Data Analysis of Trolls and Sea Lions in 2015 [CW][TW]

For about the last month, I’ve been dealing with an increase in trolling. It seems that writing a 3-part series that examines data sets in detail to analyze sexist trends in representation in D&D 5E isn’t nearly as controversial as writing posts in which I talk about simply having feelings about a game. Because my post about my personal reactions to opening packs of the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion attracted a whole lot of assholes – not just here in the comments, but in other parts of my social media. Frex:


Those are all comments from ONE POST on Google+. (As someone else pointed out in that thread, it’s like I put out jackass fly paper or something.)

It’s gotten to the point where the last week or so, I’ve been leaving notifications on on my phone while I’m socializing with friends (something I usually make a point of not doing) simply so that I can keep an eye on comments on my blog, in case something particularly odious gets posted that I’d really rather not leave up for any length of time. Which, of course, presents a bit of a dilemma. If this sort of nonsense is getting to be more common, shouldn’t I just lock down comments completely?

The problem with that is that my patrons and other long-time readers are pretty damn smart, and often contribute quite a lot in the comments sections of my posts. Case-in-point, the comments on my recent semi-tongue-in-cheek post about games I don’t plan on letting my daughter play are actually full of some really great recommendations of fun and progressive games. One other notable example is my post from last year about Lightning Returns and its bonkers wholesale cultural appropriation of Western religious iconography. While I stand by the content of my post, the commenters added a lot of context that I hadn’t been aware of regarding the historical oppression of Christians in Japanese society.

Closing down comments entirely would mean that I would be cutting off actual intelligent and enlightening contributions by supportive readers, and I’m not quite ready to do that. However, while I’ve gotten pretty damn jaded when it comes to people calling me a crazy fat lesbian, there have been quite a few commenters that have started dragging my daughter into their attacks on me since my recent post, and that is… a lot harder to deal with.

To quote myself from Twitter:

I’ve been awake for half an hour, and I’ve already had to remove three comments from my blog that weren’t there when I went to bed. All because I wrote a post, which included GAMES I LOVE, about how I’m worried about sexism in games re: my 3yo daughter. And honestly, I’m so used to people talking smack about ME that it doesn’t even matter. Fat? Uh huh. Jealous? Sure. Lesbian? Whatevs. Man-hater? Obvs. Misandrist? You know it. Seriously, that shit just doesn’t even bother me 99% of the time anymore

But when they start dragging my DAUGHTER into it? That shit really fucking sucks. “it’s a good thing she doesn’t spend much time with you” “you’re raising her to be a dysfunctional lesbian” “you’re a bad parent”. They say all of this because I had the nerve to say even HALF-seriously that there are some games I might not let my daughter play. But for all that their objections are framed around her, they don’t actually CARE about my daughter, her feelings, or her upbringing.

It’s an entirely new level of sexist bro entitlement. They don’t just feel entitled to games that cater to ONLY THEIR INTERESTS… They feel ENTITLED to having MY DAUGHTER playing the same games that they want to play, like several years from now. Because fuck her feelings and her development as a healthy woman in a toxic patriarchal society. That bitch better like their favorite games. And honestly, I don’t know how I can find any of this shit surprising anymore. I really don’t. But I do.

So, you know, thank you, you entitled shitstains, for proving my damn premise about why sexism in games is so fucking toxic.

One of the things that I have done in an effort to make dealing with this sort of nonsense a bit easier is to write a FAQ covering all of the most common shit that gets hurled at me, so that I would have something to point at when removing comments instead of having to type out the same justifications over and over (and over and over…).

In the post which rolled out the new FAQ, I vented some of my frustration over the increased nonsense level around here by saying:

I don’t feel bad in the slightest about summarily trashing comments that insult myself or others, and I’ve grown to quite enjoy replacing derailing comments with sarcastic memes. Because again, see #3 – this is MY house where I make the rules.

But of course, there are certain types of people (men) who think it is LITERALLY JUST THE WORST that I don’t run an open forum for them to insult, abuse, and generally dispute everything I’m saying here. And those people get really. Fucking. Tiresome.

But of course I got questioned on it. Because despite that this is a feminist blog in which I write about sexism in a perceived-as-male-dominated-geeky-subculture, somehow me complaining that it’s always men who have a problem with me removing their comments from my blog is somehow suspect because… uh… reasons?


At the time my response was terse and to the point, since I felt that was about all the attention that particular question deserved.

However, since then, the continued activity of trolls and sea lions got me thinking. As 2015 winds to a close, wouldn’t it be an interesting exercise to set about doing a data analysis of the comments that I’ve gotten to date in 2015? So that’s what I set about doing.

Data analyzing troll and sea lion comments

This has probably been the least fun post that I’ve written in a while. Gathering numbers to do one of my data analysis posts is always an exercise in tedium. Worse, it required going through 11 months of comments, including the ones that were so horrible that I simply deleted them from my blog without even meme-ing them.

I’ve left email comment notification on for the purpose of archiving all comments in their original state, so the process of reviewing them was actually simple, if rather unpleasant. Because breaking down the comments enough to categorize them and analyze the underlying trends required… actually reading them. In detail. Something which I do my best to avoid. And it also required digging up a lot of hurtful stuff that I’d honestly forgotten about from earlier in the year.

Originally I’d conceived of this post as something I’d be able to knock out in a day as a quickie “fuck you” to the trolls that have been plaguing me lately. However, I didn’t count on the fact that it is hard and upsetting purposefully immersing yourself in the words of people who want to make you feel like crap about yourself. What I thought would be a relatively easy task for one day has turned out to be a grueling and exhausting task that’s taken all of today, and parts of yesterday and the day before, and has left me feeling pretty emotionally raw.

Still. It’s done, and the analysis proves pretty clearly that my hypothesis was pretty near correct. You can read the entire summary here, with fancy interactive charts and everything, on Though I’ll ask that you please exercise caution, since it might prove triggering for anyone who has experienced online harassment, gender-based or otherwise.

This is how it starts, and it gets “better” from there.

I’ll note that I know some readers have issue with accessibility re: color blindness with some of the charts that I use here. That’s mainly why I used to put this together – mousing over any particular data point highlights the data segment in question. This is especially useful in the couple of charts that have A LOT of different colors, if differentiating colors is something that is difficult for you.

Of course, I don’t believe that this sort of analysis is actually going to solve anything, because the sorts of people who troll and sea lion my blog aren’t the sorts of people to be swayed by actual facts. Besides, the fact that I’m making this a patron-supported post is pretty likely to draw at least a few trolls out of the woodwork, given that I’m literally being a “professional victim” by doing so. But I haven’t let the asshats and the haters stop me from doing what I do yet, and I’ll be damned if I’ll start now.

7 thoughts on “Data Analysis of Trolls and Sea Lions in 2015 [CW][TW]

  1. It’s an interesting breakdown. I find it fascinating (in the sense of “y’know, I thought we’d moved culturally past the notion that women were some kind of mobile furniture”) that so many of the troll/sealion comments break down to attempting to punish you for speaking at all, much less speaking about something they don’t like. And of course the rest come down to “how dare you not allow me to do whatever the fsck I like wherever I want to do it”.

    There’s recently been a kerfuffle here in Australia where some nincompoop of a bloke decided to deal out an abusive post on the Boke of the Face to a rather prominent feminist journalist, and wound up getting reported to his employers by her[1] (and thus sacked). (Cue predictable whining about how mean the journalist in question was, and how nasty and vindictive of her it was to make this bloke bear the consequences of his actions). In the light of this, and your troll/sealion data above, I have to admit there does appear to be a certain demographic (mostly male, probably majority white) who appear to maintain the rather quaintly archaic notion that life online is entirely separate to their life offline, and thus they can basically use their online lives as a space to allow their inner toddler to run rampant without consequence. They tend to get very offended whenever this particular notion is challenged for them, even though they’re right alongside the notion of “consequences” being something that other people should face for upsetting their notions of how the world should work (for example, women speaking in public rather than being a sort of species of mobile furniture).

    Really, short of reporting them to their mothers (which probably wouldn’t work, since Mummy no doubt thinks her little Nigel couldn’t possibly do something like that) I’ve no idea what to do about these people. At least part of the problem, really, is that they don’t appear to have any concept that people who aren’t like them are actually people (or rather, they appear to have severe problems getting their heads around the concept of “people who aren’t like them“). I just don’t understand the mindset.

    [1] He had his employer’s name posted on his profile on said Boke of the Face, along with a metric crapton of racist, sexist and other such drivel. I mean, it’s not even like he was trying…

    • Boke of the face = that social media site that is awful, but I am required to be a member of if I want to know what is going on with my extended family? (facebook)?

      • Ayup. I used it briefly a few years ago (gee, getting on for a decade now!) and decided it wasn’t for me. I’ve yet to see anything which convinces me otherwise.

  2. Kudos for taking the time, and having the emotional to distance to make statistics out of such horrible stuff directed at you personnally. Of course, it won’t stop future troll commenters from saying you’re “not objective”, you “don’t seriously look at the facts”, and so on…
    Keep doing what you do, wundergeek!

  3. Disappointing, if predictable data. I really like your approach, so I hope this does not deter from continuing this blog.

  4. Thanks for doing this work and putting this post together. I appreciate that this wasn’t an easy or comfortable set of data to review. The mental and emotional labor that went into compiling this data is valuable, and the result is quite illustrative.

  5. Wundergeek: do you remember the game you mentioned once called Dark Souls? Well Dark Souls 3 is coming out soon and it would be much appreciated if you did an article on it.

    A loyal reader who values it’s privacy.

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