Teabagging in online video games deserves a more nuanced conversation

Teabagging has been a staple of the game for at least two decades, but it’s back in the news. This is after Dilly was threatened with disqualification and a permanent ban from Apex Legends Fate Legion tournaments by the Apex Legends Fate Legion tournament organizer for giving tea to his own teammate. This was quickly followed by what I can only describe as a Twitter rant from FPS streamer Gladd, stoking the debate around teabagging – which has always been swirling for as long as it’s been a thing – again. There’s usually very little nuance in these debates, but I think in this instance I’m standing in the middle and can offer a more measured view. The disqualification was silly and unnecessary, but I also think Gladd’s tweet about the loudest and most obnoxious attitudes in esports/online shooters was equally silly and unnecessary. Sometimes the teabag is good, and sometimes it’s bad, and it’s in that “sometimes” that all logic and balance gets lost.

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I think teabagging is similar to pulling someone’s pants down. If you’re all in a group of friends laughing, that’s basically fine. The victim may be embarrassed or upset, but they always have a chance for revenge next time. Even in a group of guys who don’t really know each other but are all laughing, if you pull someone’s pants down, chances are you’ll get a big cheer and there’ll be a great relationship. crew. If you pull down a woman’s pants, you know you’ve crossed a line. I don’t want to hear any egalitarian bullshit that if women really want equal rights, they should just allow men to pull down their jeans so everyone can have a good laugh. We all know from living in the real world that pulling down your best friend’s pants is very different from pulling down a random woman’s pants.


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Teabagging isn’t pulling anyone’s pants down, of course. It is the act of crouching over someone’s avatar while they are lying on the ground, dying or dead. The tea bags are your balls, which I guess makes their mouths the cup of tea. It’s a very patriarchal act, and shaped by sexual domination. Gladd says it’s wrong to compare teabagging to sexual assault (I’m paraphrasing the rant slightly), and he’s right. It’s irresponsible and trivializes sexual assault to compare it to what is, in isolation, a fairly innocuous act. Dilly did not sexually assault his teammate in Fate Legion. He was just joking a bit with his friend. It’s the old adage – no harm, no foul.


But of course, sometimes there is harm. Teabagging a player can have a new context. If you take tea on all your victims and one of them is a woman, I think that’s fine. If you’re the type of person to infuse everyone over and over again, then you’re probably the type to laugh at your own jokes, but that’s not a particularly heinous crime. The problem is that women are frequently targeted by this (along with most other forms of grief) for having a female voice on the mic or some other cue on their profile that they are female. When women are harassed with teabags over and over again, often accompanied by requests to “suck my dick, bitch”, it becomes a lot less fun and a lot more exhausting. You’re not just laughing at your own jokes anymore, you’re laughing at your own rape jokes.


The world of esports is not a level playing field for women, and teabagging is clearly based on sexual dominance, similar to a lot of adjacent homoerotic banter among young men (see also: joking about the size of the penis, drawing a cock and balls everywhere, and of course, pulling down the other’s pants). Esports already feels like a toxic space for women, and even if the disqualification in question isn’t related to that, it’s as if the community’s response is.

Gladd told his followers “[if you don’t like teabagging] You’re a fucking soft ass bitch. Drop games. Go elsewhere. Let’s watch ‘fucking soft ass pussy asshole’. Three of these words are explicitly gendered, while one (“soft”) has an implied gender. It’s probably unconscious, but this message is aimed at women – or men who sometimes agree with women and see them as complete beings, which, for many people like Gladd, is even worse. Then there’s “Drop the games. Go somewhere else” – raise your hand if you’ve been told this before. You’ll notice, if you look around, that virtually every woman’s hand has gone up.


Teabagging, most of the time, isn’t a big deal. You play with friends, you laugh, and you saw this at Fate Legion and were surprised, perhaps outraged, at the disqualification. Again, I think that’s pretty silly. But there are also times when it’s more important, and it’s a sign of the toxicity of things that no talk about it is tolerated – at least not unless you’re “a whore.” bitch with a sweet ass”.

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Carolyn M. Daniel