More on sexual harassment in gaming/comicbook fandom.
Here's a question to think about: why are male gamers like that?
We all remember the type of guy who was into tabletop in school, high school, or at uni. Nerdy, quirky, unattractive, fat, not into sports, just plain different. What do you think was their experience with women, in general? Did they have cheerleader girlfriends? What happened if they dared ask someone out? What did the women of the real world have for them? Disdain, disgust, distaste, plain disinterest.
Is it any wonder that the hobby became a hotbed for exaggerated male sexual fantasies? Is it any wonder that they have no idea how to approach a woman in real life, or that they've simply given up on trying to do it in appropriate ways? Because they've already lost. They're defeated. What you're witnessing isn't mysogyny or the male ego, it's the pulverized remains of self-worth.
Is that a justification? Of course not, but it is an explanation of the underlying problem.
Quite frankly, I would always be on guard if I was around male gamers, especially those of the earlier generations who never outgrew the hobby, never developed other life interests. What these unsuspecting girls should realize is that they're entering an unsafe hobby for women, and should be on guard and loud when problems arise. Yeah, they'll get dismissed but they'll also make enough of a fuss that the guy will probably give up. What girls are expecting is a normal environment in which they are safe, like they would be elsewhere. This isn't anything like that, there's way too much pent up frustration, and one should adjust expectations and behavior accordingly. You don't enter a night club expecting everyone to be your friend. You guard your drink and stay close to your group.
So what is the solution? Treating these men as villains, demonizing them and alienating them further?
A little bit of situational awareness is what I'd advise. I would also ask you for some empathy and kindness. Not when an incident arises but way, way before that. If we're responsible for the safety of women, we're equally responsible for how we treat the men in the hobby. Anyone will turn into an animal if they're surrounded with hostility all their lives, and at some point, it's too late to do anything constructive about it. I think that understanding the underlying cause is important.
I've had my own share of unpleasant experiences as a girl in the hobby. A game master told me after a session that he has ropes cut in my size. This after, somehow, in every game my female character would end up tied helplessly to an altar. He was a great game master with incredible stories... if you weren't female. After the comment with the ropes, I never went to another session. Eventually, I stopped playing tabletop altogether.
Another time, I went to a cafe/bar where roleplayers would sometimes have sessions. I saw a bunch of guys, vaguely familiar to me from roleplaying circles. They were playing a Game of Thrones card game, so I was intrigued and asked if I could join. They were pretty welcoming, and more than willing to show me the ropes. However, I was the only woman there, and... Well, I started feeling uncomfortable. Because of the way they were looking at me. There was a palpable atmosphere of thirst that I'm at a loss of words to describe. It felt like they would devour me with their eyes if they just could. I was a representation of something they really, really wanted and were on the verge of taking by force, that's how strong the desire was. I excused myself after a while and left.
The thing is, I don't think of any of them as bad people. When I think back to these events, I think of them with compassion. The GM with the ropes, he miscalculated his approach terribly. He didn't do anything wrong, he didn't touch me, or disrespect me. He just showed interest in a clumsy way. The guys playing the GoT game... I feel sad for them. They were older guys who kind of wasted their lives doing nothing but the hobby. You just don't know the story of every gamer guy out there. And no, not every male gamer is like this, there are plenty of those who managed to overcome the challenges of growing up different and became decent individuals. It can be done, so the gropers and the abusers have no justification whatsoever. Still, this is an unhealed rift within the hobby, and some awareness on both sides wouldn't hurt.