The Doctor Who Said Video Games Cause Rape Explains What She Meant

A couple of days ago, Carole Lieberman gave a quote to Fox News about the violent upcoming game Bulletstorm. Dr. Lieberman isn't a fan of such games. She thinks the worst of them cause people to do bad things. Two days later, she's been through a storm.

Dr. Lieberman is no accidental enemy of violent and sexual video games, though she seemed today interested in adding some nuance to her Fox News comment.

"The more video games a person plays that have violent sexual content," she said, carefully choosing her words during a phone interview with Kotaku, "the more likely one is to become desensitized to violent sexual acts and commit them."

That's a less direct version of what she said in the Fox News piece, in a comment that sent gamers into a frenzy: "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual]scenes in video games."

She bundled video games with violent movies, toys, rap lyrics as "modern weapons of mass destruction".

(Reporters typically trim quotes for space, flow or emphasis; Dr. Lieberman's full quote about sexual violence and games to Fox News was: "Video games have increasingly, and more brazenly, connected sex and violence in images, actions and words. This has the psychological impact of doubling the excitement, stimulation and incitement to copycat acts. The increase in rapes can be attributed, in large part, to the playing out of such scenes in video games.")

Fox News didn't really get Lieberman wrong. She's been pushing back against what she sees as the harmful influence of violent video games and other violent media for years. In a chapter of a book written for TV host Larry King, she bundled video games with violent movies, toys, rap lyrics as "modern weapons of mass destruction" that "are causing us to destroy each other - on playgrounds and battlegrounds."

She believes that violent media does encourage more aggressive behaviour and says there are "thousands" of studies that support the view she and others share. "The thing is that all these thousands of studies relate violent media,including video games, to an increase in violence in general." She's been wary of the effects of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon in the 80s compelling kids to karate chop each other on playgrounds, and testified to Congress about the impact of violent media. She's seen in the history of people she's studied in her clinical and forensic work an obsession with video games, which makes her wary of the influence of the medium.

Dr. Lieberman couldn't cite a specific study that showed that video games cause rape but she argues that it is a logical conclusion to reach: "That fits under the idea of people becoming more violent or aggressive, the more violent media they consume," she said.

She described her comments, part of a longer interview with Fox News about violent games and media, as "just stuff that's second nature to me. I've been talking about this for years.

And so, games do cause rape?

"I would have to dig into the things I have in hard copy or search the Internet," she said, "But rape [pause]there have been sexual crimes and the video games have become more sexual …"

Kotaku was putting Lieberman on the spot. We called her and she answered. So even though she'd been getting criticized by gamers over e-mail for a couple of days, she didn't have her notes handy. She did, however, wind her way into an articulation of her concern about the changing nature of video games. "They've become more sexual," she said. "And, according to Freud, our impulses… we're born with natural drives toward aggression and sex. The aggression drive is normally socialized, when we grow up, to become ambition. The sexual drive, as we grow up, is connected to love, if we grow up in a healthy way.

"The irony is here are people trying to say video games don't cause people to be violent, but the ones I've read are very violent. They're out of control."

"When people combine sexual and violent images, particularly in video games where you're not just passively watching, you're pushing buttons, you're getting physically involved in this act, it has a particularly stimulating impact. It stimulates the sex centre of the psyche and the violence centre of the psyche and make the whole effect more stimulating. And so it's natural that the more the violent impulses are stimulated...[she paused]it's not that everyone goes out and kills but people become more aggressive with getting into parking spots or everyday things… so when there are also sexual things, like words in this new game they are using, or images, it stimulates the two centres in the psyche and makes the overall impact linking sex and violence — and desensitizing people to violent sex — more impactful, more inciteful."

Lieberman was demonstrating some familiarity with the game she was describing. Bulletstorm is many things, including both a game we've written positive impressions about and a first-person shooter that celebrates a player's ability to kill multiple enemies with verbal accolades such as "gang bang."

Lieberman is not a gamer, says she's never even played Pac-Man; though she suspects that Jared Lee Loughner, the man who allegedly tried to assassinate a Congresswoman last month, was a player of violent video games, a theory that has yet to be confirmed. She doesn't think games alone trigger any of this. She believes that troubled upbringings are a major factor and explain why so many gamers don't resort to the awful behaviours that concern her.

For the effort of sharing her perspective with Fox News, Lieberman has suffered the brunt of gamers. They've bombarded her with negative e-mails. She plucked one at random for me, a missive from someone who signed their name as JohnnyMassiveHomoCunt

The e-mailer wrote: "I played Bulletstorm demo, and like I felt I need to rape someone. So I went into this kind of deep trance, which caused me to rape 10, 15 years-old girl. [sic]What do I do now? The game made me do it. Please help me. By the way, you look like a fucking deadbeat pornstar. Yours truly, JohnnyMassiveHomoCunt OMG LOL my shift broke. P.S. Playing Mass Effect gave me a sudden need to shoot you in the head. Would you please come here so I can fulfil my needs?"

Lieberman was able to laugh this off as she read the e-mail over the phone. But, she sighed, "The irony is here are people trying to say video games don't cause people to be violent, but the ones I've read are very violent. They're out of control."

She says she can handle this kind of feedback. "That I can take, because if it does save one child or one woman, if more people are alerted to this, even if some people don't agree, I can accept. But what I am sad, or disappointed in — because I never even thought about this is because people have gone to Amazon, I have a new book out called Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets, and wrote terrible reviews." Those negative reviews are sullying that book, a follow-up to a Bad Boys book, both well-researched, she said, and intended "to help people survive the love jungle out there" and have better relationships.

Lieberman noted that nothing like this has ever happened before. Maybe that says something about her statement or about video games and the attitude of gamers or even about the marketing machinery behind the game that has rejoiced in Bulletstorm's shock content. She's not sure. "People don't like to hear that violent media causes violence or desensitization," Lieberman said, "But this has been a particularly violent backlash."


Comments

    "People don’t like to hear that violent media causes violence or desensitization"

    More like people don't like to hear baseless, misinformed and sensationalised drivel.

      +1

      Anyway, I thought Sexual crimes/assualts, atleast in the US, were down?

    Brain missed a few words in the title "Doctor Who Said Video Games Cause Rape"

      well if there is anyone who would know that for a fact it would have to be "The Doctor"

    What scares me the most about this article is that there are gamers out there who instead of being constructive in their counter arguments to Lieberman, do what that JMHC did and email an incorehant mess to her. They're not helping gamers everywhere much by doing that. Well written article Stephen, its a very interesting read.

      Exactly! Just a "Rapelay" is a lighning rod for all those who say games are becoming increasily sexualised violence, it's reactions like JMHC that become a lightnign rod for how irrationally violent gamers are. The extreme examples taint everything else with their poison.

      Amen. Despite being put on the spot, she puts forward reasonable arguments. It's fine to offer a rebuttal (although it seems like a logical stance to take) yet the US comments on this article are bordering on the hate-filled nonsense she's been attacked with.

      I'd be looking in FOX's direction, really.

      Who'd have thought we'd be desensitised by constant depictions of violence? Oh, everyone.

        Holy shit! Reasonable debate on this issue! Well done lads, this doesnt happen often amongst gamers.

        I think she raises some excellent points, however, I would suggest that violent media is merely a catalyst for violence, not the cause; that broken families and abuse is what is really the issue here. Anecdotally, Im unaware of any balanced person who plays violent games then goes out to harm people.

        Being a Youth Worker I see the negative affects of violent media on teenagers who have suffered trauma. I do not allow them to play GTA for instance; I have seen an increase in anger when they do. But GTA is not the issue here, their trauma is.

        I think this is what she is getting at. I just dont understand why she worded it in such a retarded, offensive fashion. Stupid girl.

        What? She offers not one single "reasonable" argument, she offers nothing but socially constructed urban myth, anecdotal tripe and "good ol' common sense" (which is always foolish). She's a mouthpiece for a lobby and not a very clever one at that.

        No, you are not "desensitised" by cartoonish images of "violence" in silly games and movies, those do not equate to real life. A child soldier in Liberia can be rightly said to have been "desensitised" to what he's seen and done, this happens, there have been studies done on it. That doesn't happen to people who play games and watch movies- there have been many studies on that as well.

        Last edited 15/01/13 2:08 am

    I like how she doesn't have any studies to back her up, and is just saying this is a logical conclusion to make.
    So if i play bomberman to much, I'll be a terrorsit.
    If i play Dr. Mario I'll be a drug dealer.
    If i play hello kitty island adventure I'll be a serial killer.
    And all those years playing Tetris, I'm now a high paid architect.

      There was something one of my university professors said along those lines - "Stop global warming, become a pirate"

      Just because 2 things have changed at a similar time doesn't mean they are related to each other.

        "Post hoc ergo proctor hoc"

        After it, therfore because of it.

    People like this doctor seeking to shift the blame away from the person responsible are making it easier for others to blame their actions on video games, guns, etc..

    People blame their actions on all sorts of things but when was the last time you heard of a video game raping someone?

    Wasn't a lot of what Freud said debunked as outdated and incorrect?

    Silly woman, if you're going to say something make sure you have the information to back it up. Saying "I need to check my hard copies or _internet_ to prove what I'm saying".

    Hard copies of what? Woman's day? Search hard enough and the internet will tell you anything you want to hear.

    Kudos to Kotaku for putting her on the spot, clearly she doesn't believe what she says as much as she'd like to think she does.

      While it's true that Freud's theories are not held in a very high opinion within academic circles, they do still form a strong base for a lot of modern psychological thinking.

      Her concerns are understandable, but levelling this sort of blame at video games is inconclusive and just following a trend that has become prevalent in the 20th Century. It is not uncommon for an older generation to question the implications upon society of a new trend; jazz music was condemned by the Church, as was rock 'n' roll, to name a few.

      In the end, these games are about people enjoying themselves. I have read a lot of criticism of the FOX News article that mentions Bulletstorm is a parody of other 'intense' games on the market. Personally, I am inclined to agree, given the game's way of openly acknowleding its ludicrosity. However, it is to be expected that some people will not understand the humour and take offense - think Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes.

        "While it’s true that Freud’s theories are not held in a very high opinion within academic circles, they do still form a strong base for a lot of modern psychological thinking."

        Nope, incorrect, and actually contradictory in this very utterance.

        Freud's thinking hasn't been debunked, because there is nothing to debunk, his theories were unfalsifiable, which means that they CANNOT form part of a scientific theory.

        Psychology students barely study Freud, and if they do it's mainly to distance themselves from it. True enough, he exerted a lot of influence in his time, and so is naturally relevant to the history of psychology, but to paraphrase Popper: "All that is true in Freud is not Freud's, all that is Freud's in Freud is not true."

        Anyway, this woman is an idiot, and has no basis for anything she has said. Rape figures have GONE DOWN for a start, so explaining something that hasn't happened, happened because of video games, is idiotic not only coming from an "expert", but shouldn't be tolerated in an ice cream vendor.

          'Freud’s thinking hasn’t been debunked, because there is nothing to debunk, his theories were unfalsifiable, which means that they CANNOT form part of a scientific theory.'

          On an unrealted note, your definition of science is far too strict. Science, the quest for knowledge, is not limited to the 'positivist' approach.

          You are refering too the 'physical'(Biology, Physics, Chemistry) sciences, large parts of psychology may never be verified by these. Moreover, they don't need to be.

          In case you respond with 'The physical sciences are the only true, accurate ways of knowledge' I would ask you too scientifically prove the above premise.

          If not, your awesome and understand that physical sciences have limits.

          But too the original deabte

            Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world.[1][2][3][4]

            Bam Wikipedia'ed first sentence. ALL Science needs to be falsifiable, or it is just psuedo-science.

      Freud did a lot more than just exploring the sexual natures and tendencies of people; he practically mapped the mind.

      I dont think this woman has any merit or credit to ever talk about how video games are making us more likely to rape; in fact her books about becoming "bad" people are more likely to make me do that.

    She's complaining about violent sex acts being commited in video games but honestly how many mainstream games feature violent sex acts? How many games at all feature violent sex acts not including a few flash games on porn sites and a couple Japanese games? I can think of very few examples and none that would lead a person to commit a crime.

      I think her point is more that violence and sexual acts aren't controlled in video games in the way that they are in normal social interaction. So you get rewarded for shooting someone in the arse in Bulletstorm, or you can play out a violent melee kill in COD, and you've got countless prepubescent boys calling people fags or cunts on Live. She mentions that aggressive or sexual impulses are normally curtailed or shaped in social interactions, but there's either no need for that with video games, or the impulses are embraced or encouraged.

      It's an interesting idea, but as other people have pointed out she couldn't back it up as being anything other than a "logical conclusion", and it remains totally unhelpful policy-wise, as any kind of media could be said to have the same effect.

    The problem with her logic is that any minority will have those few people that will become violent/send hate mail when something they love is slandered on national TV.

    If I went on Nine News and suggested that driving a Holden Commodore caused drivers to become more reckless resulting in the increase in road toll that Australia has seen, there is no doubt that I would receive a massive amount of hate mail.

    If I said that Bees were violent creatures and proceeded to kick their hive, I would get stung. Using Dr Carole's logic, they have just proven my point!

    All psychologists are crazy people that want to better understand themselves. It's a logical conclusion .

      Really? You're doing the exact same thing she is, judging the whole by the actions of the few. I can tell you right now that all psychologists are not crazy people.

      I can tell you this because I actually know several psychologists, that I shared my childhood with, attended school with, and spent many of my holidays in their company and they are as well adjusted, rational, and sane as the next guy.

      Sure, SOME may be crazy people that want to better understand themselves, but by no means are ALL of them crazy. So please, tell me how your statement is a logical conclusion.

    I cant believe that in this day and age, with the penetration video games have in homes and families, there are still people who spew garbage like this.

    But theyre getting older. . . they wont be around for much longer.

    But you know. . . I think I understand what she is saying. Bulletstorm doesnt have sex, but it can cause rape.
    The words it flashes on screen are like trigger words. 'Gang Bang', harmless in itself, but when triggered with the correct aural queue and vibration feedback it can brainwash a player to commit actual instances of rape. Mother, brother, dog. . . whatevers closest.
    It has to be that, yeah? I mean, theres just no other explanation.

    Well, at least she acknowledges that not all gamers become rapists.

    Also, as people have pointed out already: E-mails like those really don't help the image that gamers give off. :P

    although there are a lot of flaws in what she says (above comments point out enough of them), they don't bother me so much as the fact that she implies a causal relationship between those who commit those acts and gaming.

    A relationship may very well exist but its another thing altogether to imply that the games cause it. what evidence does she have for causation?

    Perhaps folk like that also like escapism or they play such games more because its a way to express who they already are rather than games making them like that.

    just a thought though ><

    Hahaha it looks like a lot of gamers have hijacked the reviews section of one of her books over at Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Girls-Carole-Lieberman/dp/292386512X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    "Lieberman noted that nothing like this has ever happened before."
    This is SeXbox all over again? Exact same chain of events. Person is asked to go on Fox to give quote, they must know what Fox will do with their quote, but hey, it's pretty flattering being asked by a national news organisation to come on their show. Then you realise the internet is a democracy and all of a sudden you come crawling to the people you've been calling potential rapists and beg for forgiveness.

    You have a theory lady, don't quote it as fact until you have evidence prove it. That you have been doing so without citation only assures us that you're out to enforce your opinion on others without regard for the truth. BTW - Most acadamia will disregard any citation "from the internet" because frankly they're unreliable.

    I've probably spent far more time playing "violent" video games than most people ever will and I'm one of the nicest, funniest, least violent people you'll ever meet. I don't even kill spiders in my house, I catch them and release them back into the garden.

    There's a reason this aired on FOX news, so it comes as no surprise to me. Of all the news networks they're the most one-sided and disgustingly scaremongering source of misinformation that has been birthed on this planet. They pander to the ostriches of the world that like to bury their head in the sand to consider themselves informed on topics they truly know nothing about.

    So apparently I want to rape people now???
    Or perhaps massacre my way through hordes of innocents???

    When did they stop teaching the scientific method in schools? It seems like anybody can be an 'expert' these days, and can twist any scrap of information to 'support' radical viewpoints that are then forced upon others with a campaign of fear and misinformation.

    The desensitizing effects of video game/film violence are something I keep hearing about, but it's an effect I've never noticed in myself. I've been gaming for the bulk of my life - I was playing Duke Nukem 3D and Doom in my early teens and a huge variety of other games, violent and not, ever since.

    To this day, stories of real violence make me feel ill. I can't even watch films like Saw, as the mere thought of 'what if this were real' sickens me. If you're a well balanced person, the difference between fictional violence and genuine violence is HUGE.

      Re: Paul Stone

      I wholeheartedly agree with you.

      I like most FPSs but there are a lot of games/movies - and even genres - that I find physically repulsive i.e. vomit-inducing. I cannot watch movies such as Saw, Hostel etc which involve 'live' people (irrespective of the fact that they are only acting) being maliciously maimed or physically harmed. Japanese games like Rapelay are beyond belief for me; games like that and even Manhunt, Postal etc have no justification for their existence. IMO.

    I was hit repeatedly over the head after ex was drinking playing grand theft auto for hours - I still believe that game swayed that behavior and the game is never allowed in my presence by anyone or I leave

      Do you also leave if people drink in your presence?

        touche'

    So no facts at all to back up her claims? Just "logical conclusions"? While I think that that email she read out is not the way to go about trying to belittle her, I can't say that it's completely undeserved.

    I'm not a rapist. Don't class me as a potential rapist just because I like to play video games thanks. Don't tell me i'm going to become a violent person either. Too many generalizations!

    She claims nothing like this has ever happened before.

    I bet she hasn't seen a riot breakout after a soccer match between two popular teams with extremely passionate fan bases. They don't even interact with the match, they just spectate and they end up throwing punches by the match's end.

    She's surprised that gamers are angry? After making it sound like anyone who plays violently/sexually charged videogames can turn psychotic? By the way, she's modifying her statement by later stating that most of these crazy people snap much likely due to a bad childhood, plus other circumstances.

    At the end of the day, doctors like her will say she found a horse, because that's what she's been seeing/looking at for a long time, and either hasn't considered fact that it could be a donkey, or smart enough to realise it might even be a zebra.

    "She believes that violent media does encourage more aggressive behaviour and says there are “thousands” of studies that support the view she and others share."

    This is a beauty, as a psychology student even I know that first of all 'thousands' is an overstatement. It's more like hundreds. And of those hundreds of studies there are equal studies that disprove her theory, in fact there are more studies that definitively disprove the idea that video games or tv desensitize an audience to violence then to support her claims.

    Carole Lieberman is a psychiatrist with an opinion; the worst kind of person in this profession. Because she disproves of violence and clearly video games, she is using her profession as a conduit to press her opinion onto others. When she has ZERO scientific proof such merit exists.

    I guess what i'm saying is if I wanted to find a study that supported the idea that a mobile phone caused your IQ to drop 50 points whenever you held it longer than 3 seconds, I could probably find one. But just because it exists, doesnt make it accepted knowledge, or even something other psychologists would want to subscribe to (unless they're fools).

      The only problem with this whole situation is as well that these kind of "opinions" will be out there in literature and the internet, and all the average once a week internet user will see this article and begin to worry, and bam before they even try and look more into it, Dr. Carole has another drone on her side fighting against this terrible outbreak!!

      People like her should really sit back and think about these things before they jump the gun.

    Let me just point out again that Japan, the world's foremost producer in horrible deviant sex games, has a much lower rate of rapes than the US does. (Or us.)

    1. A doctor who writes a book for women on how to love 'bad boys' and another book called Coping With Terrorism should be required to have the MD taken of her name.

    2. The incidence of reported rape and violent crime is at the lowest it's been in the last 100 years, and this is despite the increase in mediums to report crims, Crimestoppers, anonymous phone calls, support groups for women etc.

    3. It's great that her logical fallacies and judgement calls are being called out after the fact, but as with all these cases unless she goes back on Fox and says she was wrong we're just pissing on the fire of stupidity and misinformation.

    4. Man she has crazy, crazy eyes.

    I have to wonder if there will one day be a new scapegoat to direct all Maude Flanders-style moral panic towards. We've gone through rock 'n' roll, television, film, rap, now video games - will there be a time when we're defending something else and say "I remember when this kind of crap was heaped on video games." It's interesting to think about.

    On another note, this kind of thing creates an interesting sort of accountability - for her misinformed, misguided and misrepresented statements she has experienced a character assassination of sorts in the form of awful reviews on Amazon that will surely impact on sales and her reputation. I suppose it's a good thing in the long run, that if you're a public figure and you use the internet to make money in some form and you make bullshit sweeping statements, you're going to be accountable in one way or another.

    And since a lot of other people are throwing their two cents in - I was playing Doom when I was three years old and GTA 3 when I was 12, and I'm a massive wuss who's never been in a fight and hopefully never will.

    I do not believe that games are the leading cause of desensitization and violent tendancies amongst people. I can allow that, if a person has not been properly taught the difference between right and wrong, then a violent or immorale game can be an added catalyst towards unlawful behavior.

    I know many people within my own network of gaming friends, whom play violent video games, watch violent/sexually explicit media, etc. that do not fall under what Lieberman describes within this article. With this being said, her hypothesis cannot be considered sound, as there are too many other factors involved to isolate the aforementioned issues towards one specific cause.

    Furthermore, there are rating systems in place for a reason. Those that are underage, I believe, should not be allowed to play said games until they can prove that they have matured enough to understand the difference between both Reality/Fantasy and Right/Wrong.

    These are just my viewpoints and opinions. Please feel free to comment as you will.

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