.
The manner in which some action-packed computer games portray women and their role of providing gratification to men who succeed in cyber-combat has become a cause of concern for women’s groups. However, it is possible that only a small percentage of young adult males may see women in that role, with a tiny percentage of them accounting for the lucrative market in date rape drugs. It is unlikely that a young male who grew up in a home where a functional adult male role model showed respect for women, would seek to violate women.
It appears that well-meaning government social policies of a bygone era have over the long-term become the underlying cause of a small percentage of the young male population sexually exploiting women. Those policies contributed to the decline of the traditional family and extended family and their significant emotional contribution to the lives of children between birth and adolescence. Those family environments included both adult male and adult female role models for children and served as a safe emotional refuge for them. In the modern era, the gang family and even the cyber-gang family fulfills that role.
It is as yet unclear which band-aid strategies governments that undermine the traditional family will implement to protect women from sexual violence on campuses of higher learning and in the general community.
* Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.