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A new study examining the behavior of Halo 3 gamers provides some insights into the dynamics driving online misogynistic harassment. The takeaway? As the headlines trumped with predictable satisfaction, “Men who harass women online are literally losers.”

In the study, the researchers played 163 plays of the video game and analyzed the comments made by other players when they thought they were playing with a male vs. female teammate. The men who were doing worst at the game made the most hostile comments to women. The Washington Post reports:

As they watched the games play out and tracked the comments that players made to each other, the researchers observed that — no matter their skill level, or how the game went — men tended to be pretty cordial to each other. Male players who were good at the game also tended to pay compliments to other male and female players.

Some male players, however — the ones who were less-skilled at the game, and performing worse relative their peers — made frequent, nasty comments to the female gamers. In other words, sexist dudes are literally losers.

In the more academic words of the researchers: “We suggest that low-status males increase female-directed hostility to minimize the loss of status as a consequence of hierarchical reconfiguration resulting from the entrance of a woman into the competitive arena.” It’s yet more evidence that women often bear the brunt of men’s attempts to reclaim a sense of dominance in the masculine hierarchy: In this case, being mean to female players becomes a way of reasserting their threatened masculinity.

Rest: feministing.

New study suggests that men who harass women online are losers. Literally.