- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A female gamer has added to the debate on what constitutes sexual assault after she detailed her experience being groped in virtual reality by another gamer.

“I’ve been groped in real life, once in a Starbucks in broad daylight. I know what it’s like to happen in person,” Jordan Belamire, who goes by a pseudonym to protect her privacy, told CNNMoney. “The shock and disgust I felt [in QuiVr] was not too far off from that.”

Ms. Belamire wrote in a Medium blog post that she was shooting zombies in the game QuiVr on her brother-in-law’s HTC Vive VR system when another player virtually groped her chest.

“So, there I was shooting down zombies alongside another real-time player named BigBro442,” she wrote. “Suddenly, BigBro442’s disembodied helmet faced me dead-on. His floating hand approached my body, and he started to virtually rub my chest.

“‘Stop!’ I cried. I must have laughed from the embarrassment and the ridiculousness of the situation,” she continued. “This goaded him on, and even when I turned away from him, he chased me around, making grabbing and pinching motions near my chest. Emboldened, he even shoved his hand toward my virtual crotch and began rubbing.”

“There I was, being virtually groped in a snowy fortress with my brother-in-law and husband watching,” she wrote. “What’s worse is that it felt real, violating. This sounds ludicrous to anyone who hasn’t stood on that virtual reality ledge and looked down, but if you have, you might start to understand. The public virtual chasing and groping happened a full week ago and I’m still thinking about it.”

Ms. Belamire’s post received mixed reactions online, with many men saying she was making a big deal out of nothing, or in at least one male commenter’s opinion, insulting survivors of real sexual assault.

“It’s not real, therefore it’s OK; this is the amoral substructure of gaming culture. This, far more than anonymity, is the source of much gender and racial harassment on the internet,” wrote sociologist and gaming critic Katherine Cross, CNN reported.

“The men that make these games genuinely don’t seem to understand that it’s sexual assault,” game developer Brianna Wu told CNN. “Women barely work on these teams, so there’s no voice of conscience.”

To help combat harassment in virtual reality, AltspaceVR, a VR chatroom, introduced an optional personal bubble feature that keeps other gamers at least one foot away. Blueteak, the developer of QuiVr, said it was rolling out a similar feature, CNN reported.

“It’s a gameplay solution to one problem. But we need industry standards,” Ms. Wu said.

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