Editorial: An Echo Chamber of Stupid

There are few vaginas more sandy than humourless feminists, fewer still are sandier than humourless feminist anti-rape advocates, yet the sandiest vaginas of the week undoubtedly belong to the Humourless Feminist Alliance against Dickwolf Perpetrated Sexual Misconduct, or as they might be more accurately termed; Rape Trolls.

Put on some pants: If they didn't dress so immodestly, perhaps they wouldn't have to worry quite so much about dickwolves

For those not in the know, a Rape Troll is the sort of miserable creature who Googles ‘rape jokes’ and then affects great moral OUTRAGE when they come across the desired articles of rape, whereupon they make haste back to their dank lairs so that they might feed this ‘OUTRAGE’ in dribs and gormless drabs to their foul brood as they nuzzle blindly at their leathery old teats. Or so was Penny Arcade’s experience this week at the hands of the unscrupulous pile of turds; Shakesville, wherein rusted on feminist ideologue and sandy vagina at large Shaker Milli A took great offence at a relatively innocuous Penny Arcade strip involving a World of Warcraft slave being raped to sleep by dickwolves. In fact so incensed was this fatuous Rape Troll, that for her “Penny Arcade took it to another level”, the joyless hag goes on to claim “This is why I’m a humorless feminist. Because rape jokes killed my sense of humor” (It is always someone else’s fault, isn’t it?), she seems to have got the causal link back-to-front.

While in the face of this purile onslaught many would be content with maintaining a dignified and stony silence, Penny Arcade on the other hand accorded the inconsequential digital rag with the undeserved recognition and respect of penning a follow-up strip addressing their concerns directly by stating:

Tycho: Hello, this is Tycho Brahe, of Penny Arcade. We recently made a comic strip where an imaginary

I've got your vagina monologues right here

person was raped imaginarily by a mythological creature whose every limb was an erect phallus. Some found that idea disturbing.

Gabe: We want to state in clear language, without ambiguity or room for interpretation: We hate rapers, and all the rapes they do. Seriously, though. Rapists are really the worst.

Tycho: It’s possible you read our cartoon, and became a rapist as a direct result. If you’re raping someone right now, stop. Apologize. And leave. Go, and rape no more.

Sadly, acknowledging Shaker Milli A’s petulant diatribe merely provided more oxygen to the den of moribund petty journalism and handwringing that is Shakesville, as another clueless bint from the faceless ranks of rank amateur ideologues which populate Shakesville’s digital wasteland promptly stepped in to spout more irrational nonsense:

Quite a pithy—and familiar—reaction. It encompasses the three same old tired strategies that defenders of rape jokes typically employ:

1. Misrepresenting critics’ primary objection as the assertion that rape jokes “create” rapists and/or “cause” rape.

2. Summarily treating that idea as absurd.

3. Concluding that critics are thus hypersensitive reactionaries with no legitimate critique.

Ah, so Gabe and Tycho’s response was just ‘typical’ of what sounds to be a fairly large and prevalent demography of rape joke defenders, a group populated (one suspects) exclusively by the recipients of prior Shakesville trolling. Try substituting ‘rape joke’ with ‘free speech’ and Rape Troll Melissa McEwan may well be on to something. If the ideas of Rape Trolls are treated as absurd, it is because they are. If Rape Trolls are viewed as hypersensitive reactionaries with no legitimate critique, it simply indicates that their beholder is possessed of functioning sentient comprehension. McEwan continues:

Melissa McEwan: It is my fervent hope that she will one day meet NATE LILES

I will never understand why anyone wants to be the total jerk who evokes someone’s memories of being assaulted by blindsiding hir with a rape joke (or image, or metaphor, or whatever), in the guise of “humor.” No “joke” is worth triggering someone. Not if you understand what triggering someone really means.

I’m more bothered by the thought of a woman who’s recently been raped, who’s just experienced what may be the worst thing that will ever happen to her, and goes to the site of her favorite webcomic, or turns on the telly, or goes to the cinema, or a comedy club, to have a much-needed laugh—only to see that horrible, life-changing thing used as the butt of a joke.

I don’t understand—and I don’t believe I ever will—why anyone wants to be the person who sends that shiver down her spine, who makes her eyes burn hot with tears at an unwanted memory while everyone else laughs and laughs.

Yeah … I’ll bet that was exactly what they were thinking when they wrote their funny comic strip, boy I hope we can “trigger” someone’s PTSD symptoms. The Rape Trolls of Shakesville = “it’s all about me”. It is the abject arrogance and selfishness of Rape Trolls that they fervently believe that the entirety of productive society should be organised to the convenience of their own mental health defects, right down to the tastes and sensibilities of mainstream right-thinking citizenry. Quite why a victim of sexual assault suffering from severe PTSD would think it a good idea to surf the melting pot of bile that is the internet (given their likelihood of avoidance symptoms) is quite beyond me, yet even assuming exposure, the Rape Troll’s core assumptions are flawed. The gold standard of PTSD treatment is currently prolonged exposure therapy, wherein prolonged exposure to a low level aversive stimulus is able to cause an individual’s irrational fear to habituate, so it might be said that Penny Arcade is positively performing a most valuable service to the coven of misanthropes squatting at Shakesville. At any rate this line of thinking is moot for the passionless husks of Shakesville, as they obviously run little risk of being inadvertently exposed to the traumatic stimulus of Penny Arcade, since quite clearly they do not read the comic, preferring as they do to lurk and loiter on the interwebs until they espy something objectionable, before descending like a plague of locusts to infest it, so that they might feed their insatiable appetite for complaint. To put things in perspective; the name of the original article was: Rape is Hilarious, Part 53 in an Ongoing Series, bringing into question whether the Rape Troll really does suffer from PTSD or merely OCD.

At any rate, enough breath has been spent on this frivolous pursuit. Shakesville isn’t a legitimate news site, the Rape Trolls in question are not real journalists, and their entire community is one colossal circle jerk. Legitimate media has given this cabal of narcissistic ne’er do wells altogether too much oxygen as it is, and have failed in asking the appropriate questions, such as “do these dreadful people even read Penny Arcade”. In this gamer’s humble opinion Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (A.K.A. Tycho and Gabe) are to be commended for not being cowed by a vocal, thuggish minority, who would (if they could) encroach upon our free speech and good humour in ways which do not bear thinking about. So, until next week Lusireaders, be warned that the only safe feminism is contained in the pages of the Collected Works of Gaga, and remember; it isn’t rape if you shout ‘SURPRISE’ first.

36 comments

  1. As much as I’m against rape, and as much as I think it’s not something to be joked about, the First Amendment of the American Constitution exists for a reason. Just because you don’t LIKE something, well…too bad, freedom of speech.

  2. Actually, the “freedom of speech” only prevents the government from acting to suppress your speech. It does not, as is commonly thought, give one a license to be an asshole without repercussions. The solution to speech one finds distasteful is simply to engage in countervailing speech, rather than seeking prior restraint.

  3. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

    Seeking to restrain speech is meaningless. Offended by something? Don’t support it. Simple as that.

  4. If one does not like the jokes a particular comic makes, one could always stop supporting that comic. Of course, certain denizens of the internet haven’t quite realised this yet.

    The internet has given these crabbed, puerile people a venue in which to congregate with other similarly crabbed, puerile people. In ages past, they would rightly have been ostracised from their local society — but today, they can get together on the internet in their fives and tens and tell each other how right they all are.

    This bellyaching about “this joke offends me” is just the feeble wriggling of an intellect incapable of grasping intent; it is the desperate, miserable blithering of the self-centered and hopelessly obtuse; it is the wicked, winsome whimper of a narcissistic worldview too often challenged by the presence of sense and reason. As for the den of these rape trolls, it is a paradise for puerility. One looks within and finds precisely what one expects.

    The United States of America is a flawed and probably hopeless cause which will one day fold up on itself and collapse like a dying star, but it has given the world a few great ideas, and one of those is the right to FREEDOM OF SPEECH. I do not mean this in the legal sense, as Lane puts forward — that is, the right to political speech free of government censorship. No, I mean it in the sense that it is popularly held: the right to state one’s opinion on a matter — whatever matter, and whatever opinion — without fear of legal repercussions.

    Should that opinion happen to be that MYTHOLOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE AND ABSURD RAPE IS FUNNY, well so be it. The original sentence provides a reasonable suggestion for those who happen to disagree.

    I doubt very much any of those cretinous, sandy-twatted swine are readers of this site, though. And if they were, I should hope very much that they are so no longer.

  5. -These sad cunts use rape as a crutch to excuse being twats.

    @Lusi: That was pure poetry!

    @Lusi&Lane: The United States is worlds apart from Australia in terms of free speech, over here (as in England) there are a number of books critical of Scientology that have not been released due to the fact that the author would face decades of harassment with nuisance libel suits. Thus; freedom of speech is an ideal that I take very seriously, and something that I think you guys got absolutely right. I am eternally amazed that in America you have such freedom of expression that a bunch of misanthropic loons can show up to protest military funerals while chanting obscene sexual vilification, which is as it should be (though of course I also support these wretches receiving the beatdowns that they have coming).

  6. NOTA BENE

    A dickwolf is not to be confused with Dick Wolf. The former rapes you with every one of his erect dick appendages (appendickages?); the latter merely makes fifteen different versions of the same TV show where every episode is about someone being raped.

    Also, the former receives internet scorn from women whose vaginas double as a gravel pit; the latter receives Emmys and plaudits from the same sandpaper-cunted wenches.

  7. The Rape Trolls of Shakesville = “it’s all about me”.
    >The Internet = “its all about me”
    Fix’d. In our hypersensitive society, people feel like THE ENTIRE INTERNET should confirm to their specific standards, its absolutely ridiculous.

    VGCats had the same problem a while back, but the thing I can understand about that particular instance of interwub rage is this: it proposed an actual rape situation. It still really isn’t that offensive either way, but it puts into perspective the sheer absurdity of the Penny Arcade scandal. Master Chief taking advantage of Samus Aran is at least reasonable for someone to get miffed about, but a damn dickwolf? If we’re going to get our panties all in a knot about imaginary creatures sexually assaulting people, you might want to turn your attention away from PA and toward the many goo and/or tentacle monster of Japan.

  8. Hmmmm … the VGCats strip wasn’t really offensive, but I couldn’t see anything funny or ironic about it. Was it making some kind of meta-commentary that I’m missing? Or were they just running low on inspiration that week?

  9. Yeah, while I can understand that seeing images of rape (no matter how ridiculous) might make a rape victim have terrible, painful memories, it is entirely more ridiculous to tell someone to stopping making the joke. You cannot arbitrarily draw the line. If rape jokes are now off limits, then so are countless other things that have caused people great pain. Many of which would be nearly impossible to predict.

    As a semi-personal example, my girlfriend has Alopecia, which is to say, she is completely hairless. Growing up in a small town has definitely not been easy for her for this fact. Therefore if I see an episode of a show or any comedic medium that makes bald jokes, I tense up a little knowing that it wouldn’t make my girlfriend feel good as it would remind her of years of teasing, to say the least.

    I am NOT, however, angry at the show for making the joke, that’s absurd. I do not think the jokes are in poor taste or out of line, even though it would possibly invoke painful memories.

    I’m aware the situation is not the same as rape, but once the floodgates are open, everybody starts to feel more entitled than they already are.

    In fact, the best way to know you’ve overcome a traumatizing event or series of events IS TO LAUGH AT IT. That may be more difficult for some things than others, but you can’t expect to go on the fucking internet to find a space free of humour directed toward your particular situation.

    I know I’ll never know the horrors of rape (except from Oliver Motok), and I’m a white man, so these women would dismiss my opinion instantly, but it is necessary to laugh at one’s self – no matter the horror, and the internet can’t perfectly time every victim’s ability to do so.

    Don’t focus on slandering a webcomic, focus on being supportive and loving to the rape victims who require it. I don’t understand people like this who are destructive of others instead of supportive of the people they’re defending.

  10. RAPE IS ALWAYS FUNNY.

    Sorry, but it is. It sucks if you or someone you care about gets raped, but that aside it’s a big bag of laughs.

    I find it offensive when some woman, particularly if she hasn’t even been raped, gets up and bitches about someone making a rape joke as if women hold a monopoly on being rape victims or something. I just wasted about ten minutes of my life away that I’ll never get back reading about ( http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html ) how (to spare everyone else the same) “No one is allowed to make rape jokes, because (only!!!!) women get raped, and rape is bad, mmkay!”

    She even acknowledges that rape jokes don’t cause rape, but then says they “Create Rape Culture™” which somehow causes rape. So she gets around the obvious difficulty in defending the idiotic proposition that rape jokes cause rape by fictionalizing some abstraction that is created by (or somehow fostered by) rape jokes which causes rape.

    So:

    Rape Jokes -> Rape = Retarded.

    Everyone agrees on that.

    Rape Jokes -> Rape Culture™ -> ??? -> Rape = Perfectly Rational, according to completely irrational attention whoring feminists.

    It’s the fucking Underpants Gnome Theory of Rape. I need to go find a gas leak to breath deeply of so I can take this woman seriously.

  11. I have tried, several times, to begin writing a sufficient response to the troubling ideas raised by this post. Each comment compels me to write more. There is no way that I can say what I need to say diplomatically. There is no way I can take on the burden of educating people on feminist theory, what “rape culture” means or why rape is a complex theoretic concept that can only be unpacked very carefully. I just don’t have time to distill feminist philosophy into a blog post.

    But I feel very passionate, given my work, about social justice. And I cannot, in good conscience, participate in a site that typifies the misogyny, sexism and bigotry of the larger gamer culture toward women, feminism, and social justice. It is with great sadness that I do this, but I absolutely cannot condone the views expressed by commentators here. I will not associate myself with that.

  12. @Lane: If something is worth explaining, it is worth explaining. And generally, things that are very important can usually be explained without too much difficulty, if the audience is receptive.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for social justice, but there are better ways to obtain it than scouring the internet looking for the word ‘rape’ and immediately assuming it was used in every circumstance with malice aforethought.

    The fact of the matter is that the intent of the user is of great merit; additionally, one must consider whether or not the offense of the recipient is justified. I don’t think the offense of the recipient is justified when one says something on the internet which the vast majority of people would not be hurt by. Also, we must consider the venue of the dialogue.

    Discussion of murder might well upset those people who have known someone who was murdered, but this does not mean that we must purge our society of all jokes or non-serious dialogue about killing in the fear that we might accidentally upset someone. It is a terrible thing that we live in a society where terrible things have happened to people, but this is not a reason to purge our society of anything that might trigger awful memories.

    If this were something being blasted from street corners, shouted from rooftops, and screamed into schoolyards and kindergardens so that it would be impossible to avoid, it would be a different story: but it is not. We are talking about an obvious joke about an imaginary creature committing rape in an absurd and ridiculous way. And, the venue? A fundamentally profane and frequently obscene website where an often reccuring character is literally a rapist. If discussion of rape triggers terrifying memories and you still choose to read Penny Arcade, you are an imbecile. If you are afraid of fires, you don’t get a job as a firefighter.

    It’s easy to lose sight of this, but this is the key issue at stake here — not whether all discussion of rape is valid in all places at all times, but whether or not PA was out of line in this particular instance. I think they clearly were not. I think it is reasonable to conclude that they were not. Unless, of course, one can declaim that they aren’t allowed to say what they want on their own private website which one can choose to read, or not, as one sees fit.

  13. That’s the rub; I am not sure the audience is receptive. Rather than being a defense of Tycho and Gabe’s actions, this post was an attack on the writers at Shakesville, an attack on their (perceived; some Shakes writers are men) gender, and adding fuel to the fire, bringing in unrelated issues that amount to an attack on feminism. If I were to say, “Yo dudes, you’ve got a feminist right here, ask me about it!” how receptive do you think people would be? Would I not simply expose myself to like ridicule?

    There is nothing, and I mean nothing, funny about rape. Most of you probably haven’t sat there as a rape victim cried in front of you describing what happened. To you, rape is something abstract, a crime, something that happens to other people. But rape is more than simply an actus reus by a person. It’s a symbol of institutional oppression, the method by which patriarchy reinforces its social striations. And it’s not a women’s issue. Although there are women rapists, the majority of rapes are committed by men, against men, women and children. Rape isn’t a crime of sex; it’s a way of humiliating someone. It’s a perversion of the intimacy of sex; it uses something wonderful (sex and sexuality) as a weapon against people.

    To dismiss a rape joke as just a joke ignores the broader social context of rape. While I admit the PA strip was more innocuous than other jokes that have been/could be made, that is beside the point. Gabe and Tycho can write whatever comics they wish, but being luminaries of the gaming world should not insulate them from just criticism. This sort of factionalism is rampant within gamer culture and prevents meaningful critique: any time a problematic question is raised, people go into lockdown and attack mode rather than saying, “You’re right, maybe we shouldn’t have done the comic we did.” Throwing up the smoke screen of free speech is wrong; no one is saying that Gabe and Tycho should face legal consequences for that strip… but to say that their “opinion” on the matter insulates them from criticism de-rails the possibility of a broader discussion.

    I would love nothing more than to see the stereotype of the gamer as the lonely, eternally-adolescent, sexually-frustrated male reveling in racism, sexism and misogyny evaporate. I think there are lots of conscientious gamers out there sympathetic to social justice causes. But those voices get drowned out.

    “Rape culture” is a theoretic term. That someone does not understand it is not a license to dismiss it; demanding that others explain or clarify what rape culture means is an assertion of privilege. It says, “hey, marginalized person (or their advocate), I can’t be bothered to learn what the hell I’m on about, so you take the time to explain it to me!” It demands of the interlocutor a burden that should be on the subject.

    “Rape culture” is a pervasive social attitude in a given society that treats sexualized violence, including rape, as an acceptable part of the culture and necessary for the preservation of patriarchal societal mores. Rape jokes, or saying “rape is always funny” de-legitimize critiques of rape culture by painting the subject as one that does not need to be seriously considered academically and studied for how to ameliorate its effects. If we reduce rape to simply a bad action that happens to others, dilute its social context via crude attempts at humor, etc., then we perpetuate rape culture. If we patronize entertainment that glorifies in the use of sexualized violence, or links the use of such violence against people to “good” or “beneficial” actions, we promote “rape culture.”

    I see feminism as a moral imperative within our society; the subversion and dismantlement of patriarchy is a barrier to social equity. To see it derided (in relation to the “Fat Princess” brouhaha) is something I am not terribly fond of on a personal level. I realize that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and if I cannot change one’s opinion by force of rhetoric or persuasion, so be it. But I worry, worry on a personal and ethical level, whether it is right to continue my open association with (what appears to my eyes at least) a site-wide policy of supporting people that make rape jokes, ostracize size, deride feminists and feminism, and dismiss legitimate criticism as an “echo chamber of stupid” because someone said a popular gaming webcomic should not have made a rape joke.

    And the answer I came up with, after thinking for a long time about it, was that I could not find myself an honest and ethical person if I continued such an association. Those things are all things I am very, very strongly against, ideologically. They undermine my goals in life, both personal and professional. They reinforce stereotypes I would like to see torn down. And I don’t expect anyone to be anything but dismissive of this opinion, because the opinions I agree with have (thus far) been summarily dismissed and mocked. What have I to gain by engaging in debate on this matter, if I will not be taken in good faith?

  14. @Lane: To begin with, I think it is very wrong to make the assumption that you will not be taken in good faith. I think that our readers, for all their snarky cattiness (male and female alike), are at the heart of it wholly reasonable people. I also think that, if one makes it clear that one is being sincere, you will be taken to be so.

    That out of the way, I do not think you would be exposing yourself to ridicule if you said you were a feminist and made it clear you were sincere in those beliefs. However, I think you would need to clarify your terms. Feminism is a term which is extremely nebulous in meaning, and has been used by a variety of people operating under a variety of ideals and goals, many of which are at odds which each other.

    Unlike many of our readers, perhaps, I can state with great authority that rape is not funny for people who have been raped. And unlike some of the writers at shakesville (or whatever it is), I can also declaim that rapes do not just happen to women, nor are they occasion for high-fives and pats on the back when they happen to men. But despite this knowledge, I would not wish to see the world purged of things that give offence, whether to me in particular, or to anyone else either. All joking aside, the world is far too large to be forced to conform to the narrowness of an individual’s desire.

    Rape Culture as a term is as equally nebulous and ambiguous as feminism, and so I disagree: the burden is upon the stater to declare what they mean. I suspect that it is often the case that the word is being used as justification for one’s argumentation without any sort of idea what it is in the first place. It is a lovely tool of redirection which presumes that the other party is ignorant of its meaning and will be cowed by its use. The word heteronormative was used in the same way in the post referred to by our correspondent; rape culture is significantly more complex, and therefore it is even more likely that it is being misused.

    With regard to your definition of rape culture: I don’t think it exists in anything but the most abstract way; unless we are willing to accept that we also live in a murder culture, an adultery culture, a violence culture, a beauty culture, a conformist culture, a consumerist culture, and a whole host of other societial ills as well. And if this all the case, why should we confine our censureship of others to topics of rape?

    In a way, what you’re ultimately arguing for is a world of logical purity where the only discussions that can be had are practical and non-challenging. Whilst this might be very utilitarian and productive, it’s also not very human.

    Moving on, if we are going to qualify feminism as a desire to reach equity within society between men and women, then I am all for that. I believe that a meritocratic society is the best sort, as I have told you before, and that the only time gender should be used as reason for making a decision about an individual’s capabilities is when it has a demonstrated bearing on those capabilities. Otherwise, it should be ignored entirely.

    Finally, with regard to your association with our site staff and our readers: the editorial posted above is just that, an editorial. It is particularly sharp in its tone, as is Julian’s wont; a characteristic of his particular oeuvre, if you will. But in the end, it is just that: an editorial. It does not represent the opinions of any other staff member or of the site proper or the readers. People may feel free to agree or disagree as they see fit. I am not interested in censoring responses one way or the other, as long as the dialogue remains polite. When people start behaving badly, then and only then does the hammer come down.

    If, in the end, you feel that your work here is not the only thing held to be representative of your position: rather, that the ideas espoused in the editorials of others also reflect upon you, then you must do as you see fit. I, personally, think that would be an erroneous conclusion, but I also understand that the rest of the world is not so discerning in their views, and might very well draw alternate conclusions.

    I will say this, though: the best way to change the opinions of others is to present concise, well-thought, polite argumentation which rises above ad hominems whilst it addresses the points at issue — just as you’ve done today. A good start, but there will be points you have to address if you’re as sincere as I believe you are. It is a much easier job to fold up shop and go home, I’ll admit, but it doesn’t get much done. But what good are all the ideals in the world without action behind them?

  15. The word “feminism” is not difficult to define: it is a collection of various, sometimes mutually-exclusive or contradictory theories relating to the oppression and empowerment of women in our society. Under a broader “social justice” label, it joins such causes as anti-racism, socialism, anti-homophobia, and other “anti-oppression” or “anti-marginalization” ethics. I dare say that if you look for consensus among feminists, you will not find it, as each thinker is entitled to his or her own particular views. For instance, you will not find me in agreement with the so-called “second wave” of feminism, because I think it has a lot of sex-negative ideas, and does not give sufficient shrift to interdisciplinary ideas, such as the intersectionality between feminism and anti-racism.

    My own legal philosophy falls within what is commonly called “critical legal theory,” or those theories of law related to (largely) continental European social movements within philosohpy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc. Feminist legal theory is an important bloc of critical theory. I tend to focus on the intersection of the law (particularly criminal law) and how it may either be something that subverts and undermines patriarchy (by fighting against sexualized violence-as-crime) or something that can be used to reinforce it (such as terrible conditions for women, particularly pregnant women within our penal system).

    That I choose to highlight feminism here should not be taken as an indication of my lack of fervor for speaking against the other ills you mentioned. Yes, we live in a “rape culture,” but that is largely symptomatic of deeper issues within our culture, including our tendency to use violence as a panacea for problems. Patriarchy is but one expression of the basic problem, which is structrual and systemic social inequity.

    That said, it does not diminish the need to resist patriarchy, and, in particular, rape culture. I do not think we need to censor, or self-censor, even, talk of rape. I think games and gaming culture ought to contain a frank and honest discussion of rape. I think that rape, as an action available to player characters or NPCs in a game, ought to be dealt with realistically. Its effects ought to be demonstrable to the game mechanics and demonstrably bad. I am thinking here of a sandbox or dramatic game lik Heavy Rain (or even Fable, though I hesitate to think the direction that creep Molyneaux would take it in) where if a player chooses to commit rape they ought to face psychological and legal troubles. I think having bad or evil characters use rape is a fair way of painting it as we should: a tool of oppression that no one ought to resort to.

    Do I think that Gabe and Tycho crossed a line with their joke? Not really; it is minimally transgressive. Yes, it is a “rape joke,” but to say it is a “rape joke” divorces it from its context as a one-off comic about MMO mechanics, the same as saying “rape is funny” divorces rape from its context as a tool of patriarchal oppression. The PA strip was basically, “Hey, doesn’t it suck that you have to pass suffering because you’ve saved the required quest quota? I mean, here’s a guy in slavery, subject to sexual bondage (which is a common way of dehumanizing a slave and robbing them of their agency), and we just pass him up!”

    The “raped to sleep by the dickwolves” was, at least in form, a “joke.” It was a humorous exaggeration of an absurd concept, classic joke stuff, at least philosophically. For me, it fell flat. But hey, I’m sure that my humor rarely, if ever, finds its mark.

    That’s fine; their joke, as I said, was minimally transgressive, worthy of a “maybe consider that there are other ways to express what you want than rape by dickwolves.”

    And, for the record, while I found the defense offered by the next strip a little grating, it wasn’t a major transgression either. I’m sure Jerry and Mike are great people that would be mortified at the thought of supporting a “rape culture,” were the effects of their actions explained to them. But they’re not social scientists or philosophers or what have you; they probably don’t sit around reading books on women’s studies or critical theory. And that’s fine; no one says they have to…

    Which leads me to the writers at Shakesville. Yeah, a lot of blogging is reactionary (mine is; this post is; theirs was too). That’s the nature of the personal blog. One gamer wrote about her experience on reading the strip; Jerry and Mike responded. Other Shakes writers picked it up, and, in the ensuing snarkfest, a teachable moment was lost (nota bene: this was roughly equivalent to what happens elsewhere in fandom when a well-known personality does something that an Irate Blogger finds objectionable. See the Elizabeth Bear/racism in fantasy brouhaha of last year).

    The problem, at least as I see it in fandom, is fan’s tendency to overreact and dig in, instead of a moderate and rational defense of a contrary-but-reasonable position, and go on the attack, which quickly turns personal, which quickly drags in the ugly heads of racism, sexism, misogyny, able-ism, size-ism, whatever… we can come up with new -isms for it all day, but at some point, someone in the debate, probably on both sides, is going to at least tacitly invoke the “my way of being is more socially acceptable than yours.”

    And, feeling strongly about social justice and equality, I don’t like to see that. But more than that, it is troubling, at least to me and my own sense of ethical duty to live honestly, to give only half-hearted attempts to distance myself from such talk.

    Instead of a reasoned analysis of what Jerry and Mike did wrong, how feminist bloggers might have missed some points in a perfectly valid and acceptable critique, however, the “snarky cattiness” of this post came across as promoting the sorts of things that are used to marginalize feminists and such issues: gendered insults, dismissal of feminism as a worthless project, misrepresentation of feminist theoretical terms, the stereotype of the “humorless feminist,” etc. There is a difference between cattiness and marginalization, and I think this post came down on the wrong side of it.

    So the question is now, how do I, as a feminist, respond to it? It would be beyond trite of me (and below me) to try and evoke shame and guilt in the authors of comments here. Everyone, as I said, is entitled to their own opinion, and there is considerable room for reasonable disagreement on this issue. I recognize that, and am glad for it. Tepid agreement on everything makes the world boring.

    But I would have this same reaction to racism, homophobia, religious hatred, ethnic slurs, or pro-Horde views. All of these things are abhorrent to me.

  16. @Lane: The internet is a giant festival of hyperbole superadded to hyperbole, and so the reactions of people to the controversy didn’t surprise me one jot. The responses of people to the cartoon didn’t surprise me either. On the internet, I fully expect people in both camps of a disagreement to immediately explode with wrath, culminating in one side or the other comparing the opposing viewpoint to the Nazis. This is the internet, that is how things are done here.

    That said, you are right in that the original article above was not a serious, reasoned critique of the situation. But of course, it is an editorial, and if you believe that to be the case and you think it detracts from the editorial, you should use the comments to tell the author as you have done. If he is a man of reason, he will address your comments. And if not, well, then not.

    I think one of the mistakes we are all making at the moment is in putting far too much weight in the article above. I think much of it was written with humour in mind–the sort of vitriolic invective which is meant to give its intended readership something to laugh about. Were it to be taken as a serious, deliberate piece of non-fiction reporting, the author would be rightly painted as an uncaring, callous, murderous individual. But, I don’t think that is the case–rather, it is SN being SN, and his readers know what to expect from him and generally how far to go along with him.

    That said, there is something in the idea that consistently making jokes about something denudes the topic of value over time. Any look at the progress of comic work in the 20th century will show this to be the case. We also don’t want to be in a position where people take what is meant as a joke as fact, or put too much weight in what is merely internet hyperbole.

    For example, I don’t think any reader or staff member of this site would ever, on a person-to-person level, want to actually emotionally compromise someone if it could be reasonably avoided. But at the same time, is it reasonable to obliterate any jokes about anything which might do so if someone happens along who would be so compromised, given the standing presumption that such an occurance is unlikely at best?

    You do make two more points I should like to address: first, that games should contain a frank and evocative evaluation of rape. I wholeheartedly agree. I think this is probably the best thing that could be done. Outrageous violence and evil activity should have, in the game world, concrete and realistic consequences. In a sense, they should be teaching tools; not in terms of Sesame Street ABC, but in terms of real world lessons about right, wrong, and the consequences of one’s actions. The abdication of personal responsibility is one the greatest evils of our time, and is responsible for the vast majority of our problems. Let’s do something about it.

    On the other point: the Alliance sucks.

  17. I read every word of those Lane/Lusipurr comments and I’m glad I did, and I’m glad Lane spoke his mind.

    I stand by my opinion (far) above, but would like to add that I associate myself with being an equalist as well.

  18. I would like to say I agree with several of the sentiments. Rape is not funny. It is, quite possibly, the wost crime one can commit against an individual. And there is definitely a rape culture with stigma against rape victims, with people implying or explicitly STATING that, for example, a woman who was scantily clad somehow DESERVED to be raped. This is ludicrous, misogynistic, and trivializes a brutal and violent crime. I imagine “Gabe” and “Tycho” (forgot their real names >_>) are not SUPPORTERS of rape in any way. The comic was not intended to be a social commentary, it was intended to be a joke. People need to lighten up and realize that not every joke with the word “rape” in it is promoting the rape culture. What promotes the rape culture is stigmatizing women. The culture is promoted by the frankly ridiculous slut-shaming that happens in our culture (You know what happens when I find out a female friend of mine has gotten some? They get what my male friends get, a high-five and a “congrats”). An innocuous joke that just happens to have rape in it is not promoting rape culture. If Shakesville REALLY gives a shit about rape victims, then they should be working on the real issues: helping rape victims get the justice they deserve, and work on removing the stigmas associated with rape victims. Attacking a webcomic for making jokes isn’t going to do a goddamn thing and I think we all know it.

  19. Hey everyone,

    Phew, where to start!

    First I’ll give you guys a bit of a background on me, so you know where I’m coming from. I’m an adult woman, a feminist, a human rights advocate, a gamer, and also a lurker at the Shakesville blog, as well as many other feminist blogs. The only reason I mention this is because I spend a lot of time reading about these things. That being said, I’m just here to participate in the discussio

    I’ll admit, that being a previous wow-play

    [Editor: continued below]

  20. Ugh, my cat stepped on the enter button…my appologies guys!

    Anyway, having played WoW, I got the joke, and I found it funny. I didn’t even notice the comment in question until it was mentioned in the guest posters original article. I didn’t 100% agree with her, but I read it from a critical perspective, and I moved on.

    However, I really, REALLY did not agree with Penny Arcade’s comic strip reply to the Shakesville post. I felt that the way it was presented attacked a strawman trope that wasn’t even brought up in the original article. I felt it actually minimalized the threat of rape by women, and as Amanda from Pandagon wrote here. I think she sums up my feelings about the whole thing pretty well.

    What bothers me the most was the vitriol that was directed to Shakesville from the worst of the worst of the gamer community as a result of this. Some of us remember the Fat Princess fiasco, that she recieved e-mails about nearly a year after critiquing it. (Did I spell critiquing right? I don’t know…)

    Here’s another post by Kate Harding on some of the vitriol that Shakesville has recieved in the past:

    http://kateharding.net/2007/05/16/let-me-save-you-the-trouble-i-know-im-a-fat-cunt-and-ive-already-been-raped/

    I know i’m kind of out of a safe space here, but looking online and then reading this, seeing a bunch of jokes about stereotypes directed against me, stereotypes that are used against me to often get me to sit down, shut up and just stay where I’m supposed to.

    To see comments like some of the ones in the early part of the post before the discussion began can be pretty upsetting for me. Normally I would have moved on, but I saw a meaningful discussion here that I hadn’t seen anywhere else yet. So I’m glad that you’ve created that here Lusipurr, thanks. :)

    To Deimosion: I totally see what you’re saying here, trust me, I do. I think you mean well, and I can also see that you have a pretty good understanding of some of the finer points of Rape Culture. However, I don’t think it’s fair to tell one feminist that there’s more important things they can be doing than pointing something out that offends them. I know from personal experience that if I sat around pointing out every bit of Misogynistic bullshit that’s directed towards me, other women, and in various media outlets… I would cry myself to sleep every night because it’s so frustrating. I see it as a popular silencing tactic as well.

    Check this one out:
    http://www.derailingfordummies.com/

    I have a lot more links available that I can link you guys too if you want to know more about the subject. Sorry for a new-comer posting such a long comment, just wanted to add my two cents in. :)

  21. I think there are two different sides to this website, and mainstream society as a whole, that have to be taken into consideration here: the first, which is ever present in our podcasts, that says rape and racism and homophobia and all sorts of other atrocities are hilarious. Penny Arcade has already elaborated further upon the theory behind our behavior in that contexts.

    The second, present when we are not given the anonymity of the internet and the audience, is the reasonable people behind the keyboard. As the sincerely written comments prove, we actually do know better. Rape is a vile, disgusting act perpetrated by persons, male or female, that feel the need to violate others through sex to satisfy their own disturbed needs, not for sexuality, but for power. Everyone here understands the serious nature of such an offense and wouldn’t seriously wish it upon anyone else. But, here behind the veil of the internet, its easy to say “I hope Oliver gets raped in the ear” and for all of you to laugh and laugh. Do we actually want that? Of course not! Mock Oliver as we may, harming him or wishing that someone else would isn’t our intention. (God, I feel filthy for defending Oliver of all people.)

    I also agree with Deimosion on his last statement: there is only so much (and very little at that) that can be done from the tiny little realm of a feminist’s keyboard, and to put so much energy and so much passion on writing snarky blog posts and sarcastic retorts is a massive waste when they could be going out there to help against this “rape culture.” To provide shelters for abused women (and men), to assist in bringing their assailants to justice, to raise awareness amongst all groups, both genders alike, these would all be far more worthwhile endeavors than trying to make sure the internet doesn’t step on their toes.

  22. @Trish: We are always willing to hear out opposing viewpoints on matters serious. It is only on the topic of the ‘value’ of the Alliance that we are UNWILLING TO COMPROMISE.

    (More later as I am in a Naxx Raid at the moment.)

  23. HEY HORDIE NAXX HAS BEEN CLEARED FOR LIKE YEARS NOW GET WITH THE PROGRAM!

  24. I actually watched Alliance lose WG on my server the other day. I spent the next hour sitting on the sculptures in Dalaran haranguing my cohorts for their absolute failure as human beings… and elves, and dwarves, and space goats.

    The gnomes I left out.

  25. I’ve told Ghostcrawler that, thanks to the Cataclysm, Tauren should become Alliance and Gnomes exported to the Horde.

  26. Thank heavens that all the staff of Blizzard play Horde, so such a terrible occurance will never come to pass.

  27. @Lane: I have an extremely nihilistic and violent sense of gallows humour, and thus find any manner of awful things to be quite funny (a la Pedobear). Given past experiences of Lusipurr.com humour I had the not unreasonable expectation that I likeley wouldn’t be taken at the precise letter of my words. The irony is that I probably wouldn’t regard rape jokes (and other jokes of marginalisation) as funny, were it not for the fact that I regard these acts and discourses as morally abhorrent. I’m of the firm view that there is no comedy without victims, I recognise that what I find funny pushes at the bounds of socially sanctioned taste, and I stand proudly by that.

    My broader criticisms all stand. I think it’s rather silly to go out trawling for rape references and then complain when you find them, I think Shakesville’s criticism of the strip is a huge overreaction, and I think Melissa McEwan has good form in this regard.Other than these points however, my highly polarised invective was used because I found it amusing to do so, and has no greater meaning that that. The article was deliberately one sided.

    I am not unreceptive to the notion that jokes of marginalisation contribute to the greater normalisation of the deeds and discourses from which they derive, but since this idea runs directly contrary to my sense of humour it takes a definitive back seat to what amuses me. I would never want to hurt someone for the pure sake of doing so, yet I’m not about to apologise for what I find funny or self-censor who I am.

    That said, If I knew this article would upset you to such an extent, I would have decided upon a different editorial topic. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and only went with this issue because I perceived the Lusipurr.com community to be receptive towards it.

Comments are closed.