Smash Bros. Player's Sexual Consent Guide Ignites Debate In Community

The Super Smash Bros. community is having a conversation about sexual assault, whether they want to or not. Last week, that discussion came to a head when a female competitive Smash player published a guide attempting to educate the community around the famous Nintendo fighting game about consent. Now, the Smash community is debating whether sexual misconduct, recently an issue at Smash events, is tangential to the game that brought them together. Sheik in Smash 4

On September 15, Smash player Neha Chhetri published a blog post titled "Smashers Against Sexual Assault" on Smash blog Melee It On Me. It was circulated around various Smash forums over the last week. In the post, Chhetri cites the frequency of sexual assault, definitions of consent, how to respond to victims and accountability practices for alleged perpetrators of sexual misconduct. Topics like "What Is Rape?" and "What Consent Should Look Like" preface matter-of-fact advice for respectful sexual behaviour. For example: "If you feel like you need to convince someone into sex, STOP, and then don't do it." To bolster statistics and advice used to educate Smash players, Chhetri relies on dozens of research papers and governmental studies.

Chhetri closes the piece by justifying the relevance of "Smashers Against Sexual Assault", arguing that "Sexual assault isn't a women's issue, or a gaming issue, or a men's issue. It's a human issue. Do your part to keep our Smash scene safe."

A screenshot from Chhetri's article on Melee It On Me

The Smash community's reactions to Chhetri's article were polarising. On social media, Chhetri and her report were excoriated. Top comments describe the guide as "ridiculous, inflammatory propaganda", "unrelated to Smash" or "biased". Her Twitter mentions are scathing, riddled with ad hominem attacks. She was called a "liar" and a "hostile misandrist". An army of critics went to work fact-checking the sexual misconduct guide, quibbling over statistics in Chhetri's feeds.

Chhetri's article didn't come out of nowhere. Over the winter, at least five female Smash players publicly alleged sexual assault perpetrated by male community members. Most prominently, in July, Smash streamer VikkiKitty came forward alleging that pro Smash 4 player Hyuga sexually assaulted her in a hotel room (Hyuga would go on to say he was drunk and didn't remember what happened, but also said, "I accept all my consequences and punishment.") Several other lower-profile instances of alleged assault have bubbled to the surface, with responses ranging from sympathy to aggressive doubt. Chhetri's recent report rides on the heels of what she describes as "the recent community-wide outbreak of reported sexual assaults".

She adds that "In general, public response to survivors has been extremely disheartening".

On Chhetri's Reddit thread, however, more female Smash players came forward with allegations of assault. Smash subreddit moderator Winnarly described some of those comments as "witch-hunty". Citing misguided pursuits of the alleged Boston Bomber or the alleged Jurassic Park Jeep destroyer, Winnarly told me that "a handful of users brought up examples of harassment in the community with intent to start a witch hunt. Several names were dropped of alleged perpetrators." He continued, welcoming sexual harassment victims to contact the mods privately for support.

For some, coming forward publicly on Smash forums or social media is liberating and empowering. For others, and especially when evidence is impossible to obtain, it generates an atmosphere of hostility about something other than Smash. Often, these accusations are immediately met with doubt. That said, fewer than 10 per cent of rape accusations in the US are false, according to an influential 2010 report.

Most vocal in the Reddit thread were community members who deemed the guide off-topic. Nestled between posts on wave-dashing and Project M voice mods, Chhetri's post stood out. "This subreddit is for Super Smash Brothers content, and this is not Super Smash Brothers content," one Redditor said, echoing many others.

On Twitter, a critic said, "Eh, sexual assault is wrong, but let's keep toxic ideology out of my competitive fighting game, yeah?"

Some Smash community members spoke out in support of Chhetri, arguing that her report was necessary for educating players about proper behaviour toward women. Moderator pidgezero_one wrote a 3700-word essay in support of Chhetri's consent guide, point by point addressing the community's major criticisms. In an email, he told me her report "created waves that forced attention onto the content of the article".

"Being educational in nature, this means that more people will be exposed to the uncomfortable reality that some of their ideas about consent are wrong, which I believe is necessary given the frequency at which sexual assault incidents had been spoken out about lately," pidgezero_one added.

Chhetri has been writing about this topic for years. In 2014, she published "The Voices of Women in the Super Smash Brothers Community", a report based on interviews with 53 female Smash players. About one in 10 reported having been assaulted by another member of the Smash community (one in four reported having been assaulted at all). Female players described discomfort when the word "rape" was casually thrown around as a synonym for "crushing defeat".

Chhetri emphasises that statistics of alleged sexual misconduct in her Smash-centric report don't vary significantly from US national statistics. "The one-in-four stat for Smash players reflects the national trend," she explained. However, Chhetri points out two social mainstays of the Smash community that, she noticed, are common among narratives of assault within the community: Smash fests and Smash hotels.

"A lot of women reported that they'd gone to a guy's house for a 'Smash fest', gatherings where you play Smash together," Chhetri explained. "Another thing is that, at Smash tournaments, people often share hotel rooms. You'll cram, like, 10 people to a room... Sometimes predators will take that opportunity... to assault a girl... Smash fests and Smash hotels are the two places women can be at risk."

In the days since Chhetri's guide, the Smash community is still struggling to digest its relevance. When is a gaming community just about a game, and when is it about the people who play it and their wellbeing?

"The Smash community is called a community because there are people in it," Chhetri explained to me over the phone. "Otherwise, it'd just be called Smash."


Comments

    It's definitely a can of worms but it sounds like it's a can of worms that needed to be open. The concept of sexual assault has become very confusing lately. Sexual assault has always been pretty straight forward. Deliberate physical unwanted sexual advances are sexual assault. It's more difficult to define now days. Obviously direct vocal targeted attacks at people can also be considered sexual assault. But there's others who will over hear two team mates making a joke that includes terms like "rape" and consider the fact that they heard it to be sexual assault.

    I haven't read the original blog post yet but will have to give it a read. I think the definition of what constitutes a sexual assault has become a pinnacle point in modern society as exemplified by Mr Hugh Mungus recently.

    When these societal issues bleed into the gaming community it can become uncomfortable and annoying. You game to get away from life. But judging by the reports coming out of the Smash community, the blog post is something that had to happen to tell people that sexual assault is not right. The fact that it needed to be said is the really sad part.

      Just wanted to chime in on the first part of your comment - sexual assault is actually extremely easy to define; sexual advances against a person without their consent. Trying to factor whether it was "deliberate" is a distraction because in this context when people say it wasn't deliberate they mean they don't understand consent.

        Definitely. My point is that the description has become more convoluted through the belief of people. An example is in the article where it mentions that people have been uncomfortable when others mentioned rape, as in "We got totally raped by the other team"

        They're uncomfortable for good reason and the article does not suggest that this is in any way considered sexual assault, but there have been many situations recently where people have considered this sexual assault.

        This is why I used the Hugh Mungus example. A lady approached a man because she didn't like what the man was talking about and she asked him for his name. He said "Hugh Mungus" and she said that he sexually assaulted her. This is a man making a joke with no sexual advance and it's considered sexual assault.

        Except that advances aren't assault. Assault is deliberate touching that is not consented to. Advances that continue after being rebuffed would constitute harassment (which is also wrong). The only way that non-deliberate touching is OK is when it is an accidental brushing or bumping against someone. Drunkenness, being high, being socially awkward or whatever other "non-deliberate" excuses people use are generally bullshit.

          Yep, good catch on assault vs harassment.

    After reading the blog I have to say that it's very well written and very accurate. There were only two issues I had with the blog:

    1) "2% of rape accusations are proven false, same number as any other felony"

    - This is a basic guilty until proven innocent issue. The concept that if person A accuses person B of rape then person B should be considered a rapist until they prove otherwise. This isn't how the legal system works in Australia or America for good reason. The statistic is based on rape accusations and their ability to provide contrary evidence. An example is a case a few months back where a lady accused a man of rape then admitted she lied when police found that her fitness tracker had her running laps at the time. This doesn't include rape accusations that are thrown out due to lack of evidence.

    2) "97% of rapists do not serve a single day in jail"

    - Again this statistic is based on assumption of guilt. The statistic is actually that 97% of accused rapists do not serve a single day in jail.

    Other than that the information is great.

      On that first point, the paramount inference from that statistic is accusations should be taken seriously. It's an important statistic that, rather than calling for all accusations to confer the presumption of guilt, denounces the common myth that false accusations are rampant.

      A statistic on rates of false accusations doesn't include accusations dismissed due to a lack of evidence, nor should it, because such cases are not false. Conflating the two is dangerous, especially when one relies on evidence to determine that an event did not happen while the other, due to absent or insufficient evidence, cannot be determined; it becomes a tactic to diminish the importance of claims and seeks to perpetuate an idea that accusations are untrustworthy. Both results from erroneous mixing of terminology and data could be expected to have negative impacts on rates of reporting and how we perceive accusations. That would not be ideal.

        I definitely understand that. Framing it is important to reflect that lack of evidence doesn't prove lack of guilt, but it can easily have the reverse effect. Like saying that over 7 billion people haven't proven Bigfoot to be fake so he must be real.

        When a conviction is thrown out due to lack of evidence it could be a false accusation or it could be a real accusation that they couldn't prove. The reason burden of evidence falls on the accuser is because it's unfair to falsely label someone a rapist without evidence. There are men who have been falsely accused of rape and even after they have proven that it's a false accusation, their reputation is ruined. Being raped ruins lives, being accused of rape also ruins lives.

        If we start manipulating the wording to raise the numbers then we're supporting the belief that all men are rapists. When people see statistics like this then get placed on a jury in a sexual assault trial they are going to be biased against the defendant resulting in more false convictions.

    Respect to Kotaku for keeping this article as balanced and factual as possible. They can be guilty of overstepping the bounds of neutral journalism at times.

    Clearly there's an issue here but as they describe witch-hunts aren't the way to address it.

    For example: “If you feel like you need
    to convince someone into sex, STOP, and then
    don’t do it.”
    But... but how is anyone supposed to get any sex otherwise? ;_;

      By being a decent human being?
      *shrugs*

        I took 'convince' to mean 'seduce' rather than 'badger', but I'm sure there's a lot of badgering going on out there too!

      I know, right!? My wife and I convince each into sex all the time (well, maybe once or twice a month, but all the time would be nice).

        There's definitely some leniency to the issue. If a woman is drunk and I pick her up then sleeping with her could be considered non-consensual 'cause she's too drunk. If my wife comes home drunk and tells me that she wants me then that's another thing altogether. Not that something like that would ever happen.

      Slightly truer than I'd care to admit. If I don't try to convince my wife it'll be pretty unlikely I'll ever have kids.

      Step 1: Be yourself, but the very best version of yourself, mentally, physically, emotionally. This may require some research, education and hard work, but you can do it. Hell, you are the only person in the world who can do it.
      Step 2: Pursue interests new and old, meeting people who are passionate about them as well.
      Step 3: You'll find lots of awesome people and if you followed step 1 carefully, sooner or later (law of averages), you'll find someone who thinks you are awesome too!
      Step 4: Be emotionally frank and open, establishing a relationship, whether short or long term.
      Step 5: Get smooches. Intimacy will naturally develop into closer physical contact.
      Step 6: At this point, you'll understand the other person well enough to know whether they are ready or not (for whatever reason)
      Step 7: If that person is ready skip to Step 8. If not, have a frank conversation and a careful consideration of your wants and needs. Do you want/need sex more that you care for the person? If yes, remaining in the relationship will only make you frustrated while putting pressure on the other person (which will diminish even further their readiness) so opt for a clean break, then go to back to Step 1. If no, go back to Step 5 knowing that you'll have to be supportive and patient.
      Step 8: Mutual consent achieved! Congratulations, you got a sex and likely many more afterwards!

        I was more aiming for the joke that dating can more or less be summed up as "convincing someone to have sex with you", or that in any given pairing between two people at least one of them isn't convinced of the idea of having sex with the other until something happens to change that. Basically that "convince" can be considered a pretty broad term.

        Guess I'm the only one on my own wavelength :P

    A lot of women reported that they’d gone to a guy’s house for a ‘Smash fest’

    This is a very serious topic, but my god the joke is begging to be set free here.

    Last edited 23/09/16 12:48 pm

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now