Grand Theft Auto V makes it cool to pick up – even kill – prostitutes
My students play GTA V instead of studying. It teaches them to kill prostitutes and demean women in the game – and beyond
Cassie Rodenberg Theguardian.com, December 27, 2013
Prostitutes walk certain locations at night. There’s a line of them in the industrial area. In something backless with thigh-high stockings. You can beep your horn to pick one up. “Get in gorgeous! Let’s party,” you’ll shout. “Let’s find someplace quiet, baby,” she’ll say.
Drive her to a secluded place, on a beach, next to the surf and palm trees.
“Go ahead, sugar. Tell me what you crave.”
Select your service from a drop down menu on the screen – $50 for a blow job, $70 for a half-and-half or $100 for everything. Use your joystick to move the camera on the game, to get a good angle.
“Oh my god, fuck yeah, give it to me,” she’ll say. She’ll keep talking for 20 seconds.
When you’re done you leave her there, run the car forward next to her, then reverse, backing over her. You can get out of the car and beat her. She’ll let you. Once she’s dead, you can grab your money back from the ground.
This is all possible, even encouraged by tips on YouTube and chatrooms, in Grand Theft Auto V. In fact, your character’s health (aka life points) goes up when you have sex with a prostitute.
Like many teenagers, students in New York City’s poorest neighborhood, the South Bronx, play Grand Theft Auto V. It was the fastest entertainment property to ever gross $1bn, which it managed in its first three days of release in September. In the first 24 hours alone, the game sold 11m copies. That’s 11m pixelated ghettos. The latest model is based like its predecessors on a high crime, poverty and gang violence area, this time outside Los Angeles. They see its advertisements featuring a sexy blonde character smirking on bus stops and the logoed stickers affixed to sidewalk posts and curbs.
They play at night instead of doing their homework. It’s cool to pick up prostitutes. This is how you learn to “be a man”. And while those students play their game, in their neighborhood, perhaps under their window, real prostitutes walk.
Millie was one of them, a woman who worked in South Bronx, who walked the streets. She stood on the track, a simulacrum of game pixels. Her hair was short and curly and she had an accent. Maybe she asked men, “want to party?”
She’s dead now, dead like the on-screen women that are fun to kill. There, game and real women split. Millie died of an infection to the heart after too many hits of heroin into an abscess. She was an addict.
Men took her to a dumpster-filled lot, or to a Coca-Cola bottling plant, for a blow job, not to the beach. She would have celebrated $40 for a half-and-half. When her addiction peaked and her luck became short, $10 to earn a hit of heroin would suffice. $10 for most anything.
Sarah works the track, too. Her face is lined with grime, and she lives in a van on the side of the road, sometimes under the bridge of an overpass. She wears sneakers and sweatshirts, whatever she finds, instead of stockings. At work, she passes other women: Pepsi, Desire, Beauty, Egypt, Niecy. Other women who work to placate an addiction birthed by a lifetime’s worth of abuse and bad circumstances that landed them there. They fear ending up like Millie, the dead one.
Many Bronx students, mostly males, many of whom live in shelters or subsist in the foster care system, play GTA V and laugh. They play a game advertised to them, one that insidiously belittles their world, giving them lessons on what to mock about it.
These teenagers have the power to reign over those whores. Game and real women merge.
What they see dictates that they should mock the women outside their windows, mothers and sisters and neighbors. They should harden and laugh like the rest of the world who thoughtlessly screw, dump and kill the bitches in ghettos, things that no longer seem real to them.
Millie died with four children in the foster care system, two of them teenage boys. Her body lies in a mass grave for unclaimed bodies, a place where her sons cannot visit. But they can reach one memory of her on screen, hear her say, “hey, baby,” watch men shove her down.
• This article was amended on 27 December 2013 to clarify that killing prostitutes does not give a player additional points in the game, but having sex with them does.