This was bound to happen. Grand Theft Auto is marketed directly to young men, and young men, notoriously, have misshapen and half-formed perspectives on women. The mod that allows players to commit rapes in GTA Online isn't shocking or abysmal or grotesque – it's just another example of how the culture of sexism that has sprung up around 13-to-25-year-old males is self-perpetuating.
A comedian makes a rape joke. Young men laugh at it. Game-makers seize on that response and write sexist games. The young men laugh again. The comedian tells another joke. And on and bloody on, until all men are feckless, violent woman-haters.
This isn't Rockstar's fault per se. The rape thing is a mod, short for modification – it was home-made by people who play GTA. If Rockstar can be blamed for anything, it's being part of that infinite loop of sexism, for helping perpetuate the stereotypes that make sick jokes like this happen.
It's not just wrong, it's proud of it
GTA V is a massively sexist videogame. It hates women. It's impossible for me to list the myriad ways that game is vicious towards women.
It's in everything: dialogue, visuals, mission structure, music, characters, landscape. Pretty much every aspect of Grand Theft Auto V, in some way, undermines the idea that women are equal to men.
And it's not filled with just hate, but entitlement, that kind of smug aloofness that seems to say "we can do this and get away with, 'cos we're us."
It's the mentality of a young man, who grabs asses in nightclubs then gets indignant about "male rights", distilled into a videogame. It's not just wrong – it's proud of it.
But it's still not responsible for this, at least no more than the thousands of other cultural influences that keep the wheels of sexism oiled. I wrote a while back about the detrimental influence of "lad culture" on the minds of young men, about how television shows and magazines that play on gender stereotypes are reducing men down from this "dominant gender" they like to see themselves as to uneducated, uncouth, horny boys.
If the GTA rape mod is a product of anything other than a few stupid individuals, it's that: the vaporous, encompassing climate of relaxed sexism that seems to permeate popular culture. It's like when we call a Facebook status written by someone other than the account holder a "Facebook rape." It's just in us – it's just parlance.
Sexism has infiltrated a vast collection of things that we encounter in everyday life, and now we're practically blind to the fact that using "Frape" is undermining how seriously we take sexual assaults.
So I don't know about this one. I'd like to be able to lay it at the feet of just a handful of guys, to point at the arseholes who made this mod and say "it's just them, they're in a vacuum, don't worry about it."
Punching the air
But it seems to be everywhere. I almost can't get angry it at – this type of common or garden, lazy sexism is so ubiquitous that riling against it often feels like I'm punching the air, trying to knock out oxygen itself. The overriding emotions I have when I see it now are sadness and exasperation. There's no way we can stop fighting, because this stuff has to die, but it's so damn draining.
How can you think like this? How can you take something so horrendous, something that rips apart people's lives, and turn it into a cheap little joke in your poxy videogame? Are you that insecure that you have to extend your vicious, aggrandising, perverted little power fantasies into everything you do? Can you not just shut up, and leave people alone?
I don't get it. I don't get sexism. I don't understand when, as a gender, we decided that we were better than women – that we had the right to more than they did. When did that happen?
Immune to decency
This is getting a bit earnest and pleading, so I apologise. The fact is, rape is an awful crime, where very often the victims are ignored or doubted by the legal system. It's already not taken seriously by police, courts and newspapers and sewerage like this mod isn't helping.
This mod isn't controversial or wacky or dangerous – it's a typical example of a culture gone berserk. That's why its harmful, because it's accepted, because it's out there, because someone thought rape was no big deal to the point they actually sat down and built a mod so they could do it for laughs in a videogame.
That's the thing to hold onto here. Someone thought of this mod, sat down and made it, and at no point did inhibitions or a sense of responsibility kick in to make them stop. Men today are immune to decency. And it's women who are having to endure and fight back against their sickening bulls**t.