Editorial: A considered critique of Shakesville’s crusade against Penny Arcade

[Trigger warning for everyone, especially you!]

Dick Wolf: BANNED!

This week I sensed a profound disturbance in the force, as if a thousand hands went to facepalm and then suddenly fapped. Serial-pest Melissa McEwan is at it again friends, in her crusade against the ‘dudebro’ culture of everyone’s favourite game themed web comic, Penny Arcade. Regardless of where you stood on the whole ‘using rape in a comic’ issue, it now seems that Dickwolves themselves are the article of offence, quite aside from all the raping they do. The combined groans of Gabe and Tycho must have been palpable this week, as Melissa McEwan espied from her high-horse their new line of garb featuring their now most famous of mythological concoctions; the Dickwolf. She set upon this as another instance of the incorrigible duo supporting rape culture in spite of the fact that the garments bore no actual mention or depiction of rape, and ignoring the delicious irony that she herself is effectively responsible for creating the market conditions for ‘Team Dickwolf‘ T-shirts to be a profitable line of merchandise.

Sexual assault and violence is a malign and morally barren pursuit, rightly condemned by anyone with even the slightest regard for their fellow human beings, it is also a diabolical problem, not least in the way one should address it in the hopes of dissuading would-be perps from pursuing their dire intentions.

The seriousness of this crime can also lead to robust discussion and debate when irreverent rogues attempt to broach or reference this act with absurdist humour, glib puns or occasionally callous offhand remarks. This is understandably met with some consternation and angst by people who have been more intimately touched by sexual assault in their daily lives, who regard the normalising effect of humour as accommodating rapists in their ignoble pursuits. Unfortunately (read: amusingly) however, the reactions of the latter camp can upon occasion take on absurdly disproportionate proportions, and thus we can find ourselves in polarising situations like the flurry of feminist moral panic surrounding the now infamous Penny Arcade strip.

Thou mustn't jape about rape!

Penny Arcade’s detractors wrongly construed the mention of rape as being the skit’s punchline, when the punchline itself was actually the frighteningly arbitrary nature of performing good deeds in MMOs, with the mention of rape being largely incidental. In fact if one were to substitute the line ‘raped to sleep by Dickwolves’ with ‘felched to sleep by Ethan Pipher’, the message of the skit would remain largely intact, it was an inconsequential line of dialogue only given power by the indignant plaints of Melissa McEwan herself.

That particular episode occupies a very special place within the pantheon of the ridiculous, yet this week’s furore elevates the conversation to new and uncharted heights of the farcical, as it seems that the very mention of Dickwolves is now strictly verboten. This latest charge is truly perplexing, is this to say that these proud mythological beasts are now untermensch simply because a few of them raped? Or is Melisa McEwan’s campaign against Penny Arcade really just a campaign against cock, and menfolk’s pride thereof?

Here's how teaspoons work; you take one teaspoon, then two ... and before you know it, you've eaten the whole damn cake!

How might this work? Dicks are used for raping, therefore through the transferral of properties dicks = raping, ergo penises are offensive? Surprising? No, not really, this looks to be much the same as the crude logic of; Dickwolves raped in a comic -> all Dickwolves rape -> a T-shirt featuring Dickwolves is offensive. You see, this is how bigotry works (a subject very close to our hearts here at Lusipurr.com), you observe one Russian peasant eating their babby and then extrapolate this behaviour onto the entire population – or to frame this notion within the current terms of reference; Melissa McEwan sees one Dickwolf raping, and uses that to stereotype the entire population of Dickwolves, to the extent that the mere act of being a Dickwolf is found to be offensive to this high minded serial complainist. Heretofore without a voice in this conversation are the non-raping moral majority of Dickwolves, who really just want to do the right thing by women and get on with their lives. Dickwolves have now become a metaphor for men, haven’t they?

The key to understanding the method to Melissa’s madness can perhaps be found in her own words:

making it vanishingly unlikely that a dude with lots of dude friends and family members and co-workers and associates doesn’t know at least one dude who has attempted or committed sexual violence.

And thus we are once again confronted by something which resembles that tired recurrent trope of the bitter old man-hating feminist, way to uphold the stereotype Melissa, goodness knows us dudes just can’t get enough of all the raping. Now, for all of her bigoted misandry I don’t actually believe that Melissa hates all men, I do however think that she chooses to surround herself with the type of man who feels that they have to constantly apologise for having a penis, the type of man who feels they owe a debt to every conceivable minority because they were born with the correct skin colour and sexual orientation to get ahead in western society. At the very least you would have to conclude that she doesn’t have a terribly nuanced perception of men; they are either asexual femme-pets or rapers and rape enablers, with no room for intermediacy between the two. This is why Gabe and Tycho rub her the wrong way (ewwwww), she thinks it’s the man’s role to apologise for existing, when for Penny Arcade eschewing all seriousness means never having to say you’re sorry.

So how then do Gabe and Tycho acknowledge the previous Dickwolf furore when launching their latest line of presumably non-raping Dickwolf merchandise? Short answer: they don’t. Long answer:

In our constant quest to diversify our holdings, we have decided to invest in a sports team! Now, we just have to decide on a sport.

HAHA, well Gabe and Tycho have nothing to say about the matter, and why would they? They have no axe to grind, their garment shows no evident raping, and the nonsense certainly does not appear to be harming their celebrity. There is no preamble, no explanation and no response or even acknowledgment of their vocal detractors, which is perhaps part of the problem (as is so often the case on 4chan). Yet this vacuum provides oxygen for dour trolls like Malissa McEwen to self-importantly declare: “any presumption that they are nice guys is probably pretty foolish”, before high-fiving the sisterhood on creating anti-Dickwolf charity T-shirts, which stand to sell tens of dozen of copies to Shakesville readers …

when it comes down to it, it’s never the makers of rape jokes who create the t-shirts (or whatever equivalent) to raise money for survivors. Funny, that.

“any presumption that they are nice guys is probably pretty foolish”~ Melissa McEwan

A good point, if Penny Arcade is such a stand-up publication then why no handouts for the people who complain about them? I guess Gabe and Tycho were just too busy over the last eight years raising 6.7 million dollars worth of games, toys and books through the tireless efforts of their Child’s Play charity for them to be able to do the same for the grown women who smear their web comic, though presumably Melissa still feels that she and  her insular group are entitled to a share of what has been raised for sick and dying children, otherwise the comparison between her self-important T-shirts and Child’s Play’s wide ranging charity efforts would be a silly one. Greedy cunt. This is the problem with championing a special interest, you blind yourself to all else outside that special interest, and lose all sense of perspective. Prior to smearing the characters of the iconic gaming duo, and before they indulge in numerous rounds of self-congratulation at their back-yard anti-Dickwolf charity T-shirt operation, the good people of Shakesville would probably be better served by considering the millions of dollars worth of good work that Gabe and Tycho have performed over the span of the last decade, and then asking themselves who is the bigger figurative waste of space on the moral landscape, yet the insularity of that polarised online space leaves me with little confidence that anything of the sort will transpire.

Ultimately Melissa’s motives for pursuing her campaign against Penny Arcade are neither here nor there, but one does have to wonder whether this raking over of hot coals is really a positive and healthy influence for these women in a world that will never be sanitised of cavalier rape references, real or perceived. By construing the work of Penny Arcade as being victim triggering and blatantly insensitive, when the work in question is related to rape either tangentially or not at all, does this really serve to lessen the intrusive thoughts of rape survivors, when many would have paid it no heed had they remained unbidden? Melissa McEwan may have staked the topic of Dickwolves as a rape survivor rallying point, but that does not make her custodian of the Penny Arcade cannon, that privilege falls to series creators Gabe and Tycho, who will continue to use their intellectual property as they see fit, content in the knowledge that they are making a difference for the better.

Damn Melissa McEwan, now I want a Dickwolves T-shirt.

[Many thanks to ArgentZephyr for bringing this follow-up story to my attention.]

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Quickie: The Ship is Taking on Water, and Still the Fools Dance!

Luis Vasquez rejoice! It is now cheaper than ever before to own a small part of the worst company in JRPG gaming! The value of Enixsoft shares has roughly halved over the previous two years, and doesn’t look to pick back up any time soon. INDUSTRY!!!

Obviously the GFC played a large part in this downward trend, but shareholders would have to be starting to grow concerned that Enixsoft stock has not experienced any kind of appreciable rebound from the lowest trough when the market bottomed out. Further consider that since Enixsoft’s stock crash they have released not one, but two numbered Final Fantasy instalments, while also absorbing Eidos, which one might have hoped would be a value adding endeavour. It is starting to look as though Enixsoft stock was horribly overpriced circa 2008, and that the GFC lows are their new reality.

Arrow notwithstanding, this picture is not a photoshop.


  1. I am beginning to think she is just very narcisstic and vindictive. She does a rather gross disservice to actual rape victims, most of whom are good and decent people who want to move on with their lives and heal, and would prefer to do so without an attention-hungry demagogue telling them how they feel about everything, and making it appear as though rape victims are all like her.

    I feel for victims of rape, and am rightly concerned about a world that may make it harder for their healing, though I also cannot conscience in any way the restriction of freedom of expression. Quite aside from that conundrum, it is clear that this miserable bint is a blight upon the earth.

  2. One thing that does occur to me, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, she seems to have congregated around her corpulent self a rabble of sycophants, utterly incapable of independent reasoning. She points and grunts and her army of pet monkeys start screeching and shaking their fists at whatever imagined threat she has identified for them this week …

  3. Well, that is what the internet is good for. The double-edged sword of unfettered communication is just that–reinforcement. This site is a fine example of it, too, though you silly morons have yet to adopt my progressive and entirely correct views on the importance of a firm classical education and the unimportance of Lady Gaga!

    On the up side, I think even this factionalisation is not without its positive aspects. One is often confronted by the most extreme views available on any (indeed every) issue. If one is somewhat intellectually open to considering new ideas, even unpalatable ones, this can lead to an air of tolerance, if not outright acceptance.

    So, if she has surrounded herself with sycophants, she is no worse than any other site catering to one particular brand of extremist view, political, sexual, or religious. But one must be very clear on this: she is an extremist, and she and her adherants are not in any respective of the great mass of people whom they claim to speak for.

  4. The way I see it we maintain a healthy degree of disagreement, we only reinforce the important stuff; the Sims isn’t a game, lawsuits are frivolous, Melissa McEwan is a dopey wench etc.

  5. Also, while we might play at being bigots, I believe that Melissa is the real deal.

  6. It’s a shame that she’s doing this. McEwan seems to have good intentions, but she’s doing nothing but things that remind me of why don’t support the sex-negative faction of the feminist movement. The dickwolves comic was, as has been said, a commentary on the ridiculousness of MMORPG quests, and was in no way a commentary on rape, whether for or against. As said in the last thread on the subject, a far more useful application of her time, energy, and money would be helping console rape victims and helping erase the stereotypes and assumptions that surround both female and male victims of rape.

  7. @Deimosion: Absolutely agreed. But it’s easier to pillory a webcomic than to actually do something useful, which would probably require time, energy, and money. (I mean, can you actually think of something more useless than pillorying a webcomic?)

    If I were not so deeply opposed to the idea of restricting the free expression of ideas, I would ban discussion of her and her ilk from the site, because giving attention to people like her only makes matters worse in the long run.

    The best thing that can be done is to turn away and simply ignore her. She’s not important enough, and depriving her of the oxygen of publicity is almost certainly the best policy one could engage upon.

  8. McEwan’s a bigot and a moron. I said it before and I’ll say it again:
    “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.”

    She’s out attention-whoring again because it worked for her last time. Here’s a part I found amusing from her latest screed:

    Gabe and Tycho maybe never considered that an actual rapist might buy and wear a “Penny Arcade Dickwolves” t-shirt. They probably never considered that a young woman or man, currently only concerned with defending the comic from the onslaught of Hysterics from Nofunnington, could become a victim of sexual violence while wearing the shirt. They might well argue that such scenarios are just overwrought hyperbole, and they don’t give a shit about hypotheticals. They might remind me, yet again, that dickwolves are mythical.

    Yes. They are. But rape isn’t.

    One in 33 men. One in 6 women. Many of them multiple times. Those numbers are even higher in places like war zones. Rape is all too real. And there are plenty of rapists who treat it like a goddamn sport.

    Somehow, that reality seems to have been lost along the way.

    There is indeed a mythical creature worth discussing in this debate, but it is not a dickwolf. It is the person who doesn’t know a rapist, whose products will never be purchased by rapists or rape victims, whose rape jokes magically don’t perpetuate the rape culture, but exist only in a narrow dimension where the act of rape doesn’t exist.

    Of course, if rape didn’t exist, rape jokes wouldn’t either.

    Which I suppose would be a grievous loss for the makers of rape jokes.

    I understand she’s attention-whoring, but is she actually retarded?

    So #@%&ing what if a rapist wears a “Team Dickwolves” T-shirt? Is it supposed to mean something?

    If a woman wearing a “Team Dickwolves” T-shirt is raped…um, ok? Was she “asking for it”? Is there some implication to this?

    Do “Team Dickwolves” have some supposed causual relationship with rape?

    It’s her leftist Underpants Gnome Theory of Rape again. Create an abstract entity out of thin air. It’s some nebulous cloud that can physically enable her nonsense theory as its missing link. Why explain things in the context of cause and effect and laws governing physical reality? It’s much easier to make some shit up and call anyone who disagrees with you a Pro-Rape Monster.

    Unrelated, but I have to know: Is Lady Gaga raping dickwolves funny?

  9. I think Square-Enix’s main problem would be that the mainline FF titles take them FOREVER to produce and cost a lot of money. And they have been steadily declining in quality since VII (or VIII if you’re stupid and have bad taste).

    Tri-Ace games are the same game made over and over. I own Star Ocean on PS2 and turned it off after an hour. I couldn’t stand any of the characters. Screw “crafting” in a single player RPG. It’s even more pointless and boring than in an MMO.

    And what’s that leave? Their portable titles. The DS has had a bunch of pretty good games released on it in the past five years. Unfortunately, everybody just pirates them, so there’s no money there.

    I think it’s quite possible that we won’t see SE around by the time the next console generation comes around.

  10. I’ve always believed it to be more effective to be “pro” than “anti”. Like it’s been said, Melissa’s intentions are obviously good, but she appears to be so wrapped up in tearing things down that her cause is unfortunately lost.

    She should be pro-sex and rape education and not anti-Penny Arcade.

  11. Perhaps her site just needed the hits? Every time she writes one of these stories the trolls from the maligned community in question post many insults in her thread, I bet that generates a lot of unique computer hits in a month … I bet that effectively misrepresents the popularity of her shitty rag …

  12. If you’ll read some of the back-catalog at Shakesville (it’s more than just McEwan who write there) you’ll find that they’re not “sex-negative” feminists in any way. Rape isn’t sex; rape jokes aren’t about sex. They’re about rape, which is a crime of violence. It’s a form of assault where sex organs become the weapon, but the actual act isn’t sex (which is a good act) but rather the humiliation of one’s own body not being their own anymore, for dehumanizing someone from an autonomous moral agent into an object.

    Rape culture is real, and (sadly) Gabe and Tycho are perpetuating the idea that guys do not care about rape, that is a joke to us, that it’s not a big deal. And while people might protest, “Oh, I think rape is bad, but I still want to make the occasional rape joke…” it is disingenuous. That’s like saying, “Oh, I don’t support a culture that says murder is no big thing, but I will make a few murder jokes here and there.”

    It’s one thing to be a rapist, but rape is still a very real part of the life of people all around you, or maybe even you yourself. And by saying, “hey, rape is something we can joke about!” you’re saying, in effect, “rape is something joke-worthy.” It denigrates the experience people have of rape and how they heal and move on.

    No one is saying that we shouldn’t talk about rape or depict rape. We covered that in the last thread. But we shouldn’t (if we are duty-bound moral agents) make jokes about it. And then, there’s no mention of a more positive message spread for gamers by gamers, as if progressive/liberal/leftist/feminist gamers have no voice or don’t matter, because we’d sure hate to upset the dudes and bros and dudebros of game culture that totally dig rape jokes. Even my favorite games/politics blog has literally no articles tagged feminism.

    People wonder why games and gaming are seen as a “hobby” fit only for socially awkward boys. “Dickwolves” are why.

  13. In that case, how unfortunate that McEwan acts as Shakesville’s face to the outside world.

    -While I am not at all adverse to rape jokes, that wasn’t what this editorial is about. Rather, I do not understand how PA’s new line of T-shirts even contributes to rape culture. The initial comic was only tangentially related to rape, and the T-shirts are only tangentially related to the comic. In my book that’s drawing a pretty long bow.

  14. I think SiliconNooB raises a good point. Yes, rape is bad. Yes, the rape culture is bad. But this Penny Arcade controversy is just bloody ridiculous. The dickwolves comic wasn’t a joke about rape. It wasn’t a social commentary about rape. It was about MMO’s. Using the word ‘rape’ does not automatically make a joke a contributor to the rape culture. Claiming that these t-shirts somehow are fueling the American rape culture is just absurd. I’m sure McEwan is full of good intentions, but this whole “controversy” is just ludicrous. Attacking Penny Arcade is a waste of time and energy that could be put towards something productive – something like, say, actually helping rape victims.

  15. I think, ultimately, if we follow McEwan’s ‘reasoning’, we’re going to end up in a world where everything (or at least everything she doesn’t like) is tainted, by association, with rape. And it won’t matter if that association is direct, or if it is fifty steps away.

    There are good, balanced, well-reasoned arguments against rape culture and in favour of building a better society which educates people and helps to reduce the incidence of rape, but McEwan isn’t part of that, and her actions really do not improve the situation for anyone, in the same way that Glenn Beck isn’t improving the American political landscape.

    Demagogues and extremists who exist solely to shout down the opposition and who tear down without thought everything their intolerance cannot allow them to consider–these kind of people have not and will not produce results in line with what they claim to be working towards. First, because such behaviour doesn’t produce results. And second, because they don’t really *want* results. They want the largest possible audience, and results would deprive them of a portion of that.

  16. Pro sex and rape education would include educating that rape is not about sex. Just in case you thought I was confusing the two, Lane.

  17. I apparently missed Ethos’ last comment, but I agree.
    More education is definitely s good thing.

  18. As a counterpoint to McEwan’s petulant rant, consider Geek Feminism Blog.

    One contributer did not approve of Penny Arcades strip:


    One contributer disagreed with all the backlash the strip caused:


    But more importantly in both cases the forum goers are open and empowered enough to have a differing opinion to the views expressed, rather than having to mindlessly tow the line of their indignant leader …

    Which culture do you think is healthier?

  19. My original problem wasn’t so much with the first strip… I wrote in the last post that the original strip was minimally transgressive. Rape was ancillary to their point, which I got… but their reaction to it, now that has been troubling. First it was the strip which displayed a lack of understanding of why rape jokes/rape culture are problematic (“go and rape no more”, as if anyone were suggesting that rapists would somehow be empowered by the strip), which is a way of dismissing a legitimate complaint and derailing a discussion.

    I’ll admit I did not know about the “Team Dickwolves” shirt until now. But that actually pisses me off. If we have established that the in-story canon for dickwolves is that they are rapists, then who wants to join a team of rapists?

    That’s how these shirts contribute to rape culture: they imply that it is OK to be on the team of rapists, or to say that rape is something that we can laugh and joke about with the bros. “Yeah, go team Dickwolves!”

    It is sort of tasteless, and meant to offensively single out people that might’ve had a problem with their responses.

    And I won’t speak to or defend the atmosphere of Shakesville; yes, it gets a little echo-chambery in the comments there, but, well… *looks around*. Physicians attempting self-remedies and all that.

  20. I saw Penny Arcade’s response more in terms of them providing McEwan with the absurd response that she so richly deserved, though of course the density of their response paled in comparison to her own obtuse reasonings. They were under no obligation to treat Shakesville’s claims with respect, because they were not reasonable complaints.

    As for Dickwolves, we know that some of them rape, just as we know that some men rape. I don’t know that it has been firmly established that every Dickwolf rapes as a matter of course, though of course raping was the purpose of their original creation. If I were the Penny Arcade guys I would be loathe to retire such an amusing pun on Dick Wolf of Law & Order fame, though I do agree that the primary motive for releasing these T-shirts (aside from making money) appears to be thumbing their noses at Shakesville.

    That sits OK with me. The T-shirt features no mention of rape. The only people who would even draw a connection between the T-shirt and rape are the people already intimately familiar with this incident, but then who’s fault is that? McEwan has set about turning the Penny Arcade cannon into a big threatening construct, and then complains of insensitivity when Gabe and Tycho set about using their intellectual property, never mind that most of the less savoury meanings attributed to it have been imbued by herself, rather than the author’s original intent.

  21. Oh yay more misogyny from gamers! Way to break those stereotypes, guys. After this, wanna order pizza, write some fanfic and not bathe?

  22. Lana, when you’re stereotyping others lifestyles, calling them fat and smelly, you may want to not post it at 4:12 AM on a Friday night, cause that talks heaps about you.

  23. That I enjoy staying up far past my bedtime to watch bad late night movies with my wife? How will I ever live if people know I do that?

    Look, I think the fat smelly gamer stereotype is destructive, just as is the misogynist gamer that repeatedly shouts “omg u fag ioll rape ur mom!” But this whole dickwolf thing has brought out a bunch of rape-culture defending misogyny in gamers, reinforcing the latter stereotype. A sarcastic comment reinforcing the former is meant to show the absurdity of such actions.

  24. Some of us who’ve been raped before don’t want or appreciate McEwan speaking for all of us and telling us how we feel or what we believe, want or need. She’s a nasty, bitching, blowhard who lives to be outraged; she has no sense of humor and the things she DOES think are funny suck. Even Marcotte didn’t agree with her on this one (who I also don’t like.) I check out McEwan on a semi-regular basis to find out what she’s bitching about because it’s sure to be something where I should run 180 degrees in the other direction so it’s helpful in that sense.

    Love the cake picture too. Remember, grape is just rape with a G – eat those and you’re contributing to “rape culture” whatever the hell that is.

  25. Oh, this never ends. This whole debacle has brought out the worst of both sides. Feminists making sweeping generalizations about gamers, gamers making sweeping generalizations about feminists, when will it end? Gabe and Tycho did nothing wrong when making the joke. However, just because McEwan (who honestly, based on some of her other blog posts, truly has good intentions) overreacted, doesn’t mean that feminism as a whole is an invalid, unnecessary movement, or that feminists are stuck up cunts, or whatever it is that you guys (on the non-feminist side keep calling them).

    On the other hand, just because a few gamers are taking this story…a bit harshly, and frankly, like little babies, doesn’t mean we’re all misogynistic assholes who thing women are idiots. There is in fact, a middle ground, a place where gamers and feminists are one and the same.

  26. Megalissa McDonalds sets her best intentions on keeping her coffers full of begged money.

    I also fundamentally disagree with you about Feminism, but that doesn’t require saying again.

    Also, wow! I can’t believe that this post is still getting comments …

Comments are closed.